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The Gilmer Free Press

►  Glenville State vs. University of Charleston

Glenville State fell to West Virginia Wesleyan, 38-35, last Saturday at Ross Field.

The Bobcats improved to 2-3 overall and 2-3 in MEC play. Glenville State slipped to 1-4 overall and 1-4 in conference play. Three of Glenville State’s four losses have come by less than four points.

Jeremy Musselman was 14-of-18 for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Tyler Bolen came on to complete 18-of-25 for 187 yards and two more scores to pace the Bobcats. Michael Anderson added 119 yards on the ground for WVWC.

Rahmann Lee rushed for 152 yards on 23 carries for the Pioneers. Sean Steele was 10-of-21 for 181 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.

An action-packed first half saw the Bobcats take a 24-20 into halftime. The two teams traded touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarter, and WVWC held a 38-35 lead with 3:37 left. The Bobcats, though, were able to pick up a crucial first down on 4th-and-1 and then was able to run out the clock to hold on to the win.

This week the Pioneers return home to I.L. & Sue Morris Stadium to take on the University of Charleston Golden Eagles. It is also Homecoming for the Pioneers.

Last year the Pioneers feel on the road at Charleston, 17-10. Rahmann Lee was held to just 55 rushing yards while quarterback Sean Steele threw for 122 yards but had three costly interceptions.

UC’s offense racked up 264 total yards of offense while GSC finished last year’s contest with just 173 total yards. Last year’s contest also saw six total fumbles in the game with UC fumbling it four times and the Pioneers fumbled it away twice.

Saturday’s kickoff is set for 1:30 PM.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Football Players of the Week - Week 4

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2014



UVa-Wise (0-5, 0-4) at #9/10 Shepherd (5-0, 5-0), Noon

Video | Live Stats

Last Year
: Shepherd won 42-17

Notes: Shepherd led by just one score in the middle of the 3rd quarter before the Rams scored the game’s final 17 points ... Allen Cross had 137 yards rushing and Jeff Ziemba split time in the game and threw for just 56 yards ... SU leads the country in total defense (155.4) ... UVa-Wise features the leader in TFLs (Zack Blair, 11.5) ... SU is +8 in turnover margin this year.



Fairmont State (2-3, 2-3) at West Liberty (2-3, 2-2), 1:00 PM

VideoLive Stats

Last Year: West Liberty won 27-21

Notes: The last two games have been decided by less than a touchdown ... West Liberty has won seven of the last nine meetings, but Fairmont State was victorious in its last trip to the hilltop ... WLU’s losses have come to teams with a combined record of 13-2 ... FSU QB Cooper Hibbs is third in the MEC with 260 yards per game ... FSU is 2-1 when having more time of possession than its opponent.



Charleston (4-1, 3-1) at Glenville State (1-4, 1-4), 1:30 PM

Video | Audio | Live Stats

Last Year: Charleston won 17-10

Notes: UC’s Torie Wagner had a punt return for a TD in last year’s matchup ... Charleston held Shepherd to less than 100 yards rushing last week, and faces a Glenville State squad that is averaging 223.4 yards per game on the ground ... Charleston held Rahmann Lee to just 55 yards in last season’s matchup ... the Pioneers are averaging 41.4 rushing attempts per game ... UC has not thrown for over 200 yards in a game this year.



West Virginia Wesleyan (2-3, 2-3) at West Virginia State (2-3, 1-3), 1:30
PM


Live Stats

Last Year: West Virginia Wesleyan won 45-30

Notes: WVWC is 0-2 when rushing for less than 100 yards in a game ... the combined record of the teams WVWC has lost to this year is 13-2 ... WR Zach Schademan leads the team in scoring with 30 points (5 TD receptions) ... WVSU RB Tevin Brown is averaging 131 yards per game in the team’s two wins, but just 18 in its three losses ... WVSU’s 30 points last year against WVWC are the most in the Jon Anderson era.



Urbana (1-4, 1-4) at #21/23 Concord (5-0, 4-0)

Video | Live Stats

Last Year
: Urbana won 22-10

Notes: Concord leads the league in total offense (531.0), and UU is sixth (392.8) ... CU’s defense has broken up 23 passes this year (4.5 per game) ... CU RB Calvinaugh Jones has over 100 yards rushing in each game this year ... Urbana has had more total offense than its opponent in four out of five games ... UU’s Cody Schroeder is averaging 298.5 yards passing in the last two games ... Urbana has the league’s top tackler in D’Gary Wallace (11.5).



Lake Erie College (1-4) at Notre Dame (4-1) 

Live Stats

Last Year
: Lake Erie won 48-21

Notes: LEC raced out to a 42-0 lead at the half on its way to the win ... two of LEC’s losses have come against teams that have been ranked nationally this year ... the Storm are allowing 52.8 points per game this season ... NDC RB Michael Butler is averaging 131 yards rushing per game since entering the starting lineup ... NDC QB Ray Russ’ four touchdown passes last week were a season-high. 



News & Notes



• This will mark the first week in MEC history that two teams from the league are nationally ranked in both major polls (AFCA/d2football.com) with Shepherd (9th/10th) and Concord  (23rd/21st) making it in the top 25.

• Four different MEC quarterbacks have two 300+ yard passing games this season: Cooper Hibbs (FSU), Jeremy Musselman (WVWC), Brian Novak (CU) and Ray Russ (NDC). Six different QBs have thrown for over 300 yards this year.

• Three running backs in the league are averaging over 100 yards per game with Rahmann Lee leading the way with 128.2 yards per game, followed by Calvinaugh Jones (121.4) and Marvin Elam (107.6).

• Shepherd is 14-0 in two seasons of play in the Mountain East Conference.

• SU quarterback Jeff Ziemba has yet to throw an interception in 107 attempts. The Rams are one of just four teams not to throw an interception this season.

• Shepherd is 19-of-23 (83 percent) in third down situations of less than four yards.

• The Rams lead the country in total defense allowing just 156.4 yards per game. SU has allowed more than 10 points in just two of its five games this season.

• Shepherd’s C.J. Davis is the only MEC player to earn Defensive Player of the Week and Special Teams Player of the Week honors this season. He leads the Rams with 412 all-purpose yards despite not playing any snaps on offense.

• SU is out-scoring opponents 127-17 in the first half and has yet to allow a point in the third quarter this season.

• Concord is one of only five teams in NCAA Division II to average more than 50 points a game this season.

• CU’s Ryan Stewart has at least one touchdown reception in each of his last four games. He has been on the receiving end of nine of Brian Novak’s 14 TD tosses.

• Concord’s offensive line has allowed only three sacks in 143 passing attempts.

• CU uses team defense with six players recording over 20 total tackles this year and 13 players have at least one tackle for a loss.

• Charleston’s defense held Shepherd to under 100 yards rushing for the first time in 28 games. Prior to week five’s game against UC that saw Shepherd rush for 83 yards, the last time it was held to under 100 was the first week of the 2012 season against Shippensburg.

• UC’s Torie Wagner became the school’s single-season leader for punt return yards against Shepherd. He has 197 punt return yards on 12 attempts and one touchdown. Wagner also ranks sixth in the country in combined kick and punt return yardage with 505.

• Wagner is averaging over 107.6 all-purpose yards per game (10th in the league) despite not playing on offense.

• Notre Dame’s Ray Russ went 121 pass attempts without being intercepted before surrendering one in week four against Charleston, establishing a new league mark.

• Russ leads the MEC with 15 touchdown passes this year. He has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game this season.

• 26 of Mitchel Shegos’ 35 receptions have gone for first downs.

• West Liberty continues to lead the league in fewest penalties (14) and penalty yardage (150).

• West Virginia Wesleyan is 0-2 in games that it rushes for less than 100 yards.

• Tyler Bolen played well in relief of an injured Jeremy Musselman last week in a narrow 38-35 win over Glenville State. He was 18-of-25 for 187 yards with two scores and no interceptions.

• Fairmont State’s Fabian Guerra made national headlines with his acrobatic one-handed catch against Concord. The clip went viral on social media and was aired on ESPN’s SportsCenter and the NFL Network’s show “Total Access.“

• Guerra was not just a one-handed wonder, though, finishing the game against Concord with 12 catches for 136 yards. He leads the league in in receptions per game (7.8) and is the only wide receiver in the league to average more than 100 yards receiving per game (109.0)

• Austin White became the first Falcon to rush for over 100 yards in a game with 108 last week against Concord.

• GSC’s Rahmann Lee ranks third among active players in all-purpose yards per game (153.89), sixth in rushing yards per game (126.1) and fifth for rushing yards (3,405).

• Each of Glenville State’s last four games have been decided by four points or less. The Pioneers are 1-3 in those games.

• GSC quarterback Sean Steele has already thrown more touchdown passes this season (10) than he did all of last season (seven).

• West Virginia State picked up its first MEC win and first league road win in the same week. It was the first road win for coach Jon Anderson.

• WVSU’s Tevin Brown accounts for 54 percent of the team’s rushing yards this season.

• WVSU’s Kevin Coffie had five pass breakups heading into last week’s game against Urbana where he notched six against the Blue Knights.

• UU’s D’Gary Wallace is the only player in the league to average more than 10 total tackles per game with 11.2. He also leads the conference in total solo tackles with 31.

• Urbana quarterback Cale Burdyshaw is the only Blue Knight player to rush for over 100 yards in a game this season.

• UVa-Wise’s Zack Blair leads the Mountain East Conference with 11.5 tackles for a loss (2.30 per game).

• Cavs punter Trent Martin has six punts of over 50 yards this season.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 7 High School Games in the Area

Class A

Gilmer County (3-3)  at   #8 Doddridge County (4-1)

Calhoun County (2-4)  at   #1 St. Marys (5-0)

Parkersburg Catholic (2-3   at   #3 Clay-Battelle (5-0)

Wirt County (0-5)  at   #11 Buffalo (4-2)

#16 Liberty - Harrison - AA (4-2)  at   #11 Notre Dame (3-2)

#11 Tyler Consolidated (4-2)  at   #15 South Harrison (3-2)


Class AA

Braxton County (2-4)  at   #2 Ravenswood (5-0) - Saturday

#3 Bridgeport (5-1)  at   #6 Keyser (5-1)

Webster County (2-3)  at   #11 Nicholas County (4-1)

Clay County (4-2) Idle This Week

Ritchie County (3-3)  at   Lincoln (1-5)

Roane County (3-3)  at   Tolsia (0-5)


Class AAA

North Marion - AA (0-5)  at   #9 Lewis County (5-1)

#12 Parkersburg South (3-2)  at   John Marshall (3-2)

#14 Woodrow Wilson (3-2)  at   Parkersburg (2-3)

Philip Barbour - AA (1-5)  at   Elkins (1-4)

Buckhannon-Upshur (3-2)  at   Hampshire (2-3)



The Gilmer Free Press

►  3 road games over next month key for WVU’s season

West Virginia enters a difficult stretch with three of its next five games on the road, and it starts against a slumping Texas Tech team that the Mountaineers have yet to figure out.

Coach Dana Holgorsen will rely on his experience as a longtime Texas Tech assistant to get the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) ready for the Red Raiders (2-3, 0-2) on Saturday.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,“ Holgorsen said. “We’re expecting a rowdy environment. Obviously, I’ve been there a bunch and know what to expect. It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be full. There will be a bunch of people there with a bunch of energy and we need to go in there and we need to handle it.“

Over the next month West Virginia also will play at No. 16 Oklahoma State and Texas, sandwiched around home tests against No. 5 Baylor and No. 9 TCU.

It could help determine whether the Mountaineers surpass their 2013 win total or are headed for their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1978-79.

A similar stretch on the road derailed West Virginia’s debut season in the Big 12 in 2012. West Virginia was 5-0 and ranked No. 5 when it got blown out 49-14 at Texas Tech. That loss started a five-game losing streak that also included a blowout loss at Oklahoma State.

A swirling wind and Texas Tech’s defense derailed Geno Smith’s Heisman hopes, and now it’s up to West Virginia’s Clint Trickett to try to figure out how to get a Big 12 win on the road.

Trickett is aware that wind gusts could be a factor in Lubbock.

“There are so many variables that go into it that, you just have to go out there and play,“ he said. “You can’t really think about it.“

The same goes for how poorly the Mountaineers played against Texas Tech two years ago.

“It’s a new year, and it’s a new opportunity for us to go down there and get a win against them,“ safety Karl Joseph said. “That is all we are focused on.“

That focus will include sophomore quarterback Davis Webb, who threw for 462 yards last year as Texas Tech overcame a 21-point deficit to beat West Virginia 37-27 in Morgantown.

But Webb has thrown 10 interceptions in five games this season, including four in a loss last week to No. 17 Kansas State.

West Virginia has tinkered with its 3-3-5 defense this season and has shown improvement but has only three interceptions this season and has yet to recover an opponents’ fumble.

The Mountaineers allowed 176 yards and forced Kansas to punt 14 times last week. West Virginia went with a sleeker defensive front that included starting 244-pound Shaquille Riddick and 228-pound linebacker Brandon Golson at defensive ends and 205-pound Edward Muldrow at linebacker. Both Riddick and Muldrow got their first starts.

The changes were meant to shore up a pass rush that has produced just seven sacks this season and in the coming weeks will face the pass-savvy spread offenses of Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU. Texas Tech has allowed just four sacks all season.

“They are going to spread you out four or five wide and throw it all over the place,“ said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “We have to make sure that our guys are in the right spots. Webb gets rid of the ball quickly.“


►  WVU cornerback reinstated after bar case plea

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has reinstated cornerback Daryl Worley after the sophomore pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault in a nightclub altercation.

Holgorsen announced the reinstatement Wednesday, clearing the way for Worley to be in uniform for the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) when they play at Texas Tech (2-3, 0-2) on Saturday.

Monongalia County Assistant Prosecutor Cindy Scott said Thursday that prosecutors recommended a six-month jail sentence, but a magistrate late Wednesday placed Worley on unsupervised probation until next August.

Holgorsen says he’s confident that Worley, in the coach’s words, “will be a better man and teammate moving forward.“

Worley was arrested September 17, three days after the altercation at Lux Nightclub in Morgantown. Holgorsen also suspended him indefinitely, and Worley missed games against Oklahoma and Kansas.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Doc Holliday challenges fans to fill the Joan

Doc Holliday wasted no time throwing down the challenge to Herd fans following Marshall’s 56-14 dismantling of Old Dominion. During his postgame interview Holliday said he wasn’t expecting anything less than a sellout for Saturday’s homecoming game against Middle Tennessee State.

“Our team is excited to get back home. I’d be surprised if this place isn’t sold out. We’re looking forward to having a packed house,” Holliday said just minues after the final gun sounded last week.

The Herd comes into the game a perfect 5-0 on the season and looking for a little revenge against a Blue Raider team that beat it 51-49 last year in Murfressboro.

“The fanbase in the state of West Virginia likes to see good football teams play,” Holliday said on Metronews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.

And Marshall has been playing good football. The herd is second nationally with a 31.8 scoring margin. It has outscored the opposition 83-7 in the first quarter and has not yet trailed this season.

The players are also looking forward to a packed house. Marshall has not played a game in front of the home fans since September 20 when it beat Ohio 44-14. Since then Marshall has played at Akron and Old Dominion with a bye week sandwiched in between.

“We’re very excited to get back and play in front of our home fans,” said quarterback Rakeem Cato.

There are several events leading up to kickoff at noon on Saturday. An alumni 5K race begins at 8 AM and the homecoming parade will make its way down Fifth Avenue starting at 8:30.

“There’s not a greater feeling in the world than running out there on Saturday and seeing all that kelly green up there in the stands,” said Holliday.

Marshall’s 10-game win streak at home is the sixth-longest streak in the country.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Coaches forecast Mountaineers in middle of Big 12 pack

Minus a couple of high-profile guards but prepared to initiate two long-awaited forwards, West Virginia’s basketball team begins the 2014-15 season picked exactly where it finished last year.

Big 12 coaches voted the Mountaineers and Baylor tied for sixth place in the preseason poll released Thursday.

Despite losing top-three NBA picks Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Kansas regained its annual spot atop the poll—not surprising since the Jayhawks have won the league for 10 consecutive seasons. Texas was a close runner-up in the poll as Rick Barnes returns every starter from a 24-11 team that reached the NCAA round of 32.

West Virginia, which went 17-16 overall and 9-9 in the league to reach the NIT, must replace transfers Eron Harris and Terry Henderson—would-be juniors who were among the best 3-point shooters in the conference. Enter 6-9 redshirt freshman Elijah Macon and 6-7 junior Jonathan Holton, both of whom sat out last season with academic issues.

Dynamic point guard Juwan Staten also returns. Coaches recently voted him preseason player of the year.

The complete preseason poll:

1. Kansas (6)   78
2. Texas (3)   74
3. Oklahoma (1)   67
4. Kansas State   53
5. Iowa State   51
6. Baylor   36
West Virginia   36
8. Oklahoma State   27
9. TCU   15
10. Texas Tech   13

Nine points were awarded for first place, eight for second, etc.
Coaches are not permitted to vote for their own team.

Third-place Oklahoma, which received one coach’s first-place vote, returns four starters from a 23-10 team that was upset by 12th-seeded North Dakota State in its NCAA opener.

Coming off a 28-8 season that saw it lose to eventual national champion UConn after a tournament injury sidelined center Georges Niang, Iowa State was picked fifth. Fred Hoiberg, who held informal offseason talks with the Golden State Warriors about their coaching vacancy, must replace two departed seniors—Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane and Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim.  ~~  Alan Taylor ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL SCORES Week 6

Final Score: Indianapolis 33, Houston 28

Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton lit up the Texans secondary and the Indianapolis Colts held off a Houston comeback to earn a 33-28 victory in a matchup of the top two teams in the AFC South. Thursday games this season had been decided by an average of 29 points, and it appeared another blowout was on tap when the Colts jumped out to a 24-0 lead. Houston, though, fought back and pulled within 33-28 when the incomparable J.J. Watt returned a botched shotgun snap 45 yards for a touchdown. The Texans had two possessions inside five minutes remaining and both times lost fumbles, and the Colts (4-2) survived to win their fourth straight game. Luck threw for 370 yards with touchdown passes to Ahmad Bradshaw, Coby Fleener and Hilton, who finished with nine receptions for 223 yards, one shy of the franchise’s single-game record. Arian Foster gained 141 yards from scrimmage and ran for two touchdowns for Houston (3-3), which has dropped three of its last four. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 15-of-23 passes for 212 yards and threw a touchdown pass to Andre Johnson, but both lost critical fumbles down the stretch.


►  Peterson facing re-arrest for drug violation

Prosecutors in Montgomery County, Texas have filed paperwork to have Adrian Peterson’s bail revoked and re-arrest him after the Minnesota running back admitted to smoking marijuana in violation of his bond conditions, according to a report by Houston’s FOX 26 News.

According to court records, Peterson told a staffer that he had “smoked a little weed” before taking a drug test.

Peterson has been free on $15,000 bond following a charge of felony child abuse of one of his sons, with a trial tentatively set to begin on December 1.

Fox 26 also stated that there likely won’t be any action taken against Peterson Thursday, as the current judge in the case is scheduled for a recusal hearing on Friday.

Peterson, the 2012 NFL MVP, remains on the exempt list and away from the Vikings due to his current legal problems. He has not played in any of the team’s past four games.


►  Titans’ Roos to have knee surgery, out for year

Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Wisenhunt confirmed Thursday that left tackle Michael Roos will have surgery on his right knee, which will end his season.

First-round pick Taylor Lewan will step in and start for Roos.

“Not the way I wanted to earn a starting role,“ Lewan said. “But this is why they drafted me.“

The 32-year-old and three-time All-Pro, Roos, has missed just one game in his 10 seasons with Tennessee.


►  Hester hopes to make Bears pay

The Chicago Bears never quite figured out how to best use the explosive Devin Hester in their offense.

The Atlanta Falcons are making it work.

Hester gets his first crack at his former team on Sunday as the Falcons host the Bears in a matchup of 2-3 teams at the Georgia Dome.

Hester was a second round pick of Chicago in 2006 and set a number of records during his stay with the Bears. That includes 18 kick return touchdowns and 13 punt return touchdowns and he also set franchise marks with 3,241 punt return yards and 5,504 kickoff return yards.

Of course, that doesn’t include his 92-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI in an eventual loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Hester added 217 catches for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns with Chicago, but asked not to play offense last season under new head coach Marc Trestman. He then wasn’t offered a contract this past offseason by the Bears and inked a three-year, $9 million deal with Atlanta in March.

“It’s going to be fun, kind of exciting,“ Hester told the Falcons’ website of the matchup. “I’m so used to going against those guys in practice; it’ll be the first time for me to go against them live. (I’ve) been around those guys for a long time; so, it’s kind of like playing against your brother.“

Hester was held to just two catches for 16 yards and ran once for another three yards in last Sunday’s 30-20 loss to the New York Giants. The Falcons led by 10 late in the third quarter before New York reeled off 20 straight points, 13 in the fourth frame.

Matt Ryan threw for 316 yards and a touchdown with one interception, while Julio Jones caught 11 passes for 105 yards. Running back Antone Smith added a 74-yard touchdown catch as the Falcons fell to 0-3 on the road this season compared to 2-0 at home.

“We couldn’t get anything going offensively there in the second half and we couldn’t get the stops that we needed,“ Falcons head coach Mike Smith remarked. “We are extremely disappointed in the way that the game finished.“

The same could be said for the Bears in their 31-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers last weekend.

Turnovers doomed Chicago as it failed to hold three-point lead with six minutes with less than five minutes to play. Quarterback Jay Cutler was intercepted and the pick was returned 35 yards to the Chicago 32.

That set up a game-tying field goal by the Panthers’ Graham Gano with 4:29 to go and Matt Forte fumbled on the first snap of the resulting possession. Carolina recovered at the Chicago 23, setting up a six-yard go-ahead TD pass for the Panthers with 2:18 to go.

“I’ve got to take accountability for our failure to get things done in the second half,“ said Chicago head coach Marc Trestman. “We didn’t have any significant drives and failed to convert third downs. We just didn’t get it done.“

Cutler passed for 289 yards and two touchdowns while adding a rushing score, but was also picked off twice. Forte ran for 61 yards and added 105 receiving on 12 catches.

Following their second straight setback, the Bears will play their fourth road game in five weeks. They have won four of six and nine of their last 12 against the Falcons, including a 30-12 win at home in the last meeting in 2011.

Cutler threw for 312 yards and two scores, including a 56-yard touchdown pass to Forte, who ended with 158 yards from scrimmage. Ryan had 319 yards passing, but was sacked five times.

Chicago remains one victory shy of becoming the first team in NFL history to reach 750 wins.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

All eyes will be on Hester and how he torments his former team. He comes in as the only player in the league to post a rushing, receiving and return touchdown this season.

While never fully breaking out on offense in Chicago, Hester is third on Atlanta with 14 catches behind only standouts Jones and Roddy White and is also averaging 24.2 yards per kickoff return and 14.4 yards on eight punt returns.

“I think everybody knows how great a player he is. I don’t think there’s any question about that. I think the biggest thing is we just have to have a good plan going in for him,“ said Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

“A lot of people say you can’t punt it to him. ... There are a lot of things that go into that. Otherwise, everybody would do it.“

Hester did not practice on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, but expects to play in this game.

“I’m sure it’ll be different for Dev this week,“ said Ryan. “Obviously, played a long time in Chicago and has a lot of friends and former teammates that he played with up there, and I’m sure that’ll probably be on his mind a little bit, but I’m think once the ball kicks off and you start playing I think he’s such a competitor week-to-week he’s going to give you his best regardless.“

Ryan’s counterpart, Cutler, will try to shake off another costly turnover. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes on the year, but has been picked off six times and lost a pair of fumbles.

Cutler and Trestman know they need to get wide receiver Brandon Marshall involved along with Forte and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

Marshall has five touchdown receptions, but only one in the past three games since hauling in three versus San Francisco in Week 2 despite an ankle injury. He has made just six catches in the past three games, three of those coming versus Carolina for 44 yards.

“He’s been targeted certainly. But we’re going to go back and do some work on that to make sure we’re doing all the right things in that regard,“ noted Trestman.

“We targeted him (Sunday). He had a lot of calls and they took it away and Jay did the right thing by going other places. But we want (Marshall) to have more productivity. When he touches the ball good things happen and over the last couple of weeks we haven’t been able to get that done. It’s certainly something we have to continue to work on to get him back involved where he can get more touches that will result in bigger plays.“

The Falcons have countered a defense that ranks 29th in both total and scoring defense by posting the league’s third-ranked offense at 434.6 yards per game and 30.2 points.

Antone Smith has become a big play threat with four touchdowns on the year. He has caught a 54-yard score in addition to his recent 74-yarder and has also found the end zone on the ground from 38 and 48 yards out.

Now the back and the rest of the Falcons need to figure out how to translate their home success to road games, but that is a problem best saved for next Sunday in Baltimore.

“I wish we could figure it out to be more consistent week-to-week, but I think when you’re at home, obviously from a communications standpoint it’s a little bit easier,“ noted Ryan. “It’s not quite as loud, and that helps us to a certain extent, but across the board I think home or away we need to be more consistent.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Bears will certainly need to be focused on an energized Hester, but he isn’t the biggest concern on the Falcons offense. Smith and Jones have big- play potential and Chicago is giving up 26.2 points and 262.4 yards per game.

Atlanta has had its own struggles playing defense, but the secondary needs to only sit back and wait for Cutler to make a mistake in a tough Georgia Dome environment.

“I think every week is important, certainly when we get back at home I think that’s a good thing for us,“ said Ryan. “(Coach Smith) talks about it all the time, we want to be tough and defend the dome every chance that we get.“

Don’t be surprised to see Hester bring the crowd to its feet with some big plays and leave Cutler and company again searching for answers.

Predicted outcome: Falcons 34, Bears 27


►  Chargers take aim at hapless Raiders and new coach Sparano

The Oakland Raiders try to win for the first time since last November as interim coach Tony Sparano leads his club against the streaking San Diego Chargers this Sunday at O.co Coliseum.

The Raiders have lost 10 games in a row dating back to last season, having not recorded a win since a 28-23 decision in Houston on November 17. Their 0-4 start to this season was finally enough as Dennis Allen was fired as head coach a few days after a 38-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins in London.

Oakland has yet to score more than 14 points in a game this season, something Sparano will try to turn around in his second stint as an NFL head coach. He previously guided the Miami Dolphins to a record of 29-32 in nearly four full seasons. He took over in 2008 after the Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007 and led Miami to a mark of 11-5 with a surprising AFC East title.

However, a pair of 7-9 campaigns followed and he was fired in December, 2011 after a 4-9 start that included losses in the first seven games.

“Tony Sparano has a strong presence in this organization,“ said general manager Reggie McKenzie. “His experience and leadership qualities will serve the team well in helping reach the goal of everyone here, which is to win football games.“

Oakland is winless through its first four games for the first time since an 0-5 start in 2006. The Raiders do have the benefit of some extra work under Sparano having been on their bye last weekend.

“We’re ready to go. We’re ready to come back home and play a division game here at home,“ said veteran linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

The Raiders will need to be ready given the Chargers have won four straight since a Week 1 loss to Arizona. They are coming off a 31-0 blanking of the New York Jets last Sunday, holding their opponent to 151 yards of total offense and 1-for-12 on third-down chances.

On the offensive side, Philip Rivers passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns before getting a rest late. He completed 20-of-28 pass attempts and connected with tight end Antonio Gates for a pair of first-half scores.

Running back Branden Oliver posted 182 yards of total offense and two touchdowns including a game-best 114 yards on 19 carries. He posted the most yards from scrimmage in a game for the Chargers since LaDainian Tomlinson had 197 against Kansas City in 2007.

“I was very happy with the overall performance of the coaches and players,“ stated Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. “We’ve just gotta get it all going and keep it going.“

The Chargers have won 17 of their last 21 against the Raiders.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Chargers offense comes in having scored at least 30 points in three of their last four wins as Rivers and Gates have become a record-setting duo. The two have combined for 65 touchdown catches, the most in NFL history by a quarterback-tight end tandem.

Gates needs only 117 more yards to surpass Lance Alworth (9,584) for the most receiving yards in franchise history.

Rivers, meanwhile, has 1,205 passing yards and 11 touchdowns to just one interception over San Diego’s four-game winning streak with a 120.0 passer rating in that span.

He is 12-4 in 16 career starts against Oakland with 3,716 yards and 23 TDs with 13 interceptions.

Rivers has thrived despite some injury issues behind him, with Ryan Mathews (MCL sprain) and Danny Woodhead (broken leg) out. Donald Brown suffered a concussion versus the Jets, leading to Oliver’s big day.

Still, San Diego brought back a familiar face in running back Ronnie Brown, who appeared in 30 games with the Chargers from 2012-13. He began this season with Houston before being released last week and joins Oliver and Shaun Draughn in the backfield.

“Any time you can bring in a veteran player with leadership and knowledge of the game is a plus,“ McCoy told San Diego’s website. “Ronnie is a team guy first, a great teammate and a true professional.“

San Diego’s defense comes in ranked third with just 290.8 yards allowed per game and is yielding a league-low 12.6 points per game. The club has not allowed a second-half point in the past two games and has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter since Week 1.

The four straight games without giving up a point in the fourth quarter is the second-longest stretch in team history. Three times before the Chargers have not done so in five straight, most recently in 1999.

Cornerback Brandon Flowers has picked up in interception in two straight games for San Diego.

The Raiders struggling offense sits dead last in scoring (12.8 PPG) as well as in total yards and rushing offense. Oakland is racking up just 61.5 yards per game on the ground, putting pressure on rookie quarterback Derek Carr.

Carr completed 16 of his 25 pass attempts for 146 yards against Miami before exiting with a knee injury, though he appears in line to play this weekend.

After losing wide receiver Rod Streater to a foot injury that landed him on the short-term injured reserve, the Raiders claimed former New England wideout Kenbrell Thompkins off waivers.

Thompkins caught 32 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns over 12 games as an undrafted rookie with the Patriots last season, but was used sparingly over the early portion of the 2014 campaign prior to being placed on waivers on Saturday.

Running back Darren McFadden managed just 40 yards on 11 carries versus the Dolphins, while Maurice Jones-Drew returned to action after missing back-to- back games with a hand injury. However, he carried the ball only two times for one yard while catching a pair of passes for another two yards.

Obviously, the Raiders would like more production from their backfield.

“Obviously, Maurice didn’t play in a couple ball games, so that’s a little bit jaded, a little bit skewed. As far as Darren goes, and watching that, I’ve been pleased with the way Darren is running the ball right now,“ said Sparano. “He’s run the ball hard, he’s made good reads, he’s made good fits. One of the things we have to do a better job of right now is creating more explosive plays in that area.“

While Oakland ranks fourth in the NFL in pass defense at 207.0 yards allowed per game—getting three takeaways that included an interception by cornerback T.J. Carrie—the unit is yielding nearly 160 yards per game on the ground and has also come up with just four sacks from four different players.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The task at hand is a big one for Sparano, who gets to try and solve the AFC’s top team in his first game as Raiders coach. It also comes in Oakland’s first divisional game of the campaign, so there is ground to be made up with an upset win.

That probably won’t happen. Oakland’s strength of defending the pass will be muted by a red-hot Rivers and the Chargers’ banged-up running game should find some room to move the ball and keep some pressure off the quarterback.

The Raiders will need to score points to stay in this one but that will take more than a coaching change.

Predicted outcome: Chargers 30, Raiders 13


►  Browns search for rare win over ‘Big Ben’

While playing from behind is never a desired position, the Cleveland Browns pulled off the largest road comeback in NFL history last weekend.

It was a deficit they nearly came back from in a Week 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Browns hope for a better start and another strong finish this Sunday when they return home to FirstEnergy Stadium for their second matchup of the season with the Steelers.

Cleveland found itself down 25 points with 2:44 left in the first half on Sunday in Tennessee, but found the end zone before halftime and then managed a third-quarter field goal while shutting out the Titans in the frame.

Special teams then helped fuel the comeback as Tank Carder blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety, and Brian Hoyer threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to rally Cleveland to a 29-28 win.

Hoyer’s second scoring throw of the frame went to Travis Benjamin with 1:09 left to play and completed the third-largest comeback in NFL history. San Francisco came back from 28 points in 1980 and Buffalo rallied from 26 down in 1997, but both of those came at home.

“I think our fans are excited. Hopefully none of them are in the ER,“ Hoyer deadpanned.

Hoyer threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns in total, matching a career high, while getting intercepted once, while Ben Tate picked up a career-high 123 yards on 22 carries. Tate was seeing his first action since suffering a knee injury in Week 1 versus Pittsburgh.

“I did tell them after the game they’ve got to stop doing it. I have an EKG scheduled,“ stated Browns head coach Mike Pettine.

Pettine’s Browns evened their record at 2-2 and that includes a 30-27 setback in Pittsburgh to open the season. The Steelers led 27-3 at half before the Browns responded with 24 straight points to tie the game.

However, Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham hit a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give the Steelers their fourth straight win over the Browns.

Pittsburgh also has won 14 of its last 17 in Cleveland and will try to sweep the season series for the 11th time since 2000.

The Steelers had trouble finishing a Week 4 contest against Tampa Bay, blowing a 24-17 fourth-quarter lead and losing 27-24 to fall to 2-2. However, they rebounded with a solid win over Jacksonville this past Sunday as Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass and Brice McCain returned an interception 22 yards for a score.

“I liked the way we finished, especially when you consider that we didn’t do a good job of it last week and it cost us the game,“ said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Roethlisberger, who has an 18-1 career record against the Browns as a starter, was 26-of-36 for 273 yards, throwing to 11 different receivers in the win. Antonio Brown caught five passes for 84 yards, Michael Palmer hauled in a touchdown pass and Heath Miller had three catches for 46 yards.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Some better starts could have the Browns much better than 2-2. They are outscoring their opponents 67-30 in the second half this season and own the fewest turnovers in the NFL with just one.

Pettine made the decision to go with Hoyer over high draft pick Johnny Manziel and it has paid off as Cleveland has scored at least 21 points in each game this season. The franchise hasn’t done so in five straight since 2007.

Hoyer is now 5-2 as a starter for Cleveland with three two-minute game-winning drives. He has thrown six touchdown passes to just one pick.

“He is smart. He plays within himself. He is going to be efficient. He is going to move the offense and take care of the football,“ Tomlin said of Hoyer, who dressed for two games with Pittsburgh in 2012 but did not play. “We talked about him in that vein in preparation for the opener. I think his play over the last month has verified that. He is making really good decisions.“

The return of Tate should also help Hoyer and the Browns, who have flashed three quality running backs this season. Isaiah Crowell has three rushing touchdowns on the year, scoring twice versus Pittsburgh, and Terrance West leads all NFL rookies with 235 rushing yards to go along with a pair of scores.

Pittsburgh has managed to hold each of its last three opponents under 100 yards rushing, the first such three-game stretch for the club since late in the 2012 season.

Cleveland corners Buster Skrine and Joe Haden, who is battling a hip injury, figure to have their hands full with Brown and head a secondary that is allowing 269.3 yards per game. If Haden can’t play, rookie Justin Gilbert could get the start.

“Whoever is out there I just have to be my best,“ noted Brown. “Regardless of who the opponent (is) I just have to sharpen my tools and make sure I’m on my game.“

Brown has been a consistent threat this season, ranking third in the NFL with 511 receiving yards while leading the AFC with 34 catches. His effort versus Jacksonville extended his NFL record streak of at least five catches and 50 receiving yards to 21 straight games.

Brown had five receptions for 116 yards versus the Browns in Week 1, including a 35-yard scoring grab.

Pittsburgh’s Cortez Allen grabbed his second interception of the season last week and second in two games, becoming the first Steeler since Ike Taylor in 2011 to have picks in back-to-back games.

“His arrow has been pointing up the last couple of weeks. He is touching a lot of balls. He is catching some of them,“ Tomlin said of Allen.

No Steeler has recorded an interception in three straight games since safety Troy Polamalu did so in four consecutive contests in 2008.

Defensive lineman Phil Taylor is out for Cleveland following arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Both of these teams can move the ball, but the Browns have not been getting it done on defense. They rank 31st in the NFL, allowing 421.8 YPG.

That is bad news for Cleveland, as Pittsburgh has dominated this series as of late and is fourth on offense currently at 404.0 YPG. The Steelers have struggled finishing off drives, though, scoring just 22.8 points per game to rank 18th.

Cleveland pulled off an incredible feat last weekend, but falling behind against Pittsburgh is another animal.

“People talk about the historic comeback. I said all that means is that we played really bad for a half and really well for a half. So we have some issues there to get cleaned up,“ said Pettine.

The Browns nearly pulled it off once, but the Steelers should be ready this time around.

Predicted outcome: Steelers 24, Browns 20


►  Opportunistic Eagles face tough NFC East test vs. Eli, Giants

If New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning wants to continue his hot stretch Sunday night, all he has to do is look for No. 26.

That number would belong to Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams.

Williams and the Eagles secondary have been the subject of criticism all season for giving up long pass plays and touchdowns regularly.

“Everybody on the outside looking in has no clue as to what we do in this defense or what’s necessary for us to accomplish our goals as a cornerback or what’s our job on a particular play,“ Williams said. “Even some commentators don’t necessarily know what goes on because they’re not sitting in the meeting rooms with us. It’s a false perception, I guess, to a degree. But I mean it just is what it is. It’s a hard life for a cornerback. And I think we’ve got the guys in our room to get the job done.“

Now the NFC East-rival Giants come marching into Lincoln Financial Field for a primetime matchup and are riding high with three straight wins following an 0-2 start. The Giants have scored 30 or more points in each of the past three contests, averaging 35.0 ppg in that time, and Manning is at the forefront.

Manning has been protecting the ball during the win streak, tossing eight touchdown passes to just one interception. He had four INTs and three TD passes in the winless start to the season. Manning said in training camp he wanted to complete 70 percent of his passes and so far under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo his numbers are at 66.3. McAdoo’s offense is predicated on quick releases, shorter throws and timely reads, and Manning has paid attention to every detail.

The 11 touchdown passes tie Manning’s career high through the first five games and he should eclipse last season’s total of 18. Manning, who has posted three straight games with a rating above 100, helped lead the Giants to a 30-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons last weekend and connected with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. on a 15-yard scoring strike during 13-point fourth quarter. The Giants scored the last 20 points to erase a 10-point hole.

“The fourth quarter was ours,“ Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. “It was very good. Congratulate our team. We battled back and we won the fourth quarter and looked like the Giants in the second half and all three areas contributed very well.“

Beckham made his NFL debut and had missed the start of the season because of a hamstring injury suffered in training camp. He gives Manning another weapon on offense, joining wide receiver Victor Cruz and tight end Larry Donnell. Rookie running back Andre Williams will take over for Rashad Jennings, who is expected to miss a few weeks with a sprained MCL. Williams got the Giants rolling with a three-yard TD run versus Atlanta and finished with 65 yards.

Williams is excited for his first NFL start.

“I am very excited,“ Williams said. “It is going to be my first start. I just want to prepare as well as I can and make sure I am ready to compete at the highest level I can.“

Williams and Beckham were the first Giants rookies to score TDs by rushing and receiving, respectively, in the same game since George Adams and Mark Bavaro did it twice in 1985.

New York is 3-2 and one game behind Philadelphia and Dallas for the division lead. The Cowboys have a tough one this week at Seattle and will host the Giants on October 19.

The Eagles will have their hands full defensively and are 24th against the rush (132.0), 25th in points allowed (26.4), 28th in yards allowed (406.2) and 29th in pass defense (274.2).

Opponents haven’t had trouble moving the football against the Eagles. St. Louis had 466 yards in Sunday’s 34-28 loss and Rams rookie quarterback Austin Davis threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns. San Francisco racked up 407 yards the week before and got 119 yards on 24 carries from Frank Gore. Washington amassed 511 yards in Week 3 and both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson reached the 100-yard receiving mark.

Jacksonville and Indianapolis had more than 300 yards apiece against the Eagles over the first two weeks.

Philadelphia may be just one of five teams allowing more than 400 yards, but its 4-1 record is tied for the best in the league.

“Tough 4-1, soft 4-1, it doesn’t matter,“ Eagles head coach Chip Kelly remarked after beating the Rams. “You’re 4-1. It’s the same thing. You could be 1-4, 4-1, you’ve got to go back to work on Tuesday.“

The defensive line is playing a lot better under coordinator Bill Davis. His unit has recorded eight sacks in the past two games and must continue to pressure the quarterback. Linebacker Connor Barwin leads the Eagles with three sacks, while Trent Cole has 2 1/2 and Vinny Curry two. The defense could be without linebackers DeMeco Ryans (groin) and Mychal Kendricks (calf). Kendricks hasn’t played since a Monday night win over the Colts.

Ryans, though, said he expects to play and it was precautionary missing Tuesday’s training session as well as Wednesday’s.

“Just precautionary,“ Ryans said. “I just want to see how I feel. From Sunday to today I feel like I’ve made some strides. I’m feeling better. If it keeps going like it’s going, by the end of the week I’m feeling good and hopefully I can go.“

Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho will see more action if both Ryans and Kendricks are sidelined. Ryans is confident Matthews can handle the Giants.

“Casey’s stepped in and he’s done a really good job,“ Ryans said. “He’s progressed over the past few weeks, and last week he played his best game.“

The Giants are 82-74-2 in the regular season against the Eagles (2-2 playoffs) and have split the last four meetings between the teams. Including the playoffs, the Eagles have won eight of the previous 10 matchups. Coughlin is 11-11 (0-2 playoffs) in games versus the Eagles in the regular season.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is 7-0 with 13 touchdown passes and three interceptions in the past seven at home. He is trying to keep that streak going and also improve on his overall play Sunday night.

“We’re continuing to progress,“ said Foles, who has thrown five INTs already after just two in 2013. “We’re in spurts, and we want to be more consistent as an offense. But I saw us moving in the right direction. We just have to come out here this week, make more corrections and continue to work on execution.

“I’ve just missed a few throws. I’ve missed five percent more throws, and that’s something that you want to continue to get better at, continue to grow each week. You want to be more accurate each week and you want to be a better player each week, and that’s what I strive to do each and every day is just grow.“

He has been sacked just once in the last four games after going down five times in Week 1 to the Jaguars. Foles has the weapons around him in Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy to name a few. McCoy was taken out of the game during the end of Sunday’s win because running backs coach Duce Staley wanted fresh legs.

You can’t blame Staley for doing what’s best for the team. McCoy ran for a season-high 81 yards on 24 carries, but has only one TD run this season. He reached the end zone back in Week 2 at Indianapolis. McCoy liked what he saw from last week and got right tackle Lane Johnson back in the starting lineup.

“It felt good having Lane in there. Lane has always been the type of player who gets it done. He is fast, physical and very intelligent,“ McCoy said. “So, I was happy to have him out there. He helped us out today.“

New York’s defense is allowing 99.0 yards rushing this season (10th in NFL) and hopes to have former Eagle and starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie on the field. Rodgers-Cromartie is bothered by a list of injuries and said he practiced at full speed Wednesday.

The Eagles have seven touchdowns on returns this season and look to make things happen again on special teams and defense. For how poorly the Eagles are on the statistics side, they are starting to aggravate in all three areas.

“I think the Philly game is going to be another great test for our team,“ Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They are the defending (NFC East) champions and they have a great team on all three phases of the ball, so it’s going to be a challenge.“

Coughlin agreed with Amukamara when he said, “Every game is the most important game of the season. This is a divisional game. Obviously, Philadelphia is playing very, very well. It is a game within the division for us, so we are just excited for that opportunity.“

The Giants lead the NFL with eight interceptions and will try to force Foles into making mistakes. Amukamara, Antrel Rolle and former Eagle Quintin Demps have two interceptions apiece.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

All good things come to an end, and so will Philadelphia’s regular season home winning streak. Manning and the Giants are playing great football lately and will go toe-to-toe with Kelly’s up-tempo offense.

Nothing is better than beating your NFC East rival on the road and taking away the division lead in the process.

“We’re just trying to make sure that we come out on top of our division this year,“ Rolle said. “Last year is last year. ... I feel like this year it’s definitely up and rising. We didn’t get a lot of credit in the preseason in our division, but I think now the tables are starting to turn a little bit. Dallas is playing good, Philly is playing good right now. I think we’re rising and we’re stepping up to the challenges and we’re playing some good football right now.“

A halftime show with local R&B group Boyz II Men won’t help the Eagles.

Predicted outcome: Giants 31, Eagles 27


►  Murray, Cowboys visit Seahawks for measuring-stick game

Fans of the ground attack should be in for a treat Sunday in the Emerald City, as the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks welcome DeMarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys to CenturyLink Field.

Murray leads the NFL with 670 yards and is averaging a league-best 134.0 yards per game with 5.2 yards per carry. He will go up against Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who is sixth in the NFL with 306 yards (76.5 ypg). Murray has posted five 100-yard games to start the season for the 4-1 Cowboys and has five rushing scores. He is trying to become the first Dallas running back to lead the league in rushing since Emmitt Smith in 1995 (1,773 yards).

Smith, of course, surpassed Walter Payton to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher against the Seahawks back in 2002 (18,355).

In Sunday’s 20-17 overtime win over the Houston Texans, Murray carried the ball 31 times for 136 yards and was kept out of the end zone. He joined Jim Brown (6) and O.J. Simpson (5) as the only players to run for 100 yards or more in at least five games to start a season.

“Those are pioneers at the running back position,“ Murray said. “You know they did a lot of great things for the position and for the NFL. A lot of respect for those guys.“

Murray, the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, is gaining more respect and has been able to start off strong as evidenced by his 177 yards in the first quarter. The Cowboys are 15-1 when Murray carries the ball 20 or more times and will face a Seattle defense ranked No. 1 against the run, allowing just a mere 62.2 yards per game.

It will be a huge test for Murray and the Cowboys, who are second in the NFL in rushing with 160.0 yards per game. Guess who’s first? That’s right, the Seahawks lead the league with 167.2 rushing yards a week. Murray has 183 yards rushing in two games against Seattle and ran for 139 yards on 22 carries in a 23-13 win versus the Seahawks on November 6, 2011.

The Seahawks returned the favor with a 27-7 victory over the Cowboys on September 16, 2012, when Lynch racked up 122 yards and a score on 26 touches. Lynch has accumulated 257 yards and two TDs in the last two meetings with Dallas, which had a three-game winning streak in this series stopped in that 2012 loss. The Cowboys hold a 9-5 edge in the regular season against Seattle, but haven’t won in the Pacific Northwest since December 6, 2004, losing three straight trips there. Seattle beat Dallas in the Wild Card Playoffs on January 6, 2007.

Dallas comes into Sunday’s matchup on a roll with four straight wins after a Week 1 loss to San Francisco. Quarterback Tony Romo likes where his team is at, but knows it’s a long season.

“Your record is what it is,“ Romo said. “You want to put yourself in the best position at the end of the year. Being 4-1 is great but we have a long way to go.“

Romo will tie Hall of Famer Roger Staubach (114) for the most games started by a Cowboys QB, while HOF QB Troy Aikman is first with 165 starts. Romo has won three of his four starts against the Seahawks and helped Dallas rack up 456 yards over the Texans, passing for 324 with two TDs and an interception.

The Cowboys, who are fifth in the NFL in total yards (398.2), have won three in a row on the road and remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for first in the NFC East. The New York Giants are right behind with a 3-2 record and will visit south Philly Sunday night.

The Seahawks will try to slow down the Cowboys’ reborn offense, especially Murray. Linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the team in tackles with 43 and posted eight in Monday night’s 27-17 victory in Washington.

Wagner also had a sack and two passes defensed, and is looking forward to Sunday’s meeting with Murray and the Cowboys. Wagner is riding a streak of 15 consecutive games with at least eight tackles, including the playoffs.

“I’m looking forward to it,“ Wagner said. “He’s trying to lead the league in rushing and I’m trying to lead the league in tackles. So, I’m looking forward to the challenge.“

Wagner’s confidence should bode well for the Seahawks. They were able to hold Redskins running back Alfred Morris to just 29 yards on 13 carries, but their pass defense was exposed a bit. DeSean Jackson had 157 yards and a touchdown on five catches and burned the Seattle secondary for a 60-yard TD and a 57- yard reception. The Seahawks are 22nd against the pass, allowing 255.5 ypg.

Seattle will be in for a long afternoon if it can’t get to Romo because Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten are three formidable receivers. Bryant had 85 yards and a touchdown against the Texans and Williams ended with 71 yards and a score. Seattle’s Legion of Boom could be in trouble with a three-headed monster paying a visit.

“Terrance really has become a good receiver for us,“ Romo said. “He’s starting to come into his own. I’ve always had confidence in his ability. I think you’re seeing him understand things even better and he’s gotten better every day.“

Williams has four TD catches in the last three games and Bryant has a touchdown reception in each of his previous four contests. Witten eclipsed the 10,000 receiving mark and needs two more catches for 900. He will join future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends with 900 receptions.

Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor were burned by Jackson on his long TD catch Monday night. The defense must tighten up this week by forcing Romo to beat them on his own because it will be tough sledding for Murray and the run game.

“It’s a great challenge for us. Obviously, they’re world champs and they play great at their stadium and have for a few years now,“ Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “It starts with how good of a football team they are. They’re a really, really good team. They didn’t win the Super Bowl last year by accident.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Dallas defense is almost the exact opposite of Seattle’s in which it allows more than 100 yards (122.0) per game. The Cowboys have allowed more than 100 yards four times in five games this season, and were gashed by Houston, which racked up 176 rushing yards.

Texans running back Arian Foster ripped off 157 yards and two scores on 23 carries in a losing effort.

Maybe activating safety Jakar Hamilton (suspension) will help in the box if the Cowboys put him in. Hamilton was suspended the first four games because he violated the league’s substance abuse policy.

“Just trying to contribute in any way that I can,“ Hamilton said. “I don’t care if I’ve got to pass out water, you know what I’m saying? But it feels great to be back with my teammates and coaches.“

The Cowboys face the top-rated rushing offense this week and have the luxury of trying to stop both Lynch and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson ran for a career-high 122 yards against the Redskins, while Lynch added 72. Wilson also passed for 201 yards with two touchdowns and faces a Dallas defense that is 18th against the pass (247.8) and 21st in total yards (369.8).

“Russell had a phenomenal game,“ Seattle head coach Peter Carroll said. “He was everywhere. He did everything we could have asked of him.“

Dallas will try to limit Wilson’s scrambling ability.

Wilson and the Seahawks are only 30th in passing with just 201.0 yards per game and generally hitch their wagon to Lynch’s legs. But they proved both Wilson and Lynch, and some defensive help, are enough to succeed. Wilson is 19-1 at home, including the playoffs, with 36 TD passes and eight INTs.

He has a solid surrounding cast in receivers Percy Harvin, Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin. All three wideouts and Lynch have more than 100 yards receiving. Lynch leads Seattle with three receiving TDs to go along with three rushing.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Seahawks were a bit shaky in DC on Monday night and allowed the Redskins to creep back into the game. Now they face a more balanced and potent Cowboys team that is trying to establish itself as one of the league’s best.

Romo is anxious to see how his team stacks up with the Seahawks.

“I think we’ve seen plenty of times that one game isn’t going to define your season at this point. However, there are very important games and you know this game is a game that is a great test for us.“ Romo said. “It’s going to be good to see our team come out with great energy and great enthusiasm and really see how we stack up.“

Sunday’s matchup between Seattle and Dallas will be competitive, and features two of the best running backs and quarterbacks in the NFL. The Seahawks have the edge simply because of homefield advantage, but the Cowboys will fight to the finish and stay atop the NFC East because Philadelphia will have its hands full with New York in the evening.

Predicted outcome: Seahawks 30, Cowboys 27


►  Redskins try to snap skid against Cardinals

Jay Gruden’s learning that being a head coach in the NFL isn’t easy. His Washington Redskins have a short week and will try to end a three-game losing streak Sunday on the road against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Redskins fell to 1-4 after coming up short, 27-17, Monday night versus the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field.

Now the Redskins are tasked with ending an eight-game road losing streak dating back to a September 29, 2013 win at Oakland. They have a good chance at halting the road slide having won the past eight matchups with the Cardinals, including a 22-21 triumph on September 18, 2011.

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s 133 yards and a touchdown on seven catches went to waste, while Redskins running back Roy Helu ran for 74 yards and also had 38 receiving yards. The Redskins haven’t lost to the Cardinals since a 16-15 setback on November 5, 2000, when both teams resided in the NFC East. The Cardinals are now in the NFC West and trail the all-time series with Washington by a lopsided 74-44-2 margin.

Washington will try to pick up the pieces from Monday’s loss and has failed to score more than 17 points in each of the past two games after averaging 37.5 points in two games prior.

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins made his third straight start and threw for 283 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was a far better performance than the 45-14 setback to the New York Giants in which Cousins passed for 257 yards with four interceptions to one TD pass. Cousins has exceeded a passer rating of 100.0 in three of his four games this season.

Cousins talked about having to start drives deep in his own territory, which occurred often versus the Seahawks.

“When you’re backed up like that against a great defense, the odds are stacked against you,“ Cousins said. “When you got bad field position, it is a challenge to go 89 yards against arguably the best defense in the NFL.“

The Redskins avoided Seahawks wideout and key return man Percy Harvin because as Gruden put it, the Redskins didn’t “want him returning it.“ That was the staff’s decision going into the game and it cost the offense, which is now seventh in total yards (393.6), 15th in points (22.4) and 21st in passing (104.8). The Redskins are fifth in rushing (288.8), but Alfred Morris was held to a season-low 29 yards on 13 carries. Morris has yet to run for 100 yards this season after doing it three times in 2013.

Arizona knows a lot about offensive woes and suffered its first loss of the season Sunday on the road against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Manning and the Broncos lit up the Cardinals to the tune of 568 yards in a 41-20 rout and the future Hall of Fame quarterback was 31-of-47 for 479 yards, four touchdown passes and two interceptions. Except against the run, which the Cardinals are fifth (76.8), they have struggled in all other areas. The Cardinals are 13th in points allowed (21.5), 24th in total yards (379.2) and 31st against the pass (302.5).

There’s a huge problem if a team is giving up an average of 300 yards through the air. Manning exposed it and the Redskins will be trying to as well. Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas burned the Cardinals for 226 yards and two scores.

“When you give up 230 damn yards to any damn receiver, it’s not your best day,“ Cardinals defensive back Antonio Cromartie said. “No matter how you look at it, it’s not my best day. We have to regroup.“

Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers was humbled by the loss.

“The NFL is real humbling,“ Powers said. “You can go and feel like you’re up here and then go (down). We went 3-1 in the first quarter of the season and now it’s on to the second quarter and getting ready for Washington. We just have to learn from this and move on.“

The Cardinals also have to deal with injuries, as cornerback Patrick Peterson left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and defensive end Calais Campbell is out with a balky knee suffered on a chop block by Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who was fined for the move. Campbell is expected to miss a few weeks.

Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson will see more action with Campbell out and Alex Okafor is expected to start at outside linebacker with Matt Shaughnessy sidelined with a knee issue of his own. Shaughnessy landed on IR but will be back after sitting a minimum of six weeks.

“It’s about how to face adversity,“ Peterson said. “How to respond when guys go down. That’s what it’s all about. We have to learn from it and regroup.“

Arizona better learn fast because they probably won’t have quarterback Drew Stanton, who’s been filling in for starter Carson Palmer (shoulder). Stanton sustained a concussion against the Broncos, forcing rookie third-stringer Logan Thomas into an NFL game for the first time. Palmer threw sparingly during warmups and went through position drills Wednesday. He hasn’t played since Week 1 and is 8-2 in his last 10 starts.

If Thomas gets the nod Sunday, he will be ready. He took all the first-team reps during practice.

“Thankfully, I’m a pretty quick learner,“ Thomas said. “I’m looking forward to the chance. And if Carson or Drew can come back, I’m excited to have those guys back. But if it’s my turn, I have to be the guy.“

Arians wasn’t clear on who will be under center versus the Redskins.

“Yeah, we really don’t have any plans right now. Everything is up in the air. We have got a game plan, and we’ll find out who can play quarterback as the week unfolds. Logan Thomas will take most of the snaps today (Wednesday). Carson is attempting to throw again today. He threw yesterday, and Drew is going through the protocol trying to pass his test. So, we’ll take the guys as they come back off of injury or we’ll go with Logan.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

If Thomas makes his first NFL start, be sure to watch the Redskins tee off on the Virginia Tech product. Thomas is athletic, but the Redskins were able to sack Seattle elusive quarterback Russell Wilson three times. But then again Russell ran for more than 100 yards.

Washington is fifth in the NFL with 14.0 sacks this season. That’s not surprising with linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan charging, and the latter is tied for the NFL lead with six. Either way, it’s the next man up for the Cardinals.

“That’s why we practice,“ Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein said. “It’s not like we go out on each side of the ball every day just 11 on 11. It’s about trusting the next guy. Rarely is there a game where someone doesn’t get hurt. There’s always someone who has to go in and step up.“

Of course, the Redskins will try to force Thomas into throwing interceptions, something they have only done twice through five games. Only Jacksonville, New Orleans and the New York Jets have less INTs with one apiece.

The Redskins may see a lot of linebacker Will Compton Sunday with starter Perry Riley Jr. bothered by a knee injury. Gruden said Compton, who took reps with the first-team defense at Wednesday’s practice, would start if Riley’s not ready. Riley recorded a team-high 115 tackles last season.

Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been as advertised in his first season in DC. Jackson rebounded from a poor outing against the Giants with five catches for 157 yards and a 60-yard TD catch, beating Seattle’s vaunted secondary for his second score of the season.

Jackson’s first touchdown in a Washington uniform came against his former Eagles team, an 81-yard bomb by Cousins. He also had a 57-yard reception Monday night and leads the team with 364 yards. Jackson is tops in the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns of 50 or more yards.

“Those two plays showed how good he is,“ Cousins said. “It’s just a matter of finding ways every week to get him the football.“

In Cousins’ defense, he still has to get the ball to Pierre Garcon, Morris, Helu, Andre Roberts and Niles Paul to name a few. Roberts was drafted by the Cardinals in 2010 and will face Peterson and other former teammates.

“Oh yeah, it is going to be a pleasure going up against Andre when it is for real now,“ Peterson said. “I haven’t gone up against him for three years, my first three years here, like one-on-one in practices and all that stuff. I am kind of familiar with the way he moves and all that stuff, but now it is going to be different actually going up against him when it actually means something. But I know Andre is going to be hyped up to get back here to Arizona. It is going to be a blast.“

Peterson also has some history defending Jackson from his days in Philly.

Arizona’s offense has seen better days despite a 3-1 record. The Cardinals, who are tied with Seattle for first in the NFC West, rank 22nd in passing (217.0), 26th in rushing (88.5), 28th in points scored (21.5) and 29th in total yards (305.5).

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald has caught a pass in 153 straight games and has 100 or more yards receiving in each of the past two against Washington.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It doesn’t matter who’s under center for the Cardinals because good teams with leadership rarely lose back-to-back games, according to Arians.

“If you have leadership on your football team, you never lose two in a row,“ Arians said.

Arians believes one of the two injured QBs will return, but until then will devise a scheme to beat the reeling Redskins.

“We’ll formulate a game plan to beat Washington and then see what quarterback is available to do what he does best,“ Arians said. “I’m comfortable with Logan once he gets all the snaps and all the reps that we’ll be able to put out a plan for him to be successful. We feel like one of the other two will be back.“

The Cardinals, winners in six of seven at home, must improve the ground attack, which produced a mere 37 yards in Denver, and that means Andre Ellington has to step it up running the football. Ellington had 32 yards and a score on 16 carries and that won’t get it done with the Redskins in town. However, Ellington caught four passes for 112 yards and a TD against Denver.

Look for a more balanced approach in an Arizona win.

Predicted outcome: Cardinals 24, Redskins 20


►  Bengals aim for bounce back game against Cam and the Panthers

They’re not all the way there yet.

But the Carolina Panthers have begun showing signs of being the team they frequently appeared to be on the way to a 12-4 finish in the 2013 season.

Carolina opened up its encore season with consecutive victories over Tampa Bay and Detroit, but had been bombarded to the tune of 908 total yards in blowout losses to Pittsburgh and Baltimore - and had managed just five sacks in three games after leading the league with 60 a year ago.

Chaos was avoided thanks to a 31-24 defeat of Chicago last weekend, a game in which the visiting Bears were held to 347 total yards and quarterback Jay Cutler was taken down four times. Charles Johnson broke through for his first sack of the season after racking up 11 last season alongside Greg Hardy, who’s still out of commission until a pending domestic violence case involving him is wrapped up.

Johnson added a fumble recovery and a pass deflection as part of a hell-bent- for-leather siege on Cutler that was heartily welcomed by aggression-starved coach Ron Rivera.

“It was great to see the pass rush get the chance to cut loose,“ Rivera said. “When you get yourself into the position when you have a lead, you get them into the second- and third-and-longs, and you can cut it loose and get after the quarterback.“

The uprising was timely, because the offense isn’t nearly so settled.

Running back DeAngelo Williams will miss his fourth game of the season thanks to an ankle injury, while backfield mate Jonathan Stewart is deemed questionable with a knee problem and did not practice with the team on Wednesday.

The Panthers are last in the NFC with a weekly ground average of 74.8 yards, and they may lean more toward an up-tempo version of Cam Newton this week after the fourth-year pro completed eight of 11 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown in two no-huddle possessions against Chicago.

He completed fewer than half his throws - 11-of-24 - for 131 yards in traditional schemes.

“He’s pretty good at it,“ tight end Greg Olsen said. “It’s been good for us this year. Sometimes certain situations dictate that you can’t stay in it, but when we’ve done it we’ve been pretty successful. When we need a spark we can go to it. And it seems like it does spark us.“

Olson caught a pair of scoring passes last week and is on a pace that’ll establish career-highs in catches, yards and touchdowns.

“He’s so consistent,“ Newton said. “Greg didn’t do anything that he hasn’t been doing for us all season.“

Cincinnati was seared by a pair of tight ends in a deflating 26-point loss at New England on Sunday night, falling hard from the ranks of the unbeaten while surrendering 11 catches for 185 yards and a pair of TDs to the combination of Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright.

The Bengals were down 14 in the second quarter and never had a chance to unleash a run game that had averaged 121.7 yards on 34 carries during the previous three victories. Instead, they ran just 18 times and gained 79 yards while suffering their most lopsided loss in two years.

On defense, Cincinnati entered the game having held opponents to the fewest points in the league (33) and had limited their two most recent foes - Atlanta and Tennessee - to an average of 317.5 total yards.

The Patriots went for 505 and scored 43 points.

“You’ve been the one hitting in the mouth, and now you’ve been hit,“ Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “It’s time to respond.“

The good news is that four of Cincinnati’s next five games will take place at Paul Brown Stadium, where it’s won 11 in a row to equal New England for the longest active streak. Also on the plus side is the anticipated return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who led the team in tackles last season but had missed the last two games with a concussion before returning to full practice mode on Wednesday.

A potential down side: Wide receiver A.J. Green left that same practice after aggravating a right toe injury that initially occurred in the season opener against Baltimore. He had five catches for 81 yards and a score against the Patriots, but is suddenly up in the air for Sunday.

“We had a lot of good things in the football game (against New England),“ Lewis said. “There were a lot of positive plays, but not enough of them strung together to make a big enough difference, particularly at the key times. There’s things to learn from and things to build upon in a lot of ways, but more importantly a lot of things to correct, and make sure that we all just stay calm and play through the moment.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Dare to the Air

With Williams unavailable and Stewart likely limited, the Bengals will have the luxury of playing the Panthers with the expectation that footballs will be flying. And while that may not be good news considering Cincinnati has allowed more pass yards than 18 teams, it’s positive considering the Bengals are second stingiest in the league when it comes to passing TDs and also second in interceptions.

Keep it Tight

As mentioned earlier, the Bengals were raked over the coals - over and over again - by the Patriots’ tight end tandem of Gronkowski and Wright. And while Olson doesn’t have the acumen of two men and Newton is still no Tom Brady, it is a happy coincidence that the Carolina QB’s most prolific target just happens to play the same position. If nothing else, it’ll cause Lewis at least a matchup headache or two.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

That sound you heard late Sunday night - while champagne corks were being popped a group of 70-somethings in South Florida - was the mass exodus from what had been a burgeoning Bengals bandwagon.

It’s a point Lewis has made sure to drive home this week, while essentially daring his players to show they’ve got more mettle than the Patriots revealed. At home, they make a statement.

Predicted outcome: Bengals 24, Panthers 20


►  Powerful Broncos hope to exorcise MetLife demons, face fading Jets

Rex Ryan is finally conceding what everyone else takes as gospel.

Unless the sixth-year coach instantly finds a way to reverse course on the New York Jets’ early-season death spiral, there’s an outstanding chance he’ll not be referred to as a “seventh-year coach.“

The Jets have lost four straight for the first time in Ryan’s tenure - including a disheartening 31-0 encounter last week in San Diego - and they return home this week with a starting quarterback having to answer questions about why he missed a team meeting the night before the game.

Oh, and did we mention Peyton Manning is stopping by for a visit.

“(If) we don’t get this thing on the right track, I don’t think for a minute I’ll be here,“ Ryan said this week, during an appearance on ESPN’s New York radio station. “I know I won’t. But I believe this team will right itself and we’ll find a way.“

Given recent events, it’s getting increasingly difficult to imagine what such a way would look like.

The aforementioned Geno Smith was already hearing it from the media after cursing a fan following a Week 4 home loss to Detroit, and he compounded matters on the coast by claiming a misunderstanding of time-zone conversions led to him attending a movie, rather than a pre-game meeting.

Nonetheless, he started the game against the Chargers and was widely panned by critics after completing four of 12 passes for 27 yards and an interception. Back-up quarterback Michael Vick came in for the second half but was no revelation while completing eight of 19 for 47 yards.

He was also sacked twice, and the Jets managed just 151 total yards.

Ryan is standing by his starter and declared Smith would retain the No. 1 role against Denver.

“Was this thing just an aberration?“ he said. “I believe it was.“

For what it’s worth, New York could be buoyed by the return of wide receiver Eric Decker, who missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury. It’d be his first meeting with his former Broncos teammates since leaving to sign a five- year, $36.25 million with the Jets in March.

Decker has 14 catches in four games with New York. In two seasons with Manning in Denver, he caught 172 passes in 32 games - an average of more than five catches per game.

“I wouldn’t say it’s exactly the same,“ he said. “You learn, I think, through the tough times, what people are all about, the character of this team and each individual. There’s definitely no quit in this team, and every game we’ve battled and had a chance besides last week.“

The last time the Broncos played in New Jersey, they struggled a bit, too.

That was in Super Bowl XLVIII in February, when Manning, Decker and the rest of the team took the third-worst scoreboard beating in title game history courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks.

Manning completed 34-of-49 passes, but was intercepted twice and threw just one touchdown in the finale of a season which had seen him establish records for both yardage (5,477) and scoring passes (55).

Against the Jets, another stumble seems far less probable.

The 12 passing touchdowns New York has allowed are tied for second-most in the league and the passer rating compiled by opposing quarterbacks - 107.5 - is third-highest among 32 teams. Additionally, the Jets have intercepted just one pass in five games, part of a three-way tie for the league’s low.

On the other hand, Manning is up to his usual antics, firing 12 TD passes to three interceptions in four games while completing 66.5 percent of his passes for a 109.0 rating and 1,293 yards. He passed the career threshold of 500 aerial touchdowns last week against Arizona and is five away from tying Brett Favre’s all-time mark of 508.

Incidentally, he’s thrown five TDs in a game eight times - twice last season.

But he’s playing it diplomatically in preparation, citing the Jets’ still- lofty statistics when it comes to sacks (17, tied for most in the league) and total defense (320.8 yards per game, sixth in the league).

“This is a stout defense. Tough against the run, causes you a lot of pass protection issues, No. 1 in sacks, a lot of three-and-outs,“ he said. “It’s difficult for an offense because they give you a lot of different looks. It’s a challenge for us in the passing game and the run game, handling just their physical talent and handling just the different looks they give, as well.“

Denver admittedly has been slowed in the run game and enters the weekend ranked 29th in the league with a per-game average of 79.5 yards. The Broncos let Knowshon Moreno go to Miami in the offseason and were set to replace him with Montee Ball, but Ball had been averaging just 3.1 yards per carry before suffering a groin injury last week that’ll keep him out against the Jets.

Ronnie Hillman stepped in after the injury and ran 17 times for 66 yards.

“We’re still looking for that balance every single week,“ Manning said. “It’s a great opportunity for Ronnie. He’s played at different times for different amounts, but when you’re the starting back there’s a different hat that you wear. So we’re counting on him. He has a burst that is pretty unique.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

No Doubting Thomas

The Jets were burned repeatedly by San Diego tight end Antonio Gates last week, including twice on touchdown passes from Philip Rivers. The matchup with Denver’s Julius Thomas is hardly any easier, giving Thomas’ 6-foot-5, 250- pound frame. New York safety Calvin Pryor will need to establish physicality early to prevent Thomas from developing an easy pitch-and-catch rhythm with Manning.

Single Decker

More than one expert has suggested the big receiving numbers Decker used to warrant his big contract were more the result of a Manning-led system than the wideout’s special talents. Presuming he’s matched with Denver cornerback Aqib Talib this week, Decker gets a chance to make a dissenting case. If he can be effective, it’ll create opportunities for other receivers. If not, QB Smith will struggle mightily.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Each year, there’s a game on the schedule that makes people cringe. The Broncos had one in Week 6 last season, when they were 5-0 and hosting 0-5 Jacksonville. Manning threw for two TDs and Denver coasted by 16. Given talent and turmoil, it’s impossible to imagine a scenario - short of a Manning kidnapping—where the Jets win here, too. If he wants the 508 record in Jersey, he’ll probably get it.

Predicted outcome: Broncos 38, Jets 10


►  Bucs search for first home win, take on Ravens

It may indeed be true, but the “at least we’re better than Jacksonville” battle cry probably won’t be too inspiring to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fan base.

The Bucs enter Week 6 still in search of their first home victory of the 2014 season, which they’ll try to get on Sunday from a visit by the Baltimore Ravens.

Tampa Bay has allowed an uninspiring 31.2 points per game through five - better than only the hapless Jaguars - and their total yardage allowed clip of 412.4 yards per week is third-worst in the league. In the last three games, in fact, the Buccaneers have given up an average of 39 points after they’d allowed just 39 total through games one and two.

New Orleans beat them, 37-31, last week in overtime after racking up 511 total yards and erasing an 11-point deficit in the final quarter.

Help is on the way in form of linebacker Mason Foster, who’ll return this week after a shoulder injury that has kept him out since Week 2 against St. Louis.

“I’ll get a chance to run around and hit people in pads,“ Foster said. “I feel good, so it’s looking good.“

On the offense, it’s the next chapter in the Mike Glennon Era as the second- year quarterback prepares to make his third straight start in place of veteran Josh McCown, who’s still hampered by an injured right thumb. The Bucs have split Glennon’s first two starts while he’s averaged 275.5 yards passing while throwing four touchdowns against two interceptions.

Baltimore’s pass defense is 27th in the league through five games.

Tampa Bay, however, has been dogged repeatedly by penalties and turnovers. It has given the ball away 11 times in five weeks (tied for second-most in the league) and committed 15 penalties for more than 100 yards against the Saints. In the last three games, the Buccaneers have been flagged 35 times for 273 yards.

“We are not where we want to be and our record says that,“ Glennon said. “Maybe we are getting better, but better isn’t good enough if you aren’t winning. We need to keep working and to keep staying together, and I am sure those wins will come.“

Wide receiver Mike Evans remains a question mark after a groin injury kept him out of last week’s game, and he was limited in his participation in Wednesday’s practice. On the flip side, Baltimore is without cornerback Asa Jackson, who’s on recallable injured reserve with a sprained toe he suffered last week against Indianapolis.

Jackson’s absence presumably opens the starting door for Lardarius Webb.

As a whole, the Ravens’ defense is third in the league with just 16 points allowed per week. But it’s on offense - specifically, on the ground on offense - where coach John Harbaugh wants to make a mark.

Baltimore gained a season-low 287 total yards in a seven-point loss to the Colts in Week 5 after running the ball just 15 times. In three victories, the Ravens have averaged 33 carries and 148 yards.

The run game is churning out 4.69 yards per carry thus far, a quantum leap from the 2013 average of 3.14 yards that was worst in the league. Avoiding turnovers is also a key, after Baltimore committed three against Indianapolis.

“I just want to get yards,“ Harbaugh said. “Five yards a carry would pretty much lead the league. To do that, we have to rip off some long runs and let’s be good with three different guys. That’s what we need to do. So, we’ll roll those guys in there.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Hey, You Look Familiar

Third-year running back Bobby Rainey has emerged for the Bucs as incumbent Doug Martin continues to struggle with injuries, and he’ll meet up with some old friends on the field this week.

Rainey was on the Ravens’ roster, though he never played, as a rookie in 2012. He’s averaged 4.7 yards and scored once on 47 carries this season, but will be challenged by a unit that’s eighth-best in the NFL in stopping the run.

Fertile Running Ground

Harbaugh’s mandate for five yards per carry is well-timed, considering the Buccaneers’ defense and its aforementioned struggles. Tampa Bay has allowed 113 or more rush yards in four of five games, including 144 and 140 in its last two losses.

Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Bernard Pierce are each averaging 4.4 yards or better per attempt, with five touchdowns scored between them.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Though the record says 1-4, there’s only been one blowout, while the other three losses have been by a combined 14 points. So the Bucs are clearly close to turning it around.

Problem is, they’re facing a team in Baltimore that’ll be content to grind and grind and grind, which is precisely what Tampa Bay has had its hardest time dealing with. Plus, the Bucs simply don’t score consistently enough.

Predicted outcome: Ravens 24, Buccaneers 14


►  Winless Jags visit struggling Titans

The Jacksonville Jaguars are winless through five games, but they’ve got 11 more remaining on the schedule - whether they’re optimistic about it or not.

So, given that reality, gleaning positives from early struggles becomes a necessity.

The Jaguars allowed a single offensive touchdown in an eight-point loss to Pittsburgh last weekend - after giving up a minimum of 33 points in defeats one through four - and the 372 total yards they gave up against the Steelers marked the first time this season in which they held a foe below 400.

Not to mention they’re visiting a familiar old stomping ground in Tennessee, where they ended a similar 0-8 skid that began the 2013 season.

“At the end of the day, our focus here is to get better and to correct the things we haven’t been doing well,“ cornerback Alan Ball. “Just playing for four quarters (against Pittsburgh), that’s what I’m energized about. That’s one thing we should build on.“

Still, while the defense showed signs of resuscitation, the offense could use some work.

Jacksonville is second-from-last in the 32-team league in both scoring and total yardage, with clips of 13.4 points and 272.2 yards, respectively, that are better than only the Oakland Raiders - the league’s only other winless team.

Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has just one touchdown pass and four interceptions in two starts since taking over from veteran Chad Henne, and a picked-off throw in the fourth quarter against the Steelers was returned 22 yards for a decisive touchdown.

But it’s not as if his other weapons have been firing well without him.

The Jaguars’ 67 rushing yards per game are again ahead of just Oakland, and two running backs - Toby Gerhart and Storm Johnson - were each hampered by injuries last week, though both were able to fully participate in Wednesday’s practice.

Gerhart, a fifth-year pro, came over from Minnesota in the offseason and was expected to take over for the since-departed Maurice Jones-Drew, but he’s averaged just 2.6 yards on 43 carries and scored once.

Rookie Marqise Lee caught eight passes for 73 yards in his initial two NFL games, but has subsequently missed three in a row with a hamstring injury. He had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice and is questionable for Sunday.

Another first-year receiver, Allen Hurns, was a fantasy league sensation with four catches, 110 yards and two touchdowns against Philadelphia in Week 1, but the shine has come off since thanks to six dropped passes in four subsequent games - including three last week.

He’s managed 12 catches for 170 yards and one score since the debut.

“It’s not acceptable,“ he said. “It’s all about being consistent. When the plays come to you, you’ve got to make them.“

As for the Titans, they’ve got some wound-licking to do as well.

Tennessee opened with an impressive win against Kansas City in Week 1 before dropping consecutive decisions to Dallas, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Still, it assumed a 25-point lead before halftime and looked ready to return to winning last week against Cleveland, before 26 consecutive points from the Browns transformed a thrilling triumph into the most agonizing of defeats.

It was the largest blown lead by a home team in NFL history, and quickly put coach Ken Whisenhunt into damage-control mode going forward.

“It gives us an opportunity to learn from it,“ he said, “and if we get in that situation again and we win a game because of it. It doesn’t leave a mark.“

To make matters worse, safety Bernard Pollard was lost for the season with an Achilles injury against Cleveland, and oft-dinged quarterback Jake Locker is again questionable with a right thumb problem.

Locker did not practice on Wednesday and has already missed one start this season after playing in just seven games last year. If he’s unable to go against Jacksonville, it’s Charlie Whitehurst’s role.

“I fully believe that we’re going to be a good football team,“ Whisenhunt said. “It’s coming. We’re getting better. We’re going to be OK. We just have to continue on this same track and be consistent.“

Tennessee is 29th in the league in scoring and 23rd in total defense, and it has self-destructed at times while committing 55 penalties.

“Are we frustrated that we’re not better, we’re not playing better football or we haven’t had more success? Sure,“ Whisenhunt said. “Everybody wants to win. That’s what this business is all about. I feel like our guys believe that what we’re doing, we’re doing it the right way.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Ready to Break Through?

Whatever combination of Jacksonville running backs is available on Sunday could find the ground-gaining landscape advantageous against a team that’s been gashed for an average of 136.6 yards per game through its first five outings. Johnson, a rookie who was drafted in the seventh round this spring, debuted against the Steelers and went for an impressive 6.8 yards per carry.

Turning a Corner

Regardless of whether it’s Locker or Whitehurst calling the signals, expect the Tennessee QB to pay particular attention to the status of Jacksonville’s starting cornerbacks. Dwayne Gratz did not play last week against Pittsburgh after sustaining a concussion, which led to replacement by second-year man Demetrius McCray. McCray helped hold Antonio Brown to just two catches for 15 yards.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

OK, Jaguars fans, this is your week. The momentum of a close loss, the site of a maiden-breaking victory last season and an opponent reeling after a deflating come-from-ahead home loss.

If coach Gus Bradley revs the emotional engines back to where they were heading into Week 1 against Philadelphia, this could be the ideal convergence of circumstances for Jacksonville to distance itself from Oakland.

Predicted outcome: Jaguars 17, Titans 16


►  Bills try to solve Brady, Patriots with first place on the line

Tom Brady may not have a lot in common with Samuel Clemens but the man who makes his living as the quarterback of the New England Patriots can certainly relate to the famous writer, who was far better known under his pen name of Mark Twain.

Clemens once wrote “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.“

Brady may tweak that to say “Reports of my career being finished have been greatly exaggerated.“

The future Hall of Famer will get another opportunity to prove that on Sunday in Buffalo when the Patriots clash with the Bills with first place in the AFC East on the line.

Brady has traditionally dominated the Bills in his career, compiling a mind- blowing 22-2 record against Buffalo as a starting quarterback, throwing for 5,817 yards and 54 touchdowns versus just 19 interceptions for a 100.1 passer rating in those contests.

The narrative leading up to last Sunday night’s game between the Patriots and Cincinnati was that the Bengals were now the team to beat in the AFC and New England had fallen off thanks in large part to the decline in play from Brady.

The message should have been, that’s silly because the nine-time Pro Bowl selection threw two touchdown passes as the Pats routed the previously- unbeaten Bengals, 43-17, at Gillette Stadium.

It was a statement game for New England, which was coming off an underwhelming triumph over the winless Raiders and a crushing defeat in Kansas City over the previous two weeks.

Brady completed 23-of-35 for 292 yards and New England racked up 220 yards on the ground, with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen running for 113 and 90, respectively.

“Satisfying night,“ Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said after the win. “Certainly a lot of things we need to do better, but we played hard. We made a lot of plays against a good football team.“

The Bills, meanwhile, are also coming off a satisfying effort that turned into a victory in Detroit after Dan Carpenter boomed a 58-yard field goal with just four seconds to play as Buffalo pulled off a dramatic 17-14 win over the Lions.

Kyle Orton, making his first start for the Bills in place of a benched EJ Manuel, threw for 308 yards and a touchdown on 30-of-43 passing with an interception for Buffalo, which snapped a two-game losing streak.

After the Lions’ Alex Henery missed his third field goal attempt of the game, a 50-yarder that wasn’t even close, the Bills had the ball at their own 40 with 21 seconds to play.

The first snap saw rookie receiver Sammy Watkins bobble a pass before hauling it in for a 20-yard gain. The Bills then called their last timeout and following an incompletion, Carpenter lined up for a 58-yarder and banged it through.

“We knew where we wanted to get the ball, but we thought Dan could do it from there,“ said Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone. “He was all fired up for it and ready to go.“

Detroit’s final play saw the team try using the lateral after a reception by Corey Fuller, but it went nowhere as the Bills recovered the loose ball to seal the win.

Carpenter’s 13 made field goals this season are tied with the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski for the most in the NFL.

“You know we’re fighting through adversity,“ Carpenter said. “It’s really hard to win in this league. It’s really hard to win anywhere, but it’s that much harder to win on the road. You have a lot of games that come to three points, seven points or less and I just think we’re finding ways to win and fighting through that adversity.“

New England is 65-41-1 all-time against Buffalo with nearly all of that cushion coming in the Brady era as the Pats have won 20 of the past 21 in the rivalry.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

It’s a new era for the Bills as Terry Pegula and his wife Kim were unanimously approved as the franchise’s new owners on Wednesday and Buffalo would like to kick off the new regime by beating the team that has dominated them over the past decade while at the same time gaining sole possession of first place in the division.

The move from a struggling second-year quarterback in Manuel to the veteran Orton is a development you can trace back to Pegula’s agreement to purchase the team from the Wilson family trust. The conventional thinking in these types of situations is that new ownership likes to bring in its own people for high-level managerial positions and that’s not lost on both Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley, who both understand the only sure-fire way to keep their employment in western New York is to win and do it now.

That win-now mentality is only amplified by the fact that New England has seemingly come back to the pack in the AFC East. Buffalo was just 27th in total offense with Manuel running the show despite some very solid skill- position players like Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller at running back, along with Watkins, Mike Williams and Robert Woods at receiver.

Watkins had eight catches for 87 yards against Detroit and leads all AFC rookies with 24 receptions for 284 yards.

So far, so good for Orton, who changes things dramatically for the Bills in that he is a completely different signal caller than Manuel, giving up some athleticism in favor of a prototypical pocket-style passer who can make quick decisions and get the ball out quickly.

“He made some throws (against the Lions),“ Marrone said. “I think it started off a little bit tough for someone just getting back in there again, but I thought he played well.“

Orton will be facing a Pats defense which is tied for first in the AFC with six interceptions and features lockdown corner Darrelle Revis, who was exceptional against the Bengals’ A.J. Green in Week 5. In 10 career outings against Buffalo, Revis has five picks, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

When the Patriots traded veteran Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay for receiving tight end Tim Wright, the thought was they were trying to duplicate the success they had with Rob Gronkowski and the now-jailed Aaron Hernandez.

Going back to a tight end-centric offense made sense because New England doesn’t have a lot op options outside the numbers and opposing defenses were now jumping the underneath routes to Julian Edelman and Gronk, who has nine TDs in six career meetings with Buffalo, with no fear of getting beat over the top.

For whatever reason that plan didn’t kick in until last weekend against Cincinnati when Gronkowski caught six passes for 100 yards and a TD, and Wright added five catches for 85 yards and another score.

The Bills, who have the eighth-ranked defense in the NFL, allowing 322.8 yards per game, will try to push the pocket with a strong front four and get Brady off his spots. The key to that is defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who notched a career-high three sacks with a forced fumble and five tackles against Detroit last week.

“It’s a great environment up there,“ Brady said. “It’s always a tough place to play. (The Bills are) playing great, there will be a lot of energy. They’ll be pretty fired up (with the new ownership).“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

From one through 53, the Bills look like the better team these days but what’s past is prologue in this series and Brady has won eight of his past nine starts in Buffalo. Until you see otherwise, you almost have to pick the Patriots over the Bills.

“It’s a huge game for both teams and there’s a lot at stake,“ Spiller said. “We’ve got to be really focused in on the little things and the details to give ourselves a chance to win at home.“

Predicted outcome: Patriots 17, Bills 16


►  Philbin welcomes an old friend to Miami

Joe Philbin’s past is coming back to haunt him this week.

The Miami Dolphins head coach got his job in South Florida thanks in large part to his work as the offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers where he helped develop perhaps the best quarterback in all of football, Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers and Co. will now try to win their third straight game at the expense of Philbin’s Dolphins on Sunday.

Philbin spent nine seasons as an assistant with Green Bay before leaving to take the top job with the Dolphins in 2012.

“I’m very proud of Joe and thankful for our relationship and time together, but this is a game we both need,“ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

Rodgers threw for three touchdowns in Week 5 to lead the Packers to an easy 42-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.

He finished with 156 passing yards on 12-of-17 efficiency while sitting out the fourth quarter of the blowout. Meanwhile, Eddie Lacy had a season-high 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries for the Packers, who were coming off a 38-17 win over Chicago the week prior.

Jordy Nelson had a 66-yard touchdown catch, while Davante Adams and Randall Cobb also caught a scoring pass.

Miami has had extra time to prepare for Rodgers after evening it’s record at 2-2 with a 38-14 Week 4 win over Oakland in London even though Ryan Tannehill’s status as the team’s starting quarterback was questioned leading up to the contest.

Philbin wouldn’t officially commit to Tannehill during the week leading up to the game, as the Dolphins followed up a stirring season-opening win against New England with subpar efforts in losses to Buffalo and Kansas City.

The tweak to Tannehill’s ego may have worked as his performance against the Raiders quieted any rumors of backup Matt Moore taking over. Miami’s first- round pick in 2012 completed 14 straight passes against Oakland at one point, finishing the contest 23-of-31 for 278 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception on a deflected pass.

“I envision myself as a good player,“ said Tannehill. “I knew I wasn’t playing up to those standards in the first three weeks, so I wanted to come out and personally play better and my teammates need that from me. They expected me to play better and to finally be able to come out and do that, it felt good.“

Lamar Miller ran for 64 yards with two touchdowns and the Miami defense was brilliant after allowing a touchdown on Oakland’s first series. The Dolphins D picked off three passes and returned a fumble for a score.

Miami is 10-3 all-time against the Packers after winning the last meeting 23-20 in overtime in 2010. Rodgers was 18-of-33 for 313 yards with a touchdown and an interception in that one.

Green Bay is also just 1-6 at Miami, with the Packers’ lone win coming the last time the team played at the Dolphins, a 34-24 victory in McCarthy’s first season (2006).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

After telling his fan base to relax after a 1-2 start Rodgers has indeed started to heat up, throwing seven TD passes and compiling a 147.0 passer rating over his last two contests. The All-Pro currently ranks second in the NFL with a rating of 114.8.

His best attributes are extending the play thanks to rare pocket awareness, underrated athletic ability and an arm that might be the best in all of football.

“There’s some guys that are truly special,“ Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “(Rodgers) rates up there with the best of them. He’s really amazing to watch.“

The fact that Lacy is also rounding into form after a very poor start will only make things more difficult for the stout Miami defense, which now has to respect the running game. That could result in a false step here and there on play action, something which usually results in Nelson, the best receiver this side of Calvin Johnson, getting behind the secondary.

“Eddie, you know, he’s going to be a guy who’s just going to be continuing to lay on people and to be more of a force as the weather continues to turn here,“ Rodgers said.

The Dolphins not only have gotten some extra rest, they are also expecting the returns of three key contributors. Running back Knowshon Moreno is on track to play for the first time since injuring his elbow in Week 2, while the team’s best offensive lineman, Mike Pouncey, should make his season debut as he returns from offseason hip surgery.

Pouncey has been working at his normal center position as well as right guard in practice, a position he hasn’t played his junior year at the University of Florida.

“Guard’s my position,“ Pouncey said. “I was kind of forced to play center when I got drafted. Guard’s been the position I’ve played my whole life. Whatever position I’m playing, I’ll help the team. It’s coach Philbin’s decision.“

Those two additions should help a running game which is already averaging 142.3 yards per game, fifth best in the NFL. The Packers, on the other hand, are the league’s worst at stopping the run, allowing 163.0 ypg.

Boosting the Miami defense will be safety Reshad Jones, who will be back from a performance-enhancing drugs suspension..

“The bye came at a pretty good time,“ Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. “It’s going to be good for our team. We haven’t seen these guys together like this in a long time. I’m excited. I know our whole team is excited.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Dolphins have been hit or miss this year, scoring 35.5 points per game in their two wins and just 12.5 in their two setbacks.

“We have to start playing at a consistently high level. It’s time.“ Philbin said.

Of course the Miami head coach also said: “The game’s going to get decided by the players.“

And Green Bay has the best player on the planet in Rodgers, a QB who has led his team to a 14-1 mark in his last 15 October games.

Predicted outcome: Packers 28, Dolphins 23


►  Bridgewater set to return as Vikings entertain Lions

It’s not who you play, it’s when you play them.

And the Minnesota Vikings may be getting the Detroit Lions this week without the NFL’s best wide receiver, Calvin Johnson.

The three-time All-Pro did not practice Wednesday because of a high ankle sprain and the tea leaves say it’s doubtful that Johnson will suit up Sunday when the two NFC North rivals clash at TCF Bank Stadium.

“He’s certainly getting treated and coming along, but we’ll see at the end of the week,“ Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said.

The Vikings, meanwhile, will be getting back rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from a sprained ankle, a virtual necessity because the team looked lost with former starter Christian Ponder running the show during a 42-10 thumping in Green Bay during Week 5.

Ponder rushed for a touchdown and completed 22 of his 44 passes for 222 yards and two interceptions against the Packers but sapped the entire team’s confidence with his almost laughable, ineffectual play.

Matt Asiata rushed 15 times for 72 yards and Adam Thielen had 57 yards on four catches in defeat.

“We have to learn how to stop the run and quit doing dumb things,“ Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said while trying to ignore the elephant in the room in Ponder’s play.

The Lions are also coming off a loss when Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter booted a 58- yard field goal with just four seconds to lift the Bills to a 17-14 win over Detroit.

Matthew Stafford went 18-for-31 for 221 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Lions, who had won their previous two games. Golden Tate caught seven passes for 134 yards and a score.

“Obviously a tough one to lose but you have to give credit to (Buffalo), they did a good job shutting down the run and putting pressure on Stafford today,“ said Caldwell.

After Alex Henery missed his third field goal attempt of the game, a 50-yarder that wasn’t even close, the Bills had the ball at their own 40 with 21 seconds to play.

The first snap saw Sammy Watkins bobble a pass, but he held on to it for a 20- yard gain. The Bills then called their last timeout and following an incompletion, Carpenter lined up for a 58-yarder and banged it through.

Detroit’s final play saw the team try using the lateral after a reception by Corey Fuller, but it went nowhere as the Bills recovered the loose ball for the win.

The Vikings lead the all-time series by a significant 69-34-2 margin and have won three of the past four.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Bridgewater will attempt to pick up where he left off two weeks ago against the Falcons in his first NFL start when he threw for 317 yards and rushed for a touchdown while energizing an entire franchise which had been dealing with awful play at the game’s important position for years. Overall the Minnesota offense complied 558 total yards against Atlanta, the fourth-best mark in team history.

“I’ve been able to spend a bunch of time in the training room since we got back from Green Bay,“ Bridgewater said. “The ankle is feeling good, and I’m excited to get back out there for this game this weekend.“

When Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, makes his second start Sunday, three of the team’s top-five projected playmakers will either be banished (RB Adrian Peterson), released (WR Jerome Simpson) or injured (TE Kyle Rudolph).

He’ll also be facing the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense which features three No. 1 picks on the defensive line, led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick in 2010.

“Their front four is very great, a great group of guys,“ Bridgewater said. “Very stingy in the run game, so we know we’re going to be up for a challenge, but it’s one of those challenges that we’re looking forward to.“

The Lions stop unit is allowing just 282.4 yards per game overall and is fourth against the run, surrendering 74.4 ypg and fifth in passing defense with 208 ypg. Detroit is also is second in points allowed at 15.8 per game.

“They’re obviously number one in the league defensively for a reason,“ Zimmer said. “It’s not just their front, but they’re playing good in the back end as well, but their defense kind of thrives from their front guys.“

For Detroit, Johnson has been ailing for weeks, originally suffering a high ankle sprain in a 19-7 win over Green Bay on September 21, before aggravating the injury again in last Sunday’s loss to Buffalo.

The Lions will play it close to the vest but they probably look at this game and see all the issues plaguing the Vikings and see a logical spot to rest not only Johnson but also running back Reggie Bush, who is also dealing with an ankle injury.

“You want to be smart,“ Johnson said. “You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you can’t be there for the team when it comes down to it there at the end, and that’s what we’re trying to be smart about right now. Anytime you’re dealing with an ankle, you got to run, you got to cut and do all those things, so it makes it tough.“

Tate has done well as the main receiver in Johnson’s stead.

“I don’t like to call myself a No. 2 receiver for anyone,“ Tate said. “Obviously (Johnson’s) the No. 1 for sure, but 1B sounds good.“

After Henery’s disastrous performance last week, Detroit signed former Pro Bowler kicker Matt Prater on Tuesday. Prater, who was released by the Denver Broncos last week after serving a four- game suspension, will be the team’s third kicker already this season.

The Lions cut rookie Nate Freese after Week 3 and released Henery on Monday after he missed the three field goal attempts in the loss to Buffalo.

Prater, 30, missed just one of his 26 attempts last season and set an NFL record with a 64-yard field goal against Tennessee in December. He spent the last six-plus seasons with Denver but was suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, reportedly over alcohol-related offenses.

“Sometimes you’ve got to get knocked down to learn the hard way,“ Prater said. “I’m thankful that I have a second chance here and learn from all the mistakes I’ve made in the past.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Vikings probably couldn’t keep up with a healthy Lions club but the injuries will put this game in play.

Even though it’s very early in his career, Bridgewater has already shown the ability and leadership skills to ignite an entire organization. Figure on that continuing here.

“We know that it’s going to be a challenge for us,“ Bridgewater said. “We’re just going to try our best to execute the game plan and eventually we would like to come out with the win.“

Predicted outcome: Vikings 23, Lions 20



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pacers pick up option on Hill

The Indiana Pacers picked up the 2015-16 option on forward Solomon Hill’s contract, the team announced Thursday.

Details of the contract were not released.

Hill, entering his second season with the Pacers, averaged 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds in 28 games last season.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Keys to winning the 2014 ALCS

The Baltimore Orioles are looking for their first World Series title since 1983. Cinderella is standing in their way, though, as the Kansas City Royals, back in the playoffs for the first time since their last World Series win 29 years ago, are trying to continue their magical ride.

Kansas City stole the most bases (153) in the league this season, while Baltimore ranked dead last (44). The Orioles, though, hit the most home runs (211) in the league, whereas the Royals (95) ranked dead last.

These teams may have arrived at this point via very different routes, but they still have the same goal in mind.

As an introduction to this ALCS matchup, let’s take a look at some of the keys to winning the series for both clubs:

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

1. KEEP HITTING HOME RUNS

No team signified small ball more than Kansas City, which won 89 games this season thanks in large part to its ability to play defense and manufacture runs.

Kansas City may have ranked dead last in home runs during the regular season, but has enjoyed the luxury of going deep here in the postseason and won the first two games in Anaheim on the strength of two extra-inning homers. Amazingly, the Royals have hit just as many homers this postseason (4) as the Orioles, a team that blasted 116 more than them during the regular season.

“Well, you know, it was huge. Won us two games,“ KC manager Ned Yost said of the power hitting after Sunday’s clincher. “Coming into this game, we were hitting .162 as a team, they were hitting .141, but the difference were the two big home runs. That gave us the edge. Tonight the power was huge again.“

Baltimore scores runs in bunches. If the Royals want to hang with them and get into a slugfest they are going to need to hit a few more out of the park in the ALCS.

2. SHIELDS NEEDS TO BE “BIG GAME JAMES”

James Shields is the closest thing the Royals have to an ace. After all, he’s nicknamed “Big Game James”.

But Shields has yet to live up to his moniker in the postseason, going 3-4 with a 4.96 ERA in eight starts. He’s also lost both of his ALCS starts while with the Tampa Bay Rays.

With rookie Yordano Ventura and Jason Vargas following him, the Royals are going to need Shields to pitch as he did down the stretch.

3. RIDE THE WAVE OF MOMENTUM

There is something going on here in Kansas City. I can’t put my finger on it, but the Royals are getting every break. Everything seems to be falling their way.

The fact that they are winning with the home run should tell you all you need to know.

We see things like this happen in hockey all the time where a team gets hot and steamrolls their way to a title. Rarely does it happen in baseball, at least to the extent where it ends with a World Series title.

But we have seen it.

Maybe it’s just the Royals’ year.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

1. KEEP THE ROYALS OFF THE BASES

One of the bigger decisions O’s skipper Buck Showalter will have to make will be who is behind the plate. Nick Hundley has assumed the starter’s role given how bad Caleb Joseph has been offensively.

But, Kansas City stole seven bases in its wild card win over the Oakland Athletics and has swiped 12 bases this postseason. Or 10 more than the Orioles.

The Royals thrive on the stolen base. The problem for Showalter is that Hundley only threw out 14 percent of runners in 2014. Joseph, on the other hand, led the American League at 40 percent.

Joseph may be hitless in his last 33 at-bats, but he’ll be the one behind the plate in Game 1.

2. SCORE EARLY

Baltimore scored 21 runs in the three-game sweep of Detroit, but tallied almost half of those runs against the beleaguered Tigers bullpen.

That won’t happen in this series.

Baltimore is going to have to do its damage against Shields, Ventura and Vargas, because if they are trailing late in a game runs will be hard to come by against the Royals’ great bullpen trio of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland.

Baltimore wins by hitting home runs. So much so that 47.8 percent of its runs this season came off of homers, the third highest percentage in Major League history. It’s been more of the same here in October, as the O’s have scored seven of their 21 runs via the homer.

Kansas City’s staff, though, gave up the third-fewest home runs in the league at 128. However, it has surrendered six in four postseason games.

If Baltimore is able to leave the yard and do so early, this could be a short series.

3. BUD NORRIS

You ask someone who the best pitcher is on the Orioles and you are bound to get a few different answers. Chris Tillman will certainly come up, even Wei- Yin Chen. But right now the best pitcher on the Orioles is Bud Norris.

Norris tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in the Game 3 clincher versus the Tigers and is 5-0 since the start of September.

“Really happy for Bud, because he’s a guy that just because someone hasn’t had the opportunity to do something before, doesn’t mean they can’t do it,“ Showalter said.


►  MLB announces LCS umpires

Major League Baseball announced the umpiring crews for the championship series round on Thursday.

Joe West will be the crew chief for the American League Championship Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals, while Gerry Davis will lead the crew for the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.

Joining West will be Brian Gorman, Marvin Hudson, Dan Iassogna, Ron Kulpa, Tim Timmons and Mark Wegner.

Mark Carlson, Phil Cuzzi, Paul Emmel, Greg Gibson, Bill Miller and Bill Welke will work with Davis.

The ALCS is scheduled to begin Friday in Baltimore. The NLCS will start Saturday in St. Louis.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Johnson in dire need of a win at Charlotte

Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be a pivotal race for six-time and defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Charlotte is the second of three races in the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Talladega (October 19) is the last event in this round. After Talladega, the playoff field will be trimmed from 12 drivers to eight for the Eliminator Round, which includes the races at Martinsville (October 26), Texas (November 2) and Phoenix (November 9).

Johnson’s hopes of winning a record-tying seventh title in NASCAR’s premier series this year are in jeopardy after he finished 40th this past Sunday at Kansas, the first race in the Contender Round. He was involved in an accident with Greg Biffle in the early going. Johnson, the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, is now 12th in the Chase point standings. He is 27 points behind eighth-place and teammate Jeff Gordon.

Per NASCAR’s new playoff format for Sprint Cup, any current championship- eligible driver who wins a race during a round will automatically advance into the next round. Joey Logano won at Kansas and secured one of the eight positions for the Eliminator Round. If Johnson can win at either Charlotte or Talladega, he will move on to the following round as well.

In May, Johnson won at Charlotte for a record seventh time when he took the checkered flag for the Coca-Cola 600—NASCAR’s longest race of the season. He scored a season-sweep at this 1.5-mile track in both 2004 and ‘05. His last victory in the fall race here occurred in 2009, the same year he claimed his fourth of five consecutive series championships.

“We’re ready to go racing,“ Johnson said. “I love competing at this racetrack, and I look forward to a great race on Saturday night. The mindset is really to come in and try to take a trophy out of here. That would really solve our problem in the points that we have right now.

“If we can’t get a win, then we need to focus on finishing as high as we can. And the reason that leaves us a little bit of hope is if you miss the big ones (major crashes) at Talladega then you could assume that some of the Chasers will be involved in one or two of those. You might have another chance.“

Johnson has three wins this season but has not been to victory lane since June 15 at Michigan (18 races ago). Surprisingly, he has not led a lap in a race since the August 17 event at Michigan. Johnson started the Chase with a 12th- place finish at Chicagoland, followed by a fifth-place run at New Hampshire and then third at Dover before finishing 40th at Kansas.

“We’re just not where we want to be, bottom line,“ he said. “We’re working very hard to get there. This sport is not forgiving. And what you’ve accomplished in the past doesn’t buy you a damn thing for the present. You’ve got to go out there and earn it and make the most of it.

“We’ve been a third-to-fifth-place car, and we can run and finish there, but we haven’t been a dominant car. We’re certainly hoping that when we come to tracks that have been very good for the 48 then we can be able to find that little bit and find that extra tenth (of a second) to put us in that position and get our mojo going in the right way.“

Johnson has several good tracks ahead of him. He has eight wins at Martinsville, three at Texas, including a victory there one year ago, and four at Phoenix.

“I know what our team is capable of, and I know if we can find that last stone to flip over, where the speed is at, what’s holding us up, then we can go,“ Johnson said. “We’re eagerly awaiting for that moment in time to happen. So I feel like good tracks are going to promote that and help us find that way sooner.

“Dover, although we didn’t lead a lap there, we were still very competitive and ran third. We’re here at another great track (Charlotte). Martinsville is right around the corner, so we’re hopeful to get on our way.“

For now, Johnson is just hoping to stay alive in the Chase and make it into the Eliminator Round.

Forty-four teams are on the entry list for the Bank of America 500.

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, October 11. Race: Bank of America 500. Site: Charlotte Motor Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 7:30 PM ET. Laps: 334. Miles: 501. 2013 Winner: Brad Keselowski. Television: ABC. Radio: Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.


►  Rossi to substitute for Bianchi in Russian GP

American Alexander Rossi is scheduled to make his Formula One racing debut in the Russian Grand Prix this weekend, substituting for the injured Marussia driver Jules Bianchi.

According to an official FIA (the governing body of F1) entry list, Rossi has been listed as driver of the No. 42 entry for Marussia. The team has yet to confirm that Rossi will be in Bianchi’s car.

Bianchi remains in critical but stable condition in an intensive care unit at Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, Japan after suffering a severe head injury during an accident in the closing laps of last Sunday’s rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix. The 25-year-old Frenchman slid off course and collided with a recovery vehicle that was removing Adrian Sutil’s car after Sutil went off course and crashed into the barrier.

A 23-year-old Auburn, California native, Rossi has been a test and reserve driver for Marussia since July. Rossi was originally scheduled to replace British driver Max Chilton for the August 24 Belgian Grand Prix, but Marussia reversed its driver decision days before the race.


►  F1 drivers thinking of Bianchi while racing in Russia

While Formula One is set to compete in Russia for the first time, it will be a somber mood in the paddock this weekend, following Jules Bianchi’s horrifying accident in last Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Marussia driver Bianchi remains in critical but stable condition in an intensive care unit at Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, Japan after suffering a severe head injury from the accident, which occurred in the closing laps of the rain-soaked race. The 25-year-old Frenchman slid off course and collided with a recovery vehicle that was removing Adrian Sutil’s Sauber car after Sutil went off course and crashed into the barrier.

F1 has arrived at the brand-new Sochi Autodrom—a 3.637-mile (5.853- kilometer), 18-turn street circuit located in an Olympic venue. Sochi hosted the XXII Olympic Winter Games in February. F1 drivers are eager to get on track and become familiar with this circuit, but right now, they all have Bianchi in their thoughts.

“All of our thoughts are with Jules,“ said Ferrari driver and two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso. “All of our minds are there because we have huge respect for our work, but when there are big accidents, there are no words to describe how you feel. It was a tough weekend (in Japan), and right now we are here, a difficult weekend again. Emotionally, it’s very difficult. We’re ready to race, to race for him, being as professional as we can but definitely our minds are with him in this moment, praying for him.“

Heavy rain associated from Typhoon Phanfone had an effect on the Japanese GP. The start of the race was delayed due to poor weather conditions, and the first nine laps were run under the safety car.

Following Bianchi’s crash, the safety car was deployed again, as it began to rain heavily. The race was suspended nine laps short of its scheduled 53-lap distance.

“I think first of all you need to see that it was an extremely difficult race for all of us,“ Red Bull driver and four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel said. “I think I join on what the other drivers said, in terms of how difficult, it is probably the most difficult race to digest so far.

“But I think difficult conditions, leaving a very, very small margin for error. Obviously for Jules at that time it was too small. On top of that, very unlucky circumstances led to a catastrophe really. I think at this stage all of our thoughts are with Jules and his family, and we wish him all the strength that we can send.“

Williams driver Felipe Massa considers Bianchi’s wreck as one of the worst things he has ever experienced in his racing career. In 2009, while driving for Ferrari, Massa was involved in a near-fatal crash during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. He suffered a fractured skull as well as a concussion and an injury to his left eye when he was struck by a spring that came off of Ruben Barrichello’s Brawn GP car. His injuries sidelined him for the remainder of the ‘09 season.

“For me, I think it was the worst race of my life,“ Massa said of the Japanese GP. “It’s a really bad race, worse than the race of my accident, because I didn’t remember. It was the worst race of my life. It’s been so difficult everyday because I’m just thinking about Jules.

“It’s a very difficult weekend for all of us. Maybe (Friday in practice) it will get a little bit better because at least you are working and at least you have something to think about.“

Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes won the Japanese GP and increased his lead in the F1 world championship point standings. It was first time Hamilton had scored a victory at Suzuka Circuit. He now holds a 10-point advantage over his teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.

“As I crossed the line, obviously I was pleased to have finally won at Suzuka, but as soon as we got back to the pits and heard what happened to Jules, it suddenly didn’t seem relevant anymore,“ Hamilton said. “My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.“

Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, October 12. Race: Russian Grand Prix. Site: Sochi Autodrom. Track: 3.637-mile (5.853-kilometer), 18-turn street circuit. Start Time: 7 AM ET. Laps: 53. Miles: 192.750 (310.209 km). Television: NBC Sports Network.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Cam Newton: Start Him or Sit Him?

This is not a name that I expected to discuss, in regards to starting or sitting him, this early in the 2014 season. However, Cam Newton’s play has declined drastically from last year, and owners in one-quarterback leagues, need to seriously consider sitting the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback in Week 6.

According to Yahoo standard leagues, Newton is the 24th-ranked quarterback, in fantasy football, with 60.52 total points. Yes, he missed the first game of the season with sore ribs, but let me put this in perspective.

Quarterbacks like Austin Davis (65.06 fantasy points), Kirk Cousins (75.68 fantasy points) and EJ Manuel (61.72 fantasy points) have all outperformed Newton thus far this season. When owners see numbers like that, it is a borderline no-brainer, to at least think about, leaving him on the bench.

Part of the reason Newton has been a successful fantasy quarterback, since he entered the NFL, is a result of his ability to run. Last season, he totaled 585 rushing yards, along with six touchdowns on the ground. That amounted to 94.5 total fantasy points through rushing statistics. Newton ranked third among all players in fantasy football, during the 2013 season, with 310.66 points. It is evident that he simply needs to produce on the ground to be considered a dynamic fantasy quarterback.

This season, Newton has only 42 rushing yards and zero touchdowns, through four games. The Carolina coaching staff seem to be cognizant of the fact that they want to keep their star quarterback as healthy as possible, after undergoing offseason surgery on his left ankle. Whether Carolina is protecting Newton’s ankle or ribs, fantasy owners continue to be frustrated, and with a tough Week 6 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, things do not get much easier.

The Bengals have played extremely well against opposing quarterbacks in 2014. They are seventh in fantasy football in average points against quarterbacks, allowing only 15.38 points per game. On top of that, Cincinnati allows only one passing touchdown per game, and has yet to allow a quarterback to score a rushing touchdown. They also have been extremely opportunistic, as they average 1.5 interceptions per game, through their first four.

Now, if owners want one positive note, Cincinnati is coming off their worst performance against an opposing quarterback. Tom Brady threw for 292 yards, two touchdowns, and totaled 20.98 fantasy points against the Bengals. It was the most the team has given up to a quarterback all season.

Final Thought:

I used the term “no-brainer” earlier, and when it comes down to this decision, it is simply a no-brainer to bench Newton. This is contingent, as long as owners have a decent second option. The combination of the poor matchup and the fact that Newton has barely pulled the ball down to run in 2014, makes the choice an obvious one. With Carolina off to a 3-2 start, yet not getting their typical play from Newton, has to make owners think that the coaching staff is in no rush to turn their quarterback loose. Until Newton proves he is a threat to run the ball again, it would seem that he will continue to be a poor fantasy play.


►  Week 6 Player Fantasy Rankings - Quarterbacks

Amazing to say we are already through five weeks of the NFL season. The league is starting to take shape, as the good teams are beginning to separate themselves from the average teams, and the bad teams are proving to be bottom-feeders, and essentially competing for the first-overall pick.

The quarterback position is also taking shape, and we should look no further than the production of Philip Rivers. Heading into the 2014 fantasy football season, In August Rivers was projected as the 17th-ranked quarterback (according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com). However, he is currently performing as the second overall scorer, not only at the quarterback position, but overall. It is simply time to give Rivers his credit, and realize his 12- to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, is no fluke. Rivers enters Week 6 as our second ranked signal-caller.

We wanted to put Rivers in our top spot, but after Peyton Manning’s performance last Sunday, our hand was forced. Manning continues to prove that age is just a number, and while he is not getting any younger, the number that also continues to increase, is his total number of touchdown passes. After four touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals, Manning now has 12 on the season - through only four games. As a result, there is no reason for owners to feel that any defense on Denver’s schedule will be able to stop the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Heading into Week 4, Aaron Rodgers told Green Bay Packer fans to R-E-L-A-X. He was dead on. Since that point, Rodgers has thrown for seven touchdowns and no interceptions in two games, and has finally gotten production out of tailback Eddie Lacy. We feel Lacy will continue to be productive throughout the rest of the season, which in turn will open up more throwing lanes for Green Bay’s quarterback. As a result, Rodgers closes out our top-three for Week 6.

One guy who is trending the wrong way is Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. He was banged up coming into the 2014 season, but owners have no doubt been even more frustrated, than expected. In the past, Newton got a ton of fantasy points from scrambling, as he accumulated 585 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in 2013. However, through four games (missed season opener) this year, Newton has only 42 rushing yards, along with zero touchdowns on the ground, which is obviously a result of the offseason ankle surgery. With only five passing touchdowns in 2014, combined with the fact Carolina’s Week 6 opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, are third in the league against opposing quarterbacks, on average, makes for a legitimate concern for fantasy owners to start Newton this weekend and moving forward.

Top-25 Quarterback Rankings

—————————————-

1) Peyton Manning, Denver

2) Philip Rivers, San Diego

3) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

4) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

5) Matt Ryan, Atlanta

6) Russell Wilson, Seattle

7) Jay Cutler, Chicago

8) Eli Manning, New York Giants

9) Nick Foles, Philadelphia

10) Matt Stafford, Detroit

11) Tony Romo, Dallas

12) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco

13) Cam Newton, Carolina

14) Tom Brady, New England

15) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

16) Joe Flacco, Baltimore

17) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

18) Brian Hoyer, Cleveland

19) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston

20) Kirk Cousins, Washington

21) Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

22) Ryan Tannehill, Miami

23) Blake Bortles, Jacksonville

24) Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay

25) Kyle Orton, Buffalo


►  Week 6 Player Fantasy Rankings - Wide Receivers

Holy Demaryius Thomas! After totaling only 21 fantasy points (standard leagues) through his first three games combined, Thomas finally broke out during Week 5, with 226 receiving yards and two touchdowns (34 fantasy points). We expect that to get him going and he will continue to produce as a top-five receiver throughout the rest of the season. As a result, Thomas takes down the second spot, in our Week 6 rankings.

Ranking a guy ahead of Thomas was no easy task. Cases can be made for multiple players, but we went with the sure-handed Julio Jones. He hasn’t scored a touchdown in the previous two weeks, but we expect that trend to change this week against the Chicago Bears. Chicago gives up the sixth most points to receivers, on average, and with Atlanta playing at home where his quarterback Matt Ryan has a career 98.7 QB rating, we simply feel Jones will have a monster game.

Rounding out our top-three, is the guy who was possibly the biggest steal in fantasy drafts. Heading into the season, Antonio Brown was ranked as the seventh-rated wide receiver (according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com). However, the Steelers’ wideout is currently ranked as the top point-getter, amongst all receivers. Brown has had at least five catches and 84 yards in each game this season, and with five touchdowns already in 2014, he continues to trend toward a “career year.“

With Calvin Johnson iffy to play this week against the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit wide receiver Golden Tate’s stock continues to rise. Coming off his best game as a Lion (7 catches, 134 yards, 1 touchdown), Tate is on the upswing. Even if Johnson is able to suit up, he could be used more as a decoy, leaving Tate in one-on-one situations. Owners need to be aware that Tate has top-ten upside for the second consecutive week.

One player for owners to possibly stay away from, is Redskins’ playmaker Pierre Garcon. Garcon has been borderline invisible this season, and has produced double-digit fantasy points just once in 2014 (Week 3 with 19). It is hard to pinpoint exactly why Garcon is struggling, but with the unsettling issues at quarterback for Washington, combined with the presence of DeSean Jackson, it simply seems he has gotten lost in the shuffle. Garcon has only one touchdown this year, and until he is able to prove he can be a consistent fantasy player again, owners may want to move him to their bench this week, against the Arizona Cardinals.

Top-50 Wide Receiver Rankings

——————————————-

1) Julio Jones, Atlanta

2) Demaryius Thomas, Denver

3) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

4) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

5) Brandon Marshall, Chicago

6) A.J. Green, Cincinnati

7) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia

8) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

9) Randall Cobb, Green Bay

10) Victor Cruz, New York Giants

11) Dez Bryant, Dallas

12) Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore

13) Golden Tate, Detroit

14) Emmanuel Sanders, Denver

15) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

16) Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

17) Calvin Johnson, Detroit

18) Keenan Allen, San Diego

19) Michael Floyd, Arizona

20) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

21) Julian Edelman, New England

22) T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

23) Michael Crabtree, San Francisco

24) Pierre Garcon, Washington

25) Andre Johnson, Houston

26) DeSean Jackson, Washington

27) Percy Harvin, Seattle

28) Mike Wallace, Miami

29) Brian Quick, St. Louis

30) Roddy White, Atlanta

31) Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

32) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis

33) Wes Welker, Denver

34) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

35) Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota

36) Terrance Williams, Dallas

37) Anquan Boldin, San Francisco

38) Reuben Randle, New York Giants

39) Torrey Smith, Baltimore

40) Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland

41) Justin Hunter, Tennessee

42) Malcom Floyd, San Diego

43) Devin Hester, Atlanta

44) Eric Decker, New York Jets

45) James Jones, Oakland

46) Eddie Royal, Chargers

47) Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati

48) Kendall Wright, Tennessee

49) Allen Hurns, Jacksonville

50) Stevie Johnson, San Francisco


►  Week 6 Player Fantasy Rankings - Running Backs

DeMarco Murray and Arian Foster stole the show last Sunday, combining to gain 364 yards from scrimmage and score two touchdowns.

Both remain in the top 10 for Week 6, but Matt Forte claims the top spot. He has been one of the best fantasy running backs the past two weeks, gaining over 150 yards from scrimmage in each of the last two games.

Forte has the best matchup this Sunday against the Falcons, who have allowed the most fantasy points to opponent running backs this year. Chicago and Atlanta both love to score and the playmakers should be on full display on the fast track at the Georgia Dome.

Last week, Murray became the first running back to rush for over 100 yards in the first five games to start the season since O. J. Simpson did that in 1975. His ranking drops out of the top five in Week 6 only because the Cowboys are on the road versus the Seahawks.

Rashad Jennings, Ben Tate and Branden Oliver would all be low-end RB1 options on Sunday, however, there is more than a 75 percent chance that Jennings, listed as doubtful, misses his “friendly” matchup in Philadelphia. Check his status as the week goes.

Tate and Oliver both exploded with over 120 yards on offense in Week 5. Each back will remain his team’s focal point this Sunday against favorable opponents. Oliver and the Chargers are in Oakland, and the Browns welcome the Steelers to Cleveland. Tate averaged 6.8 yards per rush before leaving the first game against Pittsburgh.

Ronnie Hillman and Andre Williams joined Oliver as the top-three waiver wire pickups of the week. Williams’ value rises dramatically if Jennings does indeed sit, but Hillman has a tough matchup against the Jets. Even though New York allowed all those yards to Oliver last week, owners should keep their expectations for Hillman in check.

Atlanta’s Antone Smith is another interesting waiver wire pickup possibility. He has scored a touchdown in three straight matchups even though he has yet to touch the ball more than four times in a game.

Top-50 Running Back Rankings

——————————————

1) Matt Forte, Chicago

2) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

3) Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

4) Arian Foster, Houston

5) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

6) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

7) Frank Gore, San Francisco

8) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

9) DeMarco Murray, Dallas

10) Rashad Jennings, New York Giants

11) Ben Tate, Cleveland

12) Branden Oliver, San Diego

13) Andre Ellington, Arizona

14) Fred Jackson, Buffalo

15) Reggie Bush, Detroit

16) Alfred Morris, Washington

17) Lamar Miller, Miami

18) Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville

19) Matt Asiata, Minnesota

20) Stevan Ridley, New England

21) Steven Jackson, Atlanta

22) Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis

23) C.J. Spiller, Buffalo

24) Joique Bell, Detroit

25) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

26) Zac Stacy, St. Louis

27) Ronnie Hillman, Denver

28) Justin Forsett, Baltimore

29) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

30) Shane Vereen, New England

31) Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota

32) Andre Williams, New York Giants

33) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

34) Darren McFadden, Oakland

35) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee

36) Chris Ivory, New York Jets

37) Trent Richardson, Indianapolis

38) Donald Brown, San Diego

39) Lorenzo Taliaferro, Baltimore

40) Chris Johnson, New York Jets

41) Shonn Greene, Tennessee

42) Darrin Reaves, Carolina

43) Carols Hyde, San Francisco

44) LeGarrette Blount, Pittsburgh

45) Antone Smith, Atlanta

46) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

47) Terrance West, Cleveland

48) Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay

49) James Starks, Green Bay

50) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland


►  Week 6 Player Fantasy Rankings - Tight Ends

The rubble seems to have settled in Foxboro, and it turns out the Brady-Belichick era is not over, surprise, surprise.

In fact, it could be experiencing a sort of re-birth. Rob Gronkowski looks healthier every week, and that “no-name guy”, Tim Wright, Belichick acquired in the Logan Mankins trade, caught five passes for 85 yards and a touchdown against a tough Bengals defense.

Gronkowski is ranked third and Tim Wright comes in ranked 14th for Week 6 against the Bills.

With Jimmy Graham and the Saints on bye, it was easy to slot Julius Thomas at No. 1 this week. After all, that guy named Peyton Manning is pretty good and the Broncos play the Jets, who allowed Antonio Gates to score two touchdowns last week.

Dwayne Allen has scored a touchdown in three straight weeks and has four scores in the first five games this year, but he has a touch matchup in Houston. Owners will have to hope he finds the end zone again if they insert him into the lineup.

Jordan Cameron has been rather disappointing this year with just six catches for 103 yards, however, two of those grabs and 47 yards came against Pittsburgh in Week 1. Cameron looked like he was on his way to a big day on the opening weekend until he left with an injury. Cameron should get it going against the Steelers, that’s if he can play the whole game.

For fantasy owners willing to take a rather big risk with huge upside, Seahawks’ tight end Luke Wilson, is the man. The Seahawks welcome the Cowboys to the Pacific Northwest. Dallas has yielded the most fantasy points to opponent tight ends in 2014 and Wilson will start due to the injury to Zach Miller.

Keep in mind, Wilson also had a pretty friendly matchup on Monday night against Washington and caught just three passes for 28 yards. The Redskins allowed three touchdowns to Larry Donnell the week prior.

Top-25 Tight End Rankings

————————————-

1) Julius Thomas, Denver

2) Delanie Walker, Tennessee

3) Rob Gronkowski, New England

4) Greg Olsen, Carolina

5) Jason Witten, Dallas

6) Jordan Cameron, Cleveland

7) Martellus Bennett, Chicago

8) Vernon Davis, San Francisco

9) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh

10) Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis

11) Antonio Gates, San Diego

12) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

13) Owen Daniels, Baltimore

14) Tim Wright, New England

15) Larry Donnell, New York Giants

16) Niles Paul, Washington

17) Luke Wilson, Seattle

18) Clay Harbor, Jacksonville

19) Scott Chandler, Buffalo

20) Charles Clay, Miami

21) Coby Fleener, Indianapolis

22) Eric Ebron, Detroit

23) Jared Cook, St. Louis

24) Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati

25) Jace Amaro, New York Jets


►  Week 6 Player Fantasy Rankings - Kickers

The Falcons have played just two home games in the first five weekends, but have totaled 93 points. For those bad at math, that’s a 46.5 ppg average. Atlanta place-kicker Matt Bryant averaged 12.5 ppg in those two contests.

Bryant will have the two primary factors which help kickers working in his favor in Week 6 - multiple opportunities and perfect weather conditions. For those reasons, we have placed him at the top of our Week 6 kicker rankings.

As of Thursday, it appears that weather could be a major factor in the Week 6 kicking game with early reports showing the possibility of wet weather in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Tennessee, Miami, Minnesota, Seattle and Philadelphia.

Steve Hauschka is still a top kicker this week, despite the possibility of poor weather in the Pacific Northwest. He’s obviously used to wet conditions as he owns a career 87.5 percent success rate on field goal attempts at home (49-of-56).

Phil Dawson holds down the No. 3 spot. He’s connected on 9-of-9 field goal attempts over the past two weekends and heads indoors to St. Louis for the Monday night matchup. The 49ers offensive game plan has turned conservative, meaning run the ball more often, take fewer chances and be willing to kick field goals and play tough defense to win games instead of Colin Kaepernick forcing the action. That’s great news for Dawson and his fantasy owners.

Matt Prater is back in the rankings having just signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions. We will like him more when we know Calvin Johnson is healthy and contributing to the Lions offense as more than a decoy.

Top-25 Kicker Rankings

———————————

1) Matt Bryant, Atlanta

2) Steven Hauschka, Seattle

3) Phil Dawson, San Francisco

4) Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis

5) Robbie Gould, Chicago

6) Cody Parker, Philadelphia

7) Mike Nugent, Cincinnati

8) Justin Tucker, Baltimore

9) Nick Novak, San Diego

10) Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh

11) Mason Crosby, Green Bay

12) Brandon McManus, Denver

13) Stephen Gostkowski, New England

14) Blair Walsh, Minnesota

15) Dan Bailey, Dallas

16) Dan Carpenter, Buffalo

17) Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona

18) Billy Cundiff, Cleveland

19) Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis

20) Matt Prater, Detroit

21) Graham Gano, Carolina

22) Josh Brown, New York Giants

23) Caleb Sturgis, Miami

24) Nick Folk, New York Jets

25) Randy Bullock, Houston


►  Week 6 Player Fantasy Rankings - Defense

It’s never fun for opposing offenses playing in Seattle. The noise level by the Seahawks “12th man” keeps teams from making many adjustments at the line of scrimmage.

Just ask Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning who both took teams into Seattle this season and lost. Worse, these to future Hall of Fame quarterbacks could only manage 18 ppg. Sorry Cowboys fans, but Dallas quarterback Tony Romo doesn’t play at the same level as Manning or Rodgers.

This defensive output is not a fluke. Last season teams coming into the Pacific Northwest and averaged just 13.8 ppg and in 2012 that number was 11.9 ppg.

Fresh off a dominating performance against a previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals team, the New England Patriots travel to Buffalo to meet the Bills and sit near the top of our defense/special teams rankings.

New England has dominated this matchup in the past and with newly-designated starting quarterback Kyle Orton under center, a journeyman at best, could have another big day. The Patriots have forced 11 turnovers (tied for second-best) and are averaging a couple of sacks per game.

The Denver Broncos travel to New York to face a struggling Jets offense. The 1-4 Jets looked completely lost last weekend in San Diego getting shut out 31-0. They are averaging just 15.8 ppg and figure to have to take a lot of chances to keep pace with Peyton Manning & Co.

Geno Smith taking chances seems to be a recipe for disaster a.k.a. turnovers. Smith owns a 69.3 QB rating and four touchdowns versus six interceptions and four fumbles.

You will find the surprising Philadelphia Eagles defense/ST in the top-10 this weekend. It’s not because they have a stingy defense, as they are yielding 406.2 ypg good for 29th out of 32 teams. What they are good for is scoring with their defense and kicking game. They have managed five touchdown returns over the past two games. Incidentally, that’s three more touchdowns than their struggling offense has put together.

Top-25 Defense/Special Teams Rankings

——————————————————-

1) Seattle Seahawks

2) New England Patriots

3) Denver Broncos

4) Baltimore Ravens

5) San Diego Chargers

6) Detroit Lions

7) Tennessee Titans

8) Cincinnati Bengals

9) Philadelphia Eagles

10) Arizona Cardinals

11) San Francisco 49ers

12) Buffalo Bills

13) Green Bay Packers

14) Pittsburgh Steelers

15) New York Giants

16) Houston Texans

17) Cleveland Browns

18) Miami Dolphins

19) Carolina Panthers

20) Chicago Bears

21) Atlanta Falcons

22) Minnesota Vikings

23) Oakland Raiders

24) Dallas Cowboys

25) Jacksonville Jaguars

The Gilmer Free Press


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2014


WVSSAC Football
 
Class A
Gilmer County (3-3)  at   #8 Doddridge County (4-1)
Calhoun County (2-4)  at   #1 St. Marys (5-0)
Parkersburg Catholic (2-3   at   #3 Clay-Battelle (5-0)
Wirt County (0-5)  at   #11 Buffalo (4-2)
#16 Liberty - Harrison - AA (4-2)  at   #11 Notre Dame (3-2)
#11 Tyler Consolidated (4-2)  at   #15 South Harrison (3-2)
 
Class AA
 
#3 Bridgeport (5-1)  at   #6 Keyser (5-1)
Webster County (2-3)  at   #11 Nicholas County (4-1)
Ritchie County (3-3)  at   Lincoln (1-5)
Roane County (3-3)  at   Tolsia (0-5)
Clay County (4-2)  BYE WEEK
 
Class AAA
North Marion - AA (0-5)  at   #9 Lewis County (5-1)
#12 Parkersburg South (3-2)  at   John Marshall (3-2)
#14 Woodrow Wilson (3-2)  at   Parkersburg (2-3)
Philip Barbour - AA (1-5)  at   Elkins (1-4)
Buckhannon-Upshur (3-2)  at   Hampshire (2-3)


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
Kansas City at Baltimore, 8:07 PM - TBS


National Basketball Association - Preseason
Boston at Toronto, 7:30 PM - CSN-New England
Oklahoma City at Dallas, 8:30 PM - KTXA, NBA TV


National Hockey League
NY Islanders at Carolina, 7:00 PM - MSG+, FS-Carolina, DSS


Canadian Football League
Hamilton at Toronto, 7:00 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com


College Football
Washington State at Stanford, 9:00 PM - ESPN
San Diego State at New Mexico, 9:30 PM - ESPN U
Fresno State at UNLV, 10:00 PM - CBSSN


Major League Soccer
Chicago at Kansas City, 8:30 PM - My50, KMCI, DSS
Vancouver at Seattle, 10:00 PM - NBCSN, TSN


International Soccer
Bostwana vs. Egypt, 12:25 PM - beIN Sport
Netherlands vs. Kazakhstan, 2:30 PM - FS1
United States vs. Ecuador, 6:40 PM - ESPN
Chile vs. Peru, 7:50 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
EUROPEAN - Portugal Masters, 6:30 AM - Golf Channel
EUROPEAN - Portugal Masters, 10:00 AM - Golf Channel
CHAMPIONS - SAS Championship, 2:30 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - Frys.com Open, 5:00 PM - Golf Channel
LPGA - Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, 11:30 PM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
FORMULA ONE - Russian Grand Prix practice, 6:00 AM - NBCSN
SPRINT CUP - Bank of America 500 practice, 5:30 PM - ESPN 2
NATIONWIDE - 300 Miles of Courage, 7:30 PM - ESPN 2

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Roane County take golf state championships

Wheeling Park, Roane County and Charleston Catholic all took home state championships on Wednesday as state high school golf championship wrapped up from the Jones Course at Oglebay Resort.

For Charleston Catholic, it’s a record fourth straight Class A title.

Roane County has now won three straight in Class AA, while Wheeling Park has won two straight in AAA.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Texas Tech’s 121st-ranked run defense hasn’t stopped anyone this season

West Virginia coaches doled out 640 pounds’ worth of Offensive Team Champion praise this week, splitting the award between guards Mark Glowinski and Quinton Spain for their blocking in the 33-14 win over Kansas.

“It’s about time,” Spain joked Tuesday. “You feel like all that hard work is paying off.”

Dana Holgorsen certainly noticed, crediting the senior linemen for “playing at a different level.”

After running for 255 yards against the Jayhawks and averaging 6.1 per carry, West Virginia (3-2, 1-1) now encounters the Big 12′s softest rushing defense. Texas Tech (2-3, 0-2) forced out defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt on September 18 after he reportedly came to the football facility under the influence of an unknown substance. That strange scenario followed Tech giving up 438 yards on the ground and seven rushing scores in a 49-28 home loss to Arkansas.

Earlier in the season in a 30-26 close call at UTEP, the Red Raiders allowed 277 yards running and 5.3 per attempt. Since Mike Smith took over as interim coordinator, Texas Tech has been marginally better against the run, though Oklahoma State and Kansas State responded by averaging 330 yards through the air with a combined eight touchdown passes.

The Red Raiders’ rush defense still allows 257 yards per game and has surrendered 17 touchdowns. Both stats rank 121st out of 125 FBS teams.

Claymation: H-back Cody Clay was a crucial contributor to West Virginia’s rushing success against Kansas, winning most of the physical battles against All-Big 12 linebacker Ben Heeney.

“He really took the linebacker No. 31 out of the game,” said Mountaineers running backs coach JaJuan Seider. “That guy was talking throughout the week about how they were going to come here and get a win, and you know we hear everything.

“I wanted Cody to physically kick his butt the whole game. I said ‘I don’t care if you don’t catch a pass, I want you to wear him out.’ And I thought Cody was the most physical that I’ve seen him in the last two years I’ve been coaching.”

Heeney made six tackles, about half his average entering the game.

“I can’t say enough about Cody Clay,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “He plays with tremendous effort and had his best game to date last week for sure. You could have easily gave him the player of the week.”

Coaches crack up over WV wrestlemania: The YouTube video of West Virginia players engaging in a tag-team free-for-all seemed to go over well with the staff.

“I kind of got a kick out of it,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who had no idea the locker room held such entertainment until he saw the video making viral rounds. “I go through the locker room and make sure the kids are good, but obviously they’re not going to do that in front of us.

“It was a good laugh. It shows the guys like each other, and at least they’re hanging out and spending time together. I don’t know if it was quality time, but at lead they were spending time.”

Early buzz surrounding the video had Seider worried, until scenes of fake roundhouse punches, crutch-whipping and one player being dumped into a laundry cart ultimately left him giggling.

“At first you’re always cautious, like ‘Aw man, what do have we to deal with now? Dana’s fixing to call us in,’” he said. “But it shows why we are close, why we have a good locker room.

“I can’t wait for Part II when they bring The Undertaker out. I told Big Mike (Calicchio) he’s going to be Undertaker, because that guy’s retiring. Mike can take that role.”


►  Worley pleads no contest to assualt charge; expects 6-month suspended sentence

West Virginia suspended cornerback Daryl Worley has agreed to plead no contest to misdemeanor assault after a nightclub altercation with a woman on September 14.

Prosecutors recommended a six-month jail term but did not oppose the defense’s request for a suspended sentence with Worley given unsupervised probation, which was accepted by the court.

Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said Wednesday afternoon that he “fully reinstated Daryl Worley to our football program,” presumably clearing the way for Worley to play in Saturday’s game at Texas Tech.

More from Holgorsen:

“As I have said many times, we have a high standard of conduct that we expect our student-athletes and our coaches to live up to and, in this instance, Daryl failed to meet those expectations. However, since arriving in Morgantown, Daryl has done many good things and many things right, on and off the field, and I am confident that he will be a better man and teammate moving forward.”

Worley had missed West Virginia’s last two games after being arrested on an original charge of misdemeanor battery, stemming from the incident at the Lux nightclub in downtown Morgantown.

The altercation occurred hours after West Virginia returned from defeating Maryland 40-37. Police were called to the 18-and-up nightclub after Worley allegedly grabbed a young woman by the throat and shoved her to the ground. Investigators said the bar’s surveillance video confirmed the victim’s account.

Worley’s attorney Dave Jecklin reiterated to MetroNews on Wednesday that Worley grabbed the woman in an effort to protect his girlfriend:

“Mr. Worley reacted to a perceived threat to his girlfriend. He attempted to break up what he believed to be a developing altercation between the young lady and his girlfriend before any physical contact occurred between the ladies. The young lady approached Mr. Worley from behind, which led to him turning around and reacting to a perceived threat to his girlfriend and forcibly pushed the young lady back with his hands through the crowd to the ground.”

Jecklin said the player “is sorry about how he reacted and that the entire incident occurred.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Six weeks into the season, the numbers are piling up for Marshall and show

The Herd is 5-0 and crushed the opposition by an average of 31.8 points per game through the first five games. Since the beginning of the season I’ve been trying to analyze what I have seen.

Is this a good team playing bad competition or is this just a great football team that is really that much better than the opposition?

I believe it is the latter. That is mainly because six weeks into the season we have had a chance get a sample of Marshall’s opponents against other teams. As it turns out some teams are better than expected and others are worse. For example, Marshall toasted Akron 48-17. But in the Zips other four games, they have allowed just 38 points and that includes a close game with Penn State and a win over Pitt. In fact, Akron has held opponents to 10 points or less in three of its five games this year.

Say what you will about ODU but Monarch’s quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw for over 300 yards against N.C. State and the Monarchs had a chance against the Wolfpack with four minutes to go in the game. Marshall held Heinicke to just 85 yards on Saturday.

We’ll learn more about this team this week. Middle Tennessee sliced through Marshall’s defense with ease last year. This season, the Blue Raiders are 3-0 in league play and are scoring 38.3 points per game and averaging 458 yards a game.

Young talent looks promising
Herd fans are getting a sneak peek at some of the future stars for the Herd this season. Angelo Jean-Louis has shown his athletic ability as his reps at outside receiver have increased. Deon-Tay McManus got in the act this weekend with his first career touchdown versus Old Dominion. Ryan Yuracheck has also shown promise at tight end. On the other side of the players such as Antavious Rowe and Tomell One have made significant contributions.

The future is bright.

Numbers can be deceiving
If you just look at the box score and didn’t watch the game you might think Rakeem Cato had an “off” game against ODU. Cato threw for 198 yards and was picked off twice. That snapped a streak of 32-consecutive games in which Cato threw for more than 200+ yards. However, the first interception was iffy at best. It appeared from replays the ball hit the turf before Christian Bynum got his hands under. The second pick ricocheted off of Tommy Shuler’s shoulder pads, a ball he catches 99% of the time. Otherwise he was on the mark.

National attention
It’s getting hard for top 25 voters to ignore the Herd. The numbers are staggering. Marshall leads the nation in total offense, has punted just 13 times and Devon Johnson is eighth in the country with 136 yards rushing per game. The Herd is knocking on the door of the top 25 and had it not been for a letdown in the third quarter against Miami (OH), they may already be there.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  TCU visits Baylor in battle of unbeatens

A showdown between undefeated teams in the Big 12 Conference takes place on Saturday afternoon, as the ninth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs come calling on the fifth-ranked Baylor Bears.

TCU is fresh off its biggest win since making the move to the Big 12 a couple of seasons ago, as coach Gary Patterson’s squad derailed No. 4 Oklahoma’s national title aspirations with a 37-33 victory in Fort Worth last weekend. It was the fourth win of the season for the Horned Frogs, their third at home, and following this contest they will return to Amon G. Carter Stadium for a pair of bouts against league foes Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

Baylor comes in sporting a 5-0 record, and has won its first two Big 12 tests by taking down Iowa State (49-28) and Texas (28-7). The Bears, who are the defending Big 12 champs, have won 12 straight home games, including their first two at the brand new McLane Stadium this year. Following this clash, BU will alternate road and home games over its final six outings.

The series between these two Lone Star State rivals is knotted at 51-51-7, and TCU has won four of the last six meetings dating back to 1995.

TCU and Baylor rank atop the Big 12, and among the national leaders in several statistical categories, not the least of which is scoring offense (TCU 42.8 ppg, BU 51.0 ppg) and scoring defense (TCU 13.5 ppg, BU 12.4 ppg).

Both teams are equally proficient in either mode of attack, with TCU averaging 196.2 ypg on the ground and another 320 ypg through the air. Quarterback Trevone Boykin is a 61.5% passer, who has thrown for 1,176 yards, 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Five different players have double- digit catches on the season, led by Josh Dotson with 19 grabs for 212 yards and three scores. Boykin is also the club’s leading rusher, having amassed 260 yards on 51 carries, while B.J. Catalon has 220 yards on 46 totes. The two have combined for seven of the team’s nine rushing TDs.

Defensively, TCU is led by Paul Dawson and his 37 tackles, although Marcus Mallett is hot on his heels with 36. Dawson also has three fumble recoveries and a pair of INTs, as does Chris Hackett, the team logging a total of 12 takeaways. Overall, the Frogs are yielding just 106.8 ypg via the run and 172.5 ypg by way of the pass, and foes have scored only two TDs through the air. TCU has been exceptional in crunch time, allowing only 28% of the opposition’s third-down opportunities to be converted successfully.

Boykin threw for 318 yards and two TDs to help lead TCU past Oklahoma last Saturday, as the Horned Frogs rolled up 469 yards of total offense. Boykin added 77 yards on 22 carries, while Catalon tacked on 48 yards and a score on only 11 attempts. He also had a receiving TD. Dotson caught a team-high six passes for 76 yards, while Kolby Listenbee turned his five grabs into 103 yards.

Hackett, Dawson and Mallett all recorded double-digit tackles in the game, and the first two also had INTs. Dawson returned his 41 yards for a TD at the beginning of the fourth quarter to put the Frogs ahead to stay. It was actually the second defensive TD in the game for TCU, which got a fumble recovery less than five minutes in by Cliff Murphy. The Sooners wound up with 461 total yards, and the two teams combined for five turnovers, 19 penalties and a dozen punts.

While obviously pleased with the outcome against Oklahoma, Patterson tried to downplay the significance as his team prepared for the challenges ahead.

“We’re 4-0, 1-0 in the conference. We’ll get ready for Baylor, then we’ll get ready for Oklahoma State and then we’ll get ready for Texas Tech. Right now, we’re going to get ready for Baylor.“

Baylor has its own standout signal caller in Bryce Petty, the near-60% passer who has thrown for 1,024 yards, nine TDs and only one INT. Also helping the Bears to the highest scoring average in the FBS is talented RB Shock Linwood, he of 449 yards and eight TDs. KD Cannon is the team’s top receiver with 24 grabs for 527 yards and five scores, while Jay Lee has turned his 19 receptions into 294 yards and four TDs. In all, six players have at least 10 catches and four have multiple receiving TDs.

As good as the Baylor offense has been, the defense has kept pace in allowing just 102 ypg on the ground and 165.2 ypg through the air. Opponents are moving the chains on third down a mere 31% of the time, while the Bears have allowed only seven visits to the red zone. Bryce Hager continues to pace the unit with 29 tackles, while three others have at least 21. Orion Stewart has three picks, and Xavien Howard two, the team as a whole logging just nine takeaways. The Bears have recorded 19 sacks, with Shawn Oakman being credited with five of them.

The Baylor-Texas game was close in the first half, with the Bears leading only 7-0 at intermission. After the break however, BU scored 21 points to seal the deal, and it nearly pitched a shutout save for a late TD scored by the Longhorns. Petty was anything but his usual self, as he completed only 7-of-22 passes for 111 yards, although he did have a couple of scoring strikes. He was sacked three times, but even that stat didn’t take away from the outstanding effort of Linwood and the Baylor rushing attack. Linwood tallied 148 yards and a TD on 28 carries, with the team putting forth a collective effort that resulted in 278 yards on the ground. Antwan Goodley was the leading receiver with four catches for 69 yards and a score.

Texas tallied 190 rushing yards, but only 144 passing, as the Baylor defense stood tall nearly the entire game. Stewart picked off a pair of passes and the only score of the opening half came on a blocked field goal return of 62 yards by the Bears’ Terrell Burt. Hager posted eight stops to lead the way.

They aren’t always going to be pretty, but a win is a win and Baylor head coach Art Briles is happy his team came out on top last week. He compared last year’s Big 12 championship team to this group.

“I think we are a better team than last year and that’s just the bottom line. We are not where we need to be or have to be to have a chance to win the conference again, but I do think we are a better football team than we were a year ago at this time.“


►  Texas and Oklahoma add another chapter to bitter rivalry

The latest installment of the Red River Showdown takes place this Saturday, as Big 12 Conference rivals Texas and Oklahoma square off at the Cotton Bowl.

Texas comes in on the heels of a 28-7 home loss to No. 7 Baylor, and this bout marks the team’s third against a ranked opponent already this season—a 20-17 loss to No. 12 UCLA on September 13 being the other. The Longhorns also suffered a 41-7 setback to BYU, which has spent time in the Top-25 this season, on their ledger. The team does have a conference win under its belt, having blanked Kansas on the road, 23-0, on September 27. Texas has lost five straight to ranked foes, and is just 4-17 against the AP Top-25 dating back to 2010.

Oklahoma had high hopes of not only challenging for the Big 12 title this season, but to also reach the inaugural College Football Playoff, but the 11th-ranked Sooners suffered their first loss last weekend in a 37-33 final at No. 25 TCU. The setback snapped an eight-game win streak for the Sooners, and they will be trying to continue their recent dominance of unranked foes which they’ve beaten seven straight times and in 22 of the last 23 meetings overall.

Besides bragging rights, up for grabs in this game are both the Golden Hat and Governors’ trophies.

Texas leads the all-time series with Oklahoma, 60-43-5, and the ‘Horns shocked the Sooners in last year’s tussle, 36-20.

With a record below .500, it’s not surprising that Texas ranks among the worst offensive teams in the Big 12. Currently, the team ranks eighth in rushing (134.4 ypg), and ninth in scoring (18.4 ppg), passing (184.8 ypg) and total offense (319.2 ypg).

The team’s offensive standouts, while certainly not plentiful, include running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, who have combined for 547 yards and three TDs, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes (79-of-133, 734 yards, five TDs, three INTs) and receivers Jaxon Shipley (29 receptions, 245 yards) and John Harris (26 receptions, 370 yards, four TDs).

Defensively, the Longhorns have performed much better in yielding only 19.2 points and 333.6 yards per contest—both of which rank them in the top-four. Their strength has been in defending the pass, as foes are generating just 134.6 ypg (No. 1 in the conference) and have scored only four touchdowns via that mode of attack.

Jordan Hicks paces the UT defense with 69 tackles, and he is followed closely by Steve Edmond with 65. No other player has more than 33 stops. Collectively, the unit has amassed a league-leading 20 sacks, with Edmond and Malcom Brown recording 3.5 apiece. Hicks has two picks, the team logging nine INTs but only two fumble recoveries to this point.

Texas was held in check by a dominant Baylor defense last week, tallying only 334 yards of total offense and failing to score a single point until Gray ran one in from two yards out with only 2:14 remaining in the fourth quarter. Gray finished with 79 yards on 12 carries, while Brown added 55 yards and Swoopes 40 more. In terms of the passing game, Swoopes hit fewer than half of his 34 attempts for only 144 yards with no TDs and a pair of INTs. No player caught more than three balls, and none had more than 34 receiving yards.

Once again, the Longhorns stood tall in the face of a pretty daunting passing attack, as they held Bryce Petty and the Baylor offense to only 111 yards. They did allow a pair of aerial scores, and where they really struggled was in stopping the Bears’ punishing rushing attack, which accounted for 278 yards on a whopping 60 carries. Edmond was a man possessed as he posted a staggering 19 tackles, 14 of which were solo efforts, and included in his total were a pair of sacks.

Texas head coach Charlie Strong spoke after the loss about his team’s inability to put forth a complete effort for all four quarters.

“What’s key for us, we just have to learn how to win. We don’t know how to win yet. We don’t know how to finish.“

The Big 12’s leading rusher wears an Oklahoma uniform, as Samaje Perine has rumbled his way to 506 yards and eight TDs. Keith Ford (foot injury) has only played in three games, but his 64.7 ypg ranks him in the top-eight in the league. He has found the end zone five times. As for the Sooners’ aerial pursuits, Trevor Knight has found success on only 54.5% of his passes, but for 1,374 yards. His TD-to-INT ratio needs vast improvement however, as he has tossed as many scoring strikes as picks (five). Sterling Shepard has 30 catches for 651 yards and three TDs, while Neal Durron has turned his 21 grabs into 282 yards.

Oklahoma is scoring 42.4 ppg while permitting 20.6 ppg, thus affording coach Bob Stoops’ club the luxury of being aggressive when the opposition has the ball. As it is, the Sooners give up just 109.6 ypg on the ground, but they have been victimized for a league-worst 264 ypg passing. They do a nice job protecting the football while at the same time taking it away from the opposition (Big 12-best +7 turnover margin). OU also performs well with its back to the goal line, ranking second in the conference in red zone defense (.714). Dominique Alexander paces the unit with 38 tackles, while Eric Striker and Quentin Hayes have combined for 6.5 sacks.

In what was a close game, Oklahoma churned out 461 yards of total offense compared to 469 for TCU. Knight threw for 309 yards and TD, but completed fewer than half of his passes and was picked off twice, one of which was returned for a TD early in the fourth quarter—which turned out to be the game-winning score for the Horned Frogs. Shepard had a monster game in turning seven catches into 215 yards and a TD, while Perine picked up 87 yards and crossed the goal line three times. Knight also got in on the act with his legs, accounting for 61 yards on 13 carries.

Once again, the Sooners played well against the run last week, yielding fewer than four yards per carry, although the Frogs did score a pair of TDs on the ground. As for TCU QB Trevone Boykin, he threw for 318 yards and two scores, but was picked off once and sacked twice, both times by Striker. Jordan Evans led the OU stand with 10 tackles, eight of which were unassisted.

Despite the disappointing outcome, Stoops gave credit to both teams for fighting to the very end.

“I have no qualms about how our team played, we came in here ready to play. The bottom line is they made plays and we didn’t. They outperformed us in different areas. We had our opportunities and chances late in the second half and we couldn’t take advantage of it. I give TCU credit. We made too many mistakes.They just beat us.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL owners approve sale of Bills

NFL owners have unanimously approved the sale of the Buffalo Bills.

The Wilson family trust reached an agreement to sell the franchise to Terry and Kim Pegula back in September. The Pegulas also own the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

Reports last month indicated the purchase price to be in the neighborhood of $1.4 billion.

The Pegulas will become just the second owners of the Bills, who were founded by Ralph Wilson Jr. as a charter member of the American Football League in 1960.

Wilson died in March at the age of 95 and the family put the club up for sale.


►  Peterson’s trial date set for December

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made his first court appearance Wednesday on a charge of child abuse and tentatively has a trial date of December 01.

Peterson, who is on an NFL exempt list while the court proceedings continue, did not enter a plea Wednesday, although defense attorney Rusty Hardin indicated that the former NFL MVP is expected to plead not guilty.

The felony charge carries a possible two-year prison sentence.

Hardin briefly spoke to the media outside the court room Wednesday, with Peterson behind him, and said he asked for a trial to begin as quickly as possible.

However, the noted attorney said the prosecution has asked for Judge Kelly Case to be recused from the case after making alleged comments about the lawyers. A hearing on whether a new judge will be assigned is set for November 4.

Peterson is accused of using a wooden tree branch to hit his 4-year-old son as a disciplinary measure, resulting in visible injuries to the child.

“This is a really good man that I’m proud to represent,“ said Hardin on Wednesday, adding that Peterson has been advised not to talk about the case. “This is a case about parenting decisions. He loves his children very much.

“Adrian is chomping at the bit to publicly talk. ... Let’s don’t rush to judgment. There’s always another side.“

Hardin, who represented Roger Clemens in the pitcher’s 2012 perjury trial on charges that he lied to Congress about taking performance-enhancing drugs, would not answer specific questions Wednesday and took the Bill Belichick route, referencing the New England Patriots coach from one of his recent press conferences about moving forward

“Instead of we’re on to Cincinnati, we’re on to trial,“ Hardin mused.

Peterson was initially deactivated prior to a Week 2 game against New England after being indicted in September, then was reinstated by the team the following Monday.

However, after backlash from sponsors, fans and the Minnesota government, the Vikings reversed course and placed the star running back on the NFL’s exempt/commissioner’s permission list. He is being paid despite not playing.


►  49ers bring back Ventrone, release Osgood

The San Francisco 49ers have signed special-teams ace Bubba Ventrone to a one-year contract.

Ventrone played in all 16 games and three postseason contests with the 49ers in 2013. He registered 15 special teams tackles and recovered a fumble.

The 31-year-old Ventrone, who is listed as a safety, has appeared in 89 NFL games with the Patriots, Browns and 49ers.

San Francisco also waived wide receiver Kassim Osgood.


►  Bengals’ Green leaves practice

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green left practice Wednesday on a cart and could have another issue with a problematic toe injury.

According to the team’s website, Green stopped during warmups for practice, threw down his helmet and followed by taking off his shoe and also throwing that to the ground.

Green originally suffered a toe injury during the opener against Baltimore and left the following week’s contest against Atlanta in the first quarter without catching a pass. He returned the following week against Tennessee and also played last Sunday’s game against New England.

The fourth-year Georgia product has 17 catches for 314 yards with two touchdowns this season.


►  Colts rule out four players for Thursday

The Indianapolis Colts will be without four key players for Thursday night’s game against the Houston Texans.

Starting left guard Jack Mewhort (ankle), starting right guard Hugh Thornton (back), nickel corner Darius Butler (ankle) and starting defensive end Arthur Jones (ankle) are all out Thursday night. In addition, starting inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (hamstring) is questionable.


►  Colts are the exception to the Thursday-night rule

No one likes Thursday night games, at least according to the Texans’ Arian Foster.

“Thursday Night Football is pretty annoying for players,“ Houston’s star running back claimed. “I don’t know one player that likes it. I really don’t know a fan that likes it, either. I think it’s just the league’s way to try to generate more revenue.“

Foster’s not wrong.

The Thursday night games are most definitely a money grab by a league which already has plenty of ducats stashed away, and the players certainly don’t like the short week of preparation leading up to the contest.

Meanwhile, the Nielsen ratings say the fans watch but they do so with a critic’s eye, mindful of the fact that the weekly game seems to spawn a lack of competition in a parity-driven league.

So far, we are 5-for-5 with blowouts in Thursday night affairs in 2014 with an average score of 41-12.

The advantage has skewed heavily toward the home team with the New York Giants being the lone visitor to solve the short-week dilemma in Week 4 against Washington. The fact that “Big Blue” was able to make the quick trek down the I-95 corridor to the Beltway probably played into its success, however.

Perhaps Foster’s more legitimate and stinging criticism pointed directly toward player safety and the apparent hypocrisy of staging one game just four days after another.

“(The NFL) emphasize(s) concussions when they start getting hit with lawsuits and then they care about the player safety but “Thursday Night Football” is putting every player on the football field in danger,“ Foster said. “Nobody is ready to play physically after a Sunday game but you have to go out there and do it.“

There is one team, though, who has figured out how to “do it” better than most and might even like “Thursday Night Football,“ at least a little bit—the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts have excelled historically on short weeks, winning nine straight games on Thursday as they get ready to make the 1,015-mile trip to South Texas in Week 6.

Normally the fact that it’s the Colts who will be uprooting and making the sojourn down to Space City should have the Texans pretty excited to welcome Houston-area native Andrew Luck back to the city for what will be an early- season bragging rights matchup between the two top clubs in the AFC South.

The defending division champion Colts, who have rebounded from a slow 0-2 start with three consecutive wins, including last weekend’s 20-13 triumph over Baltimore, have been the exception to the Thursday night rules, however.

Luck and the Colts will come in hot after getting fat over the past three weeks thanks to a fortuitous turn in their schedule with two lightly-regarded opponents—Jacksonville and Tennessee—followed by a home game against Baltimore.

You can only play who is put in front of you and Indianapolis has handled its business, outscoring those three opponents by a combined 105-47 margin or by an average of 35-16.

The Colts defense, which allowed 409.5 yards per game in the first two games of the season, has settled down and surrendered only 297.3 per game since. The Robert Mathis-less unit mustered just one sack and one turnover in the first two and then generated 11 sacks and nine takeaways during its three-game run with outside linebacker and Mathis caddie Bjoern Werner registering a career- high two sacks last weekend.

“The good thing about the Colts is that we’re very familiar with them,“ Texans tackle Duane Brown said. “Of course you have a different game plan than we’ve had in years past, but as far as the personnel and things like that we kind of know what to expect.“

What to expect, of course, starts with the real strength of the Colts and that lies in their QB, Luck, who pilots an offense that is second overall in the NFL with 439.6 yards per game and tops in passing offense (321.8 YPG). Luck himself leads the NFL with 1,617 passing yards and 14 touchdowns but the free thrower is also tops in interceptions with six.

The impressive Houston defense, which leads the NFL with 12 takeaways, counters with All-World defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who has two sacks, three bat downs, an interception return for a TD, and an NFL- high 16 QB hits through five outings.

Safeties Kendrick Lewis and D.J. Swearinger both have three forced fumbles, tied for the most in the NFL, and inside linebacker Brian Cushing leads an ornery unit coming off a tough overtime loss in Dallas with 45 tackles.

“No loss feels good, but, like I said, we have a quick turnaround,“ Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “We’ve got to get better, and we’ve got to get better fast because we haven’t played a division game yet and we have a very big division game coming up on Thursday night in front of our home fans.“

Home fans or not, what’s past is prologue, meaning the Colts are usually the better prepared team on a short week and there is little reason to expect that will change this time around.

Indianapolis is 11-1-1 overall on Thursday and has never lost on NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football,“ posting a 7-0 record dating back to 2007 with six of those seven wins coming away from Indianapolis.

“You realize once the game starts, it’s football,“ said Luck. “There’s no use complaining or whining about anything. It’s what you do.“

WEEK 6 (All Times Eastern)

Indianapolis (3-2) (-3) at Houston (3-2), Thursday, 8:30 PM - See above.

Colts 24, Texans 17

New England (3-2) (-3) at Buffalo (3-2), Sunday, 1 PM - First place in the AFC East will be on the line in Western New York as the Bills will try to solve Tom Brady and build on Kyle Orton’s debut with the team, a 30-of-43 performance with 308 yards and one TD at Detroit last weekend. Terry Pegula might own the Bills on paper now but Brady is their real master, having compiled a 22-2 career record against Buffalo. Brady passed for 292 yards and two TDs in an impressive win over Cincinnati in Week 5, becoming just the sixth QB in NFL history with 50,000 career passing yards (50,232).

Patriots 17, Bills 16

Carolina (3-2) at Cincinnati (3-1) (-7), Sunday, 1 PM - The Bengals are coming off a disappointing loss at New England and have won 11 consecutive regular-season home games, making this a daunting spot for Carolina. Bengals QB Andy Dalton has thrown for 2,563 yards and 22 TDs with a passer rating of 97.7 over that 11-0 stretch. Panthers signal caller Cam Newton has won five of his past eight games against AFC foes and is the only NFL player with 50-plus passing TDs (69) and 20-or-more on the ground (28) since entering the league in 2011.

Bengals 31, Panthers 23

Pittsburgh (3-2) at Cleveland (2-2) (-2), Sunday, 1 PM - It’s time to exorcise some demons in Cleveland. The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1 all-time as a starter versus the Browns, the best record of any NFL QB against one team since the 1970 merger. Cleveland, meanwhile, is fresh off the largest road comeback in NFL history against Tennessee last weekend and the underrated Brian Hoyer is now 5-2 in seven starts with the Browns.

Steelers 21, Browns 20

Green Bay (3-2) (-3 1/2) at Miami (2-2), Sunday, 1 PM - It’s easy to relax when your QB has thrown for seven TDs with no interceptions and a 147.0 passer rating in his last two games and that’s exactly what the game’s best signal caller, Aaron Rodgers, has given Green Bay. The Dolphins had extra time to try to solve A-Rod after beating lowly Oakland in London during Week 4.

Packers 28, Dolphins 23

Detroit (3-2) (-2) at Minnesota (2-3), Sunday, 1 PM - The Vikings figure to be far more competitive now that Christian Ponder will be back on the bench and rookie Teddy Bridgewater will return from a sprained ankle. Bridgewater passed for 317 yards and had a rushing TD in his career NFL start against Atlanta back in Week 4. The Lions have the NFL’s top-ranked defense but are dealing with ankle injuries to both Calvin Johnson, who has 19 receptions for 315 yards (157.5 per game) and three TDs in his past two trips to Minnesota, and Reggie Bush.

Vikings 23, Lions 20

Denver (3-1) (-8) at New York Jets (1-4), Sunday, 1 PM - The reeling Jets have a tall task this week in trying to stop Peyton Manning, who passed for a career-high 479 yards and four TDs in a win over Arizona in Week 5 as he joined Brett Favre (508) as only players with 500-or-more career TD passes (503). Manning also matched Dan Marino for the most 400-yard passing games in NFL history with 13. The embattled Geno Smith is scheduled to start ahead of Michael Vick for New York again but expect coach Rex Ryan to have a quick hook if things go south quickly.

Broncos 34, Jets 13

Baltimore (3-2) (-3) at Tampa Bay (1-4), Sunday, 1 PM - The Bucs are expected to stick with Mike Glennon at quarterback and the second-year player has won all three of his starts against AFC foes to date. Pressing Glennon will be Ravens pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, who has 3 1/2 sacks in his past four games against NFC competition.

Ravens 17, Buccaneers 16

Jacksonville (0-5) at Tennessee (1-4) (no line), Sunday, 1 PM - The oft- injured Jake Locker is dealing with a thumb problem and his status for Sunday is yet to be determined. With Locker on the sidelines, the Titans blew a 25- point lead against Cleveland in Week 5, the worst implosion by a home team in NFL lore. The Jags remain a work in progress as they continue to build around rookie Blake Bortles, who completed 29-of-37 passes for 254 yards in his first NFL road start at San Diego a few weeks ago.

Titans 24, Jaguars 17

San Diego (4-1) (-7) at Oakland (0-4) , Sunday, 4:05 PM - Tony Sparano takes over in Oakland after an 0-4 start got Dennis Allen canned. Sparano, the ex- head coach in Miami, is facing a juggernaut here as the Chargers’ Philip Rivers leads the NFL in passing with a 116.3 rating and the San Diego defense is tops in the conference, allowing just 290.8 yards per game.

Chargers 33, Raiders 14

Washington (1-4) at Arizona (3-1) (-8), Sunday, 4:25 PM - The Cardinals, who have won six of their past seven home games, are hoping to get QB Carson Palmer, who has been dealing with a nerve injury in his shoulder, back this week. The Redskins have lost four of five to start the season and are trying to build around signal caller Kirk Cousins, who has recorded a 100-plus passer rating in three of four games this season, and running back Alfred Morris, who is second in the NFL with 3,233 rushing yards since entering the league in 2012.

Cardinals 27, Redskins 21

Chicago (2-3) at Atlanta (2-3) (-3), Sunday, 4:25 PM - Home is usually sweet for Atlanta as QB Matt Ryan is 38-10 as a starter in the Georgia Dome, including 2-0 this season, completing 52-of-67 passes for 734 yards with 6 TDs and no interceptions for a 142.2 passer rating in those games. The Bears are trying to halt a two-game skid behind Jay Cutler, who has his last two starts against the Falcons.

Falcons 27, Bears 20

Dallas (4-1) at Seattle (3-1) (-8), Sunday, 4:25 PM - The Cowboys have won four straight games behind early MVP candidate DeMarco Murray, who leads the NFL with 670 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Murray has joined Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1958) and O.J. Simpson (1973, 1975) as the only players in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his team’s first five games. The competition picks up for the ‘Boys this week, though, as they visit the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks, who have won 19 of their past 20 games at home, outscoring opponents 584-273 in those games (15.6 points per game differential).

Seahawks 31, Cowboys 17

New York Giants (3-2) at Philadelphia (4-1) (- 2 1/2), Sunday 8:30 PM - The Giants have bounced back from a dismal 0-2 start, winning three in a row and scoring 35 points per game over that stretch. The 4-1 Eagles have been doing it in a most unconventional way, scoring seven return touchdowns this season, tied with the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans for the most return touchdowns in the first five games of a season.

Eagles 28, Giants 27

San Francisco (3-2) (-3) at St. Louis (1-3), Monday, 8:30 PM - After a 1-2 start, the 49ers have won consecutive games with veteran running back Frank Gore leading the way by posting consecutive games with 100-or-more rushing yards, including 107 yards against Kansas City in Week 5. The Rams nearly erased a 27-point deficit last weekend, scoring 21 unanswered points before falling short in Philadelphia as quarterback Austin Davis passed for 375 yards and three touchdowns, his second consecutive start with at least 300 yards and three touchdowns.

49ers 27, Rams 17

►  Rams add LB Herring

The St. Louis Rams signed linebacker Will Herring on Wednesday.

Herring spent four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks before moving on to the New Orleans Saints for the past three years. He has primarily been a special teamer.

For his career, he has 144 tackles, one sack, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 97 games.

Herring replaces Ray Ray Armstrong, who was released by the team on Monday.


►  Texans WR Johnson questionable vs. Colts

Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Johnson missed practice this week because of an ankle injury. He has 27 catches for 320 yards in five games this season.

Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (knee) and cornerback Darryl Morris (ankle) have been ruled out.


►  Raiders sign LB Chaney

The Oakland Raiders have signed linebacker Jamar Chaney and placed linebacker Nick Roach on season-ending injured reserve.

Originally a seventh-round selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010, Chaney has played in 49 career games with the Eagles and Falcons. He has recorded 158 tackles, one sack, three interceptions and one forced fumble.

Roach hasn’t played all season due to a concussion. The Northwestern product had 112 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks and one interception in 16 starts last season, his first with the Raiders.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Staten says defensive emphasis could lead to NCAAs

After three seasons at West Virginia, and now three practices into his fourth, Juwan Staten sounded more driven than ever.

Coaches recently voted him Big 12 preseason player of the year, yet Staten said the accolade won’t matter unless he carries the Mountaineers to the postseason.

Having never played in the NCAA tournament, the point guard feels that senior-year now-or-never pinch.

“That’s one of the reasons I came back,” Staten said. “It’s unfinished business.”

That’s the hole in his legacy, one that can’t be filled by hype or bluster or even winning the league scoring title, as Staten did last season at 18.1 points per game. Any satisfaction gained on a personal level was nixed by West Virginia dropping six of its last eight games, culminating in a double-digit NIT loss at Georgetown.

The 17-16 record spiked by upsets of four NCAA teams, including Kansas, only forced Staten to ponder what could have been.

“If we had played better defense last year, we would have been in more games and been in the tournament,” he said.

West Virginia gave up 80 points or more 14 times and allowed opponents to shoot 44.7%, highest in the Big 12. That forced the Mountaineers to shoot their way into many games, adopting an offensive-first mentality that countered previous Bob Huggins teams.

When the squad’s top three shooters moved on—Eron Harris to Michigan State, Terry Henderson to N.C. State and Remi Dibo to France—the roster looked depleted. Yet after a summer of pickup games with the newcomers, Staten senses an infusion of grit, particularly from junior college signees Tarik Phillip, Jaysean Paige and BillyDee Williams.

“Last year, if we weren’t hitting our shots, that was it for us,” Staten said. “But this year we’ve made a 180 on the defensive end. We’ve had more blocks at the rim in three days of practice than we probably did for a month last year.

“The energy level is higher and the IQ level is higher, especially on defense. Nobody is taking a play off, and that’s something we haven’t had for a while.”

Phillip, a 6-foot-2 transfer from Independence (Kan.) Community College, impressed Staten from the first time they squared off in open gym. At a time when most players were doing offseason work on shooting and offensive moves, Phillip was picking up his defense full-court.

“That’s very rare in the summer,” Staten said. “For someone to focus on defense, it stands out a lot.”

“But that’s Tarik. He’s got a presence that lets you know right away he’s a good defender. He gets his hands on a lot of balls and he never gives up on a play.”

The new recruits include freshman signees Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, while forwards Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton become eligible after sitting out last year with academic delays.

Fans can get their first glimpse at the new assembly Friday, October 17 during the Gold-Blue scrimmage. Staten thinks fans will quickly appreciate the facets of hustle and athleticism mostly absent from the past two seasons when WVU’s combined record was 30-35.

“The seasons that I’ve had here haven’t really been great seasons,’’ Staten said. “But I think this is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here, so I’m excited about that.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Four Wizards suspended for season opener

Four Wizards have been suspended one game by the NBA for leaving the bench during an altercation Monday between Washington forward Paul Pierce and Bulls center Joakim Noah.

Both Pierce and Noah were fined $15,000 following a situation that occurred early in Monday’s preseason opener. Bulls guard Jimmy Butler was fouled hard by Pierce, which led to Noah pushing Pierce, who responded by poking Noah in the head.

Nene, DeJuan Blair, Xavier Silas and Daniel Orton all left the bench area during the altercation. All four players will miss Washington’s regular-season opener against the Heat on October 29.

The incident was another example of the budding rivalry between these two talented Eastern Conference clubs. Last postseason, Nene was ejected in Game 3 of the quarterfinals and suspended for Game 4 after putting his hands around Butler’s neck.


►  Pacers give Vogel another contract extension

The Indiana Pacers signed head coach Frank Vogel to a multi-year contract extension on Wednesday.

Vogel led the Pacers to a 56-26 record last season and a second consecutive Central Division title. Indiana has made two straight appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing each time to the Miami Heat.

“We’re very happy to extend Frank’s contract,“ said Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird. “I believe he has done a great job and I look forward to continuing our relationship and working together to achieve all of our goals.“

The 41-year-old Vogel, who had also earned a contract extension in January of 2013, is entering his fourth full season as head coach after taking over on an interim basis in January, 2011. He has a record of 147-82 since the interim tag was removed in July of 2011.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to continue my tenure as Pacers’ coach,“ said Vogel. “It’s an honor to represent this franchise and lead this team. I look forward to the challenge ahead. I’m grateful to have had good, coachable teams along with coaching staffs that have been second to none.“

The Pacers won’t have Paul George (broken leg) and Lance Stephenson (signed with Charlotte) this season.

Indiana starts the regular season against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 29.


►  Feigin installed as Bucks team president

The Milwaukee Bucks named Peter Feigin their new team president on Wednesday.

“I’ve known Peter for many years and can’t think of a more capable person to drive growth for the Bucks organization,“ said Bucks owner Marc Lasry. “Peter’s been an invaluable advisor and will be a terrific leader for a talented group of people working to build a world-class franchise. He brings a tremendous amount of NBA expertise and management experience to Milwaukee.“

Feigin brings an extensive resume of business experience to the franchise, including a stint with the New York Knicks (1998-2004), during which he rose to the level of VP of marketing.

“I’m thrilled to join the Milwaukee Bucks organization during this incredibly exciting time for the team on and off the court,“ said Feigin. “From a new and modern arena in the heart of the city to a renewed emphasis on building deeper ties in the community, Wes (Edens), Marc and the entire team they’ve assembled are building something very special in Milwaukee. I’m going to work hard to ensure their collective vision is realized.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  A quick guide to the 2014-15 NHL season

Thankfully, there will be no labor disputes or Winter Olympics disrupting NHL action this season, as the league tries to get back to normal in 2014-15.

After suffering through a lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, the NHL saw last season halted for nearly a month while the league went on hiatus for the Sochi Olympics. However, no such interruptions are expected this season and hockey fans will even get to see the return of the NHL All-Star Game, an event that hasn’t been held since January of 2012.

“Dynasty” is a word being thrown around quite a bit these days thanks to the recent success experienced in Chicago and Los Angeles, a pair of franchises with two Cup victories over the past several seasons. Neither team is worthy of the dynasty label yet, but the race is on to see if either club can add to its title haul in 2015.

The Blackhawks won their second Cup title in four seasons in the spring of 2013 and the Kings made it two championships in three years back in June. The clubs battled in the Western Conference finals in last season’s playoffs and there’s a good chance that both the West crown and the Cup could go through Chicago or L.A. yet again.

The realignment plan instituted at the start of the last season has set the West up as the stronger of the two conferences, with the East lagging far behind. In addition to Chicago and L.A., Anaheim, Colorado, Minnesota, St. Louis and San Jose also have legitimate Cup dreams, but there’s a solid chance they’ll need to upset either the Blackhawks or Kings in order to reach the promised land.

The top contender in the East, meanwhile, is the Boston Bruins, who won last season’s Presidents’ Trophy before getting knocked out in the second round by Montreal. The defending conference champion New York Rangers also figure to be among the East’s top teams, while the Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning also could be in the mix at season’s end.

Odds are the 2015 champion will come from the West. If that happens it would mark the conference’s fifth title since 2010, with only the 2010-11 Bruins claiming a Cup for the East so far during the stretch.

Once again the top three clubs from each of the league’s four divisions will earn automatic bids to the playoffs, while wild card spots account for the remaining two postseason spots in each conference. The second- and third-place teams from each division will meet in the first round of the playoffs. The remaining opening-round series will feature one matchup between the division winner with the most points against the wild card with the lowest point total and another featuring the other division winner and wild card representative.

Without further ado, it’s time to make predictions on which teams are bound for the playoffs. Here it goes:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ATLANTIC

Boston Bruins (champion)

Tampa Bay Lightning (automatic bid)

Montreal Canadiens (automatic bid)

METROPOLITAN

Pittsburgh Penguins (champion)

New York Rangers (automatic bid)

Columbus Blue Jackets (automatic bid)

WILD CARDS

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Boston

Heading into the 2014 playoffs, the Bruins were billed as the only East team with a real chance of beating one of the West’s elite clubs in the Cup Finals. However, Claude Julien’s club didn’t get the chance to test its mettle against the representatives from the NHL’s power conference as Boston fell in seven games to the rival Montreal Canadiens in the East semifinals.

The Habs downed Boston with speed in the playoffs before the Rangers beat Montreal at its own game in the conference finals. Both clubs obviously have the skaters to take down the Bruins again, but Boston shouldn’t be counted out due to one shaky postseason performance.

The Bruins, after all, have shown the ability to rebound from poor playoff appearances in recent years under Julien and it could be time for them to prove it again. Boston won the Stanley Cup in 2011 just one year removed from a monumental 0-3 collapse against Philadelphia in the 2010 playoffs. Then after getting bounced by Washington in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, the B’s went on to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 Cup Finals before ultimately falling in six games.

Julien’s system, which puts an emphasis on responsible team defense, is the major reason Boston is still a threat. Steady on-ice leaders like star defenseman Zdeno Chara and versatile centerman Patrice Bergeron make sure the team sticks to the plan, and having reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask between the pipes doesn’t hurt either.

The Bruins may not be able to stop the trend of Western Conference dominance in the end, but a return to the Cup Finals is well within Boston’s reach.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

CENTRAL

St. Louis Blues (champion)

Chicago Blackhawks (automatic bid)

Minnesota Wild (automatic bid)

PACIFIC

Anaheim Ducks (champion)

Los Angeles Kings (automatic bid)

San Jose Sharks (automatic bid)

WILD CARDS

Colorado Avalanche

Dallas Stars

WESTERN CONFERENCE/STANLEY CUP CHAMPION: Chicago Blackhawks

No team has been able to claim consecutive Cups since Detroit pulled off the repeat in 1997 and ‘98, but the Kings are a serious threat to supplant the Red Wings as the most recent back-to-back champions.

Of course, the Blackhawks figure to be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a second straight L.A. title. Chicago not only pushed the Kings to the limit in last spring’s classic Western Conference finals battle, it also carried a 4-3 edge into the third period of Game 7 before L.A. rallied for a 5-4 OT victory in the Windy City.

The Blackhawks and Kings are similar in many ways. They boast two of the NHL’s deepest rosters with star players littered throughout and both clubs are used to dominating the opposition when it comes to puck possession. Chicago seems to own a slight edge in overall defensive depth, but Kings blueliner Drew Doughty appeared to be the biggest difference maker during last year’s playoff battle. L.A. goaltender Jonathan Quick also is a better regarded goaltender than Chicago’s Corey Crawford, but both players have proven themselves capable of anchoring a Cup-winning team.

When two teams match up this closely with one another, intangible factors can often tip the balance in one club’s favor. What L.A. did in last year’s playoffs was amazing, but the Kings did receive their share of “puck luck” along the way and there’s a good chance it could run out in 2015. Darryl Sutter’s resilient club deserves credit for rallying from down 3-0 to beat San Jose in Round 1 last spring and coming back from a 3-2 deficit to eliminate Anaheim in the conference semis before outlasting Chicago, but a few bounces the other way easily could have ended L.A.‘s title hopes prematurely.

After the Kings’ magical run to the Cup in 2014, it isn’t crazy to think the Blackhawks will have luck on their side this time. One thing is clear: as hockey fans, we’d all be lucky to see another Western Conference battle between Chicago and L.A.

The race to claim a dynasty is on, and in 2014-15 it could be Chicago’s turn to take another lap with Lord Stanley’s Cup.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Hornish Jr. to drive for Richard Petty Motorsports in Sprint Cup

Sam Hornish Jr. is heading back to the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2015.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced on Wednesday that Hornish will join the racing organization to drive the No. 9 Ford in Sprint Cup next season. He will replace Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9 after Ambrose informed the team last month that he is returning to his native home of Australia at season’s end to compete in the Australian V8 Supercar Series, driving an entry for NASCAR and IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske.

Hornish has not competed in Sprint Cup full time since 2010 when he drove for Team Penske.

“Having the opportunity to drive for Richard Petty Motorsports is great for me,“ Hornish said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “It’s just awesome. I’m looking forward to knowing all the guys on the No. 9 team and everybody at RPM.“

Hornish has competed in three full seasons in Sprint Cup as well as two full seasons in the Nationwide Series for Penske. In 2013, he finished second in the Nationwide championship standings, just three points behind champion Austin Dillon. Hornish has driven a partial schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR’s second-tier series this season. He won at Iowa Speedway in May.

Prior to his stock car racing career, Hornish competed in IndyCar, winning 19 races, including the 2006 Indianapolis 500, and claiming three series championships.

Hornish has 131 career starts in Sprint Cup, including one start this season. He substituted for Denny Hamlin in JGR’s No. 11 car in the March 23 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Hamlin missed the event due to an eye injury. Hornish finished 17th.

“I feel like I’m a lot better prepared,“ Hornish said of his upcoming full- time return to Sprint Cup. “I’ve been able to work with quite a few different crew chiefs over the past couple of years. That has allowed me to better understand what’s going through those guys’ heads and pick up things that I like from one crew chief to the next.“

Drew Blickensderfer will serve as Hornish’s crew chief next year. Blickensderfer currently serves in the role for Ambrose.

“Sam is a really good fit for RPM and will be a great addition to the team,“ team co-owner Richard Petty said. “He’s a family man who fits well with our core values, and he will be a great ambassador for our partners. Sam is also proven that he can win races and compete for a championship. He came into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a steep learning curve from open wheel racing, but has shown in the Nationwide Series that he is a winner.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Racing great Cigar dies at age 24

Hall of Fame thoroughbred Cigar has died at the age of 24.

A former two-time Horse of the Year, Cigar passed away after surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. The stallion had been living at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Cigar was owned by Allen Paulson and trained by Bill Mott with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey serving as his primary rider. The horse was named Horse of the Year in 1995 and 1996, as well as champion older male thoroughbred for those years, and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

The future champion began racing as a 3-year-old in 1993, but did not win his first stakes race until capturing the NYRA Mile at Aqueduct in November 1994. The stakes is now called the Cigar Mile in his honor.

Cigar had a 16-race winning streak from October 1994 through July 1996 that included victories in the first running of the Dubai World Cup in 1996, 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic, two Donn and Massachusetts Handicaps, Hollywood Gold Cup and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

The champion was retired from racing after finishing second in the 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup and third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He closed his Hall of Fame career with 19 wins, 15 in stakes, from 33 starts with then- record earnings of $9,999,815.

Cigar was sent to Coolmore in Versailles, Kentucky as a stallion, but he was found to be infertile and was transferred to the Kentucky Horse Park in 1999.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 6 waiver wire gold

Last week, tight end Travis Kelce shined brightest among the free agents available in the majority of leagues, and he rewarded those owners that acquired him with a touchdown in San Francisco.

Where will the waiver wire gold be found this week?

It is rare to find a hidden running back treasure at this point in the season, so owners should be giddy over the fact a few backs that could make an impact, are available.

Broncos’ Ronnie Hillman and Giants’ Andre Williams would be top pickups in a normal week. This, however, is not a normal week. The top fantasy running back from Week 5 was owned in less than 11% of Yahoo Leagues.

The Chargers backfield has been decimated with injuries, losing Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and then Donald Brown. That gave running back Branden Oliver an opportunity, and he exploded for 114 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown on Sunday. Philip Rivers also found him in the passing game four times for 68 more yards and another score.

Even more impressively, Oliver was able to put up these numbers, which ranked him as the No. 1 running back in standard leagues, against the Jets, the sixth best rush defense in the NFL.

It is inevitable that experts and fans will compare Oliver to Darren Sproles as Sproles used to wear No. 43 for the Chargers, but with the injuries to the San Diego backfield, Oliver will continue to be the focal point at running back. That is something Sproles has never really been.

Antonio Gates went as far as to tell the San Diego Union-Tribune that Oliver is “Sproles with more power.“

He is a must-add in fantasy football leagues, and many owners have already noticed. As of Wednesday afternoon, Oliver is now owned in 68% of leagues, which is a 57% increase from Tuesday.

Mathews is hoping to return from his knee injury in about two weeks. Oliver has the type of talent though that the Chargers coaches will likely want to keep on the field even when Mathews returns. That is something that cannot be said for Hillman, Williams or other free agent running backs this week.

Those guys are decent plug-ins for a couple weeks during byes. Oliver is that and more. He is licking his chops with the Raiders and Chiefs up next on the schedule, and offers long-term value as well.

The Gilmer Free Press


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 09, 2014


National Football League
Indianapolis at Houston, 8:25 PM - CBS, NFL Network


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
*St. Louis at Los Angeles, 8:37 or 9:08 PM - FS1
*San Francisco at Washington, 5:07 or 8:37 PM - FS1


National Basketball Association - Preseason
Memphis at Houston, 8:00 PM - CSN-Houston
Golden State at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - Time Warner SN, D


National Hockey League
Columbus at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - FS-Ohio, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Montreal at Washington, 7:00 PM - RDS, CSN-DC, DSS
New Jersey at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - MSG+, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Anaheim at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Florida at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - FS-Florida, SunSports, DSS
Boston at Detroit, 7:30 PM - NESN, FS-Detroit, DSS
Ottawa at Nashville, 8:00 PM - RDS2, TSN5, FSN-Tennessee, DSS
NY Rangers at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - MSG, FS-Midwest, DSS
Chicago at Dallas, 8:30 PM - CSN-Chicago, FS-Southwest, DSS
Colorado at Minnesota, 9:00 PM - NBCSN
Calgary at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - SN360, DSS
Winnipeg at Arizona, 10:00 PM - TSN3, FS-Arizona, DSS


College Football
Shorter at Delta State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
BYU at UCF, 7:30 PM - ESPN
Hampton at NC A&T, 7:30 PM - ESPN U


International Soccer
Mexico vs. Honduras, 9:25 PM - ESPN 2


Golf
EUROPEAN - Portugal Masters, 6:30 AM - Golf Channel
EUROPEAN - Portugal Masters, 10:00 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Frys.com Open, 5:00 PM - Golf Channel
LPGA - Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, 11:30 PM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
NATIONWIDE - 300 Miles of Courage practice, 5:30 PM - ESPN 2
SPRINT CUP - Bank of America 500 qualifying, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Balance leaves Holgo’s offense further from the Leach tree

After Mike Leach had his Washington State quarterback attempt 70 passes in 98 plays Saturday night, it became more apparent how far Dana Holgorsen has shifted from his offensive mentor.

Let those passes keep piling up in Pullman. West Virginia has exhibited almost perfect play-calling symmetry through five games, running the ball 217 times and passing it 216. Within that balance, the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1) are breaking with conventional tendencies. On third-and-7 against Kansas, Dreamius Smith glided for 14 yards. On a third-and-9, Rushel Shell squirted through the middle for 15.

Plays like those helped West Virginia gain 255 yards rushing, the third-most of Holgorsen’s tenure and the highest since Tavon Austin detonated against Oklahoma in 2012.

To a large extent, West Virginia is trusting its running backs in atypical circumstances thanks to the whim of a quarterback who’s entrusted to alter more plays at the line. Clint Trickett, after 13 starts, has earned the latitude to make pre-snap changes in hopes of exploiting defensive tells.

“We’ve reached a point with our offense and a fifth-year starting quarterback where we can identify what defense is trying to do and we can attack it however we want to,” Holgorsen said.

That meant West Virginia still had some Leach-like moments, such as a third-and-1 rollout pass knocked down at the feet of Eli Wellman. Then came a fourth-and-1 incompletion hung deep toward Kevin White (after Mario Alford didn’t run the screen called for the opposite side).

Yet even as he leads the Big 12 in passing at 380 yards per game, Trickett continues handing off plenty. West Virginia trails only Baylor in rushing attempts, and the transfer Shell has been the most frequent beneficiary. His 87 carries are more than twice the total of No. 2 back Wendell Smallwood.

During a 113-yard effort against Kansas, Shell carried 21 times, ripped off a season-long 28-yard run and produced a touchdown for the fourth consecutive game. He busted through initial tacklers—or eluded them completely—on seemingly every play, reminiscent of his record-smashing prep days in Hopewell, Pa.

“I like when (the coaches) keep feeding me the ball,” he said. “In high school I got used to carrying the ball like 30 or 40 times a game. I feel like I’m the type of player that plays better with more carries.”

For a breakdown of Shell’s big game and other key facets of West Virginia’s 33-14 win over the Jayhawks, check out “The Takeaway” at the top of the page.

Punt-return change?  Despite Jordan Thompson muffing a punt for the second time in three games, the Mountaineers aren’t necessarily changing returners.

“If we had another guy, we’d put him in there,” said special teams coordinator Joe DeForest, whose units have been alternately horrendous and spectacular this season.

The most spectacular component, Mario Alford, owns kick-return touchdowns of 100 and 94 yards this season. While his dynamic speed is unquestioned, catching punts in traffic is a different skill than hauling in kickoffs with defenders still 30 yards away.

Alford’s only two punt returns of the year came against Towson, and both resulted in negative yardage after he gave ground while running laterally. Still, he anticipates another shot.

“I’m pretty comfortable (returning punts) and they’re probably going to put me back there soon,” he said. “It depends on how everything goes, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be back there.” ~~  Alan Taylor ~~


►  West Virginia allowed only 65 yards rushing, about 130 below the Jayhawks’ average

Kansas didn’t feature a Gayle Sayers, or even a James Sims for that matter, but at least its running game had been functional this season.

West Virginia completely shut down that functionality Saturday.

Despite missing defensive end Dontrill Hyman, the Mountaineers allowed only 65 yards rushing—about 130 below the Jayhawks’ average.

Coincidentally, West Virginia had given up 198 yards rushing in its first four games, being overmatched by the likes of Oklahoma and Alabama and caught out of position against Maryland.

For one week at least, the run defense stiffened like Mountaineers units of yesteryear.

“That was the big thing coming in,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “I thought our linebackers and D-line played much more physical tonight.”

With Hyman sidelined by a knee injury that may linger for weeks, Gibson frequently shifted Will linebacker Brandon Golson to defensive end, which allowed Edward Muldrow to become an every-down linebacker.

Muldrow, the junior college transfer, previously was used primarily in nickel packages on passing downs.

“The linebackers, we were on every key. We knew everything they were going to do,” Muldrow said. “We’ve got so many different athletic kids on our team, there’s a lot of combinations.”

Kansas hadn’t done much on third downs this season, converting only 38%. That average took a dip after the Jayhawks converted only 3-of-17 at West Virginia.

Kansas netted just 2.8 yards per play and was forced into 14 punts, the most ever by a West Virginia opponent.

“We played well, but we can always get better,” said Wes Tonkery, who closed out one third-down try with a 14-yard sack of Montell Cozart. “Was it good? Yeah. Was it perfect? No.”


►  Worley practicing again, but playing eligibility remains cloudy

Suspended cornerback Daryl Worley has been cleared to practice by West Virginia University officials, but coach Dana Holgorsen remained vague about the sophomore’s chances of playing in Saturday’s game at Texas Tech.

Worley missed the past two games while facing a misdemeanor battery charge that stems from a nightclub altercation with a female on September 14.

“He’s been cleared to practice, but as far as competition, that’s up in the air,” Holgorsen said Tuesday.

Asked whether Worley’s playing eligibility was at the the discretion of coaches or university administrators, Holgorsen replied: “It’s still up to a lot of people.”

Regarded as one of the Big 12′s most physically gifted cornerbacks, Worley’s return could be crucial against a Texas Tech offense that tops the league in passing attempts and ranks fifth nationally with 17 passing touchdowns. The Mountaineers face another explosive offense next week when Baylor visits.

“He’s been cleared to practice by the university, his legal situation is still up in the air, and that’s all we’re going to comment on at this point,” Holgorsen said. “At this point, he’s in the building, he’s practicing and that’s as far as it goes.”

But is Worley practicing with the scout team or the defense?

“That’s a good question,” Holgorsen said.

West Virginia has forced only one turnover this season aside from Worley’s two interceptions.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MTSU was a turning point in Herd’s 2013 season

October 24, 2013 was a turning point in Marshall’s season. It lost to Middle Tennessee State 51-49 in a pivotal game that turned out to be a deciding factor in the location of the Conference USA Championship game. If Marshall makes a defensive stop on the final game winning drive by Middle Tennessee and sneak out of Murfreesboro with a win, it plays Rice in Huntington in the Conference USA Championship game and just maybe the season turns out differently.

The loss to Blue Raiders may have served as a wake up call to the Thundering Herd as the team stepped up to a new level. Ever since that game, Marshall’s veteran leadership has taken over and players took ownership of the team.

The result?

Marshall has scored 40 or more points in 10 of 12 games since then, averaging 46.6 points a game. Meanwhile the defense is allowing an average of just 19.9 points. Marshall is outscoring opponents by nearly four touchdowns each game. Those numbers even include the 41-24 loss to Rice in the league championship game. Throw out that anomaly and the numbers are even more staggering.

“We’re excited to get back home. It seems like forever since we played a home game. I’d be surprised if this place isn’t sold out for homecoming,” predicted Holliday. “You got a good football team, we’re playing extremely well and I’m looking forward to having a packed house and a sold out stadium.”

The loss has stuck with players who have a shot at redemption this Saturday when Middle Tennessee comes to Huntington on homecoming.

“It’s a very big one. We understand what happened last year,” said quarterback Rakeem Cato. “I think this group is way more excited and ready to play football against whoever. I think we’re going to be ready for this game in a big way.”

Cato threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns last year against the Blue Raiders. He led Marshall down the field in the fourth quarter to take a late lead, only to see it slip away. Saturday’s match up with Middle Tennessee has the potential to be a big day for Cato. The Blue Raiders defense allowed over 300 yards passing to the same Old Dominion team that mustered just 85 yards through the air against Marshall.

“We owe Middle Tennessee,” insisted receiver Tommy Shuler who recorded the 13th game of his career with nine catches or more against Old Dominion. “We just have to go out there and take coaching.”

Marshall has been more consistent in its focus week in and week out than in any other years during Doc Holliday’s tenure. There’s no reason to think this week will be any different. The Herd does not want to look back on the 2014 Middle Tennessee game and remember it as the turning point in the season.  ~~  Dave Wilson ~~


►  Backyard Brawl coming to Huntington; Marshall to play Pitt

Marshall has announced another home-and-home series with an ACC opponent. Athletics Director Mike Hamrick announced Tuesday Marshall play Pitt in 2016 and 2020.

The Herd will travel to the University of Pittsburgh on October 1, 2016 and the Panthers will make the return trip to Huntington on September 26, 2020.

“The old Backyard Brawl is back but it is coming to Huntington instead of Morgantown,” said coach Doc Holliday on Metronews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.

Marshall’s 2016 non-conference schedule now consists of home games with Louisville and Akron and a road trip to Pittsburgh.

“I’m excited about it. It’s a great game for us and all our fans can get to Pittsburgh and see that game that is close to us,” said Holliday.

The deal is the third home-and-home series Hamrick has signed with an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. Louisville is scheduled to come to Huntington in 2016 and N.C. State is on the schedule for 2017 and 2018.

“Since arriving here in 2009, my goal has been to bring quality nationally-recognized programs on a home-and-home basis to Huntington,” said Hamrick. “The addition of Pitt is just another step in that process. Our Thundering Herd fans are loyal and deserve to see quality programs in Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Also, these games are regionally-based, which will allow our fans to travel to see Marshall play.”

Hamrick also has renewed series with Ohio (home in 2019, away in 2020), East Carolina (away in 2020, home in 2021) and will begin a series with Navy (away in 2021, home in 2022).

Mike Hamrick has done a tremendous job of getting home-and-home series,” said Holliday. “We’re not standing still, we’re moving forward. We’re excited.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Johnson named C-USA Offensive Player of the Week

Marshall running back Devon Johnson was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week Monday by the league office.

Johnson rumbled for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries for the Thundering Herd in its 56-14 win at Old Dominion. The converted tight end posted his fourth 100-yard game in five outings since moving to the backfield. Johnson leads Conference USA with 136 rushing yards per game, a figure that is eighth nationally, and has run for eight touchdowns on the season.

The Herd, 5-0 overall and 1-0 in C-USA, is 26th in the latest Amway USA Today Coaches Poll with 98 points and 27th in the Associated Press poll with 78 points.

Marshall will face Middle Tennessee on Saturday at noon ET on the Thundering Herd’s Homecoming.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lakers’ Young out eight weeks after surgery

Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young will miss the next eight weeks after having surgery on Monday to have a torn thumb ligament repaired.

Young was hurt in practice last Thursday, and an MRI exam on Friday revealed a complete tear of the radial collateral ligament.

Young re-signed with the Lakers in July after averaging a career-high 17.9 points in 64 games last season, his first with the club.

The 29-year-old Los Angeles native has averaged 12.2 points in 480 career games with the Wizards, Clippers, 76ers and Lakers.


►  Nothin’ but Net: NBA’s TV deals bring money, potential problems

When the NBA announced extensions with ESPN/ABC and TNT on Monday, minds began to wander.

First, the reported sum by the New York Times is $24 billion over the nine- year agreement. That number is so staggering it’s incomprehensible for us commoners to discuss rationally, but let’s try.

The major ramification, of course, deals with the salary cap. That number will rise from $63 million this season to somewhere close to $90 million when the deal begins prior to the 2016-17 season, as reported by CBS Sports.

That’s a Scott Bakula Quantum Leap in a short period of time, which means, smart teams have already been planning. The players have been. Why do you think LeBron James signed a two-year deal which expires in the summer of 2016? It seems pretty clear why LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t put pen to paper on his max deal with the Portland Trail Blazers though he absolutely intends to stay in the Rose City.

Also, Kevin Durant will be a free agent that same summer as LeBron, so hold on to your hats because these two are just a year and a half away from becoming the highest-paid professional athletes in the history of civilization.

It’s reasonable to think James might make $30 million per season. Oof. Durant won’t be far behind, especially if he stays in Oklahoma City, although he will be able to make more on the open market than before. There are whispers that when a new CBA is agreed upon, max contracts may be a thing of the past, like mail or basic cable.

In the short term, meaning this upcoming summer, no top-tier free agents will sign long-term, max-level contracts. They’ll go with short, possibly one-year deals knowing the pay day the following June will be astronomical.

“As we all know, certain agents and players have been timing their contracts so that they would become free agents in ‘16-‘17, knowing that we were going to be entering into new television agreements,“ commissioner Adam Silver said at the announcement on Monday.

It makes you either appreciate what Carmelo Anthony did this summer, or classify him a dope. Anthony signed a max deal in the summer of 2014 with the Knicks and although he’ll still cause a huge hit on their cap, it could’ve much worse had he gone down the avenue James did.

“I never thought about it. I never thought about a two-year deal. I didn’t want to have to go back and do what I did this summer, not at all,“ Anthony told the New York Daily News. “I signed my deal, I’m good, the organization is good. We moved forward and everybody is in a good place.“

Anthony valued security above all. It’s a decision for this summer’s free agent class, highlighted by Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love.

The Knicks will be in a great place. With Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani both coming off the books this summer, the Knicks will have buckets of cash to spend. They would have anyway prior to this TV deal being signed, but with the influx of cash, New York can probably add two or even three high-profile studs to go with Anthony in a high-profile market.

With this big cap number coming, almost every long-term deal currently on the books going through 2016 will look like a steal. This inflation will lead to gigantic numbers, so any contract you viewed as too high for a player of that caliber will seem reasonable in 2016.

What will be interesting is how this deal impacts the teams already armed with tons of cash under the cap. The Philadelphia 76ers could literally start a new team with their available money. The Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz would fit this criteria as well. A team like the Charlotte Hornets that seems to be a playoff fixture might be in the best shape of all. Same goes for the Phoenix Suns. Both are teams on the rise who have managed their money better than most teams.

It will still come down to strong leadership for all NBA teams, but those that have money to spend can make quick strides. Super teams can easily be built. That’s the way the league has trended thanks to the Miami Heat. The question most of these lower-market squads faced was, “how can we get big name free agents to come here?“ The answer now might be, “we can sign three huge names to start a dynasty together.“

That’s probably still not likely, since, as “Cheers” taught us, location, location, location make a huge difference. But, the Jazz, Magic and Sixers will provide free agents with a lot of options.

Same goes for cap-strapped teams now like the Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Clippers. The bump in cap will allow more flexibility, so the balance of power may not shift. The opportunity for it to shift at least will exist in the summer of 2016.

Basically, everyone will get rich. You’d think that would be a good thing universally, but when that much money is at stake, there will certainly be land mines, namely in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“There is a potential re-opener in three years, and I’m sure both sides will be studying the impacts of this new deal and seeking to ensure that it remains a fair deal for both sides,“ said Silver.

Under the current CBA, the players get as much as 51% of revenue off the top. That% was down from previous deals, so, the players could say, “we took a hit for the good of the game before, we’re not doing it again.“ And, clearly, the state of the game is strong if the NBA is getting in excess of $24 billion over the next nine years. It’s strong for the players, too, who get 51% of this growing pot as well.

Or, could the owners say, “now that we have this huge revenue stream, let’s discuss a hard salary cap once again.“ The union hated the idea, but when this cap reflects this new loot, maybe players will agree with caveats like no more individual max contracts.

Good luck to Michele Roberts, the new Players Association executive director, and Chris Paul, the union president. The Players Association needs a victory after getting slaughtered in 2011. Paul is sharp and James is very engaged in the process. When stars are educated on the business the way James is, or the way Paul is, it’s great for the union.

The owners basically got the players to agree to everything they wanted in the last negotiations because the owners cried poverty. The players needed to relent for the betterment of the game. That won’t happen again.

“The owners were telling us they were losing money. There’s no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now,“ James said. “After we continue to see teams selling for billions of dollars ... and now, Prokhorov is possibly selling his majority stake in the Nets for over a billion.

“That will not fly with us this time.“

Long story short, when this CBA can be reopened in 2017, there will be a lot of issues to iron out and that generally means a work stoppage. James sounded like a man on behalf of the union who won’t let the players cave this time. (James is not an officer in the union, nor is he the Cavaliers player’s rep - that is James Jones.)

These aren’t problems for us commoners. We just will have to pay more so that ESPN and TNT can find a way to pay James and Durant.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  National League Division Series Game

Final Score: St. Louis 3, Los Angeles 2

Matt Adams’ three-run homer in the seventh inning propelled St. Louis to a series-clinching win, as the Cardinals downed the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday. The Cardinals are back in the National League Championship Series for a fourth straight year. Shelby Miller went 5 2/3 innings in the start for St. Louis and allowed two runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Marco Gonzales (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh to pick up the victory. Clayton Kershaw (0-2), who was victimized for eight runs in the series opener on Friday, was charged with three runs on four hits with a pair of walks and nine strikeouts in six-plus innings. The Dodgers were eliminated for a second straight postseason by the Cardinals, who downed Los Angeles in six games in last year’s NLCS, with Kershaw also on the mound for that one.


Final Score: San Francisco 3, Washington 2

The San Francisco Giants are headed to the National League Championship Series for the third time in five years. The Giants scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the seventh inning to beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 in Game 4 of their NL Division Series on Tuesday night. That came after Bryce Harper tied the game for Washington in the top of the seventh with his third home run of the series. The Giants will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS for the second time in three years beginning with Game 1 on Saturday in St. Louis. Including their World Series title runs in 2010 and 2012, the Giants have won seven straight postseason series. San Francisco clung to a 2-1 lead until Harper homered off Hunter Strickland (1-0) for the second time in the series, driving the right-handed reliever’s 97 mph fastball into the water of McCovey Cove on the fly to tie the score in the seventh. But Matt Thornton (0-1) gave up consecutive one-out singles to Joe Panik and Buster Posey in the bottom of the seventh and Aaron Barrett walked Pence to load the bases. The Giants took the lead when Barrett uncorked a wild pitch that bounced in the dirt and past catcher Wilson Ramos.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Predators place Stalberg, Cullen on IR

The Nashville Predators set their active roster for the 2014-15 season on Tuesday, making a trio of moves.

The club placed forwards Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg on injured reserve and designated forward Mike Fisher as a non-roster player.

Cullen, 37, totaled 10 goals and 29 assists in 77 games last year, his first in Nashville. Stalberg, 28, tallied eight times and added 10 assists in 70 contests a year ago.

Fisher is still on his way back from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in early July and the subsequent surgery which puts him out of action from 4-to-6 months. The 34-year-old center finished fourth on the Preds in scoring with 49 points (20G, 29A) last season.


►  Blue Jackets place Dubinsky on IR, claim Cracknell

The Columbus Blue Jackets announced a pair of roster moves on Tuesday, placing forward Brandon Dubinsky on injured reserve and claiming forward Adam Cracknell off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.

Dubinsky, who was signed to a lucrative six-year contract extension shortly after the opening on July’s free-agent signing period, will be out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.

The 28-year-old native of Alaska notched 16 goals and a career-high 34 assists for 50 points in 76 games last season, his second with Columbus. The Blue Jackets acquired him in July 2012 from the Rangers as part of the deal that sent Rick Nash to New York.

Cracknell totaled just two assists in 19 regular-season appearances for the Blues last season. He signed a one-year deal with the Kings in July, but failed to make the roster in training camp and was placed on waivers Monday.

A former ninth-round pick of the Flames in 2004, Cracknell has totaled six goals and 10 assists in 65 career contests.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  The Inside Line: Logano the one to beat in the Chase?

Winning two of the last three races, Joey Logano might just be the favorite to win the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Brad Keselowski, who is Logano’s teammate at Team Penske, won the Chase-opener on September 14 at Chicagoland. Logano scored the victory one week later at New Hampshire and then took the checkered flag this past Sunday at Kansas. Jeff Gordon won the September 28 race at Dover.

Kansas was the first of three races in the second round of the Chase, known as the Contender Round. The Sprint Cup Series will compete at Charlotte on Saturday night and then run at Talladega, the only restrictor-plate track on the playoff schedule, on October 19.

Logano’s win at Kansas not only gave him the points lead but also clinched him a spot in the Eliminator Round, which includes the races at Martinsville (October 26), Texas (November 2) and Phoenix (November 9). After the Talladega, the Chase field will be trimmed from 12 drivers to eight.

Just four drivers will remain in the Chase when the series has its season- finale on November 16 at Homestead. If any one of the eight championship-eligible drivers in the Eliminator Round wins at Martinsville, Texas or Phoenix, that person will automatically advance into the “final four.“

Logano won this year’s spring race at Texas. His team recently tested there.

“We’re excited about our shot to win this championship this year,“ Logano said. “We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing.“

Having won at New Hampshire and Kansas and placing fourth at both Chicagoland and Dover, Logano has the best average finishing position among all drivers in the first four races of the Chase.

Under the previous playoff format (2004-13), Logano would have a pretty sizeable lead in the championship point standings. Right now, he’s just six points ahead of second-place Kyle Busch, who finished third at Kansas.

After the opening round of the Chase, the Challenger Round, had concluded, each of the 12 drivers competing in the Contender Round had his points reset to 3,000. The eight competitors for the Eliminator Round will have their points adjusted to 4,000 points.

Each driver in the final four at Homestead will have his points total set to 5,000. The highest finisher among them in that race will win the Sprint Cup championship.

“If you look at the first four races, we have an average finish of 2.5,“ Logano said. “At that point, you don’t ever want to see points washed away. You want to run that all the way to the end. But the fact is it’s not like that this year. We need to be able to get wins like this to keep this going on to the next round. It’s going to get washed away. It’s like that for anybody.

“But if I was in a different position and you just make it in, say you’re eighth and you just make it in, you’re going to want the points washed out and have a shot at it.“

Logano and Keselowski have the most wins in the series this season with five each. Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, is in jeopardy of not making it into the Eliminator Round following his 36th-place finish at Kansas. He was one of several drivers who crashed into the wall after suffering a blown tire.

Keselowski is currently 10th in the point standings, followed by Hendrick Motorsports drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson, the six-time and defending series champion. Earnhardt also made contact with the wall due to tire failure, while Johnson was involved in an accident with Greg Biffle in the early going.

At age 24, Logano is in his second year as driver of the No. 22 Ford for Roger Penske’s team. He made the Chase for the first time in 2013, finishing eighth in points. He had finished no better than 16th in the standings during his first four years in Cup competition (2009-12) while driving the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Logano is having by far his best season in Sprint Cup competition. Prior to this year, he had just three race wins in his Cup career. The Middletown, Connecticut native holds the series record as the youngest race winner, doing so at age 19 years, 1 month and 4 days when he won at New Hampshire, his home track, on June 28, 2009.

Logano has been paired with crew chief Todd Gordon since the start of the ‘13 season. Gordon’s first year as a crew chief in Sprint Cup was in 2012, with drivers A.J. Allmendinger and Sam Hornish Jr. at Penske.

“We’ve had some phenomenal wins this year,“ Gordon said. “I think when you look through it, I can tell you that every race we’ve won has had some special features to it. (Kansas) is huge because it puts you through to the next round. Loudon (New Hampshire) was huge because that’s a place we purely struggled in 2013.“

Just days after Logano’s win at New Hampshire, Team Penske announced that Logano had signed a multi-year contract extension with the organization.

“I think Joey has matured, and he’s certainly a team player,“ Roger Penske said after Logano’s victory at Kansas. “He’s got a great sponsor in Shell- Pennzoil, and they love him. I think what we have to do is Todd and the rest of us give him the car. You can see that he can run up front with the best, and to me with the two people we have, I wouldn’t trade ‘em.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  This Week in Golf—October 09-12

PGA TOUR - Frys.com Open, Silverado Resort & Spa (North Course), Napa, California - The PGA Tour kicks off its 2014-15 schedule this week with the eighth playing of the Frys.com Open.

Johnny Miller and two partners bought Silverado in 2010, then Miller oversaw the overhaul of both courses at the resort. The North course will be used for the tournament this weekend.

Jimmy Walker, the defending champion, and two of his Ryder Cup teammates headline the field. Walker will be joined in the field by Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan, while Lee Westwood, a member of the winning European Ryder Cup team, will also play.

Of the 50 players that earned their PGA Tour cards through either the Web.com regular season money list or the Web.com Tour finals series, 38 are in the field this week. That group includes Carlos Ortiz, a three-time Web.com Tour winner in 2014, and Adam Hadwin, who was the overall money leader.

Last fall, Walker was just 3-under par after two rounds, but he went 14-under par over the final two rounds to rally for his first PGA Tour title. He carried that momentum into 2014 and posted two more wins and earned a spot on his first Ryder Cup team.

Brooks Koepka played on a sponsors invitation last year and nearly walked away with the title. He led by two strokes entering the final round, but stumbled to a 1-over 72, which dropped him into a tie for third place at 14-under 270. Koepka led by four shots with 11 holes to play, but he played those 11 holes in plus-3.

The Golf Channel will have live coverage of all four days of this event.

The PGA Tour heads to Nevada next week for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, where Webb Simpson cruised to a 6-stroke win last year. Also next week is the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday. That event features Masters winner Adam Scott, U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, Open Championship and PGA Championship victor Rory McIlroy as well as Jim Furyk, who was runner-up in this year’s Major Champions Points List and won this event in 2008.

EUROPEAN TOUR

PORTUGAL MASTERS, Oceanico Victoria Golf Course, Vilamoura, Portugal - The final full field event of the season in Europe kicks off this week with the Portugal Masters.

David Lynn stumbled to a 2-over 73 in the third round last year, but bettered that score by 10 strokes in the final round as he rallied to win by one stroke over Justin Walters.

The victory for Lynn was the second of his career. Lynn played a little on the PGA Tour at the start of the 2014 season, but returned to Europe in May and has played 12 tour events. His best finish was a share of 21st at the European Masters.

In his title defense this week, Lynn will have his hands full as 73 former European Tour winners are competing, including 17 victors from this season.

Among that group will be Padraig Harrington, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Lawrie and Darren Clarke. Winning European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley will also be competing.

Golf Channel will have coverage of all four rounds.

The European Tour heads to England next week for the Volvo World Match Play Championship, where Graeme McDowell won the title in May 2013, when the event was played in Bulgaria.

LPGA TOUR

SIME DARBY LPGA MALAYSIA, Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - The LPGA Tour continues its Asian swing this week with the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.

Last year, Lexi Thompson shot 5-under 66 in the third round to grab a 3-shot lead heading to the final round. She closed with a 2-under 69 and cruised to a 4-stroke win over Shanshan Feng.

The win for Thompson was her second on the LPGA Tour. She won again later last season, then picked up her first major championship title earlier this year at the Kraft Nabisco.

The world No. 8 will defend her title against a field that includes seven other players ranked in the top 10 in the world. Only the injured Michelle Wie and Inbee Park, who is getting married the day after this event ends, are not in the field.

Golf Channel will have overnight coverage of all four rounds this week.

The LPGA Tour moves to South Korea next week for the LPGA KEB - HanaBank Championship, where Amy Yang beat Hee Kyung Seo in a playoff last year.

CHAMPIONS TOUR

SAS CHAMPIONSHIP, Prestonwood Country Club, Cary, North Carolina - The Champions Tour returns to action with the first of two events in North Carolina.

Russ Cochran won the SAS Championship last year by one stroke over David Frost. The win was Cochran’s fifth on the Champions Tour, and his second at this event.

Cochran closed with 67 to fend off Frost, who shot 66 in the final round. Frost had birdied the 16th to take the lead, but Cochran birdied the final two holes to claim the title.

The field this week includes six former Ryder Cup captains - Tom Kite, Hal Sutton, Tom Lehman, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie.

Golf Channel has coverage of all three rounds this week.

The Champions Tour heads to Rock Barn next week for the Greater Hickory Kia Classic, where Michael Allen beat Olin Browne in a playoff last year.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Fantasy Player of the Week - Week 5

A number of “missing” fantasy studs were “found” in Week 5.

We’re talking in particular about Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas and Houston running back Arian Foster. And to a lesser extent Ben Tate, DeSean Jackson and Eddie Lacy.

Still with his picture on a milk carton is Detroit superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson with just three catches for 19 yards over the past two games.

The following players were the best at their position in Week 5.

Quarterbacks -

Russell Wilson, Seattle - Wilson single-handedly took control of Monday night’s game against Washington and led his team to victory. He didn’t do it in the traditional sense, but with both his arm and his legs. He rushed for a career-high 122 yards and a score and passed for two scores and 201 yards. All told, he totaled 34 fantasy points.

Peyton Manning, Denver - Unlike Wilson,you won’t see Manning doing any running. He plays the position in the classic manner, but at a level few, if any, have ever played the game. Sunday, he exploded for 479 yards and four scores and looked like the record-setting 2013 version of himself.

Running Backs -

Arian Foster, Houston - Foster bounced back from an ugly Week 4 performance to post big numbers this week. It’s an indication that he came back a week too soon from his hamstring injury. Sunday he appeared completely healthy and rushed for 157 yards and two scores in the “Battle of Texas.“ The story is always the same for Foster, if he’s healthy, he’s a top-five fantasy back.

Branden Oliver, San Diego - Oliver’s game came out of the blue. While many fantasy owners had jumped on the Donald Brown bandwagon, it was Oliver who dominated the Jets and the statistics. He clearly out-played Brown and should be the No. 1 waiver claim player this week after posting 114 yards on the ground, another 68 yards through the air, and a pair of touchdowns.

Wide Receivers -

Demaryius Thomas, Denver - Thomas had been a non-factor for most of the season, but was the biggest factor in Week 5. Playing more on the outside instead of the slot with the return of Wes Welker, Thomas scored twice from long range and had another 78-yard touchdown reception called back by penalty. His 226 receiving yards and two scores earned him 41 fantasy points and back into the good graces of fantasy owners.

DeSean Jackson, Washington - Normally, Jackson has problems with physical cornerbacks, but not Monday night against Seattle’s secondary. He caught five of 11 targets for 157 yards and a touchdown worth 29 fantasy points.

Tight Ends -

Greg Olsen, Carolina - As we saw two weekends ago with Steve Smith Sr., facing your old team frequently results in big numbers for your fantasy stud. Olsen played four seasons in Chicago and Sunday he reminded them of what they are missing with a six-catch, 72-yard, two-touchdown effort.

Rob Gronkowski, New England - While still not completely healthy, “Gronk” has managed to produce a touchdown in four of five games. Sunday night he appeared to be as healthy as he has been all season and motivated to support his embattled quarterback. The result was a 100-yard receiving day with a touchdown worth 22 fantasy points.

Kickers -

Phil Dawson, San Francisco - The 49ers have reverted to their grind-it-out offense behind Frank Gore and that frequently results in a heavy workload for their kicker. Sunday was one of those days and Dawson went 5-of-5 on field goal attempts including a pair of 50-plus yarders. Eat your heart out Detroit.

Defense/Special Teams -

Green Bay Packers - The Packers took advantage of backup quarterback Christian Ponder and a unsettled Vikings offense to post a position-high 24 fantasy points. Julius Peppers took one of three Minnesota turnovers back for a 49- yard score and Ponder was sacked six times as Green Bay built a 42-0 lead before yielding 10 fourth quarter points. Greedy fantasy owners, like me, were disappointed because we wanted the shutout too.

And the winner of the TSN Fantasy Player of the Week for Week 5 is ... Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas. In posting the highest-point total of the 2014 NFL fantasy season, Thomas reminded fantasy owners what he is capable of. While his one-day explosion certainly helped fantasy owners, particularly those in rotisserie leagues, we would like to see it on a more consistent basis for the remainder of the season.

The Gilmer Free Press


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 08, 2014


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
No games scheduled


National Basketball Association - Preseason
Charlotte at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - TCN-Philadelphia
New York at Boston, 7:30 PM - MSG, CSN-New England


National Hockey League
Montreal at Toronto, 7:00 PM - TVA Sports, SN, DSS
Philadelphia at Boston, 7:30 PM - NBCSN
Vancouver at Calgary, 10:00 PM - SN, TVA Sports 2, DSS
San Jose at Los Angeles, 10:00 PM - SN1, NBCSN


Major League Soccer
Houston at Toronto, 7:30 PM - CSN-Houston, TSN, DSS
San Jose at Portland, 10:30 PM - CSN-California, ROOT-Northwest, DSS


Golf
LPGA - Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, 11:00 PM - Golf Channel

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Football Players of the Week - Week 5

Tevin Brown (West Virginia State), C.J. Davis (Shepherd), Kevin Coffie (West Virginia State) and Torie Wagner have earned Mountain East Conference Player of the Week honors.

Brown, a redshirt freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio, is the Offensive Player of the Week after leading the Yellow Jackets to their first Mountain East Conference win with an 18-13 decision over Urbana. Brown rushed 26 times for 132 yards averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Davis, a sophomore from Hagerstown, Md., and Coffie, a sophomore defensive back from Beltsville, Md., share the league’s Defensive Player of the Week recognition. Davis helped ninth-ranked Shepherd limit Charleston to just 123 yards of total offense with seven tackles and an interception. Coffie had four tackles on the day but broke up six passes and surrendered just one reception to his receiver on 83 snaps.

Wagner, a junior from Severn, Md., earned MEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his efforts against Shepherd. He returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against the ninth-ranked Rams—the the longest in the league this season. Wagner also had 26 punt return yards to become UC’s single season leader (since re-starting football in 20013) in that category.


Other Top Performances

Offense: Fabian Guerra (Fairmont State) registered 12 catches for 136 yards, and was featured on ESPN’s “Top 10” for this one-handed grab ... Ray Russ (Notre Dame) had 280 yards passing and four touchdowns ... Calvinaugh Jones (Concord) had a season-high 144 yards to keep the Mountain Lions undefeated ... Anton McCallum (West Liberty) had five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown against Duquesne ... Marc Johnson (Urbana) hauled in five passes for 153 yards ... Zach Schademan (West Virginia Wesleyan) had 122 receiving yards on 10 receptions and a touchdown in a win over Glenville State.


Defense: Mike Carey (Concord) came up with his eighth career interception and had five tackles ... Jalon Avent (Notre Dame) led the Falcons with 10 tackles, 2.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks, while holding UVa-Wise to just 36 rushing yards ... D’Gary Wallace (Urbana) filled the stat sheet with a game-high 14.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, one pass breakup and one interception ... Charles Simons (West Liberty) had five tackles and an interception ... Marcus Porter (Fairmont State) tallied 10 solo tackles vs. Concord.


Special Teams: B.J. Baldwin (Notre Dame) recovered a fumbled punt and returned it for a touchdown ... Griffin Yocum (West Liberty) averaged 41.3 yards per punt and dropped one inside the 20 yard line ... Garrett Lee (Concord) averaged 41.7 yards and placed three inside the 20 against Fairmont State.

2014 MEC Players of the Week
Week Offense Defense Special Teams
September 08 Brian Novak (CU) Marlon Oden (NDC) Anton McCallum (WLU)
September 15 Ray Russ (NDC) Shaneil Jenkins (SU) Josh Wilson (WLU)
September 22 Kenneth Butler (NDC) Justin Avery (UC) Kyle Kaplan (NDC)
September 29 Marvin Elam (UC) Gary Henderson (GSC) C.J. Davis (SU)
October 06 Tevin Brown (WVSU) C.J. Davis (SU)September Kevin Coffie (WVSU) Torie Wagner (UC)


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Heisman Rankings: Week 6

Eleven of the nation’s Top 25 teams fell in one of the wildest college football weekends in recent memory, and as a result, there’s plenty of shakeup in our ranking of the Heisman hopefuls.

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State—The nation can no longer afford to sleep on Prescott, who’s led the 5-0 Bulldogs to back-to-back wins over Top 10 teams to position his squad as a bona fide threat to win the SEC Western Division. While Mississippi State’s defense certainly played a big role in Saturday’s 48-31 win over sixth-ranked Texas A&M, Prescott was nearly perfect in leading a balanced offensive attack that racked up 559 yards (289 rushing, 270 passing). The signal caller completed 19-of-25 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 77 yards and three more scores in thoroughly outshining fellow Heisman candidate Kenny Hill. With nearly 1,700 total yards and 19 touchdowns, there’s no question Prescott is here to stay, and he’ll have yet another opportunity to cement his status as a big-game quarterback when MSU hosts Auburn this week.

2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia—It’s becoming clearer with each passing week that no one in college football at any position is more unstoppable than Gurley. In an easy, 44-17 triumph over Vanderbilt - Georgia’s third straight win - the physically gifted tailback was outstanding with 25 carries for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns, giving him 773 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground this season. His prowess as a runner would have been more than enough to make a leap in the rankings this week, but Gurley added another highlight-reel moment to his Heisman resume with a 50-yard pass to Jeb Blazevich in the second quarter, further proving there’s nothing he can’t do.

3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon—As outstanding as Mariota has been in his career, his Ducks have fallen short of lofty expectations in each of his seasons due to one or two head-scratching losses along the way, and the 2014 version of the squad followed suit as a 31-24 home setback to unranked Arizona. Mariota played well, completing 20-of-32 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns while also hauling in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Royce Freeman on a trick play, but he was sacked five times and finished with only one rushing yard. Mariota, who has 1,411 passing yards, 215 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions, will almost certainly accumulate enough numbers to be a Heisman finalist once again, but claiming the trophy won’t be as much of a slam dunk as it seemed a week ago if Oregon’s defense and offensive line keeps letting him down.

4. Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame—Golson faced a tough task in squaring off against Stanford’s top-ranked scoring defense on Saturday, and he understandably had some struggles against the stout unit in completing less than 50 percent of his passes (20-of-43) and turning the ball over twice with an interception and a fumble. The signal caller stepped up in crunch time, however, by tossing a 23-yard touchdown to Ben Koyack on 4th-and-11 with just over a minute remaining to lift the Fighting Irish to a thrilling, 17-14 victory. Golson’s late-game heroics allowed him to finish with 275 total yards and two touchdowns, upping his season totals to 1,521 yards and 17 scores as he continued to prove himself as one of the nation’s best big-game quarterbacks.

5. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn—The unbeaten Tigers are quietly going about their business this season, and following a 41-7 drudging of LSU on Saturday, they all of a sudden look like the best team in the SEC. The play of Marshall under center is a big reason for Auburn’s success. The quarterback had one of the best games of his career with 326 total yards (207 passing, 119 rushing) and four touchdowns against one of the nation’s best defenses. Marshall’s numbers may not be as gaudy as some of the other dual threats on this list (755 passing yards, 392 rushing yards, 12 TDs), but he’s thrown just one interception and is definitely trending in the right direction as Auburn rises in the polls.

6. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama—Cooper’s star was ascending fast through the first month of the season, but with such elite competition at the top paired with the timing of Alabama’s first loss of the season over the weekend, the nation’s best receiver has to take a dip in the ranks this week through little fault of his own. The Crimson Tide blew a fourth-quarter lead in their 23-17 setback at Ole Miss, although the Rebels had little success slowing down Cooper, who hauled in nine passes for 91 yards. Amazingly enough, it was the first time this season Cooper failed to cross the century mark receiving, but his five-game totals this season are still staggering (52 receptions, 746 yards, five TDs).

7. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin—The Badgers fell to 3-2 after losing their Big Ten opener at Northwestern on Saturday, 20-14, but Gordon did everything he could to better his team’s fortunes in the loss. For the second time in three weeks, Gordon set a career high in rushing, piling on 259 yards and a touchdown, leaving him with 871 yards and nine scores on the season. Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson has responded to early season criticism of not feeding his best player the ball enough by giving Gordon a combined 59 carries over the last two weeks, even though it might appear Gordon’s talent alone probably won’t be enough to help the Badgers along to a Big Ten title this season. A team’s record doesn’t matter as much for a running back as is does for a quarterback, as 2013 finalist Andre Williams proved last season in playing for a 7-6 Boston College team. So as long as Gordon keeps posting eye-popping numbers, his status as a favorite is safe.

8. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska—Down 24 points to Michigan State in the fourth quarter, the Cornhuskers nearly pulled off a miracle comeback thanks in large part to Abdullah’s two late touchdown runs, but they fell just short in a 27-22 setback, turning the ball over in MSU territory with under a minute to play. Despite the touchdowns, Abdullah was held in check by the nation’s fourth-ranked rushing defense (72 yards per game), as he turned 24 carries into a mere 45 yards. There isn’t much reason to worry about Abdullah. He’s still the nation’s leading rusher with 878 yards, and with 12 touchdowns he’s already passed his career high set in 2013 (11) on 162 fewer touches.

9. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M—Hill took this week’s biggest tumble in the rankings following the Aggies’ first loss of the season to the Prescott-led Bulldogs. With the game well out of reach in the fourth quarter, Hill was able to pad his stats and finish with 365 yards and four touchdowns, but he needed 62 pass attempts to get there. Mississippi State’s defense caused him fits as he threw three interceptions (one more than he had coming into the game) and was sacked four times. One disappointing performance, however, can’t take away from what Hill has done overall this year (2,110 yards, 21 TDs, five interceptions). He’ll have plenty more opportunities to redeem himself, or perhaps fall even farther, with matchups against Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Missouri and LSU still on the docket.

10. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State—In a crazy week when No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 8 UCLA all lost, there’s something to be said about Winston’s Seminoles hanging on to the No. 1 spot. Even though FSU put together a 43-3 beatdown of Wake Forest, Winston wasn’t exactly at his best, completing just 59 percent of his passes with an interception, but he threw for 297 yards and a score while rushing in another touchdown. Winston will need to play a lot better if he wants voters to forget about his bone-headed suspension against Clemson a few weeks back, but with the Seminoles on a clear path to the College Football Playoff in a weak ACC, the reigning winner will be in a strong position to play himself back into the race.

Dropped Out: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor; Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Honorable Mention: Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss; Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU; Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Report: Jets’ Smith missed meeting Saturday night

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith reportedly missed team meetings Saturday, the day before a 31-0 loss at San Diego.

The New York Daily News cited a team spokesman as saying Smith made an “honest mistake” and arrived 5-10 minutes after the meetings ended. He went over details with offensive coaches afterward.

Smith was benched in the second half of Sunday’s loss after a disastrous opening 30 minutes in which he completed just 4-of-12 passes for 27 yards with an interception.

Michael Vick played the second half for New York and wasn’t much better, throwing for 47 yards on 8-of-19 passing while adding 14 yards on two rushes.

The Jets fell to 1-4 with their fourth straight loss and Jets coach Rex Ryan said after the contest that Smith would remain the starter for next week’s game against Denver.


►  Dolphins suspend Shelby

The Miami Dolphins have suspended defensive lineman Derrick Shelby indefinitely after a weekend run-in with the law.

Shelby was arrested early Saturday morning at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, nightclub and was charged with trespassing after warning and resisting arrest without violence.

“We were disappointed to learn about Derrick’s arrest,“ said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin in a statement Monday. “Everyone in this organization is held to high standards of conduct and professionalism. Based on my conversations with Derrick and the information we have thus far, Derrick will be placed on indefinite club suspension. When we have completed all of the necessary diligence, we will make a final determination on his discipline.“

According to reports from the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel, police were called to a nightclub after Shelby was touching women without their permission and then refused to leave the establishment. After nightclub security called the police, Shelby refused to be taken into custody, forcing the officers to use a stun gun on Shelby three times.

Shelby, a three-year veteran, has appeared in four games this season with the Dolphins, recording six tackles and two sacks.

The Dolphins had their bye this past weekend and return to work this week in preparation for Sunday’s home game against Green Bay.


►  Lions release Henery

The Detroit Lions will have another kicker this week, as Alex Henery was released on Monday.

Henery missed three field goals in Sunday’s 17-14 loss to Buffalo, including a 50-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter that would have given the Lions the lead. The miss gave the Bills a short field in the closing seconds and led to Dan Carpenter’s winning 58-yard kick with four seconds to play.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the team will likely try to find a kicker with experience.

“There’s somebody out there for us that’ll do the job for us,“ said Caldwell on Monday. “We just need to track him down quickly.“

The Lions have already had two kickers in just five weeks this season. Rookie Nate Freese was 3-for-7, missing each of his four kicks from 40-49 yards, in the first three games before Henery was signed two weeks ago.

Henery, who spent three years with the Eagles before being released prior to the start of this season, made just 1-of-5 field goal tries in his two games for Detroit.


►  Chargers place Legursky on IR

The San Diego Chargers announced Monday that center Doug Legursky will go on season-ending injured reserve because of a knee injury.

Legursky left Sunday’s 31-0 defeat of the New York Jets on a cart with an apparent left leg issue. Rookie Chris Watt took his place for the remainder of the contest.

“We’ll make a decision in the next couple of days,“ said Chargers head coach Mike McCoy on who will take Legursky’s spot in the starting lineup.

Legursky, a 28-year-old sixth-year pro, was signed on September 11, after a neck injury to Nick Hardwick forced him onto IR.


►  Titans safety Pollard done for season with Achilles injury

Tennessee Titans safety Bernard Pollard is lost for the remainder of the season thanks to suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt confirmed the diagnosis on Monday, while Pollard took to his Twitter account to reveal the following: “Still can’t believe it, but God has a plan. Surgery tmrw morning, pray for me! First time in my career I get to meet Mr. I.R lol. Peace out.“

Titans quarterback Jake Locker left Sunday’s 29-28 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the second quarter with a hand injury. He was originally listed as questionable to return and did not come back into the game after completing 8-of-11 passes for 79 yards and one touchdown.

Charlie Whitehurst stepped in under center for the hosts, who squandered a 28-3 first-half lead, ending the contest 13-of-21 for 194 yards and two scores.

Locker, whose hand was bandaged on the sideline, had X-rays performed which were negative. Whisenhunt confirmed that the injury was to his thumb and that there was significant swelling but no structural damage.


►  NFL Game Results - Week 5

MONDAY, OCTOBER 06


Final Score: Seattle 27, Washington 17

Russell Wilson’s ability to escape pressure and create plays allowed the Seattle Seahawks to hold off the Washington Redskins, 27-17, on Monday. Wilson made many dazzling plays with his legs, especially in the fourth quarter, as the Seahawks claimed their ninth straight Monday Night Football win. The third-year pro out of Wisconsin set a career high for rushing yards with 122 yards and a score on 11 carries. Wilson also completed 18-of-24 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 17 times for 72 yards for the Seahawks, who had three touchdowns called back due to penalties. Lynch also caught five passes for 45 yards and a score. Seattle came into the game well rested, last playing on September 21 when they won a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch by outlasting the Denver Broncos, 26-20, in overtime. The Seahawks (3-1) now find themselves in a tie with Arizona for first place in the NFC West. The Cardinals lost to the Broncos on Sunday.


SUNDAY, OCTOBER 05


Final Score: New Orleans 37, Tampa Bay 31 (OT)

Khiry Robinson’s 18-yard touchdown run on the first possession of overtime capped the Saints’ comeback as New Orleans scored 17 unanswered points to down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 37-31, in an NFC South battle. New Orleans (2-3) was on the verge of another debilitating loss after getting embarrassed last Sunday night in Dallas by 21 points, but Drew Brees and the offense made enough big plays down the stretch to extend New Orleans’ home winning streak to 10 games. Pierre Thomas totaled 112 yards from scrimmage and scored both on the ground and through the air, while Brees overcame a three-interception performance with 371 yards and two touchdowns on 35-of-57 attempts. Mike Glennon, trying to lead Tampa Bay (1-4) to a second straight victory, threw for 249 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the setback, the club’s sixth straight loss against its division rival.


Final Score: Dallas 20, Houston 17 (OT)

Dan Bailey kicked a 49-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Dallas Cowboys to a 20-17 victory over the Houston Texans. The Texans scored the last 10 points of regulation, but were forced to punt on the opening possession of the extra session. Dez Bryant made a spectacular 37-yard reception along the left sideline on Dallas’ ensuing touch to set up Bailey’s boot.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 17, Jacksonville 9

Ben Roethlisberger threw for a touchdown and Brice McCain returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 17-9, on Sunday. Roethlisberger was 26-of-36 for 273 yards, throwing to 11 different receivers in the win. Antonio Brown caught five catches for 84 yards, Michael Palmer hauled in a touchdown pass and Heath Miller had three catches for 46 yards. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries for Pittsburgh (3-2), which bounced back from a 27-24 loss to Tampa Bay last week. Blake Bortles threw for 191 yards on 22-of-36 passing with two interceptions and Josh Scobee made three field goals for the Jaguars (0-5), who have lost three straight games to the Steelers.


Final Score: Philadelphia 34, St. Louis 28

The Eagles’ offense was once again contained to pedestrian levels, but touchdowns on defense and special teams helped Philadelphia hold off the St. Louis Rams, 34-28, in Week 5 action. The Eagles (4-1) relied on a defense that forced three turnovers and a special teams unit that scored on a blocked punt for the second straight week. Defensive end Cedric Thornton recovered two fumbles, picking up one in the end zone and returning another 40 yards to set up a Jeremy Maclin touchdown catch. Nick Foles threw a pair of touchdown passes but finished with just 207 yards with an interception and a lost fumble for Philadelphia, which was outgained 466-352 one week after being held without an offensive touchdown in a loss to the 49ers. The Rams (1-3) scored the final 21 points and moved the ball just past midfield in the final minute, but two dropped passes and an incompletion on fourth down spoiled a chance at a miraculous comeback. Austin Davis came on strong late and passed for 375 yards and three touchdowns, two going to Brian Quick.


Final Score: Buffalo 17, Detroit 14

Dan Carpenter hit a 58-yard field goal with just four seconds to play and the Buffalo Bills pulled off a 17-14 win over the Detroit Lions. Kyle Orton, making his first start for Buffalo in place of a benched EJ Manuel, threw for 308 yards and a touchdown on 30-of-43 passing with an interception for the Bills (3-2), who snapped a two-game losing streak. Matthew Stafford went 18-for-31 for 221 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Lions (3-2), who had won their previous two games. Golden Tate caught seven passes for 134 yards and a score.


Final Score: NY Giants 30, Atlanta 20

Odell Beckham Jr.‘s first career touchdown catch highlighted a second-half surge that propelled the New York Giants to a 30-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium. Beckham’s 15-yard grab of an Eli Manning fade attempt with 10:02 to play was part of a 20-point swing that brought New York (3-2) back from a 20-10 third- quarter deficit to post its third consecutive win. Fellow rookie Andre Williams added a touchdown run during the rally, while Manning connected with Rueben Randle for a scoring strike earlier and finished with 200 passing yards and no turnovers on a 19-of-30 completion rate. Beckham, the Giants’ first-round pick of the 2014 draft who sat out the first four games with a hamstring injury, had 44 yards on four receptions in his debut. Williams, pressed into an extended role when Rashad Jennings sprained his left knee in the third quarter, totaled 65 yards on 20 carries. Julio Jones hauled in 11 Matt Ryan passes for 105 yards and Antone Smith had a 74-yard touchdown catch for Atlanta (2-3), but the Falcons’ offense went cold down the stretch en route to the club’s 10th loss in its last 11 on the road. Ryan ended 29-of-45 for 316 yards with one touchdown and an interception.


Final Score: Indianapolis 20, Baltimore 13

Andrew Luck passed for a touchdown and ran for another score, as the Indianapolis Colts overcame four turnovers in a 20-13 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck connected on 32-of-49 passes for 312 yards, but was picked off twice. Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 68 yards, but his fumble inside two minutes left nearly cost the game for the Colts (3-2), who have won their last three contests. Joe Flacco finished 22-of-38 for 235 yards with an interception for the Ravens (3-2), whose three-game winning streak was broken. Baltimore turned the ball over three times.


Final Score: Cleveland 29, Tennessee 28

Brian Hoyer’s second touchdown pass of the fourth quarter to Travis Benjamin was the go-ahead score with 1:09 left in the contest, as the Cleveland Browns rallied from a 25-point first-half deficit to claim a 29-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 action. Hoyer ended the day 21-of-37 for 292 yards, three TDs and one interception for the Browns (2-2), while Taylor Gabriel posted 95 yards on four receptions and Benjamin contributed 48 yards on four grabs. Ben Tate picked up 123 yards on 22 carries and Tank Carder was responsible for a blocked-punt safety early in the fourth quarter that stoked Cleveland’s comeback effort. Charlie Whitehurst was 13-of-21 for 194 yards and two scores for the Titans (1-4), who lost starter Jake Locker in the second quarter with a hand injury. Locker completed 8-of-11 attempts for 79 yards and threw the first of two TD receptions from Kendall Wright while also posting a rushing touchdown. Justin Hunter added a 75-yard scoring catch, while Wright ended with 47 yards on six catches.


Final Score: Carolina 31, Chicago 24

Greg Olsen’s second touchdown catch of the game late in the fourth quarter led the Carolina Panthers to a 31-24 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Olsen had six catches for 72 yards while Cam Newton went 19-for-35 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while also losing a fumble for the Panthers (3-2), who ended a two-game slide. Matt Forte had 12 catches for 105 yards and a score, while adding 17 carries for 61 yards for the Bears (2-3), but had a late fumble that led to Carolina’s winning score. Jay Cutler went 28-for-36 with 289 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, adding a touchdown on the ground and a lost fumble for Chicago, which has lost its last two games.


Final Score: Denver 41, Arizona 20

Peyton Manning said Wednesday that getting to the 500-touchdown mark was just “the other thing.“ He got the best of both worlds on Sunday. Manning threw his 500th touchdown pass in the first quarter and finished with four TD tosses in the Denver Broncos’ 41-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Manning hooked up with tight end Julius Thomas for a 7- yard score on 3rd-and-goal at the 4:43 mark of the opening frame to get to the 500 milestone. He gave a mini fist pump following the touchdown. Manning finished 31-of-47 for 479 yards with two interceptions, while Demaryius Thomas had eight receptions for a career-high 226 yards and two touchdowns for Denver (3-1), which outscored Arizona 17-0 in the fourth to pull away. The five-time MVP Manning joined Brett Favre as the only other quarterback to eclipse 500 touchdown passes. Favre holds the all-time record with 508 TD tosses. Manning is five touchdowns away from tying him. Manning reached the milestone in his 244th career game, while it took Favre 293 contests to reach 500. Marvin Harrison has caught the most TD passes from Manning with 112, followed by Reggie Wayne with 67. The 38-year-old fired 399 of those TD passes in Indianapolis and currently has 104 with the Broncos.


Final Score: San Francisco 22, Kansas City 17

Phil Dawson made five field goals and the 49ers spoiled Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith’s return to San Francisco with a 22-17 victory. Trailing by five, Smith and the Chiefs started from their own 20 with 2:12 left and no timeouts. Perrish Cox prevented Smith from leading Kansas City down the field for a game-winning score, as he picked off the 2005 No. 1 overall pick. Smith was San Francisco’s starting quarterback until he suffered a concussion in a game against St. Louis in Week 10 of the 2012 season. Colin Kaepernick won the starting job from there, and Smith was traded to the Chiefs in 2013.


Final Score: San Diego 31, NY Jets 0

Philip Rivers passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns before being rested late, and the San Diego Chargers trounced an inept New York Jets squad, 31-0, on Sunday afternoon. Rivers completed 20-of-28 attempts and threw a pair of first-half scores to Antonio Gates for the Chargers (4-1), who pitched their first shutout since a similar score against Kansas City on December 12, 2010. Branden Oliver posted 182 yards of total offense and two touchdowns including a game-best 114 yards on 19 carries, with Gates contributing 60 yards on four receptions. The tandem of Geno Smith and Michael Vick combined to go 13-of-32 for 74 yards and one interception for the Jets (1-4), whose point total has decreased with each of their four straight defeats.


Final Score: New England 43, Cincinnati 17

The narrative leading up to Sunday night’s game was that the Cincinnati Bengals were the team to beat in the AFC and the New England Patriots had fallen off. The message, as always, is never count out Tom Brady. Brady threw two touchdown passes and the Patriots routed the previously-unbeaten Bengals, 43-17, at Gillette Stadium. Coming off an underwhelming triumph over the winless Raiders and a crushing defeat in Kansas City, the Patriots (3-2) got back on track with a statement win in front of their home fans. Brady completed 23-of-35 for 292 yards and New England racked up 220 yards on the ground, with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen running for 113 and 90, respectively. Cincinnati (3-1) was the last team in the NFL to lose a game after Arizona fell to the Broncos earlier Sunday. Andy Dalton passed for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but Cincinnati’s defense failed to live up to the standards it set in the previous three games. The Bengals gave up just 33 points in those three wins before coughing up 43 in this one.


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 02


Final Score: Green Bay 42, Minnesota 10

Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 42-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Rodgers finished with 156 passing yards on 12-of-17 efficiency and Eddie Lacy had a season-high 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries for the Packers (3-2), who were coming off a 38-17 win over Chicago last week. Jordy Nelson had a 66-yard touchdown catch, while Davante Adams and Randall Cobb also caught a scoring pass. Christian Ponder rushed for a touchdown and completed 22 of his 44 passes for 222 yards and two interceptions for Minnesota (2-3), which was without starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater due to a sprained left ankle. Matt Asiata rushed 15 times for 72 yards and Adam Thielen had 57 yards on four catches in defeat.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA extends TV deals with ABC/ESPN and Turner

The National Basketball Association has extended its television contracts with ABC/ESPN and Turner Broadcasting through the 2024-25 season.

The previous agreements were set to expire after the 2015-16 campaign. The new contract begins with the 2016-17 season.

Financial details were not disclosed, but the New York Times reports the value to be more than $2.6 billion per year.

“With these new agreements, our fans will continue to benefit from the outstanding NBA coverage and programming provided by ABC, ESPN, TNT, NBA TV and their digital platforms,“ said first-year NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a statement Monday.

ABC will continue to broadcast the NBA Finals, while ABC and ESPN will share playoff coverage with TNT. The two entities will split the conference finals.

TNT’s package will continue to include the All-Star Game and its surrounding festivities, while the regular-season coverage will increase by 12 games for a total of 64. The network will also air an awards show at the end of the season.

“This is a significant deal for our company and we are pleased to continue our long-standing partnership with the NBA, its fans, owners and players,“ said Turner president David Levy.

ABC/ESPN will add another 10 regular-season games for a total of 100. The ABC package will begin annually on Christmas Day.

“For ESPN, this agreement continues our fruitful, long-standing relationship with the NBA and bolsters what is already the sports industry’s most impressive and impactful collection of media rights,“ said ESPN president John Skipper.

By the end of the new agreements, the NBA’s partnership with Turner will reach 41 years, while the relationship with ABC/ESPN will extend to 23 years.

NBA TV will air more than 100 regular-season games each year, as well as up to nine postseason games.


►  Report: Nuggets, Faried agree to extension

The Denver Nuggets have agreed to terms on a multi-year contract extension with forward Kenneth Faried, sources told the Denver Post on Monday.

The length and value of Faried’s new deal is unclear. Yahoo! Sports first reported the pact to be worth $60 million over five years, but Faried would have to earn considerably more on a contract of that length under the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement as the team’s Designated Player.

Yahoo! later reported that the Nuggets have had discussions with the league over the contract’s parameters and that the two sides could eventually turn to a four-year deal.

Regardless, Denver has appeared to lock up one of its cornerstone players beyond his original rookie deal. Since being taken by the Nuggets with the 22nd overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Faried has averaged 12.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks over three seasons.

The energetic 24-year-old averaged a career-best 13.7 points along with 8.6 rebounds over 80 games during the 2013-14 campaign, then earned a starting role on the United States National Team that captured the gold medal at the FIBA World Cup over the summer.


►  Oladipo out with sprained MCL

Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo suffered a sprained right MCL last week and will miss Tuesday’s preseason opener against the Miami Heat.

Oladipo, who is expected to start the season in Orlando’s new-look backcourt along with former Nuggets guard Evan Fournier, injured his knee during a scrimmage last Friday.

“There’s a little soreness and for precautionary reasons I got an MRI to see what is said,“ Oladipo said. “I’m just day-to-day depending on how I respond to treatment.“

The second-year pro out of Indiana broke out as a rookie last season, finishing second behind Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams in the Rookie of the Year race after averaging 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

Veteran shooting guard Willie Green is also out with a hyperextended left knee, and sharpshooting forward Channing Frye suffered a left MCL sprain a few days before Oladipo. All three players will travel with the team to Miami but won’t suit up.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pirates manager Hurdle has hip surgery

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle underwent successful hip replacement surgery on Monday.

The club announced that the 57-year-old skipper is expected to make a full recovery.

Hurdle led the Bucs to an 88-74 record this past season, good enough for second place in the NL Central and a wild card berth. He became the first Pirates manager to lead the club to back-to-back postseason appearances since Jim Leyland guided the three-time NL East champions from 1990-92.


►  National League Division Series Game Results

Final Score: Washington 4, San Francisco 1

Doug Fister and the Washington Nationals kept their championship hopes alive by flipping the script on Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. With Fister rising up to twirl seven scoreless innings and Bumgarner committing a critical error that resulted in the game’s first two runs, the Nationals staved off elimination with a 4-1 victory at AT&T Park. After blowing a lead in the ninth en route to a crushing 18- inning loss in Saturday’s Game 2 to put its season on the brink, Washington showed its resiliency in forcing another game in this best-of-five set after dropping the initial two matchups at home. The Nationals got some help from the usually unflappable Bumgarner, whose errant throw to third base on Wilson Ramos’ seventh-inning sacrifice bunt enabled two runs to score and end a 0-0 stalemate. Fister (1-0) did his part on the hill, holding the Giants to four singles and three walks, and Bryce Harper provided an insurance run with a solo homer in the ninth inning. Asdrubal Cabrera added an RBI single to help Washington put an end to a 10-game postseason win streak for San Francisco that dated back to the 2012 NLCS. Bumgarner (1-1) had been on the mound for two of those triumphs, including last week’s NL Wild Card Game in which the lefty spun a four-hit, 10-strikeout shutout at Pittsburgh. The Giants’ ace fanned six over seven innings on Monday, but was reached for three runs—two earned—on six hits. San Francisco will try again to clinch on its home field when Game 4 takes place Tuesday.


Final Score: St. Louis 3, Los Angeles 1

Kolten Wong knew smacked a no-doubt, two-run blast in the seventh inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 3-1 victory and a National League Division Series lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The series and the scoreboard were even at 1-1 when heavy rains began to wet the field in the seventh. The cover was removed from the tarp, but play never stopped as the Dodgers dipped into their bullpen. Yadier Molina greeted reliever Scott Elbert (0-1) with a leadoff double down the left-field line and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. The first pitch of the next at-bat proved to be the difference, as Wong annihilated Elbert’s slider and flipped his bat knowing it had the distance. The ball landed in a celebrating St. Louis bullpen, which pitched the final two innings behind a lights-out John Lackey. Lackey (1-0), the only starting pitcher in MLB history to win two World Series clinchers with two different teams, struck out eight over seven innings and allowed just one run on five hits. Matt Carpenter hit his third home run of the series for St. Louis, which can advance to the NL Championship Series with Shelby Miller on the mound Tuesday. Before the loss, the Dodgers announced they are countering Miller with Clayton Kershaw on three days’ rest. The presumptive NL Cy Young Award winner was tagged for eight runs in a 10-9 defeat in Game 1.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Fernandez earns Player of the Week honor

Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Sebastian Fernandez was named the Player of the Week on Monday for Week 30 of the 2014 Major League Soccer season.

Fernandez buried a pair of goals inside the first 18 minutes on to keep his side in playoff contention with a 2-0 win over FC Dallas at BC Place.

Fernandez’s first goal came in the 14th minute of the game when the ball was played out right to midfielder Mauro Rosales who sent a first-time cross into the box that was met with a header by Fernandez.

He then put the result away with his second goal of the match four minutes later with a blistering strike past Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez following a through ball from Rosales.

The MLS Player of the Week is selected each week of the regular season by a panel of journalists from the North America Soccer Reporters (NASR). The group consists of members of print, television, radio and online media.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bryzgalov released from PTO among Wild roster moves

The Minnesota Wild released goaltender and 2014 playoff hero Ilya Bryzgalov from his professional tryout contract on Monday.

Bryzgalov, acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on March 5, finished last season with a 7-1-3 record, 2.12 goals-against average and three shutouts in 12 appearances for Minnesota. He went 3-6 in nine postseason appearances, but stopped the only shot he faced in relief of Darcy Kuemper during a series- clinching, 5-4, Game 7 overtime victory in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.

The 34-year-old Russian backstop was an unrestricted free agent and signed his PTO on September 17.

In other moves, the Wild placed forward Justin Fontaine on injured reserve, retroactive to September 27, with a lower-body injury; placed forwards Stephane Veilleux and Cody Almond on waivers and assigned forwards Joel Rechlicz and Kurtis Gabriel to Iowa of the AHL.

Fontaine, 26, totaled 13 goals and 21 points in 66 games during his rookie campaign.

Veilleux totaled three goals in 34 games for Minnesota last season, his eighth with the franchise.


►  Blue Jackets, Johansen agree to 3-year deal

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen have solved their contract impasse, with the club and center coming to an agreement on a three-year contract on Monday.

The new pact will pay the British Columbia native $3 million in each of the first two years and $6 million in the final year, an average annual value of $4 million for the duration. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the contract.

“I wish this all could have been avoided, but it was necessary for us to go through it to get the deal done. Like everybody on our team, we expect him to get better,“ said Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen at a press conference. “There’s no reason to look in the rear-view mirror. Hopefully he’s worked out hard, and we’ll see once we get him out on the ice with the rest of the team. We’ll do the best we can to ensure he’s 100% ready as soon as possible.“

Columbus had extended a qualifying offer to the RFA back on June 30, the first salvo in what became a contentious series of negotiations which eventually led to Johansen’s holdout.

Johansen led the team in goals (33) and points (63) last season, his third in the NHL. The fourth overall pick of Columbus in the 2010 draft, he has posted 47 goals and 49 assists in 189 games for the franchise.

“He’s 22 years old, his potential is sky high. He could be one of the best players, but there’s a lot of work to be done before he gets there,“ Kekalainen added. “It will take time to get his timing back. Some players are able to adjust quicker. My message to him was ‘I’m happy to have you on board.‘“

Last year’s Metropolitan Division wild-card entrant begins the 2014-15 regular season Thursday in Buffalo.


►  Hurricanes F Skinner diagnosed with concussion

Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner won’t start the 2014-15 season with the club after sustaining a head injury over the weekend.

“Jeff has been diagnosed with a concussion,“ said Carolina GM Ron Francis. “He will continue to be monitored by our team doctors and go through proper protocols in the coming days.“

Skinner was felled in Saturday’s exhibition finale against the Washington Capitals, on a hit delivered by defenseman Matt Niskanen.

The 2011 Calder Trophy winner collected a career-high 33 goals along with 54 points in 71 games last year, his fourth in the NHL.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bianchi remains in ‘critical but stable’ condition after crash

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said on Monday that Marussia driver Jules Bianchi is listed in “critical but stable” condition after suffering a severe head injury during an accident in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Bianchi, a 25-year-old Frenchman, underwent emergency brain surgery just hours after the incident occurred.

In the closing laps of the Japanese GP, a race affected by heavy rain associated with Typhoon Phanfone, Bianchi slid off course and collided with a recovery vehicle that was removing Adrian Sutil’s car after the Sauber driver went off course and slammed hard into the barrier in turn 7. The safety car was immediately deployed following Bianchi’s crash, and the race ended nine laps short of its 53-lap distance. Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes won the event.

The FIA said on Sunday that Bianchi was unconscious when he was transported by ambulance to nearby Mie General Medical Center. He could not be airlifted to the hospital due to poor weather conditions.

The Marussia F1 Team released a statement regarding Bianchi on Monday.

“Following the accident involving Jules Bianchi during yesterday’s 2014 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit, the Marussia F1 Team would like to acknowledge the huge outpouring of support and affection for Jules and the team at this very difficult time,“ the statement read. “With regard to the communication of information concerning Jules’ medical condition, we will respect, and be guided by, the wishes of the Bianchi family. Together with Jules’ care, they will remain our highest priority.

“Therefore, we would ask for patience and understanding with regard to further medical updates, which will be communicated in conjunction with the Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, where Jules is being treated, when they feel it is appropriate.“

Representatives of the Marussia and Ferrari teams - Bianchi is a member of Ferrari’s Driver Academy - will remain at the hospital to support him and his family.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Wilson skyrockets up world rankings

Oliver Wilson earned his first European Tour title on Sunday and that helped him make a huge jump in this week’s world rankings.

Wilson leapt 636 spots to No. 156 as he held off world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and two others to win Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

McIlroy increased his lead atop the rankings to 2.85 average points. Following McIlroy, the top 12 were also unchanged with No. 2 Adam Scott followed by Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Martin Kaymer.

Billy Horschel and Jordan Spieth exchanged places with Horschel up to 13th. The idle Dustin Johnson moved up two to 15 and that pushed Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods down to 16 and 17 respectively.

Graeme McDowell, Jimmy Walker and Hideki Matsuyama rounded out the top 20.

Richie Ramsay, who shared second place behind Wilson, jumped 57 to No. 93 this week.


►  Lee enters top 20 in women’s world rankings

Mirim Lee won the first of six straight LPGA Tour events in Asia last weekend and that helped her move into the top 20 in this week’s world rankings.

Lee jumped 10 places to No. 19 this week with her win at the Reignwood LPGA Classic.

The top five players remained the same with world No. 1 Stacy Lewis followed by Inbee Park, Lydia Ko, Suzann Pettersen and Karrie Webb.

Michelle Wie and So Yeon Ryu exchanged places with Wie up to No. 6. Lexi Thompson was No. 8 again this week and was followed by Shanshan Feng, Anna Nordqvist, Hyo-Joo Kim and Cristie Kerr.

Azahara Munoz won the Ladies European Tour event in France and improved two spots to 13th this week. That bumped Na Yeon Choi and Paula Creamer down one spot apiece to 14 and 15.

Lizette Salas, Angela Stanford and Sun Ju Ahn held steady at 16, 17 and 18. Lee moved to 19th and Ha Na Jang remained No. 20 in the new rankings. Amy Yang, who was 19th last week, dropped two notches to 21st.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Up the Backstretch: Keep Wise Dan on the turf

Even following his come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, there’s still talk of having Wise Dan race in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November1.

The question of having the two-time Horse of the Year start in the 1 1/4-mile Classic over the Mile was again asked of trainer Charlie LoPresti after his gelding’s length victory.

“I’ll leave it up to (breeder and owner) Mr. (Mort) Fink. The way he trained on the dirt here, the way he ran today, this is the kind of race I wanted for him,“ the trainer said. “They ran 35 (seconds) and change over a good turf. I’ll just leave it up to the boss, but I wouldn’t be afraid to run him anywhere - as long as he comes back good. You know he’s 7 years old; how many races does he have left? Maybe now’s the time to do it.“

There’s little question that Wise Dan would make a respectable showing in the Classic, but going longer than he’s gone in a long time over a dirt surface versus numerous top runners would only leave LoPresti and Fink open to second guessing.

“He’s trained so well over the dirt this year at Saratoga and here,“ LoPresti said at Keeneland, “I think if we’re ever going to try it, this would be the year. You just don’t know how many (races) he has in him, a horse of this age. And whether he’ll get a mile and a quarter, I don’t know. I guess the only way to find out is to try.“

Wise Dan has won the last two Breeders’ Cup Miles, both at Santa Anita, and has not run past 1 1/8 miles in a while. The 7-year-old is now in a battle with 3-year-old gelding Shared Belief for this year’s Horse of the Year crown.

Shared Belief has beaten older horses in his last two starts, including the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic going away. He’s expected to be the favorite for the Classic.

“Shared Belief will definitely be the morning line favorite for the Classic,“ said Jon White, who again will be making all of the official morning lines for the Breeders’ Cup races this year. “What I still am going to have to decide is how strong of a favorite. Of course, much can change between now and October 27 when post positions for the Breeders’ Cup are drawn and the Breeders’ Cup morning lines have to be submitted. But if I had to do it today, I’d make Shared Belief a 6-5 favorite for the Classic.“

Wise Dan has just one win from five career starts on dirt. The champion actually has nothing to prove with a start in the Classic. It might be more interesting for him to take on the world’s best grass runners in the 1 1/2- mile Turf at Santa Anita.


►  Shared Belief has slim lead over Wise Dan

Shared Belief and Wise Dan are separated by a mere seven points at the top of the NTRA Thoroughbred Poll.

Sitting atop of the rankings for a second straight week is Eclipse Award winning 3-year-old gelding Shared Belief. Winner of the recent Awesome Again Stakes, Shared Belief received 19 first-place votes and 420 points with less than four weeks until the Breeders’ Cup.

“He finished the race strong and he had to work for it after being taken out (wide),“ jockey Mike Smith said concerning Shared Belief’s Awesome Again effort. “But he came out of the race good. I just went to see him. He ate up, he’s happy, so all’s good. Sometimes a good race like that will put more in him.“

In second-place with 24 top votes and 413 points is two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan coming off a win in Saturday’s Shadwell Turf Mile.

“He did what we thought he would do,“ trainer Charlie LoPresti said. “He was primed to run a big race. He’s America’s horse.“

Moving up a spot in the rankings are Tonalist (291), California Chrome (1, 249), Main Sequence (211), Bayern (171) and Untapable (166).

Dropping five rungs to eighth is previous unbeaten 4-year-old filly Close Hatches, who received 156 points. The filly finished fourth behind Don’t Tell Sophia in Sunday’s Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.

“We’ll have to wait a week or two and see how she’s doing,“ said Garrett O’Rourke of Juddmonte Farms. “She owes us nothing for the year we’ve had with her. It would be nice to get to the Breeders’ Cup and give her a shot at the championship.“

Champion filly Beholder (102) and Palace Malice (53) round out the top 10.

The National Poll continues through the Breeders’ Cup on November 01.


►  Calder now known as Gulfstream Park West

Under an agreement with Churchill Downs Inc., The Stronach Group is operating Calder Race Course, now known as Gulfstream Park West.

“Our agreement is going to allow us to rejuvenate the fall racing season in Florida with quality horses and quality racing,“ said Gulfstream President Tim Ritvo. “We have spent considerable time and energy making changes at Gulfstream Park West not only for the horsemen but also the fans. While Gulfstream will remain open for simulcasting, we want the local community to feel welcome and comfortable at Gulfstream Park West.

“The Stronach Group’s initiative is to improve racing for the fans, horsemen and breeders over the long-term.“

Having Gulfstream Park operate the former Calder, will do away with a conflict of dates that was experienced this year.

Gulfstream Park West will have a 44-day meet featuring 23 stakes races worth a total of $1.775 million. The meeting begins on Wednesday through Sunday, November 30.

The Gilmer Free Press


TUESDAY, OCTOBER 07, 2014


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
Los Angeles at St. Louis, 5:07 or 8:37 PM - FS1
Washington at San Francisco, 9:07 PM - FS1


National Basketball Association - Preseason
Chicago at Detroit, 7:30 PM - CSN-Chicago
Orlando at Miami, 7:30 PM - SunSports
Houston at Dallas, 8:30 PM - CSN-Houston
Portland at Utah, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest
Toronto at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - CSN-California
Golden State at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  West Virginia hands Kansas 26th straight road loss

West Virginia got some welcome balance on offense against Kansas as the Mountaineers prepare to enter a tough stretch of the Big 12 schedule.

Clint Trickett threw for 302 yards and a touchdown, Mario Alford returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score and West Virginia beat the Jayhawks 33-14 on Saturday.

Rushel Shell ran for 113 yards as West Virginia compiled 255 yards on the ground. Both were season highs.

West Virginia jumped ahead 26-0 at halftime and cruised from there.

“I was excited how we were moving the ball,“ said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “We just didn’t finish drives very good. Then it got frustrating in the second half and it probably has a little bit to do with them being a pretty good dang defense.“

Kansas (2-3, 0-2) managed little offense in the debut for interim head coach Clint Bowen, who took over after Charlie Weis was fired on Sunday. The Jayhawks were held to 176 totals yards and nine first downs.

Kansas lost its 26th straight road game. The busiest player for the Jayhawks was Trevor Pardula, who punted 14 times.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart, who had four interceptions in a 23-0 loss to Texas last week, couldn’t move the offense again and played only the first half. Two other quarterbacks had no better luck in the second half.

“I think we took a step in the right direction,“ Bowen said. “Our players showed up in a difficult week.“

The Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) got the expected results against a heavy underdog and now have three of their next five games on the road in Texas, starting next Saturday at Texas Tech. Three of those opponents are ranked — No. 7 Baylor, No. 21 Oklahoma State and No. 25 TCU.

“Next week’s going to be a whole different deal,“ Holgorsen said. “They’re going to throw the ball all over the place and we’re going to have to get guys in position that are able to get to the quarterback.“

West Virginia amassed 557 yards of offense but its special teams had an up and down day.

After the Mountaineers’ Jordan Thompson fumbled a punt on his 18 that led to a short touchdown run by the Jayhawks’ Corey Avery, Alford took the ensuing kickoff down the right sideline for a score to put West Virginia ahead 33-7 late in the third quarter.

Late in the game, the Jayhawks’ Nick Harwell returned a punt 76 yards for a TD, the third straight game that West Virginia’s special teams allowed a score.

The margin of victory could have been much greater. West Virginia had another field goal attempt blocked and Dustin Garrison fumbled the ball away at the Kansas 5 following a 28-yard run.

Trickett completed 20 of 35 passes with an interception. Several of his incompletions were long throws. Alford and Kevin White both let passes go off their hands in the end zone, resulting in two of Josh Lambert’s three first-quarter field goals.

White got loose in single coverage late in the quarter and Trickett found him in stride for a 63-yard TD for a 16-0 lead. White finished with six catches for 132 yards and matched Stedman Bailey’s school record of five straight games with 100 receiving yards.

“I can’t imagine there’s going to be a better wide receiver in the conference,“ Bowen said.

White was angry at himself not catching more passes.

“(I) should have made a lot more plays today,“ he said. “Everything that came to me (I) should of caught. “I think I had a bad game.“

Alford turned a screen pass into a 39-yard gain late in the second quarter, leading to Shell’s short TD run. Lambert, who earlier had field goals of 42, 25 and 43 yards, capped the first-half scoring with a 53-yarder as time expired.


►  The 6-foot-1, 270-pound Robert Landers, Ohio lineman commits to WVU

Along with defeating Kansas on Saturday night, West Virginia also gained a 2015 commitment from Ohio defensive lineman Robert Landers.

The 6-foot-1, 270-pounder from Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio, holds no other major-college offers but is viewed as a worthwhile project by Mountaineers coaches, who sorely need to stock up on defensive linemen. Landers was on campus for Saturday’s game and immediately pledged to WVU.

“Landers has flown under the radar with his recruitment, but the West Virginia staff saw enough in person to pull the trigger on the senior,” said Keenan Cummings, who reported the commitment for WVSports.com of the Rivals network. “Given his size, Landers has the ability to play several positions up front and will likely begin his career on the interior of the defensive line.”

West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was in Ohio during the recent bye week and served as the lead recruiter for Landers, who won a state championship in the shot put last July.

Landers became West Virginia’s 21st commitment for 2015 and the third defensive linemen, joining Alec Shriner of Oviedo, Florida, and Larry Jefferson of Itawamba (Miss.) Community College.


►  Growth shows in bottom line, not WVU’s execution

Even as communication mishaps sabotaged drives and West Virginia’s offense trudged through a scoreless second half, this was progress.

Clunky, careless, disjointed progress.

West Virginia will take it.

Quarterback Clint Trickett said “Obviously, I played horrible,” and coach Dana Holgorsen didn’t argue the point. Kevin White produced a Biletnikoff-type first quarter and promptly became a ghost. West Virginia’s offense cracked the Kansas 36-yard line on 10 drives and somehow produced only two touchdowns. WVU torpedoed its plans for a homecoming blowout by losing three second-half turnovers.

So, the 33-14 victory wasn’t the feel-good obliteration some expected. Neither was it the what-the-hell-just-happened result West Virginia encountered frequently last season. Tough times taught this program never to take for granted any Big 12 victory. Even one against the most talent-deficient team in the conference.

“It’s not a good win—it’s an ugly win,” Trickett summarized. “But it’s a win. After last year I’m not upset at all with any wins.”

He’ll no doubt be upset with other aspects of Saturday.

If Trickett was hard on himself after throwing for 511 yards at Maryland and 376 against Oklahoma, the coaches should rid the team facility of sharp objects during Sunday’s film review. Trickett’s 20-for-35 completion rate (57%) was his worst of the season. He floated a gift interception to Kansas safety Isaiah Johnson and, according to Holgorsen, chose wrong on several calls at the line.

Trickett also left with a limp after absorbing a punishing strike to his legs on a 26-yard pass to Vernon Davis. That hit occurred with less than seven minutes remaining and the Mountaineers ahead by 26. Holgorsen promptly yanked Trickett out and yanked the redshirt off third-stringer Skyler Howard.

“Clint’s fine,” Holgorsen said. “There’s issues I have with Clint other than his health. His health is good, but he didn’t have his best game. He’s going to learn a ton from this tape.”

Ultimately, none of those mistakes mattered. Even while West Virginia repeatedly squandered scoring chances, Kansas never threatened to keep pace. After watching the Jayhawks produce more punts (14) than completions (13), Charlie Weis should send Sheahon Zenger a cookie bouquet for allowing him to sit this one out.

The 176 yards was KU’s lowest output in 28 games, dating back to 2011 and the final workday of the previous coach Zenger fired, Turner Gil. In holding Kansas to 3-of-17 on third down, West Virginia’s defense enjoyed a starring role for a change.

“Hats off to the defense. The defense played phenomenal—lights out,” Trickett said. “The defense bailed us out. That’s all I want to talk about. I don’t even want to talk about the offense.”

Despite finishing with 132 receiving yards, White sounded equally unsatisfied. Then again, he had 127 in the first quarter.

“It wasn’t the offense that we usually put out there,” he said.

White described a fourth-quarter sideline scene where he joined Trickett and Mario Alford in staring up at the scoreboard, feeling deflated by putting up only 33 points. “We were all disappointed. We left a lot of plays out there tonight.”

Yet what didn’t escape West Virginia was a victory, one the program sorely needed to maintain an aura of rebuilding. Four straight Big 12 losses had sunk the Mountaineers to 6-13 in their still-new conference. Five straight would have had folks discussing Holgorsen’s buyout, not Weis’.

Games such as Saturday’s—riddled with bouts of inconsistency, flakiness and the inevitable special-teams screw-up—still provided one overriding takeaway: That West Virginia is capable of winning even when incapable of playing up to its own standards.  ~~  Alan Taylor ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Associated Press Top 25 Poll

Through October 04, 2014 Games)

(first-place votes in parentheses)

1. Florida State 5-0 (35), 1,461  Last week: 1

2. Auburn 5-0 (23), 1,459  Last week: 5

3. Mississippi State 5-0 (2), 1,320  Last week: 12

T3. Mississippi 5-0, 1,320  Last week: 11

5. Baylor 5-0, 1,258  Last week: 7

6. Notre Dame 5-0, 1,186  Last week: 9

7. Alabama 4-1, 1,060  Last week: 3

8. Michigan State 4-1, 981  Last week: 10

9. TCU 4-0, 979  Last week: 25

10. Arizona 5-0, 951  Last week: NR

11. Oklahoma 4-1, 904  Last week: 4

12. Oregon 4-1, 888  Last week: 2

13. Georgia 4-1, 854  Last week: 13

14. Texas A&M 5-1, 731  Last week: 6

15. Ohio State 4-1, 534  Last week: 20

16. Oklahoma State 4-1, 527  Last week: 21

17. Kansas State 4-1, 486  Last week: 23

18. UCLA 4-1, 460  Last week: 8

19. East Carolina 4-1, 344  Last week: 22

20. Arizona State 4-1, 325  Last week: NR

21. Nebraska 5-1, 283  Last week: 19

22. Georgia Tech 5-0, 235  Last week: NR

23. Missouri 4-1, 212  Last week: 24

24. Utah 4-1, 206,  Last week: NR

25. Stanford 3-2, 143  Last week: 14

Others Receiving Votes

Clemson 92, Marshall 78, Southern Cal 61, Louisville 36, LSU 35, BYU 26, West Virginia 18, Arkansas 14, Wisconsin 7, California 6, Penn State 5, Kentucky 4, Rutgers 4, N. Dakota State 3, Minnesota 2, South Carolina 1, Virginia 1



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Browns overcome 25-point deficit to beat Titans

Brian Hoyer’s second touchdown pass of the fourth quarter to Travis Benjamin was the go-ahead score with 1:09 left in the contest, as the Cleveland Browns rallied from a 25-point first-half deficit to claim a 29-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 action.

Hoyer ended the day 21-of-37 for 292 yards, three TDs and one interception for the Browns (2-2), while Taylor Gabriel posted 95 yards on four receptions and Benjamin contributed 48 yards on four grabs.

Ben Tate picked up 123 yards on 22 carries and Tank Carder was responsible for a blocked-punt safety early in the fourth quarter that stoked Cleveland’s comeback effort.

“I did tell them after the game they’ve got to stop doing it. I have an EKG scheduled,“ stated Browns head coach Mike Pettine.

Charlie Whitehurst was 13-of-21 for 194 yards and two scores for the Titans (1-4), who lost starter Jake Locker in the second quarter with a hand injury. Locker completed 8-of-11 attempts for 79 yards and threw the first of two TD receptions from Kendall Wright while also posting a rushing touchdown.

Justin Hunter added a 75-yard scoring catch, while Wright ended with 47 yards on six catches.

“Needless to say it was an unbelievably tough loss for us today after we played so well in the first half,“ lamented Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Billy Cundiff opened the second half by splitting the uprights from 42 yards out to bring Cleveland within 28-13, but the Browns’ next quality scoring chance fell by the wayside when Hoyer’s pass was incomplete on 4th-and-3 from the Titans’ four in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

Tennessee failed to move the ball and Carder got his mitts on a Brett Kern punt, which fell through the back of the end zone and the visitors were within 28-15.

On the following drive, Hoyer had an interception and long return by Jason McCourty reversed on an illegal contact penalty. Later in the series, Benjamin was wide open in the end zone to haul in a 17-yard offering to make it 28-22 with 6:49 to play.

Whitehurst was held to no gain on 4th-and-1 from his own 42 with just over three minutes left, and the Titans lost the challenge for a better spot. Cleveland needed just four plays thereafter to take a 29-28 lead, as Hoyer found Benjamin for a 6-yard score with 1:09 left.

Tennessee gained possession on its own 20 and two quick completions pushed the ball to its own 43, before a sack and incompletion forced a 3rd-and-16. Whitehurst found Wright for 16 yards, but time ran out before the Titans could run another play.

“We weren’t able to help our defense out in the second half. We have to score points in the second half,“ said Whitehurst. “It’s been a tough four games—you have two options—stick together or not. I think we will stick together.“

The Titans made good on their second drive of the contest, as Locker hit Wright for an 11-yard touchdown.

Locker called his own number early in the second quarter and rumbled into the end zone from 11 yards away to make it 14-0.

Cundiff’s 38-yard make put Cleveland on the board on the next possession, but Tennessee used 6:22 of the remaining first-half clock to go up 21-3 on yet another 11-yard TD strike to Wright, this one from Whitehurst.

After the Browns went three-and-out, Whitehurst found Hunter streaking up the middle for a 75-yard connection and a 28-3 contest.

Hoyer ended the half with a 1-yard touchdown strike to Jim Dray on 2nd-and- goal.

Game Notes

Cleveland won despite going just 4-of-12 on third downs and allowing Tennessee to convert 8-of-14 opportunities ... In defeat, Tennessee produced its most points in the first half of a regular-season game since a 47-10 win at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day 2008 ... The Titans haven’t lost four straight in one season since going six in a row without a victory from October 31-December 9, 2010 ... Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh left midway through the fourth quarter with a knee injury and did not return.


►  Steelers hold off Jaguars

Ben Roethlisberger threw for a touchdown and Brice McCain returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 17-9, on Sunday.

Roethlisberger was 26-of-36 for 273 yards, throwing to 11 different receivers in the win. Antonio Brown caught five catches for 84 yards, Michael Palmer hauled in a touchdown pass and Heath Miller had three catches for 46 yards.

Le’Veon Bell rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries for Pittsburgh (3-2), which bounced back from a 27-24 loss to Tampa Bay last week.

Blake Bortles threw for 191 yards on 22-of-36 passing with two interceptions and Josh Scobee made three field goals for the Jaguars (0-5), who have lost three straight games to the Steelers.

Scobee capped off Jacksonville’s 15-play, 43-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal at the 5:17 mark of the opening stanza.

Bell broke off a 29-yard run and Roethlisberger found Brown for a pickup of 23 yards to the 4-yard line, leading to Shaun Suisham’s 24-yard field goal for a 3-3 game early in the second.

Bortles aired out a throw on Jacksonville’s next drive that was intercepted by Cortez Allen at the Pittsburgh 45. After a first down, Roethlisberger was sacked for six yards, resulting in an eventual punt.

Miller’s 27-yard grab moved the Steelers past midfield. Pittsburgh kept rolling with three more first downs before Palmer’s 1-yard TD catch made it 10-3 with 1:53 left in the first half.

The Jaguars, however, quickly marched down the field. Jordan Todman hauled in a 18-yard dart, Allen Robinson made a 17-yard catch and Scobee split the upright from 35 yards out to make it a 10-6 game at the break.

Scobee added another field goal, this time from 36 yards, with 3:16 remaining in the third to get the Jaguars within a point.

Roethlisberger’s deep pass to Brown on the left side for 30 yards moved the Steelers to midfield. Pittsburgh picked up two first downs and worked its way down within the 20-yard line. On 3rd-and-3, Abry Jones sacked Roethlisberger, forcing the ball loose for Andre Branch to recover at the 17.

Two plays later, Bortles’ pass was intercepted by McCain and he went 22 yards the other way for a touchdown. The extra point made it 17-9 with 11:32 to play in the fourth.

Jacksonville was forced to punt after going three-and-out with under five minutes to play. The Steelers ran the final four minutes off the clock to secure the victory.

Game Notes

The all-time series is tied, 11-11 ... Steelers safety Shamark Thomas left the game with a left hamstring injury ... Jacksonville travels to Tennessee next Sunday ... The Steelers will play in Cleveland next Sunday ... The Jaguars converted on just three third downs ... Pittsburgh outgained Jacksonville, 372-243.


►  Brady, Patriots bounce back, rout Bengals

The narrative leading up to Sunday night’s game was that the Cincinnati Bengals were the team to beat in the AFC and the New England Patriots had fallen off.

The message, as always, is never count out Tom Brady.

Brady threw two touchdown passes and the Patriots routed the previously- unbeaten Bengals, 43-17, at Gillette Stadium.

Coming off an underwhelming triumph over the winless Raiders and a crushing defeat in Kansas City, the Patriots (3-2) got back on track with a statement win in front of their home fans. Brady completed 23-of-35 for 292 yards and New England racked up 220 yards on the ground, with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen running for 113 and 90, respectively.

“Satisfying night tonight,“ said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “Certainly a lot of things we need to do better, but we played hard. We made a lot of plays against a good football team.“

Cincinnati (3-1) was the last team in the NFL to lose a game after Arizona fell to the Broncos earlier Sunday.

Andy Dalton passed for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but Cincinnati’s defense failed to live up to the standards it set in the previous three games. The Bengals gave up just 33 points in those three wins before coughing up 43 in this one.

Brady had New England’s offense rolling from the opening possession, which saw the hosts march 10 plays for an early TD. Brady hit Brandon LaFell for 20 yards on the first play from scrimmage and connected with Tim Wright for a 30- yard pickup later in the drive. Brady then extended the series with a QB keeper on 4th-and-1, and Ridley capped the trek with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

“We got off to a great start,“ Brady said. “We talked about that all week. It was a long week for everybody, so we wanted to start fast.“

Star cornerback Darrelle Revis made a diving interception on the ensuing Bengals possession, but offsetting penalties negated the pick. Mike Nugent missed short on a 52-yard field goal later in the drive.

Brady kept the momentum going following the missed kick, leading another touchdown drive with a little help from his tight ends. Rob Gronkowski’s 27- yard reception led to Brady’s touchdown pass to Wright, who absorbed a blow from a defender and fell just over the goal line.

Nugent and Stephen Gostkowski swapped field goals in the second quarter, and the Patriots were set to take a 17-3 lead at halftime, but a mistake by one of Cincinnati’s best players led to more New England points.

After Gostkowski hit his 48-yard kick, the Bengals took over at their own 9 just over a minute before halftime. Dalton connected with A.J. Green for a 19-yard catch, but Revis jarred the ball loose as he was bringing Green to the ground. Jamie Collins recovered the fumble, and New England got the ball back.

Cincinnati held its ground, but Gostkowski kicked a short field goal to make it 20-3.

Adam Jones returned a punt 47 yards early in the third quarter and on the very next play, Dalton and Mohamed Sanu connected on a 37-yard touchdown pass that cut Cincinnati’s deficit in half.

The Patriots struck right back, stealing back momentum with two scores in a matter of minutes to essentially seal the outcome. Brady hit Gronkowski from 16 yards out to cap an 86-yard touchdown drive and on the ensuing kickoff, Kyle Arrington recovered former Patriot Brandon Tate’s fumble and flipped over the goal line to make it 34-10.

Revis, who spent the bulk of his time on the field shadowing Green, left the field with a minor hamstring injury on the next Bengals drive and Dalton went right to Green for a 17-yard score.

Gostkowski kicked three more field goals in the fourth to round out the scoring.

Game Notes

The Patriots have won 11 straight home games and 32 straight regular season home games against AFC teams ... New England has won five of the last six meetings ... Brady became the sixth quarterback in league history to throw for 50,000 yards midway through the first quarter ... Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones sacked Dalton early in the fourth quarter. It was the first time Dalton has been sacked this season.


►  NFL SCORES Week 5

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 05

Final Score: New Orleans 37, Tampa Bay 31 (OT)

Khiry Robinson’s 18-yard touchdown run on the first possession of overtime capped the Saints’ comeback as New Orleans scored 17 unanswered points to down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 37-31, in an NFC South battle. New Orleans (2-3) was on the verge of another debilitating loss after getting embarrassed last Sunday night in Dallas by 21 points, but Drew Brees and the offense made enough big plays down the stretch to extend New Orleans’ home winning streak to 10 games. Pierre Thomas totaled 112 yards from scrimmage and scored both on the ground and through the air, while Brees overcame a three-interception performance with 371 yards and two touchdowns on 35-of-57 attempts. Mike Glennon, trying to lead Tampa Bay (1-4) to a second straight victory, threw for 249 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the setback, the club’s sixth straight loss against its division rival.


Final Score: Dallas 20, Houston 17 (OT)

Dan Bailey kicked a 49-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Dallas Cowboys to a 20-17 victory over the Houston Texans. The Texans scored the last 10 points of regulation, but were forced to punt on the opening possession of the extra session. Dez Bryant made a spectacular 37-yard reception along the left sideline on Dallas’ ensuing touch to set up Bailey’s boot.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 17, Jacksonville 9

Ben Roethlisberger threw for a touchdown and Brice McCain returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 17-9, on Sunday. Roethlisberger was 26-of-36 for 273 yards, throwing to 11 different receivers in the win. Antonio Brown caught five catches for 84 yards, Michael Palmer hauled in a touchdown pass and Heath Miller had three catches for 46 yards. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries for Pittsburgh (3-2), which bounced back from a 27-24 loss to Tampa Bay last week. Blake Bortles threw for 191 yards on 22-of-36 passing with two interceptions and Josh Scobee made three field goals for the Jaguars (0-5), who have lost three straight games to the Steelers.


Final Score: Philadelphia 34, St. Louis 28

The Eagles’ offense was once again contained to pedestrian levels, but touchdowns on defense and special teams helped Philadelphia hold off the St. Louis Rams, 34-28, in Week 5 action. The Eagles (4-1) relied on a defense that forced three turnovers and a special teams unit that scored on a blocked punt for the second straight week. Defensive end Cedric Thornton recovered two fumbles, picking up one in the end zone and returning another 40 yards to set up a Jeremy Maclin touchdown catch. Nick Foles threw a pair of touchdown passes but finished with just 207 yards with an interception and a lost fumble for Philadelphia, which was outgained 466-352 one week after being held without an offensive touchdown in a loss to the 49ers. The Rams (1-3) scored the final 21 points and moved the ball just past midfield in the final minute, but two dropped passes and an incompletion on fourth down spoiled a chance at a miraculous comeback. Austin Davis came on strong late and passed for 375 yards and three touchdowns, two going to Brian Quick.


Final Score: Buffalo 17, Detroit 14

Dan Carpenter hit a 58-yard field goal with just four seconds to play and the Buffalo Bills pulled off a 17-14 win over the Detroit Lions. Kyle Orton, making his first start for Buffalo in place of a benched EJ Manuel, threw for 308 yards and a touchdown on 30-of-43 passing with an interception for the Bills (3-2), who snapped a two-game losing streak. Matthew Stafford went 18-for-31 for 221 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Lions (3-2), who had won their previous two games. Golden Tate caught seven passes for 134 yards and a score.


Final Score: NY Giants 30, Atlanta 20

Odell Beckham Jr.‘s first career touchdown catch highlighted a second-half surge that propelled the New York Giants to a 30-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium. Beckham’s 15-yard grab of an Eli Manning fade attempt with 10:02 to play was part of a 20-point swing that brought New York (3-2) back from a 20-10 third- quarter deficit to post its third consecutive win. Fellow rookie Andre Williams added a touchdown run during the rally, while Manning connected with Rueben Randle for a scoring strike earlier and finished with 200 passing yards and no turnovers on a 19-of-30 completion rate. Beckham, the Giants’ first-round pick of the 2014 draft who sat out the first four games with a hamstring injury, had 44 yards on four receptions in his debut. Williams, pressed into an extended role when Rashad Jennings sprained his left knee in the third quarter, totaled 65 yards on 20 carries. Julio Jones hauled in 11 Matt Ryan passes for 105 yards and Antone Smith had a 74-yard touchdown catch for Atlanta (2-3), but the Falcons’ offense went cold down the stretch en route to the club’s 10th loss in its last 11 on the road. Ryan ended 29-of-45 for 316 yards with one touchdown and an interception.


Final Score: Indianapolis 20, Baltimore 13

Andrew Luck passed for a touchdown and ran for another score, as the Indianapolis Colts overcame four turnovers in a 20-13 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck connected on 32-of-49 passes for 312 yards, but was picked off twice. Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 68 yards, but his fumble inside two minutes left nearly cost the game for the Colts (3-2), who have won their last three contests. Joe Flacco finished 22-of-38 for 235 yards with an interception for the Ravens (3-2), whose three-game winning streak was broken. Baltimore turned the ball over three times.


Final Score: Cleveland 29, Tennessee 28

Brian Hoyer’s second touchdown pass of the fourth quarter to Travis Benjamin was the go-ahead score with 1:09 left in the contest, as the Cleveland Browns rallied from a 25-point first-half deficit to claim a 29-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 5 action. Hoyer ended the day 21-of-37 for 292 yards, three TDs and one interception for the Browns (2-2), while Taylor Gabriel posted 95 yards on four receptions and Benjamin contributed 48 yards on four grabs. Ben Tate picked up 123 yards on 22 carries and Tank Carder was responsible for a blocked-punt safety early in the fourth quarter that stoked Cleveland’s comeback effort. Charlie Whitehurst was 13-of-21 for 194 yards and two scores for the Titans (1-4), who lost starter Jake Locker in the second quarter with a hand injury. Locker completed 8-of-11 attempts for 79 yards and threw the first of two TD receptions from Kendall Wright while also posting a rushing touchdown. Justin Hunter added a 75-yard scoring catch, while Wright ended with 47 yards on six catches.


Final Score: Carolina 31, Chicago 24

Greg Olsen’s second touchdown catch of the game late in the fourth quarter led the Carolina Panthers to a 31-24 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Olsen had six catches for 72 yards while Cam Newton went 19-for-35 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while also losing a fumble for the Panthers (3-2), who ended a two-game slide. Matt Forte had 12 catches for 105 yards and a score, while adding 17 carries for 61 yards for the Bears (2-3), but had a late fumble that led to Carolina’s winning score. Jay Cutler went 28-for-36 with 289 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, adding a touchdown on the ground and a lost fumble for Chicago, which has lost its last two games.


Final Score: Denver 41, Arizona 20

Peyton Manning said Wednesday that getting to the 500-touchdown mark was just “the other thing.“ He got the best of both worlds on Sunday. Manning threw his 500th touchdown pass in the first quarter and finished with four TD tosses in the Denver Broncos’ 41-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Manning hooked up with tight end Julius Thomas for a 7- yard score on 3rd-and-goal at the 4:43 mark of the opening frame to get to the 500 milestone. He gave a mini fist pump following the touchdown. Manning finished 31-of-47 for 479 yards with two interceptions, while Demaryius Thomas had eight receptions for a career-high 226 yards and two touchdowns for Denver (3-1), which outscored Arizona 17-0 in the fourth to pull away. The five-time MVP Manning joined Brett Favre as the only other quarterback to eclipse 500 touchdown passes. Favre holds the all-time record with 508 TD tosses. Manning is five touchdowns away from tying him. Manning reached the milestone in his 244th career game, while it took Favre 293 contests to reach 500. Marvin Harrison has caught the most TD passes from Manning with 112, followed by Reggie Wayne with 67. The 38-year-old fired 399 of those TD passes in Indianapolis and currently has 104 with the Broncos.


Final Score: San Francisco 22, Kansas City 17

Phil Dawson made five field goals and the 49ers spoiled Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith’s return to San Francisco with a 22-17 victory. Trailing by five, Smith and the Chiefs started from their own 20 with 2:12 left and no timeouts. Perrish Cox prevented Smith from leading Kansas City down the field for a game-winning score, as he picked off the 2005 No. 1 overall pick. Smith was San Francisco’s starting quarterback until he suffered a concussion in a game against St. Louis in Week 10 of the 2012 season. Colin Kaepernick won the starting job from there, and Smith was traded to the Chiefs in 2013.


Final Score: San Diego 31, NY Jets 0

Philip Rivers passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns before being rested late, and the San Diego Chargers trounced an inept New York Jets squad, 31-0, on Sunday afternoon. Rivers completed 20-of-28 attempts and threw a pair of first-half scores to Antonio Gates for the Chargers (4-1), who pitched their first shutout since a similar score against Kansas City on December 12, 2010. Branden Oliver posted 182 yards of total offense and two touchdowns including a game-best 114 yards on 19 carries, with Gates contributing 60 yards on four receptions. The tandem of Geno Smith and Michael Vick combined to go 13-of-32 for 74 yards and one interception for the Jets (1-4), whose point total has decreased with each of their four straight defeats.


Final Score: New England 43, Cincinnati 17

The narrative leading up to Sunday night’s game was that the Cincinnati Bengals were the team to beat in the AFC and the New England Patriots had fallen off. The message, as always, is never count out Tom Brady. Brady threw two touchdown passes and the Patriots routed the previously-unbeaten Bengals, 43-17, at Gillette Stadium. Coming off an underwhelming triumph over the winless Raiders and a crushing defeat in Kansas City, the Patriots (3-2) got back on track with a statement win in front of their home fans. Brady completed 23-of-35 for 292 yards and New England racked up 220 yards on the ground, with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen running for 113 and 90, respectively. Cincinnati (3-1) was the last team in the NFL to lose a game after Arizona fell to the Broncos earlier Sunday. Andy Dalton passed for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but Cincinnati’s defense failed to live up to the standards it set in the previous three games. The Bengals gave up just 33 points in those three wins before coughing up 43 in this one.


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 02

Final Score: Green Bay 42, Minnesota 10

Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 42-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Rodgers finished with 156 passing yards on 12-of-17 efficiency and Eddie Lacy had a season-high 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries for the Packers (3-2), who were coming off a 38-17 win over Chicago last week. Jordy Nelson had a 66-yard touchdown catch, while Davante Adams and Randall Cobb also caught a scoring pass. Christian Ponder rushed for a touchdown and completed 22 of his 44 passes for 222 yards and two interceptions for Minnesota (2-3), which was without starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater due to a sprained left ankle. Matt Asiata rushed 15 times for 72 yards and Adam Thielen had 57 yards on four catches in defeat.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  American League Division Series Game Results

Final Score: Baltimore 2, Detroit 1

The Detroit Tigers had the names, but the Baltimore Orioles proved once again they’ve got the game. Nelson Cruz burned the Tigers with yet another home run, Bud Norris outdueled his more-heralded counterpart David Price, and the Orioles finished off an eye-opening sweep of Detroit in the American League Division Series with a 2-1 Game 3 win at Comerica Park. Cruz’s two-run shot off Price in the sixth inning was all Norris and relievers Andrew Miller and Zach Britton needed to send Baltimore to its first ALCS appearance since 1997. And the Orioles did it by winning games started by a trio of former Cy Young Award recipients—Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Price—along the way. Baltimore will face the upstart Royals, who completed a series sweep over the Angels on Sunday night, in the best-of-seven Championship Series, which will begin Friday.


Final Score: Kansas City 8, LA Angels of Anaheim 3

The Kansas City Royals didn’t need extra innings on Sunday to complete an impressive sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the American League Division Series. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer homered as the Royals beat the Angels, 8-3, in Game 3 to gain their first ALCS berth in 29 years. Kansas City hit the fewest amount of home runs of any team in the majors during the regular season. The long ball, though, has lifted the Royals into the American League Championship Series, where they will face the Orioles. Baltimore finished off an eye-opening sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 2-1 Game 3 win on Sunday. The Royals hit 95 homers during the year, but won the first two games of this series on the strength of two extra-inning home runs. After Moustakas delivered an 11th inning home run to carry Kansas City to a win in Game 1, Hosmer gave the Royals the lead on Friday with a two-run home run in the 11th. Kansas City’s first playoff appearance since 1985 started with a 9-8, 12- inning victory over the Oakland Athletics in the wild-card game on Tuesday. The Royals became the first team in major league history to win three-straight extra-inning games to open a postseason.


►  O My: Orioles take down Tigers, sweep ALDS

The Detroit Tigers had the names, but the Baltimore Orioles proved once again they’ve got the game.

Nelson Cruz burned the Tigers with yet another home run, Bud Norris outdueled his more-heralded counterpart David Price, and the Orioles finished off an eye-opening sweep of Detroit in the American League Division Series with a 2-1 Game 3 win at Comerica Park.

Cruz’s two-run shot off Price in the sixth inning was all Norris and relievers Andrew Miller and Zach Britton needed to send Baltimore to its first ALCS appearance since 1997.

And the Orioles did it by winning games started by a trio of former Cy Young Award recipients—Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Price—along the way.

“They’ve got a lot to be proud of,“ said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “It’s a step. There’s different steps during the season that you have to take and this is one of them. It’s so hard against a team like Detroit that has a great pedigree and experience at (the postseason).“

Baltimore will face the upstart Royals, who completed a series sweep over the Angels on Sunday night, in the best-of-seven Championship Series, which will begin Friday.

Price (0-1), thought to be the final missing piece to a star-studded Detroit squad that had reached the ALCS in each of the last three years but couldn’t capture a World Series title, pitched very well in his first postseason start since being acquired from Tampa Bay at this summer’s trade deadline. The ace lefty yielded just five hits, including Cruz’s go-ahead blast, and two walks while fanning six over eight solid innings.

Norris (1-0) was just a little bit better, however, with the righty limiting the Tigers’ potent lineup to a mere two hits and a pair of walks while striking out six through 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

“I don’t know if there was a ton I’d do differently, quite frankly,“ said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus of his team’s lack of offense. “I think Game 2 (a 7-6 comeback win by Baltimore) was probably the game that hurt us the most, obviously, having a lead going to the eighth inning.“

He also benefited from a questionable call in the second inning, as the Tigers’ Andrew Romine was ruled out on a bunt attempt that would have scored Alex Avila from third despite replays showing he may have beat the play, which was challenged by Ausmus but upheld.

Britton surrendered back-to-back doubles to Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez to begin the bottom of the ninth, but bounced back to induce a game-ending double-play grounder from Hernan Perez with the winning run on first.

Norris, a somewhat surprising choice by Orioles skipper Buck Showalter to start Game 3, justified the decision by successfully challenging Detroit’s hitters all throughout his stint.

He was reached for a double by Avila with one out in the second, however, with the Tigers catcher tagging to third on Nick Castellanos’ fly ball prior to Romine dropping down a hard bunt to second that Jonathan Schoop scooped up and tossed to first with his glove just as the runner reached the bag.

After a nearly 2 1/2-minute review, the out call stood to take the would-be run off the board.

Detroit had another near-miss in the bottom of the third, which Don Kelly began with a single and later stole second. Torii Hunter followed with a chopper to short in which Kelly was caught too far away from the bag and erased for the second out.

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy kept the inning alive by throwing away Miguel Cabrera’s grounder to put runners on second and third, but Norris escaped by getting Victor Martinez to fly out.

Price, meanwhile, didn’t allow more than one baserunner in an inning until the sixth, when Adam Jones singled in front of Cruz’s opposite-field fly ball that narrowly cleared the shortest part of the park just inside the right-field foul pole.

The homer was Cruz’s 16th in postseason play. Eight of them have come in nine career playoff meetings with Detroit.

“He’s been awesome all year,“ said Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis. “That’s the main reason we got him. I played a lot of games against him and he’s done a lot of damage against us. I’m just glad he’s on our team doing the damage now.“

Norris departed after issuing a one-out walk to Castellanos in the seventh. Miller came on to retire the next two hitters, then set down the side in order in the eighth to keep it a 2-0 game.

Britton wasn’t as effective in the ninth, as Victor Martinez greeted the closer with a line drive that rolled to the wall for a double and J.D. Martinez crushed an 0-2 pitch into the gap in right center to get the Tigers on the board.

Britton came up with a key strikeout of Bryan Holaday, however, then intentionally walked Castellanos to set up Perez’s around-the-horn double-play ball that sent Detroit’s season of high expectations to a sudden end.

Game Notes

Cruz’s 16 postseason homers ties Carlos Beltran for ninth place on MLB’s all- time list. He hit six in six games against Detroit en route to earning MVP honors in the 2011 ALCS while with Texas ... Price fell to 0-5 in five career ALDS starts ... Holaday replaced Avila in the top of the sixth inning after the latter took a foul ball off his catcher’s mask and was forced to leave the game ... The Orioles improved to 3-1 overall in Division Series, having bested Cleveland in 1996 and Seattle in 1997 and losing to the Yankees in 2012 ... Tigers center fielder Rajai Davis did not start due to a strained groin, but grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.


►  Royals complete sweep of Angels to reach ALCS

The Kansas City Royals didn’t need extra innings on Sunday to complete an impressive sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the American League Division Series.

Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer homered as the Royals beat the Angels, 8-3, in Game 3 to gain their first ALCS berth in 29 years.

Kansas City hit the fewest amount of home runs of any team in the majors during the regular season. The long ball, though, has lifted the Royals into the American League Championship Series, where they will face the Orioles. Baltimore finished off an eye-opening sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 2-1 Game 3 win on Sunday.

The Royals hit 95 homers during the year, but won the first two games of this series on the strength of two extra-inning home runs. After Moustakas delivered an 11th inning home run to carry Kansas City to a win in Game 1, Hosmer gave the Royals the lead on Friday with a two-run home run in the 11th.

“Well, you know, it was huge. Won us two games,“ said Royals manager Ned Yost of the power hitting. “Coming into this game, we were hitting .162 as a team, they were hitting .141, but the difference were the two big home runs. That gave us the edge. Tonight the power was huge again.“

Kansas City’s first playoff appearance since 1985 started with a 9-8, 12- inning victory over the Oakland Athletics in the wild-card game on Tuesday. The Royals became the first team in major league history to win three-straight extra-inning games to open a postseason.

James Shields (1-0), who got a no-decision in the wild-card game, gave up two runs on six hits while striking out six over six innings for Kansas City, which will travel to Baltimore for Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday.

Alex Gordon knocked in three runs for the Royals, who have now won seven straight postseason games dating to Game 5 of the 1985 World Series.

Mike Trout and Albert Pujols homered for the Angels, who ended the regular season with the best record in baseball.

“Well, right now it’s tough. It stings. You know, we’re all feeling this,“ said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “We expected better results, but as disappointing as the series was and is right now with us, those guys in that clubhouse had a terrific season.“

Los Angeles starter C.J. Wilson (0-1) failed to make it out of the first inning. He allowed three runs on three hits while recording just two outs.

It was all Royals after Trout hit his first career postseason homer in the top of the first.

Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain singled before Billy Butler walked to load the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the frame. Gordon followed with a three-run double to left-center field, chasing Wilson from the game. Vinnie Pestano got the final out to keep it a 3-1 game.

Friday’s hero, Hosmer, hit a two-run homer off Hector Santiago in the third. Aoki led off with a walk and crossed the plate on Hosmer’s blast to left- center field.

Pujols’ leadoff homer in the fourth got the Angels within 5-2. Los Angeles stranded runners on the corners later in the inning when C.J. Cron struck out swinging.

Moustakas answered with a blast to right with one out in the home half. Alcides Escobar then singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on Aoki’s single and crossed the plate on Cain’s sacrifice fly.

Cain then made two great defensive plays in the fifth. With runners on first and second and one out, Cain made a diving catch on a liner by Pujols. Howie Kendrick followed with a liner to center that resulted in a sliding catch by Cain.

“I tipped my cap to him after the inning was over just strictly because I’m a fan,“ said Shields. “I’m a fan of watching that. It’s pretty special.“

The Royals took an 8-2 lead on Aoki’s RBI single in the sixth.

Josh Hamilton’s RBI groundout in the eighth accounted for the final margin.

Game Notes

Shields improved to 3-4 lifetime in the postseason ... Royals pitcher Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless seventh inning. He left Thursday night’s series opener with a strained right forearm ...The Angels went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight ... It was the third time the Angels had been swept in the postseason.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Jets acquire G Budaj from Canadiens

The Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens completed a three-player trade Sunday, with the Jets landing goaltender Peter Budaj and a minor league forward and the Canadiens adding forward Eric Tangradi.

Budaj served as Montreal’s backup goaltender last season and compiled a 10-8-3 record with a 2.51 goals against average and .909 save percentage. The 32- year-old spent the last three seasons in Montreal following a six-year stint in Colorado, where he once won 31 games in the 2006-07 campaign.

For his career, Budaj has gone 124-107-36 with a 2.76 GAA and .903 save percentage.

The Jets also received 22-year-old forward Patrick Holland, who has totaled 16 goals and 29 assists in two seasons in the AHL.

Tangradi, 25, played a career-high 55 games for the Jets last season and collected three goals and three assists. He has played parts of five seasons with the Penguins and Jets and amassed five goals and 10 assists in 136 games.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Johnson, Earnhardt Jr. Crash in Kansas Chase race

Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had their championship hopes jeopardized after both of them crashed in separate incidents during Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

The 400-mile race at Kansas is the first race in the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Johnson and Earnhardt are among the 12 drivers who advanced into the Contender Round.

Johnson, who is attempting to win his record-tying seventh championship in NASCAR’s premier series, spun out and crashed into the inside retaining wall after he was hit from behind by Greg Biffle, who was eliminated from title contention last weekend at Dover—the last race in the opening Challenger Round.

The incident occurred on lap 85, just after a restart. Biffle got loose and slid into the back of Johnson.

“I’m fine, but obviously this is a big hit in championship points,“ Johnson said. “That will put a premium on next week (Charlotte) and the week after (Talladega).“

At the same time Johnson and Biffle made contact, Justin Allgaier and Josh Wise got together and crashed.

Johnson spent 68 laps behind the wall for repairs before returning.

While leading on lap 121, Earnhardt blew his right-front tire and made contact with the wall. He suffered significant damage to the right side of his No. 88 Chevrolet.

“The whole surface of the tire just unwound like a string,“ Earnhardt said. “It just came off the car, and it popped off the corner. I felt it coming apart through the corner.“

Earnhardt had led a total of 45 laps. He also returned after repairs, 58 laps down.

After the October 19 race at Talladega, the Chase field will be trimmed to eight drivers for the next round, the Eliminator Round.

The series will compete at Charlotte next Saturday night. Johnson won there for a record seventh time in May.

“This means we’ve got to be on our game at Charlotte and Talladega,“ Johnson said. “There’s still a lot of racing left, and other stuff can happen. So we’ll see how the other Chase drivers will do. We’ll do our best to get back on track and get some wins.“


►  Logano prevails in crash-filled Chase race at Kansas

Joey Logano clinched a spot in the third round of NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by winning Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, a race that featured numerous accidents, mostly due to tire issues.

Logano led a race-high 122 laps but had to hold off a hard-charging Kyle Larson, a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series this season, in the closing laps. He beat Larson to finish line by 0.48 seconds for his fifth win of the season, including his second in the Chase. He scored the victory in the September 21 race at New Hampshire.

While Logano is now assured of advancing into the eight-driver field for the Eliminator Round, Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, along with Brad Keselowski, who is Logano’s teammate at Team Penske, are in jeopardy of not making into the next Chase round.

Johnson finished 87 laps behind in 40th after he was involved in an accident with Greg Biffle on lap 85. Biffle bumped into Johnson, which spun him out and into the inside retaining wall.

Earnhardt blew his right-front tire and made contact with the wall while leading the race on lap 121. He finished 63 laps off the pace in 39th place.

Keselowski, the 2012 series champion, and Kahne also crashed into the wall due to tire failure, with Keselowski finishing 36th and Kahne 22nd.

Right now, Kahne, Keselowski, Earnhardt and Johnson are 9th-12th, respectively, in the Chase point standings. The remaining races in this second playoff round, the Contender Round, are Charlotte (October 11) and Talladega (October 19). The Eliminator Round begins with the October 24 event at Martinsville.

Kyle Busch scored his best finish in a Sprint Cup race at Kansas with a third- place run. He won Saturday’s 300-mile Nationwide Series event here.

Martin Truex Jr., who is not in the Chase, finished fourth, and Carl Edwards, a championship contender, placed fifth.


►  Busch claims sixth Nationwide win of the season at Kansas

Kyle Busch saved his best for last to win Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway.

Busch was not that much of a factor in the first half of this 300-mile event, which was plagued with nine caution, mostly for accidents. The driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took the lead for the first time on lap 125.

After a late-race round of pit stops under green, Kevin Harvick had inherited the lead. Harvick ran in front for a total of 47 laps, but with 21 laps to go, Busch pulled ahead of his fellow Sprint Cup Series competitor to take the top position for good.

Busch crossed the finish line 0.8 seconds ahead of Harvick for his Nationwide- leading sixth win of the season and the 69th of his career. It was the second time he won a race in the series at Kansas. His first victory here occurred in 2007.

“There was a bit of moving around today and trying to run bottom and trying to run top and seeing where the different lines were in traffic and stuff like that,“ Busch said. “Great effort by (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) and all the guys on this 54 car. It was really awesome again today.“

The 400-mile Sprint Cup race at this 1.5-mile track is scheduled for Sunday. Busch, who is one of the 12 drivers remaining in the championship Chase, qualified seventh on Friday. Kansas has been one of Busch’s worst tracks in NASCAR’s premier series. He has scored only two top-10 finishes in 14 starts here.

“I feel like our Cup car is OK,“ Busch said. “If we can get out of here with a top-10 tomorrow, that would be pretty good.“

Last weekend, Busch led the final 101 of 200 laps to win the Nationwide race at Dover, his record fifth victory in the series at that track.

Ryan Blaney, a regular in the Camping World Truck Series, finished third, driving the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske. Harvick was behind the wheel of the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. He was attempting to win on a 1.5-mile track for the fourth time in the series this season.

“I could hold (Busch) off for a short run, but in the end, his car would maintain speed and mine would slow down,“ Harvick said. “We just got beat there today, but that happens.“

Paul Menard placed fourth, and rookie Ty Dillon, the pole sitter, was fifth.

Matt Kenseth, who won this race one year ago, Elliott Sadler, Trevor Bayne and Brian Scott finished sixth through ninth, respectively.

Chase Elliott’s 10th-place finish coupled with a 22nd-place run for Regan Smith, his teammate at JR Motorsports, allowed Elliott to increase his lead in the Nationwide championship standings from 26 points to 38 over Smith. Four races remain (Charlotte, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead).

Smith had to start the race from the rear of the field in a backup car after crashing his primary vehicle in qualifying, which was held earlier in the day. He then experienced a mechanical problem during the race, which put him eight laps behind.

“Anytime you have to roll a backup car out two hours before a race, you have to expect anything to happen,“ Smith said. “My guys did a great job of getting the car ready to where we could get to the grid with it, much less be competitive for the first stage of the race.“

Earlier this week, Smith signed a one-year contract extension with JRM as driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet in Nationwide.

Rookie Chris Buescher led 20 laps in the early going, but Buescher was caught up in an accident with Sprint Cup regular Kyle Larson on lap 91. Larson spun out in turn 2 and then hit the wall before he slid down the track and collected Buescher.

“That was the only time I got loose, and that caught me off guard,“ Larson said of the incident. “I just lost it. I hadn’t been loose one time all (Friday) or today.“

Buescher spent more than 50 laps in the garage for repairs before he returned. He finished 28th. Larson was out of the race with a 30th-place result.


►  Bianchi suffers severe head injury from Japanese GP accident

Marussia driver Jules Bianchi underwent emergency surgery after suffering a serious head injury during an accident in the closing laps of Sunday’s rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix.

Bianchi, a 25-year-old Frenchman, slid off course and collided with a recovery vehicle that was removing Adrian Sutil’s car after the Sauber driver had went off course and slammed hard into the barrier in turn 7. The safety car was immediately deployed following Bianchi’s crash, and the race was cut nine laps short of its 53-lap distance. Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes won the race.

F1’s governing body, the FIA, released a statement regarding Bianchi’s condition, saying, “The CT scan shows that he has suffered a severe head injury and is currently undergoing surgery. Following this he will be moved to intensive care where he will be monitored.“

The FIA also explained the incident in detail, stating, “On lap 42, Adrian Sutil lost control of his car, spun and hit the tire barrier on the outside of turn 7. The marshals displayed double waved yellow flags before the corner to warn drivers of the incident. A recovery vehicle was dispatched in order to lift the car and take it to a place of safety behind the guard rail. While this was being done the driver of car 17, Jules Bianchi, lost control of his car, traveled across the run-off area and hit the back of the tractor.

“Once the marshals reported that the driver was injured, medical teams were dispatched and the safety car was deployed. These were followed by an extrication team and an ambulance. The driver was removed from the car, taken to the circuit medical center and then by ambulance to Mie General Hospital.“

Sutil was not injured during the incident.

“I had aquaplaned on this corner as it rained more and more and the stability got less,“ Sutil said. “One lap later with the waved yellow flags, Jules came around and had the same spin there, and that was it. It was more or less the same crash, but the outcome was different. The car came out to rescue my car, and it all happened.“


►  Hamilton adds to points lead with Japanese GP win

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the Formula One world championship point standings by winning Sunday’s rain-soaked and shortened Japanese Grand Prix.

The race was stopped nine laps short of its scheduled 53-lap distance after Marussia’s Jules Bianchi was involved in a serious accident. Prior to Bianchi’s wreck, Adrian Sutil from Sauber had slid off course and slammed hard into the barrier in turn 7. Bianchi, a 25-year-old Frenchman, went off course at the same turn and collided into a recovery vehicle that was removing Sutil’s car from the crash site.

According to the FIA, the governing body of F1, Bianchi was unconscious when he was transported to a local hospital by ambulance. He could not be airlifted due to poor weather conditions.

Sutil was not injured during the incident.

“It was the same thing that happened to me. Jules came around and had the same spin there,“ Sutil said. “The rain was increasing and daylight was going down. I was following Jules. I spun and ended up in the wall. I stood up and left the car, and they (race marshals) tried to remove my car. Jules was in the same area and lost the car. I have no more information. We are all aware of the situation, and hopefully, he is in good hands.“

Hamilton was leading the way when the safety car was deployed for Sutil and Bianchi’s accidents as well as wet weather conditions. The race started under the safety car due to heavy rain associated with Typhoon Phanfone, which is poised to hit the area late Sunday night.

The first nine laps were run under the safety car, but weather conditions had improved, allowing for the race to run on lap 10. Nico Rosberg, who is Hamilton’s teammate and championship rival, started on pole.

On lap 29, Hamilton moved around Rosberg in turn 1 and then overtook him for the lead. Hamilton took command from there, as he scored his eighth win of the season, including his third victory in a row. He won in Italy and Singapore prior to Japan.

“What a day,“ Hamilton said. “It’s been a very difficult weekend. With it raining so much today, it was very tricky conditions. We hope that Bianchi is OK.“

It’s the second time Hamilton won the Japanese GP but his first at Suzuka Circuit. He scored a victory in this event during his 2007 F1 rookie season, but that race was contested at Fuji Speedway.

With the win, Hamilton increased his lead from three points to 10 over Rosberg. There are four races remaining. F1 will be in Sochi, Russia next weekend for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. After Russia, F1 moves on to Austin, Texas and then Brazil before the season concludes in Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, the four-time F1 world champion, finished third after winning the Japanese GP in four of the last five years, including victories in 2012 and ‘13.

On Saturday, prior to qualifying, Vettel and Red Bull both confirmed that Vettel will be leaving the team at the end of the 2014 season. He is expected to join Ferrari for next year.

Vettel’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, finished fourth, while McLaren’s Jenson Button took the fifth spot. Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were sixth and seventh, respectively.

Nico Hulkenberg from Force India, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Hulkenberg’s teammate, Sergio Perez, completed the top-10.

Fernando Alonso from Ferrari retired on lap 3 when he experienced an electrical problem and came to a stop on the track. Alonso’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, placed 12th.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Things we learned on Sunday of Week 5

Obviously the pictures on the local milk cartons worked as a number of “missing” fantasy studs returned to form in Week 5 to the delight of their mostly patient fantasy owners.

We’re talking in particular about Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas and Houston running back Arian Foster. And to a lesser extent Ben Tate of Cleveland and Eddie Lacy Thursday night.

Below are a few more things we observed.

Baltimore at Indianapolis

What was supposed to be a high-scoring affair in Indianapolis, turned out to be a “turnover fest” with a total of seven (Ravens - 3, Colts - 4)

The Colts’ pass rush sacked Joe Flacco four times and forced him to throw under duress numerous others and he was just 22-of-38 for 235 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Running back Bernard Pierce was MIA as Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro did all the work in the first half. Pierce saw the ball four times in the second half, but fantasy owners can now safely release Pierce.

Torrey Smith caught just three of eight targets, including a key drop on the final drive that would have been a first down. He’s definitely the second option after Steve Smith Sr.

Andrew Luck wasn’t great today, but he still threw for 312 yards and a touchdown and ran one for a second score.

Ahmad Bradshaw out-played Trent Richardson at least until he fumbled the ball in the final two minutes and gave the Ravens one last chance to tie the game.

Houston at Dallas

Houston’s defense kept their streak of not yielding any first quarter points in tact. The much-maligned Dallas defense did the Texans one better, keeping Houston off the board in the first half.

Arian Foster ran well, but sparingly in the first half (seven times for 40 yards). The Texans fixed that flaw in strategy on the first drive of the second half as he carried five times for 59 yards and the first touchdown of the game. They didn’t stop there, giving him a total of 25 touches and he posted 172 yards (157 on the ground) and two touchdowns.

J.J. Watt’s missed tackle of Tony Romo cost his team as the Cowboys’ quarterback found Terrance Williams for a 43-yard touchdown strike.

Romo finished the day with good numbers - 324 passing yards, two scores, one interception. Thank overtime if your league has a 300-yard bonus as he added 41 yards in the extra stanza.

Dez Bryant didn’t break any big ones, but caught nine of 14 targets for 85 yards and a touchdown worth double-digit fantasy points.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans

The Bucs running game is just a shambles and fantasy owners should simply avoid the situation completely. Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey combined for 66 yards (3.2 ypg). Added to last week’s disappointing 42 yards and you can see why you should stay away.

Drew Brees threw for 374 yards and two scores, but did throw three interceptions.

Khiry Robinson is the Saints workhorse running back (at least until Mark Ingram returns), but Pierre Thomas is a difference maker. Thomas scored once on the ground and once receiving and totaled 112 yards.

Atlanta at New York Giants

Hold the presses, we had a Steven Jackson sighting. He was spotted taking the ball around the left end 10 yards for a score like a “real” running back.

Running back Antone Smith continues to make big plays. This time he turned a short pass from Matt Ryan into a 74-yard scoring play. Smith has four touchdowns this season. 54-yard reception, 38-yard run, 48-yard run and this 74-yard reception. Falcons fans can now see their future running back. And that future isn’t far away.

Matt Ryan wasn’t great in the first half, but didn’t turn the ball over which he’s been prone to on the road. He did give the ball up once in the second half while throwing for a game-high 316 yards.

The Giants running game was all Rashad Jennings until he injured a knee. Andre Williams filled in nicely with 65 yards and a score and should be a viable fantasy option next week if Jennings isn’t ready to play.

St. Louis at Philadelphia

Austin Davis started at quarterback despite Shaun Hill being active and threw for 375 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He did fumble twice and couldn’t lead his team to a game-winning touchdown on the final drive, but fantasy owners should want him to continue under center.

Brian Quick continues to be an underrated fantasy asset. Sunday he caught five of nine balls for 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This is despite the return of Tavon Austin and a solid performance from Kenny Britt.

Sunday’s first touchdown came from the Eagles’ much-maligned defense/special teams. They have given up plenty of yards this season, but fantasy owners take note - with a second turnover touchdown in the third quarter they have scored five times in the past two games.

We saw a slight improvement from LeSean McCoy who rushed 24 times for 81 yards. Not great, but at least he’s headed in the right direction.

Jeremy Maclin continues to put up numbers, though it takes a lot of targets. Again he caught less than 50 percent of the throws to him (5-of-11), but put up 76 yards and a score.

Cleveland at Tennessee

The Titans further frustrated fantasy owners in Week 5.

Delanie Walker caught all his targets, but he only received four and went for 47 yards. Over the first four weeks of the season, he became the best start in the Titans’ lineup.

Wide receivers Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, who have been very disappointing so far, went off for a combined 146 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Hunter had the biggest play of the day with a 75-yard catch and run on Charlie Whitehurst’s second pass of the game.

Whitehurst replaced Jake Locker, who may have re-injured his throwing hand. The backup quarterback did virtually nothing after the bomb to Hunter. Whitehurst threw for just 108 yards and the team rushed for 29 yards in the second half as Cleveland came back to win the game.

Obviously it is great to see Wright and Hunter make big plays, but what will fantasy owners get from the receivers next week, the performance in the first half or second half? Which quarterback will be throwing to them, the good Locker? The bad Locker? The first half or second half Whitehurst? Maybe an injured Locker or third-stringer Zach Mettenberger? I don’t know about you, but I have a headache.

Brian Hoyer proved again why Browns coach Mike Pettine made him the starter, and in the right matchup, Hoyer is a viable fantasy start. He threw for 292 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The totals were helped by the fact the Browns trailed 28-3 toward the end of the second quarter.

Ben Tate returned and put to bed any running-back-by-committee thoughts in Cleveland. He rushed for 123 yards on 22 carries. Terrance West had seven carries for 31 yards.

Hoyer spread the ball around pretty well in the passing game. Taylor Gabriel led the Browns in receiving with 95 yards. Travis Benjamin caught two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Miles Austin had two catches for 54 yards and Jordan Cameron went for 33 yards on three receptions.

Chicago at Carolina

Chicago Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo admitted this week that he regrets trading tight end Greg Olsen to Carolina in 2011. Olsen said he has put the trade behind him, but it sure didn’t look like it as he stuck it to his old team in Week 5. Olsen led a Panthers comeback with six receptions, 72 yards and two touchdowns.

The rest of the Panthers receivers were disappointing. Rookie sensation Kelvin Benjamin caught three passes for 38 yards and fumbled, Jerricho Cotchery had three catches for 46 yards and Jason Avant had two receptions for 42 yards.

With three injured running backs, none of the Panthers runners were fantasy relevant on Sunday. Journeyman Chris Ogbonnaya did score a rushing touchdown.

Cam Newton went 19-of-35 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Just like the Titans, the Bears jumped out early on their opponent and surrendered the lead late in the fourth quarter.

Jay Cutler has apparently returned to his old self, throwing into double coverage and costing his team games. He threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions and was sacked four times,

At least Matt Forte was heavily involved again in the offensive game plan. He led the team in rushing and receiving, touching the ball 29 times for 166 total yards and a touchdown. He is the most consistent preseason top-four running back at this point.

For the second week in a row, Alshon Jeffery caught a nifty touchdown pass out in the flat. Marc Trestman is smartly getting the ball into his playmaker’s hands. Jeffery had six catches for 97 yards. Trestman did not, however, get the ball to Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett as each had just three catches.

Buffalo at Detroit

Perhaps the upset of the day - Kyle Orton led the Bills to a comeback victory over the Lions in Detroit.

Orton threw 43 times, completed 30 of his passes for 308 yards, a touchdown and pick. Fred Jackson was the Bills’ workhorse with 18 touches for 108 yards. Jackson finished second with nine targets in the passing game and had two more carries than C.J. Spiller, who had just seven rushing yards. Jackson is a strong FLEX play going forward.

Sammy Watkins led the team with 87 receiving yards and seven catches. Tight end Chris Gragg caught the lone Buffalo touchdown. Jackson scored a two-point conversion.

Detroit continues to struggle in the kicking game as new kicker Alex Henery missed all three of his attempts. He replaced rookie Nate Freese, who made just 3-of-7 attempts in three games. Next up Matt Prater? Jason Hanson?

Henery attempted a 50-yarder with 26 seconds left with the game tied, 14-14, and missed. That allowed Orton and company to drive down for the winning Dan Carpenter field goal for Buffalo.

Along with the kicking woes, Detroit’s offense just isn’t that explosive unless Calvin Johnson is completely healthy. Megatron left the game with an ankle injury to the same foot that bothered him all week. Initially, the decoy plan was working but the Lions did not score again after the 13:44 mark of the second quarter.

Matt Stafford went 18-of-31 for 221 yards, a touchdown and interception. Without Joique Bell, Reggie Bush was supposed to be “the guy” in the backfield, but he carried the ball just six times for 13 yards. He added 30 yards in the passing game, but left with an injury.

George Winn (Who?) led the Lions with 48 rushing yards and Golden Tate led the team with seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown.

Calvin Johnson was a decoy again this week.

Pittsburgh at Jacksonville

The Steelers posted respectable offensive numbers in Jacksonville, but the expectations were much higher against arguably the worst defense in the league.

Ben Roethlisberger passed for 273 yards and a touchdown, but the score went to irrelevant fantasy tight end Michael Palmer. Roethlisberger was sacked four times, twice to end drives. One of those occasions, the Steelers settled for a field goal and the other, Big Ben fumbled.

Antonio Brown continued his streak of consecutive games with at least five catches ... but just barely. Brown caught his fifth pass to give the Steelers a first down at the two-minute warning. Pittsburgh then kneed the ball for the victory.

Le’Veon Bell rushed 15 times for 82 yards and caught five passes for 36 more yards to finish with 118 total yards. LeGarrette Blount was more involved in the offense during Week 5. He had eight carries for 29 yards.

Blake Bortles looked decent at times for Jacksonville, but the Steelers were finally able to generate a pass rush.

Even though the short, quick passing game was effective for the Jaguars, anytime Jacksonville tried to push the ball down field, Bortles struggled. He threw two interceptions, one of which cornerback Brice McCain returned for a touchdown. Credit that success to Dick LeBeau’s scheme, which is now 18-2 against rookie quarterbacks.

Bortles’ favorite targets were Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, who each received 11 targets. Robinson caught five passes for 51 yards and Hurns had four receptions for 26 yards.

The Jaguars running attack was nonexistent. Storm Johnson led the team with 27 yards. Toby Gerhart rushed for nine yards on four carries.

Arizona at Denver

Andre Ellington was a busy man, rushing the ball 16 times for 32 yards and catching four balls for 112 yards and a score out of the backfield.

Michael Floyd was a non-factor. A check of his game log shows he’s got a pattern of putting up big numbers every other game so plan on a big day in Week 6.

Demaryius Thomas IS alive and well and finally showed up for the Broncos fourth football game of the season. His Week 5 totals were greater than the combined numbers for the first three games.

It was Peyton Manning’s record 86th regular season 300-yard game. For those bad at math, that’s about five and-a-half seasons worth. He also has nine in the postseason. Actually he threw for 479 yards against the Cardinals.

The Broncos’ final score was a run by Juwan Thompson. If you said “Who?“ you are not alone. He is an undrafted rookie out of Duke and I can guarantee he wasn’t in any fantasy lineups.

New York Jets at San Diego

We’re not sure if any quarterback, including Peyton Manning, could do much with the Jets’ receiving corps.

Philip Rivers ate up the Jets defense for 244 yards and two touchdowns ... in the first half. He finished with 288 yards and three scores in a blowout win that didn’t require him to do anything after the half-time show.

Both first-half touchdowns went to tight end Antonio Gates. Rivers’ last touchdown pass was to Branden Oliver.

Oliver out-rushed and out-played Donald Brown. He combined for 182 yards and two touchdowns and will be at the top of the waiver claim list this week if he’s still available in your league.

Kansas City at San Francisco

Jamaal Charles is healthy and as expected in a close game he’s got all the work and Knile Davis’ numbers took a huge hit.

Alex Smith puts up decent statistics considering the lack of talent the Chiefs have at the wide receiver position.

When Vernon Davis is sidelined, it seems that Stevie Johnson always does something good. Davis was inactive this Sunday and Johnson caught a 9-yard touchdown pass.

Frank Gore (18-107-0) was again a key to the 49ers game plan. It’s very apparent San Francisco has decided to go back to basics - running the ball and playing tough, hard-nosed defense. It’s working in the win column, but it won’t make fantasy owners of the 49ers receiving corps happy.

The Gilmer Free Press


MONDAY, OCTOBER 06, 2014


National Football League
Seattle at Washington, 8:30 PM - ESPN


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
Los Angeles at St. Louis, TBA - FS1
Wsahington at San Francisco, TBA - MLB Network
*Baltimore at Detroit, TBA - TBS
*LA Angels at Kansas City, TBA - TBS


National Basketball Association - Preseason
Philadelphia at Boston, 7:30 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, CSN-New England
Washington at Chicago, 8:00 PM - CSN-DC, Chicago
Denver at LA Lakers, 10:00 PM - Time Warner-SN, D

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pioneers Suffer Road Loss at the Hands of WV Wesleyan

The Glenville State Pioneer football team scored the first seven points of the ball game to take a 7-0 lead over Mountain East Conference rival West Virginia Wesleyan, however the Pioneers would fall short as the Bobcats would hold onto the victory, 38-35.

The Pioneers headed into halftime down four points as the Bobcats claimed a 24-20 lead.

In the third quarter, the Bobcats would add to their lead as they would take the opening possession 77 yards on 11 plays as backup quarterback Tyler Bolen hit Zach Schademan on a five yard touchdown pass making it, 31-20.

But Glenville State would answer right back on their next drive in only nine seconds as Rahmann Lee would score on a 59 yard touchdown run pulling the Pioneers within four, 31-27 as we headed into the fourth quarter.

West Virginia Wesleyan would score at the 5:37 minute mark of the fourth as Boylen hit Dylan Davis for a 31 yard touchdown pass as the Bobcats extended their lead back to 11 points, 38-27.

GSC again would answer back as Lee scored on a four yard run, his second of the day, making it 38-33. The Pioneers would go for the two point conversion and get it as they made it a three point game, 38-35 with under 3:30 to play.

The Pioneers would then attempt the onside kick but the Bobcats would recover and run out the clock and take the 38-35 victory.

The Pioneers racked up over 230 rushing yards on the ground while the defense only allowed the Bobcats 136 rushing yards.

Glenville State had 416 total yards of offense on 61 plays while West Virginia Wesleyan had 460 yards of offense on 80 plays. The Pioneers only had five penalties for 28 yards while the Bobcats had nine penalties for 70 yards.

Rahmann Lee had an outstanding game on the ground as he rushed for a game high 152 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns while Tevin Drake rushed for 86 yards.

Sean Steele went 10 for 21 for 181 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Steele’s favorite target was Tevin Drake as he caught three passes for a team high 94 yards. Darren Holbrook caught one pass for 17 and a touchdown, his first touchdown catch of his career.

James Johnson led the Pioneer defense as he had 12 total tackles while Devin Cain chipped in with nine tackles on the day.

The Bobcats were led by backup quarterback Tyler Bolan, after Jeremy Musselman left the game due to a shoulder injury.  Bolan went 18 for 25 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Zach Schademan caught a game high 10 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.

Glenville State returns to action this Saturday, October 11, 2014 when they host the University of Charleston for Homecoming. Kickoff is set for 1:30 PM.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Football Roundup - Week 5

West Virginia State 18, Urbana 13 | Final Stats

West Virginia State secured its first Mountain East Conference win in school history with an 18-13 win on the road at Urbana.

The win improves WVSU’s record to 2-3 on the year and 1-3 in MEC play. Urbana fell 1-4 overall and 1-4 in conference play.

WVSU used a balanced offensive attack with 132 yards from Tevin Brown and 117 yards passing from Matt Kinnick. Kinnick also had two touchdown passes and one interception. On the defensive side of the ball, the Yellow Jackets held Urbana to just 27 yards rushing and Kevin Coffie had four tackles and broke up six passes.

Urbana’s Cody Schroeder was 17-of-42 passing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Marc Johnson was his favorite target with five catches for 153 yards. D’Gary Wallace led all players with 14 total tackles (five solo), had 2.5 tackles for a loss, including one sack, and also contributed an interception. 

WVSU got off to a quick start with Tyler Carril hauling in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kinnick. Dennis Gardeck sacked Schroeder and forced a fumble that was recovered by Nathan Miller for a defensive score for the Yellow Jackets to make it 12-0. Urbana was able to get on the board in the second quarter on a 14-yard Joseph Safford TD reception.

West Virginia State came out of the locker room in the second half and marched 70 yards on 14 plays for another touchdown to make it 18-7. Urbana was unable to mount anything offensively until late in the fourth quarter when Schroeder found La’Valle Spivey with 52 seconds left in the game. However, the onside kick attempt by the Blue Knights was recovered by Joshua Caiquo and WVSU was able to run the clcok out and hold on to the victory.


#9 Shepherd 24,  Charleston 15 | Final Stats
Ninth-ranked Shepherd held off Charleston, 24-15, in a Mountain East Conference showdown on Saturday afternoon. The Rams improved to 5-0 overall and 5-0 in conference play, while Charleston dropped to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in MEC action.

The game featured impressive defensive performances from both the Rams and Golden Eagles. Shepherd held UC to just 123 yards of total offense, including just 16 yards on the ground. UC limited the Rams offense to just 83 rushing yards and 262 yards of total offense in the game. 

With the game locked at 3-3 at the half, SU quarterback Jeff Ziemba hit Dalton Boyd for 29 yards for a touchdown to give the Rams a 10-3 lead. As the fourth quarter started, Shepherd had a drive extended on a roughing the punter call, and then later cashed in on a 13-yard Jabre Lolley touchdown run. Octavius Thomas picked off John Knox on Charleston’s next play, and the Rams again made the Golden Eagles pay for the mistake as Allen Cross would punch it in to make it 24-3 and put the Rams seemingly in control.

However, Torie Wagner took the ensuing kickoff 97 yards to give the Golden Eagles life to make it 24-9 with still 11 minutes left. UC then blocked a Ryan Earls field goal attempt that Logan Cox took 67 yards for a touchdown. Once again, though, UC’s point after attempt failed to make it 24-15 with still six minutes left.

Shepherd was then able to work four minutes off the clock on its next possession, and then held UC on defense to close out the game and earn the victory.

Cross led the Rams with 68 yards rushing and a touchdown. Ziemba was 18-of-30 for 179 yards with a touchdown. Shepherd’s C.J. Davis, David Carter and Thomas came up with interceptions in the game for the Rams.

Knox was 11-of-23 for 107 yards and three interceptions. Matt Duncan came up with a game-high 16 total tackles.


West Virginia Wesleyan 38, Glenville State 34 | Final Stats

West Virginia Wesleyan edged Glenville State, 38-35, on Saturday at Ross Field.

The Bobcats improved to 2-3 overall and 2-3 in MEC play. Glenville State slipped to 1-4 overall and 1-4 in conference play. Three of Glenville State’s four losses have come by less than four points. 

Jeremy Musselman was 14-of-18 for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Tyler Bolen came on to complete 18-of-25 for 187 yards and two more scores to pace the Bobcats. Michael Anderson added 119 yards on the ground for WVWC.

Rahmann Lee rushed for 152 yards on 23 carries for the Pioneers. Sean Steele was 10-of-21 for 181 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.

An action-packed first half saw the Bobcats take a 24-20 into halftime. The two teams traded touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarter, and WVWC held a 38-35 lead with 3:37 left. The Bobcats, though, were able to pick up a crucial first down on 4th-and-1 and then was able to run out the clock to hold on to the win.


#24 Concord 45, Fairmont State 21 | Final Stats

Nationally ranked Concord controlled Fairmont State, 45-21, at Duvall-Rosier Field to remain unbeaten.

The Mountain Lions improved to 5-0 on the year and 4-0 in conference play. FSU slipped to 2-3 overall and 2-3 in the MEC.

Calvinaugh Jones rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns to lead CU. Brian Novak was 15-of-27 for 201 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Ryan Stewart hauled in a touchdown pass for the fourth-straight game to go with 73 yards. 

CU was led by eight tackles each from Derrick Johnson and Dalton Brindo. Mike Carey had five total tackles and an interception he returned 49 yards.

Cooper Hibbs returned to the starting lineup to complete 25-of-42 passes for 269 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Fabian Guerra starred offensively for the Falcons with 136 yards on 12 receptions with one touchdown. Austin White carried the ball 24 times for 108 yards. Marcus Porter led FSU on defense with 11 total tackles (10 solo).


Notre Dame 41, UVa-Wise 10 | Final Stats

Notre Dame College exploded for 27 points in the second quarter on its way to a 41-10 win over UVa-Wise.

The Falcons (4-1, 4-1)) were led by 280 yards passing and four touchdowns from Ray Russ. Kenneth Butler added 122 yards and one touchdown for NDC. Mitchel Shegos had seven grabs for 110 yards and one TD grab. 

Notre Dame held UVa-Wise to just 33 yards rushing in the game. Jalon Avent had 10 total tackles with 2.5 tackles for a loss, including 1.5 sacks. Sha’haun Williams had seven stops, including three for a loss.

Ty Ryans was 12-of-27 passing for 140 yards with one interception. Zack Blair had 13 tackles (seven solo) and was credited with 3.5 for a loss.


Duquense 39, West Liberty 13 | Final Stats

Duquense raced out to a 22-0 lead at halftime on its way to a 39-13 victory over West Liberty on Saturday.

The Dukes (3-2) piled up over 500 yards of total offense led by quarterback Dillon Buechel who threw for 330 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. 

West Liberty (2-3) was led Dakota Conwell who was 14-of-34 for 134 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Isiah Moody had 60 yards rushing and Anton McCallum had five catches for 71 yards with one touchdown reception. The Hilltoppers were led on defense by D’Andre Muhammad who finished with 10 tackles, including one for a loss. Gavin Hutchinson had five tackles, including 1.5 for a loss.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  West Virginia defeats Kansas

This one was just for kicks.

The West Virginia faithful, all 52,164 huddled in their parkas and ponchos at Milan Puskar Stadium, witnessed history Saturday night.

Every thump and thud of a ball booming off Kansas punter Trevor Pardula’s left foot was adding up to something. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Pardula, the Big 12’s top punter, booted the ball for the 13th time, setting a new record for a West Virginia opponent. He would later extend the record to a hopefully insurmountable 14 punts.

On the other end, kicker Josh Lambert single-footedly outscored the Kansas offense with four first-half field goals through a steady crosswind as the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) cruised to a 33-14 win against the Jayhawks (2-3, 0-2).

Clint Bowen, the interim Kansas head coach, called the head-coaching job in Lawrence “a destination job,” earlier this week, but his first destination as head coach was Morgantown and an outcome he’d rather forget.

The victory, although entirely expected, was belated vengeance for West Virginia’s embarrassing 31-19 defeat in Lawrence, Kan., last November.

To say Pardula, the surprise star Saturday night, kicked the ball a country mile would be an overstatement. But his 621 punting yards do equate to just over a third of a mile.

“Forcing them to punt 14 times was amazing,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said afterward. “But that number would probably go down if we get a turnover every once in a while.”

An hour before kickoff Saturday, Clint Trickett, the electric West Virginia quarterback, closed his warm-up session by sending a student manager on a corner route toward the sideline.

Trickett waited a beat and then whipped a behind-the-back pass that spiraled perfectly through the crisp October air and met its intended target in stride 25 yards downfield.

It looked just as easy come game time.

Trickett found standout receiver Kevin White three times for 127 yards in the first quarter, including a 63-yard touchdown strike that gave White five consecutive games of at least 100 receiving yards, equaling Stedman Bailey’s team record set in 2012.

Trickett threw for 302 yards, a touchdown and an interception before taking a hit to the leg and giving way to third-string quarterback Skyler Howard in the fourth quarter. Holgorsen said Trickett’s health is fine, but he had uncharacteristic struggles as a play-caller.

“He’s going to go back and learn a ton from this tape,” Holgorsen said.

Holgorsen said the Kansas offense was “frustrating” and “made it challenging to run them out of the stadium, so to speak.”

Any hopes the Jayhawks had of mounting another upset bid against the Mountaineers ebbed away a little more with each Pardula punt. The first seven Kansas drives ended in punts, and the halftime yardage total was a lopsided 223-42 in West Virginia’s favor.

Put this way, three of Lambert’s first-half field goals traveled farther than the Kansas offense did in the first half.

Lambert hit from 42, 25 and 43 yards on West Virginia’s first three drives of the game, had a 47-yard try blocked in the second quarter and added a 53-yarder as time expired at halftime.

“Pregame I was worried,” Lambert said. “The wind was pretty swirly.”

West Virginia led, 23-0, at the break, extending the Jayhawks’ scoreless drought to six quarters.

Kansas turned to backup quarterback Michael Cummings in the second half, but it was only appropriate that the Jayhawks’ first score came from a Pardula punt.

West Virginia returner Jordan Thompson’s muffed punt late in the third quarter, and Kansas tailback Corey Avery capped the five-play, 18-yard drive with a 4-yard scamper.

The Jayhawks’ upswing couldn’t have been briefer.

On the ensuing kickoff, Mountaineers returner Mario Alford beat everybody in a foot race up the visitors’ sideline for a 94-yard touchdown. It was Alford’s second kickoff return returned for touchdown this season.

In true tit-for-tat fashion, Kansas returner Nick Harwell closed the scoring at 2:23 of the fourth quarter with a 76-yard punt return for touchdown.

“If it wasn’t for that,” Holgorsen said, “I thought special teams did well.”


►  Holgorsen reflects on good, bad from beating Kansas

West Virginia’s 33-14 win over Kansas wasn’t as dominant as Dana Holgorsen wanted, but it certainly tasted better than the last time they met.

The Mountaineers gained 557 yards but settled for two offensive touchdowns eight trips inside the Kansas 40.

“I was excited about how we were moving the ball,” Holgorsen said. “We just didn’t finish drives very good.”

West Virginia’s defense certainly finished off drives, forcing a school-record 14 punts.

Getting them to punt 14 times is pretty good, and we didn’t give up any big plays,” he said. “Holding them to 3-of-17 on third downs, that’s pretty good defensive football.”

Crest sidelined: After some heavy throwing days during the bye week, William Crest’s shoulder soreness flared up. The freshman spent Saturday in sweatpants on the sideline, forcing West Virginia to utilize Skyler Howard in a backup role during the fourth quarter. Howard previously was targeted for a redshirt season.

“William’s shoulder is all jacked up right now,” Holgorsen said. “He wasn’t going to do us any good if he couldn’t throw. He didn’t practice all week and I’m not going to dress a guy that doesn’t practice all week.”

Special teams under fire: Even after West Virginia had a field goal blocked, fumbled away a fair catch and allowed another punt-return touchdown, Holgorsen said the special-teams units played well overall.

“I thought we played really good on special teams. You’ve got a kicker who made four fields. Nick (O’Toole) averaged 45 yards a punt. Our kickoff cover team was excellent.

“There were two mistakes: It’s the same issues that we had all year. We play good on special teams with the exception of a very glaring mistake. We had a fumbled punt and we gave up a (return). Yes, it’s aggravating, but it’s not like we have to make a whole bunch of changes to fix it.”

On the positive side, West Virginia got its second kick-return score of the season when Mario Alford streaked 94 yards.

Said Holgorsen: “I thought Mario was the fastest player on the planet today.”

Crowd sourcing: The announced attendance of 52,164 was about 8,000 shy of capacity on homecoming. With Big 12 bottom-feeder Kansas coming in, the stadium lacked the energy of two weeks ago, when then-No. 4 Oklahoma visited.

Holgorsen was asked about the crowd.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that we wouldn’t have a sellout. I don’t know. I’ve got my own worries. That’s not something I really worry about.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Herd runs over Old Dominion 56-14; improves to 5-0

In a game that was billed as a matchup between two of the most prolific passers in college football, Marshall’s defense and rushing attack stole the show. The Herd dominated Old Dominion 56-14 putting the game out of reach before halftime. Marshall built a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and went to the locker room leading 42-7.

Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke came into the game averaging 306.8 yards passing and over 13,000 yards for his career. He was limited to just 85 yards on 10-of-25 passing Saturday thanks to Marshall’s smothering secondary and aggressive front seven. Heinicke was harassed all day long. Marshall sacked him five times and he rarely, if ever, had a clean pocket to throw from.

“I thought our kids played their most complete game so far today,” complimented coach Doc Holliday.

Meanwhile, Rakeem Cato threw for just 198 yards and two touchdowns, ending a 32-game streak of throwing for at least 200 yards. Cato hadn’t thrown for less than 200 yards since his freshman season against Memphis when he tallied just 150 yards. But Marshall didn’t Cato to put up career numbers on Saturday.

It had Devon Johnson for that.

Johnson pounded his way to 198 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. He had 121 yards before halftime. Johnson averaged almost 10 yards per carry as the ODU’s defense was manhandled all day by the Herd’s offensive line.

“I think that was the point, just coming out here, starting fast and finishing fast,” said quarterback Rakeem Cato.

When Johnson needed a breather, Remi Watson continued the rushing attack. Watson rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 13 touches.

The Herd ended the day with 354 yards rushing and 591 yards of total offense. Marshall now has eight 100-yard rushing games this season when it had 10 100-yard efforts in 14 games last season.

The Herd literally rushed out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. Johnson had touchdown runs of two and eight yards and Watson ran it in from ten yards out. The Herd also got a special teams touchdown on a blocked punt. Brandon Byrd recovered the loose ball in the endzone for the score.

Marshall has now outscored opponents 88-7 in the first quarter this season. In fact, Marshall has now outscored opponents 145-13 in the first half through five games.

The Herd did make mistakes, turning the ball over on three straight drives in the first half. Rakeem Cato was intercepted twice, although neither could be blamed on Cato, and Craig Wilkins fumbled the football after a catch. Christian Bynum had both interceptions. The first was reviewed and upheld after it appeared the ball bounced off the turf before Bynum came up with it. The second pick was a perfect pass by Cato that bounced off Shuler’s shoulder pads and right into the hands of Bynum in the endzone.

“That’s not me. I just told the receivers I put that all on me. It happens, its just football,” said Shuler.

“I just told him to let it go and I told him I was coming back to him,” reassured Cato.

And he did.

Marshall scored twice more in the second quarter. Rakeem Cato threw a pair of touchdown passes, a 42-yard hookup with Tommy Shuler and a 6-yard score to Deontay McManus. The score was the first for McManus this season.

Devon Johnson and Remi Watson each found the endzone one more time in the third quarter.  Johnson scored his third touchdown on the day from seven yards out and Watson scored on a 13-yard run.

Old Dominion tallied a meager 286 yards of total offense. Heinicke was sacked five times and threw an interception to Daryl Roberts.

Marshall improves to 5-0 and returns to Joan C. Edwards Stadium next Saturday to entertain Middle Tennessee State on homecoming.


►  Coach Doc Holliday Believes His Team Put Together Its Most Complete Game of the Season against ODU

Marshall dominated in all three phases of the game in its 56-14 win over Old Dominion, something Doc Holliday strives for each week.

“I thought our kids played their most complete game all year,” Holliday assessed after the game.

Marshall’s offense is expected to put up big numbers but the way it is doing it this year may be a bit surprising. Aside from Rakeem Cato’s 425 yards passing against Rhode Island, Marshall’s rushing attack has been almost unstoppable.

Old Dominion certainly did not have an answer for it. Devon Johnson’s 198 yards were the most by a Marshall running back since Darius Marshall rushed for 203 yards on 25 carries against Memphis back in 2009. Remi Watson also eclipsed the century mark for the second straight game and Marshall already has eight 100-yard rushing games this year. It only had 10 all of last season.

“I think it started up front with the o-line,” credited quarterback Rakeem Cato. “Those guys came out here and played great for us.”

Even more impressive was Marshall’s defense. Old Dominion never really had a shot as Taylor Heinicke never had a clean pocket to work with and was constantly under pressure. Heinicke came into the game averaging over 300 yards passing, finished the day with only ten completions for 85 yards.

“To hold that quarterback to 85 yards passing, that’s the lowest of his career,” said Holliday. “He’s thrown for a lot of points and a lot of yards, Chuck (Heater) and the defense did a tremendous job.”

The Monarchs were only able to manage 286 yards of total offense and its only scores came after Marshall had built a 28-point lead and late in the game when Marshall had already substituted in most of its second and third string defenders.

Marshall even got a special teams score when Raheim Huskey blocked Old Dominion’s punt and Brandon Byrd recovered the loose ball in the endzone for the score.

“The blocked punt was huge too. I thought the special teams made some plays and played as well as they have all year,” praised Holliday.

“Everybody played team ball. We even played special teams great today. That’s one think that we worked on all week was playing all three phases of the game.”

That is the type of game people are expecting from Marshall and the type of game it is capable of each week.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Baylor stays perfect with win over Texas

Bryce Petty threw two touchdown passes and the seventh-ranked Baylor Bears shook off a sluggish first half in a 28-7 rout of the Texas Longhorns.

Petty completed 7-of-22 passes for 111 yards for the Bears (5-0, 2-0 Big 12), who have started 5-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1916 and 1917.

Shock Linwood carried the ball 28 times for 148 yards and a score for Baylor, which entered Saturday’s game leading the FBS in scoring offense (56.8 points per game) and total offense (641 yards per game).

The Bears were limited to 389 yards of total offense.

“We knew that we had to just keep grinding it out,“ said Linwood. “Each play, just go out there and tempo them up and get them tired and that’s how we got them.“

Tyrone Swoopes connected on 16-of-34 passes for 144 yards and two interceptions for the Longhorns (2-3, 1-1). He also carried the ball 14 times for 40 yards.

Johnathan Gray rushed for 79 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.

The special teams unit gave Baylor an early 7-0 lead. Nick Rose’s 52-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and Terrell Burt raced 62 yards the other way for a touchdown.

Texas moved the ball to the Baylor 29-yard line on the ensuing possession, but Swoopes threw an incomplete pass on 4th-and-6.

Swoopes was intercepted by Orion Stewart with 30 seconds left in the first quarter. Baylor, however, failed to do much on offense and was forced to punt.

The Bears finally started to move the ball on their next possession. This time around, Petty was stopped short on 4th-and-goal from the Texas 1. Ironically, the Longhorns’ ensuing drive stalled at the Baylor 1 when Swoopes fumbled.

The Bears’ special teams made another big play in the third quarter.

Punter Spencer Roth ran for 19 yards and a first down on a fake punt. Three plays later, Petty and Antwan Goodley hooked up for a 30-yard score.

“The fake punt should have never happened,“ said Texas coach Charlie Strong. “We had two guys that should have been just going ... to check the punter and then he just pulls it down because we had a return set up and he just threw it down and ran right behind the defenders.“

The Bears put the game away in the fourth. Linwood’s 1-yard TD run and Corey Coleman’s 30-yard touchdown catch made it 28-0.

Texas avoided the shutout when Gray scored with 2:14 to play.

Game Notes

Goodley caught four passes for 69 yards ... Malcolm Brown carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards for Texas ... Baylor committed 10 penalties for 95 yards.


►  Sooner, rather than later: TCU knocks off No. 4 Oklahoma

Trevone Boykin threw for 318 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as No. 25 TCU knocked off fourth-ranked Oklahoma, 37-33, on Saturday.

Boykin ended up 20-of-38 passing while contributing 77 yards on 22 carries for the Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0 Big 12), who posted their first-ever win on their home field against Oklahoma in their sixth try.

“It was a fantastic win for the University. Not just our football team, but the whole school was behind us,“ said Boykin. “I want to give a big shout-out to our fans for staying the whole game and making our home field advantage something important. We had to start off quick because you can’t play around when you’re playing schools like this. We put the 14 points up and should have kept the pressure on them.“

B.J. Catalon posted a rushing and receiving TD apiece, while Deante’ Gray added a touchdown reception and Kolby Listenbee racked up 103 yards on five grabs.

Samaje Perine crossed the goal line three more times, though racking up just 87 yards on 25 carries for the Sooners (4-1, 1-1), who saw their eight-game winning streak halted.

Trevor Knight was just 14-of-35 for 309 yards and threw two costly interceptions. He also added 61 yards on 13 attempts in defeat.

Sterling Shepard accounted for a game-high 215 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven receptions for Oklahoma, which faces Texas in the Red River Shootout next Saturday in Dallas.

“We knew it was going to be a big challenge. The bottom line is they made plays and we didn’t,“ noted OU head coach Bob Stoops. “They outpreformed us in different areas. We had our opportunities and chances late in the second half and we couldn’t take advantage of it.“

Up by only four, things looked bleak for TCU with just over seven minutes to play as Boykin fumbled on a first-down rush, with Eric Striker recovering and running to the hosts’ 21. Two plays later, Knight was picked off again, this time by Chris Hackett. On the next play, though, Catalon fumbled and the Sooners took over on the hosts’ 46 thanks to the strip and scoop by Geneo Grissom.

The TCU defense held on a 4th-and-1 from its own 22, stopping Perine short of the marker with 3:08 to go. Oklahoma got the ball back with under a minute left and reached just past midfield when Knight’s heave landed beyond the back of the end zone as time ran out.

“You have a big play for a touchdown and then we tried to give it back with a blocked PAT for goodness sakes. That was a big deal,“ said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. “They had to use their timeouts early and that was a big point in the ball game. We had to keep mixing up coverages and doing some stuff. You have to have a little luck with all of it.“

TCU capitalized on the opening drive of the contest, as Cliff Murphy recovered a fumble by Boykin—who stretched his arm out to the goal line before losing control of the ball—in the end zone.

Catalon held onto the ball to make it 14-0 on the hosts’ ensuing series, rolling in from seven yards out, but Oklahoma made good on its next two touches on a 1-yard run from Perine and a 75-yard catch-and-run from Knight to Shepard.

Boykin and Catalon hooked up for a 39-yard scoring strike and TCU was back on top early in the second quarter by a 21-14 count.

Perine’s second 1-yard TD run deadlocked the contest once more, then a 31-yard make from Jaden Oberkrom with 1:39 left in the half provided a 24-21 edge to the Frogs.

Michael Hunnicutt’s 32-yard try was good on the final play of the quarter.

Perine’s third score of the afternoon, a 7-yard run, capped the Sooners’ first touch of the second half, pushing the visitors ahead 31-24. TCU responded right away on a 29-yard strike from Boykin to Gray.

Early in the fourth, Knight threw right into the hands of Paul Dawson, who returned it 41 yards for a 37-31 game, then the extra point was blocked and returned by Zack Sanchez for a two-point conversion.

Game Notes

The Horned Frogs claimed a 469-461 edge in total offense ... Oklahoma’s last loss was a 41-12 road shellacking doled out by Baylor on November 7, 2013 ... TCU had suffered home losses to the Sooners in 1946 (14-12), 1948 (21-18), 1993 (35-3), 1998 (10-9) and 2012 (24-17).


►  Waters shines as K-State blitzes Texas Tech

Jake Waters accounted for five Kansas State touchdowns, including four through the air, as the 23rd-ranked Wildcats torched Texas Tech, 45-13, on Saturday.

Waters ended up 24-of-31 for 290 yards passing, and racked up 105 yards on 17 carries for the Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 Big 12), who have scored at least 30 points in all of their 2014 victories.

Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett each caught a pair of TD passes, with the former totaling 128 yards on nine grabs and the latter contributing 125 yards on a game-high 12 catches.

Davis Webb completed 22-of-43 attempts for 247 yards and two scores for the Red Raiders (2-3, 0-2), who have dropped three in a row. Webb also was picked off a career-worst four times.

Jakeem Grant recorded 90 yards and two TDs on seven receptions, while DeAndre Washington was limited to 27 yards on seven rushes.

Morgan Burns picked off Webb in the end zone on the first possession of the contest, then Waters found Sexton for a 48-yard TD connection on the eighth play of the ensuing drive for the only score of the opening quarter.

Waters put the hosts up 14-0 early in the second on his 4-yard run, then after Travis Green stepped in front of another Webb offering, Matthew McCrane’s 27- yard field goal boosted K-State’s lead to 17.

Webb and Grant combined for a 22-yard scoring pass on the Red Raiders’ next touch, and the hosts ended the first half up 24-7 as Lockett added a 15-yard TD catch.

Waters was stopped for no gain on 4th-and-1 from the TTU 21 to start the second half, but the visitors followed with a three-and-out ahead of Lockett’s 14-yard touchdown catch in the third put the Wildcats up 31-7 after three quarters.

Grant posted a 19-yard scoring reception early in the fourth but the conversion pass failed.

The Wildcats turned around and scored on their next two series, with Sexton recording a 3-yard TD grab to cap an eight-play drive, then DeMarcus Robinson’s 2-yard run to paydirt.

Game Notes

Kansas State has won each of the last four meetings, but only seven of the 15 all-time matchups with Texas Tech ... Lockett now has 21 touchdown receptions, third place on KSU’s all-time list, and his 11th performance of 100-or-more receiving yards set a new program mark, eclipsing the previous record held by Jordy Nelson and Quincy Morgan ... The Red Raiders defense sacked Waters three times in defeat.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  TOP-25 COLLEGE SCORES

Final Score: (1) Florida State 43, Wake Forest 3

Jameis Winston threw for 297 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, and No. 1 Florida State overcame another slow start before rolling to a 43-3 victory over Wake Forest at Doak Campbell Stadium. After rallying from a 17-point first-quarter deficit to topple North Carolina State a week ago, the Seminoles (5-0, 3-0 ACC) ripped off 40 unanswered points to turn a game that was tied at 3-3 late in the opening half into an all-out rout. Florida State got contributions from all phases in its 21st consecutive win. Winston threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Travis Rudolph and ran for a score, Roberto Aguayo tied a school record by drilling five field goals and a stifling defense forced three turnovers while limiting the Demon Deacons to 126 total yards. Winston made good on 23- of-39 throws with an interception, while Mario Pender rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. John Wolford managed a mere 58 passing yards on a 9-of-15 completion rate and was intercepted once for Wake Forest (2-4, 0-2) before being removed in the second half. Dezmond Wortham ran for 68 yards on 12 attempts in the loss.


Final Score: (11) Ole Miss 23, (3) Alabama 17

Bo Wallace’s 10-yard touchdown to Jaylen Walton proved to be the difference as No. 11 Ole Miss took down third-ranked Alabama, 23-17, in an SEC West battle at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Wallace finished with 251 yards and three touchdowns to help the Rebels (5-0, 2-0 SEC) snap a 10-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss is 5-0 for the first time since 1962, when it went 10-0 and claimed a share of the national title that season. Laquon Treadwell and Vince Sanders each hauled in a touchdown pass from Wallace, while Evan Engram paced the hosts with 71 yards receiving. Blake Sims converted 19-of-31 passes for 228 yards with a rushing touchdown and an interception. T.J. Yeldon had 123 yards rushing on 20 carries for Alabama (4-1, 1-1).


Final Score: (25) TCU 37, (4) Oklahoma 33

Trevone Boykin threw for 318 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as No. 25 TCU knocked off fourth-ranked Oklahoma, 37-33, on Saturday. Boykin ended up 20-of-38 passing while contributing 77 yards on 22 attempts for the Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0 Big 12), who posted their first-ever win on their home field against Oklahoma in their sixth try. B.J. Catalon posted a rushing and receiving TD apiece, while Deante Gray added a touchdown reception and Kolby Listenbee racked up 103 yards on five grabs. Samaje Perine crossed the goal line three more times, though racking up just 78 yards on 25 carries for the Sooners (4-1, 1-1), who saw their eight-game winning streak halted. Trevor Knight was just 14-of-35 for 309 yards and threw two costly interceptions. He also added 61 yards on 13 attempts in defeat. Sterling Shepard accounted for a game-high 215 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven receptions for Oklahoma.


Final Score: (5) Auburn 41, (15) LSU 7

If there is such a thing as a revenge game, No. 5 Auburn sure had one against No. 15 LSU on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Nick Marshall accounted for four touchdowns to lead Auburn to a 41-7 rout of LSU and help avenge the program’s only regular-season loss last season. Marshall passed for 207 yards with two touchdowns and also ran for 119 yards with two scores for Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC), which lost 35-21 at LSU last season. Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 126 yards on 24 carries and Sammie Coates hauled in four passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in the win. A big reason LSU (4-2, 0-2) struggled throughout the evening was because of its faulty quarterback play. Freshman Brandon Harris, who made his first collegiate start, went 3-for-14 for 58 yards in just over two quarters. Anthony Jennings replaced Harris in the third and didn’t perform much better, completing 5-of-10 passes for 84 yards. Kenny Hilliard’s rushing touchdown accounted for the only LSU score.


Final Score: (12) Mississippi State 48, (6) Texas A&M 31

Dak Prescott solidified himself as a true Heisman Trophy candidate and his 12th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs emerged as a contender in the powerful SEC on Saturday with a thorough 48-31 victory over No. 6 Texas A&M at Davis Wade Stadium. Prescott completed 19- of-25 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 77 yards with three scores, while Josh Robinson added 107 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 SEC). Mississippi State extended its winning streak to eight games dating back to last year. The Bulldogs have won their first five games for the second time in three seasons, although the 2012 team was 7-0 before losing five of its last six. This year’s Bulldog squad appears to be for real, winning consecutive games against top-10 teams for the first time in school history. They were idle last week after winning at then-No. 8 LSU for the first time since 1991. Another test against a ranked foe awaits next week when Auburn visits Scott Field. Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill struggled for most of the first half, then turned it on in the second half and finished with 365 yards passing. He threw four touchdown passes, but was also intercepted three times. The Aggies (5-1, 2-1), who had a six-game winning streak stopped, were trying for their first 6-0 start since the 1994 team opened with seven victories en route to a 10-0-1 season.


Final Score: (7) Baylor 28, Texas 7

Bryce Petty threw two touchdown passes and the seventh-ranked Baylor Bears shook off a sluggish first half in a 28-7 rout of the Texas Longhorns. Petty completed 7-of-22 passes for 111 yards for the Bears (5-0, 2-0 Big 12), who have started 5-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1916 and 1917. Shock Linwood carried the ball 28 times for 148 yards and a score for Baylor, which entered Saturday’s game leading the FBS in scoring offense (56.8 ppg) and total offense (641.0 ypg). The Bears were limited to 390 yards of total offense. Tyrone Swoopes connected on 15-of-33 passes for 142 yards and two interceptions for the Longhorns (2-3, 1-1). He also carried the ball 13 times for 38 yards. Johnathan Gray rushed for 81 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.


Final Score: Utah 30, (8) UCLA 28

Phillips kicked a 29-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining to give Utah a 30-28 upset win over No. 8 UCLA on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. Utah didn’t trail until late in the fourth quarter, when UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley went up top and found Eldridge Massington for a 40-yard touchdown to make it 28-27 in favor of the home team. Devontae Booker led Utah down the field on the decisive possession, with his 15-yard run on 3rd-and-4 from the UCLA 32 setting up Phillips’ kick. Booker carried a career-high 33 times for 156 yards. Mobile QB Kendal Thompson relieved starter Travis Wilson early on and ignited Utah’s offense. The transfer from Oklahoma completed 10-of-13 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown and ran for 83 yards. Utah (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) beat an AP top-10 team on the road for just the second time in school history.


Final Score: (9) Notre Dame 17, (14) Stanford 14

Golson struggled with the cold, wet elements at Notre Dame Stadium for 57 minutes. But not the final three. Golson tossed a go-ahead 23-yard touchdown pass to Ben Koyack with 1:01 remaining and No. 9 Notre Dame beat No. 14 Stanford 17-14 on Saturday. Golson, who set a Notre Dame (5-0) record with 25 straight completions during a 31-15 win over Syracuse last Saturday, wasn’t as accurate in this one. He skipped throws, overthrew some open receivers and threw behind targets, finishing 20-of-43 for 241 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble. Despite all that, though, Golson still found a way to drive the Fighting Irish down the field for the winning score to help improve Notre Dame to 5-0 for just the third time since 1996.


Final Score: (10) Michigan State 27, (19) Nebraska 22

After taking a huge lead into the fourth quarter, No. 10 Michigan State had to fight for its life to pull out a 27-22 win over 19th-ranked Nebraska on Saturday night at Spartan Stadium. Tony Lippett caught a touchdown pass and ran in another for MSU (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten), which led 27-3 through 45 minutes before the upset-minded Cornhuskers began chipping away. Ameer Abdullah, the nation’s leading rusher coming into the game, was held in check on the ground but scored two rushing touchdowns in the final period. De’Mornay Pierson-El added a punt return touchdown and after Spartans kicker Michael Geiger hit the left upright with a field goal try, Nebraska took over with 1:07 remaining at its own 20. Tommy Armstrong Jr. fired a strike to Alonzo Moore down the right sideline for 43 yards into MSU territory. Armstrong looked for Moore again on the next play, nearly connecting with the sophomore receiver in the back of the end zone, but the ball popped free from Moore as he went to the ground. Armstrong was intercepted by Trae Waynes on the very next play. Connor Cook completed 11- of-29 passes for 234 yards, a touchdown and an interception during an uneven performance under center for the Spartans, who beat Nebraska for the second straight season. Jeremy Langford carried 29 times for 111 yards and a score. The Cornhuskers (5-1, 1-1) were the last unbeaten team in the Big Ten.


Final Score: (13) Georgia 44, Vanderbilt 17

Todd Gurley ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, helping 13th-ranked Georgia beat Vanderbilt 44-17 on Saturday. Hutson Mason threw two touchdown passes to Chris Conley as the Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) won their third straight game. Mason was 11-of-17 for 121 yards with one interception. Ralph Webb and Dallas Rivers both had a touchdown run for the Commodores (1-5, 0-4), who defeated the Bulldogs last year to snap a six-game losing streak in the series.


Final Score: Arizona State 38, (16) Southern California 34

Prayer answered. Jaelen Strong caught a 46-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown on the final play of the game and Arizona State shocked No. 16 Southern California 38-34 on Saturday night. Mike Bercovici, filling in for an injured Taylor Kelly, capped his 510-yard passing night by tossing his third TD pass to Strong, who leapt in front of USC’s Hayes Pullard at the goal line to give Arizona State its first win at the Coliseum since 1999. The Sun Devils scored the final 13 points after Javorius Allen’s 53-yard TD run gave the Trojans a 34-25 lead with 3:02 left. Bercovici completed 27-of-45 passes and tossed five touchdowns, while Strong hauled in 10 receptions for 202 yards for the Sun Devils (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12), who was thrashed by UCLA 62-27 last Thursday. The Trojans was the only team in the FBS that had not surrendered a touchdown pass coming in. Allen carried the ball 29 times for 143 yards and two scores and added 86 yards on four catches. Cody Kessler was 28-of-45 for 273 yards and Nelson Agholor posted 85 yards on nine receptions for USC (3-2, 2-1), which has dropped two of its last three games.


Final Score: Northwestern 20, (17) Wisconsin 14

Godwin Igwebuike had three timely interceptions, leading Northwestern to a 20-14 upset of No. 17 Wisconsin on Saturday. Trevor Siemian threw for 182 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-29 passing and Justin Jackson rushed for a career-high 162 yards on 33 carries for the Wildcats (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten), who won their second straight conference game after defeating Penn State last week. Miles Shuler rushed for a score and Dan Vitale hauled in a touchdown pass in the win. Joel Stave went 8-of-19 for 114 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions after coming on late in the first half for starter Tanner McEvoy, who threw for just 24 yards with an interception. Melvin Gordon racked up a career- high 259 rushing yards on 27 carries with a touchdown for Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1), which has lost four straight to Northwestern on the road.


Final Score: (20) Ohio State 52, Maryland 24

J.T. Barrett threw four touchdown passes and ran for a score, as 20th-ranked Ohio State spoiled Maryland’s first home game in the Big Ten with a 52-24 victory on Saturday at Byrd Stadium. Barrett completed 18-of-23 passes for 267 yards and ran for 71 yards on 16 carries for the Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten), who played their conference opener and have now won 17 consecutive regular-season Big Ten games. Ezekiel Elliott added 139 yards on the ground for Ohio State, which racked up 269 rushing yards. The Buckeyes have won three straight in convincing fashion, cracking the 50-point barrier in each game, since a stunning 35-21 home loss to Virginia Tech in early September. Caleb Rowe threw for 173 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions for Maryland (4-2, 1-1), which won its Big Ten opener last week at Indiana. Rowe played the second half for the Terrapins after starter C.J. Brown threw for just 71 yards with an interception in the opening 30 minutes.


Final Score: (21) Oklahoma State 37, Iowa State 20

Roland ran for two touchdowns to lead the 21st-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys over the Iowa State Cyclones, 37-20, on Saturday. Roland carried the ball 19 times for 95 yards for the Cowboys (4-1, 2-0 Big 12), who have posted double-digit wins in four straight games since a loss to defending national champion Florida State in the season opener. Daxx Garman completed 26-of-41 passes for 271 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for Oklahoma State. Jhajuan Seales caught four passes for 75 yards and a score. Sam Richardson connected on 17-of-39 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns for the Cyclones (1-4, 0-3), who have lost two in a row. He also carried the ball nine times for 34 yards. E.J. Bibbs caught six passes for 69 yards and two scores in defeat.


Final Score: (22) East Carolina 45, SMU 24

Shane Carden threw three of his four touchdown passes to Justin Hardy and the 22nd-ranked East Carolina Pirates cruised past the SMU Mustangs, 45-24, in their first-ever American Athletic Conference game. Carden completed 31-of-41 passes for 410 yards for the Pirates (4-1, 1-0 AAC), who have won three in a row. He also carried the ball seven times for 47 yards. Hardy caught eight passes for 120 yards and Isaiah Jones hauled in nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Garrett Krstich connected on 42-of-67 passes for 339 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Mustangs (0-5, 0-1), who entered the contest with just 12 points in four games. Darius Joseph caught 13 passes for 100 yards and two scores in defeat.


Final Score: (23) Kansas State 45, Texas Tech 13

Jake Waters accounted for five Kansas State touchdowns, including four through the air, as the 23rd-ranked Wildcats torched Texas Tech, 45-13, on Saturday. Waters ended up 24-of-31 for 290 yards passing, and racked up 105 yards on 17 carries for the Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 Big 12), who have scored at least 30 points in all of their 2014 victories. Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett each caught a pair of TD passes, with the former totaling 128 yards on nine grabs and the latter contributing 125 yards on a game-high 12 catches. Davis Webb completed 22-of-43 attempts for 247 yards and two scores for the Red Raiders (2-3, 0-2), who have dropped three in a row. Webb also was picked off a career-worst four times. Jakeem Grant recorded 90 yards and two TDs on seven receptions, while DeAndre Washington was limited to 27 yards on seven rushes.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Jags activate WR Sanders

The Jacksonville Jaguars activated wide receiver/punt returner Ace Sanders to the 53-man roster on Saturday.

Sanders missed the first four games of the season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

The South Carolina product caught 51 passes for 484 yards and one touchdown during his rookie season in 2013.

Sanders is eligible to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Jaguars, however, will be without rookie wide receiver Marqise Lee and wide receiver Cecil Shorts.

Jacksonville waived tight end Mickey Shuler to make room for Sanders on the roster.


►  Bironas’ blood-alcohol level .218 at time of accident

Former Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas had a blood-alcohol level of .218 at the time of his fatal car accident last month.

Bironas was killed in a single-car accident on the night of September 20 near his home in Nashville.

The day after the accident, the Nashville.gov website said there was no evidence of alcohol or drug involvement at the scene.

However, the Davidson County medical examiner’s autopsy report said toxicology testing showed the blood-alcohol content to be exceedingly high at .218. In Tennessee, a driver is considered legally under the influence at .08.

In addition, the autopsy report said a low level of valium was also detected, although it would have had no negligible effect on Bironas’ body.

The report concluded that Bironas died from blunt force trauma after he lost control of his SUV, which traveled off the side of the road and struck a line of trees before coming to rest upside down.

Bironas, who was released by the Titans in March after nine seasons with the club, was 36 years old.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Big 12 preseason honor drives Staten to reach more goals

After Thursday’s announcement that Big 12 basketball coaches had voted him preseason player of the year, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten rewound his thoughts to the start of last year.

That’s when Staten was not a candidate for any preseason accolades. When some questioned whether he had the guts and poise to run a team.

Staten buried those doubts, emerging as an all-conference performer and one of the nation’s most cherished point guards. Few teams depended on a player as much as West Virginia relied on Staten. His 37 minutes per game led the Big 12 and revealed a deepened trust with coach Bob Huggins after the two survived some rocky moments during Staten’s sophomore season.

Other coaches across the league showed their respect for Staten this week, making him a unanimous selection to the preseason team.

“It just makes me hungrier,” Staten told MetroNews “Sportsline” on Thursday night. “It makes me want to keep working and reach more goals.”

As preseason practice opens Friday, Staten is the Big 12′s top returning scorer (18.1 points per game). His 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked second in the league and his 48.6 field-goal percentage was third, but he said he “wants to become a compete point guard,” which means becoming a credible threat from 3-point range.

“Everyone’s going to say stop him from getting to the rim and make him shoot outside shots,” Staten said. “They tried to do that to me last year. So that’s why I’ve been working hard on my shooting.”

After going 0-of-9 from 3-point range as a sophomore, Staten was 6-of-15 last season. That’s a 40-percent clip that would render defenders useless if Staten can maintain the accuracy over a few more attempts.

Preseason All-Big 12
Juwan Staten, G, West Virginia
Perry Ellis, F, Kansas
Georges Niang, F/C, Iowa State
Marcus Foster, G, Kansas State
Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma

Honorable mentions: Ryan Spangler (Oklahoma), Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Jonathan Holmes (Texas), Cameron Ridley (Texas) and Isaiah Taylor (Texas).

Preseason Newcomer of the Year
Bryce Dejean-Jones (Iowa State)

Preseason Freshmen of the Year
Cliff Alexander (Kansas) and Myles Turner (Texas) tied



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lakers’ Young sidelined with thumb injury

Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young will undergo surgery to have a torn thumb ligament repaired.

Young was hurt in practice earlier this week and an MRI exam on Friday revealed a complete tear of the radial collateral ligament.

Dr. Steven Shin of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic will perform surgery on Monday. A timetable for Young’s return will then be established.

Young re-signed with the Lakers in July after averaging a career-high 17.9 points in 64 games last season, his first with the club.

The 29-year-old Los Angeles native has averaged 12.2 points in 480 career games with the Wizards, Clippers, 76ers and Lakers.


►  Warriors ink Kapono

The Golden State Warriors signed guard/forward Jason Kapono on Saturday.

Kapono last appeared in the NBA with the Lakers during the 2011-12 season, and last played professionally in Greece in 2012-13.

The 33-year-old UCLA product owns career NBA averages of 6.7 points and 1.7 rebounds in 509 games (87 starts) with Cleveland, Charlotte, Miami, Toronto, Philadelphia and the Lakers. He ranks fifth all-time on the league’s three- point percentage list, hitting at a career 43.4 percent clip.

Kapono won an NBA championship as a member of the Heat in 2005-06.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  National League Division Series Game Results

Final Score: San Francisco 2, Washington 1 (18 innings)

As it turned out, the San Francisco Giants had the Washington Nationals right where they wanted them. Pablo Sandoval’s RBI double tied the game with two outs in the ninth inning, and Brandon Belt’s solo homer in the 18th gave the never-say-die Giants a 2-1 victory over the Nationals in an epic Game 2 of the National League Division Series. Belt’s leadoff blast off Tanner Roark (0-1) produced the deciding run in the longest game by time in postseason history, and staked the Giants to a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series with ace Madison Bumgarner set to take the mound when the set shifts to San Francisco for Monday’s Game 3. He was just one of a number of heroes in the Giants’ 10th consecutive postseason triumph, seven of which have come with the club facing elimination. Sandoval’s double down the left-field line against Drew Storen set the stage for the six- hour, 23-minute marathon, while Yusmeiro Petit held the Nationals to a single hit over six scoreless innings in a splendid performance out of the bullpen. Petit (1-0) walked three batters but struck out seven while matching zeroes with several Washington relievers in extra time.


Final Score: Los Angeles 3, St. Louis 2

Matt Kemp was calling for a fair ball not long after his manager called for a new arm. The Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder got his wish, hitting a dramatic home run on Saturday night that tied the best-of-five National League Division Series at one game apiece and made Don Mattingly’s decision to pull Zack Greinke an afterthought. Kemp’s leadoff blast in the bottom of the eighth lifted the Dodgers to a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 and came after the Cardinals tied the score on Matt Carpenter’s two-run homer in the top of the inning. Carpenter homered off J.P. Howell, who was brought in to relieve Greinke while the former AL Cy Young Award winner was warming up to start the eighth. Greinke had given up just two hits—the same number he had for the Dodgers—but Mattingly opted to go for a lefty-lefty matchup when Oscar Taveras was announced as a pinch- hitter. Taveras singled and Carpenter sent a first-pitch sinker into the right-center field seats. His tying hit came a day after Carpenter played the hero in Game 1 with four RBI, including a three-run double in an eight-run seventh inning that chased Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and sent the St. Louis to a 10-9 win. Kemp saved the day for the NL West champions, belting a slider from side-armer Pat Neshek (0-1) high into the air toward the left-field pole. Like Boston’s Carlton Fisk in the 1975 World Series, Kemp pleaded with the ball while it was in the air, calling for it to stay fair, then celebrated around first base when it complied. Game 3 is Monday in St. Louis, with Cardinals right-hander John Lackey facing Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu.


►  American League Division Series Game Results

Final Score: Baltimore 7, Detroit 6

Young hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead three-run double as part of a four-run eighth inning and the Orioles rallied past the Tigers, 7-6, in Game 2 of the American League Division Series to put them on the brink of elimination. Baltimore has now scored 12 runs in the eighth over the first two games of the set after plating eight during Thursday’s 12-3 Game 1 win. The Orioles trailed 6-3 before Joba Chamberlain got Alejandro De Aza to ground out to start the eighth, but it was the only out he’d record. Chamberlain hit Adam Jones with a pitch and consecutive singles by Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce brought home Jones. Joakim Soria (0-1) took over on the mound and walked J.J. Hardy to load the bases. A first-pitch-swinging Young then ripped a slider down the left-field line to clear the bases. Hardy was just able to slide past catcher Alex Avila to beat Ian Kinsler’s throw to the plate. Young, the 2012 ALCS MVP while with the Tigers, is a career .271 hitter (32-of-118) with nine homers and 21 RBI in the postseason. Zach Britton fired a 1-2-3 ninth for his first postseason save. Baltimore will look for the series sweep Sunday in Detroit. The Tigers will trot out the third of their three straight AL Cy Young Award winners in David Price.


Final Score: Kansas City 4, LA Angels of Anaheim 1 (11 innings)

Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning to break a tie and the Kansas City Royals beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 in Game 2 of their AL Division Series on Friday night. The Royals take a 2-0 series lead back to Kansas City with a chance to close it out in Game 3 on Sunday after getting dramatic wins on consecutive nights in Anaheim. They took Game 1 on Mike Moustakas’ home run in the 11th inning after beating Oakland in 12 innings in Tuesday’s wild-card game. How rare is this run? The Royals are the first team ever to start the playoffs with three straight wins in extra innings, and the first ever to play three postseason games in a row of 11 innings or more. Hosmer’s homer to right came off Kevin Jepsen (0-1) after Lorenzo Cain hit a single, giving the Royals a 3-1 lead. Salvador Perez added an RBI single off Vinnie Pestano and Greg Holland stranded a runner in the bottom of the inning for the save. Albert Pujols had an RBI single in the sixth inning to tie the score for the Angels, but probable AL MVP Mike Trout remained hitless in his first two postseason games.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Carcillo returns to Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks and forward Daniel Carcillo have agreed to terms of a one-year contract.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Carcillo played for the Blackhawks from 2011-13 and was a member of the club’s Stanley Cup championship team in the spring of 2013. He was released by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday after attending camp on a tryout basis.

The 29-year-old veteran split the 2013-14 season with the Kings and Rangers, ironically the two Stanley Cup finalists last spring. He notched four goals and one assist with 100 penalty minutes in a combined 57 regular-season games, then added two goals in eight Stanley Cup playoff games for the Eastern Conference champion Rangers.

In 390 career NHL games, Carcillo has 44 goals and 92 points with 1,179 penalty minutes. In addition to the Blackhawks, Kings and Rangers, he has also played for the Coyotes (2006-09) and Flyers (2009-11).

Carcillo was originally selected in the third round of the 2003 draft by the Penguins.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Vettel leaving Red Bull at the end of 2014 season

Four-time consecutive Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel confirmed on Saturday that he will leave Red Bull at the conclusion of this season.

Vettel, a 27-year-old German who has been competing in F1 since 2007, is expected to join Ferrari for the 2015 season. Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen currently drive for Ferrari, but Alonso is widely rumored to either move back to McLaren or possibly head over to Red Bull.

In making his announcement, Vettel said on his personal website, “After 15 very enjoyable and successful years with Red Bull, I have decided to leave Red Bull at the end of this year. Of course it is a big step and hard to make such a decision. The chance to drive in F1, the first win with Scuderia Toro Rosso (2008 Italian Grand Prix), the four championship wins with Infiniti Red Bull Racing and many other great memories have bound Red Bull and myself together into a kind of family. No one can take these times away from us.“

Vettel also noted on his website that an announcement of his future plans will be made “very soon.“

On Friday night, Vettel informed Red Bull of his decision. Red Bull then announced on Saturday that Daniil Kvyat will join the team and pair with Daniel Ricciardo next season. Kvyat, a Russian, is a rookie in F1 this year, driving for Toro Rosso, the sister team of Red Bull.

Vettel has been driving for Red Bull since the start of the 2009 season, winning 38 grand prix and scoring 44 poles in his six seasons with the team. Vettel and Red Bull have claimed the F1 drivers’ and constructors’ championships the past four years.

Red Bull said in a statement, “We want to warmly thank Sebastian for the incredible role he has played at Infiniti Red Bull Racing for the last six years. Since joining the team in 2009, Sebastian, together with Infiniti Red Bull Racing, has scored 38 wins, 44 poles and eight world championships, including four divers’ titles and four constructors’. If you include Sebastian’s success at Red Bull’s second team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Red Bull total increases to 39 wins and 45 poles.

“As we wish Sebastian well in the next stage of his career, we also look to the future with excitement, as the vacancy makes way for the next generation of Red Bull racers. The Red Bull Junior Program has developed some proven talents in recent times, including Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, who has excelled in the RB10 and become a three-time Formula One race winner in his first season with the team.

“We’re pleased to announce that Daniel will be joined in the team for 2015 by another rising star from the junior program, Daniil Kvyat.“

Vettel has yet to win a race or a pole this season. His best finish of the year occurred two weeks ago with a second-place run in the Singapore Grand Prix. He is presently fifth in the F1 world championship point standings (117 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes). Last year, Vettel tied Michael Schumacher’s season-record of 13 wins and matched Alberto Ascari’s record of nine consecutive victories.

“I know (Vettel) well on and off track, and you can see he’s had a lot on his mind recently,“ Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told reporters on Saturday, prior to qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. “Inevitably, you don’t take a decision like this lightly, but it was last night that he sat down with us and told us for the first time. All I can do is wish him the very, very best for the future. He’ll still be close to our hearts here at Infiniti Red Bull Racing, but as of January 1, he’ll be a competitor.“

Kvyat’s promotion to Red Bull opens up a seat at Toro Rosso for next year. Rookie Max Verstappen, a 17-year-old who is now competing in the FIA European F3 Championship, is already confirmed with Toro Rosso for the ‘15 season.


►  Rosberg tops Hamilton for Japanese GP pole

Nico Rosberg from Mercedes will start on the pole for the Japanese Grand Prix after beating his teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton in Saturday’s qualifying.

Rosberg, who is currently three points behind Hamilton in the Formula One world championship point standings, grabbed the top starting position for Sunday’s 53-lap Japanese GP with a qualifying lap in 1 minute, 32.506 seconds. His lap time was 0.197 seconds quicker than Hamilton.

It was Rosberg’s eighth pole of the season and the 12th of his F1 career, including his first at Japan’s Suzuka Circuit. He topped the time charts in Friday’s opening practice session and then led the way in Saturday’s final practice, held shortly before qualifying.

“It was a real pleasure today, because the car is so amazing to drive and on this track, which is one of the most spectacular to drive in qualifying, low fuel, the tire grip and everything,“ Rosberg said. “It was really cool.“

The Japanese GP is likely to be a wet and windy affair. Heavy rain and strong winds associated with Typhoon Phanfone is in the forecast for Suzuka on Sunday.

“We’re expecting it to be wet,“ Rosberg noted. “The last experience we have in the wet was Spa (August 24 Belgian Grand Prix) where our car was really quick, so I’m very optimistic actually. Even if it rains, it could be even better for us.“

There are five grand prix remaining this season. F1 will be in Sochi, Russia next week for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton crashed during the morning practice session when he ran over the exit curb in turn 1 and then spun into the outer wall, tearing off the left-front wheel on his Mercedes. His team quickly repaired the car in time for qualifying.

“Nico was extremely quick today,“ Hamilton said. “I did the best I could. My guys did a fantastic job to rebuild the car after I binned it, so a big thank you for their hard work. Just wasn’t really feeling it today. Don’t know why. It was still fast, but Nico was fantastically fast today. But tomorrow is the day when you get the points, so I’m looking forward to all the different tricky weather that perhaps will come.“

Hamilton has won the last two grand prix (Italy and Singapore) after starting on the pole in both of those races.

Valtteri Bottas qualified third, while his Williams teammate, Felipe Massa, took the fourth spot. Fernando Alonso from Ferrari was fifth.

Earlier in the day, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull both confirmed that Vettel will be leaving the team at the end of the 2014 season. Vettel, the four-time F1 world champion, is expected to join Ferrari for next year.

“It felt very hard, because I am not leaving due to any issues,“ Vettel said. “It clearly is a decision for something new and not against the existing. But then you have to follow your inner voice. And that is not automatically the easier decision. I hope it is the right one, and that wherever it takes me I will be happy with it.“

Vettel qualified ninth. He has won the Japanese GP four times in the last five years, including victories in 2012 and ‘13.

Vettel’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, will start sixth, followed by McLaren drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Djokovic cruises past Murray to reach Beijing final

Novak Djokovic easily took care of Andy Murray to reach the final at the $2.5 million China Open.

Top-seeded Djokovic got past the sixth-seeded Murray, 6-3, 6-4, to improve to 23-0 at Beijing Olympic Green Tennis Center.

Djokovic, the reigning two-time Beijing champ, now leads Murray 14-8 in the all-time series between the two tennis stars.

The Serb will meet the winner of third-seeded 2011 China Open champ Tomas Berdych and qualifier Martin Klizan.

The 2014 Beijing champion will collect $604,000.


►  Raonic, Nishikori to meet in Tokyo final

Two-time finalist Milos Raonic and Japanese native Kei Nishikori each advanced to the final at the $1.2 million Japan Open Tennis Championships.

The third-seeded Canadian star Raonic easily dispatched Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-4 to secure his third straight berth in the final at this tournament. Raonic lost to Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in last year’s finale.

Nishikori, the world No. 7, had a much more difficult time beating German Benjamin Becker. The 2012 Tokyo titlist battled his way past Becker 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-2).

Becker evened the third set at 3-3 after being down two games early on, breaking Nishikori before tying up the set on serve. The two then interchanged wins over the next six games to force a tiebreak. Becker stormed out to a 2-1 lead in the tiebreak before Nishikori busted off six straight points to win the match and punch his ticket to the final.

This week’s winner will collect $296,850.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Two Minute Warning - Week 5

Can you believe we’ve already complete a quarter of the 2014 NFL season? For fantasy owners, who play a shorter 12- or 13- game season, we’re even further into the season.

Although this is another “bye week,“ we don’t see it causing many problems for fantasy owners as the two teams watching from the sidelines are Oakland and Miami. Not many fantasy studs on those two rosters.

The weather is beautiful all around the country and does not appear to be a factor in Week 5.

Here is the latest information as we approach game-time. We will continue to update this story as the information changes up to game-time.

Quarterbacks -

Jake Locker, Tennessee - Locker practiced all week and should be a go for Sunday against Cleveland after missing Week 4 due to a wrist injury. That doesn’t mean he’s fantasy worthy, but he is available. He faces a Browns’ pass defense that is ranked 10th in yielding fantasy point to opposing quarterbacks. Update - Locker is active.

Carson Palmer, Arizona - Palmer was declared out earlier this week and Drew Stanton will get another start. Stanton put up decent numbers his last time out against a solid 49ers defense and will have to be at his best Sunday trying to match Peyton Manning and the Broncos. We like him as a fantasy option as Denver’s defense is allowing the second-most points to opposing quarterbacks through the first four games.

Shaun Hill, St. Louis - Coach Jeff Fisher says Hill will play “when healthy” we just don’t know when that will be. Hill or his backup Austin Davis, whichever starts, could have fantasy value against a weak Eagles secondary. Update - Hill is active.

Running Backs -

Arian Foster, Houston - Foster came back last weekend and did very little. He probably wasn’t ready, but the additional week of rest should allow him to produce solid numbers against Dallas. Update - Foster is active.

Bernard Pierce, Baltimore - Pierce should be healthy, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to get enough work to be fantasy worthy. At this point in the season it appears that Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro will see enough time to make all three players non-factors for fantasy owners. Update - pierce is active.

Ben Tate, Cleveland - On Friday even Tate was questioning whether he was ready, so fantasy owners should heed his warning and look elsewhere. Even if he is in uniform and active he’s going to share carries with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. Update - Tate is active.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City - He’s still listed on the injury report, as probable, but he should be back in every fantasy lineup.

Knile Davis, Kansas City - Though he rushed for 109 yards in a blowout win last Monday night, Sunday against San Francisco figures to be a lot closer matchup and Davis is likely to see less opportunities. He’s a flex option ... at best.

Andre Ellington, Arizona - He continues to be limited in practice, but that’s just the team managing his sore foot. He’ll play and should be solid against Denver.

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina - Williams joins Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert leaving only Darrin Reaves and Fozzy Whittaker as running options. We could see Cam Newton do more running than in the first four games. Update - Williams is inactive.

Joique Bell, Detroit - Bell has been declared out and along with Theo Riddick leaves the Lions short-handed in the backfield. Reggie Bush should see the large majority of work and is an RB1 for Week 5.

Wide Receivers -

Calvin Johnson, Detroit - It had been suggested that Megatron might sit this weekend to get completely healthy, but latest rumors have him active for the game with Buffalo. Of course, active and productive are two different things and Johnson could be a decoy again this weekend as he was against the Jets. Golden Tate’s fantasy value rises if Johnson doesn’t play or plays the decoy role. Update - Johnson is active.

Andre Johnson, Houston - Johnson has been dealing with an ankle and earlier in the week we thought there was a chance he might not play. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting he’ll be active, but fantasy owners may have to wait until inactives are announced 45 minutes before game-time. Update - Johnson is active.

Marvin Jones, Cincinnati - Jones has missed practice all this week so the hope of returning for Week 5 has been dashed and fantasy owners will have to wait another game. Mohamed Sanu will be the guy opposite A.J. Green.

Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville - Shorts joins Marqise Lee on the sidelines for the game against Pittsburgh. It’s not all bad news for the Jaguars offense and quarterback Blake Bortles as Ace Sanders returns from a four-game suspension.

Eric Decker, New York Jets - He’ll be a true game-time decision after missing Friday practice. With a late start, it’s a gamble for fantasy owners to have him in the lineup because options will be limited if he ends up being sidelined.

Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh - Wheaton and the Steelers face the worst pass defense in the league and if he’s active he could have low-end fantasy value. He’s been dealing with a groin issue, but is probable. Update - Wheaton is active.

Harry Douglas, Atlanta - Douglas will not play in Week 5 which pushes Devin Hester into the No. 3 role for Atlanta. If your league uses kick return yards, this should be enough to make Hester a viable fantasy option.

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants - Beckham should make his NFL debut Sunday, but the Giants will likely use extreme caution for their prized rookie and he should be on a snap limit. This is a wait-and-see situation and fantasy owners shouldn’t have him in lineups until he starts producing. Update - Beckham is active.

Tight Ends -

Vernon Davis, San Francisco - Davis still holds hope he can play Sunday, but we think it’s a very, very small chance, at best, after he missed three consecutive practices. Vance McDonald and Derek Carrier will share Davis’ workload and neither is a viable option. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson becomes a viable option as the 49ers figure to go more to the three-receiver offense.

Ladarius Green, San Diego - Green (hamstring) isn’t a viable fantasy option, but he might see a few plays which takes value away from Antonio Gates.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee - He’s dealing with a shoulder issue, but is expected to be out there and has been a solid fantasy option all season. He should continue that trend. Update - Walker is active.

Jordan Cameron, Cleveland - like Walker, Cameron is dealing with a shoulder problem which he expected to play with for the rest of the season. he’s practice in full this week and should be a viable fantasy option. Update - Cameron is active.

Kickers -

Matt Prater, Denver - The Broncos cut Prater last week, so fantasy owners holding onto Prater should let him go and find a more useful asset for their roster. Brandon McManus’ value jumped up a few spots.

The Gilmer Free Press


SUNDAY, OCTOBER 05, 2014


National Football League
Chicago at Carolina, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (705)
Tampa Bay at New Orleans, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (706)
Atlanta at NY Giants, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (707)
St. Louis at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (708)
Buffalo at Detroit, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (709)
Houston at Dallas, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (710)
Baltimore at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (711)
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (712)
Cleveland at Tennessee, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (713)
Arizona at Denver, 4:05 PM - FOX, DSS (714)
NY Jets at San Diego, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (715)
Kansas City at San Francisco, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (716)
Cincinnati at New England, 8:30 PM - NBC


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
Baltimore at Detroit, 3:45 PM - TBS
LA Angels at Kansas City, 7:37 PM - TBS


National Basketball Association - Preseason
Tel Aviv Maccabi Electra vs. Cleveland, 6:00 PM - FS-Ohio


National Hockey League - Preseason
Carolina at Washington, 3:00 PM - CSN-DC, NHL Network


Major League Soccer
Seattle at Colorado, 3:00 PM - JOEtv, Altitude, UniMas
Montreal at Chicago, 5:00 PM - TVA Sports, My50-Chicago, DSS
Real Salt Lake at Chivas USA, 7:00 PM - CW30, Time Warner, KDOC, DSS


Women’s International Basketball
Final, 2:00 PM - ESPN 2


International Soccer
Manchester United vs. Everton, 6:55 AM - NBCSN
Chelsea vs. Arsenal, 9:00 AM - NBCSN, OLN
West Ham vs. QPR, 11:05 AM - NBCSN
Juventus FC vs. AS Roma, 11:55 AM - beIN Sport
Real Madrid CF vs. Athletic Club, 2:55 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
EUROPEAN - Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, 7:30 AM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
FORMULA ONE - Japanese Grand Prix, 1:30 AM - NBCSN, OLN
SPRINT CUP - Hollywood Casino 400, 2:00 PM - ESPN

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 6 High School Games Results in the Area

Class A Results

Gilmer County (3-3)  54  at   Tygarts Valley (0-6)  24

South Harrison (3-2)  21  at   Calhoun County (2-4)  0

#7 Doddridge County (4-1)  40  at   Wirt County (0-5)  21

#1 St. Marys (5-0)  20  at   #3 Williamstown (4-2)  18

#16 Tyler Consolidated (4-2)  43  at   #7 Buffalo (4-2)  20


Class AA Results

#3 Ravenswood (5-0)  42  at   #16 Ritchie County (3-3)  9

#4 Bridgeport (5-1)  42  at   Elkins (1-4)  14

#11 Nicholas County (5-1)  25  at   James Monroe (2-4)  19

#13 Liberty - Raleigh (5-1)  41  at   Webster County (2-3)  18

Fayetteville - A (1-4)  12   at   Clay County (4-2)  13

Notre Dame - A (3-2)  41  at   Grafton (3-3)  35

Braxton County (2-4)  13   at   Liberty (Harrison) (4-2)  32

Philip Barbour (1-5)  10  at   Petersburg (0-5)  6

Lincoln County - AAA (0-6)  6   at   Roane County (4-2)  31


Class AAA Results

#16 Buckhannon-Upshur (3-2)  7   at   #11 Lewis County (5-1)  21

#9 Parkersburg South (3-2)  0   at   #3 Point Pleasant (6-0)  49

#5 South Charleston (5-1)  45   at   Parkersburg (2-3)  20



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Matchup vs. KU demands domination

Rarely in the history of Respecting One’s Opponent have comments felt so engineered as West Virginia’s defense praising Montell Cozart this week.

The Kansas sophomore owns a 3-5 record as a starting quarterback (1-5 against power five opponents). He has 81 completions in 178 attempts for a 45-percent clip. He has thrown nine interceptions and five career touchdowns. His mobility—much discussed by the WVU defense this week—has resulted in a 2.4 yards-per-carry average.

Cozart may possess big-play ability. It just hasn’t surfaced much in Kansas’ horrid offense.

“That’s the thing that scares you with him,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “If we’re in any kind of man coverage and he breaks contain, he can take one 60 or 70 yards on you.”

Cozart’s career long run is a 24-yarder.

Yes, he steered Kansas to an upset win over West Virginia last season as a freshman, albeit on 5-of-12 passing for 61 yards. Though Cozart’s 13 carries for 60 yards were timely, his biggest contributions were the 22 handoffs to James Sims.

Still, he’s the opposing quarterback, so all week he garners blarney from the guys who hope to pin him down Saturday.

“He probably throws the ball better on the run than he does sitting in the pocket,” Gibson said. “We can’t bite down on the run until that ball crosses the line of scrimmage.”

Gibson is vigilant because West Virginia (2-2, 0-1) needs to win a conference game in the worst way. It certainly can’t afford to lose a second straight game to a guy who can’t crack the top 10 most efficient quarterbacks in a 10-team league.

Kansas (2-2, 0-1) is winless in 25 straight road games since Sept. 12, 2009, a span in which its offense has flatlined: two shutouts and 11 outputs of 10 points or less.

The Jayhawks have faced two power conference teams this season, Duke and Texas. losing by a combined score of 64-3.

Gibson and his players can’t say it publicly, but this kind of game that demands domination.

More story lines for Saturday’s matchup at Milan Puskar Stadium:

Kickoff: 4 PM (Fox Sports Net)

Line: West Virginia favored by 26

Better than .500? Though both teams enter the game with 2-2 records, Kansas has fired coach Charlie Weis and West Virginia is perceived as an improving program after playing Alabama and Oklahoma tough.

“I think 2-2 is not a very good way to describe this team,” said center Tyler Orlosky. “I think we’re a lot better than that. It’s what we have right now, but the team’s different than a 2-2 record.”

No more Bon Jovi: An immediate move by interim coach Clint Bowen was to change the Jayhawks’ practice music. Gone were the Bon Jovi and Bruce Springstein songs preferred by the Jersey-born Weis, and now the players modernize the playlist with their own picks.

Hyman questionable? Defensive end Dontrill Hyman reportedly is ailing with a knee injury. Whether he is limited or ruled out remains uncertain. He remained listed as the starter on this week’s depth chart, but defensive ends coach Damon Cogdell suggested transfer Shaq Riddick would make his first start for WVU.

Holgorsen didn’t mention Hyman on the early week injury report, and when asked about the player’s health during Thursday night’s call-in show, he essentially dodged the question.

Quotable: What, if anything, was gained from watching film of last year’s 31-19 loss to Kansas? “We can look at how we don’t want to be,” said Spur safety K.J. Dillon. “We can see how far we came since then.”

Different downfield: As Dana Holgorsen reviewed the 2013 Kansas game—the one he said “made me want to puke”—he kept seeing West Virginia miss passing game opportunities. During one stretch, the Mountaineers were held scoreless on 12 consecutive possessions.

“Studying that game from last year, we had zero success on downfield plays. I could give you a bunch of excuses why that was the case, but we had zero,” Holgorsen said. “I think we’re in a much better place right now when it comes to our guys being able to win downfield.”


►  Interim Coach Bowen Ready to Lead Kansas at WVU

When he was a graduate assistant at Kansas, Clint Bowen was on a date at an ice cream shop with his now-wife when she asked him about his goal in life. Trying to impress her, he thought big: He wanted to be the Jayhawks’ head coach.

Two decades later, he has the interim tag, getting appointed after head coach Charlie Weis was fired Sunday. Bowen will lead the Jayhawks (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) for the first time on Saturday when they play at West Virginia (2-2, 0-1).

Bowen grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, played defensive back for the Jayhawks and has spent 16 years on the coaching staff, some of it as defensive coordinator.

He’ll still be making the calls on defense. That knowledge will be put to the test against West Virginia, whose offense has produced a pair of 600-yard games.

“It’s a great challenge, great opportunity for us to head to Morgantown and play a team that’s playing well, playing competitive, and for our guys to go there and get after it and show everyone what our brand of football is going to be,“ Bowen said.

That brand over the next two months could determine whether Bowen will be considered for the job permanently.

Bowen hinted that he’s tweaked both the offense and defense. Kansas had failed to score a touchdown in two of its past three games, including a 23-0 loss to Texas at home last week.

“Everything won’t be the same,“ Bowen said. “We’re going to continue to try and be as creative as we can on both sides of the ball and give our kids a chance.“

One thing’s for sure. Bowen has the backing of his players, as evidenced by the loud, prolonged applause he received when he was introduced at a team meeting Sunday.

“I was really excited that he’s getting this opportunity,“ linebacker Ben Heeney said, “because I think he deserves it.“

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen expects the heavy-underdog Jayhawks to respond positively to the change on the field.

“We are anticipating a Kansas team to come in here to be energetic, enthusiastic and excited to play this football game,“ Holgorsen said. “In addition to that, I doubt they’re going to be very scared of us based on what happened last year. We’ve got our work cut out for us.“

Kansas snapped a 27-game Big 12 losing streak a year ago by beating the Mountaineers 31-19 in Lawrence, Kansas.

___

Here’s some things to know about the Jayhawks and Mountaineers:

KEEPING COZART: Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart has Bowen’s backing despite throwing four interceptions against Texas. “His teammates respect him, his teammates trust him,“ Bowen said. “It’s not always going to be perfect.“

CHOOSE YOUR WEAPONS: West Virginia’s Kevin White leads the Big 12 with 42 receptions for 633 yards, an average of 158 yards per game. Teammate Mario Alford has a team-high four TD catches and has 28 catches for 307 yards. Three other West Virginia receivers have at least 10 catches. Quarterback Clint Trickett leads the Big 12 with 400 passing yards per game.

GROUND CONTROL: Finding holes on the line of scrimmage could be the key for Kansas on offense. The Jayhawks’ De’Andre Mann and freshman Corey Avery rank among the league’s top 10 rushers, while West Virginia is allowing an average of 199 yards on the ground. The Mountaineers have yet to recover an opponent’s fumble, while Kansas has yet to lose a fumble.

SPECIAL TEAMS WOES: West Virginia allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown against Oklahoma, a week after giving up a punt return for a score against Maryland. West Virginia is second-worst nationally on punt returns, allowing 24.3 yards per attempt, and 11th worst on kickoffs, allowing 26 yards per try.

ROAD UNFRIENDLY: Kansas has lost 25 straight road games dating to the 2009 season. On their last trip to Morgantown, the Jayhawks lost to West Virginia 59-10 in 2012.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Broncos Release K Prater

Former Pro Bowl kicker Matt Prater was released by the Denver Broncos on Friday.

Prater, who converted 25-of-26 field goals and set an NFL record with a 64- yard field goal last season, was suspended without pay for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.

The Denver Post reported that the offense was alcohol-related. He has been in the league’s alcohol program since being charged with driving under the influence on August 12, 2011.

Prater was the longest tenured Bronco since being signed from Miami’s practice squad in December of 2007.

“Parting ways with Matt Prater, the longest-tenured player on our roster, was a very difficult football decision,“ Broncos general manager John Elway said. “On behalf of our entire organization, I want to thank Matt for his seven seasons with the Broncos and wish him well going forward.“

Denver will move forward with Brandon McManus at kicker. The rookie from Temple has made all three of his field-goal attempts and has recorded 14 touchbacks on 16 kickoffs.

“Brandon McManus has earned the opportunity to continue kicking for our team with how well he’s played to start the season,“ Elway said. “He has a very strong leg and we have confidence in him on both field goals and kickoffs.“


►  Panthers RB Williams out, RB Stewart doubtful vs. Bears

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Williams was held out of practice this week due to a sprained ankle. Fellow running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) is doubtful.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Friday that running backs Darrin Reaves, Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker will all get carries on Sunday.

Defensive end Charles Johnson (hip) and tight end Ed Dickson (hip) are questionable. Tight end Richie Brockel (ankle) has been ruled out.

Linebacker Thomas Davis (hip) is probable after missing last week’s game against Baltimore.


►  Saints place S Byrd on season-ending IR

The New Orleans Saints have placed starting free safety Jairus Byrd on season-ending injured reserve after he tore his meniscus in Thursday’s practice.

Byrd, one of the most highly sought after players in the 2014 free agent class, signed a six-year deal with the Saints in the offseason. The Saints had to let Malcolm Jenkins leave via free agency to sign Byrd.

The 27-year-old Byrd had 22 tackles in four starts with New Orleans (1-3).

Rafael Bush will replace Byrd in the starting lineup.

Byrd was selected with the 42nd overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft by Buffalo, where he spent the first five seasons of his career.

The three-time Pro Bowler missed the first five games of the 2013 season with an injured foot. He appeared in the final 11 games of the season, totaling 48 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble. Byrd underwent back surgery earlier this offseason.


►  Falcons’ Blalock, Douglas out vs. Giants

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas and guard Justin Blalock have been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

Douglas suffered a foot injury in Atlanta’s Week 3 rout of Tampa Bay. The Louisville product has 12 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown in three games this season.

Blalock will miss this week’s game with a back injury, snapping a streak of 102 straight games played.

Neither player practiced all week.

Wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle), returner/receiver Devin Hester (ankle), linebacker Prince Shembo (knee) and safety Kemal Ishmael (ankle) were all listed as probable.


►  Eagles LB Kendricks out again

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks will miss his third straight game Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles play the St. Louis Rams.

Kendricks has yet to practice since suffering a calf injury in Week 2. The California product has 13 tackles and one sack in two games this season.

Marcus Smith, Emmanuel Acho and Casey Matthews have formed a three-man rotation at inside linebacker in place of the injured Kendricks.

The Eagles’ injury-riddled offensive line will get back right tackle Lane Johnson on Sunday. Johnson was sidelined for the first four games without pay by the NFL in late July for violating the league’s policy on performance- enhancing substances.

Cornerback Brandon Boykin (hamstring) is questionable despite practicing on Thursday and Friday.


►  Redskins face tough test against Seahawks

The Cousins-to-Canton train was derailed against a good secondary in Week 4.

Now Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins will be facing a great defensive backfield when the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks invade the Beltway for “Monday Night Football.“

Two seasons ago the Seahawks and Redskins were both up-and-coming teams with tremendous rookie quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.

Since Seattle upset Washington in the wild-card round, however, the teams’ fortunes have been trending in opposite directions.

RG3, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, led the Redskins to the NFC East title in his freshman campaign, while Wilson, the 75th overall selection that same year, piloted the Seahawks to a wild card berth.

Washington built an early two-touchdown lead in the playoff encounter before Wilson and Co. responded with 24 consecutive points to advance. To make matters even worse for the ‘Skins, Griffin tore both an ACL and LCL in the game and has never been the same physically.

Fast forward a year and Washington finished 3-13, firing Mike Shanahan in favor of current coach Jay Gruden and the Seahawks won the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.

Cousins, Washington’s interim starter while RG3 convalesces from his latest injury (a dislocated ankle), was brilliant in his first 2014 start, albeit in a loss at Philadelphia. Not so much the second time around as the New York Giants confused and rattled the third-year signal caller during a 45-14 drubbing of the Redskins back on September 25.

After finishing 30-of-48 for a career-high 427 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles, Cousins came back down to earth versus the Giants, connecting on just 19-of-33 with a touchdown and a career-high four interceptions—all in the second half. He also lost a fumble.

“Sometimes you need to play through some of these ruts,“ Gruden said. “As a quarterback, he’s a guy that’s going to have to lead us the next few weeks. We need him to pull himself out of this and keep his head up.“

Things really fell apart for Washington in the third quarter, where Cousins fired three of his picks.

Alfred Morris, meanwhile, carried the ball 12 times for 63 yards and a score for the Redskins, who have lost their last two games.

Seattle comes in even more well-rested than the Redskins, last playing on September 21 when they won a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch by outlasting the Denver Broncos, 26-20, in overtime.

Marshawn Lynch ran for a touchdown in the extra frame as the Seahawks thwarted Denver’s attempts at revenge from a 43-8 drubbing in the big game this past February. The contest marked just the sixth time that there has been a rematch in the regular season of the previous Super Bowl opponents.

Lynch finished with 88 yards on 26 carries, while adding three catches for 40 yards and a score for the Seahawks, who bounced back from a Week 2 loss at San Diego.

Wilson completed 24-for-34 passed for 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the win.

“It was a tremendous game,“ Wilson said. “It was a battle.“

The Redskins lead their all-time, regular-season series with Seattle by an 11-4 margin but Seattle has been the better team on Monday nights, compiling a 20-8 mark overall, including eight wins in a row. Washington is underwater at 27-36 in the national showcase.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Seahawks could come in rusty because coach Pete Carroll gave his team a full week off during the bye.

“We wanted to maximize our chance to get our guys as fresh as possible for this big push here through this season,“ Carroll said. “So we did (the) bye really successfully, we’ll find out if the result was good when we go out and play on Monday night.“

It should be as Wilson is facing a defense that isn’t all that good to begin with and is very banged-up in the secondary.

For whatever reason people never mention Wilson when they talk about the best QBs in the game but maybe it’s time to change that narrative. The third-year star has never lost on MNF, compiling a 3-0 mark with seven touchdowns, no interceptions and a 121.6 passer rating.

This season, Wilson’s 108.9 rating ranked third in the NFL entering Week 5 and the Seahawks are 19-3 overall when the diminutive passer hits a rating of at least 100.

“You have to put him in there,“ Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said when asked about Wilson being considered among the best quarterbacks in the NFL. “If you’re basing that judgment off of winning, you have to put him in that discussion.“

“I don’t think anyone ever doubts Russell. He’s just too good,“ tight end Zach Miller, who will miss this contest after undergoing ankle surgery during the bye week, added.

The Seahawks generally want to establish the run with Lynch and play off of that but with Washington already down two starters—cornerback DeAngelo Hall (Achilles) and safety Duke Ihenacho (foot)—in what was a pedestrian defensive backfield to begin with, Seattle may feel comfortable enough to take a few more shots than usual downfield.

The goal of Seattle’s passing game with remain the same, though, and that is getting the dynamic Percy Harvin the ball in space.

The Redskins best hope is a strong pass rush and Ryan Kerrigan entered Week 5 tied for the NFL lead with five sacks. His complement, Brian Orakpo, has been dealing with a finger injury, however, and is having a down year.

Offensively, Washington is up and against it here and will need to rely on its running game and Morris to set the tone because Cousins tends to stare down his receivers, a peccadillo which could be disastrous against the ball-hawking Seahawks secondary which includes Sherman, perhaps the best cornerback in all of football, and fellow All-Pro Earl Thomas, undoubtedly he best coverage safety in the game.

Thomas’ running mate on the back end, the hard-hitting Kam Chancellor should also be ready to go despite a nagging ankle problem.

“He’s frustrated with some of the throws that he made (against the Giants) and maybe some of the decisions,“ Gruden said. “Moving forward, it’s a great learning experience.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Chalk up nine straight for the Seahawks on MNF.

Cousins has dropped five straight starts now and couldn’t handle the Giants’ secondary. Expecting him to play a clean game against Sherman and Co. is probably wishful thinking.

Predicted outcome: Seahawks 31, Redskins 17


►  Marrone chooses self-preservation

A sense of urgency has precipitated change with the Buffalo Bills.

The move from second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel to veteran Kyle Orton is a development you can trace back to Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula’s agreement to purchase the team from the Wilson family trust, a deal which is expected to be approved by the NFL owners at their fall meeting in New York City next week.

The conventional thinking in these types of situations is that new ownership likes to bring in its own people for high-level managerial positions and that’s not lost on both Bills coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley, who both understand the only sure-fire way to keep their employment in western New York is to win and do it now.

That win-now mentality is only amplified by the fact that New England has seemingly come back to the pack in the AFC East, which has opened up the division for also-rans like Miami and the New York Jets, never mind Buffalo, which may have the most talent in the quartet.

In fact if Manuel, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, was carrying his own water at the game’s most important position there is little doubt that the 2-2 Bills would be alone atop the division standings right now.

Buffalo is just 27th in total offense with Manuel running the show despite some very solid skill-position players like Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller at running back, along with rookie star Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams and Robert Woods at receiver.

“It’s not a one-man show,“ Spiller admitted. “(But) in this league, the quarterback is the focal point and the emphasis of wins and losses of teams.“

Orton will change things dramatically for the Bills in that he is a completely different signal caller than Manuel with Buffalo giving up some athleticism in favor of a prototypical pocket-style passer who can make quick decisions and get the ball out quickly.

“We just had a different approach to practice,“ Watkins said. “(Orton) demands what he wants out of us. He’s more of a veteran guy. The way he talked, the way he handles business, the way he looks at plays and breaks down defenses, it’s kind of different than E.J. He reads it quicker, the ball is coming out faster.“

The big risk of sitting a young quarterback who has been playing is losing him mentally, something highlighted by Christian Ponder’s deer-in-the- headlights playing style in Green Bay on Thursday night. Marrone ignored that hurdle while trying to pay lip service to Manuel’s ego.

“It’s not all EJ’s fault, but we need to get better production out of that position,“ he said. “We’ve got to make some changes because we can’t keep going in the direction that we’re going.“

Actually the Bills franchise could keep heading in the same direction but Marrone can’t.

After all Manuel still has a far higher-ceiling than Orton, whose upside is probably managing things well enough to get the team to 9-7 in the hopes of winning a bad division.

“When this happened, obviously I was upset and frustrated,“ Manuel admitted. “But at the same time, be a man, be a pro. I kicked up my work ethic even more. Be more consistent with everything: how the ball is coming out of my hands, my enunciation in the huddle, all those types of things.“

Marrone is not the only coach going through this. Rex Ryan, who has been starting the overmatched Geno Smith with the Jets, is in a very similar situation, the problem of trying to serve two masters with divergent goals, in this case doing what’s right for the future of the organization while trying to win in the now.

The stark reality is that both Marrone and Ryan will likely be filing change- of-address forms if they don’t make the playoffs yet each has been going with a struggling second-year signal caller showing little improvement from week to week with a better veteran option waiting in the wings.

It’s a tough conundrum to put any coach in because nearly everyone understands neither Orton or Michael Vick with the Jets are long-term solutions. Those same observers, however, will readily admit that the veterans are the best options to win on Sundays in 2014.

Marrone finally chose self-preservation over selflessness this week.

Ryan, on the other hand, has remained altruistic to this point and stood next to what will ultimately be his albatross more steadily than Tammy Wynette.

Neither coach is right and neither is wrong but Marrone is more pragmatic.

“It’s tough. You have to make these decisions with your mind with your heart, you know you put a lot of time into it,“ he said. “It’s not an easy decision. But at the end of the day when you need more production that’s what you have to do.“


►  Falcons’ Blalock, Douglas out vs. Giants

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas and guard Justin Blalock have been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

Douglas suffered a foot injury in Atlanta’s Week 3 rout of Tampa Bay. The Louisville product has 12 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown in three games this season.

Blalock will miss this week’s game with a back injury, snapping a streak of 102 straight games played.

Neither player practiced all week.

Wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle), returner/receiver Devin Hester (ankle), linebacker Prince Shembo (knee) and safety Kemal Ishmael (ankle) were all listed as probable.


►  Ravens LB Suggs questionable, DL Canty doubtful vs. Colts

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Suggs was back at practice on Friday after sitting out the previous two days with a thigh injury.

Defensive lineman Chris Canty (illness), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) and left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee) are listed as doubtful.


►  Colts LB Freeman practices all week, probable for Sunday

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman is probable for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Freeman returned to practice this week after missing three straight games with a hamstring injury.

Right guard Hugh Thornton (ankle) is also probable after missing last week’s game against the Titans.

Defensive tackle Arthur Jones (ankle) and offensive lineman Jack Mewhort (ankle) have been ruled out.


►  Giants LB Beason questionable for Sunday

New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons with a right foot injury.

Beason, who was a limited participant in practice all week, started the first two games of the year before re-injuring the foot that kept him out of training camp and the preseason.

Odell Beckham is questionable with a hamstring injury. Beckham, who has yet to debut with the Giants, was a limited participant in practice all week.

Linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) is questionable and punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) is probable.


►  Pats LB Hightower questionable vs. Bengals

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower is among four New England Patriots defensive players listed as questionable for their game Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hightower has been limited in practice all week with a knee injury.

Linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh), cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder) and defensive end Dominique Easley (knee) are also listed as questionable.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) and defensive end Chandler Jones (shoulder) are listed as probable.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  American League Division Series Game Results

Final Score: Baltimore 7, Detroit 6

Young hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead three-run double as part of a four-run eighth inning and the Orioles rallied past the Tigers, 7-6, in Game 2 of the American League Division Series to put them on the brink of elimination. Baltimore has now scored 12 runs in the eighth over the first two games of the set after plating eight during Thursday’s 12-3 Game 1 win. The Orioles trailed 6-3 before Joba Chamberlain got Alejandro De Aza to ground out to start the eighth, but it was the only out he’d record. Chamberlain hit Adam Jones with a pitch and consecutive singles by Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce brought home Jones. Joakim Soria (0-1) took over on the mound and walked J.J. Hardy to load the bases. A first-pitch-swinging Young then ripped a slider down the left-field line to clear the bases. Hardy was just able to slide past catcher Alex Avila to beat Ian Kinsler’s throw to the plate. Young, the 2012 ALCS MVP while with the Tigers, is a career .271 hitter (32-of-118) with nine homers and 21 RBI in the postseason. Zach Britton fired a 1-2-3 ninth for his first postseason save. Baltimore will look for the series sweep Sunday in Detroit. The Tigers will trot out the third of their three straight AL Cy Young Award winners in David Price.


Final Score: Kansas City 4, LA Angels of Anaheim 1 (11 innings)

Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning to break a tie and the Kansas City Royals beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 in Game 2 of their AL Division Series on Friday night. The Royals take a 2-0 series lead back to Kansas City with a chance to close it out in Game 3 on Sunday after getting dramatic wins on consecutive nights in Anaheim. They took Game 1 on Mike Moustakas’ home run in the 11th inning after beating Oakland in 12 innings in Tuesday’s wild-card game. How rare is this run? The Royals are the first team ever to start the playoffs with three straight wins in extra innings, and the first ever to play three postseason games in a row of 11 innings or more. Hosmer’s homer to right came off Kevin Jepsen (0-1) after Lorenzo Cain hit a single, giving the Royals a 3-1 lead. Salvador Perez added an RBI single off Vinnie Pestano and Greg Holland stranded a runner in the bottom of the inning for the save. Albert Pujols had an RBI single in the sixth inning to tie the score for the Angels, but probable AL MVP Mike Trout remained hitless in his first two postseason games.


►  National League Division Series Game Results

Final Score: San Francisco 3, Washington 2

Jake Peavy picked up his first career postseason win as the San Francisco Giants held on to beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 in their NL Division Series opener on Friday. Peavy (1-0) had a solid outing, scattering two hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik each knocked in a run for the Giants, who have won nine straight playoff games. They were coming off Wednesday’s 8-0 wild-card victory at Pittsburgh. Stephen Strasburg (0-1) gave up two runs in his postseason debut—one earned—on eight singles in five-plus innings for the NL East-champion Nationals.


Final Score: St. Louis 10, Los Angeles 9

Matt Carpenter’s four RBI against Clayton Kershaw included a three-run double in an eight-run seventh inning and the St. Louis Cardinals held on to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-9 on Friday to open their NL Division Series. Kershaw and Adam Wainwright squared off in the first postseason game in 45 years to featured two 20-win starters with sub-2.40 ERAs. But what was supposed to be a pitchers’ duel between two staff aces turned into a slugfest, and Kershaw saw the worst of it. The presumptive NL Cy Young Award winner retired 16 batters in a row between Randal Grichuk’s one-out homer on in the first inning and Carpenter’s two-out blast in the sixth and his team had a 6-1 lead after scoring six runs off Wainwright in 4 1/3 innings. But the first four Cardinals batters hit singles in the seventh, starting a deluge that didn’t end until Kershaw was on the bench, presumably wondering how the NL Central champions got the best of him again. Last year, Kershaw gave up seven runs in four innings in the decisive Game 6 of the NL Championship Series, which the Cardinals won 9-0 to reach the World Series for the third time in eight years. Game 2 is Saturday in Los Angeles.


►  Red Sox hitting coach Colbrunn will not return in 2015

Boston Red Sox hitting coach Greg Colbrunn has elected not to return to the position for the 2015 season, the team announced Friday.

The Red Sox finished tied for 11th in the American League in runs scored (634) this past season, a big drop from their majors-leading total of 853 runs in 2013.

The 45-year-old Colbrunn missed part of the 2014 season after suffering subarachnoid hemorrhage in early June, and returned to the club in July.

Colbrunn joined the Red Sox in November of 2012 and served as hitting coach during the team’s run to last year’s World Series title.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Odd Man Rush: Baby Flames ready to ignite

The season hasn’t started yet and head coach Bob Hartley is already having his nights impacted by the state of the Calgary Flames.

But while it was the club’s struggles a season ago that probably had Hartley chugging warm milk and Tylenol PM to get some sleep, the upcoming influx of young talent has him tossing and turning as he prepares for his third season on the Calgary bench.

Expectations remain low for the Flames as they wait for their young talent to mature. But if this preseason is any indication, a few baby-faced skaters appear ready to contribute now and that has left the organization with some decisions that need to be made.

“Remember, the first day of camp, I told you the depth on this hockey club is surprising from the outside,“ Hartley said following Thursday’s preseason win over Winnipeg.

“All summer I talked to my partners, we have some good, young players that are coming up and right now they’re making statements out there. We have to respect this. Remember our slogan, ‘It’s always earned, never given.‘“

Sean Monahan is leading the youth movement at the age of 19, but his status for this upcoming season was already locked in after he produced 22 goals in 75 games as a rookie last year.

But this preseason has seen the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Josh Jooris, Sven Baertschi and even 18-year-old Sam Bennett impress management.

The big name to watch has been Gaudreau, the recent recipient of the Hobey Baker Award after notching 80 points in 40 games last season with Boston College. The 21-year-old was a fourth-round pick by Calgary in 2011 and got into one game with the Flames at the end of last season following the conclusion of his Boston College career, scoring a goal.

Gaudreau had three assists in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Jets. He humbly pointed out that two of those were secondary assists, but there was no denying the talent he flashed while setting up the first of two goals in the game by Jooris.

Collecting the puck along the left boards, Gaudreau spun away from a pair of defenders into the slot and spotted a wide open Jooris down low, sporting excellent vision while hitting him with a quick pass.

“I’m trying to show management that I belong,“ he said. “Whatever I have to do to do that is something I’m going to try and do. Whether it’s playing well defensively or creating offensive chances, I have to make sure I’m doing my best out there.“

Jooris is another wild card after posting 27 points in 73 games a season ago at the American Hockey League level. Undrafted out of Union College, the 24- year-old was a late cut from last season’s Flames club and is pushing again this year.

“I’ve kind of understood what it takes to play at this level. For me in particular, I’ve got to go out there and do the little things right,“ noted Jooris. “I’m not worried about putting up numbers or offense. That stuff will come as it did tonight. Defense and little things at the blue line, just smart plays around the ice, that’s first and foremost for me. That’s been the mindset.“

Said Hartley of Jooris, “He’s playing with passion. It’s so nice to work with Josh because he wants to learn, he’s a great student, he has speed. On our coaching staff, we call this buzz. He has lots of buzz to his game. He never stops.“

Normally, a rebuilding club would love to see its young players perform like this, but there is always the problem of not enough roster space. Calgary has gotten a good look at some talent while Mikael Backlund, David Jones and Mason Raymond have nursed injuries, and the Flames, anticipating another year of rebuilding, acquired a number of stop-gaps this past offseason in Raymond, Devin Setoguchi and Brandon Bollig.

That leaves Hartley and the rest of management with limited room on the roster for the prospects and don’t be surprised if the coach is sporting some tired facial features during Wednesday’s opener against Vancouver.

“It’s not getting easier. I told you guys (the media) this morning, there’s going to be lots of long nights thinking about it and after tonight’s game the night is just getting longer and longer,“ Hartley said on Thursday night.

Ultimately, players like Gaudreau, Baertschi and Jooris may find themselves squeezed out at the start of the season despite their best efforts as Calgary is forced to play the numbers game. But their recent display has brightened the hope of the Flames’ future.

The leader of that movement, Monahan is ready.

“I feel really good out there right now,“ Monahan said after scoring twice against the Jets. “Obviously confidence is big in the game and right now I’m confident and I want the puck. I’m looking forward for the season to get going here.“

Even though the season is sure to feature a number of ups and downs, Flames fans should agree.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Kansas begins the Contender Round of the Chase

The first race in the Contender Round—the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship—takes place on Sunday at Kansas Speedway, and each of the 12 drivers who remain in the Chase have their points total reset to 3,000.

After last weekend’s race at Dover, A.J. Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola were eliminated from the playoffs in NASCAR’s premier series.

Those drivers who advanced from the opening round in the Chase, known as the Challenger Round, are: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne.

The Contender Round includes the races at Kansas, Charlotte (October 11) and Talladega (October 19). After Talladega, the Chase field will be trimmed to eight drivers for the Eliminator Round, which has the events at Martinsville (October 26), Texas (November 2) and Phoenix (November 9).

The November 16 season-finale at Homestead will feature just four drivers contending for the championship. The highest finishing driver among the final four in that race will win the title.

If a driver currently in the Chase field wins at either Kansas, Charlotte or Talladega, that person will automatically advance to the Eliminator Round. The remaining available positions 1-8 that have not been filled based upon wins will be determined by points following Talladega.

Talladega, the only restrictor-plate track in the Chase, is considered as a wild card race, but many drivers think of Kansas as a wild card event as well. Kansas, a 1.5-mile track, underwent a repave and had variable banking added in the turns in 2012.

“I think you look at this round, the Contender Round, with Kansas, and you’ve got Talladega at the end, Charlotte probably not so much, but two of the three races are as much of a wild card as you can get in NASCAR racing these days,“ Keselowski said. “I think when we get all said and done, and it comes to Homestead and the championship’s crown, whoever wins it will have earned it.

“But one of the great teams that has a shot at winning this will probably be less at home after this series of events, because you don’t control your destiny as much as you do the other races of the season.“

Keselowski concluded the Challenger Round as the points leader. He won the Chase-opener at Chicagoland and then finished seventh at New Hampshire and second at Dover.

Logano, who is Keselowski’s teammate at Team Penske, has done very well in the Chase as well. He won at New Hampshire and finished fourth at both Chicagoland and Dover.

“We have confidence in not just myself but the road crew, the pit crew, everyone is feeling good about what we’ve done,“ Logano said. “Last week (at Dover), we didn’t have the strongest car, but we were able to execute and get a nice, solid top-five out of it. That’s what we have to do the next round, get us some top-fives and get us into the next one. Hopefully, we’ll get a win in these first two races and not have to worry about Talladega.“

Gordon claimed his fourth win of the season at Dover. His first victory in 2014 occurred in the spring race at Kansas. This is the fourth year that Kansas has hosted two Sprint Cup events in a season. No driver has yet to score a season-sweep here.

“We won at Kansas earlier this year, so we’re excited about this weekend,“ Gordon said. “We’d like to get another win to go ahead and clinch a spot in the Eliminator Round, but if we don’t solid finishes this weekend and at Charlotte hopefully put us in a good position before Talladega.“

Gordon leads all drivers with three victories at Kansas. He won the first two Cup races at this track (2001-02).

Tony Stewart, Biffle, Johnson and Kenseth have two wins each at Kansas.

Johnson is attempting to win his record-tying seventh championship in the series. He started the Chase with a 12th-place run at Chicagoland before finishing fifth at New Hampshire and third at Dover.

“I’m ready to get going,“ Johnson said. “These three tracks should be a lot of fun. We feel like we have a really good chance of winning at all three tracks, but the first two would make the experience of the third race of the Contender Round that much more enjoyable.“

Johnson has three wins this season but has not been to victory lane since June 15 at Michigan (14 races ago).

Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Hollywood Casino 400.

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, October 05. Race: Hollywood Casino 400. Site: Kansas Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 2 PM ET. Laps: 267. Miles: 400.5. 2013 Winner: Kevin Harvick. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.


►  This Week in Auto Racing October 04 - 05

The second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins this weekend at Kansas Speedway. The Nationwide Series is joining the Sprint Cup Series at Kansas. Formula One is in Suzuka, Japan for the Japanese Grand Prix.

NASCAR

Sprint Cup Series

Hollywood Casino 400 - Kansas Speedway - Kansas City, Kansas

The first race in the Contender Round—the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship—takes place on Sunday at Kansas Speedway, and each of the 12 drivers who remain in the Chase have their points total reset to 3,000.

After last weekend’s race at Dover, A.J. Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola were eliminated from the playoffs in NASCAR’s premier series.

Those drivers who advanced from the opening round in the Chase, known as the Challenger Round, are: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne.

The Contender Round includes the races at Kansas, Charlotte (October 11) and Talladega (October 19). After Talladega, the Chase field will be trimmed to eight drivers for the Eliminator Round, which has the events at Martinsville (October 26), Texas (November 02) and Phoenix (November 09).

The November 16 season-finale at Homestead will feature just four drivers contending for the championship. The highest finishing driver among the final four in that race will win the title.

If a driver currently in the Chase field wins at either Kansas, Charlotte or Talladega, that person will automatically advance to the Eliminator Round. The remaining available positions 1-8 that have not been filled based upon wins will be determined by points following Talladega.

Talladega, the only restrictor-plate track in the Chase, is considered as a wild card race, but many drivers think of Kansas as a wild card event as well. Kansas, a 1.5-mile track, underwent a repave and had variable banking added in the turns in 2012.

“I think you look at this round, the Contender Round, with Kansas, and you’ve got Talladega at the end, Charlotte probably not so much, but two of the three races are as much of a wild card as you can get in NASCAR racing these days,“ Keselowski said. “I think when we get all said and done, and it comes to Homestead and the championship’s crown, whoever wins it will have earned it.

“But one of the great teams that has a shot at winning this will probably be less at home after this series of events, because you don’t control your destiny as much as you do the other races of the season.“

Keselowski concluded the Challenger Round as the points leader. He won the Chase-opener at Chicagoland and then finished seventh at New Hampshire and second at Dover.

Logano, who is Keselowski’s teammate at Team Penske, has done very well in the Chase as well. He won at New Hampshire and finished fourth at both Chicagoland and Dover.

“We have confidence in not just myself but the road crew, the pit crew, everyone is feeling good about what we’ve done,“ Logano said. “Last week (at Dover), we didn’t have the strongest car, but we were able to execute and get a nice, solid top-five out of it. That’s what we have to do the next round, get us some top-fives and get us into the next one. Hopefully, we’ll get a win in these first two races and not have to worry about Talladega.“

Gordon claimed his fourth win of the season at Dover. His first victory in 2014 occurred in the spring race at Kansas. This is the fourth year that Kansas has hosted two Sprint Cup events in a season. No driver has yet to score a season-sweep here.

“We won at Kansas earlier this year, so we’re excited about this weekend,“ Gordon said. “We’d like to get another win to go ahead and clinch a spot in the Eliminator Round, but if we don’t solid finishes this weekend and at Charlotte hopefully put us in a good position before Talladega.“

Gordon leads all drivers with three victories at Kansas. He won the first two Cup races at this track (2001-02).

Tony Stewart, Biffle, Johnson and Kenseth have two wins each at Kansas.

Johnson is attempting to win his record-tying seventh championship in the series. He started the Chase with a 12th-place run at Chicagoland before finishing fifth at New Hampshire and third at Dover.

“I’m ready to get going,“ Johnson said. “These three tracks should be a lot of fun. We feel like we have a really good chance of winning at all three tracks, but the first two would make the experience of the third race of the Contender Round that much more enjoyable.“

Johnson has three wins this season but has not been to victory lane since June 15 at Michigan (14 races ago).

Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Hollywood Casino 400.

Nationwide Series

Kansas Lottery 300 - Kansas Speedway - Kansas City, Kansas

Time is running out for Regan Smith to catch his JR Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott in the Nationwide Series championship point standings.

With just five races remaining, Elliott, a rookie in the series this season, holds a 26-point lead over Smith.

Nationwide is running at Kansas on Saturday and then Charlotte next week. The series will take a two-week break before the season concludes with Texas (November 01), Phoenix (November 08) and Homestead (November 15).

Four of the final five races will be contested on 1.5-mile racetracks, including Kansas.

On Friday, Smith confirmed that he has signed a one-year contract extension with JR Motorsports, a Nationwide team co-owned by Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick. Earnhardt had announced Smith’s new agreement earlier this week on Twitter.

“@ReganSmith and @JRMotorsports just finished the paperwork that keeps him in the 7 car for 2015. Couldn’t be more pleased about this,“ Earnhardt tweeted on Wednesday.

Smith, the driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet, made his Nationwide debut with JRM in the 2012 season-finale at Homestead, a race in which he scored his first career victory in the series. Last year, Smith finished third in Nationwide points. He has scored one win and a series-best 24 top-10 finishes this season.

“Excited to be back,“ Smith said of his contract renewal with JRM. “I’ve been fortunate to have a great place to call home and a great place to race at with good people, good sponsors and fast race cars. As a driver, that’s something you always look for and it’s important. You want to have an opportunity to go out there and showcase what you can do every week, and I’m fortunate enough to have that.

“As bosses, Dale, Kelley and Mr. H. (Hendrick) have been absolutely amazing to me. I’ve learned a lot over the past two years. And I’m sure I will learn a lot more next year.“

One year ago at Kansas, Smith led a race-high 81 laps but ended up finishing third after he was on pit road just before a caution came out and had to rally late in the race.

“The season is really starting to wind down, and now is the time we have to be making gains in the points,“ he said. “At this point, we have to be finishing better than our competition. There isn’t any room left for mistakes or poor finishes.“

Elliott will compete in a NASCAR national touring series race at Kansas for the first time. Two of his three wins in Nationwide this season have occurred on a 1.5-mile track (Texas and Chicagoland).

Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Kansas Lottery 300. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard are those Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in this race. Kenseth is the race defending winner.

FORMULA ONE

Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka Circuit - Suzuka City, Japan

The 15th round on the 2014 Formula One calendar, the Japanese Grand Prix, is scheduled for Sunday, but it could be a rather wet and windy affair, thanks to Typhoon Phanfone.

Heavy rain and strong winds associated with the typhoon is in the forecast for Suzuka on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Qualifying for the Japanese GP is scheduled for Saturday. The race at the 3.608-mile (5.807-kilometer), 18-turn Suzuka Circuit is 53 laps in distance.

At this time, F1’s governing body, the FIA, has no plans of canceling or changing the start time of the Japanese GP; however, the FIA will continue to monitor weather conditions in the area throughout the weekend.

F1 is in Sochi, Russia next week for the inaugural running of the Russian Grand Prix.

On Friday, Mercedes drivers and championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were once again the fastest in practice. Rosberg led the way in the opening session with a lap in 1 minute, 35.461 seconds, while Hamilton was just 0.151 seconds behind.

In P2, Hamilton posted the quickest lap of the day in 1:35.078. Rosberg was second in 1:35.318.

“Qualifying is going to be very important, as it is quite difficult to overtake here (at Suzuka),“ Hamilton said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with the weather this weekend. It’s such a challenging circuit, but we always come to the weekend prepared for everything. I just want to race.“

Hamilton currently holds a three-point lead over Rosberg in the world championship standings. Rosberg relinquished the top spot in the rankings after his retirement in the September 21 Singapore GP. He experienced an electrical problem before the race started, and after completing just 13 laps, the issue had forced him out of the event.

“I had said before that Singapore was probably the toughest moment of my year so far, and looking back on it, I still think that is true,“ said Rosberg, who held a 22-point lead over Hamilton prior to Singapore. “To have the chance for a top result basically taken away before you even reach the grid is hard to swallow, and of course, it was a lot of points lost in the championship battle.“

Hamilton started on the pole and won both the Italian Grand Prix (September 07) and the Singapore GP. He scored a victory in the Japanese GP during his 2007 F1 rookie season, but that race was contested at Fuji Speedway.

“Suzuka is one of the races on the calendar that drivers love the most, and it’s arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world,“ Hamilton said. “There’s so much history, and there have been so many defining moments there - like those unforgettable battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. I’ve never won at this circuit and have only made the podium once, on my first visit way back in 2009.“

In last year’s race here, Hamilton, in his first season with Mercedes, started third but suffered a puncture in his right-rear tire on the first lap. It caused significant damage to his car, forcing him out of the race after seven laps.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lewis pushes lead to 2 in Beijing

Stacy Lewis shot 5-under 68 on Friday and she extended her lead to two strokes after 36 holes of the Reignwood LPGA Classic.

Lewis, last year’s runner-up, finished two rounds at 12-under-par 134.

Brittany Lang fired a 7-under 66 to match the low round of the day. She climbed into second place at minus-10.

Caroline Masson and Mirim Lee carded matching 5-under 68s on the par-73 Pine Valley Golf Club. They were joined in third place at 8-under-par 138 by Belen Mozo (69) and Caroline Hedwall (71).

Ilhee Lee (70) and Yanhong Pan (68) are one stroke back at minus-7. Suzann Pettersen also fired a 66 and soared into a tie for ninth at 6-under 140.

Lewis stumbled to a bogey at the first, which was her first dropped shot of the week. She bounced back with birdies on two and three. Another birdie at the fifth pushed Lewis three clear of the field.

From the sixth, she ran off seven straight pars and her lead dipped to one in the stretch. Lang birdied No. 16 to briefly join Lewis in the lead, but Lewis answered with a long birdie putt on the par-3 13th.

Lang made her third straight birdie, a 2-footer at No. 17, to again grab a piece of the lead. Once again, Lewis had the answer.

The world No. 1 rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 14th. After a couple of sloppy holes, Lewis dropped her third to the par-5 closing hole within five feet and she drained that putt for a closing birdie that extended her lead to two strokes.

“That’s the thing. I’ve made them at the right time. I’ve had good speed all week. Just had a lot of tap-ins, even when they’re not going in,“ Lewis said of her putting. “It was a day that I just had to stay patient. Even coming in I could have made a few more birdies. Didn’t quite hit the shots around the greens that I needed to. Shot 5-under and made six birdies today, so it’s a good day.“

Lang, who played four groups ahead of Lewis, opened with five pars in a row. She then birdied three of four holes from the sixth en route to making the turn at minus-6.

Around the turn, Lang picked up her fourth birdie of the round at the par-5 12th. Lang poured in three consecutive birdies from No. 15. She could have finished one back, but missed a 7-foot putt for birdie at the 18th.

“I played really well. I like this course a lot. I didn’t get off to the start that I would’ve liked to,“ Lang admitted. “I stuck it close on two and missed it. Made a really good par save on six and then from there just made a ton of birdies. I started dialing in my irons and hitting them close. I’ve been hitting my putter really good for a while now, so kind of an easy, fun day.“

NOTES: Lewis has the 36-hole lead for the 11th time in her LPGA Tour career ... She has won five of the previous 10, two of which came in 54-hole events ... Defending champion Shanshan Feng managed a 2-under 71 and is tied for 39th after two rounds.


►  Jacquelin takes 36-hole lead at Dunhill Links

Raphael Jacquelin made a birdie on his last hole to break away from a five-way tie for first and take a 1- shot lead heading into the weekend at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Jacquelin, a four-time winner on the European Tour, fired a 2-under 70 at a rainy and windy Kingsbarns Golf Links on Friday. Jacquelin finished 36 holes at 9-under-par 135 and he will play on the Old Course at St. Andrews Saturday.

“I didn’t play that well, and not as well as yesterday, but it was not that easy, a bit of wind, a bit of rain, a bit of cold as well,“ said Jacquelin. “I feel good—it’s a long weekend, a lot of golf to play, so the game of golf it’s not that easy.“

First-round leader Oliver Wilson, who tied the course record on the Championship Course at Carnoustie on Thursday, shot an even-par 72 at Kingsbarns and he is tied for second at 8-under 136. He is joined there by two-time champion Padraig Harrington (70), Alexander Levy (68) and Shane Lowry (70). Like Wilson, Harrington and Levy both played at Kingsbarns, while Lowry was at St. Andrews.

Chris Doak (67), Richie Ramsay (68) and Ryan Palmer (68) also played at Kingsbarns and they are tied for sixth at minus-7.

European Ryder Cup team member and this event’s 2004 champion Stephen Gallacher shot a 70 at Kingsbarns and he is tied for ninth with Gregory Bourdy (71), George Coetzee (67) and Felipe Aguilar (67).

Jacquelin, beginning the day one shot behind the leader Wilson, did not get off to a hot start as he bogeyed the par-4 first hole. After a par at the second, Jacquelin got going as he rattled off three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 3.

The 40-year-old struggled a bit around the turn as he made his second and third bogeys of the day on nine and 11, dropping him back to even par for the round. Jacquelin’s score remained that way for a while after five straight pars.

Jacquelin came up big on the final two holes, however, as he drained a birdie on the par-4 17th to join four others at minus-8. The Frenchman made it two in a row with a gain at the last to take the outright lead heading into Saturday.

“I’m pretty happy, especially the way I finished,“ Jacquelin said.“I birdied 17 and 18, so it was good before having dinner and going to rest.“

Harrington, who came close to the course record at Carnoustie Thursday before tripping to two straight bogeys at the end of his round, started on the back nine at Kingsbarns. A pair of pars preceded back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13. Harrington traded a bogey on 15 with a birdie on 16 and he made the turn at 2- under.

Like Jacquelin, Harrington bogeyed the first to fall back to minus-1. Another birdie on No. 6 was canceled out with Harrington’s third bogey on No. 7, but a birdie at No. 9 vaulted him into a tie for second place.

Lowry, who tied for second at the Wales Open, which was his last event, played the back nine first at St. Andrews. Lowry’s opening nine featured three birdies and three bogeys before making three gains and dropping one shot on the back nine to finish off a 2-under day.

After making nine birdies on Thursday, Wilson was much quieter Friday as he made two birdies and two bogeys to finish even par. Levy shot an impressive, bogey-free round, which also included four birdies.

NOTES: There were nine players tied for the lead at one point on Friday ... World No. 1 Rory McIlroy got into contention with a 5-under 67 at Kingsbarns. He is five back at minus-4 ... McIlroy’s European Ryder Cup teammate Victor Dubuisson is also at 4-under after a 69 at Kingsbarns ... Martin Kaymer, another member of team Europe who also won this event in 2010, shot an even- par 72 at Kingsbarns and he is 2-over for the week ... European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley (70) is at 2-under along with defending champion David Howell (72).



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nadal ousted; Djokovic, Murray to meet in Beijing SFs

On-the-mend superstar Rafael Nadal was sent packing on Friday, while four-time champion Novak Djokovic and hot Andy Murray reached the semifinals at the $2.5 million China Open.

Capable Slovak Martin Klizan upended the second-seeded former world No. 1 Nadal in come-from-behind 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-3 fashion in 2 hours, 37 minutes. Klizan broke Nadal’s serve five times on Day 5.

Klizan is now 1-2 lifetime against Nadal, who beat the Slovak in an opening- round affair at Wimbledon in late June.

Nadal, who was playing his first tennis in three months after battling a right wrist injury, was the Beijing champ in 2005 and last year’s runner-up to Djokovic. The Spanish star captured an Olympic gold medal here in Beijing in 2008.

The current world No. 1 Djokovic handled fifth-seeded Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-4 in 90 minutes to improve to 22-0 at Beijing Olympic Green Tennis Center. Dimitrov saved two match points while trailing 2-5 in the second set.

Djokovic also beat Dimitrov in a semifinal at Wimbledon this past summer.

“It was pretty slow conditions because of the weather,“ Djokovic said. “It’s a bit cold today, which I think suited more to my style of the game. I was trying to mix up the pace, give him high balls to the backhand, serve efficiently. Everything worked well. The second set was up and down. But generally it was a good performance.“

Djokovic beat Nadal in last year’s final for a second straight Beijing title.

The super Serb’s semifinal opponent on Saturday will be the sixth-seeded Murray, who grounded fourth-seeded surprise U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-4. The big-hitting Cilic is a two-time runner-up inn Beijing.

Murray will face Djokovic for a 22nd time, with the Serb leading their lifetime series, 13-8. Djokovic has won both their contests this season, in four sets in the U.S. Open quarterfinals and in straight sets in a quarter at the Miami Masters event.

“It’s always difficult against Novak,“ Murray said. “His form here, he’s never lost, which is very impressive. I’m aware it’s going to be an extremely difficult match tomorrow. But it will be very good for me to get that match and see if I can make some improvements from the U.S. Open. If I play like I did at the U.S. Open, I’ll definitely give myself an opportunity in the match. It’s going to be a good test and I look forward to it.“

Murray captured his first title in 15 months with a victory in Shenzhen, China, last week.

Meanwhile, third-seeded 2011 China Open champ Tomas Berdych dropped eighth- seeded towering American John Isner 6-1, 6-4 to reach the final four. Berdych will meet the qualifier Klizan in Saturday’s other semi.

The 2014 Beijing champion will collect $604,000.


►  Serena withdraws; Kvitova, Sharapova into Beijing semis

U.S. Open champion Serena Williams withdrew from the China Open ahead of her quarterfinal match against Sam Stosur due to a left knee injury, while Wimbledon titlist Petra Kvitova and French Open champ Maria Sharapova reached the semifinals in Beijing on Friday.

The top-ranked Williams, who was the defending champion in Beijing, retired from a match last week at the Wuhan Open due to a virus. Her sister, Venus, pulled out of the Beijing draw on Thursday, citing a viral illness.

“I started to feel pain this week,“ Serena said. “It throbs just sitting, standing. I felt it mostly serving because I’m landing on my left knee. That was really killer for me.“

Serena, who captured her 18th Grand Slam singles title at the U.S. Open last month, beat Jelena Jankovic for last year’s Beijing title and also captured this event in 2004.

Stosur, who stunned Serena in the 2011 U.S. Open final, will move on to the semifinals of a premier mandatory-level event for the first time since Indian Wells in 2010.

Meanwhile, the third-seeded Czech left-hander Kvitova topped Italian veteran Roberta Vinci 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 and the fourth-seeded former world No. 1 Sharapova shut down fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-0, 6-4 on Day 7 at Beijing Olympic Green Tennis Center. Sharapova was a Beijing runner-up two years ago. The two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova is a two-time China Open winner and two-time runner-up.

Saturday’s semis will pit Kvitova against Stosur and Sharapova versus ninth- seeded fellow former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who received a walkover into the final four when second-seeded French Open runner-up Simona Halep pulled out of the draw because of injury on Thursday.

The hot Kvitova is fresh off her title in Wuhan, China, last week.

The winner of this $5.4 million event will claim $918,000.


►  Raonic, Nishikori reach semis in Tokyo

Two-time finalist Milos Raonic and Japanese hero Kei Nishikori secured semifinal berths at the $1.2 million Japan Open Tennis Championships.

The third-seeded Canadian star Raonic got past Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, while a fourth-seeded Nishikori raced past Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-2 on the hardcourts at Ariake Colosseum.

Raonic was tested in the first set against Istomin.

“I struggled a little bit, finding myself at the beginning,“ said Raonic. “I played a good tiebreak, was happy with that. I started imposing myself more and more and really made it count at the end of the set. I wish I could have played better at the beginning, but overall I’ve got to be happy with the way things went.“

The reigning two-time Tokyo runner-up Raonic lost to Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in last year’s finale. The world No. 7 Nishikori was the Tokyo titlist in 2012 and is fresh off his title in Kuala Lumpur last week.

Raonic will meet Frenchman Gilles Simon in Saturday’s semis, while Nishikori will take on 33-year-old German Benjamin Becker. The surging Nishikori has won 13 of his last 14 matches on tour.

Becker overcame American Jack Sock 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, while Simon subdued American Steve Johnson 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 on Day 5.

This week’s winner will collect $296,850.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Sometimes numbers tell the story, but sometimes they do not. As fantasy owners, we are charged with being able to tell the difference.

Today, as the season has hit the one-quarter pole, we’re going to look at 2014 quarterback statistics to see which ones are helping describe the real landscape and which ones simply confuse the situation.

1) Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is having a great season, throwing for 326.3 ypg with 13 touchdowns.

True. Luck has increased his yards per game by a whopping 87.4 yards and his TD percentage from 4.0 to 7.8 percent.

2) Eagles signal caller Nick Foles is throwing for 293.3 ypg, up from 222.4 last season, so must be having another good season.

False. Foles led the NFL last season in both TD percentage rate (8.5) and lowest interception percentage (0.6), but in 2014 his TD percentage is significantly down (3.6) and his interception rate is up to 2.4.

3) Peyton Manning is having a bad season, passing for just 271.3 ypg, down from 342.3 ypg last season.

False. Did you really expect Manning to keep up last season’s record pace? He’s still on pace to throw for 4,340 yards and in the meantime he’s tossed just one interception against eight touchdowns. He didn’t have Wes Welker for the preseason and the first two games while trying to integrate Emmanuel Sanders into the offense where Eric Decker used to be. And he has barely used his No. 1 weapon, Demaryius Thomas, through three games. Don’t panic fantasy owners, Manning may not hit 2013 levels, but he’s still a top-three quarterback.

4) New England quarterback Tom Brady has become a “game manager” throwing for 73.4 ypg less than a season ago.

True. Except in a Game 1 loss to Miami when he threw a crazy 56 passes in a valiant to pull out a win, Brady is averaging just 27 passing attempts per game. Over the last three seasons he averaged over 39 passing attempts. Unfortunately this may be the new reality because two of the team’s best weapons, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, are running backs.

5) Aaron Rodgers is down 50.2 ypg from a season ago, not even reaching 250 ypg.

Should you be worried? No. Did you see last night’s game against Minnesota? He was too effective and was watching from the sidelines for the whole fourth quarter in a 42-10 blowout. The Packers have played three top passing defenses in Seattle, Detroit and the New York Jets. Rodgers holds one of the best all- time interceptions rates and in 2014 he’s already thrown for 12 touchdowns against just one pick. As he himself said ... “relax.“


►  Three players who will breakout during Week 5

Thursday night was Eddie Lacy’s breakout game, as he failed to rush for over 50 yards in each of his first four games, and totaled one touchdown over that span. Last night against the Minnesota Vikings, Lacy was a bowling ball while breaking tackle after tackle, as he produced 105 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries, along with chipping in three receptions for another 27 yards.

Now, which other players who are off to slow starts this season, will breakout in Week 5?

LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia

Most of the football world is baffled by how ineffective McCoy has been thus far, in 2014. Through four games, he has 29 total fantasy points (based on standard league scoring), and has accumulated 29 carries for only 39 yards over the past two weeks. To go along with those rough numbers, McCoy has produced only one touchdown on the year.

Now, the Philadelphia Eagles are dealing with a banged up offensive line, but McCoy deserves some of the blame as well. He is a player who tries to hit the home run on each and every play, and as a result sometimes just needs to take the one or two yards defenses are giving him. Which in turn, will set up bigger plays down the line.

Week 5 should be the week McCoy gets rolling. The St. Louis Rams head into Philadelphia giving up an average off 155 rushing yards per game, which ranks third-worse in the NFL. With Philadelphia looking to get their groove back on offense, they will want to get their star running back going early and often. Fantasy owners should expect a big week from McCoy.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver

Over the past two seasons, Thomas has been a man child of a wide receiver. He produced 94 catches for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012, and 92 receptions for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013. Through the first three games of 2014, however, (he had a bye week during Week 4), Thomas has been far from spectacular, with only 13 catches for 141 yards and one touchdown (21 total fantasy points).

That should change this week against the Arizona Cardinals.

Thomas is far too talented of a receiver, and is on far too talented of a team for him not to continue to produce at a high rate. He is only 26-years-old, and has arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time passing him the ball. So, it is inevitable that Thomas will breakout sometime soon.

That sometime soon will be Week 5. Fresh off a bye, playing at home, and coming off a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Denver will be ready to play. Look for Peyton Manning to get Thomas going out of the gate, as owners should expect his first 100-yard game of the season, and possibly a multi-score outing as well.

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia

Sticking with some Philly flavor here.

One of the darling sleepers heading into the 2014 fantasy year has been a bit of a disappointment for owners, thus far. Ertz got off to a strong start this season with three receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown during Week 1, as well as four catches for 86 yards in Week 2. However over his past two games, Ertz has been a non-factor, contributing only six receptions for 57 yards and a lost fumble during that span. With Nick Foles looking to get back on track after a dreadful performance against the San Francisco 49ers, look for him to target Ertz over the middle and in the red zone.

With St. Louis giving up an average of 28.3 points per game this season, there will be tremendous opportunity for all of Philadelphia’s offensive weapons to get going. Ertz is part of that crew, and will need to be utilized more in scoring situations. His only touchdown of the season came from 25 yards out, making it essential for Chip Kelly to figure out a way to get Ertz more involved inside the 20-yard line.

Ertz measures in at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and is simply a mismatch for opposing linebackers and safeties. Owners need to be prepared for him to be more involved in the passing game, which should result in much better fantasy production.

The Gilmer Free Press


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 04, 2014


Mountaine East (MEC) Football
Glenville State vs. WV Wesleyan Noon | Buckhannon, WV
West Virginia State vs. Urbana Noon | Urbana, Ohio
Notre Dame College vs. UVa-Wise 1:00 PM | Wise, VA
Shepherd vs. Charleston 1:00 PM | Charleston, WV
Concord vs. Fairmont State 1:00 PM | Fairmont, WV
West Liberty vs. Duquesne 1:00 PM | Pittsburgh, PA


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
Giants at Washington, 5:37 PM - FS1
St. Louis at Los Angeles, 9:37 PM - MLB Network


National Hockey League - Preseason
Detroit at Boston, 5:30 PM - NESN, NHL Network
NY Rangers at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - MSG, MSG+, NHL Network (JIP)
Ottawa at Montreal, 7:00 PM - TSN5, RDS
Calgary at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - TSN3
Colorado at Los Angeles, 10:00 PM - FS-West, NHL Network
Edmonton at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - SN1
San Jose at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, San Diego


Canadian Football League
Edmonton at Toronto, 4:00 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com
British Columbia at Hamilton, 7:00 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com


College Football
Southern Miss at Middle Tennessee, 12:00 PM - ASN, CSN-Chicago
Iowa State at Oklahoma State, 12:00 PM - FS1
Texas A&M at Miss State, 12:00 PM - ESPN
Purdue at Illinois, 12:00 PM - ESPN 2
SMU at East Carolina, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Ball State at Army, 12:00 PM - CBSSN
Florida at Tennessee, 12:00 PM - SEC Network
Marshall at Old Dominion, 12:00 PM - FSN, ROOT-Northwest, Pittsburgh, MSG+
Ohio State at Maryland, 12:00 PM - ABC
Virginia Tech at North Carolina, 12:30 PM - ACC Network, ESPN3.com, DSS
Penn at Dartmouth, 1:30 PM - FCS-Atlantic
Charlotte at Gardner-Webb, 1:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Citadel at Wofford, 1:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Eastern Mich at Akron, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
North Texas at Indiana, 2:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Massachusetts at Miami-Ohio, 2:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Montana at North Dakota, 2:30 PM - Cowles Montana Media
Tulsa at Colorado State, 3:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Wake Forest at Florida State, 3:30 PM - ABC Regional, DSS
Stanford at Notre Dame, 3:30 PM - NBC
Ohio U at Central Mich, 3:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Oklahoma at TCU, 3:30 PM - FOX
New Mexico at TX-San Antonio, 3:30 PM - ASN, CSN-Chicago
NC State at Clemson, 3:30 PM - ESPN U
Navy at Air Force, 3:30 PM - CBSSN
Wisconsin at Northwestern, 3:30 PM - ESPN 2
Buffalo at Bowling Green, 3:30 PM - ESPN Game Plan, ESPN3.com, DSS
Baylor at Texas, 3:30 PM - ABC, DSS
Alabama at Ole Miss, 3:30 PM - CBS
Stony Brook at Towson, 3:30 PM - CSN-Baltimore, Northwest
Oregon State at Colorado, 4:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Kansas at West Virginia, 4:00 PM - FSN, ROOT-Pittsburgh
Vanderbilt at Georgia, 4:00 PM - SEC Network
UT Martin at Jacksonville State, 4:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Northwestern State at SE Louisiana, 4:00 PM - Altitude, ESPN3.com
North Dakota State at Western Ill, 4:00 PM - MV TV, ESPN3.com
Kent State at Northern Ill, 5:00 PM - ESPN3.com
South Alabama at Appalachian St, 6:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Hawaii at Rice, 7:00 PM - ASN, CSN-Bay
Toledo at Western Mich, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Texas Tech at Kansas State, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Texas-El Paso at Louisiana Tech, 7:00 PM - FCS
Idaho at Texas State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
ULM at Arkansas State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
LSU at Auburn, 7:00 PM - ESPN
Memphis at Cincinnati, 7:00 PM - CBSSN
Michigan at Rutgers, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Georgia State at Louisiana, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Coastal Carolina at Furman, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Richmond at Liberty, 7:00 PM - LFSN, ESPN3.com
Central Arkansas at Stephen F. Austin, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
So Carolina at Kentucky, 7:30 PM - SEC Network
Pittsburgh at Virginia, 7:30 PM - RSN, YES, ROOT-Pittsburgh, SportsTime Ohio
Arizona State at USC, 7:30 PM - FOX
Miami-Florida at Georgia Tech, 7:30 PM - ESPN 2
UC Davis at Portland State, 7:35 PM - ROOT-Northwest, Rocky Mountain
Nebraska at Michigan State, 8:00 PM - ABC
UNLV at San Jose St, 8:00 PM - ESPNews
Ga Southern at New Mexico St, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, Arizona+, ESPN3.com, DSS
Utah at UCLA, 10:30 PM - ESPN
Boise State at Nevada, 10:30 PM - CBSSN
California at Washington St, 10:30 PM - Pac-12 Network


College Hockey
Michigan vs. Ferris State, 7:37 PM - FCS-Pacific


Major League Soccer
Houston at Red Bull New York, 6:00 PM - NBCSN
FC Dallas at Vancouver FC, 7:00 PM - TSN2, Time Warner-Texas, DSS
Columbus at New England, 7:30 PM - Time Warner-Ohio, CSN-New England, DSS
Toronto FC at Los Angeles, 10:30 PM - TSN, RDS2, Time Warner-Los Angeles, DSS
Portland at San Jose, 11:00 PM - NBCSN


International Soccer
Leeds United AFC vs. Sheffield Wednesday FC, 7:10 AM - beIN Sport
Valencia CF vs. Club Atletico de Madrid, 9:55 AM - beIN Sport
Liverpool vs. West Brom, 10:00 AM - NBCSN
Rayo Vallecano vs. FC Barcelona, 11:55 AM - beIN Sport
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City, 12:30 PM - NBC
AC Milan vs. AC ChievoVerona, 2:40 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
EUROPEAN - Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, 8:00 AM - Golf Channel
LPGA - Reignwood LPGA Classic, 11:00 PM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
SPRINT CUP - Hollywood Casino 400 practice, 11:00 AM - FS1
NATIONWIDE - Kansas Lottery 300, 3:30 PM - ESPN


Horse Racing
Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity/Shadwell Turf Mile, 4:30 PM - NBCSN

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Glenville State vs. West Virginia Wesleyan

Glenville State held off a late Urbana rally to claim its first victory of the season, 31-28, on Saturday afternoon at Morris Stadium.

The Pioneers (1-3, 1-3) led 31-7 late in the third quarter after Ralph Gordon hauled in a 77-yard touchdown pass from Sean Steele. However, Urbana rattled off 21-straight points to get to within three points with still four minutes off the clock. The Blue Knights had one last chance and worked the ball to the Glenville State 25-yard line before Gary Henderson registered a sack and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Pioneers that allowed them to run out the final 1:14 in the game.

Tevin Drake led the rushing attack as he rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries. Rahmann Lee carried the ball 18 times for 41 yards. Sean Steele had a good game throwing the ball as he went 17 for 29 for 266 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Wideout Ralph Gordon had a fabulous game as he caught five passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Dante Absher caught three passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.

On defense Gary Henderson finished with 9.5 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Jeff Kidder finished with eight total tackles, a fumble recovery, and three pass breakups.

The Blue Knights were led by quarterback Cody Schroeder as he went 25 for 31 for 298 yards and three touchdowns. However Schroeder was sacked three times on the day. Karim Jones Jr. was Urbana’s leading receiver as he caught 13 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Chapple led the Blue Knights defense with 9.5 total tackles.

This week the Pioneers travel to West Virginia Wesleyan as they take on the Bobcats in a Mountain East Conference matchup. Kickoff is set for 12:00 PM.

West Virginia Wesleyan is coming off a 56-7 loss at the hands of #11 Shepherd. Shepherd scored 56 consecutive points in the win after Wesleyan scored the first seven points.

The Rams held West Virginia Wesleyan (1-3, 1-3) to just 158 yards of total offense and just 2.5 yards per play.

Jeremy Musselman was held to just 12-of-25 passing for 112 yards and was picked off three times.

Last year in 2013 the Pioneers defeated the Bobcats 35-32 at Morris Stadium. The Pioneers only had 288 yards of total offense while the Bobcats finished with 429 yards. Rahmann Lee rushed for over 100 yards and scored a touchdown in the win.

Bobcats quarterback Jeremy Musselman threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns in the loss.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 6 High School Games Results in the Area - Thursday

Class A

Gilmer County (3-3)  54  @  Tygarts Valley (0-6)  24


Class AA

#4 Bridgeport (5-1)  42  @  Elkins (1-4)  14


►  Week 6 High School Games in the Area for Friday

Class A High School

#1 St. Marys (4-0)  @  #3 Williamstown (4-1)

#16 Tyler Consolidated (3-2)  @  #7 Buffalo (4-1)

#7 Doddridge County (3-1)  @  Wirt County (0-4)

South Harrison (2-2)  @  Calhoun County (2-3)

Parkersburg Catholic (2-3)    BYE WEEK


Class AA High School

Braxton County (2-3) Liberty (Harrison) (3-2)

#3 Ravenswood (4-0)  @  #16 Ritchie County (3-2)

Lincoln Co. - AAA (0-5)  @  Roane County (3-2)

#11 Nicholas County (3-1)  @  James Monroe (2-2)

#13 Robert C. Byrd (3-2)    BYE WEEK

#13 Fairmont Senior (3-2)  @  Lincoln (1-4)

#13 Liberty - Raleigh (4-1)  @  Webster County (2-2)

Fayetteville - A (1-3)  @  Clay County (3-2)

Notre Dame - A (2-2)  @  Grafton (2-2)

Philip Barbour (0-5)  @  Petersburg (0-4)


Class AAA High School

#16 Buckhannon-Upshur (3-1)  @  #11 Lewis County (4-1)

#9 Parkersburg South (3-1)  @  #3 Point Pleasant (5-0)

#5 South Charleston (4-1)  @  Parkersburg (2-2)


►  Buckhannon-Upshur (3-1) at Lewis County (4-1)

Buckhannon has won three straight and the Buccaneers have been scoring a lot of points of late. The Buccaneers have surpassed 40 points in all three wins. The latest came at Oak Hill 41-27 last week.  Brandon Mallett scored touchdowns on three big plays, a 59 yard pass reception from Dillon Gaudet and runs of 50 and 27 yards.

The Lewis County defense will provide a significant challenge. Lewis County has allowed just 42 points in five games. The Minutemen have won two in a row since suffering it’s only loss of the season — a 14-7 loss at Bridgeport in mid-September.

Last week, Lewis County held Lincoln County to just 45 yards of total offense in a shutout win.


►  Braxton County (2-3) at Liberty (3-2)

Liberty looks to get back on the winning track following a 50-16 loss to Weir. The Mountaineers hung tough for three quarters before Weir busted that game open with 26 points in the fourth. Liberty can keep itself in the playoff hunt by starting the second half of the season with a win. Just two of the Mountaineers remaining five opponents current have winning records.

Braxton County has dropped two in a row following a 2-1 start to the season.


►  Bridgeport (4-1) at Elkins (1-3)

Bridgeport’s defense has dominated during the first half of the season. The Indians have allowed just two points over the last three games. Bridgeport has allowed a total of 35 points in five games so far.

Bridgeport completed an impressive three game home sweep of Lewis County, Robert C. Byrd and East Fairmont in consecutive weeks. Now the Indians will play four of their last five on the road starting this week at Elkins.

Elkins will try and snap a three game losing streak. The Tigers win came during week one of the season at North Marion.

These teams have met in each of the last three seasons. Bridgeport has won all three games by a combined score of 130-21.


►  Notre Dame (2-2) at Grafton (3-2)

The Irish have won two straight having beaten Bishop Donahue and River View on the road. Notre Dame will play its first five games away from home and then play the entire second half of the schedule at home.

Grafton has lost back to back games against Likely playoff teams Weir and Robert C. Byrd.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Locker Room Wrestle Mania

Was this the bye-week energy Dana Holgorsen was so excited about?

From the West Virginia locker room comes this Deadspin pickup, a treasured bit of rough-housing, starring Texas-born Dustin Garrison as “The Baddest Man in Boots.” (No. 5 on the depth chart, No. 1 in the ring!)

You’ll notice freshman Al-Rasheed Benton tackling large one moment and taking a dive the next—some serious stunt-double combat—with Marvin Gross making cameos befitting a submissive redshirt. (He succumbs to Garrison’s ankle lock and winds up on the wrong end of a crutch shot.)

And Holgorsen was probably most relieved to see no starters involved, at least until K.J. Dillon goes atomic drop as the closer.

There’s a second video—the rematch—where the props list expands to garbage bins and laundry carts. It’s hilarious stuff, though we’re left wondering why the NCAA bothered to limit practice contact.

 



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Defense Ready For Challenge of Facing ODU’s Heinicke

Saturday’s game at Old Dominion features two of the most prolific passers in college football. Marshall’s Rakeem Cato and Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke have combined to throw for 24,356 yards in their college careers. Besides the numbers, Doc Holliday sees similarities between the two quarterbacks.

“These two guys, when you watch them on film, are very similar. The one thing, I think, that (Taylor) Heinicke does like (Rakeem) Cato, when he gets in trouble, is number one he can beat you with his feet and his eyes are constantly down the field. He makes a lot of throws in scramble situations, does a great job stepping up in the pocket, and he makes all the throws.”

Last week, Heinicke moved into the top 10 in FBS career touchdown passes and total offense. He threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns in the 41-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State. In the Monarchs win over defending Conference USA Champion Rice, Heinicke threw for 430 yards and five touchdowns, plus he rushed for another score.

“He’s a lot like Cato,” assessed defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. “He keeps his eyes downfield, has a great feel in the pocket, slides in the pocket, finds the windows. He throws the ball before the receivers are open, he throws as they come open.”

So, how do you slow down Heinicke, who is one of just 18 quarterbacks in Division I with 10,000 career passing yards 1,000 rushing yards?

The same as you would slow down any quarterback, by putting pressure on him and making him uncomfortable in the pocket.

“You can’t just stand back there and let him pick you apart, because he can do that. You watch him play and he can make all the throws. There’s a reason he could end up being the most prolific passer in college football history,” said Holliday. “He’s good. He’s really good at what he does and he has good players around him. He’s going to make some throws. He’s made throws against everyone.”

Luckily for Marshall’s defense it has plenty of experience chasing a quarterback that moves in the pocket, extends plays and is constantly looking downfield. The Herd’s defense has been trying to slow down Rakeem Cato in practice for the last four years.

“We have an advantage because we practiced against him all camp and every day. That should help us,” said defensive lineman Joe Massaquoi.

Heinicke not only creates problems for the defense, he can also be a special teams nightmare. Old Dominion will line Heinicke up as the punter giving them the option to punt or go for it on fourth down.

“You never feel comfortable as a coach when you’re playing that team. They are always looking for extra possessions. That is why they have that quarterback in punt formation on fourth down and, at times, they will go for it,” said Holliday.

Heinicke will need a big day, if not a career day, for Old Dominion to pull the upset on The Herd Saturday. In the end, we will learn a lot about how good Taylor Heinicke is or we will get a gauge of how tough Marshall defense is.  ~~~~  Dave Wilson ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL SCORES Week 5

Final Score: Green Bay 42, Minnesota 10

Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 42-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Rodgers finished with 156 passing yards on 12-of-17 efficiency and Eddie Lacy had a season-high 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries for the Packers (3-2), who were coming off a 38-17 win over Chicago last week. Jordy Nelson had a 66-yard touchdown catch, while Davante Adams and Randall Cobb also caught a scoring pass. Christian Ponder rushed for a touchdown and completed 22 of his 44 passes for 222 yards and two interceptions for Minnesota (2-3), which was without starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater due to a sprained left ankle. Matt Asiata rushed 15 times for 72 yards and Adam Thielen had 57 yards on four catches in defeat.


►  Saints’ Colston Joins Soul Ownership Group

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston is letting his Soul glow.

The nine-year NFL veteran was added to the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul ownership group on Thursday.

“Adding Marques only elevates our already strong ownership group and organization,“ said Soul Co-Majority Owner and NFL analyst, Ron Jaworski. “He clearly has a vision of ‘life after football’ and is serious about his involvement with the business side of sports. Marques is a champion on the field and shares our core values and drive to be the best on and off the field.“

It was not announced how much Colston paid to become part of the ownership group or if another agreement was reached. He joins the existing ownership group which consists of Craig Spencer, Jaworski, Pete Ciarrocchi, Cosmo DeNicola and Marty Judge.

“I’m excited to join not only a great group of men that I am now proud call my new business partners, but also an organization that is committed to excellence,“ said Colston. “The Arena Football League is an amazing product with top notch football talent. I look forward to working with my partners, our players, the staff, our corporate partners, the season ticket holders and fans to continue to make the Soul the premier organization in the league.“

Colston, who currently resides in Medford, NJ, is the Saints’ all-time franchise leader in receiving yards (8,522), yards from scrimmage (8,529), receiving touchdowns (64), total touchdowns (64), and total receptions (619).

Colston is also the majority owner, president and general manager of his hometown Harrisburg Stampede, currently of the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL). He is intimately involved with managing both business and football operations for the team.


►  Murray Highlights NFC’s Best for September

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for September on Thursday.

Murray led the league with 534 rushing yards and five touchdowns runs as the Cowboys won three of their first four games.

Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy earned NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors. He had a tremendous first quarter of the season for the 3-1 Lions, recording 38 tackles, one interception and a safety.

Seattle punter Jon Ryan was selected as the NFC’s top special teams performer for the opening month of the season. Ryan placed seven of his 12 punts inside the 20-yard line and averaged 48.3 yards per punt for the 2-1 Seahawks.


►  Bears Aim To Continue Road Success against Panthers

If home is where the heart is, the Chicago Bears aren’t pining for the Windy City these days.

The Bears will attempt to stay perfect on the road this weekend when they visit Cam Newton and the reeling Carolina Panthers.

It’s been a bit of a Bizarro World for Marc Trestman’s team during the first quarter of the 2014 season as the Bears have won both of their road outings while losing two at Soldier Field, the last of which was a 38-17 implosion at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last weekend.

Rodgers, of course, told the Green Bay Packers’ fans to relax leading up to that game, but it was the Chicago defense which ended up kicking its shoes off as Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns—two each to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb—and amassed a gaudy 151.2 passer rating.

The Packers scored on their first six possessions of the game while piling up 358 yards of offense versus the paltry 223, their lowest total in five years, a week earlier in a 19-7 loss at Detroit.

Cobb finished with seven receptions for 113 yards and Nelson had 10 for 108 as the Packers won by three TDs despite surrendering 496 yards thanks in large part to the errors of Rodgers’ counterpart with the Bears, Jay Cutler.

Cutler threw two key interceptions in the third quarter and also made the cardinal mistake of throwing the football to Martellus Bennett in the middle of the field without any timeouts in the waning seconds of the first half.

Bennett appeared to possibly reach the ball across the goal line but then bobbled it as he brought it back to his body, keeping the Pack on top at intermission and what turned out to be a major momentum swing.

Cutler threw for 256 yards with two touchdowns to go along with the two picks for Chicago, which has lost eight of its last nine meetings with Green Bay.

Bennett had a monster game in defeat, catching nine passes for 134 yards. Matt Forte ran for a season-high 122 yards on 23 carries, while Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery each caught touchdown passes.

“It’s always hard to go on the road, especially in the NFL, coast-to-coast and win two games,“ Forte said. “For us to drop two games at home, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.“

The game also marked just the second time in NFL history that neither team punted the ball.

“It’s early in the season,“ Cutler said. “We have a lot of football left to play.“

Carolina, meanwhile, saw a ghost from its past last weekend as Steve Smith Sr. delivered big against his old team, hauling in two touchdown passes to help the Baltimore Ravens crush the Panthers 38-10.

Smith, who spent the first 13 seasons of his illustrious career with Carolina, took jabs at his former quarterback Cam Newton leading up to the game. He backed it up by making seven catches for 139 yards, while Newton was subpar for a second straight week guiding Carolina’s offense.

“I’m 35-years-old and I ran around those guys like they were schoolyard kids,“ said Smith.

Playing through various injuries, Newton threw for 197 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-25 passing, but struggled in the second half as the game got away from the Panthers.

“I don’t feel like I’ve played good enough football yet,“ Newton said. “If I felt that way, we’d be 4-0 right now.“

To make matters worse for the Panthers, running back DeAngelo Williams left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. He and Darrin Reaves gained only 60 total yards on 23 carries.

The Bears and Panthers have met just seven times previously with Chicago holding a 5-2 advantage in the series, including a 23-22 win in the last encounter on November 28, 2012. Bears cornerback Tim Jennings had two interceptions in that one and Marshall adding nine catches for 98 yards.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Bears go as Cutler goes and the veteran QB has been much better on the road early this season. He has amassed a 63.9 completion percentage with six TDs and no interceptions as the visitor for a 106.3 passer rating versus four TDs and four picks at home and a 84.7 rating.

In theory finding the running game should help but that didn’t work against Green Bay because the Packers are so explosive offensively and beat the Bears in a run-and-gun game. Carolina, on the other hand, doesn’t possess the same kind of explosiveness, meaning another big game from Forte will mean far more in this kind of environment.

Forte, meanwhile, generally excels against the Panthers, averaging 6.3 yards per rush in four games. He also exploded for 166 yards and two TDs the last time Chicago visited the Tar Heel State, a 23-6 win Oct, 10, 2010.

Carolina, meanwhile, has struggled defending the run, surrendering 140.8 yards on the ground per game, a stark contrast from its second place finish a year ago when the defense let up under 90 yards per game.

That lack of run defense has spurned a slump on defense overall and the Panthers have allowed 75 points over the past two weeks after giving up a total of 21 in the first two games.

“Stopping the run is simple,“ Panthers star linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “If you’re not in your gaps, they are going to rush you. If you’re in your gaps, they can’t run the ball. It’s cliche and as easy as it sounds.“

Offensively Carolina is tremendously banged-up in the backfield with Williams (ankle), Mike Tolbert (broken leg) and Jonathan Stewart (knee) all nursing injuries. Only Stewart is possibly in play for this game and undrafted rookie Reaves is expected to start after an uninspiring 12-carry, 26-yard performance against the Ravens.

The Panthers signed veteran running back Chris Ogbonnaya this week to provide some added depth.

All of that puts tremendous pressure on Newton, who has already been sacked nine times in three games.

The Bears, meanwhile, are expecting to get a pass-rush boost with the return of Jared Allen, who missed the Packers game with pneumonia.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Neither team seems to be trending in the right direction but give the Bears a slight advantage in their attempt to open 3-0 on the road for the first time since 2006 due to all the injuries in the Carolina backfield.

Predicted outcome: Bears 24, Panthers 23



►  Rivers, Watt Named AFC’s Best for First Month

San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee are the AFC players of the month for September.

Rivers, the offensive player of the month, completed 96-of-137 passes for 1,155 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception for an NFL-best 114.5 passer rating in the opening month.

He led the Chargers to a 3-1 record in September, posting a completion percentage of at least 70% and a passer rating of 124 or better in three of four games this month.

Watt, the defensive player of the month, had 15 tackles, two sacks, an interception-return touchdown, a blocked PAT and his first career touchdown catch.

McAfee, the special teams player of the month, punted 14 times for a 49.6 average, placing six punts inside the 20-yard line. He leads the NFL in net punting average (45.6), the third-best mark in September for one season of any player since net punting average became an official statistic in 1976.


►  Orton Set To Take Over Bills As Schwartz Returns to Detroit

A sense of urgency has precipitated change with the Buffalo Bills.

Second-year quarterback EJ Manuel has been benched and veteran Kyle Orton will start for the Bills on Sunday in Detroit.

Buffalo coach Doug Marrone announced the change Monday, a day after the team’s 23-17 loss in Houston dropped the Bills to 2-2.

“Obviously as the head coach you’ve got to evaluate everything and at the end of the day you’ve got to make the right decisions,“ Marrone said, according to the team’s official website.

Manuel, 24, has completed only 53% of his passes in the last two games, both losses, with three touchdown passes and two interceptions.

The 2013 first-round draft pick has thrown five touchdown passes and three picks overall in the first four games. He started 10 games as a rookie last season passing for 1,972 yards and 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Orton, 31, was signed last month after being released by the Dallas Cowboys in July following speculation he wanted a pay raise and after he was a no-show at minicamp.

He has also played for Chicago, Denver and Kansas City in his 10-year career, passing for 15,019 yards and 83 touchdowns with 59 interceptions and a 35-35 record as a starter.

Orton started in place of Tony Romo in the Cowboys’ winner-take-all NFC East loss to Philadelphia in Week 17 last season after Romo had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

Last weekend Manuel threw a pair of touchdown passes against the Texans, including an 80-yarder to Mike Williams in the fourth quarter, but made good on just 21-of-44 attempts for 225 yards. He also continued to make the game- changing mistake.

The Bills appeared to have the game in control when Nigel Bradham intercepted a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass that had been deflected by Kyle Williams at the line of scrimmage. The big play set Buffalo up in the red zone with the team already on top 10-7.

Two C.J. Spiller rush attempts brought about third down at the Houston 12 and Manuel had Fred Jackson open in the right flat, but J.J. Watt diagnosed the play and made a spectacular one-handed grab of Manuel’s short pass attempt, then raced untouched all the way to the end zone for the momentum-shifting score.

“You don’t get to be Defensive Player of the Year without having an impact on a lot of football games,“ Marrone said of Watt. “Obviously, he had an impact in this game.“

Later on, Darryl Morris picked off Manuel with just over a minute left to seal the game.

Jackson finished with six catches totaling 52 yards for Buffalo.

“I think the biggest thing for our team and for myself is to learn from (this loss), accept it, be a man about it, don’t shy away from it,“ said Manuel. “It is what it is.“

Things have been going far smoother for the Lions, who lead the NFC North entering Week 5 with a 3-1 record.

Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score last weekend, as Detroit escaped North Jersey a 24-17 win over the New York Jets.

Stafford finished 24-for-34 for 293 yards and had touchdown passes to Jeremy Ross and Eric Ebron for the Lions, who have won their past two games.

Star Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson was hobbled by an ankle injury throughout the game and was never a factor, catching just two passes for 12 yards.

“This was a heck of a game for us,“ said Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell. All the guys on both sides of the ball played well, but I don’t think that this is as well as we can play.“

The Bills and Lions have met only nine times previously with the series deadlocked at 4-4-1. Buffalo won the last matchup, 14-10, on November 14, 2010 when Jackson piled up 170 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Lions come in with the No. 1 rated defense in the entire NFL but Motor City fans are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Remember Detroit was atop the NFC North in 2013 as late as Week 10 before imploding and dropping six of their final seven games, a reality which cost Jim Schwartz his job as the team’s head coach.

Schwartz’s new job is defensive coordinator for the Bills and the irony of the jettisoned coach returning to Detroit and thumbing his nose against the Lions is in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds.

To do that, however, his stop unit must find a way to slow down a very high- powered offense with difference makers at all the skill positions and a far healthier Johnson this week.

“I think you have a number of guys that understand what the situation is and understand the problems they’ve had maybe previously in some situations,“ Caldwell said. “You have a group of guys with enough leaders that have sort of taken that cause on themselves.“

For the Bills the QB change is obviously the biggest news, a development you can probably trace back to Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula’s agreement to purchase the Bills from the Wilson family trust, a deal which is expected to be approved by the NFL owners at their meeting in New York City on October 08.

The conventional thinking is these types of situations is that new ownership likes to bring in its own people for high-level managerial positions and that has created a win-now mentality for both Marrone and Bills general manager Doug Whaley.

Meanwhile, New England’s struggles have opened up the AFC East for everyone and, despite the two consecutive losses, the Bills are tied atop the division with both the Pats and the Miami Dolphins.

If the quarterback was carrying his own water there is little doubt that Buffalo would be alone atop the standings and that was the impetus for the change.

“It’s not all EJ’s fault, but we need to get better production out of that position,“ Marrone admitted. “We’ve got to make some changes because we can’t keep going in the direction that we’re going.“

The Bills are just 27th in total offense with Manuel running the show despite some very solid skill position talent of their own, which features Jackson and Spiller at running back, along with rookie star Sammy Watkins, Williams and Robert Woods at receiver.

“It’s not a one-man show,“ Spiller said. “(But) in this league, the quarterback is the focal point and the emphasis of wins and losses of teams.“

Orton is a completely different QB than Manuel. Buffalo is giving up some athleticism in favor of a prototypical pocket-style passer who can make quick decisions and get the ball out quickly.

“We just had a different approach to practice,“ Watkins said. “(Orton) demands what he wants out of us. He’s more of a veteran guy. The way he talked, the way he handles business, the way he looks at plays and breaks down defenses, it’s kind of different than E.J. He reads it quicker, the ball is coming out faster.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Orton has actually never lost to the Lions as a starter, compiling a 4-0 mark and passing for 822 yards with four TDs in those contests. Meanwhile, nobody should know how to stop the Lions offense better than Schwartz.

That said, the NFL is about talent and Detroit has a little too much of it to stumble at home against this Bills team.

Predicted outcome: Lions 30, Bills 23


►  Sloppy Steelers Search For Answers against Lowly Jags

It’s a work in progress. But thus far, it’s been light on the progress.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were ahead, 17-0, in their Week 1 visit to Philadelphia before allowing 34 unanswered second-half points. Those tumultuous 30 minutes kick-started a stretch in which they’ve now played seven halves of football and been outscored, 152-41, while doing so.

In fact, the Jaguars haven’t won at all since beating Houston, 27-20, on December 5, 2013.

“We’re not light on losing,“ coach Gus Bradley said. “We’re not playing our best right now so we can’t think about anything else. We haven’t accomplished playing our best yet. Let’s do that then we’ll see what happens.“

The Blake Bortles Era officially began last week when the rookie got his first start over veteran Chad Henne. He connected on all but three of his 18 first- half passes for 149 yards and a touchdown against San Diego, before ultimately winding up 29-for-37 for 253 yards, the TD and two interceptions.

The Jaguars lost, 33-14, but they recorded a season-high with 21 first downs and converted nine of 14 attempts on third down. And Bortles earned some respect from the opposition, too.

“He’s going to be a real good quarterback in the league,“ Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers said.

The next phase of his climb will be hampered by the likely absence of top receiving target Cecil Shorts III, who injured a muscle in his left leg against San Diego and is considered doubtful for Sunday. Shorts missed the first two games with a strained left hamstring, then caught seven passes for 60 yards and a touchdown in weeks 3 and 4.

Among the other targets, rookie Marqise Lee remains sidelined with his own hamstring issue, while Ace Sanders returns after a four-game NFL-mandated suspension. He caught 51 passes as a rookie in 2013.

“I don’t know what to expect,“ Sanders said. “I’m just going in, whatever they ask me to do, I’ll do it. If it turns out, I’ll be ready for it.“

On defense, the Jaguars have been gashed for a league-worst 38 points per game, and are also at the bottom of the 32-team barrel with 320.8 passing yards allowed per week, alongside 451.3 total yards.

Jacksonville responded to the difficulties by waiving starting safety Winston Guy.

“I just think we’re not challenging throws,“ Bradley said. “It needs to be tighter.“

Approaching the matchup with eyes wide open is Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 29-of-40 passes for 314 yards and three scores against Tampa Bay last week, only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory when the Bucs pulled ahead in the final 10 seconds.

Roethlisberger has passed for 413 yards in two road games to start the season. His top target, Antonio Brown, is among the league’s leaders in catches (29), yards (427) and touchdowns (5).

A loss to the Jaguars would put the Steelers below .500 after five games for the third straight year, a stretch coach Mike Tomlin would like to see end while the team reduces its burgeoning early-season penalty rate. Pittsburgh committed 13 penalties last week and is averaging 11 per game.

“We need to fix it,“ Tomlin said. “And if we don’t we’ll continue to lose close football games.“

The Steelers have managed seven sacks and forced three turnovers in four games. Tampa Bay, which entered the game 0-3 and was coming off a 42-point loss, got into scoring position late in the game with a 41-yard pass play. The game-winner came on another pass from the 5-yard line.

Pittsburgh allowed 350 total yards for the game.

The 2013 season began at 2-6 for the Steelers, while 2012 featured a 2-3 start. Both seasons ended at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Pittsburgh hasn’t reached the postseason since going 12-4 in 2011.

“We fell short in our responsibilities,“ cornerback Cortez Allen said. “That’s why we didn’t come out with a win. It’s something we’ve got to fix.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Rookie vs. Mastermind

As impressive as Bortles has been through one start and one relief appearance - throwing for 447 yards and three scores against four interceptions - he’ll presumably face a unique challenge against the Pittsburgh defense concocted by veteran sideline guru Dick LeBeau.

Veteran passers have ravaged the Steelers for a 62.2% completion rate in 2014, but LeBeau is 18-2 against rookies since 2004.

Target Practice

With Shorts and Lee presumably out of commission and Sanders trying to feel his way back into game action, the top target for Bortles will likely be Allen Hurns, who’s caught 12 passes for 254 yards and scored three times in four games. Limiting his success will be the responsibility of Pittsburgh corners Allen and William Gay, who’ll need to limit his propensity for big plays (21.2 yards per catch).

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The general consensus is that, thanks to his track record, Tomlin isn’t likely to feel too much heat with another lackluster Pittsburgh start. But a loss to a particularly poor 0-4 team might change that quickly.

The Steelers should have been 3-1 entering this one, so there’s a particular urgency to make this business trip a productive one against a team they should handle. They should get it done.

Predicted outcome: Steelers 30, Jaguars 17


►  Home Sweet Home: Saints Aim for another Superdome Win over Bucs

He’s not at the Brady, Manning, Montana level just yet.

But for Mike Glennon, it’s certainly a step in the right heroic direction.

The second-year Tampa Bay quarterback enters a Week 5 visit to New Orleans coming off the best come-through-in-the-clutch moment of his young career, when he hit Vincent Jackson with a decisive touchdown pass with seven seconds to play in a 27-24 win at Pittsburgh.

The Bucs had started 0-3 under Josh McCown before Glennon took the reins thanks to a thumb injury the veteran suffered during a 42-point thrashing by the Atlanta Falcons. The 2014 starting debut saw Glennon finish not only with a victory, but a career-high 302 yards and two scoring throws.

And to be sure, it caught the attention of Lovie Smith, too.

“You do judge quarterbacks on what they do late, and he was at his best at the end, right up until the last throw,“ said the first-year Bucs coach, who arrived on the Gulf Coast after nine years in Chicago.

“When you’re labeled the quarterback of the future, that’s what you’re supposed to do when you come out. The future was in front of us a little earlier than the initial plan, but you need to be ready. How (Glennon) handled it right there at the end, having to make that final throw, kind of said it all.“

Presuming Glennon gets the call again on Sunday - McCown was listed questionable as of Wednesday - he’ll face a Saints team that’s not only reeling following a one-sided debacle of its own, but one that’s been particularly accommodating to opposing quarterbacks through the season’s first four weeks.

New Orleans hasn’t recorded a single interception in four games, and it hasn’t forced a turnover of any sort since a 37-34 loss to Atlanta in Week 1. The Saints are tied for 28th (with the Buccaneers) in a 32-team league with an average of 272.5 aerial yards allowed per week, and their per-week ground allowance of 123.5 yards is 21st in the NFL.

Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin returned from a two-game absence to rack up 40 yards on 14 attempts against Pittsburgh. He’d been sidelined since Week 1 with a knee injury and is averaging just 2.1 yards per carry on 23 rushes so far this season. He surpassed 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012, but was limited to just six games - and 456 yards - last season.

Bobby Rainey is the top runner so far for the Buccaneers, with a 4.9-yard average on 41 rushes. And though the initial three losses dug his team a standings hole, Smith remains optimistic thanks to a muddled NFC South Division in which Tampa Bay is just a game behind co-leaders Carolina and Atlanta.

“In the big scheme of things there are a lot of disappointed teams in the league,“ he said. “For us, we’re one game away and we have another chance to get a division road game. What better position for us to be in? We’re getting some of our injured players back, and our guys can see where we can go.“

The Saints haven’t been an easy target for the Bucs in their last two meetings, which New Orleans has won by a combined 83-17. Still, coach Sean Payton and Co. enter this matchup while still licking wounds from a surprise Monday night trouncing by the Dallas Cowboys that ended with a 38-17 result.

New Orleans has won nine straight at home and five in a row against Tampa Bay, which provides some reason for good feeling in spite of the defensive struggles that have tempered some of the Super Bowl chatter which dotted myriad preseason previews.

“You have to be realistic and know that we’re not as good as we thought we were,“ linebacker Junior Galette said. “We have three quarters (of the schedule) left, and we have to improve drastically. Nothing is encouraging right now. We’re not looking at other teams. We’re looking at ourselves, and how we played (against Dallas) was discouraging. At the same time, you’ve got to be tough and be strong through these tough times because they never last.“

Gun-slinging quarterback Drew Brees hit on 32-of-44 passes for two touchdowns and 340 yards against the Cowboys, but Dallas managed 190 yards on the ground while becoming the second Saints opponent to surpass 30 points this season - matching the total from all of 2013.

On average, New Orleans has allowed more than 33 points per game, but it gave up just nine in its lone home appearance thus far - a 20-9 throttling of Minnesota in Week 3. In the nine-game Superdome win streak, the Saints have outscored opponents by an average of 17.6 points.

The last five wins against the Bucs have come by a similar 17.2 average, a stretch in which Brees has compiled a 113.3 passer rating and 15 touchdowns while averaging 329 yards per game.

“It’s challenging. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating,“ Payton said. “But it’s on all of us now. Obviously, it’s not where you want to be one quarter through the season. There’s a lot of things that need to be cleaned up. Quite honestly, we’re playing like a 1-3 team right now, and that’s what our record is.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Renewing a Sideline Rivalry

It’s Smith’s first crack at the Saints as coach in Tampa Bay, but he’ll be aiming to continue a tidy little stretch of success against New Orleans from his days with the Bears.

Chicago defeated the Saints in the NFC Championship Game in 2006, then beat them in both 2007 and 2008 in games that mathematically ended their postseason chances. Last time in New Orleans, however, Smith was whipped, 30-13.

What’s So Special?

The Bucs have encountered repeated difficulty in the third phase of the game, including having both a punt and a field goal blocked in a Week 2 loss to St. Louis.

Four days later, they were on the ugly end of Devin Hester’s record-breaking 20th career return touchdown for the Falcons. Meanwhile, kicker Patrick Murray has already missed three field goals in 10 early-season attempts, all from beyond 40 yards.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Which way you go depends largely on which version of the Saints you expect to see - and just how much you take from the Bucs’ rally to defeat Pittsburgh.

Regardless of the standings, New Orleans does still boast a prolific offense that’s led by one of the generation’s top quarterbacks, and unless Tampa Bay can find a way to hold him in check for a full 60 minutes, it simply doesn’t have the weapons to compete.

Predicted outcome: Saints 30, Buccaneers 17


►  Locker Set To Return As Titans Host Browns

They may not win a lot, but the Cleveland Browns are surely dramatic.

Coach Mike Pettine and Co. come out of a Week 4 bye having won just once in three games, each of which has been decided by a field goal in the final seconds. The cardiac-inducing Browns lost 30-27 and 23-21 decisions to Pittsburgh and Baltimore in Weeks 1 and 3, respectively, sandwiching a 26-24 defeat of the New Orleans Saints that was provided by Billy Cundiff’s decisive kick with three seconds left.

And if nothing else, the results have gotten a team coming off a four-win season to believe that prosperity might not be all that far away.

“We’re committed to this. We realize where we’re at. We realize how close we are,“ quarterback Brian Hoyer said. “I think we’ve proven to ourselves that we can play with anyone, but it only matters if you win or lose.“

Amid the frenzy created by Heisman Trophy draftee Johnny Manziel and the emotional and strategic blow prompted by Josh Gordon’s suspension, an unheralded Cleveland offensive unit has managed to score 24.7 points per game against three teams that combined for 27 wins in 2013.

Hoyer has thrown for 716 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, and has depended largely on a run game that’s 10th in the league in total rushing yardage. Rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West have teamed up for 345 yards and five touchdowns in three games, and the Browns could be on the verge of getting back veteran Ben Tate, who’s missed two games with a knee sprain.

“I’m proud of those guys,“ Tate said. “I believe in myself and I know what I can do and I believe in my talents. I’m never one of those guys that wants to hate on the next guy.“

The 26-year-old Tate is in his first year with Cleveland after three seasons and 1,992 yards alongside Arian Foster in Houston. He gained 93 yards on nine rushes against Tennessee with the Texans last season and has gone for 6.7 yards per carry against the Titans in five career matchups.

Tennessee has won two straight against the Browns, though, and though its 1-3 record through the season’s first quarter isn’t exactly what coach Ken Whisenhunt was aiming for, it’s no time for alarm.

At least not yet.

Two of the Titans’ three losses thus far have come against teams that made the playoffs last season - Cincinnati and Indianapolis - and they scored their lone win against another postseason achiever from 2013, Kansas City. Combine the level of the opposition with the reality of a new coach and suddenly the mindset goes from hopeless to hopeful.

“It was difficult,“ Whisenhunt said. “New systems, new things, new ways of doing things, we’ve had some not so good games. I mean I’m stating the obvious of course, but we’re going to get it going in the right direction. I have every confidence in that. This isn’t an easy thing to go through.“

Three of the games in the second quarter of the season will be on home turf, and three will come against teams who’ve begun 2014 with below-.500 records through four weeks.

Tennessee is hoping to avoid its first four-game skid since 2010.

“You have to stay the course with the expectations and you have to be clear with how you expect it to be done,“ Whisenhunt said. “For us to be more consistent as an offense, we’ve got to be a lot more disciplined in what we’re trying to get done.“

The Titans have failed to score in the opening quarter of each of their four games, they’ve scored fewer points than 28 of 32 teams in the NFL and their time of possession average - 26 minutes, 22 seconds - is a similarly mediocre 28th in the league. A 41-17 loss to the Colts last week saw them manage just 261 total yards under the direction of quarterbacks Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger.

Starter Jake Locker, who missed that game with a wrist injury, is probable to face the Browns.

He’s hardly been transcendent when he’s played, however, managing a 70.8 passer rating and three touchdowns, compared to four interceptions and a shoddy 56.4 completion percentage.

Tennessee managed just 85 yards rushing against Indianapolis, and its most prolific aerial weapon thus far has been tight end Delanie Walker, who’s got 22 catches and three touchdowns.

Not surprisingly given the offense’s struggles, the defense has yielded 27.5 points per week - fifth-worst in the league - and the team’s 307 penalty yards are also fifth from the top of an undesirable heap.

“We have to put some wins up there,“ receiver Kendall Wright said, “and we have to stop all of the little things that (are) killing us.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Stay Grounded

It’s not translated into wins, but the Tennessee run game has achieved a lofty status - averaging five yards per carry through the first 25% of the season.

Unfortunately, with the scoreboard margins typically turning bad early, the run game has been quickly abandoned. Expect Bishop Sankey (5.1 yards per carry), Shonn Greene (4.7) and Dexter McCluster (3.8) to prolong its priority against the Browns.

Hoyer Paranoia

The “Johnny Football” buzzards have been circling Hoyer’s head since training camp, but the incumbent has a chance to quiet the naysayers this week. Tennessee has had trouble stopping the run in its initial four games, so an early reliance on Tate, Crowell and West could open up some possibilities for play-action success later on.

The degree to which Hoyer shines will determine his long-term starting fate.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

OK, the Browns don’t win on the road and the Titans are probably better than the 1-3 record they’ve posted through four weeks. So, logic dictates that Tennessee will maintain normalcy and win in a grinding fashion. But there’s something about this Cleveland team that feels different, at least through the initial month, and it’ll continue here with Hoyer doing just enough to get the Browns to .500.

Predicted outcome: Browns 24, Titans 21


►  Embattled Smith Leads Jets against Chargers

The last time the New York Jets went to San Diego, it felt different.

Rex Ryan was a rookie coach. Mark Sanchez was a rookie quarterback. And after the Jets surprised the heavily-favored Chargers to reach the AFC Championship Game a week later, all seemed possible.

Fast-forward four-plus years and the subsequent visit to Southern California brings with it a sky’s worth of dark clouds now following Gang Green from its Northern New Jersey home base.

Ryan is likely one more mediocre season from being shown the door, and his second-year quarterback, Geno Smith - whose arrival hastened Sanchez’s exile to Philadelphia in the offseason - is hearing more than just whispers suggesting he be benched for the ex-Eagle that Sanchez replaced, Michael Vick.

It all got just a little worse for Smith after last week’s 24-17 loss to Detroit, when he was caught by television cameras shouting an expletive at a home stadium heckler. He threw for 209 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the loss to the Lions and has five interceptions and a pair of fumbles through the first four games of his second season.

Still, just as he’d done when the anti-Sanchez volume cranked up, Ryan is standing by his man.

“I believe in him,“ the coach said. “I believe that we’re going to get it done and I believe that he’s going to be one of the main reasons we get it done and get it turned. I don’t anticipate us as a team continuing to struggle. I think this team needs a win in the worst way, and I think that will help us more than anything. We have guys that believe in each other and I think, to a man, that our team believes in Geno.“

The next three games, incidentally, will match Smith against QBs named Rivers, Manning and Brady. Not exactly an ideal list while trying to avoid a four-game losing streak for the first time in seven years.

But fear not, Jets fans. The offensive unit held a players-only meeting to brainstorm for ways in which it can turn around a stat sheet that indicates the Jets are averaging 19.8 points per week, and refuel a passing game that’s exceeded 204 yards exactly one time in four games.

Smith, for one, emerged from the get-together with defiance.

“No grievances,“ Smith said. “I understand the semantics are a huge thing in (the New York) market, but no grievance. I don’t want you guys to get that misunderstood. No one’s hanging their head around here, no one’s sad, no one’s down on themselves. We’re ready to go out and play.“

On the other side, New York’s run defense is tops in the league through four weeks, but it’s mere window-dressing for a pass defense that’s surrendered nine touchdowns and hasn’t yet managed a single interception. The last time an NFL team failed to get a pick through five games was 12 years ago.

That team, the 2002 Buffalo Bills, would up with 10 interceptions and finished 8-8.

Alongside the lack of interceptions, the 2014 Jets have allowed a combined 106.8 passer rating to QBs named Carr, Rodgers, Cutler and Stafford. This week’s opponent - the aforementioned Philip Rivers - had TD strikes of 47 and 43 yards to Eddie Royal in a 33-14 rout of Jacksonville last weekend.

Royal has scored four times in the last two games, and Rivers enters this Sunday with the league’s best passer rating (114.5), though it’s been even better (128.2) in three straight wins since a one-point Week 1 defeat against Arizona. He’s completed 74.3% of his passes while racking up 917 yards and eight scores in the victories, and torched the Jaguars for 377 yards and three of the TDs.

Keenan Allen caught 10 passes for 135 yards against Jacksonville and leads the team with 22 catches and 244 yards for the season.

“I don’t think it’s just Eddie and Philip. I think it’s the whole group,“ Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “Philip has many weapons to go to.“

Rivers has done it without the luxury of a reliable run game since the team lost Danny Woodhead for the season in Week 1 and will be without Ryan Mathews for at least a couple more weeks with a knee problem. Fill-ins Donald Brown and Branden Oliver teamed up for 19 carries and 42 yards last week.

San Diego is second-from-last in the NFL with a 69.5-yard rushing average per week, and the Chargers drop to No. 32 in yards-per-carry clip, which stands at 2.4. The Jets allow 63.3 rush yards per week, which is the best in the league. Their total yardage-allowed rate is 291.2, third in the league.

“It’s nowhere where it needs to be,“ McCoy said. “There’s no excuses about it. We’re not running it well enough. We’re not blocking well enough. Whatever we’re running isn’t working. We’ve got to figure out as coaches and players how to get it done.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Out of His Hands

Whether Smith’s long-term starting fate is secure is still up for debate, but the Jets will likely go to great lengths to keep Sunday’s result out of his hands. Given his per-carry average of 5.5 yards over 50 attempts thus far,

Chris Ivory has become the No. 1 option as a feature back while New York becomes an offensive that mirrors Ryan’s ground-and-pound philosophy. It’ll keep the ball away from Rivers, too.

If He’s Standing, He’s Winning

Rivers, by any measure, is having one of his best seasons. And against a secondary as leaky as New York’s, it only figures to continue. The Chargers have done a decent job of keeping their QB upright - five sacks allowed in four games - so, unless the Jets are able to get five of their own on Sunday, Rivers has a real shot to maintain a 70.1% completion rate and boost his 9 TD/1 INT ratio.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It’s not the first time that Ryan and Co. have gone into a game that looks like a horrifically bad matchup. And he’s managed more than once to either keep the game closer than expected or even win the thing.

But even the most hopeful of Jets fans has to think this one’s got a chance to get out of hand pretty early. Bottom line, if Rivers is anywhere near himself, he’ll make mincemeat of a Triple-A secondary.

Predicted outcome: Chargers 38, Jets 14


►  Benjamin, Fuller Named September’s Top Rookies

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller were named the NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Month for September on Thursday.

Benjamin led all rookies with 329 receiving yards on 21 catches. He also had touchdown receptions of 35, 28 and 26 yards. The first-round pick out of Florida State had at least five catches in three of the Panthers’ first four games.

Fuller tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions and was tied for second in the league with two forced fumbles. The first-round selection out of Virginia Tech also registered 21 tackles and four passes defensed.


►  Former Judge to Hear Rice Appeal

Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones has been appointed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to hear the appeal filed by Ray Rice.

Goodell made the announcement Thursday after consulting with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.

“We are grateful to Judge Jones for taking on this role,“ Goodell said in a statement. “She will have our full cooperation as she hears and decides this appeal.“

Rice was suspended indefinitely by Goodell on September 08 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after a video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator became public. Goodell had originally suspended the former Baltimore running back for two games.

Jones served in the Southern District of New York from 1996-2013. A former attorney in the Department of Justice, she is currently a partner in the law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder.


►  Ravens Seek 4th Straight Win, Visit Red-Hot Luck, Colts

The Baltimore Ravens have long been defined by their defense, but it is Joe Flacco and the offense that has the club off to a 3-1 start.

Meanwhile, Andrew Luck’s MVP-type start to the season has the Indianapolis Colts at .500.

The two clubs put their winning streaks on the line this Sunday at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.

Lost in the never-ending Ray Rice saga is the fact that the Ravens have ripped off three straight victories since a Week 1 loss to Cincinnati, putting them second in the AFC North behind only the 3-0 Bengals. Baltimore has won three in a row by an average of 17.3 points, posting two blowout wins around a two- point nail-bitter over Cleveland.

Baltimore’s latest win came last Sunday on a big game by Steve Smith Sr. over his former Carolina Panthers club, with the wide receiver hauling in a pair of touchdown passes in a 38-10 rout.

Smith spent his first 13 seasons with the Panthers before getting released in March. He signed a three-year deal with the Ravens and came back to haunt his former club, grabbing seven passes for 139 yards.

“I’m 35 years old and I ran around those guys like they were school-yard kids,“ said Smith.

Flacco threw for 327 yards and also hooked up with Torrey Smith for a touchdown pass, while running backs Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro combined for 124 yards on 29 carries. Each back also found the end zone as Baltimore racked up a season-high 454 yards.

The Ravens are aiming to open a season 4-1 for the fourth time under head coach John Harbaugh and will do so while kicking off a span of two straight and four of their next five on the road. That made last weekend’s home win over Carolina all the more important.

“To step up like they did, in a really important game at home, a game that we needed to win,“ Harbaugh praised of his team. “We’re about to head on the road, we’re about to be the road warriors here for a while. And that becomes a very important game to win.“

The Colts have also picked up a pair of important wins, rebounding from losses at Denver and at home versus Philadelphia to begin the campaign with dominating wins over Jacksonville and Tennessee.

Indianapolis routed the Jaguars 44-17 in Week 3, then blew past the Titans 41-17 last weekend. Luck threw four touchdown passes for a second straight game, racking up 393 yards passing.

Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton both went over 100 yards receiving, with Wayne notching 119 yards and a score on seven catches. Ahmad Bradshaw caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season, the most among all running backs this season.

“We’re blessed with a bunch of great playmakers, guys that need the ball in their hands, and as a quarterback that’s what you want,“ said Luck.

At 2-2, the Colts sit second in the AFC South, right behind 3-1 Houston. Their win over Tennessee pushed their winning streak over division opponents to nine in a row.

Needless to say, after posting 85 points in two weeks, the Colts are a pretty confident bunch right now.

“It gives us a mojo and that’s what we’re taking with us on the road,“ Bradshaw said of getting to .500. “In every game, the mojo, we just got to have energy at all times, come out playing strong, fast and physical. That’s the way we did today.“

The Colts will play three of their next four on the road after this game and will try to remain unbeaten against the Ravens in Indy. They have won all four regular-season meetings in Indianapolis and lead the all-time regular-season series 7-3.

These clubs are meeting for the first time since the Ravens won a 24-9 decision at home on January 06, 2013 in an AFC wild card game clash. That marked the final home game in the career of Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, and true to form, the Ravens defense did not give up a touchdown.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

High-powered offenses are set to clash against middle-of-the-road defenses, and both the Colts and Ravens rank in the top three in point differential. Baltimore is second at plus-43, while the Colts are third at plus-41.

The Ravens are sixth in the league with 394.3 yards per game and are averaging 25.8 points per game, while the Colts lead the NFL in scoring at 34.0 PPG and are averaging an NFL high-tying 444.0 YPG.

Luck leads the NFL with 13 touchdown passes, the most ever by a player through the first four games in franchise history. He has also completed passes to nine different receivers in back-to-back weeks.

“He’s doing a great job of that, of taking what the defense is giving him and not getting greedy, so to speak, and spreading the ball around,“ said Colts coach Chuck Pagano. “They’ve got to make a decision defensively who they want to identify like we do as game- wreckers and take those guys away, but it’s going to open it up obviously for somebody else either in the run game or the pass game.“

Luck is the first player in NFL history with consecutive games of 370-plus passing yards, four-plus touchdown passes, a 70-plus completion percentage and one interception or fewer.

Flacco, meanwhile, has been helped by an offensive line that has not given up a sack in three straight games. The Ravens prevented the Panthers from getting to Flacco despite tackle Eugene Monroe missing the game with a knee injury. James Hurst stepped in and helped give Flacco time to complete 22 of his 31 pass attempts.

“It’s been really good. We get the ball out, and those guys have been holding up big time when we do the play-action, when teams come after us and when we’re dealing with really good defensive lines,“ Flacco said of the unit.

Both quarterbacks are also getting helped by veteran receivers.

Smith became the oldest player in NFL history to notch over 400 yards receiving in the first four games of a season, with the 35-year-old having 429 on 25 receptions.

He can also provide an emotional spark, like he did versus the Panthers, something Colts cornerback Darius Butler knows well.

“I played with Steve in 2011 in Carolina, so I know what kind of a player he is, what kind of attitude he brings to a locker room, to a team. It’ll be a great matchup for us on the back end and us as a whole against the Ravens,“ Butler said.

Wayne, also 35, is coming off his 200th career game and posted the 43rd 100- yard contest of his career. His seven catches moved him past Isaac Bruce (1,024) for seventh most on the NFL’s all-time list, while Wayne is just 27 yards shy of passing Cris Carter (13,899) for ninth most all-time and 132 from moving past eighth-place James Lofton.

“I think he’s a technician. I think he has mastered the craft of being a wide receiver,“ Luck said of Wayne.

“He sees coverages incredibly well. He knows what zone, man, where the blitz is coming from. He understands football and I think he’s mastered his craft, and he takes it seriously. It’s his profession and he gives it the respect it deserves.“

The Colts have allowed just five sacks on the year, but they’ll need to watch Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had three sacks and forced three fumbles in the last regular-season meeting in 2011. Fellow linebacker Elvis Dumervil has 3 1/2 sacks in his last three games overall, notching 1 1/2 sacks versus Carolina.

Indianapolis defensive tackle Arthur Jones has six tackles on the year, his first with the Colts after spending his first four campaigns with the Ravens. He had 8 1/2 sacks during his time with Baltimore and had a big run of nine tackles, two fumble recoveries and a sack in four playoff games as the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII.

Colts safety Mike Adams had two interceptions last weekend as the Titans avoided throwing towards cornerback Vontae Davis. However, fellow safety LaRon Landry begins a four-game suspension this weekend for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. The ban was announced on Monday and the Colts lose their second-leading tackler in Landry.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

This is a key stretch for the Ravens, who have already lost to the first-place Bengals and can’t afford to lose much ground during this road-heavy month.

“The challenge is you have to go play another team in their environment, and that takes an incredible amount of discipline and poise,“ noted Harbaugh. “And the more disciplined and poised we are, the more able we are to execute under (pressure) and tune out the noise ... we’ll be good, and that’s what we have to do.“

However, tuning out the noise in Indy is the least of the Ravens’ worries as Luck is red-hot.

Baltimore’s defense has been up to the task for the most part this season, but containing Luck on his own turf could prove to be too big a task.

Predicted outcome: Colts 27, Ravens 23


►  Manning Shoots for No. 500 as Broncos Entertain Unbeaten Cards

Arizona head coach Bruce Arians and assistant head coach Tom Moore had a first-hand look at the growth and success of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.

The two hope to keep Manning from reaching another milestone this Sunday in Mile High as the unbeaten Cardinals try to secure their first ever road win over the Broncos in a matchup of two teams coming off their bye.

Arians and Moore have helped turn around the Cardinals, leading the franchise to its third 3-0 start in 41 years and 10 victories in the past 12 games overall. Arizona now has a chance at the eighth 4-0 start in franchise history and just the second since 1975, having also opened up the 2012 campaign with four straight wins.

Any inside information the two have on Manning will be helpful. Arians served as quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis from 1998-2000, Manning’s first three seasons in the league, but Moore’s relationship with the signal-caller stretched through 2010.

Moore joined the Colts as offensive coordinator the same year the franchise took Manning first overall in the draft and Manning never played a game without Moore, whose contract with the Colts expired following the 2010 season.

Manning, meanwhile, did not suit up for Indianapolis in 2011 due to neck surgery and was then released at the end of the season, leading to his signing with Denver.

“Peyton’s very, very special,“ Moore said “He’s a special individual and his work ethic and his preparation are just meticulous. Peyton makes everybody in organization better.. He made me a better coach and I’ll be the first to admit it.“

“It’s pretty rare for coordinator and a quarterback to stay that long together,“ said Manning of his partnership with Moore. “People used to always tell both of us, ‘Boy, you’re lucky you got the same coordinator every year and they tell him you’ve got the same quarterback every year.‘ I think we both kind of say, ‘Hey, if you call good plays and you play good quarterback, they’re going to keep you.‘

“We were both proud of the fact that we were able to stay together that long because we both did our jobs ... I’ll always be indebted to him.“

Manning has thrown 100 touchdown passes since joining the Broncos, including eight this season. That has given him 499 in his career, leaving him one shy of joining Brett Favre as the only players in NFL history to pass for 500 career touchdowns.

The 38-year-old completed a pair of TD passes in Week 3’s Super Bowl rematch with Seattle, both in the fourth quarter as Denver erased a 17-3 halftime deficit to force overtime.

However, the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch score a six-yard rushing touchdown in the bonus quarter to hand the Broncos a 26-20 setback.

Denver was coming off wins over Indianapolis and Kansas City and will play three of its next four at home.

“I think when we looked at the schedule, six out of the first eight were playoff teams from a year ago and the team (Arizona) coming to town somehow didn’t make the playoffs,“ said Broncos coach John Fox. “Obviously it was the rules but they were 10-6, very, very good football team that’s sitting at 3-0. Bruce has done a great job with that football team. They’ve got very good players really in all three phases and it will be a tough, tough test here in Denver.“

While Fox is set under center, Arians may be going with backup quarterback Drew Stanton for a third straight week as Carson Palmer continues to battle an issue with his right shoulder.

Palmer has not played since Week 1 and appeared on track to return for this game, but ended up getting excused from practice on Wednesday to go see a specialist.

“He threw a bunch last Thursday and Friday and then regressed, so we’re hoping we can find out why,“ said Arians, who noted Palmer won’t play until he is at full velocity.

Stanton, meanwhile, has guided Arizona to wins over the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. In those victories, he has passed for 411 yards and two touchdowns while not turning the ball over.

So, it could be Stanton who tries to lead the Cardinals to their first victory in five trips to Denver.

The Broncos are 7-1-1 overall in this matchup, winning seven straight before a loss in Arizona on December 12, 2010 when the clubs last met.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Another week, another milestone watch for Manning.

With a struggling running game, Manning has the Broncos operating with the eighth-best passing attack at 264.0 yards per game.

Manning has plenty of targets, hitting tight ends Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme for fourth-quarter touchdowns versus Seattle. Thomas is second on the club with 14 receptions and leads the NFL with five touchdowns.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders set career highs with 11 catches and 149 yards in Week 3 and has hauled in 25 passes from Manning on the year. However, he is still looking for his first touchdown catch in a Denver uniform and will try to get his hands on Manning’s 500th.

“That’s a heck of an accomplishment within itself. I mean, Peyton has broken so many records, and every season he continues to break several other ones,“ said Sanders. “Hopefully I’ll be on the other end of catching that ball but right now Julius Thomas is hot and hopefully he stays hot.“

Manning wasn’t always this hot. In his first season under the watchful eye of Arians and Moore, he set an NFL rookie record with 28 interceptions, a mark that still stands.

Of course, Manning has gotten a tad bit better since then and also credits Arians.

“Bruce would coach me hard and I would kind of learn sort of what I did wrong and I really used that experience and got a lot better my second year and we kind of turned it around,“ Manning said. “So I’ll be indebted to Bruce, as well. He taught me a lot of fundamentals in those first three years that I still use today.“

Perhaps Stanton has picked up some of those fundamentals as he helped rally the Cardinals back from an eight-point halftime deficit to a 23-14 win over the 49ers.

Behind Stanton and Palmer, the Cardinals have opened a season without throwing an interception through three games for the first time in team history.

“My biggest goal is to not let my teammates down,“ Stanton said on Arizona’s website. “That’s what I need to continue to do. That’s what motivates me.“

Rookie wide out John Brown has clicked with Stanton, catching two TD passes versus San Francisco to become the first Cardinals first-year player to have three scoring receptions through the first three games since Steve Lach in 1942.

Brown also hauled in a scoring pass from Palmer in Week 1 and the Broncos don’t believe that Arizona’s offense will change much regardless of who is under center.

“They don’t care who plays quarterback so we shouldn’t care who plays quarterback,“ said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib.

Arizona’s defense, meanwhile, has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter this season, with the club outscoring its opponents 30-0 in the frame.

Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie also has some past success over Manning to lean on. He picked off the former MVP three times in a game on November 11, 2007 while with San Diego.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Broncos are saying all the right things, but they have to be viewed as the favorite in this game despite the Cardinals’ unbeaten record.

“The job that that team’s done and that coaching staff has done for your backup to go in and perform like they did, it’s tremendous,“ Fox said of the Broncos. “They’ve got a top-5 defense that they can lean on, and rightfully so. It’s a very, very good football team.“

So are the Broncos. Both teams come in fresh and looking to get back into rhythm. Advantage Peyton, who should slide right back under center and perform much easier than the inexperience Stanton.

Predicted outcome: Broncos 27, Cardinals 16


►  Mr. Smith Returns as Chiefs Face 49ers

After a slow start to the season, Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs are starting to look more like the team that began last year with nine straight victories.

Hey, just in time for Smith’s big homecoming.

Smith and the Chiefs try to win a third straight game on Sunday as the former top draft pick makes his return to San Francisco to battle the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.

Smith’s first game against the franchise that drafted him first overall in 2005 has overshadowed a recent hot stretch by the quarterback and the team. Kansas City avoided an 0-3 start by rolling past Miami 34-15 on September 21, then routed the New England Patriots 41-14 this past Monday night.

In those two wins, Smith has completed 76.5% of his passes and thrown for six touchdowns. He posted a 144.4 passer rating in the victory over the Pats.

None of this surprises his former Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“You know, I have never seen Alex Smith not be good. Right from the time we were with him, how he’s playing now. He’s just always been a very good quarterback,“ noted Harbaugh.

Smith was San Francisco’s starting quarterback when Harbaugh took over head coaching duties with the franchise in 2011 and the duo made it to the NFC Championship game, where they suffered a loss to the New York Giants.

The Smith-led Niners got off to another fast start the following season, with the signal-caller his normally-efficient self over a 6-2 start. However, he suffered a concussion in a tie versus St. Louis in Week 10 and Colin Kaepernick made the start the following week, leading San Francisco to a win over the Chicago Bears.

Kaepernick never gave up the job and helped San Francisco reach the Super Bowl, where the club suffered a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Smith was traded to Kansas City during the offseason for two draft picks.

Smith helped the Chiefs return to the postseason last year and signed a four- year extension this past offseason.

Obviously his first game back in San Francisco would make headlines, but the 30-year-old is more concerned with getting a win.

“I could care less about the stats and out-dueling anybody,“ said Smith. “And I guess the thing that I’m talking about is I know that this is going to be a story and I have to deal with it. Yeah, and going back there and playing against some of those guys that I played with. But there’s a lot of unknowns too—it’s a different place, different stadium, a lot of new faces there as well in some respects. It’s different.“

It is tough to pinpoint who will be under more pressure in this game: Smith or Kaepernick, who has been very successful under center for the Niners and helped the club avoid a third straight loss with a 26-21 win over Philadelphia last Sunday.

Kaepernick threw a pair of touchdown passes, but was sacked four times, intercepted once and completed only 17 of his 30 pass attempts versus the Eagles. One reason he claimed the starting job over Smith was his ability to make the big plays that the play-it-safe Smith seemed to avoid.

The two now go head-to-head this weekend, but as Kaepernick pointed out won’t be directly facing each other on the field.

“I really don’t get to face him, our defense does. But, Alex has done a lot of great things in this league. He’s done a lot of great things to help me. Nothing but the utmost respect for him,“ he said.

At 2-2, both the Chiefs and 49ers are third in their respective division. Kansas City is set to play two in a row on the road, visiting San Diego on October 19 following a bye, while San Francisco visits St. Louis and Denver following this game.

Kansas City is visiting San Francisco for the first time since 2002 and has lost four in a row as the visiting team in this series. The Chiefs last beat the Niners as the road team in the two club’s first ever meeting in 1971.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Smith will look to be extra precise in this game, a trait that led to him throwing for 14,280 yards and 81 touchdowns in 75 starts with the Niners over eight seasons from 2005-12.

In his last three games, Smith has completed 69.9% of his passes and has not been intercepted. That gives the signal-caller a 112.7 passer rating over that span, but Harbaugh doesn’t expect his former quarterback to just play it safe this weekend.

“Not an accurate term. He’s a football player,“ Harbaugh said when asked if Smith is simply a game manager.

Smith was helped on Monday night by the return of running back Jamaal Charles from a sprained right ankle and the play of tight end Travis Kelce.

Charles ran the ball 18 times for 92 yards with a score and also caught a pair of touchdown passes, while Kelce set career highs with eight catches for 93 yards. He also caught a TD pass.

Kansas City’s offense thrives when Charles touches the football, either on the ground or in the passing game.

“He’s a unique player and obviously extremely talented and can do so many different things. ... When you have a weapon like that, you can do run and pass and mix it up, it’s obviously extremely helpful,“ said Smith.

Smith and Charles go up against a Niners defense that ranks second in total (287.3 yards per game) and run defense (69.8 YPG).

San Francisco held Philadelphia to only 22 yards rushing last weekend, the ninth fewest allowed in a single game in franchise history. The 49ers have yielded just 152 total rushing yards over the past three games despite missing linebackers Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith.

Linebacker Patrick Willis leads the team with 23 tackles and defensive tackle Justin Smith has three sacks on the year as well as five over his past seven games.

“Their front seven is a tough unit,“ noted Chiefs head coach Andy Reid of the Niners. “Big physical guys, the linebackers can run. I would say that their defense is one of the top defenses out there right now. So we need to make sure we prepare for a good bunch of players there and that’s what we’ll do.“

Kansas City has had its own success on defense, ranking eighth against the pass (221.5 YPG) and eight in points allowed (19.8 PPG). The Chiefs are one of just two teams to not give up a rushing touchdown this season and had three takeaways versus the Patriots, including a pick-six by safety Husain Abdullah.

Linebacker Justin Houston had two sacks versus New England and became the second-fastest player in team history to reach 30 for his career. He did so in 47 games, behind only Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas, who hit the plateau in 31 games.

While Kaepernick is engineering just the league’s 22nd-ranked pass attack, the Niners are rushing for 138.5 yards per game and will try to maintain that success this weekend. Running back Frank Gore totaled 119 yards on 24 carries versus the Eagles, but also caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick.

Kaepernick himself ran for 58 yards, marking the first time in his career he has run for 50-plus yards in three straight games.

That is one thing that perhaps separates him from Smith, but Harbaugh won’t rate the two against each other.

“Never been a big fan of comparisons. Colin’s play has spoken for itself,“ he said.

San Francisco is hoping to have two key pieces of its offense for this game. Right tackle Anthony Davis made his season debut versus the Eagles, but left late in the first quarter with a left knee injury, while talented tight end Vernon Davis was forced out in the third due to a back injury.

Neither practiced on Wednesday and their status is unknown.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

There is a lot of similarities between these clubs, with the Chiefs perhaps having the slight edge on offense and the Niners possessing the better defense.

Does that make the Smith-Kaepernick battle the x-factor? If so, Smith will need to make sure he sticks to what he does well and doesn’t try to do too much versus his former team.

“You focus in on what you do. All the distractions, going home and all that—it doesn’t mean anything,“ said Reid. “You’re there to play the game and once you’ve said hi to your buddies it’s over. You’re playing the game, that’s what you’re doing.“

San Francisco showed a little Smith influence versus the Eagles by holding the ball for just over 42 minutes in the game, but the Chiefs move at a much slower pace than Philadelphia. That means mistakes must be kept to a minimum and that should give Smith the edge over the flashier Kaepernick.

Predicted outcome: Chiefs 24, 49ers 21



►  Texans Meet Cowboys For Lone Star State Bragging Rights

It’s a good time to be a football fan in the state of Texas right now with both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys occupying first place in their respective divisions.

The two Lone Star State squads look to remain atop their perch when they hook up Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.

Texans first-year head coach Bill O’Brien is off to a 3-1 start and the players have bought in to what he preaches. The Texans showed some resiliency with Sunday’s 23-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills, one week after a 30-17 road loss to the New York Giants.

Houston running back Arian Foster didn’t play against the Giants because of a hamstring injury and returned this week, posting just six yards on eight carries and 55 yards on a team-high seven receptions. Foster said afterward he didn’t feel 100% and is listed as day-to-day.

The Texans, who surpassed their win total in 2013 (2), only had 37 yards rushing and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led the way with 14 yards on six attempts. He passed for 269 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Defensive star and Player of the Week J.J. Watt intercepted a pass and rumbled 80 yards for a score to help his team to the best start since an 11-1 mark in 2012.

“I think anytime J.J. makes a play like that, anybody on our team makes a play like that, especially at home where you get the crowd into it, I mean the roof almost came off on that one,“ O’Brien said. “The crowd was so loud, it was just a great play. He’s a very instinctive, great player. It really turned the game, no question about it.“

DeAndre Hopkins has been the focal point of the passing game and leads Houston with 291 yards and three touchdowns. His 35-yard TD catch before halftime was the only offensive touchdown for the Texans.

Andre Johnson’s better days could be behind him and he left the Buffalo game with an injured ankle. The injury is nothing serious and Johnson should be ready to go against the Cowboys.

“I just think I was more scared than anything because I felt a little pop,“ Johnson said. “I didn’t know what it was, so I went and got it checked and they let me come back in.“

Johnson had six catches for 71 yards and needs one more reception to match Marvin Harrison as the fastest man to reach 950 receptions in NFL history.

The Cowboys have reeled off three straight wins after a season-opening loss to San Francisco, and handed the New Orleans Saints a 38-17 beatdown Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.

Dallas had a comfortable 24-0 lead at halftime and Tony Romo finished 22-of-29 passing for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Romo is 34-22 at home, 16-12 against the AFC and 45-22 with more than one touchdown pass. He has 121 TD passes in Big D. He has thrown a TD pass in every game this season and said the offense is one of the more balanced he’s ever played in.

“Each week in the NFL is different. But I think what you find is that we are consistently doing the same things each week, and in the past we weren’t able to do that,“ Romo said.

A big reason for that is running back DeMarco Murray. Murray had 149 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries Sunday night and leads the NFL with 534 yards on 99 touches. Murray is averaging 133.5 yards per game and has reached the 100- yard mark in all four games, while scoring a touchdown in each.

The only other NFL players to accomplish that feat were Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Emmitt Smith. Murray will face a Houston defense that is allowing 130.2 yards per game and looks to join Brown (6) and Simpson (5) as the only players to turn the trick in at least five games to start a season.

“We are going to be a little tough to deal with just because of our ability to run the football,“ Romo said. “We have some guys on the outside that are pretty good players as well. We are just a complete unit. In my time in the NFL, this is as complete a unit as I have been a part of, and I think you can almost simplify the game a little bit.“

Dallas has scored more than 30 points in each of its last two games and is 3-1 for the first time since 2008. Having two exceptional wide receivers in Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams helps put points on the board. Williams, though, is taking full advantage of the double-teams Bryant faces on a weekly basis.

“I told T-dub, ‘If they want to double me, it’s a disrespect to you and you kill’em,‘“ Bryant said. “And that’s exactly what he did. And as long as teams continue to double me, 83 is going to kill’em. And that’s how it’s going to be.“

Williams had 77 yards and two scores on six catches, and Bryant ended with three receptions for 44 yards and a TD.

The Cowboys hope their offense will continue to click against the Texans in the fourth meeting between the teams. Dallas is 2-1 in the series and won the only matchup at home back on October 15, 2006 in a 34-6 romp. The Cowboys won the most recent game with Houston, posting a 27-13 victory on September 26, 2010.

Romo threw for 284 yards and two scores, while Foster ran for 106 yards.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Now that Cowboys defensive back Morris Claiborne is done for the season with a torn patellar tendon, the Cowboys will have to go with a backup plan. Claiborne has been plagued by injuries throughout his short career and will undergo surgery on the knee.

“Mo’s been dealing with a lot of different things from a physical standpoint,“ Dallas head coach Jason Garrett said. “This is another one of those things. He’s going to get the surgery done and he’s going to come back stronger and better than ever.“

Garret can only hope that happens because a few weeks ago he said Claiborne may lose some playing time if he didn’t improve on the field. Orlando Scandrick is expected to jump in at the corner spot.

To make matters a bit worse for the Dallas defense, linebacker Bruce Carter sustained a quad strain late Sunday and is unlikely to play. Garrett said Carter, who leads the team in tackles, is considered day-to-day. Carter returned an interception for a touchdown the week before against St. Louis.

“It’s just one of those football injuries, just one of those things,“ Carter said. “I’ve just got to get my body back healthy as fast as I can, but not rush it at the same time and hopefully get back on the field quicker.“

The Cowboys are already without top linebacker Sean Lee (knee). On an uplifting note, the Cowboys got defensive lineman Anthony Spencer back after he missed the first three games of the season with a knee issue.

“I’ve been away for so long,“ Spencer said. “It felt really good to be back out there. I missed it and it was fun to be in a game like that and work myself back into it. I didn’t get too gassed out there. I’ll check out the film and learn from it.“

Dallas was able to slow down the Saints’ up-tempo offense for most of the game and will face a pair of dangerous Houston wideouts in Hopkins and Johnson. And if Foster is healthy enough to go, than Sunday’s game could get interesting.

The Texans need to apply pressure up front to disrupt Romo’s timing with his receivers and Watt is the man to do it. Linebacker Brian Cushing and free safety Kendrick Lewis are tackling machines, and will have their hands full with Bryant, Williams and tight end Jason Witten, who can still get it done in the twilight of his career.

Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are tough Houston corners and need to step up this week because, as O’Brien put it, the Cowboys are playing hot right now and Sunday’s game will be played in a hostile environment. O’Brien also mentioned Dallas’ usual suspects of Romo, Murray, Bryant, Witten and the offensive line as reasons to be concerned.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

As stated above, the Cowboys are a hot team right now with three straight wins and a handful of weapons. The only question for Sunday is who will be the gamebreaker. It could be Murray, who is aiming for another 100-yard performance, or maybe Bryant or a surprise contributor. It won’t be a surprise, though, when the Cowboys win easily and hold their position atop the NFC East.

Predicted outcome: Cowboys 30, Texans 20


►  Resurgent Giants Ready To Take On Ailing Falcons

Sooner or later the Atlanta Falcons will get their act together outside the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome.

Whether that happens Sunday against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium remains to be seen.

The Falcons have lost both of their road games this season in Week 2 at Cincinnati and on Sunday in Minnesota. The Falcons have lost four in a row on the road dating back to last season, when they went 1-7 as the visitor.

One week after lighting up Tampa Bay, 56-14, Atlanta was dealt a 41-28 loss to a Vikings squad without star running back Adrian Peterson and with a rookie quarterback under center. Teddy Bridgewater passed for 317 yards and running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata combined for 213 yards. Asiata scored three touchdowns for Minnesota, which pounded the Falcons for 558 yards.

“We had a very hard time stopping them whether they ran the football or whether they passed the football,“ Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. “We didn’t tackle well and you know you are not going to win games in the NFL if you don’t get stops.“

The defense had no pressure on Bridgewater and it’s the third time in the first four games of the season Atlanta has been unable to register a sack. The Falcons are 31st with only three sacks, two more than St. Louis.

Atlanta must get the run defense and pressure going against the Giants or Eli Manning will have a field day like the one he had last Thursday in Washington. Running back Rashad Jennings is finding his niche, too, in his first season with the Giants.

Falcons defensive back Robert Alford said communication is key.

“We just need to communicate better, go out there and execute more and try to find a way to come away with takeaways,“ Alford said. “We have to come in every day and know our opponent, back and front, and execute the plays that (Falcons defensive coordinator Mike) coach Nolan calls.“

Smith would agree and said all three levels—the defensive line, the linebackers, the secondary—are responsible for what happens on the field. The Falcons are near the bottom in rushing yards allowed (153.5), passing yards allowed (276.2), points allowed (28.2) and total yards given up (429.8).

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was picked off twice against the Vikings and has five INTs on the road as opposed to none at home. He did manage to throw three touchdown passes for a third time in four games and had 298 yards on 25 completions (41 attempts). Ryan is second in the NFL with 1,263 passing yards and understands this is a team game.

“We’re all in it together. Win or lose, we’re all in it together,“ Ryan said. “Different games are going to shake out in different ways and sometimes different groups will be asked to carry the load. It’s a long year, we’ve got to stay together, get back to work, trust in what we’re doing, and I think we’ve got the locker room to be able to do that.“

The Falcons are still first in the NFL with 444.0 total yards per game and second in both scoring (32.8 ppg) and passing 322.2 ypg).

The Giants are well rested after their beatdown of the Redskins at FedEx Field on September 25. Manning completed 28 of his 39 pass attempts for 300 yards, four touchdown passes and an interception. He also ran one in for a score.

The Giants had 31 first downs, nearly 40 minutes of possession (37:17) and racked up 449 yards against what was supposed to be an intimidating Redskins defense. Manning was only sacked once and hooked up with rising tight end Larry Donnell for three touchdowns.

Donnell is the first Giants tight end with three touchdown receptions in a game since October 28, 1962, when Joe Walton caught three. He will surely be targeted by defenses for the rest of the season. Donnell didn’t save any of the touchdown balls because he said “there is more coming.“

Prince Amukamara, Quintin Demps, Antrel Rolle and Trumaine McBride each had a hand in making Redskins quarterbacks Kirk Cousins’ night a forgettable one with their INTs. Redskins receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson blew up against Philadelphia, but were held to a combined three catches for 37 yards. Jackson had one reception for nine yards and Washington couldn’t do anything offensively.

“It was an outstanding performance by everybody, by defense up front in terms of the pressure,“ Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. “It goes to the entire defense. They are two outstanding football players. The week before with 11 catches and DeSean with his 81-yard touchdown. That’s something to come away without them hurting us.“

New York has won back-to-back games after opening the season 0-2 and has scored 75 points during the winning streak.

New York’s defense, which had three picks in Week 3 versus the Texans and totaled six turnovers in Washington, capitalized on its opportunities and the coaching staff put the players in position to win. It was all about technique and applying pressure up front that enabled the Giants to come out on top.

After hosting the Falcons, New York returns to NFC East action with matchups against Philadelphia and Dallas. Atlanta is 11-10 all-time against the Giants and the two teams met once in the playoffs, a 24-2 victory for the G-men in 2011. The Falcons, though, won the last meeting, 34-0, on December 16, 2012, when Ryan posted three TD passes, two of which went to Julio Jones.

Manning threw for just 161 yards and was intercepted twice.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Falcons veteran defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora spent the first nine years of his career with the Giants and will face his former team for the first time. He won a pair of Super Bowls in New York, then signed with the Falcons prior to the 2013 season.

Umenyiora played in all 16 games in 2012 and 2013—his first in Atlanta—and left the Giants with 430 tackles, 75 sacks and 31 forced fumbles over 129 career games. He had 7 1/2 sacks last season and is still searching for his first of 2014. Umenyiora set an NFL record with 10 forced fumbles in 2010 and a Giants’ franchise record for sacks in a single game with six, set in 2007 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

One person on the Giants is looking forward to facing Umenyiora and that left tackle Will Beatty. Beatty and Umenyiora often battled in training camp and practice.

“Being my mentor coming in here, I know this is going to be a good week for me just to show him how far that I have come and thank him for it,“ Beatty said. “He was a guy that, if you could pass block him, you knew that there’s nobody that could beat you outside on the edge because of his speed and what he’s shown.“

Umenyiora is a year older and perhaps a step slower, but it will be interesting to see how his “homecoming” goes.

“He’ll be fired up,“ Manning said of Umenyiora. “Osi and I had a great relationship when he was here, but I know, as a defensive end, they always want sacks. In practice he was in the backfield quite a bit, could have hit me a number of times, but you can’t hit the quarterbacks. Hopefully, our guys will do a good job and keep him away. He’s a tremendous player and can still get to the quarterback.“

Also, Giants cornerback Jayron Hosley is eligible to return after serving his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substances abuse. The Giants played exceptionally well in the secondary against Washington and will be tested again with Jones and Roddy White coming to town.

White just tied Terance Mathis for the franchise lead in receiving touchdowns with No. 57 against the Vikings. He had four catches for 73 yards and trails Michael Turner (61) for the franchise record for overall touchdowns.

Atlanta has some issues on defense and its secondary has the challenge of stopping Donnell and Victor Cruz. The Falcons could also face rookie Odell Beckham Jr., who has yet to see action because of a hamstring issue suffered during training camp. Beckham, New York’s first-round pick in May, said he’s ready, but doesn’t have final say. Manning hopes he can be a nice addition.

“I hope that he can be a big weapon for us,“ Manning said. “He definitely has a little burst of energy, a burst of speed. He can be a deep threat, can win on some underneath stuff. Can get him, hopefully, throwing some short passes and he can break it for some big plays.“

Speaking of injuries, Atlanta’s offensive line took a hit Sunday and lost center Joe Hawley and right tackle Lamar Holmes to injured reserve. Guard Justin Blalock sustained a back injury and was replaced by Gabe Carimi. The team made some moves to patch up the line and signed tackle Cameron Bradfield and guard Harland Gunn to the active roster.

Carimi will start at right tackle and Peter Konz at center.

Safety William Moore (shoulder) is on IR as well with the option to return to the practice field after six weeks and then to the active roster after eight weeks. Moore has 16 tackles this season and his leadership will be needed during his recovery. Moore took over as the vocal leader when linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was lost for the season in OTAs.

“We’re going to need his leadership, much like Sean,“ Smith said of Moore. “Sean is with us in the meetings. We expect that William will do that, as well. He’s designated to return, so he’s a guy that’s definitely going to be back before the season’s over. So he’s a guy that can help us win games.“

Kemal Ishmael is expected to start at safety for Moore.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Manning has the tendency to lay an egg after a thrilling performance, but this won’t be the week. However, don’t expect four TD passes and a rushing score like he had in Washington. Donnell is on the rise for the Giants and has the advantage Sunday against a porous Atlanta secondary. Look for a Jennings sighting at the Meadowlands and more turnovers from Ryan in another road loss.

Predicted outcome: Giants 27, Falcons 17

►  Eagles Want To Be ‘Grounded’ Against Rams

LeSean McCoy can’t explain why the run game has yet to produce for the Philadelphia Eagles, so stop asking him.

McCoy is the NFL’s reigning rushing champion and will try to take his frustrations out Sunday when the St. Louis Rams pay a visit to Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles were first in rushing last season with 160.4 yards per game and are now 26th with 87.0 ypg. The tremendous dropoff is related to an unhealthy offensive line and opposing defenses keying in on McCoy, who ran for 1.607 yards last season and has only 192 in four games. McCoy may be frustrated with what’s going on, but is still confident in his ability and prepares the same way.

“It’s definitely frustrating,“ McCoy said Wednesday. “You know what type of player you are and you want to put the numbers up. If teams do come in to try and stop you and they’re successful with it, that’s another frustrating thing.

“But then again, I know who I am. I’m still confident. I know what I can do. So it doesn’t really bother me that much. We’re winning games, we’re 3-1. At times it can be frustrating, but at the end of the day I know who I am.“

McCoy may try to do too much at times and make things happen with his legs like he has so often in his career. But this year it’s been a grind. McCoy said the Eagles have won games when the run game isn’t there, and that head coach Chip Kelly will display different looks and formations on Sunday against a St. Louis defense that is 30th against the rush (155.0 ypg) and has allowed a 100-yard runner in all three games.

The Eagles had 22 yards rushing in Sunday’s 26-21 loss at San Francisco and McCoy recorded 17 on 10 carries. A 1.7 yards per carry won’t get it done at this level, but the Eagles will get a boost when starting right tackle Lane Johnson returns from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Johnson started all 16 games as a rookie last season.

Kelly said Johnson looked good in his return to the team.

“He obviously worked when he was away, he was down at a workout facility in Dallas and worked out there,“ Kelly said Tuesday. “That’s the one thing you know about Lane is that he’s got a great work ethic, and so we weren’t concerned with him coming back out of shape or whatnot.“

The Eagles could have stolen a victory away from the 49ers and came up short in their opportunity down the stretch. The defense and special teams played well, registering 21 points, and ‘Niners QB Colin Kaepernick was sacked four times. The Eagles struggled in the pass rush over a 3-0 start and may have turned the corner in putting pressure up front.

Safety and first-year Eagle Malcolm Jenkins has an INT in three straight games and returned one 53 yards for a touchdown Sunday. Jenkins is getting comfortable with the new system and his teammates have noticed.

“He’s a very smart safety,“ Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher said. “He knows a lot about football, schemes, concepts, and he puts it out on the field when he’s in the game. That’s great to have, especially coming from a safety who’s making calls, getting guys lined up on the outside, and just being kind of the general back there in the secondary.“

The Eagles have forced a takeaway in 17 straight games.

Jenkins will go for another pick against rested Rams rookie quarterback Austin Davis. Davis and the Rams are coming off their bye week and the undrafted Southern Miss product was named the starting QB going forward. He beat out Shaun Hill, and starter Sam Bradford is lost for the season a second straight year with a knee injury.

“It’s a bit of a wild ride, but at the end of the day, this team’s looking for me to lead them,“ Davis said this week. “I’m up for that challenge and I’m excited about it.“

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher also talked about the move Wednesday.

“I also had Austin and Shaun in my office this morning at separate times, and we’re going to go ahead and start Austin for the remainder of the season,“ Fisher stated. “It’s not that Shaun lost the job, it’s that Austin earned an opportunity to keep it.“

St. Louis is off to a 1-2 start and had the Dallas Cowboys on the ropes in a 34-31 loss in Week 3. The Rams blew a 21-0 lead and their 448 total yards went to waste. Davis passed for 327 yards and three scores, but threw a pair of interceptions. Four of the eight pass catchers for the Rams had 50 or more yards with Jared Cook leading the way with 75 yards on seven catches.

Rams wideout Tavon Austin was limited in practice with a balky knee and has not been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

The Rams, who are unbeaten (1-0-1) after the bye under head coach Jeff Fisher, are going against an Eagles defense that ranks near the bottom of most categories such total yards allowed (391.2), passing yards (257.5), rushing (133.8) and points (26.0). Rams running back Zac Stacy is trying to become the fourth straight player with at least 70 rushing yards against the Eagles, who gave up 218 on the ground last week and 49ers tailback Frank Gore amassed 119 yards on 24 carries with a 55-yard touchdown catch.

Stacy has hit the 60-yard rushing mark in each of his last two games. He ran for 67 and posted 54 receiving yards in the loss to Dallas.

Philadelphia has a good chance at keeping their six-game home winning streak in the regular season intact against the Rams, who have lost three straight and four of five games to the Eagles and haven’t visited the City of Brotherly Love since a 38-3 loss on September 7, 2008. The Rams and Eagles are tied at 19-19-1 in the all-time series.

The Eagles have outscored the Rams, 69-16, in the past two encounters.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Look for Eagles QB Nick Foles to bounce back from his rough performance against the 49ers Sunday. He passed for only 195 yards with a pair of interceptions and no touchdown passes. The last time he came up empty on TD passes was November 17 of last season in a win over Washington.

In his past six home games in the regular season, Foles is 6-0 with 11 TD passes to just two interceptions for a 104.7 rating. Foles, who has a myriad of weapons to choose from and may want to get tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz more involved, said he needs to make some adjustments moving forward.

“I’ve definitely tried to just take some shots, stretch them out a little bit,“ Foles said of missing receivers long. “I need to be a little more accurate, that’s what I’m working on this week, working on that, and staying clean in the pocket so I can deliver the ball to our guys where they can go up and make a play, not where the ball lands in front of them.“

And where has wide receiver Riley Cooper been? Jeremy Maclin’s making highlight-reel catches and Cooper’s still trying to live off last season’s success, which can be attributed to the presence of DeSean Jackson. Jackson is in Washington and Copper is struggling without him.

Foles was sacked five times in Week 1 before going unscathed the next two weeks. He was taken down once in San Francisco.

The Rams will be trying to get to Foles early and often to create turnovers and disrupt the timing he has been working on this week. That could be too much to ask because they are last in the NFL with only one sack.

The lone St. Louis sack belongs to defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Rams have 106 sacks over the past three seasons and star defensive end Robert Quinn is still searching for No. 1 this season. He led the NFC with 19.0 sacks a year ago and had his contract extended in mid-September.

Last season, the Rams had five defensive linemen with five or more sacks.

Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis leads the team in stops and be sure to see him on display Sunday, especially against the run. The Rams have one of the more stingy defensive backfields in the league and are allowing the third- lowest total yards against the pass (187.3). They will try to make the Eagles one-dimensional and force them to throw.

However, the Redskins had that same philosophy and Philadelphia was able to circumvent the strategy.

“This is a good football team,“ Fisher said of the Eagles. “This team could be 4-0. You’re talking about a team that has five returns for touchdowns already. So they played the ‘Niners well. And we’ve got our hands full defensively. Great group of special teams players. And their defense is well coached.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Eagles will show some improvement up front with the return of Johnson at right tackle alongside veteran guard Todd Herremans.

“It’s gonna be awesome to have Lane back,“ Eagles LT Jason Peters said. “Todd goes back to his natural position. We’re still missing (Jason) Kelce and (Evan) Mathis, but those other guys are gonna step in and do better this game because you’ve got Lane back. It makes it solid on the inside.“

Center David Molk and left guard Matt Tobin are the “other guys” Peters was referring to. McCoy surely hopes he can find some holes to run through, but even if he is limited production-wise, Foles, Sproles, Maclin and the defense will carry the Eagles to a convincing victory over the Rams.

Predicted outcome: Eagles 36, Rams 23



The Gilmer Free Press

►  AMERICAN LEAGUE SCORES

Final Score: Baltimore 12, Detroit 3

Nelson Cruz set the tone with a two-run homer in the first inning, and the Baltimore Orioles scored eight times in the eighth to pull away for a 12-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Cruz, the major league leader with 40 homers during the regular season, added an RBI single to his early blast off Max Scherzer. J.J. Hardy delivered a solo homer later on, while Alejandro De Aza and Jonathan Schoop each finished 2- for-4 with two RBI to help Baltimore grab the upper hand in this best-of-five set. Nick Markakis also had a pair of hits, including an RBI single, and Chris Tillman outpitched Scherzer in his postseason debut to send the Orioles into Friday’s Game 2 owning a 1-0 series lead. Tillman (1-0) surrendered back-to-back solo homers to Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez in the second inning, but permitted just two other hits while striking out six over five frames. Miguel Cabrera homered off Darren O’Day in the top of the eighth to bring Detroit within 4-3, before the Orioles sent 12 men to the plate in their half of the inning to turn the contest into a rout.


Final Score: Kansas City 3, LA Angels of Anaheim 2 (11 innings)

Mike Moustakas’ first home run in over a month provided the Royals with more extra-inning heroics on Thursday. Moustakas greeted Fernando Salas with a leadoff blast in the 11th as Kansas City edged the MLB-best LA Angels of Anaheim, 3-2, in the opener of the ALDS. Angels pitchers retired 16 straight hitters at one point, but the hosts wasted a bevy of scoring chances throughout, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and leaving eight on base. Their only runs came on solo shots from Chris Iannetta and David Freese in the third and fifth innings, respectively. The light-hitting Royals countered with a long ball of their own, as Moustakas got just enough of a Salas (0-1) offering to send it barely over the right- field wall for the first extra-inning home run in Royals history. Greg Holland (1-0) set down the side in order in the bottom half to cap Kansas City’s second dramatic win in three days. The Royals needed 12 innings to stun the Athletics, 9-8, on Tuesday in an instant wild-card classic. Game 2 of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Friday with the Royals’ Yordano Ventura taking on fellow rookie Matt Shoemaker.


►  PREVIEW - San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: NL WILD CARD

WASHINGTON NATIONALS: NL EAST CHAMPIONS

The Washington Nationals are back in the postseason for the second time in three years. This time, though, the Nats hope to stay a little longer.

They’ll get that chance starting Friday when they welcome the San Francisco Giants to Nationals Park for the start of the best-of-five National League Division Series.

Washington gave the District of Columbia its first taste of postseason baseball since 1933 in 2012, as the Nationals returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1981 when they were known as the Montreal Expos.

Despite having the best record in the league, the Nats bowed out in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.

A year after missing the playoffs, Washington enters this year’s playoffs under similar circumstances, as it was an NL-best 96-66 this year and cruised to an NL East title, 17 games in front of both the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.

The Nats also enter the playoffs as hot as anyone, as they won nine of their final 11, 13 of their final 16 games and were 19-8 over the final month of the season.

“I’ve maintained the whole season that I like where we are,“ outfielder Jayson Werth said. “We are a second-half team. We are built for this time of the year. We continue to show it year in and year out that we are going to make a run at the end. We played well up to this point. We got this first step out of the way.“

San Francisco, meanwhile, advanced to the Division Series with a matter of fact wild card win in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, as Madison Bumgarner pitched a four-hit shutout, Brandon Crawford hit the fourth playoff grand slam in team history and the Giants rolled, 8-0.

The Giants have won seven straight playoff elimination games, including five on the road.

“I think that experience really came into play today,“ said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “The guys threw out some good at bats. They looked very quiet up there. You want to create those chances and get guys on base, and they were relentless doing that until we got, of course, a big hit from Crawford.“

Bumgarner (1-0) kept them out of trouble in this one, scattering four hits and a walk while striking out 10.

Bumgarner, making his seventh postseason start at the age of 25, was perfect in four of his nine innings. The four hits he gave up were all singles, including two to Josh Harrison. He threw 109 pitches, including 79 strikes.

“He had it all working tonight,“ Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “Absolutely a very professional and well-pitched game by him tonight.“

Now, the downside to playing in the wild card means that Bumgarner won’t be available until Game 3 when the series shifts to San Francisco.

The Nats had their way with the Giants in 2014, taking five out of seven games.

Below we take a look at three keys for each team to move on.

WASHINGTON

1. NASTY ROTATION

Never mind the Detroit Tigers starting staff, the best rotation in these playoffs resides in the District.

Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez. You can throw rookie Tanner Roark into that mix, but he’ll be used out of the bullpen in the first round.

The first four are as good as anyone left pitching and like their team they are getting hot at the right moment. Especially Zimmermann, who, of course, threw a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Dating back to last Tuesday, and not including starts involving Blake Treinen and Taylor Hill, the rotation allowed a combined two runs in 37 1/3 innings, with 39 strikeouts and four walks.

The Nationals’ rotation also finished the year with the best ERA (3.04) in baseball.

2. SECOND CHANCE FOR STOREN

Nobody has a worse taste in their mouths given the way the 2012 postseason went for the Nationals than closer Drew Storen, who allowed the clinching runs to score for the Cardinals in Game 5 of that series.

Then, he not only lost his job as the team’s closer to Rafael Soriano in 2013, he also had to endure a stint in the minors.

This year Storen thrived as a seventh-inning reliever for the Nats until early September, when he replaced the struggling Soriano as the closer and has been terrific.

“I don’t look at it as this big, emotional scar or anything. It’s baseball, you know? You’re going to have bad outings. ... It’s a matter of moving on,“ Storen said.

“I’m a different person, and I’m a different pitcher.“

Since that point, Storen saved 10 games without allowing a run in 10 1/3 innings, with 10 strikeouts.

“It’s been fun. I think a lot of it comes down to command,“ Storen said. “It’s so crucial to work ahead of the hitters. In the ninth inning, that’s really big, especially with some of the one-run leads I’ve come into. You really have to work ahead of guys and keep the ball down in the zone, manipulate and make them move and try to miss some barrels.“

3. BRYCE’S TIME TO SHINE

A lot is being made of Mike Trout’s postseason debut. Well, this might not be Harper’s first time in the playoffs, but it might as well be. The 20-year-old megastar managed just three hits in 23 at-bats in that 2012 NLDS.

Harper endured an injury-plagued season this year and it showed as he hit just 13 home runs and drove in a mere 32 runs in 100 games. And despite getting over 100 less at bats than he did in 2013, Harper struck out 104 times, 10 more than he did a year ago.

Plus he was benched in April by Matt Williams for not running out a ground ball.

All that is in the past, though, and all will likely be forgotten if he delivers in October.

Trout has certainly passed Harper in terms of being the best young player in the game, but a strong showing here in the postseason could go a long way to making it a two-man race once again.

And doesn’t baseball need a new face now that Derek Jeter is gone?

SAN FRANCISCO

1. VETERAN ARMS

The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last four World Series titles thanks to their starting pitching.

This time around, though, there is no Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum leading the way. Cain is lost for the season with an elbow injury, while Lincecum, well, he’s no longer the pitcher who won a pair of NL Cy Young Awards.

The Giants are now led by the 25-year-old Bumgarner, but as we stated earlier he won’t be around until Game 3.

Luckily, San Francisco has a pair of veteran arms to turn to in Games 1 and 2 in Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson.

Peavy has been fantastic (2.17 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) since joining the Giants in a July trade from Boston, but he has not had much success in the postseason, pitching to a ghastly 9.27 ERA in five starts.

Hudson, meanwhile, has gotten worse as the season has wore on and was terrible in the second half, going just 2-7 with a 4.73 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. He’s pitched to a 3.46 ERA in 10 games (9 starts) in the playoffs, but hasn’t been there since 2010.

If they can get a split in D.C., though ... watch out.

2. MICHAEL MORSE’S HEALTH

San Francisco doesn’t have a whole lot of power in its lineup and it’s had a lot less since Mike Morse went down with an oblique injury that caused him to miss all but one game in September.

Morse, whose 16 home runs were the second most behind Buster Posey’s 22, wasn’t on the wild card roster and probably won’t be on the NLDS squad either.

Not having Morse is even more magnified considering Pablo Sandoval hit a mere .218 with 12 strikeouts and just one homer in 24 September games.

That’s not good news for a Giants team that won 40 of their last 43 games in which they have scored at least four runs. San Francisco is going to have to score runs if it wants to win this series.

So ...

3. CAN BRANDON CRAWFORD CONTINUE TO MASH?

Other than Bumgarner, Crawford stole the show on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, as he became the first shortstop in the history of the postseason to hit a grand slam.

With Morse out and Sandoval struggling the Giants may need Crawford to step up his game. He only hit .246 on the season, but entered the playoffs on the strength of a .365 performance (27-for-74) in September, with five doubles, two home runs and 16 RBI.

And in case you were wondering, Crawford was a .346 hitter in seven games against the Nats this season.

San Francisco is going to have to score runs to win this series.

PREDICTION: As we stated earlier, the Giants are at a huge disadvantage not having Bumgarner until Game 3 when the series shifts back to San Francisco. Washington might be the best team in the league from top-to-bottom. But they get no attention. And why that is, I have no idea. On paper, this should be a relatively easy series to predict. The Nats hit more, they have a better rotation and their bullpen is solid. Yet for some reason, I like the Giants. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

GIANTS IN FOUR


►  PREVIEW - St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: NL CENTRAL CHAMPIONS (90-72)

LOS ANGELES DODGERS: NL WEST CHAMPIONS (94-68)

Major League Baseball should be grinning from ear-to-ear for having two of the finest pitchers the National League has to offer squaring off this postseason.

National League Cy Young Award and MVP candidate Clayton Kershaw used his left arm to power the Los Angeles Dodgers back to the playoffs with a remarkable regular season and was one of the hottest topics of discussion every time he took the mound. He won an MLB-best and career high-tying 21 games (21-3), led the majors with a 1.77 earned run average for a fourth straight year and held opposing hitters to a .196 average.

Every five days Kershaw brought his A-game and the NL West-champion Dodgers need that to continue when they clash with the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. The Cardinals defeated the Dodgers in six games in last year’s NLCS, but lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games in the World Series.

The Cardinals, winners of the Central Division, will roll out an ace of their own in Adam Wainwright. Wainwright won 20 games (20-9) for the second time in his career and was fifth with a 2.38 ERA over 227.0 innings pitched. Opponents batted .222 against Wainwright, who is making sure he handles his own business and is not focused on the matchup with Kershaw in Game One.

“I’m only facing him maybe three times in the game,“ Wainwright said. “I’m facing those Dodgers hitters. I can’t worry about what he’s going to do or what his job is on the mound. I have to go out there and get outs. That’s what I have to do.“

Wainwright was the NL’s Pitcher of the Month for September and the Cardinals went 17-9 in that stretch en route to a fourth straight postseason appearance and a second straight division crown. Manager Mike Matheny has been fortunate to have talent around him and always seems to have his players hungry when it’s crunch time. With a few hiccups in June and July, the Cardinals put it together over the final two months.

“We’ve been playing (like it’s the) playoffs since August,“ Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said on the team’s website. “We know what this is about and we’re ready for it.“

Matt Holliday, Matt Adams and newcomer Jhonny Peralta were the offensive leaders, while Molina and several others played at the steady pace this organization is used to. The Cardinals batted .253 as a team and compiled a .320 on-base percentage.

Los Angeles has a more threatening lineup in this NLDS and was first in OBP (.333), third with a .265 batting average and sixth in runs scored (718).

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly went through peaks and valleys with his lineup, but it finally came together for a second a straight division title. The Dodgers are in the postseason mix for the sixth time since 2004 and took advantage of San Francisco’s struggles to reach the top of the NL West.

The Dodgers dragged at times this summer and didn’t get rolling until late July. The key was staying healthy and it’s a different story this October. Outfielder Matt Kemp is on fire heading into the postseason and is happy to participate after missing out on the events last fall. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez had his usual myriad of injuries, but is ready to go in a rematch with the Cardinals.

“Well, I think you have to look at it like we’re a healthier team,“ Mattingly said. “Last year, we made the playoffs without Matt. Andre (Ethier) was basically, we were trying to nurse him into where he could play. He had that stress fracture and he was trying to play, and then Hanley (Ramirez) gets hit the first game, and it’s not the same. We went in a little beat up, and we lose Hanley, and that’s three pretty big bats out of your lineup.“

Well, the big bats are back and Kemp is at the top. Recently named NL Player of the Month, Kemp completed the season’s final month with seven multi-hit performances and reached the 20-homer plateau for the fifth time in his career. He led the majors with nine home runs and tied teammate Adrian Gonzalez with 25 RBI, while also hitting .322 with a .347 OBP and a .700 slugging percentage.

“Awards are always nice, but for me, it’s bigger than that,“ Kemp said. “You don’t really play this game for awards. The awards are nice, and you get rewarded for things that you’ve done. But the main reward is health, and I think at the end, the award that everybody wants is a World Series.“

The Cardinals denied the Dodgers of achieving that goal around this time last year and even beat Kershaw twice. Kershaw went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals this season for Los Angeles, which was 4-3 in the season series. LA won three of four at Dodger Stadium in late June.

St. Louis and Los Angeles have met four times in the playoffs (1985, 2004, 2009, 2013) and the Dodgers won only one series, sweeping the Cards in three games in the 2009 Division Series.

Below we take a look at three keys for each team to move on.

ST. LOUIS

1. CARDINALS MUST PRODUCE AGAINST TOUGH PITCHING

The Cardinals didn’t produce astronomical numbers over a 162-game schedule and finished tied for 23rd in runs scored with 619. It didn’t matter, though, because they were 32-23 in one-run games and won a franchise-best five games this season when registering four hits or fewer. St. Louis had 11 wins with five hits or fewer.

St. Louis scored two runs or fewer seven times in the last 12 games of the regular season. It was outscored, 17-4, in a four-game series at Dodger Stadium from June 26-29, then had a 10-8 advantage in scoring during a three- game series at Busch Stadium from July 18-20.

With a daunting task of facing Kershaw possibly twice and both Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, it’s important to get runners on base early because it will be difficult to do when these pitchers settle in. Adams can distribute the power with Peralta and Holliday, while Matt Carpenter leading off has a huge chore. Bringing in Peralta was a wise decision and he enjoyed one if his best years.

The Cardinals rallied when Molina was lost for several weeks with a thumb issue and are glad to have him back working with the pitching staff. His offensive numbers may have dipped, but the Cards are right where they want to be. Maybe the postseason will wake up Molina’s bat because he is quite familiar with playoff baseball and what’s at stake.

2. ROTATION, BULLPEN SHOULD BE USED WISELY

Matheny doesn’t have to do much with Wainwright. It’s the other choices with the pitching staff he has to be logical with.

Wainwright has been resting nicely because he was scratched from Sunday’s start at Arizona after Pittsburgh lost to Cincinnati earlier in the day. The Pirates’ loss sealed the Central for the Cards. Wainwright has won his last five starts with a 1.38 ERA in that time and lost his only start against the Dodgers this season, charged with only a run and five hits in eight innings of a 1-0 loss on June 26 out west.

In 14 career games (11 starts) against LA, Wainwright is 4-5 with a 2.90 ERA. He has made seven career appearances, six of which have been starts, against the Dodgers and is only 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA. The playoffs are a time for the best players to shine and the Cardinals are counting on Wainwright to give them a series advantage even if Kershaw was the best in the Senior Circuit. The one better known as “Waino” is riding a 21-innings scoreless streak.

The Cardinals have Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74 ERA), Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74 ERA), John Lackey (3-3, 4.30 ERA) and Michael Wacha (5-6, 3.20 ERA) available to pitch this series and perhaps one or two of them will come out of the bullpen. Lackey was acquired from Boston before the non-waiver trade deadline and showed flashes of brilliance in his time with the Cards. He does have plenty of playoff experience.

Justin Masterson was another arm St. Louis acquired during the summer and the former Indian will most likely be used in relief. Matheny will try to avoid taxing his bullpen and aims to get the most out of his starters. who are good for at least six to seven innings per start. Relievers Seth Maness, Trevor Rosenthal and Pat Neshek all appeared in more than 70 games, with Rosenthal posting a career-high 45 saves. The 45 saves were fourth in the majors for Rosenthal, who gives the Cards a great chance of winning when he throws.

St. Louis posted an MLB-leading 23 shutouts this season.

3. CARDS HAVE TO GET IT TOGETHER ON THE ROAD

St. Louis went 39-42 away from Busch Stadium and have to find a way to win at least once on the west coast.

The Cardinals played 10 road series following All-Star festivities and won just three of them, taking two of three from the Chicago Cubs, three of four against the Milwaukee Brewers and two of three meetings with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

There’s no doubt Chavez Ravine is a tough place to play, especially during the playoffs. Dodgers management shelled out a lot of dough for what they have on the field and the club is expected to win in front of the home crowd. But the Cardinals know that in order to move on to another NLCS they have to find the resources to win on the road.

LOS ANGELES

1. DODGERS HAVE MUSCLES TO FLEX IN LINEUP

First, there’s Kemp, then Yasiel Puig and Ramirez. Don’t forget about Gonzalez, too, in the Dodgers’ vaunted lineup that cannot afford to go through a lull this postseason and rely just on Kershaw or any other arm.

The Dodgers hammered St. Louis pitching in a four-game series earlier this summer and enter the playoffs on a roll. They went 17-8 in September and ripped off five straight wins to close the regular season. Los Angeles scored four or more runs 20 times last month and led the majors in OBP for the first time since the club re-located from Brooklyn.

Because of Kemp, Puig, Ramirez and Gonzalez, the Dodgers were on fire in September and ranked among the best in runs scored, hits, home runs, batting average, on-base%age and slugging percentage. Puig went through some struggles at the plate this season and Mattingly handled the situation well. Gonzalez led the club in home runs (27) and the majors in RBI (116), and is one of LA’s biggest acquisitions the past few years.

“We re-energized the franchise with major trades and went hard on free agents, knowing it had a chance to rejuvenate the group and get us back to a good competitive spot,“ Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “Knowing that player development needs to be the lifeblood of your organization, we were going to try to do two things at the same time—win and develop.“

Other key contributors are the speedy Dee Gordon, who has been cleared to play after a hip injury and led the majors in stolen bases (64), triples (12) and infield hits (62), Carl Crawford, Juan Uribe and Scott Van Slyke.

2. AFTER KERSHAW AND GREINKE, THERE ARE CHOICES TO BE MADE

Everybody knows how awesome Kershaw’s season was. The Dodgers are counting on that to continue for the next few weeks from Kershaw. The lefty struck out 239 batters and has reached the 200-K mark in each of the last five years. Kershaw knows he let the Dodgers down in last year’s postseason.

Greinke will follow Kershaw in Game Two and went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA. The 17 wins were a career high for Greinke, who enters the postseason 5-0 in his last eight trips to the mound and a 10-2 mark at home. He has faced St. Louis 14 times (12 starts) in his career and is 9-4 with a 3.17 ERA. Greinke went 1-1 in two starts against the Cardinals this season.

“I’ve faced them a bunch and I know they’re really good, but I haven’t seen them the past two months,“ Greinke said. “I know they’ve been swinging the bats since the All-Star break really well. The lineup is dangerous.“

You would expect Ryu would get the nod for Game Three, but he only appeared in two games last month because of a balky shoulder. He threw a simulated game on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium and is LA’s best option after Kershaw and Greinke. Ryu, who also missed time with a glute strain, went 14-7 with a 3.38 ERA in his second Major League season.

Starters Dan Haren and Roberto Hernandez will most likely work out of the bullpen for the Dodgers relief staff that featured five players with more than 60 appearances. Closer Kenley Jansen posted 44 saves in a team high-tying 68 games. J.P. Howell also pitched in 68 games. Brandon League, Jamey Wright and Brian Wilson were the other 60-game contributors.

3. STAY OUT OF THE TRAINER’S ROOM

The Dodgers were hobbled like James Caan in “Misery” last postseason and now are hoping a full deck will lead them to revenge over the Cardinals. Kemp’s back swinging for the fences, Gordon’s hip is healthy for the top of the order and Ethier doesn’t have a balky leg to nurse.

And as long as Ramirez doesn’t get hit by a pitch like he did last postseason and continued contributions from Crawford and others, the Dodgers will be playing deep into October.

“I don’t know about preparation, but we’re better,“ Gonzalez said. “Kemp’s in the lineup, Carl’s in, we’ve got our whole outfield healthy, we’ve got Hanley healthy. We basically have our whole team healthy, and it looks like we’ll be able to pitch. I think going into it healthy is a big factor.“

PREDICTION:

Crawford said it’s no secret the Dodgers have “a lot of swagger.“ The bravado will work in their favor and it will take five games to get back to the NLCS for a fourth time in the past seven years. The Cardinals struggled on the road this season and will be in too big a hole to dig out of when the series shifts to Busch Stadium. Former Dodgers manager and fan favorite Tommy Lasorda said the Cardinals deserve to be beaten after what happened last postseason. For the Dodgers, victory and redemption shall be theirs.

DODGERS IN FIVE



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Sens Give Ryan 7-Year Extension

The Ottawa Senators have locked up one of their key offensive contributors, signing forward Bobby Ryan to a seven-year contract extension on Thursday.

The deal has an annual average value of $7.25 million.

Ryan, 27, was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Acquired from Anaheim in July 2013, Ryan posted 23 goals and 25 assists in 70 games for the Senators last season.

Selected No. 2 overall by the Ducks in the 2005 draft, the New Jersey native has totaled 170 goals and 167 assists in 448 career games.


►  Big Day in Ottawa

After losing their captain in two consecutive offseasons, the Ottawa Senators were in danger of becoming a franchise without an identity.

A week before their 2014-15 schedule was set to begin, the Sens made a valiant effort at restoring stability to the club by naming Erik Karlsson captain while also announcing a seven-year contract extension for Bobby Ryan.

With previous team captains Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza gone, Karlsson was the obvious choice to wear the “C” in Ottawa. The deadly offensive defenseman is only 24 years old but he has one Norris Trophy on his resume already and is signed with Ottawa through the 2018-19 season.

Getting Ryan to sign on the dotted line was not expected to be a sure thing, but Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk opened his checkbook and made it official.

By locking up the winger for the long term the Sens dealt with a piece of business that could have festered over the course of the season. If Ottawa struggled like it did last season, general manager Bryan Murray may have been forced to trade Ryan away at the deadline rather than lose him to free agency in the summer of 2015.

But to hear Ryan speak about it, Ottawa was never in danger of losing the 27- year-old sniper.

“We came to this decision, it was fairly easy,“ Ryan said at Thursday’s press conference. “I know it was a little longer of a process than everybody would have liked but speaking from my point of view it was almost a no-brainer for us.“

Before agreeing to an extension worth $50.75 million, Ryan’s intentions were deemed to be unclear as he headed into the final year of a of a five-year, $25 million deal signed with the Anaheim Ducks. Perhaps, Ryan and his agent believed Ottawa’s offer would be better than what he could get on the open market, or maybe he did simply want to stay in Canada’s capital city.

Whether Ryan’s decision was based on business or loyalty should be of little concern to Melnyk and Murray. With Alfredsson choosing Detroit over the Sens in the summer of 2013 and Spezza demanding a trade out of Ottawa in the offseason, the front office needed to stop the trend of talented and popular players leaving the franchise.

Ottawa may have overpaid Ryan to keep him from joining the likes of Alfredsson and Spezza but the club changed the conversation, if only for a little while. After all, naming a captain and getting one talented player to stay means little if the Senators fall below expectations like they did last season.

The Sens finished five points out of a playoff spot and Spezza’s departure to Dallas means the club could be worse than its 88-point showing in 2013-14. The trade landed Murray a trio of young players who could potentially pan out in Ottawa, but counting on those pieces to help in a playoff run this season is a long shot.

Alex Chiasson offers the only chance of giving the Senators an immediate return on the Spezza trade. Chiasson, a second-round pick by Dallas in 2009, played his first full season in the NHL last season when he posted 35 points in 79 games for the Stars. Chiasson has spent time playing on a line with Ryan in the preseason, skating on the right side with centerman Mika Zibanejad in the middle. It’s possible the 23-year-old is due for a breakout season in 2014-15, but it might not be enough to get Ottawa back to the playoffs.

Ryan, of course, could help the Sens bounce back with a rebound season of his own. After surpassing the 30-goal marker four times in Anaheim, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey native only managed 23 tallies in 70 games while missing the last 12 contests of the season due to a sports hernia. Considering Ryan’s new deal comes with a raise of over $2 million a season in terms of annual average value (AAV), the Ottawa brass expects his production to rise along with his pay.

With Karlsson and Ryan both signed for several years, and the former player now installed as captain, the Senators have identified their cornerstones on both offense and defense. Too bad the rest of Ottawa’s roster is filled with young players still figuring it out at the NHL level. It’s not a recipe for instant success, but it seems Ryan doesn’t mind waiting for the rest of the team to develop.

Although Karlsson and Ryan are in Ottawa to stay, the same may not be true of head coach Paul MacLean, who could be on the unemployment line if he doesn’t make something worthwhile out of a team which seems to lack the depth needed to compete for a playoff spot.

The pressure may be on MacLean in the short term, but as Thursday’s news made clear Ottawa is counting on Karlsson and Ryan to lead Ottawa out of this downturn.

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 5 Player Fantasy Rankings - Quarterbacks

The Jaguars have given up 385 and 365 net passing yards over the past two weeks. So if you took Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers, respectively, the past two games your fantasy team took a giant step toward victory.

Why change the strategy? It’s working!

In Week 5 the Jaguars face Ben Roethlisberger coming off a 314-yard, three- touchdown performance against Tampa Bay. He brings with him the top fantasy receiver in the NFL in Antonio Brown, an improving Markus Wheaton, a solid tight end in Heath Miller and a valuable receiving asset out of the backfield in Le’Veon Bell. For these reasons, “Big Ben” sits atop of the Week 5 rankings.

There is no quarterback hotter than Andrew Luck. The Indy QB has posted back- to-back four touchdown games with at least 370 passing yards and is the overall fantasy points leader (standard scoring). He faces a Baltimore pass defense that is ranked 27th in the league (260.25 ypg).

We also like Eli Manning to put together a second consecutive fantasy-worthy performance. The reigning TSN Player of the Week, faces a struggling Falcons team that has yielded more than 300 passing yards in three of four contests.

A trio of top quarterbacks return from their bye weeks, so don’t forget to re- install Peyton Manning, Andrew Dalton and Russell Wilson into your starting lineup.

The two teams that played in London last Sunday, Miami and Oakland (Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr) sit this weekend, to the detriment of very few fantasy lineups. The hope that Tannehill would take the next step forward has not materialized. The rookie Raiders quarterback, who surprisingly won the job in the preseason, has understandably struggled and only has fantasy value in dynasty leagues.

Top-25 Quarterback Rankings

—————————————-

1) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

2) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

3) Peyton Manning, Denver

4) Joe Flacco, Baltimore

5) Drew Brees, New Orleans

6) Philip Rivers, San Diego

7) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

8) Nick Foles, Philadelphia

9) Eli Manning, New York Giants

10) Russell Wilson, Seattle

11) Tony Romo, Dallas

12) Jay Cutler, Chicago

13) Matt Stafford, Detroit

14) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

15) Matt Ryan, Atlanta

16) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco

17) Cam Newton, Carolina

18) Tom Brady, New England

19) Geno Smith, New York Jets

20) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston

21) Alex Smith, Kansas City

22) Kyle Orton, Buffalo

23) Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

24) Blake Bortles, Jacksonville

25) Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay


►  Week 5 Player Fantasy Rankings - Wide Receivers

When the best receiver in the league over the first four games, faces one of the worst passing defenses in the league, it’s an easy choice for the top spot in TSN’s weekly receiver rankings.

In 2014 Pittsburgh wideout Antonio Brown has added the one element which kept him from being a fantasy superstar in the past - scoring touchdowns. Last Sunday he scored twice (to bring his season total to five) along with 131 yards receiving. He also completed a pass and continues to return punts. He’s the complete package and is currently the top fantasy wideout.

This is not a fluke for Brown, who caught 110 balls for 1,499 yards last season. In Week 5 he’ll face the Jaguars’ pass defense that is yielding a league-worst 320.8 ypg.

Green Bay wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are a deadly pair of wideouts and either can erupt on any given day, but with 49 targets and 33 receptions through the first quarter of the season we like Nelson a little bit more. The Vikings have revamped their defense in 2014 after yielding an ugly 287.2 ypg last season, but they aren’t ready for Aaron Rodgers & Co.

After another stellar performance last weekend against his former team, Ravens wideout Steve Smith Sr. grabs a top-five spot for Sunday’s contest with Indianapolis. The Colts defense was beaten up by Denver and Philadelphia over the first two weekends, rebounded against Jacksonville and Tennessee, but faces a hot Joe Flacco-to-Smith combination. Smith has posted 100-yards or more in three of four games, including a 7-139-2 line against Carolina.

You will find a trio of names lower on the list than normal, based on their play over the first four weekends. Demaryius Thomas, Calvin Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson have, for the most part, all disappointed fantasy owners. Although you must continue to start them, at the moment, you can’t expect elite production.

Top-50 Wide Receiver Rankings

——————————————-

1) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

2) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

3) Julio Jones, Atlanta

4) Dez Bryant, Dallas

5) Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore

6) Demaryius Thomas, Denver

7) A.J. Green, Cincinnati

8) Calvin Johnson, Detroit

9) Brandon Marshall, Chicago

10) Randall Cobb, Green Bay

11) Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

12) Michael Floyd, Arizona

13) Keenan Allen, San Diego

14) Pierre Garcon, Washington

15) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia

16) T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

17) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

18) Victor Cruz, New York Giants

19) Emmanuel Sanders, Denver

20) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

21) Percy Harvin, Seattle

22) Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

23) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

24) Brandin Cooks, New Orleans

25) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

26) Andre Johnson, Houston

27) Golden Tate, Detroit

28) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis

29) Roddy White, Atlanta

30) Torrey Smith, Baltimore

31) Julian Edelman, New England

32) Michael Crabtree, San Francisco

33) Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota

34) Wes Welker, Denver

35) Brian Quick, St. Louis

36) DeSean Jackson, Washington

37) Marques Colston, New Orleans

38) Terrance Williams, Dallas

39) Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland

40) Anquan Boldin, San Francisco

41) Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia

42) Kendall Wright, Tennessee

43) Malcom Floyd, San Diego

44) Doug Baldwin, Seattle

45) Reuben Randle, New York Giants

46) Stevie Johnson, San Francisco

47) Eric Decker, New York Jets

48) Greg Jennings, Minnesota

49) Miles Austin, Cleveland

50) Devin Hester, Atlanta


►  Week 5 Player Fantasy Rankings - Running Backs

It seems every fantasy football season that the running back projections heading into the year drastically change, early and often.

LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and Adrian Peterson were the consensus top-three tailbacks heading into the 2014 season. Now, heading into Week 5, none of them make our top-five.

This is a big week for McCoy. He has inexplicably fallen off the face of the earth over the past two weeks (20 carries, 39 yards). Now, heading into a juicy matchup against the St. Louis Rams, who are ranked 21st in fantasy points against running backs (standard leagues), McCoy must come out of his slump, for owners to have renewed confidence. We feel he will snap out of it, as McCoy is our sixth-ranked tailback, entering Week 5.

DeMarco Murray continues to impress, and with an above average matchup against the Houston Texans (ranked 15th against running backs), he remains in our top spot for a third consecutive week. Murray leads all fantasy backs with 80 total points, which is well ahead of the second-ranked Marshawn Lynch (59 points). He has rushed for at least 100 yards and one touchdown in every game this season, and there is no reason to think the streak will come to a halt versus Houston.

Speaking of Lynch, he should have fresh legs coming off his Week 4 bye. Lynch heads into Washington on Monday night, and will have a tremendous opportunity to continue his fine start to the 2014 season. The Redskins seem to be in shambles, and Lynch is still Seattle’s workhorse. Start “Beast Mode” with confidence, as he is our third-ranked running back.

Sandwiched in between Murray and Lynch, is the popular Le’Veon Bell. He actually had a somewhat down week, to his lofty standards, with just 10 fantasy points in Week 4. Look for Bell to get back into the end zone again, in a nice matchup for fantasy owners, with Pittsburgh traveling to Jacksonville this week.

One player to keep in mind, is Cleveland running back Ben Tate. He returns from injury this week, and all signs point to him carrying the majority of the workload. He will be a high-risk, high-reward type of play, but with the Browns giving him a big contract in the offseason, they will want to turn him loose. Tate is our 19th-ranked tailback, but has upside for Week 5.

Top-50 Running Back Rankings

——————————————

1) DeMarco Murray, Dallas

2) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

3) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

4) Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

5) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

6) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

7) Rashad Jennings, New York Giants

8) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

9) Matt Forte, Chicago

10) Frank Gore, San Francisco

11) Andre Ellington, Arizona

12) Montee Ball, Denver

13) Matt Asiata, Minnesota

14) Arian Foster, Houston

15) Alfred Morris, Washington

16) Zac Stacy, St. Louis

17) Reggie Bush, Detroit

18) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

19) Ben Tate, Cleveland

20) C.J. Spiller, Buffalo

21) Trent Richardson, Indianapolis

22) Khiry Robinson, New Orleans

23) Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville

24) Stevan Ridley, New England

25) Fred Jackson, Buffalo

26) Joique Bell, Detroit

27) Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis

28) Donald Brown, San Diego

29) Steven Jackson, Atlanta

30) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

31) Shane Vereen, New England

32) Knile Davis, Kansas City

33) Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota

34) Justin Forsett, Baltimore

35) Chris Johnson, New York Jets

36) Chris Ivory, New York Jets

37) Lorenzo Taliaferro, Baltimore

38) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee

39) Darrin Reaves, Carolina

40) Shonn Greene, Tennessee

41) Pierre Thomas, New Orleans

42) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

43) LeGarrette Blount, Pittsburgh

44) Carlos Hyde, San Francisco

45) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

46) Bernard Pierce, Baltimore

47) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

48) Branden Oliver, San Diego

49) Alfred Blue, Houston

50) Roy Helu, Washington


►  Week 5 Player Fantasy Rankings - Tight Ends

Any fantasy owner who projected that Martellus Bennett and Delanie Walker would be the top-two highest scoring tight ends through Week 5; we officially commend you.

Bennett has been an owner’s dream through the first four weeks of the season. He has complied 52 fantasy points (the most in standard leagues), and has produced at least nine points each week. With opposing defenses keying in on Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, Bennett has developed a nice connection with quarterback Jay Cutler. His numbers do not seem to be going anywhere as a result, which leads us to ranking Bennett as our No. 3 tight end, heading into Week 5.

Walker is probably an even bigger surprise than Bennett. He is tied with Jimmy Graham for second in fantasy points amongst tight ends (48 points), and although he is battling a slight shoulder injury, Walker remains in our top- five this week against Cleveland. He has scored a touchdown in three of the four games thus far, and will continue to be a security blanket for whomever is under center, for Tennessee.

Graham locks down our top spot, with a home game against Tampa Bay. It is worth noting that the Saints will be playing in the Superdome, as they are a notoriously poor road team. With New Orleans beginning the year at 1-3, look for Drew Brees to rely on what has made the Saints successful over the years. Which is getting the ball to Graham in the red zone.

Coming off a bye during Week 4, the Denver Broncos will be looking to shake off their first loss of the season, to the Seattle Seahawks. Peyton Manning clearly has many options, but Julius Thomas has emerged as his favorite red zone target. He has scored a touchdown in all three games, and that trend should continue, making Thomas our second-ranked tight end this week.

The sexy tight end of the past week is Giants playmaker Larry Donnell. Coming off an impressive three-touchdown performance, we have him slotted as the seventh-ranked tight end heading into Week 5. However, owners must be aware that Atlanta’s defense has actually played well against opposing tight ends, as they have allowed the fifth-fewest points on average (5.28 ppg) to them. That being said, with the chemistry Eli Manning has developed with his man, Donnell is still a recommended play.

Top-25 Tight End Rankings

————————————-

1) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans

2) Julius Thomas, Denver

3) Martellus Bennett, Chicago

4) Delanie Walker, Tennessee

5) Rob Gronkowski, New England

6) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

7) Larry Donnell, New York Giants

8) Greg Olsen, Carolina

9) Vernon Davis, San Francisco

10) Jason Witten, Dallas

11) Travis Kelce, Kansas City

12) Jordan Cameron, Cleveland

13) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh

14) Antonio Gates, San Diego

15) Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis

16) Jared Cook, St. Louis

17) Coby Fleener, Indianapolis

18) Owen Daniels, Baltimore

19) Charles Clay, Miami

20) Clay Harbor, Jacksonville

21) Logan Paulsen, Washington

22) Jace Amaro, New York Jets

23) Andrew Quarless, Green Bay

24) Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati

25) Eric Ebron, Detroit


►  Week 5 Player Fantasy Rankings - Kickers

It’s not all the usual suspects in the Week 5 kicker rankings. With the Saints, Patriots and Eagles offenses struggling, it is hard to know which kicker to count on.

The Philadelphia offense and kicker Cody Parker can be relied upon this Sunday. The Eagles are hosting the Rams and should be able to get back on track even with the injures up front to the offensive line. Parker is the No. 2 kicker for Week 5.

Baltimore is visiting Indianapolis, and even though this game is always more entertaining when it is the Colts having to revisit their old home, this one looks to be an exciting high-scoring affair. Therefore, owners should want the kickers. Colts’ Adam Vinatieri comes in at No. 1 and Justin Tucker is ranked No. 4 this week.

Shaun Suisham finally missed a kick after making 25 straight. It proved costly as the Steelers defense was unable to hold the lead, but the miss was from over 50 yards away in the open end of Heinz Field, one of the toughest, if not the toughest, place to kick in the entire NFL. Suisham is available in 45% of Yahoo leagues and is a great start in sunny Jacksonville.

Brandon McManus, Denver, and Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona, would also be great pickups on the waiver wire. The rookies are a combined 12-for-12 to start their NFL careers. Catanzaro has made nine of those kicks and is available in 98% of Yahoo leagues. McManus is a free agent in 99% of Yahoo leagues. Both should start on Sunday.

Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski and Saints’ Shayne Graham take a hit in the kicker rankings just based on how their team’s offenses are performing. Gostkowski likely hurt fantasy owners on Monday night that needed a solid performance from him to give their team a victory in Week 4. New England did not attempt a field goal, and Gostkowski was held to just two fantasy points.

Graham did not do much better, making 1-of-2 field goals and two extra points against the Cowboys on Sunday night.

Top-25 Kicker Rankings

———————————

1) Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis

2) Cody Parker, Philadelphia

3) Mike Nugent, Cincinnati

4) Justin Tucker, Baltimore

5) Nick Novak, San Diego

6) Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh

7) Brandon McManus, Denver

8) Blair Walsh, Minnesota

9) Dan Bailey, Dallas

10) Alex Henery, Detroit

11) Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona

12) Matt Bryant, Atlanta

13) Steven Hauschka, Seattle

14) Phil Dawson, San Francisco

15) Stephen Gostkowski, New England

16) Robbie Gould, Chicago

17) Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis

18) Graham Gano, Carolina

19) Josh Brown, New York Giants

20) Shayne Graham, New Orleans

21) Mason Crosby, Green Bay

22) Nick Folk, New York Jets

23) Patrick Murray, Tampa Bay

24) Dan Carpenter, Buffalo

25) Randy Bullock, Houston


►  Week 5 Player Fantasy Rankings - Defense

It is certainly nice to have Seattle and Cincinnati back from their bye weeks. Those teams come in as the top two defenses for Week 5.

Fresh off a week of rest, both teams have road games, but against two struggling offenses, in prime time. The Bengals visit the Patriots, who managed just seven points from the first-team offense against the Chiefs. Remember, Cincinnati broke Tom Brady’s consecutive games with a touchdown pass streak last year, so even when Brady was playing well, he struggled against the Bengals.

The Seahawks go to the nation’s capital on the exact same field Kirk Cousins threw four interceptions versus the Giants last Thursday. Expect the “Legion of Boom” to intercept a few of their own.

The San Diego and Detroit defenses have both been playing very well this year, and we like their chances to continue the trend as both teams welcome questionable quarterbacks to town. Jets quarterback Geno Smith is on pace for 24 turnovers this year. Buffalo will start veteran Kyle Orton in Detroit. Yes, the same Kyle Orton that the Broncos benched for Tim Tebow four years ago.

Think about that for a second, Tebow is out of the league.

Pittsburgh is also playing a weak defense and in most leagues, they are likely the best defense available on the waiver wire. But the Steelers scored just two fantasy points against the lowly Buccaneers at home. Even against the Jaguars, they are a risky play in Jacksonville.

Week 4 Defense/Special Teams Rankings

——————————————————-

1) Seattle Seahawks

2) Cincinnati Bengals

3) Detroit Lions

4) San Diego Chargers

5) Houston Texans

6) Philadelphia Eagles

7) San Francisco 49ers

8) Dallas Cowboys

9) Buffalo Bills

10) Green Bay Packers

11) Chicago Bears

13) Carolina Panthers

14) Kansas City Chiefs

14) Pittsburgh Steelers

15) New York Giants

16) Denver Broncos

17) Arizona Cardinals

18) Cleveland Browns

19) New Orleans Saints

20) Atlanta Falcons

21) Minnesota Vikings

22) Jacksonville Jaguars

23) New York Jets

24) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

25) Washington Redskins


►  Ahmad Bradshaw: Start Him or Sit Him?

One of the biggest surprises through the first four weeks of the NFL season, has been the re-emergence of Indianapolis Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Although he is only 28-years-old, Bradshaw is coming off a serious neck injury from a season ago, and many wondered if he would ever play football again. Now, not only is he playing, Bradshaw is thriving.

Heading into Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens, Bradshaw is surprisingly fourth among all fantasy running backs, with 53 total points (standard leagues). However, those numbers may be slightly misleading.

Bradshaw has produced on a consistent basis through four games, topping out with 21 fantasy points in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. His low is still a respectable eight points during Week 1, versus the Denver Broncos. Yet, owners need to be aware that most of Bradshaw’s fantasy numbers are coming as a result of his success in the passing game.

Throughout his career, Bradshaw has never totaled more than 314 passing yards in a season (2010), and the most receiving touchdowns he has ever scored in a year has been two (2011) ... until now. Through four weeks of the 2014 season, Bradshaw has accumulated 14 receptions for 134 yards and four touchdowns.

Will he keep these numbers up?

If you look at his receiving production from Week 1 through Week 4, he has clearly declined. Opening day against Denver, Bradshaw hauled in five passes for a season-high 70 yards. He then went on to catch two touchdown passes during Week 2 against the Eagles, and while Bradshaw caught a touchdown over each of the past two games, he has a combined total of four receptions for 38 yards during that span.

Not only does it seem that fantasy owners are relying on Bradshaw to produce a receiving touchdown for a successful week, but Trent Richardson has began to see a ton of carries, which inevitably takes away from Bradshaw’s opportunities.

After seeing six carries for 20 yards in Week 1, Richardson has 54 carries for 183 yards over the past three games, and in addition, he scored his first touchdown of the year during the Week 4 victory against the Tennessee Titans. Fantasy owners must assume that Indianapolis is going to keep feeding Richardson the ball.

The most carries Bradshaw has seen in a game in 2014 has been 13, during Week 2. His low for a game was three rushing attempts, against Denver, and has had nine carries over each of the past two weeks. It is clear that Richardson will see more rushing attempts than Bradshaw, and as a result makes it a gamble for owners to start a guy, who is not guaranteed as many touches as another running back on his same team.

Final Thought:

The Ravens are the seventh-best team in points against running backs, on average (12.78 points per game), and combined with the fact that Bradshaw is a little banged up with a sore foot (still expected to play), makes him a bit of a risky play. Bradshaw has never been this effective in the passing game before, and while he should still be a productive player for the Colts, his numbers are definitely trending down. With Richardson seeming to finally grasp Indianapolis’ offense, owners need to seriously consider sitting fantasy football’s fourth-ranked running back.

The Gilmer Free Press


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 03, 2014


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
Detroit at Baltimore, 12:07 PM - TBS
San Francisco at Washington, 3:07 PM - FS1
St. Louis at Los Angeles, 6:37 PM - FS1
Kansas City at LA Angels, 9:37 PM - TBS


National Hockey League - Preseason
Chicago at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, MSG, NHL Netweork
Detroit at Toronto, 7:30 PM - FS-Detroit, SN
Montreal at Ottawa, 7:30 PM - RDS, TSN


Canadian Football League
Winnipeg at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com
Calgary at Saskatchewan, 10:00 PM - TSN, ESPN 2


College Football
Lafayette at Fordham, 6:30 PM - CBSSN
Louisville at Syracuse, 7:00 PM - ESPN
San Diego State at Fresno State, 10:00 PM - CBSSN
Utah State at BYU, 10:15 PM - ESPN


Major League Soccer
Kansas City at DC United, 8:00 PM - NBCSN


Golf
EUROPEAN - Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, 8:00 AM - Golf Channel
LPGA - Reignwood LPGA Classic, 11:00 PM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
NATIONWIDE - Kansas Lottery 300 practice, 12:00 PM - FS1
SPRINT CUP - Hollywood Casino 400 practice, 1:00 PM - FS1
NATIONWIDE - Kansas Lottery 300 practice, 4:00 PM - ESPN 2
SPRINT CUP - Hollywood Casino 400 qualifying, 5:30 PM - ESPN 2

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 6 High School Games in the Area for Thursday

Class A High School

Gilmer County (2-3)  @  Tygarts Valley (0-5)


Class AA High School

#4 Bridgeport (4-1)  @  Elkins (1-3)



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Football Preview - Week 5

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 04, 2014


West Virginia State (1-3, 0-3) at Urbana (1-3, 1-3), Noon

Video  |  Live Stats


Last Year: Urbana won 62-10
Notes: Urbana’s 62 points last season were the most in the MEC last year ... WVSU is looking to get its offense going having yet to score over 20 points in a game this season ... UU has had more total offense than its opponent in 3 of its 4 games.


Glenville State (1-3, 1-3) at West Virginia Wesleyan (1-3, 1-3), Noon

Live Stats
Last Year: Glenville State won 35-32

Notes: GSC is 2nd in the MEC in total offense (466.0 ypg) ... WVWC has converted 11 of its 13 attempts in the red zone ... Jeremy Musselman threw for 392 and 4 TDs last season


#24 Concord (4-0, 3-0) at Fairmont State (2-2, 2-2), 1:00 PM

Audio | Video | Live Stats
Last Year: Concord won 34-17 

Notes: FSU led 14-10 at the half last year before being out-scored 24-3 in the 2nd half ... FSU is looking for its first 3-game winning streak since 2011 ... CU is the only team in the MEC averaging over 500 yards of total offense.


#9/10 Shepherd (4-0, 4-0) at Charleston (4-0, 3-0), 1:00 PM

Video | Live Stats

Last Year: Shepherd won 28-9
Notes: Points will be at a premium when the league’s top two scoring defenses meet up ... SU has the top rushing defense in the MEC, UC has the top rushing offense ... the teams are 1-2 in the MEC in time of possession.


Notre Dame (3-1, 3-1) at UVa-Wise (0-4, 0-3)

Video | Live Stats


Last Year: Notre Dame won 39-35
Notes: NDC will try to rebound after its first loss of the season ... UVa-Wise’s James Cousins had a career-high 136 yards and one TD last week against Wofford ... NDC is 2-0 on the road this year.


West Liberty (2-2) at Duquesne (2-2)

Audio | Video | Live Stats
 

Last Year: Duquesne won 27-14
Notes: The series is tied 1-1 ... DU scored three defensive touchdowns in last year’s meeting ... the MEC is 0-1 this year and 0-7 against DI opponents.

News & Notes



• This will mark the first week in MEC history that two teams from the league are nationally ranked with Shepherd 10th and Concord 24th in the d2football.com poll.

• The MEC has two of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league in Concord’s Brian Novak and Shepherd’s Jeff Ziemba. In fact, the two are 1-2 in the country in that category with Novak earning a rating of 196.3 and Ziemba a 190.5. Ziemba leads the country in completion%age hitting 74% of his passes. Ziemba has yet to throw an interception in 77 attempts.

• Four different MEC quarterbacks have two 300+ yard passing games this season: Cooper Hibbs (FSU), Jeremy Musselman (WVWC), Brian Novak (CU) and Ray Russ (NDC). Additionally, four different QBs have thrown for over 400 yards this season: Hibbs, Novak, Musselman and Matt Kinnick (WVSU).

• Three running backs in the league are averaging over 100 yards per game with Marvin Elam leading the way with 131.0, followed by Rahmann Lee (122.2) and Calvinaugh Jones (115.8).

• Shepherd’s C.J. Davis is one of the most dynamic players with the ball in his hands. He has 133 punt return yards, 142 kick return yards and 87 interception return yards this season. He leads the Rams with 362 all-purpose yards despite not playing any snaps on offense.
• SU’s Jabre Lolley’s nine rushing touchdowns are more than eight teams in the MEC.

• SU has yet to allow a point in the third quarter this season.

• Concord has scored over 50 points in three of its four games this season. Last week against West Liberty, CU scored twice on special teams to help aid its point total of a season-high 61 points.

• CU’s Ryan Stewart has at least one touchdown reception in each of his last three games. He has been on the receiving end of eight of Brian Novak’s 12 TD tosses.

• In addition to leading the league in rushing yards per game, Charleston’s Marvin Elam has earned a league-best 27 first downs rushing this season.

• Charleston’s Torie Wagner’s 116 punt return yards vs. UVa-Wise (9/20) are the most by any player in NCAA Division II so far this season.

• UC is being out-scored in the first quarter this season 21-13, but has a whopping 68-7 advantage over teams in the second quarter.

• UC’s Joey Augustin has 316 yards receiving this year, while the other Golden Eagle receivers have combined for 310 on the year.

• Notre Dame’s Ray Russ went 121 pass attempts without being intercepted before surrendering one last week against Charleston, establishing a new league mark.

• NDC is only out-scoring opponents by an average of 2.8 points per game this season.

• 21 of Mitchel Shegos’ 28 receptions have gone for first downs. He leads the league with 7.0 catches per game.

• Dakota Conwell’s 275 passing yards last week against Concord were the most by a WLU quarterback since Dylan LaGarde threw for 302 yards against West Virginia State on October 06, 2012.

• Fairmont State is searching for its first three-game winning streak since the 2011 season.

• Daniel Monroe rushed for a season-high 96 yards last week against West Virginia State.

• GSC’s Rahmann Lee ranks third among active players in all-purpose yards per game (153.38), sixth in rushing yards per game (125.1) and fifth for rushing yards (3,253).

• Each of Glenville State’s last three games have been decided by four points or less.

• GSC quarterback Sean Steele has already thrown more touchdown passes this season (eight) than he did all of last season (seven).

• West Virginia Wesleyan was held to fewer than 10 points for just the second time in the George Shehl era last week against Shepherd.

• Urbana threw for a season-high 380 yards against Glenville State last week, led by Cody Schroeder’s 298 yards and three-touchdown effort. His previous best this season was 198 yards against Notre Dame.

• David Hill’s rushing touchdown last week against Glenville State was the first rushing score for the team in 2014.

• West Virginia State’s Matt Kinnick became the fourth MEC player this season to throw for over 400 yards in a game with 406 last week against Fairmont State. Teams are 1-3 this year in those games.

• UVa-Wise’s Zack Blair is tied for the league lead in tackles for a loss with 1.75 per game. He had his first career interception last week against Wofford.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Banks Made Best Of Suspension with Scout-Team Performance

For a few tense days during mid-August, Icky Banks feared his college career was finished.

Only two weeks shy of starting his 13th consecutive game at cornerback in West Virginia’s opener against Alabama, Banks’ senior season hung in the balance after an academic eligibility issue forced him to be held out of practice.

West Virginia’s Icky Banks said he was devastated by the academic issue that jeopardized his senior season.

“I felt empty inside,” Banks said Tuesday during his first interview in six weeks. “It was devastating. I felt like I was letting my team down.”

As MetroNews first reported on August 18, there was concern within the program that Banks would be banned for the entire season, before the NCAA ultimately imposed a three-game suspension.

“I did think (the penalty) might have been worse, because you never know,” he said, declining to offer specifics into the academic situation.

While Banks admitted he might forever regret being left at campus while his teammates played in the Georgia Dome, he didn’t spend his suspension moping. Rather he humbled himself by embracing a role with the scout-team defense and challenging Kevin White and Mario Alford in practice.

“I had to tell myself, ‘You got yourself into this, so you’ve got to do the time. Do this time and you’ll be back.’ I had to keep myself motivated,” Banks said. “I got to guard the best wide receivers in the Big 12, so that kept me on point.”

His practice competition brought out the best in White—who enjoyed a monstrous first month of the season—and helped West Virginia’s overall passing attack.

Said quarterback Clint Trickett: “We’d be watching (practice) film and it would be, like, ‘Dang, he keeps making plays. But wait, that’s also our starting cornerback. He’s expected to do that.’ He made us better the three weeks he was out.”

Upon being reinstated in Week 4, Banks played every snap against Oklahoma, starting in the spot vacated by another suspended cornerback, sophomore Daryl Worley. Facing a misdemeanor battery charge after an altercation with a female student, Worley has been indefinitely suspended since September 15.

Banks said he makes sure to offer encouragement when he sees Worley working out in the stadium weight room.

“We make mistakes—that’s life,” said Banks. “He’s down about not being able to play, but he has a positive attitude that things will work out in his favor, and he’ll be back in no time.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Marshall Rested and Relaxed after Bye Week; Ready for ODU

Thundering Herd players enjoyed having a weekend off but were chomping at the bit to get back to work and being conference play this week at Old Dominion University. Players have been going non-stop since they reported to preseason camp in early August.

“We treated that bye week like we always do, no different than we did a year ago. We had a couple guys with some nagging injuries that when we started on Sunday were back,” said coach Doc Holliday. “Rock [Devin Johnson] had taken a beating the last several games and was banged up, but was able to come back 100%. A couple of our offensive linemen feel better than they have felt since the season started. I think that’s huge.”

After four weeks of camp and four straight games, the bye week gave players a chance to rest and relax.

“It was nice to get a bye week and get our bodies healed up,” said tackle Clint Van Horn.

Along with getting a chance to physically rest up, players also got a chance to mentally check out for a few days. With no game on Saturday, players were able to mentally relax rather than focus on gameplanning, film study and team meetings that go along with game week preparations.

“Just to be able to lie down and not worry to coming to meetings or anything, it was nice,” smiled defensive tackle Joe Massaquoi. “It was a mental break from watching film and preparation and physically just not having to be on the field as much,” said defensive lineman Joe Massaquoi.

Marshall’s two bye weeks could not have been more perfectly timed with the first coming at the conclusion of the non-conference portion of the schedule and the second four weeks later. The season has been inadvertently divided up into thirds giving the Herd the chance to evaluate its own performance and make adjustments to personnel and techniques.

“It gives us a chance to reflect on us instead of preparing solely on the opponent for the next week,” pointed out Van Horn. “We were able to concentrate on us and work on technique and clean up some things we thought we needed to clean up that we saw over the last four games. So, it was good for everybody.”

Standard practice weeks usually leave little time for individual instruction. Most of the time is consumed with learning the opponents’ tendencies and applying the lessons learned in the meeting rooms. With no opponent to prepare for last week, linemen had the opportunity to practice footwork and hand placement. Receivers could sharpen their routes and defensive backs could work on forcing receivers to the inside or outside.

But while players enjoyed the time to relax and work on the little things that could be the difference between a win and a loss in a close game, they were just as excited to get back to game preparations.

“But it was good to get back into it,” Massaquoi said with a grin.  ~~  Dave Wilson ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Red Raiders and Wildcats Set for Big 12 Shootout

Big 12 Conference rivals square off on Saturday night, as the Texas Tech Red Raiders come calling on the 23rd-ranked Kansas State Wildcats.

Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech squad is an even 2-2 on the season, and one of its losses came in last week’s conference opener against another nationally- ranked foe in Oklahoma State, 45-35. The Red Raiders are playing consecutive road games to open Big 12 play for just the fourth time, the last being back in 2004.

As for Bill Snyder and his Kansas State Wildcats, they come in sporting a 3-1 record, and they are fresh off a 58-28 rout of visiting UTEP last weekend. KSU already has a conference win to its credit, taking a 32-28 decision at Iowa State on September 6, and this game represents the finale of the team’s current three-game homestand.

The all-time series between these two teams leans in favor of Texas Tech, 8-6, but the Wildcats have won the last three meetings. The Red Raiders last won in Manhattan six years ago to the day, claiming a 58-28 verdict on October 4, 2008.

Mistakes proved fatal to Texas Tech’s upset bid of Oklahoma State last week, as the Red Raiders committed three turnovers and were penalized a whopping 16 times for a loss of 158 yards. Still, the offense generated 506 yards, gained 32 first downs and came away with touchdowns on three of its four trips to the red zone.

Davis Webb attempted 54 passes in the game, hitting 35 of them for 374 yards and four TDs. he was picked off twice. Jakeem Grant was his favorite target, as he hauled in 12 balls for 100 yards and a score, while Brad Marquez was right there with eight grabs for 106 yards and a TD. Reginald Davis finished with six receptions for 73 yards and a pair of TDs. The Tech run game was paced by DeAndre Washington and his 85 yards on 13 carries.

Defensively, the Red Raiders surrendered 528 total yards, the bulk of which came through the air (370). Oklahoma State scored four TDs via the pass, but Tech picked off a pair of passes. The Cowboys were held to just 4-of-12 success on third-down conversion attempts. Pete Robertson and Sam Eguavoen each had eight tackles, the former also credited with a pair of sacks. Justis Nelson had three passes defended.

Webb has done a nice job of keeping the offense moving this season, as he is completing 64.8% of his passes for an average of 339 ypg. He has tossed 14 TD passes against six INTs, and the trio of Grant, Marquez and Davis have combined for 76 receptions, 965 yards and 12 scores. Washington has rushed for nearly 300 yards, but he has reached the end zone only once. Justin Stockton is averaging better than eight yards per carry, and he has a pair of rushing scores to his credit.

Texas Tech ranks last in the Big 12 in both run defense (262.8 ypg) and scoring defense (38.8 ppg). And while the effort against the pass has been significantly better (193.8 ypg), the Red Raiders have come up with only two interceptions. As a result of that latter figure, Tech is tied with West Virginia for the worst turnover margin in the conference at -1.25. The team is also last in the league in sacks (five), while also playing the role of cellar dweller in terms of penalties (11.5 per game, 105.5 yards per game). Eguavoen and Robertson rank one-two in total tackles with 29 and 28, respectively, and 14 guys in all have double-digit stops on the year.

Kingsbury spoke this week about the challenge of taking on a Kansas State team that hasn’t shot itself in the foot the way his club has.

“Our number of mistakes versus their lack of mistakes, I’d say he [KSU coach Bill Snyder] does such a good job fundamentally and techniques. They don’t make many errors. They count on you to make those mistakes and so far we have. We’re really going to have to clean it up to compete against a team like that.“

In whipping UTEP last week, Kansas State scored on six straight possessions at one point and tallied 451 yards of total offense compared to only 260 for the Miners. Jake Waters was an efficient game manager in completing 10-of-15 passes for 209 yards and a TD. He did not throw an interception and was not sacked. He also added a rushing score as part of his four-carry, 29-yard effort on the ground. Tyler Lockett and Zach Trujillo combined for seven receptions, 159 yards and a TD, while Charles Jones spearheaded the Wildcats’ ground attack by rumbling his way for 76 yards and three scores. KSU was a perfect 6-of-6 in the red zone after going just 2-of-5 the previous week in a loss to Auburn.

UTEP found the running lanes almost non-existent last week, as the Miners averaged a meager 1.9 ypc in totaling just 59 net yards. In an effort to get back in the game, the visitors aired it out for 201 yards, scoring all four of their TDs via the pass. KSU’s Dante Barnett and Jonathan Truman made 12 tackles each, but the Wildcats came up with only one sack and no turnovers.

Waters is a 61.6% passer who has averages 229 ypg, but he has just three TD tosses and as many INTs. As a result, Curry Sexton is the leading pass catcher, but with only 19 grabs (207 yards), while Lockett is first in receiving yards with 274, doing so on 17 receptions. Jones and Waters have both gained more than 200 yards on the ground, and they’ve combined for 13 TDs. As a collective unit, the ‘Cats rank near the middle of the Big 12 pack in scoring (39.8 ppg) and rushing (175 ypg), while leading the conference in fewest penalties (19).

Kansas State has done an exceptional job stopping the run this season, as it yields just 90.3 ypg to rank second in the Big 12 and 13th nationally. Overall, the defense ranks third in the league in permitting 308 total yards per contest, although with only two interceptions and eight touchdown passes allowed, as well as an opponents completion%age of .618, the unit is last in pass efficiency defense (134.8). Truman paces the team in total tackles with 34.

Coach Snyder was certainly pleased with the effort his team put forth last week following the disappointing showing against Auburn.

“I just know how we played today. I know how we got started. We were great on defense, so from a defensive perspective it was advantages. From the offensive perspective, without realizing it, we started fuller on offense.“


►  Top-25 Showdown in the Big 12 Pits Sooners against Frogs

The fourth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners hit the road for the second straight time as they challenge the 25th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Both Big 12 Conference teams come in sporting unblemished record, with Oklahoma sitting at 4-0, and TCU 3-0.

The Sooners, who were idle last weekend, have taken care of Louisiana Tech (48-16), Tulsa (52-7), Tennessee (34-10) and West Virginia (45-33). The win over the Mountaineers on September 20 was the team’s conference opener and took place in Morgantown. Oklahoma won’t play in Norman again until hosting Kansas State on October 18, and the team will head to Arlington, Texas next Saturday for its annual clash with the rival Texas Longhorns.

TCU cracked the Top-25 this week for the first time this season after whipping SMU in Dallas last Saturday, 56-0. It was the most lopsided outcome in the 94- game history between the two fierce rivals. The Frogs enjoyed a bye the week prior (their second of the season already), and they’ve now allowed a grand total of 21 points in their first three games after blasting Samford (48-14) and Minnesota (30-7) to kick off the campaign.

Oklahoma slipped past visiting TCU last year, 20-17, to take a 9-4 lead in the all-time series.

Oklahoma’s offense rivals TCU’s in terms of scoring, with both checking in at just under 45 ppg. The Sooners are churning out 222.8 ypg on the ground and they have 15 rushing touchdowns, while the pass results in 272.2 ypg but only five scores. Trevor Knight hasn’t gotten into a consistent rhythm just yet, as he is completing only 58.5% of his passes with four TDs and three INTs. Sterling Shepard is OU’s top pass catcher, as he has 23 receptions for 436 yards and a pair of scores.

When the Sooners decide to control the clock, it’s freshman Samaje Perine who gets the call most often as he has carried the ball 66 times for 419 yards and five TDs. Keith Ford, who is hobbled by a hairline fracture in his right fibula, also has five rushing TDs, while Alex Ross has three. All three players average at least 5.7 ypc.

Outside of the West Virginia game, the Sooners have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the defensive side of the ball, the unit yielding just 16.5 points 349.8 yards per contest. They have been especially stingy when it comes to allowing yards on the ground (99.2 ypg), and they’ve permitted only two rushing scores. Opponents have scored only seven points in the first quarter this season, and those same foes have reached the red zone only 10 times, coming away with points seven times.

Dominique Alexander leads the Sooners with 30 tackles, while Quentin Hayes has three of their 12 sacks, and Zack Sanchez four of their eight picks.

West Virginia stood toe-to-toe with the Sooners in their matchup a couple of weeks back, going into the locker room at halftime knotted at 24-24. In fact, the Mountaineers led by seven with a little more than a minute remaining in the second quarter before Ross returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown. In all, the OU offense produced 510 yards, the majority of which came thanks to the rushing exploits of Perine, who rumbled his way to career-highs with 242 yards and four scores. Knight wound up 16-of-29 for 205 yards, but did not throw a TD pass. He did, however, catch one on a trick play in the second quarter. Shepard finished with six grabs for 101 yards.

The Sooners bent repeatedly against WVU, permitting 513 total yards, 376 of which the Mountaineers amassed via the pass. Oklahoma’s defensive effort was aided by three takeaways and as many sacks, and the unit was led by Jordan Evans and his 11 tackles, nine of which were solo efforts.

Bob Stoops, who with the win at West Virginia became the first coach to record 100 regular season Big 12 victories, spoke about the effort put forth by his young running back.

“Samaje was just outstanding. You know about how powerful and strong he is, but he has great vision. He had a sensational night.“

He continued to praise the rest of his team as they performed admirably in what was a harsh environment.

“I’m really proud of our players. They played through some adversity and persevered through it.“

TCU is putting up 44.7 ppg, doing so behind 211.3 ypg rushing and 320.7 ypg passing. The 532.0 ypg ranks the team third in the Big 12. The primary reason the Frogs are as potent as they are has been the play of quarterback Trevone Boykin. The junior from Dallas has completed 64.2% of his passes for 858 yards, eight TDs and only one INT, while as the same time spearheading the team’s rushing attack by turning 29 carries into 183 yards and three scores. B.J. Catalon is right there with 172 yards and three TDs of his own.

As for the receivers, five of them are all over 100 yards, and Josh Dotson leads the way with three TDs.

Far from a one-trick pony, TCU also possesses a dominant defense as evidenced by the mere 7.0 points the team is allowing—No. 1 in the Big 12, No. 2 nationally. The Frogs yield only 91.7 ypg on the ground, and only once has the opposition crossed the goal line that way. As for their effort against the pass, coach Gary Patterson’s club gives way for only 127.0 ypg (No. 1 in the Big 12, No. 4 nationally), with again, only one TD coming via that form of attack.

Paul Dawson heads the unit with 21.5 tackles, which includes 5.0 TFL, and he also has an INT and three fumble recoveries. Collectively, TCU has been credited with 13 sacks and 10 takeaways.

Boykin turned in a masterful performance in last week’s whitewashing of SMU, throwing for 280 yards and four TD passes while also adding a pair of rushing scores, as the Horned Frogs rolled up 614 yards of total offense, compared to only 245 for the Mustangs. Catalon ran for a career-high 114 yards and a TD, while Deante’ Gray paced the receivers with six grabs for 96 yards and a pair of scores.

TCU was once again on top of its game defensively, limiting the Ponies to a mere 89 rushing yards on 45 attempts (2.0 ypc). SMU managed only 156 passing yards as well, and the home team committed three turnovers while surrendering a whopping nine sacks. Kenny Iloka led the Horned Frogs’ stand with 7.5 tackles, almost all of which were unassisted, and James McFarland dropped the quarterback three times, which happened to be the only three tackles he was credited with in the game. McFarland was also credited with a pair of forced fumbles.


►  No. 7 Baylor Puts Perfect Mark on Line against Texas

Lone Star State rivals square off on Saturday afternoon, as the seventh-ranked Baylor Bears pay a visit to the Texas Longhorns for a Big 12 Conference tussle at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Baylor enters the fray a perfect 4-0, having easily disposed of SMU (45-0), Northwestern State (70-6), Buffalo (63-21) and Iowa State (49-28), the latter of which occurred last weekend and was the Bears’s conference opener. BU, which is playing its third straight road game this week after kicking off the campaign with a pair of tilts at its brand new stadium, is the defending Big 12 champs, and it appears in all likelihood that Art Briles’ club will battle Oklahoma for the league’s top spot this season.

Texas has split its first four games of the Charlie Strong era, sandwiching a pair of relatively easy wins (38-7 over North Texas, 23-0 over Kansas) around a pair of tough losses (41-7 versus BYU, 20-17 to UCLA). The Longhorns are back in Austin for the first time since the September 6 setback to the Cougars, and they’ll play only three more times in front of the hometown faithful after this contest.

Texas owns a commanding 74-25-4 lead in the all-time series with Baylor, but the Bears won last year’s meeting in Waco, 30-10, giving them their first Big 12 title and sending them to the Fiesta Bowl.

Baylor’s offensive exploits are bordering on the absurd, as the team continues to lead the nation in both scoring (56.8 ppg) and total offense (641.0 ypg). Under the direction of quarterback Bryce Petty, the Bears own the No. 4 passing attack, accounting for 401.3 ypg. Petty has hit the mark on 65.3% of his throws, and has seven touchdown passes against only one interception. Backup Seth Russell has the same TD-to-INT ratio.

KD Cannon is the top receiver, as he has hauled in 23 balls for 519 yards and four scores, while Jay Lee has four TD catches as part of his 19-reception, 294-yard effort. As for the Baylor ground assault, Shock Linwood leads the way with 301 yards and seven scores, helping the team as a whole generate 239.8 ypg and amass 18 TDs.

The Baylor defense hasn’t faced much adversity this season, and as a result permits just 13.8 ppg. The Bears have stood tall against both the run (80.0 ypg) and the pass (170.5 ypg), and they’ve logged 18 sacks while not allowing a single one on offense. Bryce Hager leads the way with 21 tackles, while Orion Stewart is next with 20.

Petty was his usual productive self in last week’s rout of Iowa State, passing for 336 yards and a TD, while scoring twice on the ground. Linwood added three rushing scores and the Bears totaled 601 total yards compared to only 339 for the Cyclones. Corey Coleman was a monster in the passing game, bringing in a dozen balls for a career-best 154 yards and TD, while Cannon caught a career- high nine passes (48 yards) and Antwan Goodley tallied six for 114 yards.

Alavion Edwards paced the Bears with 11 tackles, two of which were for a loss, and the defense was credited with three sacks while allowing ISU to reach the red zone only twice.

While it wasn’t the best game they’ve played, Briles was proud of the overall effort put forth by his guys in a tough spot.

“It’s tough to win on the road. Iowa State is a good football team. We did what we had to do. We’re not happy, we’re not patting each other on the back or saying were the best team around. We did a workman-like job tonight and took care of business in an environment that wanted to beat us.“

In stark contrast to the explosiveness Baylor is capable of when it has the ball, the Texas offense produces just 21.2 points and 315.5 yards per game. Neither mode of attack strikes much fear into the hearts of opposing defenders, with the run accounting for just 120.5 ypg and the pass only 195 ypg.

Tyrone Swoopes took over for the injured David Ash and has performed well, completing 63.6% of his passes for 590 yards and five TDs. He has been picked off only once, and his go-to guys are Jaxon Shipley and John Harris, with each having caught more than three times as many passes any other player on the roster. Harris has four TD grabs. The run game features a pair of backs with at least 191 yards. Johnathan Gray paces the unit with 222 yards, while Malcolm Brown has half of the team’s four rushing scores.

Take away the 41 points surrendered to BYU, and the Longhorns have been fairly stout on defense. In all, foes are averaging just 17 points and 319.8 yards per contest. The ‘Horns have been especially tough against the pass, yielding a mere 140.2 ypg and only two aerial scores.

Jordan Hicks leads the way with 55 tackles, while Steve Edmond has 46. Malcolm Brown is credited with 3.5 of the team’s 17 sacks, and Hicks, Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas each have a pair of INTs, the unit as a whole coming up with nine picks.

Last week’s shutout win at Kansas wasn’t pretty, as the Longhorns tallied just 329 total yards, including a mere 111 on 36 rushing attempts (3.1 ypc). Gray finished with just 44 yards, leaving it up to Swoopes to get the job done. The sophomore quarterback completed 19-of-34 passes for 218 yards and a TD, with both Harris and Shipley turning in solid performances with a combined 12 catches for 170 yards and a score (Harris).

Although it was against a struggling offense, the Longhorns were impressive on defense last week in holding the Jayhawks to just 313 yards, only 140 of which came via the pass. The unit recorded four sacks and came up with as many turnovers (all INTs), including both of Thomas’ picks on the season. Hicks was all over the field for Strong’s club, logging 15 tackles and an INT, while Edmond was hot on his heels with 14 stops, including a sack.

Strong felt the same way as Briles did about winning a conference road game.

“It is tough to go in someone’s place and beat them, especially when they play in your conference. So it’s a big win for us. I tell them anytime you play on the road you’ve got to pack your defense and your special teams. Those two units played well.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Cowboys’ Spillman Being Investigated for Sexual Assault

Dallas Cowboys special teams player C.J. Spillman is being investigated for an alleged sexual assault, according to the New York Daily News.

Police in Grapevine, Texas, told the Daily News that Spillman is being investigated for sexually assaulting a woman at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, the Cowboys’ official hotel, on Sept. 20.

Spillman played in the team’s game against the St. Louis Rams the following day.

The alleged attack came just a day after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s news conference during which he promised to improve the league’s personal conduct policy based on recent events.

Several NFL players have been in trouble with the law recently, including Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.

Spillman, a reserve defensive back, is in his sixth season and first with the Cowboys. He previously played for the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers.


►  Week 4’s Best for NFC Includes Rodgers

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named the NFC’s offensive player of the week for his efforts in Week 4.

Rodgers was joined by San Francisco 49ers saftey Antoine Bethea and Philadelphia Eagles punt returner-running back Darren Sproles as the best in the NFC for last weekend’s performances.

Rodgers completed 22-of-28 passes for 302 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 151.2 passer rating in the Packers’ 38-17 win at Chicago.

Bethea, the defensive player of the week, had an interception, a forced fumble and seven tackles in the 49ers’ 26-21 win over Philadelphia. He helped lead a squad that held Philadelphia’s high-powered offense to no offfensive points on the afternoon.

Sproles, the special teams player of the week, had a career-long 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Eagles’ loss. He was part of a unit that scored the only two special teams touchdowns in Week 4.


►  Charles, Watt, Novak Named AFC’s Best for Week 4

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and San Diego Chargers kicker Nick Novak have been selected as the AFC’s top players for Week 4 of the NFL season.

Charles scored three touchdowns in Kansas City’s 41-14 rout of New England on Monday to capture the offensive award for the fourth time in his career, tying Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson for the most among Chiefs’ running backs. He rushed for 92 yards with a score and caught three passes for 16 yards and two touchdowns.

Watt picked up the defensive honor for the third time after making five tackles and returning an interception 80 yards for a touchdown in Houston’s 23-17 win over Buffalo on Sunday. His TD came early in the third quarter and gave the Texans a lead they would not relinquish.

Novak was chosen as the top special teams player for a third time. He converted all four of his field goal attempts and each of his three PATs in San Diego’s 33-14 victory over Jacksonville.

Others considered for the offensive award were Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, last week’s winner who this past Sunday threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-17 victory over Tennessee; San Diego’s Philip Rivers, who threw for 377 yards and three scores against the Jaguars; and Baltimore receiver Steve Smith Sr., who had seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-10 win over his old team, the Carolina Panthers.

Defensive nominees included Kansas City safety Husain Abdullah, who had eight tackles and a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Patriots, and Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who had four tackles and returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown in a 38-14 win over Oakland.

Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri was also considered for the special teams honor after drilling a pair of field goals and all five PATs against the Titans.


►  All Eyes on Bridgewater as Vikings Get Ready to Invade Green Bay

It’s rare when Packers superstar Aaron Rodgers isn’t the focal point coming into a football game but all eyes leading up to Thursday night’s affair between Green Bay and Minnesota are on Vikings rookie signal caller Teddy Bridgewater.

Or to be more specific, Bridgewater’s left ankle.

The first-round pick out of Louisville had a spectacular starting debut last week during a 41-28 win over Atlanta but injured the ankle in the fourth quarter, putting his availability on a short week into question.

Bridgewater did not practice Tuesday but believes he has a chance to play in Green Bay, saying he was feeling “much better” than he did Sunday when he threw for 317 yards in his inaugural NFL start.

With Matt Cassel already out for the year, third-stringer Christian Ponder took the first-team reps at practice on Tuesday as Bridgewater spent his time on conditioning and flexibility exercises.

“We have a long time until Thursday,“ Bridgewater said. “I just want to continue to rehab, do a little exercising today and see where I am these next couple of days.“

Bridgewater out-gunned another star QB last week, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, just four days after Cassel went on season-ending injured reserve with a broken foot.

“I don’t want to prematurely put the crown on his head already,“ said Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings when talking about his new QB, “but he definitely has everything that it takes. The No. 1 thing that I noticed right out of the gate was his poise, his demeanor within the huddle in crucial situations. That’s Teddy all day, every day.“

Besides piling up over 300 passing yards, the rookie ran for a touchdown before getting hurt in the fourth quarter on a drive that ended with the Vikings taking a gamble on fourth down at the 1-yard line.

It worked, with Matt Asiata’s touchdown giving the Vikings the lead for good with 10:50 remaining.

Asiata, the team’s power back, scored three times and speed threat Jerick McKinnon rushed for 135 yards as the Vikings won for the first time in three games since star running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on child-abuse charges and deactivated.

“Being a defensive coach, when you have two different types of backs come in there it changes your mindset on some of your calls,“ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of his two-pronged rushing attack without Peterson. “They have to think a little bit differently. It’s not necessarily different plays all of the time - it’s one guy can get to the perimeter faster, one guy can be a little bit more physical.“

The Packers and Rodgers, meanwhile, are coming off a 38-17 rout of their other main rival, the Chicago Bears.

After telling his fan base to relax during the week, Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns—two each to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb—and amassed a gaudy 151.2 passer rating as the Packers ran away from the Bears in the second half en route to the easy victory, the 700th in the storied history of the franchise.

“Big win. It’s always nice to be part of history. I feel very good about what was accomplished today,“ Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said following the win.

The Packers scored on their first six possessions of the game while piling up 358 yards of offense versus the paltry 223, their lowest total in five years, a week earlier in a 19-7 loss at Detroit.

“We produced. We scored points. We were very basic in our approach. The pass protection was very good,“ McCarthy continued. “Aaron (Rodgers) was excellent throwing to the open guy. We wanted to come in here and play fast.“

Cobb finished with seven receptions for 113 yards and Nelson had 10 for 108 as the Packers won by three TDs despite surrendering 496 yards thanks in large part to the errors of Rodgers’ counterpart with the Bears, Jay Cutler.

“It’s different every week,“ Nelson said. “There is nothing guaranteed each week. It’s the difference between executing one week and not the week before. We know what we can do. We have to go out and execute.“

Eddie Lacy finished with 48 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown for the Packers, who avoided their first 0-3 start on the road since dropping their first four in 2005.

The Packers lead their all-time series with Minnesota by a 55-48-2 margin and they have dominated the Vikings at Lambeau in the Brett Favre/Rodgers years, amassing a 15-4-1 home record over the last 20 campaigns.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Rodgers has generally destroyed the Vikings over the years, feasting on Minnesota’s old cover-2 philosophy and winning seven of his past eight starts against them. In 12 career starts against Minnesota, Rodgers has amassed 27 touchdown passes versus just four interceptions with a gaudy 116.8 passer rating.

This time around, however, he’ll be facing a much different group under first- year Vikings coach Zimmer, who preaches controlled aggression with the keys being getting after the passer but doing it in a disciplined manner, a necessity against Rodgers, who is one of the best ever at extending plays with his mobility.

Zimmer-coached defenses have had more success against Rodgers than most. The All-Pro was 0-2 against Zimmer’s defenses in Cincinnati with a less-than- stellar 57% completion%age.

Zimmer’s defense in Minnesota is still a work in progress, though, and the Vikings third-down defense, long a staple of all his units, has been awful over the past two weeks, letting opponents convert 19-of-28 opportunities. Minnesota is now giving up third-down conversions at a 50% clip, 31st in the NFL.

It’s terrible,“ Zimmer said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m extremely disappointed in that. We’ll put a lot more time and effort into it than what we have.“

Improving against Rodgers in Lambeau is a tall order, however. something Vikings nickel back Josh Robinson spoke to.

“Don’t look at Medusa, because he’s going to turn you to stone,“ the cornerback said when talking about Rodgers’ ability to move around in the pocket.

Of course the only defense worse than Minnesota’s on third down has been Green Bay’s stop unit, which is allowing a 52.6 conversion rate.

That number is likely to improve dramatically, though, if Bridgewater is unable to go. The Vikings showed no confidence in Ponder last week when he was pressed into action and the former first-round pick out of Florida State has shown even less confidence in himself over the years.

“I’m preparing to play, but we’re hoping for the best with Teddy,“ said Ponder, who took first-team reps on both Monday and Tuesday. “I’ve talked with Teddy, he’s doing everything he can to get ready and play.“

With Ponder under center, Minnesota will try to shorten the game and rely heavily on a running game that is still without Peterson. On paper, that sounds like a good formula because the Vikings’ 134.8 rushing yards per game ranks fourth in the NFC and Green Bay allows 176.0 yards on the ground, dead last in the NFL.

“I’m aware what the numbers are. Nobody likes it,“ McCarthy said. “"We’re very critical of ourselves and our players are very accountable. Giving up that much yardage, that’s no excuse for that. We understand that. There are things we can definitely work on and improve on.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Bridgewater is talking a good game.

“It’ll be very exciting to be out there on Thursday,“ the rookie said. “You talk about Lambeau Field, the history and the tradition behind that stadium. It’s going to be a great feeling just being able to play in that facility.“

The problem is Bridgewater is the Vikings’ future and rushing him back into action on a short week of preparation doesn’t make a lot of sense long-term. Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner even mentioned how difficult it is to get a QB ready to play on a short week when they are practicing.

That could telegraph Ponder starts and that alone will decide this one.

Predicted outcome: Packers 34, Vikings 13


►  Bears Sign Williams

The Chicago Bears signed Teddy Williams off of Arizona’s practice squad and waived linebacker Terrell Manning on Wednesday.

The 6-1, 207-pound Williams has appeared in 10 games over two seasons with Indianapolis (2012) and Arizona (2013), seeing time on offense as a wide receiver, defense as a cornerback and special teams as a kick returner.

Williams originally entered the NFL with the Cowboys in 2010, spending a majority of the 2010 and 2011 seasons on Dallas’ practice squad.

Manning appeared in two games for the Bears in 2014, seeing time on special teams. He has appeared in eight NFL contests over three seasons with Green Bay (2012), San Diego (2013) and Chicago (2014).


►  Fisher Names Davis Starting QB for Rams

St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher named Austin Davis the starting quarterback for not only Week 5’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but also the rest of the season.

The Rams were on a bye last week and with Shaun Hill healthy, Fisher had a decision to make.

In three games this season, Davis has completed 72.3% of his passes for 754 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

In Week 3’s 34-31 loss to Dallas, Davis completed 30-of-42 passes for 327 yards with three scores and two interceptions.

Hill began the season as the starter after Sam Bradford tore a knee ligament in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve. However, Hill injured his quad in the opener after going 8-of-13 for 81 yards with an interception, forcing Davis into action.


►  Cardinals’ Palmer Sees Shoulder Specialist

The Arizona Cardinals’ plans on having Carson Palmer back under center following their bye week have appeared to have hit a snag, as the veteran quarterback was excused from Wednesday’s practice to see a specialist about his ailing right shoulder.

Palmer missed Arizona’s previous two games prior to the team’s Week 4 bye as he dealt with a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder. Head coach Bruce Arians told reporters that the problem has regressed since Palmer took part in a pair of extensive throwing sessions last week.

Arians has yet to rule Palmer out for Sunday’s game at Denver, but did say the 12-year pro will have to prove he can throw at full velocity over the next couple of days in order to be cleared.

Drew Stanton has stepped in for Palmer in Arizona’s last two contests and guided the 3-0 Cardinals to a pair of wins, including a 23-14 decision over NFC West rival San Francisco on September 21 in which he tossed a pair of touchdown passes.

Stanton did not commit a turnover in either of those two starts while amassing 411 yards on a 32-of-62 completion rate.


►  Panthers’ Alexander Suspended 10 Games

Carolina Panthers defensive end Frank Alexander was suspended 10 games without pay Wednesday for violating the NFL’s policy and program for substances of abuse.

Alexander will be eligible to return to Carolina’s roster on Monday, December 15, following the team’s Week 15 game against Tampa Bay.

The 24-year-old was just reinstated from a four-game suspension for a previous substance-abuse violation on Monday.

Alexander had 15 tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and two passes defensed in 12 games (three starts) last season.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Huggins Envisions Better Defense, Rebounding for Upcoming Season

Some 72 hours before West Virginia stages its first preseason basketball practice, coach Bob Huggins projected some improvements over last year’s NIT team.

“I hope we can get back to where we can guard people and where we can rebound the ball,” Huggins said Tuesday. “It makes it hard to stop other people’s runs if you can’t stop anybody and if you can’t get second shots.”

The Mountaineers permitted opponents to shoot 44.7%—the worst field-goal defense in the Big 12—and ranked eighth out of 10 teams in rebounding margin. After residing on the NCAA bubble in mid-February, West Virginia dropped six of its final eight games and finished 17-16.

“We couldn’t stop anybody. When we hit a drought (offensively), we couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Huggins said.

All-Big 12 point guard Juwan Staten returns as the catalyst, and forward Devin Williams produced eight double-doubles during an up-and-down freshman season. The long-awaited debuts of 6-9 freshman Elijah Macon and 6-7 junior Jonathan Holton figure to make West Virginia more paint-oriented, especially after guards Eron Harris (17.2 points) and Terry Henderson (11.7 points) transferred to Michigan State and NC State respectively.

“We probably won’t make as many 3s, and we probably won’t shoot it as well from 3,” Huggins said. “But we’ll pass it better, we’ll guard better and we’ll rebound it better, which makes up for that.”

Watch Huggins’ complete preseason news conference above, where he discusses the injury status of Kevin Noreen (out until January) and the potential lineup combinations involving five newcomers.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  National League Wild Card Game Result

Final Score: San Francisco 8, Pittsburgh 0

Madison Bumgarner pitched a four-hit shutout, Brandon Crawford hit the fourth playoff grand slam in team history and the San Francisco Giants beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-0 in the National League wild-card game Wednesday night. The Giants have won seven straight playoff elimination games, including five on the road. Bumgarner (1-0) kept them out of trouble in this one, scattering four hits and a walk while striking out 10, and giving the Pirates little hope of scoring a rally against him. So when Crawford homered with no outs in the fourth inning off Edinson Volquez (0-1), it cast a pall over the PNC Park crowd of 40,629 that lasted the rest of the game. Indeed, the game had none of the drama of Tuesday’s instant-classic AL wild-card game between Kansas City and Oakland, which the Royals won in the bottom of the 12th inning. The Giants were OK with that. They will face the NL East-champion Nationals in a division series with Game 1 scheduled for Friday in Washington.


►  Baseball to Experiment with Pace of Play Ideas

Major League Baseball has announced plans to speed up the pace of play and will experiment with those ideas during the 2014 Arizona Fall League.

Some of the concepts developed by a Pace of Game Committee include no-pitch intentional walks, a 20-second limit to throw a pitch, and time limits on inning breaks and pitcher changes. There will also be a limit on the number of timeouts a team can call in the field for conferences.

“Our committee members have many practical ideas about how we can improve our pace of game,“ said Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, the chairman of the committee. “The Arizona Fall League will be a terrific platform during which we can experiment with these ideas and take away some lessons in the hope of streamlining the pace of play.“

If a team decides to intentionally walk a batter, the manager will signal to the home plate umpire with four fingers and the batter will automatically move to first base.

With the 20-second rule for pitchers to throw a pitch, a clock will be placed in both dugouts, behind home plate and in the outfield. It will be operated by someone other than the umpiring crew.

The batter must be prepared for the pitch during the 20-second period, but can still ask the umpire for time. If the batter is not granted time and steps out of the box, the pitcher can throw the pitch and the umpire can call a strike.

Current rules call for a 12-second allowance for each pitch, but only when the bases are unoccupied. The 20-second clock would start once the pitcher is in possession of the ball. However, it would take effect on the first pitch to a batter once the batter steps into the box. If a pitcher is involved in a play, including backing up bases, the clock would begin once he is in possession of the ball on the dirt portion of the pitcher’s mound.

The clock would stop once the pitcher begins his motion to deliver the ball, not when it is released. Beginning the motion to come to a set position would also stop the clock. If the pitcher does not begin his motion within the 20 seconds, the umpire will call a ball.

Time between innings will be a maximum of 2 minutes and 5 seconds, with hitters to be in the batter’s box at the 1:45 mark. Pitching changes will take a maximum of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The clock will start once the new pitcher enters the playing field, either crossing the warning track or foul line.

The timeout rule will allow teams to have only three conferences per game, extra innings included. Such conferences will include player meetings with the pitcher, including the catcher, manager or coach conferences with the pitcher, as well as coach conferences with a batter.

Pitching changes and injuries would not count toward the limit.

One other idea is for the batter to keep at least one foot in the box throughout his at-bat. Exceptions would include a foul ball, a pitch that forces the batter out of the box, a wild pitch or passed ball and time granted by the umpire

The Arizona Fall League is a developmental platform run by Major League Baseball.


►  Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles

DETROIT TIGERS: AL CENTRAL CHAMPIONS (90-72)

BALTIMORE ORIOLES: AL EAST CHAMPIONS (96-66)

The Baltimore Orioles’ quest toward their first World Series appearance in 31 years starts on Thursday, as they open up the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers.

Baltimore is back in the postseason for the second time in three years thanks to its first American League East crown since 1997 after going 96-66. The win total was the most for an O’s team since they accumulated 98 in the year of their last division title.

The O’s had to overcome a pair of serious injuries along the way, as catcher Matt Wieters was lost for the season in June with an elbow injury, while promising third baseman Manny Machado was again befelled by a serious leg injury that required surgery in August.

Then as if that wasn’t enough last year’s home run champion Chris Davis was suspended for the use of amphetamines in September. His suspension will keep him out of this series and he likely won’t be available to the O’s unless they reach the World Series.

Still it didn’t slow the Orioles down from an offensive standpoint, as they hit a league high 211 dingers, with Nelson Cruz leading the way with an MLB- best 40.

Detroit, meanwhile, needed all 162 games before it finally clinched its fourth straight AL Central title with a win on the final day of the season. The four straight playoff appearances are tied for the longest active streak of postseason appearances in the major leagues.

While as good of a story it would have been had the postseason-starved Kansas City Royals overtaken Detroit, it would have been a disaster for a Tigers team that was an overwhelming favorite at the start of the year and one that went all-in at the non-waiver trade deadline with the acquisition of left-hander David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Regardless, Detroit is trying to get back to the World Series for the second time in three years, as it chases its first title since 1984.

These two teams have never met one another in the postseason, but the Tigers were 5-1 against the O’s in the regular season.

Below we take a look at three keys for each team to move on.

BALTIMORE

1. FIND OTHER WAYS TO SCORE

To say the home run wasn’t a big part of what the Orioles do is a giant understatement. Home runs accounted for 14.7% of the O’s hits this season and they were the only team in the league to hit over 200 of them.

Detroit knows all too well the damage Cruz can do, as he hit six home runs against them in the 2011 ALCS as a member of the Texas Rangers.

Traditionally that hasn’t been the recipe for success in October, especially against a Tigers rotation that features the last three AL Cy Young Award winners.

The Orioles are going to have to find other ways to score if they want to advance. While it is true that teams that tend to rely on the longball seem to be neutralized in October, the Orioles could take advantage of maybe the worst bullpen in the postseason.

Detroit’s bullpen is too unreliable not to blow at least one win in this series.

2. GIVE THE BULLPEN A LEAD

Baltimore opened its season with Tommy Hunter closing games. That seems like a long time ago, though, doesn’t it?

Whatever perceived disadvantage Baltimore may have in the rotation, the O’s more than make up for it with one of the better bullpens in baseball. Closer Zach Britton is as underrated as any pitcher in the game and Orioles relievers combined for a 3.10 ERA, which was the third-lowest mark in the AL, and a 1.16 WHIP, tied for the second lowest.

Left-hander Andrew Miller and righty Darren O’Day will set the bridge to Britton. If the O’s do get by, you can bet it’s on the strength of their pitchers late in games.

Baltimore needs to get the bullpen a lead, as opponents are batting .216 against the O’s from the eighth inning on.

By the way don’t sleep on the Orioles starting staff. They may not have the Cy Young resumes as the Tigers, but they did have three 13-game winners (Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Chris Tillman) for the first time since ‘97, when Scott Erickson, Jimmy Key and Mike Mussina helped pitch the O’s to their last division title.

3. ADAM JONES

With all due respect to the great season had by Cruz, Baltimore has one legitimate superstar and that is Adam Jones. But the Orioles are going to need more from him in this series than what he gave them during his first trip to the postseason in 2012.

Jones only managed two hits in 27 at-bats in two series against the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

If Baltimore wants to move on he’s going to need to resemble the hitter who drove in 96 runs and collected 30 doubles and 29 homers, while hitting .281 in the three-hole for the Orioles this season.

DETROIT

1. STARTING PITCHING

You are not going to find a better starting staff in this year’s playoffs than what Detroit is going to throw out there. At least on paper.

Max Scherzer will get the call in Game One and be followed by fellow Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Price. Rick Porcello will get the call in a potential fourth game after a breakout season, while Anibal Sanchez will be moved to the bullpen.

Scherzer and Verlander could be asked to start a potential Game 5 matchup in Baltimore on October 8 based on the number of days of rest between Game 2 and Game 5.

There shouldn’t be one matchup in this series that the Tigers won’t have the advantage in the starting pitching department.

2. CAN THE BULLPEN BE AT LEAST SERVICEABLE?

It seems like we have the same discussion every year with the Tigers. Can the bullpen deliver in October? For as good as this team is it’s incredible they always seem to enter the postseason in the same predicament.

Joe Nathan was believed to be the answer, but he more often than not looked like a pitcher who was 39. Things came to a head with him in September when he flipped off the Comerica Park crowd after yet another blown save.

As bad as it has been at times, though, Nathan has two blown saves and a 2.95 ERA since July 23.

In all, the group, which also includes former closers Joakim Soria and Joba Chamberlain, combined for a 4.29 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and .270 batting average against to finish among the bottom three teams in the AL in each statistic.

One player to watch here in the playoffs could be Sanchez, who has been bumped from the rotation. Sanchez missed time in the second half with a pectoral strain, but could be a huge factor for the Tigers bullpen. The reigning AL ERA champion has only made one appearance since August 9 and it’s unknown if he’ll be able to go on back-to-back nights.

3. MIGUEL CABRERA

We can talk about the incredible potential of the starting staff or the bullpen deficiencies all we want, this Tigers team will only go as far as two- time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera will carry them.

Cabrera had a down year by his standards, but at the end of the day he was still the fourth player in Major League history to post 11 consecutive seasons with at least 25 home runs and 100 RBI.

And in case you haven’t noticed, he’s getting hot at the right time, hitting .379 in the final month of the season along with eight homers and 18 RBI. Plus he’s healthy, something he couldn’t have said last October.


PREDICTION: This series comes down to one thing: Can Detroit keep Baltimore in the ballpark? That’s it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the starters or the Tigers beleaguered pen, which isn’t as bad as it has been in the past. If Baltimore gets homer happy they will win. It just won’t happen. Games slow down in October. Baltimore’s starting staff is perhaps the most underrated unit in this matchup and they will steal a game at some point. When it comes down to it, though, I just can’t imagine Baltimore’s staff being able to outduel the Tigers’ rotation over the course of the series.

TIGERS in FOUR


►  Kansas City Royals vs. LA Angels of Anaheim

KANSAS CITY ROYALS: AL WILD CARD (89-73)

LA ANGELS OF ANAHEIM: AL WEST CHAMPIONS (98-64)

It’s been 29 long years since the Kansas City Royals have been in this position. Who can blame them for wanting to stick around a little longer?

After one of the more thrilling games in baseball history the Royals continue their first postseason run since 1985 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the best-of-five American League Division Series.

Kansas City outlasted Oakland in Tuesday’s wild card game, as Salvador Perez’s 12th-inning single scored Christian Colon to give the Royals a wild 9-8 come- from-behind victory in a contest that lasted 4 hours and 45 minutes.

“That’s the most incredible game that I’ve ever been a part of,“ Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Oakland had scored five times in the sixth to take a four-run lead, but the Royals crossed the plate four times in the final two innings to send the game to extra innings.

The A’s then put themselves in front with a run in the top half of the 12th, only to see the Royals score twice in the bottom half to secure their first postseason win since 1985.

“Everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs,“ said Eric Hosmer, who scored the tying run in the 12th after a triple. “I think we feed off their energy. You get a couple guys on base, you hear the crowd, everyone is on their feet like that, you feed off that energy. This team, this city, this crowd, everybody, they’ve showed no quit.“

The victory may have taken Yost off the hook for his dubious use of the bullpen in what could have been a pivotal sixth inning. With starter James Shields at just 88 pitches, Yost opted to lift him after he put two runners on for rookie starter Yordano Ventura, who threw 73 pitches on Sunday, rather than Kelvin Herrera.

Ventura proceeded to give up a three-run homer and before the inning was done, the Royals trailed, 7-3.

“You know, when we have these games, we map out our pitching, and we try to cover all scenarios. If something happens early, we’ve got (veteran starter Jeremy) Guthrie. If we get it past the fifth inning, we’re going with our power arms. ... We wanted to bring the gas for the sixth, and we wanted to bring the gas for the seventh with Herrera, Wade (Davis) and (Greg Holland) with a one-run lead. It just didn’t work out.“

Now they face a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim team that steamrolled their way to an AL West title, going an MLB-best 98-64, to get back into the postseason for the first time in five years.

Things looked bleak, though, for the Angels on August 20 when emerging ace Garrett Richards was lost for the season with a knee injury. However, rookie Matt Shoemaker and veteran Jered Weaver picked up the slack for an Angels team that eventually won the division by 10 games.

Shoemaker has his own injury concerns, but the ribcage strain that caused him to miss the final two weeks of the season appears to he healed and he should be ready to go in this series.

Los Angeles split six games with the Royals during the season with each team taking two of three in their ballpark.

This is the first postseason meeting between the Angels and Royals, former division rivals in the American League West from 1969-93.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

1. RUN, RUN, RUN

The Kansas City Royals don’t hit a lot of home runs. In fact they hit the least of not only all the playoff teams, but their 95 home runs were the fewest of any team in baseball.

In fact they were the only team in baseball this season not to hit over 100 home runs.

So, they have to find other ways to score and that was in full effect on Tuesday, as the Royals stole seven bases in the win over the A’s. Of the seven swipes, five of those players eventually scored.

Overall the Royals had an MLB-best 153 stolen bases on the season, while the Angels ranked 17th in caught-stealing%age at 26.9% and allowed the ninth-most stolen bases with 106.

Kansas City is the definition of small-ball baseball and that’ll have to continue if it wants to move on.

2. GIVE THE BULLPEN A LEAD

What made Yost’s decision to go with Ventura when he did so odd on Tuesday was that he had what has been the best bullpen in baseball at his disposal.

Regardless if you thought he pulled Shields too early, Ventura never should have been the one to get out of it. Later Yost would state that he didn’t want to use Herrera for two innings, but he eventually threw 1 2/3 innings.

Kansas City’s bullpen trio of Holland, Herrera and Davis combined for a 1.28 ERA and 258 strikeouts in 205 1/3 innings in the regular season. The nearly- historic group went 72-1 in the regular season when leading after seven innings and 79-1 when leading after eight.

They more than make up for an average rotation and may have found another star in 21-year-old Brandon Finnegan, who pitched to a 1.29 ERA in seven appearances in September.

Yost showed some faith in the 2014 first-round pick on Tuesday, letting him throw 2 1/3 innings in the win over the A’s. He may have allowed what was the go-ahead run in the 12th, but he also only gave up one hit and struck out three.

Watch him in this series.

3. WHO WILL STEP UP IN THE ROTATION?

The downside of playing in the wild card game is that now Shields is likely unavailable until Game 3 on Sunday in Kansas City.

So, who is going to step up?

Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie may get the first chance in Game 1.

Guthrie, 35, has never pitched in the postseason despite his 11 years in the majors. He’s pitched well down the stretch, with an 8-2 record and 3.42 ERA in his last 12 starts.

Danny Duffy had one of the more underrated seasons in the league this year. Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, Duffy pitched to a 2.53 ERA in 31 appearances (25 starts) this season.

Duffy might be the Royals’ next ace, but Yost could use him as a long reliever in this series to bolster that corps even more.

So if that’s the case you’d have to think Yost would hand the ball to Ventura for Game 2. Despite his ineffectiveness in the wild card game, the 23-year-old righty had been brilliant lately. In his last seven starts, he’s gone 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA.

LA ANGELS

1. IS SHOEMAKER HEALTHY?

Nobody answered the bell for the Angels in the wake of the Richards injury more than the 28-year-old rookie Shoemaker.

Shoemaker won his final seven decisions and was 9-1 over his final 11 games with a 1.49 ERA. In all, Shoemaker made 20 starts, going 14-3 with a 2.89 ERA in those games. He also won twice in relief, and his 16 total victories set an Angels rookie record.

“Matt Shoemaker saved our season,“ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s got to be the story of the year for our team, and it might be the biggest surprise in the league. Matt’s been a guy who has always had to prove himself. Even this year he had to prove himself. But he got the opportunity and he’s made the most of it.“

Shoemaker did most of his damage when the Angels needed it the most, right after Richards’ injury. Still, he hasn’t pitched since September 15, but if he can be a serviceable No. 2 to Weaver the Angels may go a long way here in October.

The knock on the Angels is their rotation, but remember Scioscia won it all in 2002 with a rotation that barely averaged five innings and gave him two quality starts in 16 postseason games.

2. JOSH HAMILTON

It’s a new season for Josh Hamilton.

Injuries limited the former AL MVP to just 89 games this season and he missed 21 of the Angels’ last 22 games because of shoulder and other upper-body injuries.

However, like Shoemaker, he’s declared himself ready to go. So after hitting cleanup for most of an injury plagued season in which he batted .263 with 10 homers and 44 runs batted in, he will likely bat seventh and play left field in Game 1 Thursday night.

“We’ll probably bat him down lower to where he’ll have a chance to swing the bat and contribute,“ manager Mike Scioscia said, “but not too much pressure to where if he’s not quite locked in it will make a big difference in our lineup.“

Hamilton missed most of September in his MVP season of 2010 with the Texas Rangers and thrived in the postseason that year, claiming an ALCS MVP Award. However, the rust showed in his first series and he only had two hits in 18 at-bats in the ALDS.

3. THE STAGE IS YOURS MR. TROUT

Mike Trout has been the best player in baseball since he stepped on a big league field in 2012. Now, after two disappointing seasons from the Angels he gets to showcase his talents on the postseason stage.

Trout is likely headed toward his first AL MVP award this season after another tremendous season, as he hit .287 to go along with a 115 runs scored, while setting career-highs with 36 home runs and 111 RBI. However, he did lead the AL with 184 strikeouts.

“Trout is a special player,“ Angels teammate and three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols said. “Players like him don’t come often, maybe once every 30 or 40 years. This city is blessed to see a young player like Trout.“

Trout could not have asked for a better opponent in his maiden voyage into the postseason. In 19 career games against Kansas City, Trout is hitting .361 with seven homers and a 1.154 OPS.

With Derek Jeter gone, MLB needs a new face. It’s going to be Trout, but a big October would absolutely seal it.

PREDICTION: There is no better story in baseball right now than the Kansas City Royals. The Angels might be ripe for the picking, but the Royals aren’t the team that is going to beat them. I have to admit I am banking an awful lot of this prediction on the fact that I think Trout is going to shine. Plus Shields won’t be able to go until Game 3 and by that time the Royals could be fending off elimination. I just don’t see how KC’s starting staff is going to contain the Angels’ lineup. And I do think Shoemaker is healthy. Either way the fact that Weaver could potentially pitch twice tips the scales in the Halos’ favor. Not to mention they are just better.

ANGELS in FIVE



The Gilmer Free Press

►  McIlroy, Hadley Win PGA Tour Honors

Rory McIlroy was named the PGA Tour Player of the Year on Wednesday, while Chesson Hadley captured Rookie of the Year honors.

PGA Tour members who played in at least 15 official money events this past season were eligible to vote.

“My congratulations to Rory and Chesson for their outstanding accomplishments that earned them season-ending honors from their peers,“ said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement. “Both players earned their awards with their consistent and steady play throughout the season.“

McIlroy, a two-time major champion in 2014, was selected over fellow major winners Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, as well as FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel and Jimmy Walker.

It’s the second Player of the Year award for McIlroy in the past three seasons. In 2012, he became the youngest player to win the honor since Tiger Woods in 1999.

Now 25, McIlroy won three times on the PGA Tour this year and did so in consecutive events. He captured the British Open and followed it up with a victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational before claiming the PGA Championship during the summer.

McIlroy also had two runner-up finishes—first at the Honda Classic and again at the Tour Championship. He had a tour-best 12 top-10 finishes and was not outside the top-25 in any of his 17 events.

The native of Northern Ireland became the third European to win the award, which was first presented in 1990 and is named for Jack Nicklaus, following Ireland’s Padraig Harrington in 2008 and England’s Luke Donald in 2011. He’s also the fourth multiple winner, joining Tiger Woods, who has a record 11, and two-time winners Greg Norman and Nick Price.

Hadley earned top rookie honors thanks to a win at the Puerto Rico Open and a trio of top-10 finishes. He was the only rookie to advance to the BMW Championship, the third of the four events in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and finished 58th on the official money list.

The 27-year-old native of North Carolina joined Stewart Cink in 1997 and Michael Clark II in 2000 as products of Georgia Tech to claim the honor.

Hadley was selected for the award over Victor Dubuisson and Brooks Koepka.

The Gilmer Free Press


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 02, 2014


National Football League
Minnesota at Green Bay, 8:25 PM - CBS, NFL Network


Major League Baseball - Playoffs
Detroit at Baltimore, 5:37 PM - TBS
Kansas City at LA Angels, 9:07 PM - TBS


National Hockey League - Preseason
Philadelphia at Washington, 7:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, DC, NHL Network
Vancouver at Edmonton, 9:00 PM - SN360, NHL Network
Winnipeg at Calgary, 9:00 PM - TSN3


College Football
Florida Atlantic at FIU, 7:00 PM - FSN
UCF at Houston, 7:00 PM - ESPN
Alabama State at Alcorn State, 7:30 PM - ESPN U
Arizona at Oregon, 10:30 PM - ESPN


Major League Soccer
Chicago at Philadelphia, 8:00 PM - ESPN 2


International Soccer
FC Krasnodar vs. Everton, 12:00 PM - FS1
Tottenham vs. Besiktas, 3:00 PM - FS1
Celtic vs. GNK Dinamo, 3:00 PM - FS2


Golf
EUROPEAN - Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, 8:00 AM - Golf Channel
LPGA - Reignwood LPGA Classic, 11:00 PM - Golf Channel

Click Below for More Sports...

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