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The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Heisman Rankings: The Final Ballot

While championship weekend caused a big shake up in the College Football Playoff rankings, it was uneventful in the Heisman race as the favorite only separated himself from the field even more.


1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (last week: No. 1)—There’s officially no more drama left in the race for the Heisman Trophy, as Mariota sewed up the award with yet another dazzling performance in the Pac-12 title game against Arizona (51-13). Mariota successfully avenged the Ducks’ only loss of the season to the Wildcats back in October by completing 25-of-38 passes for 313 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while rushing for an additional three scores. After Mariota’s big-game presence was questioned in recent seasons with crucial losses late in the year, the star signal caller has stepped up with one of the greatest seasons in recent memory, passing for 3,783 yards while throwing just two interceptions in 372 attempts, and rushing for 669 yards. He’s accounted for 53 total touchdowns, the most by an FBS player in a single season since 2008 (Chase Clement 57, Sam Bradford 55). Expect a near- unanimous vote in Mariota’s favor on Saturday night in an exciting precursor to Oregon’s College Football Playoff experience.


2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (last week: No. 2)—It was an anticlimactic finish to the season for Gordon and the Badgers, who were embarrassed in the Big Ten Championship Game by Ohio State, 59-0. For the first time since September 9 (a span of 10 straight games), Gordon failed to top 100 yards rushing in the blowout loss, as he turned 26 carries into only 76 yards. The stud tailback had worked his way into a neck-and-neck competition with Mariota for the award with his outstanding play of late, which was highlighted by a then- FBS single-game record 408 yards against Nebraska on November 15, but he needed a much better performance against Ohio State to earn additional first-place votes. Ending the campaign on a whimper has all but locked up the award for Mariota, but Gordon and his Big Ten-record 2,336 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns is a deserving No. 2.


3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (last week: No 3)—The Crimson Tide dominated Missouri in the SEC Championship Game with a 42-13 victory, and Cooper capped the regular season with his fifth double-digit reception game of the year, as he finished with 12 catches for 83 yards. The performance left Cooper with 115 receptions on the year, which is not only tops in the nation but an SEC record, breaking Jordan Matthews’ (Vanderbilt) previous mark of 112 set last season. Cooper is the most dominant receiver in the country—his 1,656 yards is also most in the FBS and his 14 touchdowns are tied for second. Alabama was heavily reliant on Cooper this season, as the team’s 16 other pass-catchers combined for just 153 receptions, and it’s likely ‘Bama wouldn’t be the No. 1 team ready to take on Ohio State in the College Football Playoff without Cooper.


4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU (last week: No 4)—The Horned Frogs have experienced several different emotions over the past week. They were riding high into their matchup with Iowa State as the No. 3 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, and took care of business with a resounding 55-3 victory over the Cyclones, only to get leapfrogged by Ohio State in the final version of the rankings to miss out on the tournament. It’s certainly a frustrating time for TCU, but at least it can hang its hat on Boykin as a Heisman finalist. The signal caller saved his best performance for last, as he threw for a career-high 460 yards on 30-of-41 passing against ISU, rushing for 44 yards and even caught a 55-yard touchdown. Boykin’s not going to win the award, but with more than 4,400 total yards and 39 touchdowns, he deserves to be mentioned among the best of the best.


5. Cody Kessler, QB, USC (last week: No. 5)—Last year, six players were invited to New York City as finalists, a rarity, but expect the number to go back to the traditional four this year, with Kessler falling just shy of finalist distinction. Kessler was arguably the nation’s best pocket passer with 3,505 yards on 70.7% completions, 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions, and if he decides to return for his senior season he can expect another shot at the award in 2015.


6. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (last week: No. 6)—The Bears have all the same beefs as TCU, a team they defeated on their way to an 11-1 record, but ultimately the College Football Playoff committee punished the Big 12 for not having a conference championship game. Petty ended the year on a high note to give his team the best opportunity to sneak into the field. In a 38-27 victory over nationally-ranked Kansas State, Petty completed 85% of his passes (34-of-40) for 412 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while adding a rushing touchdown. Petty failed to make the finalist field last season with 46 touchdowns, and he fell well short of that number this time around with 31, but his accomplishments as the captain of the nation’s most prolific offense are still worth noting.


7. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana (last week: No. 7)—Gordon has cast a large shadow over the running backs this season, but Coleman quietly went about his business for a three-win Indiana team by recording a 2,000-yard season of his own (2,036 to be exact) while scoring 15 touchdowns. The tailback’s accomplishments are even greater considering he chewed up some impressive defenses like Missouri, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa in a one- dimensional offense where he was the only weapon.


8. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (last week: unranked)—It’s difficult to gauge which is more impressive: the Seminoles’ undefeated record or their uncanny ability to pull out nail-biting wins without looking very good. FSU was up to their usual shenanigans in the ACC Championship Game, as it held off Georgia Tech for a 37-35 to secure its spot in the College Football Playoff. After struggling mightily leading up to the game with 11 interceptions in the previous five contests, Winston finally looked like his old self in the victory, completing 21-of-30 passes for 309 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. But it was too little, too late for the reigning Heisman winner, who sits with 3,559 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Now we’ll have to see if the Seminoles can continue their magic against Oregon in the playoff, and ultimately if Winston returns for his junior season to try and rebound from a disappointing individual campaign this year.


9. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (last week: No. 10)—All of the momentum Prescott built up while leading his team to a 9-0 start came to a screeching halt once the Bulldogs closed out the regular season with losses in two of three games, but even with a poor finish the quarterback put together a fantastic year with 2,996 passing yards, 939 rushing yards and 38 total touchdowns. If Prescott improves as much next season as he did from his sophomore to junior years, he’ll be in the thick of the 2015 Heisman race as well.


10. Gerod Holliman, DB, Louisville—Holliman finally sneaks onto the list after weeks of being relegated to honorable mention status. One of the best defensive players in the nation, Holliman was a game-changer in the secondary for the 9-3 Cardinals with an FBS-record tying 14 interceptions, including two off Winston back on October 30. Holliman will have a chance to break Al Worley’s 46-year-old record in the Belk Bowl against Georgia.


Dropped Out: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma; Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona.


Honorable Mention: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska; Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn; Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss.


►  Mariota leads Heisman Trophy finalists

Leading his team to a Pac-12 title and a berth in the national semifinals has Marcus Mariota poised to win the biggest individual honor in college football.

The Oregon Ducks quarterback was one of three players named Monday as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and is seen as the runaway favorite to win the award after a stunning statistical season.

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper were also named as finalists for the award.

The winner will be announced during Saturday’s ceremony in New York.

Mariota, a redshirt junior, is the most prolific quarterback in Oregon history and has led the Ducks (12-1) to 35 wins in his three seasons as the starter.

He has passed for 3,773 yards and 38 touchdowns this season with 669 yards rushing and another 14 scores.

He completed 68.3% of his 372 passes with just two interceptions on the season and accounted for 346 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-13 win over Arizona in the Pac-12 title game on Friday.

Oregon ended the season No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings and will face reigning national champion Florida State and last year’s Heisman winner, quarterback Jameis Winston, in the Rose Bowl on January 1.

Cooper’s Crimson Tide (12-1)—the No. 1 team in the playoff rankings—will take on Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.

The winners of those games will play for the national championship on January 12.

Gordon rushed for a then-FBS record 408 yards against Nebraska last month and ended the season with an FBS-leading 2,336 yards rushing, the fourth-best total all-time. He scored 26 on 309 carries but had just 76 yards on 26 carries in Saturday’s 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

The redshirt junior’s single-game rushing record set November 15 in a 59-24 win over the Cornhuskers was broken seven days later by Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine.

The previous record was set by NFL great LaDainian Tomlinson for TCU in 1999.

Cooper, a junior, had an SEC-record 115 catches for a national-best 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns in 13 games this season. He had an Iron Bowl-record 224 yards receiving in Alabama’s 55-44 win over rival Auburn on November 29 and caught 12 passes in Saturday’s win over Missouri in the SEC championship game.

Oregon has never had a Heisman Trophy winner. Mariota is the third Ducks player to be named a finalist for the award following quarterback Joey Harrington, who finished fourth in the voting in 2001, and running back LaMichael James, who placed third behind Cam Newton and Andrew Luck in 2010.

He has thrown for 10,115 yards and 101 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions in his college career with another 2,136 yards and 28 touchdowns rushing.

A quarterback has won 12 of the past 14 Heisman Trophies, with the other two going to running backs Reggie Bush for the 2005 season and Mark Ingram in 2009. Bush gave back his award after it was vacated due to sanctions against USC.

Gordon would be Wisconsin’s third winner after running backs Alan Ameche in 1954 and Ron Dayne in 1999. Running back Montee Ball, who finished fourth in the 2011 voting, was Wisconsin’s only other finalist.

Cooper would be Alabama’s second Heisman winner after Ingram and is the fourth Crimson Tide player to be invited to the award presentation since that year. No wide receiver has won the award since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bears’ Marshall released from hospital

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall has been released from a local hospital, four days after injuring his ribs and lung in Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Marshall suffered two fractured ribs as the result of a hit from Cowboys safety Barry Church during the second quarter of Chicago’s 41-28 loss. The lung injury is what was keeping the Pro Bowl wideout hospitalized.

Marshall has already been ruled out for the Bears’ next game against New Orleans on Monday.

There’s a strong possibility that Marshall’s season is over, since Chicago was officially eliminated from playoff contention with Thursday’s loss.

Marshall was transported to the hospital shortly after being helped off the field and taken to the locker room following the collision. He later sent out a Twitter message stating: “Thanks for the Prayers. .. I’m Good.“

The five-time Pro Bowl selection had three catches for 61 yards prior to exiting Thursday’s game. On the season, Marshall has recorded 61 receptions totaling 721 yards and is tied for the team lead with eight touchdown catches.


►  Dolphins’ Delmas headed to IR

Miami Dolphins safety Louis Delmas will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury he suffered in Sunday’s game against Baltimore.

Delmas was carted off the field in the fourth quarter of the 28-13 setback and coach Joe Philbin on Monday said the sixth-year veteran would be placed on injured reserve.

In 13 games this season, his first with the Dolphins, Delmas posted 61 tackles with one interception, which he returned 81 yards for a touchdown in a Week 8 win over Jacksonville.

Delmas, a Florida native, spent his first five NFL seasons with Detroit and signed with Miami as a free agent in March.


►  Seahawks expose ‘basic’ Eagles

Many who worship at the altar of Chip Kelly don’t really understand what his offense is about.

The legend paints Kelly as the Gary Kasparov of the NFL, an Xs and Os grandmaster capable of beating Bill Walsh in a game of chess never mind the Neanderthals that roam the sidelines in today’s NFL.

To call that a misconception is being kind. Kelly runs perhaps the most basic offense in all of professional football, in essence zone-read right or left, with only the formation and run or pass differentiating from play to play.

In fact Kelly’s whole football philosophy isn’t based on fooling or outscheming anyone, it’s about controlled chaos with the intent of constantly pushing the pace and outnumbering the defense in space, an ideology he believes forces his opponents into far more miscues than his own team which prepares with practices run as quickly as possible in order to improve conditioning and maximize repetitions.

And Kelly expects his charges to make the occasional mistake. He’s just betting on the fact that if his players make one, your’s will make two because they weren’t ready at the snap of the ball or they’re just too gassed to handle their particular assignments.

It’s a mentality that’s old hat in college football now, where Kelly dominated at the University of Oregon, but still rather new to the NFL which still has some real-life dinosaurs coaching on Sundays.

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett made the most news after Seattle’s dominating 24-14 win over Kelly’s Eagles on Sunday by taking an unfair shot at Philadelphia quarterback Mark Sanchez, who piloted a unit that put up just 139 yards of total offense in 18 minutes of possession, the Eagles’ lowest output in 30 games under Kelly and its worse performance as a whole since 2005.

“Tell the Philadelphia police to put an APB out,“ Bennett quipped. “Sanchez is trying to impersonate a good quarterback.“

Sanchez completed just 10 of his 20 passes for 96 yards in his fifth straight start for the injured Nick Foles. He did throw touchdown passes to Jeremy Maclin and Zach Ertz, but looked overmatched against the vaunted “Legion of Boom.“

“That’s a really good football team that we played and they showed it,“ Sanchez admitted. “They brought a great game plan. They played really well in their zones and really well in their man (coverage). They took away a lot of opportunities and then when opportunities presented themselves, I missed a couple of balls downfield and they made us pay.“

“I’ll give them credit,“ Kelly added. “They did a hell of a job on defense.“

The Seahawks usually do.

Peyton Manning is a pretty good QB but he looked a lot like Sanchez back in February when facing a similar Seattle D in the Super Bowl, one that has reappeared ever since middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and strong safety Kam Chancellor returned from injury.

The Seahawks’ stop unit hadn’t given up a TD in eight quarters before Sunday’s game, allowing just three points to both Arizona and San Francisco in back-to- back performances. When it finally did allow a TD in Philly it was because of Jon Ryan’s bobbled punt and the Eagles traversed only 14 yards before Maclin’s 1-yard score.

In fact Seattle really gave up only one play all afternoon, the 35-yard TD pass from Sanchez to Ertz in the third quarter.

“They have a sound system and they have great players in every spot,“ Sanchez said. “We just didn’t really give our best showing out there and that’s unfortunate because that would have been a good one for us.“

Sanchez’s 96 passing yards marked his worst game under Kelly and the fourth lowest passing total of his spotty career, a result that sparked one reporter to ask Bennett what he saw in the Eagles’ quarterback.

“The same thing everyone else saw,“ Bennett replied. “Not much.“

Bennett, though, was just having fun after a big win. Wagner, on the other hand, was holding court and exposing what Kelly and the Eagles are about.

“No matter how fast they ran a play, we were just on it,“ the LB said. “We knew what plays were coming and it’s a pretty basic offense.“

And the recipe for beating it is also pretty basic albeit easier said than done.

“It just seem like a similar story. We played disciplined, sound football,“ Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Like I said earlier in the week when everybody brushed me off, they have to deal with us just like we have to deal with them. You can hurry up all you want but if you cannot get yards, cannot complete passes, then it’s just quick three and outs.“


►  Cardinals put Ellington on IR

If the Arizona Cardinals are going to hold off the Seattle Seahawks to win the NFC West, they will have to do so without Andre Ellington.

The Cardinals placed the second-year running back on season-ending injured reserve Monday with a hip injury.

Ellington missed Sunday’s 17-14 win over Kansas City because of the injury that he suffered at Atlanta the previous week. He rushed for 660 yards and three touchdowns on 201 carries and caught 46 passes for 395 yards and two scores.

The Cardinals, who are one game ahead of Seattle in the division standings, filled the roster spot by signing safety Chris Clemons.

Clemons started 48 games for Miami from 2009-2013, including all 16 games in each of his final two seasons with the Dolphins. He signed with Houston in March, but was released on September 1.

The Cardinals signed guard John Fullington and wide receiver Travis Harvey to the practice squad.


►  Berry has ‘very treatable’ cancer

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry has a “very treatable” form of cancer that one of his doctors says can potentially be cured through chemotherapy.

Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma by doctors at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta, the Chiefs said in a statement Monday.

The news came two weeks after Berry was placed on the non-football illness list following the discovery of a mass in the right side of his chest, which had caused the safety discomfort during a November 20 game against Oakland and led to fears he might have lymphoma.

Further evaluation in Atlanta led to the diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system also known as Hodgkin disease.

The five-year survival rate of the disease between 2004 and 2010 was 85.3%, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“This is a diagnosis that is very treatable and potentially curable with standard chemotherapy approaches,“ said Christopher R. Flowers, the director of Emory’s lymphoma program.

“The goal of Mr. Berry’s treatment is to cure his lymphoma and we are beginning that treatment now.“

Berry said in a statement issued through the Chiefs that he and his family “are very grateful for the amount of support we have received over the last couple of weeks.“

“I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate all the words of encouragement, the blessings and well wishes,“ he said. “I want to thank the Emory University School of Medicine, along with Dr. Flowers and his team, for all of their hard work and effort in diagnosing and creating a plan for me to battle this thing.

“I will embrace this process and attack it the same way I do everything else in life. God has more than prepared me for it. For everyone sharing similar struggles, I’m praying for you and keep fighting!“

Berry, age 25, made the Pro Bowl three times in his first four NFL seasons. He appeared in six games this season.


►  Chargers’ Scifres has fractured clavicle

San Diego Chargers punter Mike Scifres has a fractured clavicle, the team announced Monday.

Scifres was hurt in the second quarter of Sunday night’s 23-14 loss to New England when the Patriots’ Brandon Bolden ran into him while blocking a punt. Scifres was sent spinning into the air and then landed hard on his left shoulder.

Scifres was carted off the field with his arm in a sling.

Kicker Nick Novak punted for the rest of the game.


►  Gruden: RG3 to start if McCoy can’t

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden confirmed Monday that quarterback Colt McCoy has a neck sprain.

McCoy was scheduled to see specialists after being injured in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 24-0 loss to St. Louis.

Gruden said Robert Griffin III will start Sunday’s road game against the New York Giants if McCoy can’t play.

McCoy passed for 199 yards with two interceptions against the Rams. It was his second consecutive start following Griffin’s benching.


►  Bills place WR Williams on waivers


►  NFL Game Results

(MONDAY, DECEMBER 08)


Final Score: Green Bay 43, Atlanta 37

Aaron Rodgers fired three touchdown passes and Green Bay survived a shootout with Atlanta, as the Packers took a 43-37 victory on Monday. Rodgers went 24-for-36 for 327 yards, with Jordy Nelson catching eight passes for 146 yards and two scores for the Packers (10-3), who have ripped off five straight victories. It was the 100th start in Rodgers’ career and he has a 68-32 mark in that time, same as former Packer Brett Favre. Eddie Lacy posted one touchdown rushing and one receiving, while totaling 106 yards and James Starks also had a rushing touchdown and 101 total yards for Green Bay, which remained one game ahead of Detroit for first place in the NFC North. Julio Jones had a career night for Atlanta, catching 11 balls for 259 yards and a touchdown. He was off the field for Atlanta’s last scoring drive, though, with a hip injury. Matt Ryan finished the game with four touchdown passes and an interception on 24-of-39 attempts for 375 yards for the Falcons (5-8), who still sit tied atop the NFC South thanks to New Orleans’ loss to Carolina on Sunday.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Things we learned on Sunday of Week 14

Despite this being the “year” and the “era” of the pass, we are witnessing the emergence of an exciting talent in Pittsburgh - running back Le’Veon Bell.

On Sunday, Bell became the second player in NFL history with 200 yards from scrimmage in three consecutive contests. He’s in elite company alongside Walter Payton, who accomplished the feat in 1977.

And a fantastic fantasy asset.

Below are a few more things we observed:


Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

The Andy Dalton-to-A.J Green connection was a pretty sight during the first half of play on Sunday. The Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback went 13-of-16 for 152 yards and a touchdown, with their star wideout catching seven of those passes for 104 yards on eight targets.

Those two were even better during the second half, connecting on an 81-yard touchdown pass to end the third quarter. Dalton finished with 302 yards, one rushing score, along with the two passing touchdowns, while Green had an absurd 224 yards (career-high) on 11 receptions.

Dalton’s counterpart, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to keep up with the Bengals’ signal-caller all game long, throwing for 350 yards and three scores.

The Steelers have definitely found a gem in tailback Le’Veon Bell. He continues to be a dual-threat, as he scored twice on the ground and once through the air. Bell also made his case for “Player of the Week” honors, finishing with 185 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards.

Another player who seems to be a diamond in the rough for Pittsburgh, is wide receiver Martavis Bryant. He did not suit up until October 20, but now has seven touchdown receptions, including a 94-yarder Sunday. Bryant has turned into the perfect compliment to wideout Antonio Brown, who finished the day with nine receptions for 109 yards. Bryant did most of his damage on the touchdown, but did manage 109 yards on four catches.

After discussing players on both teams who came up big during Week 14, the Bengals’ running backs duo were unfortunately extremely disappointing. Halfback Jeremy Hill led the team with eight carries for 46 yards, and also chipped in three receptions for 21 yards. Tailback Giovani Bernard accumulated only 17 yards on six carries and 19 yards on three catches, leaving fantasy owners with more questions than answers, regarding Cincinnati’s backfield.


Indianapolis at Cleveland

Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck was uncharacteristically off- target during the first quarter and a half, completing only 7-of-18 passes for 70 yards and losing a fumble. With 5:57 remaining in the second quarter, Luck got the Colts on the board with an 11-yard touchdown run, which somewhat got his day going. Even though he was only 24-of-53 with two interceptions, Luck still passed for 294 yards and two touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 37 yards. He’s just that good.

For a player who was fighting for his starting job heading into Week 14, Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Brian Hoyer was unimpressive out of the gate. During the first half, he completed just 8-of-17 passes for 99 yards and an interception, and the only reason he was not pulled at halftime was likely a result of the team being up 14-7.

However, with the Browns losing a heartbreaker during the final minute, Hoyer’s days as Cleveland’s starting quarterback could be over after finishing the game 14-of-31 for 140 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

Hoyer’s output is definitely frustrating, but what could be even more annoying is how the Browns continue to split the workload in the backfield. After head coach Mike Pettine blasted halfback Terrance West for a Week 13 fumble, West still led the team in carries, with 15. Isaiah Crowell totaled 14 carries and scored the team’s lone touchdown, yet both players recorded 54 rushing yards, and neither made an impact in the passing game.

With Hoyer struggling throwing the ball, no Browns’ receiver stood out on Sunday. Tight end Jordan Cameron returned from his concussion and had a team- high 41 receiving yards on four catches.

The receivers on the other side of the ball were much better, especially Indianapolis wideout T.Y. Hilton. He had a monster game, notching 10 receptions for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 32 seconds left.


Tampa Bay at Detroit

Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford got off to a stellar start, going 12-of-15 for 121 yards and a score during the first quarter. He was able to maintain his hot play, finishing the afternoon with 311 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The first touchdown was caught by none other than Lions’ wideout Calvin Johnson, for his third score in the past two games. His day did not end there however, with the Lions’ stud receiver accumulating 158 yards on eight receptions.

While Detroit’s passing game was in fine form all day, their rushing attack did not get going until the fourth quarter. Tailback Joique Bell maintained his “lead-dog” status, and although he scored a touchdown, he rushed for only 25 yards on 13 carries through the first three quarters. However, that is why they play four quarters, as Bell finished with an extremely productive day, rushing for 83 yards, and catching five passes for 50 yards and another score.

Turnovers have really plagued Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Josh McCown this season. Although he threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns, McCown also had two interceptions and a lost fumble.

Both passing scores were caught by receiver Mike Evans, who continued his fantastic rookie campaign. After a four-catch, 45-yard performance, Evans now has 57 receptions for 935 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014.

The starting receiver that lines up on the other side of Evans, also had a big game. Tampa Bay wideout Vincent Jackson has now gone over 100 yards in two of the past three games after totaling 10 catches for 159 yards on Sunday.

Good thing owners can rely on the Buccaneers wide receivers because their running backs have been borderline invisible. Tailback Doug Martin started the game, but rushed only five times for 22 yards. Halfback Charlie Sims was even worse, recording minus-four yards on five carries.


Houston at Jacksonville

Houston Texans’ running back Arian Foster looks to be 100-percent healthy. With 12 minutes left in the second quarter he had already accumulated 88 rushing yards on just nine carries, and went onto finish the afternoon with 127 yards and a touchdown on 24 rushing attempts. He also added two receptions for another 21 yards.

While Foster carried the load in the first half for Houston, Texans’ signal- caller Ryan Fitzpatrick came out of the locker room extremely cold. He was 5- of-9 for only 27 yards during the first half, and even with a decent second half, Fitzpatrick was unable to build off his Week 13 six-touchdown performance. He finished the day going 13-of-19 for 135 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Houston wideout DeAndre Hopkins once again led the team in receiving yards, but it was not another 200-yard performance. He recorded four receptions for 49 yards on Sunday.

When it comes to starting a quarterback in fantasy football, Jacksonville Jaguars’ signal-caller Blake Bortles can be left off all owners’ radars. He was not terrible during Week 14, but Bortles simply does not do enough to be an impact player. He finished the day 20-of-39 for 205 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Bortles’ leading receiver was tight end Marcedes Lewis. He recorded three receptions for 69 yards.

One of the hot pickups of the season has been Jacksonville tailback Denard Robinson, and after a brief stint of solid play, he has taken a big step back. Robinson has not rushed for over 45 yards during the past three games, and had only 10 carries for 30 yards in Week 14.


Baltimore at Miami

No player was extraordinary in this matchup, yet we still saw some adequate production in regards to fantasy stats.

Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco had a nice day, throwing for 269 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, along with a one-yard rushing touchdown.

With Torrey Smith seeing extremely limited playing time due to injury, Baltimore needed their other receivers to step up. Wideouts Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken did just that, combining for 13 receptions, 135 yards and two touchdowns,

The guy Flacco hands the ball off to, Ravens’ halfback Justin Forsett continued his surprising season, rushing for 71 yards and another touchdown. He now has eight rushing scores in 2014.

Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill finished Week 14 going 23-of-33 for 227 yards and a score.

The touchdown was caught by receiver Brian Hartline, which ended up being his only highlight of the day (two catches, 11 yards). Wide receiver Jarvis Landry led Miami in receiving with 55 yards on six receptions.

When a team scores only one touchdown, it is hard to do much from a fantasy perspective, yet Dolphins’ running back Lamar Miller did his best to contribute. He finished the day with 17 touches for 89 total yards.


New York Jets at Minnesota

Geno Smith’s first pass was picked off and run 27 yards by Gerald Hodges for a touchdown. That’s eight in his short ‘career.“ Smith did rebound, hitting his next four passes including Harvin’s first TD catch since October 25, 2012.

Obviously, the Jets still need to find a starting quarterback that fantasy owners can find useful on Sundays.

The Viking defense/special teams posted their second two-score game in eight days.

Matt Asiata was the Vikings primary back (19-54-0), but didn’t do much with the opportunity.

Charles Johnson has become a viable fantasy option as Bridgewater’s favorite receiver. He caught a 56-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and finished with 103 yards on a team-high eight targets.


Carolina at New Orleans

The first drive of the day was beautifully orchestrated by Cam Newton and ended with a Kelvin Benjamin touchdown reception. Newton threw the ball with accuracy, but it was his running that was dynamic. That’s a change from most of the season.

It’s also usually means disaster for the Panthers running backs when Newton is feeling “runnerish,“ but Jonathan Stewart ran very well, including a 69-yard TD scamper to earn his first 100-yard bonus since December 19, 2010.

What has happened to the Saints invincibility at home? Losers of their last four, New Orleans had no offense against a Panthers defense that has been very generous this season. Their 84 first-half yards for Drew Brews is usually one drive, not 30 minutes. Only a garbage-time touchdown kept Brees’ regular season touchdown-pass streak in tact (33).

Another solid, though unspectacular, day from Greg Olsen. He’s not exciting, but he is productive.

Mark Ingram earned 10 carries, Pierre Thomas five and Khiry Robinson didn’t touch the ball despite being active. The Saints never got their running game going.

Jimmy Graham saw 11 targets this weekend after being blanked in Week 13, but only produced three receptions for 25 yards.


New York Giants at Tennessee

Rashad Jennings was out there, but with a significant limp. He rushed for five yards on just two carries in the first half, but didn’t play after that as the Giants ran out to a big lead. Andre Williams was the back to have this weekend.

Odell Beckham Jr. (11-130-1) must be thought of as a top-10 fantasy receiver and could be elite by next season. He has the skills and now he’s getting the targets (averaging 11.1 targets over the past six games).

Normally when Eli Manning throws 29 times in a half, that’s a bad thing. Not on this Sunday as he amassed 226 yards and a touchdown without a turnover or a sack in the first half. The bad news for fantasy owners, the big lead meant the Giants ran the ball in the second half and Manning threw it just 13 more times.

I’m not sure where to start in rebuilding this Titans’ offense. At the moment I don’t see any building blocks on that side of the ball. Fantasy owners can ignore this team for the remainder of the season.


St. Louis at Washington

Jared Cook took a big hit to the head early, but returned to catch a 35-yard touchdown pass. He scored again in the third quarter. We keep waiting for him to do this on a consistent basis. Is it him or a failure at quarterback?

Who was impersonating Greg Zuerlein Sunday? The guy wasn’t very good, missing two field goal attempts (28,38) and an extra point. The “real” Zuerlein was 55-of-60 inside 50-yards for his career and 90-of-90 on extra points heading into the game.

Colt McCoy led the Redskins to zero first half points. He duplicated the effort in the second half. It didn’t help things that his 11 yards led the team in rushing as Alfred Morris was completely held in check by an improving Rams defense.

If you haven’t considered starting the Rams defense, you are missing a great opportunity. They shut out Oakland last week (OK, not a big deal) and dominated the Redskins on Sunday with seven sacks, two turnovers and a second consecutive shutout.

Tavon Austin is a threat to take a kick back every time he touches the ball. Too bad he’s a below-average receiver.


Kansas City at Arizona

There are more productive fantasy backs, but Jamaal Charles might be the most dangerous. He can score from anywhere on the field as he demonstrated by going 63 yards for a score in the first quarter.

The factor which keeps Charles from being great, the injury bug, hit him soon after and we saw him heading to the locker room to get his ankle checked. But he returned with gusto, catching a screen pass for an 18-yard score on his next touch.

Travis Kelce led the receiving corp with seven receptions for 110 yards. The Chiefs desperately need wide receiving help. It’s a miracle that Alex Smith can throw for 294 yards with this group of receivers.

Kerwynn Williams rushed for 100 yards. You are allowed to say “Who?“ He had zero carries for his career heading into Sunday’s game.

Larry Fitzgerald did play, but didn’t do much with his team-leading nine targets. He racked up just 34 yards of four receptions.


Buffalo at Denver

There was just one passer in this game to throw for more than 300 yards ... and his name was, surprise, surprise, Kyle Orton (38-of-57 for 355 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for a score.

Sammy Watkins saw plenty of targets (12) and posted 127 yards, but couldn’t get the ball into the end zone.

Peyton Manning threw just three times in the first quarter and nine times in the first half. What’s going on here? When did the Broncos become a run-first team?

I know one thing, Manning’s latest strategy is killing all the fantasy owners of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas. It also ended Manning’s 51-game consecutive touchdown-pass streak.

C.J. Anderson continues to produce results in the Broncos offense. He’s also the reason Manning has been able to take a rest from throwing 40 times a game. Sunday he rushed for three touchdowns.

It’s going to take a lot to move Anderson out of the starting lineup and I don’t think Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman (when they get healthy) have that much talent. Of course he’s struggling with an ankle issue which could open the door, at least temporarily.

Demaryius Thomas caught just two balls for 11 yards. I guess the ankle was hurting a little more than they let on.


San Francisco at Oakland

It’s hard to believe how much the 49ers offense struggled. They were playing Oakland, after all. A team that was yielding 28 ppg. That gave up 52 points just a week ago.

Sacks, penalties and complete ineptitude limited the 49ers to one touchdown. Fantasy owners who loaded up against the Raiders were doomed from the start.

The Oakland offense was a lot better. Derek Carr threw for three touchdowns. Mychal Rivera had over 100 yards and a score.

And we can finally say goodbye and good riddance Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. It’s obvious the team has finally said it’s time to stop giving the ball to over-the-hill-gang and give the “young guy” a try. Latavius Murray saw 23 of 29 running plays and ran for 76 yards. he also caught two passes.


Seattle at Philadelphia

The Eagles keep getting help from the special teams. They didn’t score this time, but did give the offense great field position when Seattle punter Jon Ryan dropped a snap in the first quarter.

The Seahawks defense is back to playing at their Super Bowl winning season level. Other than scoring off the Seahawks punting mistake, the Eagles offense was almost invisible.

Russell Wilson is as dangerous with his legs as with his right arm. He can run for yards and touchdowns or just run around the backfield until he finds someone open downfield.

Marshawn Lynch didn’t put up big numbers (23-86-0), but the threat of him running the ball pulls the linebackers in close and opens up passing lanes.

Doug Baldwin led the Seahawks with 97 yards receiving and a touchdown.

LeSean McCoy became the all-time leading rusher today, but did very little to help the team win or help fantasy owners advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Mark Sanchez was held under 100 yards passing. No Philadelphia, he is NOT the answer.


►  Changing of the guard?

Americans may have to travel to London to see a real-life changing of the guard in front of the British royalty home, but fantasy owners are seeing a similar transformation occurring in America’s own “Queen” City.

Unless owners have the same luxury the Bengals do of easing Giovani Bernard back into the lineup, then the preseason top-10 running back is killing owners down the stretch.

If missing a month of the season wasn’t bad enough, Bernard has returned to the lineup to rush for a combined 111 yards on 33 carries in his last three games. At the beginning of the season, he was a dynamic pass-catcher, yet that has also disappeared. Bernard has six catches for 45 yards over the same span.

Even worse, the 23-year-old has not found the end zone since October 26.

Meanwhile, rookie Jeremy Hill, who took full-advantage of the Bernard’s injury by rushing for 361 yards and two touchdowns in three games without his teammate, has basically remained the featured back after Bernard’s return to the field.

Hill has received more carries than Bernard in the last three games and out- touched him in two of the last three weeks.

The rookie isn’t leading those categories by much as he has 39 carries to Bernard’s 33 over that span, however, Hill has been much more efficient with his opportunities. Hill has gained 173 rushing yards, 42 receiving yards and scored a touchdown since Bernard’s return.

Comparing the two backs for the entire season, Hill has 729 yards on 152 attempts with six touchdowns. Bernard has gained 557 yards on 142 carries, meaning Hill is averaging nearly an extra yard per attempt. The second-year back has more catches and receiving yards than the rookie, but not nearly enough to make up for over 170 rushing yards.

Bernard also tied a season-low in Week 14 versus the Steelers with 17 rushing yards.

Since he has struggled to remain productive in his new role, it might be time for fantasy owners to turn elsewhere. Easier said than done because at this point in the fantasy season, it is very difficult to find running backs.

But as we say in the fantasy business, when a player fails to perform a third time, particularly if it is consecutively, it starts to become a trend.

The changing of the guard in the Cincinnati backfield is not necessarily forever; Bernard may very well step in and become the first-down back again next season. For this season, however, it appears Hill will be the guy.

If fantasy owners get nothing else from the downfall of Bernard this year, it’s learning the lesson to always handcuff a top-drafted running back.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Player of The Week

West Liberty’s C.J. Hester has been named Mountain East Conference Player of the Week after returning to the lineup and helping the top-ranked Hilltoppers to a pair of MEC wins.

Hester, a senior from West Mifflin, PA, posted a double-double returning to the lineup and leading WLU to wins over Notre Dame and Urbana. Against NDC, Hester scored 21 and pulled down 12 boards, and then went for 28 points and 12 rebounds as the ‘Toppers outlasted the Blue Knights in overtime.  


Other Top Performances

Morgan McDonald (Shepherd) averaged 20 points and seven rebounds in a 1-1 week for the Rams ...

Lawrence DeArmond averaged had two double-doubles and averaged 19.5 points and nine rebounds in three games last for the Falcons ...

Kade Kager (Glenville State) averaged 13.7 points as the Pioneers went 2-1 ...

Nick Harney (Fairmont State) averaged 18.5 points and had seven blocks in two games ...

Chris Evans (Charleston) averaged 21 points, five rebounds and four assists as the Golden Eagles went 1-1 ...

Chris Dewberry (West Virginia Wesleyan) averaged 16.5 points and five rebounds in two games for the Bobcats ...

Christopher Cromity (Urbana) averaged 19.5 points off the bench in two games for the Blue Knights ...

Eric Siefert (Wheeling Jesuit) averaged 22.5 points and handed out 4.5 assists in a 1-1 week for the Cards.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November 17 Seger Bonifant (WLU)
November 24 Donte Morales (GSC)
December 01 Mike Boyd (CU)
December 08 C.J. Hester (WLU)


►  MEC Women’s Basketball Player of The Week

Concord University’s Jacqueline Kestner has been named Mountain East Conference Player of the Week after leading the Mountain Lions to a pair of wins last week.

Kestner, a senior from Blountville, Tenn., averaged 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in two games for the Mountain Lions. She hit 10-of-15 shots and scored 26 points in a win over Glenville State, and then capped the week with her fifth double-double of the season (13 points and 11 rebounds) as Concord rallied past West Virginia Wesleyan.


Other Top Performances

Cara Mason (Shepherd) averaged 11.7 points and 6.7 assists in a 2-1 week for the Rams ...

Kailee Howe (West Liberty) averaged 14 points and 8.3 assists as the ‘Toppers went 2-1 ...

Halle Gunnoe (Fairmont State) contributed 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in a 2-1 week for the Falcons ...

Martha Nagbe (Notre Dame) led the conference in points last week with 24 against Wheeling Jesuit and 33 vs. West Liberty ...

Kayla Carey (UVa-Wise) averaged 14 points and 15.5 rebounds in two games, and had a 20-point, 20-rebound game vs. Glenville State ...

Kate Francisco (Urbana) had a career-high 31 points as the Blue Knights upset No. 24 West Liberty ...

Mari Stewart (West Virginia Wesleyan) averaged a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November 17 Hallie Gunnoe (FSU)
November 24 Hailey Garrett (FSU)
December 01 Nichole Perry (UC)
December 08 Jacqueline Kestner (CU)


<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Monday, December 08)


Final Score: (15) Butler 93, Kennesaw State 51

Roosevelt Jones had 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists to lead No. 15 Butler in a 93-51 win over Kennesaw State. Kelan Martin posted 17 points while Kellen Dunham gave 13 and Kameron Woods scored 11 for the Bulldogs (8-1), who have won four straight. Yonel Brown scored 14 points while Orlando Coleman and Delbert Love each gave 11 points for the Owls (3-7), who have lost three straight.


Final Score: (20) Miami-Florida 70, Savannah State 39

Angel Rodriguez and Manu Lecomte each made four 3-pointers as No. 20 Miami-Florida handled overmatched Savannah State, 70-39, on Monday night. Rodriguez finished with 17 points, while Lecomte and Sheldon McClellan added 15 apiece for the Hurricanes (9-1), who made better than half their shots (21-of-41) after shooting at a 32.8 percent clip in Saturday’s loss to Green Bay. Demarcus Bryant netted nine points on the strength of three 3-pointers, but the Tigers (3-7) could not overcome Miami’s hot shooting and a 19-2 discrepancy in made free throws.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Monday, December 08)


Final Score: Atlanta 108, Indiana 92

Al Horford scored 25 points with eight rebounds to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 108-92 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday. Jeff Teague chipped in with 21 points and seven assists, while Kyle Korver netted 13 points and DeMarre Carroll added 12 for the Hawks, who have won seven straight overall and four consecutive on the road. Indiana, meanwhile, continues to sputter as it returned home from a winless four-game road trip to lose a fifth straight game. Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles paced the Pacers with 15 points apiece.


Final Score: Washington 133, Boston 132 (2-OT)

John Wall scored the last 10 Washington points in the second overtime, leading the Wizards to a 133-132 win over the Boston Celtics on Monday night. The Wizards led by as many as 23 points in the third quarter but allowed the Celtics to come back and force overtime on Evan Turner’s 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left in regulation. Earlier, Turner scored seven points during a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter that completed Boston’s comeback from a 23-point deficit. The Celtics had seven- point leads in each of the overtimes but scored just two more points in the last two-plus minutes each time. The win gave the Wizards a split of a home-and-home set after dropping the opener 101-93 in Boston on Sunday.


Final Score: Cleveland 110, Brooklyn 88

Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton were in Brooklyn to take in their first NBA game, and Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Cleveland’s supporting cast stole the show at Barclays Center. Waiters and Thompson combined for 40 points and sparked a critical run late in the third quarter that fueled the Cavaliers’ 110-88 victory over the Nets on Monday. Waiters scored 26 points, Thompson finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds and fellow reserve James Jones chipped in 12 points. LeBron James was his usual productive self, totaling 18 points, seven assists and three steals, while Kevin Love posted a quiet double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds in Cleveland’s seventh straight win. Kevin Garnett netted a team-high 14 points, while Deron Williams checked in with 13 points and 11 assists for Brooklyn, which suffered its second straight lopsided loss.


Final Score: Toronto 112, Denver 107 (OT)

Lou Williams scored five of his 26 points in overtime and the Toronto Raptors beat the Denver Nuggets 112-107 on Monday. The Raptors squandered a 16-point third quarter lead and only forced overtime after Patrick Patterson buried a 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation. Patterson had 19 points and Jonas Valanciunas scored 18 with 12 rebounds for the Eastern Conference leaders, who improved to 7-2 against Western Conference teams this season. Terrence Ross added 16 points in the win and Kyle Lowry scored 13 with 13 assists. Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson combined to score 47 points for the Nuggets, who have lost four in a row and finished 0-3 on a three-game road trip. Lawson had 12 assists to go with his 22 points.


Final Score: Golden State 102, Minnesota 86

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each scored 21 points to help the Golden State Warriors extend their winning streak to 13 games with a 102-86 rout of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. The Warriors, already in the midst of a franchise-record run, stretched their road winning streak to eight games. Shaun Livingston and Marreese Speights both netted 12 points and Draymond Green added 10 points with 10 rebounds in the win. Warriors center Andrew Bogut left the game after just two minutes in with right knee irritation. Andrew Wiggins totaled 21 points with six rebounds and Shabazz Muhammad chipped in with 14 points off the bench for Minnesota, which lost a sixth consecutive game.


Final Score: Sacramento 101, Utah 92

Rudy Gay scored 29 points to lead the Sacramento Kings to a 101-92 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday. Darren Collison had 16 points and six assists, while rookie Nik Stauskas broke out of a slump with 15 points and eight rebounds for the Kings, who are back above .500 again after dropping five of their last six games. Gordon Hayward finished with 19 points and seven helpers, while Alec Burks and Trey Burke scored 16 and 13 points, respectively, for Utah, which lost its ninth straight game.


Final Score: LA Clippers 121, Phoenix 120 (OT)

The Clippers and Suns played an instant classic Monday that ended in a dramatic and equally unlikely Blake Griffin 3- pointer at the overtime buzzer. Griffin finished with 45 points and none bigger than a three had happened upon when stepped back behind the arc and attempted just his 10th 3-pointer of the season on the game’s final possession. The ball looked short on his release but somehow hit the front of the rim, spun high off the backboard and hit the bottom of the net to give the Clippers a stunning 121-120 victory. It was the eighth straight win for LA, which received 20 points and 10 assists from Chris Paul and survived a monster night from Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe, who spent the first three seasons of his career with the Clippers and was held without a field goal against them last month, totaled 27 points, a career-high 16 assists and 11 rebounds in a losing effort.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Madison Bumgarner named SI Sportsman of the Year

San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner was named the 2014 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year on Monday.

The award is presented annually to the athlete, team or coach who transcended the year in both athletic performance and character.

Bumgarner led the Giants to the World Series title in October, earning a pair of victories in his two starts against the Kansas City Royals before finishing off the seven-game triumph with a five-inning save on two days’ rest in the finale.

“What we saw from Madison this year—and in particular in the World Series—is the stuff of legends,“ said Paul Fichtenbaum, Time Inc. Sports Group Editor. “It’s rare to see someone so young establish himself as one of the best ever, but after three outstanding World Series performances the case can be made that he’s the best postseason pitcher of all-time.“

The 25-year-old left-hander has 67 regular-season wins and has been a part of three World Series championships. In 36 career World Series innings, Bumgarner is 4-0 and holds all-time records for lowest ERA (0.25), fewest hits per nine innings (3.5) and fewest walks plus hits per inning (0.528).

Bumgarner is the first Giant and seventh big league pitcher to earn Sportsman of the Year honors.

The other pitchers to win the award were Johnny Podres in 1955, Sandy Koufax in 1965, Tom Seaver in 1969, Orel Hershiser in 1988, and Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2001. In all, there have been 15 baseball selections—14 players and the 2004 Boston Red Sox—the most recent being Derek Jeter in 2009.

Last year’s winner was Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.


►  A’s ship Moss to Cleveland

The Oakland Athletics have traded first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss to the Cleveland Indians for minor league infielder Joey Wendle.

Moss, who hit .234 last season with 25 home runs and 81 RBI, might not be ready for spring training after undergoing hip surgery in October. Moss made the All-Star team last season for the first time in his career, but the hip clearly was an issue in the second half of the year, as he hit just .173 with four home runs and 15 RBI after the break

Moss has hit 76 of his 91 career homers in the last three years for the A’s.

The 31-year-old Moss joins a lineup that last year ranked seventh in the AL in runs scored. The Tribe hit just .249 as a team after the All-Star break and averaged just 3.7 runs per game.

Moss is a .248 lifetime hitter with 91 homers and 298 RBI over parts of eight major league seasons with the A’s, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Wendle, meanwhile, batted .253 with eight home runs and 50 RBI in 87 games with Double-A Akron last year. The 24-year-old, though, missed much of last season with a broken hamate bone in his right hand and has never been above Double-A in three professional seasons.


►  No electees from HOF Golden Era ballot

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced Monday that none of the 10 players on the Golden Era ballot received enough votes to be inducted this season.

Infielder Dick Allen and outfielder Tony Oliva fell one vote short and pitcher Jim Kaat was two votes shy of the 12 required for election.

The 16-member Golden Era committee is tasked to consider the ballot of candidates whose contributions to the game were most significant from 1947-72.

It was made up of Hall of Fame members Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton; major league executives Dave Dombrowski, Jim Frey, David Glass and Roland Hemond; and veteran media members Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe and Tracy Ringolsby.

Shortstop Maury Wills received nine votes from the committee and outfielder Minnie Minoso garnered eight.

Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Billy Pierce and Luis Tiant each received fewer than three votes.

The committee works on a three-year cycle and won’t consider candidates again until 2017.

Next year, the Pre-Integration Era Committee—which met previously in 2012—will consider candidates whose main career contributions came from baseball’s origins through 1946.


►  Pirates claim P Lindblom off waivers from A’s

The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed pitcher Josh Lindblom off waivers from the Oakland Athletics on Monday.

Lindblom was 4-3 with a 5.79 earned run average in 16 starts and one relief appearance last season for Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento. He did make one start for the Athletics on April 2.

The 27-year-old righty has posted a 5-8 record with a 3.82 ERA in 110 games (six starts) for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and A’s.

The Pirates also outrighted pitcher Angel Sanchez to Triple-A Indianapolis.


►  D-backs finalize deal with Tomas

The Arizona Diamondbacks officially announced on Monday the signing of Cuban power-hitting outfielder Yasmany Tomas to a six-year, $68.5 million contract.

The deal also has an opt-out clause after four years.

“The opportunity to find a power bat like Tomas does not come along very often and we are extremely excited for him to join the D-backs,“ senior vice president and general manager Dave Stewart said. “Having had the opportunity to see him play, both in the World Baseball Classic and during recent workouts in the Dominican Republic, we believe that he can have a real impact on our lineup in the years to come.“

The 24-year-old Tomas was on Cuba’s World Baseball Classic team in 2013 and hit .375 with a pair of homers and five RBI in the tournament.

Tomas, who may also see time at third base, played for Havana Industriales in the Serie Nacional in Cuba for five seasons.

“My dream has always been to play with the best players in the world and that’s in Major League Baseball,“ said Tomas. “I have a lot of respect for the Diamondbacks and enjoyed meeting Dave Stewart and (senior vice president of baseball operations) De Jon Watson during my recent workouts. I have great expectations for my career and cannot wait to join the team and start my big league career.“

By adding Tomas, the Diamondbacks hope to inject power into a team that finished with the worst record in the majors at 64-98 in 2014.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Monday, December 08)


Final Score: NY Rangers 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)

Kevin Klein scored the winning goal with 1:15 to play in overtime as the New York Rangers nabbed a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. In the extra session, Klein wound up with the puck in the high slot and cranked a shot that went through a screen and past Marc-Andre Fleury for the win. J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash all scored for the Rangers, who snapped a two-game slide. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 32 shots in the win. Nick Spaling and Steve Downie each posted a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who have lost two of three. Fleury stopped 25 shots in the loss.


Final Score: New Jersey 2, Carolina 1

Jaromir Jagr tallied a goal and an assist and moved his way up a few of the NHL’s all-time lists as the New Jersey Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1, on Monday. Jagr passed Marcel Dionne for sole possession of fifth place on the NHL’s all-time points list with 1,772. The Czech superstar also became the 15th player to skate in his 1,500th career game. Adam Henrique netted the game-winning goal and Cory Schneider was spectacular, stopping 39-of-40 shots fired his way for the Devils, who entered the game with losses in six of their last seven games. Justin Faulk potted Carolina’s lone goal and Cam Ward allowed both goals on 16 shots in his team’s third straight loss.


Final Score: St. Louis 4, Florida 2

Chris Porter scored the game-winning goal with 1:54 remaining in the third period to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday. Maxim Lapierre, Ian Cole and Paul Stastny all scored for St. Louis, which has won its last two games. Martin Brodeur made 32 saves in his home debut. Nick Bjugstad and Aaron Ekblad both lit the lamp for Florida, which received 24 stops from Roberto Luongo in defeat. With the game tied at 2-2, Porter redirected Barret Jackman’s right point shot and Stastny tallied an empty-net goal with 32 seconds remaining to seal the win.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


TUESDAY, DECEMBER 09, 2014


National Basketball Association
Toronto at Cleveland, 7:00 PM - TSN2, FS-Ohio, DSS
Portland at Detroit, 7:30 PM - CSN-Northwest, FS-Detroit, DSS
Milwaukee at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin, Oklahoma, DSS
New York at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - MSG, FS-New Orleans, DSS
Dallas at Memphis, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, SportSouth, DSS
San Antonio at Utah, 9:00 PM - FS-Southwest, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Miami at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - SunSports, FS-Arizona, DSS
Sacramento at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - CSN-California, Time Warner, DSS


National Hockey League
Chicago at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, MSG+, DSS
Philadelphia at Columbus, 7:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Ohio, DSS
Los Angeles at Buffalo, 7:30 PM - FS-West, NBCSN
Vancouver at Montreal, 7:30 PM - SNET-Pacific, RDS< DSS
Calgary at Toronto, 7:30 PM - SNET-West, TSN4, DSS
Washington at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - CSN-DC, SunSports, DSS
NY Islanders at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - MSG+2, FS-North, DSS
Winnipeg at Dallas, 8:30 PM - TSN3, FS-Southwest+, DSS
Nashville at Colorado, 9:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, Altitude, DSS
Edmonton at San Jose, 10:30 PM - SNET-West, CSN-California, DSS


College Basketball
Bryant at Army, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Morrisville State at Colgate, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Bowling Green at Dayton, 7:00 PM - Time Warner
Villanova vs. Illinois, 7:00 PM - ESPN
UMKC at Iowa State, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Seton Hall at Wichita State, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
IUPUI at Xavier, 7:00 PM - FS1
VMI at Navy, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Mount St Mary’s at Notre Dame, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
New Hampshire at Rutgers, 7:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Bradley at Kansas State, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Utah Valley at Arizona, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Texas A&M at Baylor, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
South Dakota at Creighton, 9:00 PM - FS1
Alcorn State at Iowa, 9:00 PM - ESPNews
Indiana vs. Louisville, 9:00 PM - ESPN
Eastern Michigan at Michigan, 9:00 PM - ESPN U


Women’s College Basketball
Princeton at Michigan, 6:30 PM - Big Ten Network+


International Soccer
UEFA Champions League, 2:30 PM - FS1

Sports News   141208

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Liberty Bowl

West Virginia received an invitation to the Liberty Bowl, its rumored destination for weeks. Deciding which SEC opponent would face the Mountaineers took some dealing and shuffling Sunday afternoon.

The Southeastern Conference nixed a WVU-Tennessee matchup before settling on Texas A&M, pairing teams with 7-5 records and coaching staffs that are deeply connected.

Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen was offensive coordinator at Houston under Kevin Sumlin, who has since steered Texas A&M to three consecutive bowls. The Aggies’ offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was quarterbacks coach at West Virginia under Holgorsen.

The game will be played Monday, December 29 at 2 PM Eastern

The rapid reaction:

— Texas A&M has been streaky, starting 5-0 and zooming into the Top 10 before sophomore phenom Kenny Hill encountered attitude problems. After a three-game losing streak that culminated with a 59-0 loss at Alabama, Hill was demoted (and suspended) in favor of freshman Kyle Allen. He sparked the Aggies to a narrow win over Louisiana-Monroe and a 41-38 upset win at Auburn before closing the season with home losses to Missouri and LSU.

— Half the free world was rooting for a Texas A&M-Texas pairing in the Texas Bowl, but that might’ve been too much Texas. Some reports speculated the SEC was scared for the Aggies to face the Longhorns, which would only make sense if SEC officials didn’t see the BYU and TCU games.

— How close were we to watching Tennessee-West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl? So close the matchup was listed temporarily on the NCAA’s website. Ultimately, the SEC sent the Vols to Jacksonville to face Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl (formerly known as the Gator).

— The Aggies rank 101st in total defense and 111th against the run (223 yards allowed per game). They are 109th in turnover margin, having forced 12, which is one fewer than WVU.

— West Virginia received 8,000 tickets, some of which will be used for the band members and internal distribution.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Rakeem Cato has rewritten Marshall’s record books but until Saturday there was still one thing he hadn’t achieved

Rakeem Cato has rewritten Marshall’s record books. He now holds nearly every Thundering Herd passing record, surpassing Marshall Legends Chad Pennington and Bryon Leftwich. But there was always one thing that greats such as Chad Pennington and Bryon Leftwich, had that Cato didn’t.

A ring.

That is until Saturday.

“That’s been my main goal since I walked on campus. I wanted to come here, start the tradition over again and win a championship. We finally got one today,” said Cato after Marshall’s 26-23 win over Louisiana Tech.

Cato threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, extending his record to 45 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. The only quarterback in NCAA history with a longer streak is Mike Reilly (2005-08) of Central Washington. He threw a touchdown pass in 46 straight games, a Division II record.

Even the way Cato won his first championship was similar to Chad Pennington in 1999. Pennington orchestrated a comeback win over Western Michigan and needed a near perfect final drive before finding Eric Pinkerton in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

Cato with 5:01 to play and no timeouts did the same thing on Saturday. Cato was nearly perfect when his team needed him to be. Cato was 5-for-6 on the game-winning drive and even had to improvise on the championship clinching touchdown pass.

“We had a play drawn up and the defense figured it out and stopped it,” explained Deon-Tay McManus who caught the game-winning toss. “But I didn’t give up on the lay, tried to keep it alive and Cato found me for the touchdown.”

Cato, a four-year starter, cemented his place in Marshall Football history with the win on Saturday.

“I told him after the game, you know what? You have all these records but what was not on his resume was a championship. Now with him winning that championship, you can talk about him with the same breath as you do Chad [Pennington] and Byron [Leftwich] because they did that and they got that done here,” said coach Doc Holliday.

“Now he’s got that done. That kid has mean so much to this program. He will be the quarterback who got it back where it belongs and where it needs to be. I told him after the game, if there was one person I wanted the ball in there hand, guess what? That is you and you found a way to get it done.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  AP Top 25 poll, Week 15: Ohio State and Baylor leap the Frogs

While the only poll being released on Sunday that truly matters will be the CFP selection committee’s, the AP poll does give us a good idea of how the country feels when it comes to which teams are deserving of the four playoff spots.

And if it were up to the voters of the AP poll, TCU and Ohio State would be on the outside looking in.

Baylor moved ahead of both Ohio State and TCU in this week’s poll while the top three remained Alabama, Florida State and Oregon.

Here’s the poll in its entirety.

1. Alabama (12-1, 27 first-place votes)

2. Florida State (13-0, 25)

3. Oregon (12-1, 8)

4. Baylor (11-1)

5. Ohio State (12-1)

6. TCU (11-1)

7. Michigan State (10-2)

8. Mississippi State (10-2)

9. Ole Miss (9-3)

10. Georgia Tech (10-3)

11. Kansas State (9-3)

12. Arizona (10-3)

13. Georgia (9-3)

14. UCLA (9-3)

15. Arizona State (9-3)

16. Missouri (10-3)

17. Wisconsin (10-3)

18. Clemson (9-3)

19. Auburn (8-4)

20. Louisville (9-3)

21. Boise State (11-2)

22. LSU (8-4)

23. Utah (8-4)

24. Southern California (8-4)

25. Nebraska (9-3)

Topics: AP Poll, Baylor Bears, Ohio State Buckeyes, TCU Horned Frogs, NCAAF


►  Coaches Poll, Week 15: Baylor’s Art Briles votes Alabama No. 4

The final Amway/USA Today Coaches Poll of the regular season was released Sunday, complete with the results of each coaches’ ballot.

Alabama finished the season at No. 1, and the rest of the top three is the same as the AP poll. Georgia Tech actually moved up to No. 9 after falling short against Florida State while Oklahoma dropped eight spots to No. 24, barely hanging on in the rankings.

Of course, the final release of the Coaches Poll comes with the reveal of each coach’s final ballot. Baylor’s Art Briles was the only coach to put Alabama outside the top three on his ballot, sliding the Tide in at No. 4 behind Florida State (1), Oregon (2) and his own squad (3). Briles’ top five was rounded out with TCU at No. 5 and Ohio State was No. 6.

Here’s the full Top 25:

1. Alabama (12-1)

2. Florida State (13-0)

3. Oregon (12-1, 8)

4. Ohio State (12-1)

5. Baylor (11-1)

6. TCU (11-1)

7. Michigan State (10-2)

8. Mississippi State (10-2)

9. Georgia Tech (10-3)

10. Kansas State (9-3)

11. Arizona (10-3)

12. Ole Miss (9-3)

13. Georgia (9-3)

14. Missouri (10-3)

15. UCLA (9-3)

16. Arizona State (9-3)

17. Wisconsin (10-3)

18. Clemson (9-3)

19. Auburn (8-4)

20. Louisville (9-3)

21. Boise State (11-2)

22. Nebraska (9-3)

23. LSU (8-4)

23. Oklahoma (8-4)

25. Utah (8-4)


►  TCU falls to sixth in final AP poll

Baylor and Ohio State leapfrogged TCU in the final Associated Press poll.

Alabama, Florida State and Oregon remained the top three teams in the country.

The Crimson Tide, who posted a 42-13 win over Missouri to win the SEC championship, received 27 first-place votes and a total of 1,452 points from a nationwide media panel. Undefeated Florida State earned 25 first-place votes and 1,436 points following a 37-35 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game.

Pac-12 champion Oregon picked up eight first-place votes and 1,426 points.

Baylor was fourth and Big Ten champion Ohio State was fifth, while TCU fell two spots to sixth after the Bears and Buckeyes beat ranked teams on Saturday.

Baylor topped Kansas State 38-27 and Ohio State dismantled Wisconsin 59-0.

TCU, meanwhile, trounced Iowa State 55-3 to finish as co-champion of the Big 12 with Baylor.

Michigan State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech rounded out the top 10.

The second 10 consists of Kansas State, Arizona, Georgia, UCLA, Arizona State, Missouri, Wisconsin, Clemson, Auburn and Louisville.

Mountain West champion Boise State, LSU, Utah, USC and Nebraska are the last five teams ranked.


►  CFP: Ohio State in; Baylor, TCU out

TCU and Baylor didn’t play in a conference championship game. Despite 11-1 records, they’re out and Big Ten winner Ohio State is into the national semifinals.

A day after their 59-0 rout of Wisconsin, the Buckeyes jumped to fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings on Sunday, giving Urban Meyer’s team a shot at the national title.

SEC winner Alabama (12-1) remained No. 1 in the rankings and Pac-12 champion Oregon (12-1) stayed No. 2. ACC winner and reigning national champion Florida State (13-0) moved up one spot to No. 3.

Alabama will play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on January 1. Oregon will take on Florida State in the Rose Bowl, also on New Year’s Day.

The winners will play for the national championship on January 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The playoffs replaced the oft-criticized BCS, which was in place from 1998 until last season.

Controversy did not die with the old system.

The 12-member committee had some tough decisions and there were big changes from last week.

TCU fell from third to sixth despite a 55-3 rout of Iowa State on Saturday. Baylor, which was sixth in the rankings last week, gained a share of the Big 12 title with TCU thanks to a 38-27 win over Kansas State Saturday night and moved to No. 5. Baylor beat TCU 61-58 on October 11.

Despite being down to its third-string quarterback, Ohio State (12-1) was able to get into the semifinals by winning its 11th consecutive game since losing to Virginia Tech 35-21 on September 6.

Alabama (12-1) heads to the Sugar Bowl off a 42-13 rout of Missouri in the SEC championship game. The Crimson Tide have won eight in a row since a 23-17 loss at Ole Miss on October 4.

Oregon (12-1) pounded Arizona 51-13 Friday night in the Pac-12 title game. Led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Heisman Trophy favorite, the Ducks have also won eight straight games. Their only loss came October 2 to Arizona.

The Seminoles (13-0) captured their third straight ACC title with a 37-35 win over Georgia Tech Saturday night. Florida State, which entered the game No. 4 in the CFP rankings, extended its winning streak to 29 games.

It will be the first-ever meeting between Florida State and Oregon, while Alabama is 3-0 all-time against Ohio State. The last time the teams met was at the Citrus Bowl in January 1995.


►  Baylor settles for Cotton Bowl; TCU in Peach Bowl

Baylor and TCU were both denied a spot in the top four of the final College Football Playoff standings and settled for lesser bowl appearances.

The remaining bowl pairings were announced on Sunday shortly after it was revealed Ohio State overtook the co-Big 12 champions for a place in the national semifinals.

Baylor finished fifth in the final CFP standings but will still play on New Year’s Day, as the Bears (11-1) refocus their frustrations on Michigan State (10-2) in the Cotton Bowl.

TCU (11-1), which sat at No. 3 in the CFP rankings just last week, will play on New Year’s Eve against Ole Miss (9-3) in the Peach Bowl.

The Fiesta Bowl pits Pac-12 runner-up Arizona (10-3) against Boise State (11-2), while Mississippi State (10-2) and Georgia Tech (10-3) hook up in the Orange Bowl.


►  Team in Inaugural College Football Playoff 2014

Ohio State will join Alabama, Oregon and Florida State in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The No. 1 Crimson Tide will face the No. 4 Buckeyes in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and the second-seeded Ducks will face the third-seeded Seminoles in the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual, both on New Year’s Day.

The 12-member selection committee bumped TCU from the top four in favor of the Buckeyes, who defeated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday.

The Horned Frogs, ranked No. 3 in the previous rankings, dropped to No. 6, behind Florida State, Ohio State and Big 12 rival Baylor. Without Baylor and TCU in the College Football Playoff, the Big 12 loses out on $6 million for having one team in the playoff field.

Alabama and Oregon remained No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Florida State, which defeated Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game on Saturday, moved up one spot to No. 3.

The semifinal winners will meet in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T on January 12.

The College Football Playoff replaced the Bowl Championship Series this season. The BCS matched the top two teams in the country in a national championship game.

Baylor and TCU won’t get to play for a national championship, but both teams will play in “New Year’s Six” bowls.

The Bears will play No. 8 Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, while the Horned Frogs will face No. 9 Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. No. 7 Mississippi State will play No. 12 Georgia Tech in the Capital One Orange Bowl. No. 20 Boise State and No. 10 Arizona will meet in the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl.

Las Vegas sports books installed Alabama and Oregon as the betting favorites. The Westgate SuperBook opened the Crimson Tide as 9.5-point favorites over Ohio State. It’s the 68th straight game that Alabama has been the favorite. It’s only the fifth time the Buckeyes have been an underdog under coach Urban Meyer. For his career, Meyer is 14-8 straight up as an underdog.

Oregon opened as an 8.5-point favorite over the Seminoles at the Westgate. It’s the first time Florida State has been an underdog in its last 50 games, a streak that dates back to September 2011 against Clemson.

The playoff contenders did not make it easy on the committee chairman Jeff Long and his colleagues on the panel by all winning on Saturday.

The committee has been ranking the top 25 weekly since late October’s rankings and last week had Alabama and Oregon at the top, followed by TCU and Florida State.

The committee ranks teams differently than traditional college football polls, such as the AP Top 25. Instead of collecting a ballot from each member and tallying votes, the committee ranks small groups by a series of votes. And Long, the athletic director at Arkansas, has said that each week the panel starts with a blank slate.

The great debate for weeks was whether TCU or Baylor would make it into the final four. The Bears beat their Big 12 rivals 61-58 in Waco back in October, but from the start the committee ranked TCU ahead of the Bears, who lost at West Virginia by 14 and played a particularly weak nonconference schedule.

For weeks, Long said that the difference between the Bears and Horned Frogs was not close enough for it to come down to the head-to-head result. But when the season concluded the teams had played 10 common opponents. The Big 12 further muddled the issue by not designating a champion by a tiebreaker. The Bears and Frogs both got a trophy and are called co-champions.

Ohio State has come from the farthest during the season, overcoming an early loss to Virginia Tech to make a strong run.

Florida State’s unbeaten record hasn’t gotten the respect the Seminoles believe it deserves from the committee. The defending national champions are the only undefeated team in FBS. But numerous close calls and comebacks have led the committee to drop the Seminoles in the rankings.

Ultimately, though, the Noles will get to defend their championship in the first playoff.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Game Results

(SUNDAY, DECEMBER 07)


Final Score: Pittsburgh 42, Cincinnati 21

Le’Veon Bell ran for the go-ahead touchdown and Ben Roethlisberger hit Martavis Bryant for a 94-yard score during Pittsburgh’s big fourth quarter in a 42-21 victory over the AFC North- leading Cincinnati Bengals. Bell finished with 26 carries for 185 yards and two TDs, both in the final quarter, when the Steelers (8-5) outscored the Bengals, 25-0. Bell also had a touchdown reception, and Roethlisberger completed 25-of-39 passes for 350 yards and three scores to guide the Steelers to their fifth win in the last seven games. Andy Dalton finished 21-of-29 for 302 yards and a pair of scores for the Bengals (8-4-1), who had a three-game winning streak broken. A.J. Green caught 11 passes for a career- best 224 yards and a score. With Baltimore (8-5) winning at Miami and Cleveland (7-6) losing at home to Indianapolis Sunday, there is a crush in the division standings. The schedule is tough for both teams over the final three games. The Bengals play at Cleveland before hosting Denver on a Monday night, then conclude the season in Pittsburgh. The Steelers play at Atlanta then host Kansas City before what could be a giant encounter against the Bengals.


Final Score: Indianapolis 25, Cleveland 24

Andrew Luck’s 1-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter rallied the Indianapolis Colts to a 25-24 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Colts (9-4) won their third straight game to inch closer to the AFC South title, while dealing the Browns (7-6) a heart-breaking defeat after they blew a two- touchdown lead. Luck connected on 24-of-53 throws for 294 yards with two scores and a pair of interceptions, both to Hilton, who had 10 catches for 150 yards. The Colts hold a two-game lead on Houston and can win the division with a home victory against the Texans next Sunday. The Browns had a pair of defensive TDs, but lost their second straight for the first time this season. It was a perfect opportunity for Cleveland to gain ground in the AFC North, especially with Cincinnati (8-4-1) falling at home to Pittsburgh (8-5) Sunday. The Ravens (8-5) won in Miami. Brian Hoyer finished 14-of-31 for 140 yards with two interceptions for the Browns.


Final Score: Detroit 34, Tampa Bay 17

Matthew Stafford had three touchdown passes, and Joique Bell scored twice as the Detroit Lions pounded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 34-17, at Ford Field on Sunday. Stafford went 26-for-34 for 311 yards with touchdown passes to Bell, Calvin Johnson and Joseph Fauria for the Lions (9-4), who have won two straight after consecutive road losses. Johnson finished the game with eight catches for 158 yards, while Bell had 18 carries for 83 yards and a rushing touchdown while adding five catches for 50 yards for Detroit. The Lions are still in the hunt for the top spot in the NFC North, as the team sits a half-game back of the Packers for first place. Green Bay hosts Atlanta on Monday night. Josh McCown was under pressure all day as he was sacked six times and took several hard hits. He completed 20-for-39 passes for 250 yards with two touchdown passes, but he was picked off twice and also lost a fumble. Vincent Jackson caught 10 passes for 159 yards, and Mike Evans caught both touchdown passes for the Buccaneers (2-11), who have lost their last three games.


Final Score: Houston 27, Jacksonville 13

Arian Foster ran for 127 yards and a touchdown and helped the Houston Texans stay in the playoff hunt with a 27-13 victory over the Jaguars on a rainy Sunday in Jacksonville. The Texans (7-6), who earned consecutive wins for the first time since starting the season 2-0, still sit two games behind the AFC South-leading Colts but can make up ground with a visit to Indianapolis next week. They trailed 13-10 at halftime but scored 17 unanswered points as their defense—led by J.J. Watt’s three sacks—limited Jacksonville to 73 yards after the break. Ryan Fitzpatrick only threw 19 times and finished with 135 yards through the air but did run for a touchdown. One of his favorite targets, Andre Johnson, exited early in the second quarter with a concussion. Blake Bortles and the Jaguars (2-11) failed to build off last week’s 25-24 come-from-behind victory over the Giants. Bortles completed only 20-of-39 passes for 205 yards with a touchdown and an interception.


Final Score: Baltimore 28, Miami 13

Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as the visiting Baltimore Ravens overcame a sluggish start to post a 28-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins in a crucial AFC matchup. Flacco was 25-of-33 for 269 yards and Justin Forsett added a rushing touchdown for the Ravens (8-5), who kept pace in the AFC North race. They are tied with Pittsburgh behind division-leading Cincinnati, which stands at 8-4-1. Ryan Tannehill finished 23-of-33 for 227 yards and a touchdown for a Miami (7-6) team that entered the game owning the AFC’s second wild-card spot due to tiebreakers.


Final Score: Minnesota 30, NY Jets 24 (OT)

Jarius Wright turned a screen pass into a winning 87-yard touchdown in overtime, lifting the Minnesota Vikings over the New York Jets 30-24 on Sunday. Facing a 3rd-and-5 on his team’s first possession of overtime, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw a pass to Wright behind the line of scrimmage. Wright got the first down and proceeded to beat the Jets defense down the sideline to win the game. Bridgewater completed 19-of-27 passes for 309 yards and a pair of touchdowns with an interception to lead the Vikings (6-7) to their second straight win. Wright finished with 123 yards on four catches, and Charles Johnson also scored with four catches for 103 yards. Matt Asiata led Minnesota with 54 rushing yards and linebacker Gerald Hodges returned an interception for a touchdown for the first score of the game. Geno Smith threw for 254 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the Jets (2-11), who have lost three in a row. Percy Harvin caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown against his former team and Eric Decker added 89 yards on six catches for the Jets. Chris Ivory ran for 73 yards on 16 carries, and Chris Johnson finished the day with 16 carries for 53 yards.


Final Score: Carolina 41, New Orleans 10

Cam Newton had a hand in four of Carolina’s five touchdowns, as the Panthers walked into the Superdome and embarrassed the New Orleans Saints by a 41-10 count on Sunday. Newton passed for 226 yards and three touchdowns on 21-of-33 efficiency and rushed for 83 yards and another score on 12 carries for the Panthers (4-8-1), who suddenly find themselves back in the race for the NFC South crown. Jonathan Stewart racked up a game-best 155 yards on the ground with a TD on 20 attempts, while Greg Olsen was Newton’s top target with 10 receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. Drew Brees was contained for most of the contest, but threw for 235 yards and a score to Benjamin Watson for the Saints (5-8), who hadn’t lost four in a row at home since 1999—Mike Ditka’s final season as head coach. Marques Colston totaled 72 yards on five catches, while the rushing tandem of Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas was limited to 81 yards on 15 combined carries.


Final Score: NY Giants 36, Tennessee 7

Rookie Andre Williams rushed for a career- high 131 yards, much of it on a 50-yard touchdown run that helped the New York Giants snap a seven-game losing streak with a 36-7 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Something had to give between the two teams, who came into the game with 13 consecutive losses between them. While the Giants (4-9) ended their skid, the Titans (2-11) remained winless since October 12, losing seven in a row for the first time since an 11-game slide in 1994 when they were the Houston Oilers. Eli Manning threw for 260 yards with a 15-yard touchdown pass to rising star Odell Beckham Jr., who had 11 catches for 130 yards. Much of New York’s scoring came on five Josh Brown field goals and a defensive touchdown from Markus Kuhn, who returned a Zach Mettenberger fumble. Mettenberger re-injured his sprained right shoulder in the fourth quarter after going 14-of-24 for 125 yards. Jake Locker relieved him for the second week in a row and also threw a pick. Marqueston Huff scored the only Tennessee points on a 23-yard interception return in the third quarter.


Final Score: St. Louis 24, Washington 0

Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree and Greg Robinson were in the St. Louis Rams’ starting lineup. Robert Griffin III was still on the Washington Redskins bench, at least for the first 58 minutes. Shaun Hill tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Jared Cook and the Rams blanked the Redskins 24-0 on Sunday afternoon to record their second straight shutout win. After Tavon Austin’s 78-yard punt return staked the Rams to a 24-0 advantage late in the third quarter, chants of “RGIII, RGIII, RGIII,“ reverberated throughout FedEx Field. Griffin, though, never got the call until two minutes remained after Colt McCoy departed with a neck strain. Brockers, Jenkins, Ogletree and Robinson were among the slew of players the Rams received from their 2012 blockbuster trade with Washington. Hill was 16-of-22 for 213 yards, while Cook hauled in four passes for 61 yards for St. Louis (6-7), which posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1945. The Rams blanked Oakland 52-0 last Sunday. The defense recorded seven sacks, two interceptions and eight tackles for loss in the triumph. Pierre Garcon tallied nine receptions for 95 yards for the Redskins (3-10), who have dropped five games in a row.


Final Score: Arizona 17, Kansas City 14

Drew Stanton tossed a go-ahead 26-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown late in the third quarter and Arizona’s defense held off Kansas City in the fourth as the Cardinals edged the Chiefs 17-14 on Sunday. Stanton had lost two of his last three starts coming in after Carson Palmer was lost for the season with a knee injury during a Week 10 victory over St. Louis. He was 15-of-30 for 239 yards for Arizona (10-3), which remained a game ahead of the Seattle Seahawks for first place in the NFC West. Seattle beat Philadelphia 24-14 on Sunday. Ball-hawking safety Tyrann Mathieu will miss significant time after fracturing his left thumb and the secondary took another blow with the loss of Antonio Cromartie. He hurt his left Achilles during the middle stages of the fourth and had to be carted off the field. Jamaal Charles gained 91 yards on 10 totes with a rushing and receiving touchdown, while Travis Kelce totaled 110 yards on seven receptions for the Chiefs (7-6), who have dropped three straight on the heels of a five-game winning streak.


Final Score: Denver 24, Buffalo 17

C.J. Anderson’s three touchdown runs and a solid defensive effort led the Denver Broncos to a narrow 24-17 victory over the playoff-hopeful Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Peyton Manning failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in over four years, but the Broncos (10-3) nevertheless came away with their third straight win and stayed in sole possession of first place in the AFC West. Manning threw two interceptions and finished with a season-low in passing yards (173) for the second straight week. His streak of tossing a TD pass ended at 51, one shy of tying Tom Brady for the second-longest in NFL history. Anderson and Juwan Thompson combined for 121 yards on the ground, and Wes Welker caught six passes for 82 yards for the victors. Buffalo (7-6) forced three turnovers but gave it away three times as well and committed 11 penalties for 98 yards. Kyle Orton threw for 355 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bills, who were trying to win three in a row for the first time since the start of the 2011 season. Orton also ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 55 seconds remaining, but Denver recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win. Sammy Watkins caught seven passes for 127 yards and lost a fumble near midfield on Buffalo’s opening drive.


Final Score: Oakland 24, San Francisco 13

Derek Carr had three touchdown passes to lead the Oakland Raiders in a 24-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Carr went 22-for-28 for 254 yards with touchdown passes to Donald Penn, Marcel Reece and Mychal Rivera as the Raiders (2-11) bounced back from a 52-0 loss at St. Louis last week. Colin Kaepernick went 18-for-33 for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the 49ers (7-6), who have dropped two straight to deal a hard blow to their postseason hopes.


Final Score: Seattle 24, Philadelphia 14

Russell Wilson accounted for three touchdowns, including one on a 15-yard pass to Marshawn Lynch that helped the Seattle Seahawks pull away in the second half for a 24-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The Seahawks (9-4) controlled the game more than the score showed, holding Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense to just 139 yards in 18 minutes of possession to get their third win in a row. The Eagles (9-4) had a 10-game regular season home winning streak snapped and fell into a tie with Dallas for first place in the NFC East nine days after beating the Cowboys convincingly on Thanksgiving. The Seahawks, who were also coming off a win over division rival San Francisco on Thanksgiving, remained a game behind Arizona in the NFC West. Wilson was 22-of-37 passing for 263 yards and two touchdowns and scrambled for a 26-yard score in the first half that countered an early Eagles touchdown. Lynch rushed 23 times for 86 yards—going over 1,000 yards for the fourth season in a row—and Doug Baldwin had five catches for 97 yards and a score. Mark Sanchez completed just 10 of his 20 passes for 96 yards in his fifth straight start for the injured Nick Foles. He threw touchdown passes to Jeremy Maclin and Zach Ertz, but McCoy ran for just 50 yards on 17 carries against a stout Seattle front four. Philadelphia’s division lead disappeared with the loss, which came three days after Dallas beat the Bears on Thursday night in Chicago. The Cowboys will visit Philadelphia for a key game next Sunday night.


Final Score: New England 23, San Diego 14

Tom Brady has Philip Rivers’ number. It’s that simple. Brady threw for 317 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as the New England Patriots defeated the San Diego Chargers, 23-14, on Sunday night. New England’s signal-caller improved to 6-0 all-time against Rivers’ Chargers. Julian Edelman totaled 141 yards on eight catches with a touchdown that essentially sealed the game in the fourth quarter, and Rob Gronkowski also caught a touchdown pass for the Patriots (10-3), who have won at least 10 games for a 14th consecutive season. Rivers couldn’t generate much offense for his team throughout the night, throwing for 189 yards with a touchdown and interception. San Diego had its three-game winning streak snapped and will host AFC West-leading Denver in a pivotal division matchup next Sunday.


(THURSDAY, DECEMBER 04)


Final Score: Dallas 41, Chicago 28

The Dallas Cowboys stayed perfect on the road and ended a three-game losing streak to the Chicago Bears by getting the ball to DeMarco Murray every chance they could. Murray had 41 touches and gained 228 yards from scrimmage as the Cowboys shook off a demoralizing division loss on Thanksgiving to beat the Bears 41-28 on Thursday night. There was no relief for the Bears, who lost not only the game, but also star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who was taken away from Soldier Field in an ambulance after suffering an injury to his ribs in the first half, though he tweeted later that he was OK. Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, followed last year’s 146-yard effort against the Bears with 179 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and added 49 yards on nine catches. Tony Romo had three touchdown passes—two to Cole Beasley—and earned his eighth career win in Thursday games as he and the Cowboys bounced back from a 33-10 loss to NFC East rival Philadelphia by winning in Chicago for the first time since 2007. It’s on the road where the Cowboys (9-4) have thrived this season, going 6-0. That mark will be put to the test next Sunday when they play in Philly with first place in the division on the line. Matt Forte and Jay Cutler rushed for touchdowns in the fourth quarter—Cutler after an onside kick, cutting a 25-point Dallas lead to 10. But the Bears (5-8) lost for the second week in a row after falling in Detroit on Thanksgiving.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  No. 16 West Virginia downs Northern Kentucky

Juwan Staten finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists as No. 16 West Virginia overcame a slow start to defeat Northern Kentucky, 67-42, on Sunday.

Devin Williams also finished with 12 points and Jonathan Holton supplied 10 points, five rebounds and three blocks for the Mountaineers (8-1), who bounced back from a 74-73 loss to LSU on Thursday.

Chad Jackson paced the Norse (3-5) with 12 points and nine rebounds, but turned the ball over six times and Jordan Jackson scored 10 off the bench in the loss.

Neither team was able to locate the basket early on as it was just an 8-8 game with 8:31 to play in the first half. After Jared Bryant’s free throw, West Virginia finally started to pull away with eight straight points. Daxter Miles Jr. hit a 3-pointer and then closed the spurt with a layup for a 16-9 lead with 5:35 to play.

The Norse, however, cut the deficit to three points heading into the break as a pair of Chad Jackson foul shots around Anthony Monaco’s trey made it a 20-17 game.

The Mountaineers shot 7-for-23 (30.4%) from the floor over the first 20 minutes, while the Norse were 6-for-25 (24%).

“We couldn’t make a shot,“ West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “The ball didn’t go in and it got ugly.“

Holton’s tip-in was the first of nine straight West Virginia points to start the second half and Staten’s free throw made it a 29-17 game with over three minutes into the stanza.

Jordan Jackson’s layup with 12:25 to play represented Northern Kentucky’s second basket of the second half as the Norse trailed 33-21.

Jevon Carter’s shot from beyond gave the Mountaineers a healthy 46-27 lead with 8:09 to play and West Virginia led by as much as 26 down the stretch.

Game Notes

It was the first regular-season meeting between the programs, although North Kentucky came away with a 77-74 exhibition win on November 04, 2011 ...

The Mountaineers shot 23-of-59 from the floor (39%), while the Norse went 13-for-49 (26.5%) ...

West Virginia improved to 75-23 in non-conference games under Huggins.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Sunday, December 07)


Final Score: (1) Kentucky 82, Eastern Kentucky 49

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 19 points in No. 1 Kentucky’s 82-49 win over Eastern Kentucky on Sunday. Two days after junior Willie Cauley-Stein set a career-high with 21 points in a win over Texas, Towns, a freshman, posted a career-best while pulling down nine rebounds and blocking four shots. Towns has scored in double figures in four straight games after being held to nine or fewer points over the first five games of his career. Cauley-Stein had 11 points and Trey Lyles and Marcus Lee both scored 10 off the bench for the Wildcats (9-0), who have won every game this season by double digits. Denzel Richardson dropped 19 to pace the Colonels (4-3), who shot a collective 26.1% (18-for-69) from the field.


Final Score: (12) North Carolina 108, East Carolina 64

Brice Johnson posted a monster double- double of 19 points and a career-best 17 rebounds as 12th-ranked North Carolina trounced East Carolina 108-64. J.P. Tokoto also scored 19 points and dished out eight assists for the Tar Heels (6-2), who bounced back from Wednesday’s home loss to Iowa. North Carolina shot 60% from the floor Sunday after being held to a 27.9% by the Hawkeyes. Kennedy Meeks finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for his fifth double- double of the season. Terry Whisnant led East Carolina (4-5) with 15 points and B.J. Tyson scored 13 but made only 2-of-13 field goals. The Pirates, who were 4-for-25 from 3-point range, have dropped consecutive games for the first time this season.


Final Score: Washington 49, (13) San Diego State 36

Nigel Williams-Goss scored 15 points and the Washington Huskies used a strong defensive effort to grab a 49-36 win over the 13th-ranked San Diego State Aztecs. Andrew Andrews chipped in with 13 points for the Huskies (7-0), who limited their opponent to 11-of-54 shooting, including 2-of-15 from beyond the arc. San Diego State (6-2), which was playing in its first true road game of the season, has lost two of its last three. Winston Shepard led the Aztecs’ scuffling offensive attack with seven points.


Final Score: (16) West Virginia 67, Northern Kentucky 42

Juwan Staten finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists as No. 16 West Virginia overcame a slow start to defeat Northern Kentucky, 67-42, on Sunday. Devin Williams also finished with 12 points and Jonathan Holton supplied 10 points, five rebounds and three blocks for the Mountaineers (8-1), who bounced back from a 74-73 loss to LSU on Thursday. Chad Jackson paced the Norse (3-5) with 12 points and nine rebounds, but turned the ball over six times and Jordan Jackson scored 10 off the bench in the loss.


Final Score: Clemson 68, (18) Arkansas 65

Rod Hall scored 19 points to lead Clemson’s come-from-behind 68-65 overtime win over No. 18 Arkansas on Sunday. The Razorbacks could not hold onto a lead late in regulation as Clemson scored the last six points to force OT. Hall scored 16 after halftime, Jaron Blossomgame added 17 and pulled down eight rebounds, and Donte Grantham netted 14 points for the Tigers (5-3), who bounced back from a loss to Rutgers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Michael Qualls paced the Hogs with 21 points, and Bobby Portis chipped in 18. Arkansas (6-2) has lost two in a row after suffering a 95-77 setback to Iowa State on Thursday.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Sunday, December 07)


Final Score: Boston 101, Washington 93

Rajon Rondo had a triple double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists as the Boston Celtics held off the Washington Wizards 101-93 on Sunday afternoon. Jeff Green netted 25 points and Marcus Thornton added 21 for the Celtics, who have won three in a row on the heels of a five-game losing streak. Rasual Butler scored 22 points, John Wall had 17 points and 14 assists and Paul Pierce supplied 16 points in another game against his former team for Washington, which trailed by as many as 25 in the second half.


Final Score: Atlanta 96, Denver 84

Paul Millsap scored 23 points, and Atlanta’s defense shut down Denver in a 96-84 win over the Nuggets on Sunday. The Hawks, winners of six straight, limited the Nuggets to 36 first-half points and forced them to shoot just 6-of-35 from beyond the arc for the game. Kyle Korver added 15 points for Atlanta, and DeMarre Carroll and Al Horford each netted 11. Carroll and Horford had nine and eight rebounds, respectively. Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets with 29 points as they fell in their third straight game. Chandler also pulled down 10 rebounds. Timofey Mozgov chipped in 14 points with 11 rebounds, and Alonzo Gee added 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting off the bench.


Final Score: Oklahoma City 96, Detroit 94

Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a halftime deficit to beat the lowly Detroit Pistons. Scott Brooks’ team might still be a little rusty with its two stars back in the lineup, but Durant had 28 points and the Thunder did enough to beat the Pistons 96-94 on Sunday. Durant, in his third game back from offseason foot surgery, made 10 of his 19 shots in his best shooting performance so far, and Russell Westbrook scored 22 with 11 rebounds and seven assists in his fourth game back after missing 14 with a broken hand. Serge Ibaka added 13 points and 13 rebounds in Oklahoma City’s fourth win in its last five.


Final Score: Memphis 103, Miami 87

Jon Leuer poured in 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in just 24 minutes off the bench as the Memphis Grizzlies downed the Miami Heat, 103-87, at FedExForum on Sunday. Memphis shot a season-high 58.9% from the floor to bounce back from having its 22-game home winning streak broken by the Spurs on Friday. Mike Conley chipped in 18 points on 8- for-8 shooting, while Zach Randolph and Courtney Lee both added 17 in the winning cause. Dwyane Wade paced Miami with 25 points and six assists, but the Heat dropped their fourth straight.


Final Score: Dallas 125, Milwaukee 102

Chandler Parsons scored a game-high 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting and the Dallas Mavericks dominated the Milwaukee Bucks, 125-102, on Sunday. The Mavs shot 58% from the field and made 12 3- pointers to bounce back from a home loss to the Suns on Friday. They have won six of seven overall. Dirk Nowitzki chipped in 21 points and Monta Ellis, who beat the Bucks with a buzzer-beater last Wednesday, added 19 for the victors. All five Bucks starters scored in double figures, but Milwaukee turned the ball over 19 times and fell back to .500 (11-11) with its fourth loss in five games. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 18 points while Zaza Pachulia contributed 14 with eight rebounds off the bench.


Final Score: Portland 103, New York 99

LaMarcus Aldridge posted his fifth straight double-double and the Portland Trail Blazers kicked off a five-game road trip with a 103-99 win over the New York Knicks. The Knicks led 97-96 late in the fourth when Aldridge made a pair of free throws to put Portland in front. Aldridge then converted a layup and after Amar’e Stoudemire’s dunk had the Knicks within one, he potted a stepback jumper for a 102-99 edge. Carmelo Anthony and Pablo Prigioni missed jumpers on the next two Knicks touches, and Wesley Matthews split a pair of free throws to seal the contest.


Final Score: New Orleans 104, LA Lakers 87

Jrue Holiday made a season-high four 3- pointers and totaled 22 points with eight assists in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 104-87 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Anthony Davis scored a game-high 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting for the Pelicans, who had lost five of six and were on the second of a back-to-back to close out a three-game road trip. Ryan Anderson contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Shaking up the starting lineup wasn’t enough to jumpstart the Lakers, who remain near the bottom of the Western Conference standings after yet another convincing defeat. Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer were moved to the bench in favor of Ed Davis and Ronnie Price after a 5-15 start to the season. Davis and Boozer both had 12 points in their new roles while the guards struggled to the tune of three points apiece.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results


(Sunday, December 07)


Final Score: Anaheim 4, Winnipeg 3 (OT)

Kyle Palmieri’s tally with 53 seconds elapsed in overtime lifted Anaheim over Winnipeg by a 4-3 count at MTS Centre. Rene Bourque, Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler also scored with Ryan Getzlaf adding three assists for the Ducks, who have won four in a row and seven of their last nine. Frederik Andersen stopped 27-of-30 shots for the victory. Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba lit the lamp for the Jets, whose last two defeats have come beyond regulation. Ondrej Pavelec suffered the loss by stopping only 21 shots.


Final Score: Detroit 3, Carolina 1

Tomas Tatar scored twice and Petr Mrazek came up with 34 saves as Detroit claimed a 3-1 victory over Carolina on Sunday. Pavel Datsyuk added a goal and two assists for the Red Wings, who have won three in a row and seven of their last eight. Jay McClement provided the sole offense for the Hurricanes, while Cam Ward stopped only 19 pucks in defeat.


Final Score: Ottawa 4, Vancouver 3 (OT)

Erik Karlsson netted the game-winning goal 1:21 into overtime and the Ottawa Senators battled back from a three-goal deficit to top the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3, on Sunday. Mika Zibanejad, who finished with two goals and two assists, dropped a pass back to Karlsson in the slot and the Ottawa captain beat a screened Eddie Lack with a wrister for the win. David Legwand scored on the power play to spark the comeback, Bobby Ryan tallied three helpers and Craig Anderson made 30 saves for the Senators, who ended a five-game skid. Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist, while Brad Richardson and Kevin Bieksa also scored for Vancouver, which got 41 stops from Lack in its second straight loss.


Final Score: Edmonton 2, San Jose 1

David Perron scored the deciding goal in the third period as the Edmonton Oilers ended an 11-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday. Nail Yakupov tallied a power-play goal and Ben Scrivens turned aside 20-of-21 shots for the Oilers, who won their first game since a 3-1 victory over the Rangers on November 9. Edmonton also defeated a Western Conference opponent for the first time this season after starting out 0-12-4. Tye McGinn provided San Jose’s lone goal and Alex Stalock made 22 saves as the Sharks had a four-game winning streak come to an end. The two teams will play again in San Jose on Tuesday.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Willett wins Nedbank Golf Challenge by 4 shots

Danny Willett fired a final- round, 6-under 66 on Sunday and he coasted to a 4-shot victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge for his second career win on the European Tour.

Willett, who began the day one shot behind the third-round leader Luke Donald, finished the week at 18-under-par 270. Willett’s first victory came at the 2012 BMW International Open.

“Words can’t really describe,“ Willett said. “Fantastic week. Fantastic year. A great way to top it off. Again, it’s struggling for words. It’s just overwhelming, really.“

First-round leader Ross Fisher shot a 4-under 68 at Gary Player Country Club and that propelled him to a runner-up finish at 14-under 274.

Donald, celebrating his 37th birthday Sunday, struggled a bit in his final round and he finished alone in third place at 12-under 276 following a 1-over 73.

Marcel Siem was the next-closest finisher to the trio of Englishmen atop the leaderboard. Siem carded a 68 to end alone in fourth at 9-under 279. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) finished in fifth at 7-under 281, while Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) ended in sixth at minus-6.

Playing in the final pairing with Donald and Fisher, Willett pulled even with Donald early on with a birdie on the par-5 second. On the next hole, Willett made his second consecutive gain and Donald dropped a shot with a bogey, and just like that Willett had a 2-shot lead.

The same thing happened again on No. 5 as Willett drained his third birdie of the day, while Donald tripped to another bogey, putting Willett’s advantage at four shots. Donald got back to within three with a birdie on No. 6.

After a pair of pars, Donald moved back to even-par on the day with a birdie on nine, pulling to within two of Willett.

In the meantime, Fisher was still in the mix. Fisher made birdies on two and four early on, but those were canceled out with back-to-back bogeys on five and six. However, Fisher got back on track with three straight birdies from eight to get to minus-13.

Willett extended his lead back to three with another gain on 10 and Donald dropped out of second place and down to minus-12 with a bogey on the same hole. Willett’s advantage was again stretched to four when Fisher bogeyed No. 11, putting him even with Donald at minus-12.

A Fisher gain on 13 had him at minus-13 and all three players in the final pairing went on to birdie the 14th, keeping Willett up by three shots.

While Fisher went on to par his final four holes and Donald made a trio of pars from 15 and closed with a bogey at the last, Willett used a birdie at No. 17 to extend his lead back to four heading to the final hole. Willett knocked his approach onto the green on 18 and two-putted for par and the victory.

“We just went out there and played aggressive,“ said Willett. “We came out of the blocks pretty quick and gave ourselves a little bit of a cushion. It was tight around the turn with Ross birdieing nine and 10. Again, we kept hitting good golf shots.“

NOTES: Fisher has five career wins on tour, while Donald has seven, with the last one coming at the 2012 BMW PGA Championship ... Of the 29 players remaining in the field Sunday, only five of them shot in the 60s ... Willett earned 864,976 euros for the victory ... This was the first event of the European Tour’s 2014-15 season. The tour will remain in South Africa again next week for the Alfred Dunhill Championship, where Charl Schwartzel won by four shots last year on his home soil.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


MONDAY, DECEMBER 08, 2014


National Football League
Atlanta at Green Bay, 8:30 PM - ESPN


National Basketball Association
Atlanta at Indiana, 7:00 PM - FS-Indiana, DSS
Boston at Washington, 7:00 PM - CSN-New England, DC, DSS
Denver at Toronto, 7:30 PM - Altitude, TSN2, NBA TV
Cleveland at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - FS-Ohio, YES, DSS
Golden State at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - CSN-Bay, FS-North, DSS
Utah at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, CSN-California, DSS
Phoenix at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-Arizona, Prime Ticket, DSS


National Hockey League
Pittsburgh at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, MSG, DSS
New Jersey at Carolina, 7:00 PM - MSG+, FS-Carolina, DSS
Florida at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - FS-Florida, Midwest, DSS


College Basketball
Albany at Bucknell, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Kennesaw State at Butler, 7:00 PM - FS1
Yale at Florida, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
Boston Univ at Harvard, 7:00 PM - Ivy League Digital Network
Sacred Heart at Lafayette, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Savannah State at Miami-Florida, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
IUPU-Ft Wayne at Purdue, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
UC Santa Barbara at SMU, 8:00 PM - CBSSN
Nebraska Omaha at Air Force, 9:00 PM - Mountain West Network
North Dakota at Minnesota, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Brown at Providence, 9:00 PM - FS1


Women’s College Basketball
Southern at Texas, 12:00 PM - Longhorn Network
Saint Louis at Missouri, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+


International Soccer
Italian Serie A Soccer, 2:40 PM - beIN Sport
Southampton vs. Manchester United, 2:55 PM - NBCSN

Sports News   141207

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  WV High School Champions

(FRIDAY, DECEMBER 05)

Class AA:

Bridgeport   43    State Champion

Frankfort   7


(SATURDAY, DECEMBER 06)


Class AAA:

Capital   55    State Champion

South Charleston   15


Class A:

St. Mary’s   32

Williamstown   33 (3 OT)    State Champion



The Gilmer Free Press

►  SI report: WVU making Gibson among nation’s top-paid assistants

Sports Illustrated reported late Friday that West Virginia has reached a new three-year contract with defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, potentially making him one of the nation’s 10 highest-paid assistants.

Gibson is making $350,000 this season, his first as the Mountaineers’ coordinator, and would stand to more than double that amount if Sports Illustrated’s report of the restructured deal is accurate. The 10th-highest salary among FBS assistants last season belonged to Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables at $800,000.

The top 10 is fluid from year to year, and especially so right now, with three members having been fired recently and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris—last year’s top-paid assistant at $1.3 million—becoming head coach at SMU.

West Virginia’s defense, among the softest in the FBS the past two years, made noticeable strides under Gibson, who switched back to the 3-3-5 system that was utilized during the Rich Rodriguez era. Gibson worked under Rodriguez for seven seasons in Morgantown, three more at Michigan, and then at Arizona in 2012. He returned to West Virginia shortly before signing day in 2013 and was promoted to defensive coordinator last spring when Keith Patterson left for Arizona State.

Among Gibson’s first and wisest moves was luring former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley out of retirement. The Mountaineers were at their best on October 18 while limiting then-No. 4 Baylor to a season-low 318 yards in a 41-27 upset—that despite losing both starting cornerbacks during the game.

The Sports Illustrated report claimed WVU extended the substantial raise because Gibson was being courted by other programs. Among the 125 defenses in the FBS, the Mountaineers entered the weekend ranked:

• 56th in total defense (388.6 yards per game)

• 61st in scoring defense (26.2 points per game)

• Ninth in third-down defense (30.9 percent)

• 19th in team passing efficiency defense (112.14 rating)

• 64th in passing yards allowed (226 yards per game)

• 67th in rushing defense (162.6 yards per game)

• 46th in tackles for loss (6.3 per game)

• 113th in turnovers gained (13 this season)

• 103rd in sacks (1.5 per game)

As West Virginia (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) awaits a postseason invite—likely to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis—nine defensive starters are expected to return next season. The coaching staff also could have more continuity than recent seasons, presuming five coaches with soon-to-expire contracts are re-signed.

Cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell ($225,000) is at the end of a two-year deal, while special-teams coordinator/safeties coach Joe DeForest ($500,000) is completing the third and final year of a contract he signed upon arriving from Oklahoma State. There’s the potential for DeForest to return at a reduced salary, considering he was stripped of the defensive coordinator title before the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl.

On the offensive side, coordinator Shannon Dawson ($250,000), receivers coach Lonnie Galloway ($300,000) and running backs coach JaJuan Seider ($200,000) must be renewed.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Marshall rallies past Louisiana Tech in Conference USA title game

Rakeem Cato passed 5 yards to Deon-Tay McManus with 1:50 remaining to lift Marshall over Louisiana Tech 26-23 on Saturday for the Thundering Herd’s first Conference USA championship.

Cato rolled out to his right and hit McManus in the back corner of the end zone to give Marshall its first lead of the game. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Neville Hewitt intercepted Cody Sokol and Marshall ran out the clock.

McManus also caught Cato’s other touchdown pass in the second quarter and Justin Haig kicked four field goals for Marshall (12-1), which lost to Rice 41-24 in last year’s title game.

Cato completed 25 of 46 passes for 308 yards with an interception.

“Every time we took the field, we knew we could make plays,“ Cato said. “On that last drive, we made the plays.“

A 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky last week knocked Marshall out of the Top 25 rankings, but they bounced back to claim their first C-USA title.

“How great does that sound? Conference USA Champions,“ Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “I can’t say enough how proud I am of that team.

“The culture has changed here. These kids come to play, and they work hard. They sure deserve what they got today.“

Kenneth Dixon ran for 156 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns for the Bulldogs (8-5). Dixon’s three touchdowns gave him the school record for career touchdowns with 59, passing Troy Edwards.

Louisiana Tech had six players declared academically ineligible for the game. Five of them were starters, including right tackle Mitchell Bell, left guard Tre Carter, defensive tackle Aaron Brown and linebackers Tony Johnson and Terrell Pinson.

That didn’t seem to slow down the Bulldogs in the rain.

Dixon had first-half scoring runs of 33 and 30 yards to stake Louisiana Tech to a 17-13 halftime lead. His second score came after the Bulldogs recovered a punt that bounced off a Marshall player.

With the score 17-16, Bulldogs’ Paul Turner blocked a punt and Le’Vander Liggins returned it 20 yards to the Marshall 19. Dixon ran it in for a score on the Herd’s next play from scrimmage with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.

Haig kicked his fourth field goal, a C-USA championship game record that earned him game MVP honors, with 8:34 left in the game.

Cato’s winning pass capped an 11-yard, 68-play drive.

Devon Johnson, Marshall’s 1,600-yard rusher, sat out the first half and finished with only four carries for 34 yards after injuring a shoulder in last week’s loss to Western Kentucky.

The Herd rolled up 429 yards offense to the Bulldogs’ 268.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Football Game Results

(Saturday, December 06)


Final Score: (1) Alabama 42, (14) Missouri 13

After patiently waiting for his time to come, Blake Sims more than showed he was ready for the moment. With the fifth-year senior throwing for 262 yards and two touchdowns in a near- flawless performance, No. 1 Alabama left no doubt of its imminent inclusion in the College Football Playoff with a 42-13 manhandling of 14th- ranked Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide’s authoritative victory virtually assured them of playing in one of the two national semifinal games to be held on New Year’s Day, most likely in the Sugar Bowl as the top overall seed in the four-team playoff. It was also allow Sims the opportunity to attempt to do what A.J. McCarron and Greg McElroy did before him—quarterback the Crimson Tide to a national championship. The first-year starter connected on a sharp 23-of-27 passes, with 12 of his completions going to Heisman candidate Amari Cooper, and Alabama (12-1) churned out 242 yards on the ground in dealing Missouri a second straight loss in the conference title game. The East champion Tigers fell 59-42 to Auburn in Atlanta a year ago. Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon each ran for a pair of touchdowns, with Henry amassing 141 yards on 20 carries. DeAndrew White added 101 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches, with Cooper contributing 83 yards in the blowout. Jimmie Hunt racked up a career-best 169 yards on six receptions for Missouri (10-3), but the Tigers mustered just 41 rushing yards while allowing 504 total to the Crimson Tide. Maty Mauk couldn’t match Sims’ exploits, with the Mizzou signal-caller finishing an inconsistent 16-of-34 for 272 yards and a touchdown.


Final Score: (2) Florida State 37, (12) Georgia Tech 35

Florida State was able to stop Georgia Tech’s potent triple-option attack for most of the second half, and the second-ranked Seminoles captured their third straight ACC title with a 37-35 win over the No. 12 Yellow Jackets. Roberto Aguayo made three field goals in the second half and the Seminoles (13-0) extended their winning streak to 29 games. With the win, Florida State all but locked up a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Seminoles entered the game No. 4 in the CFP rankings. All four of the top-ranked teams in the playoff rankings were victorious over the weekend. Alabama beat Missouri, Oregon rolled past Arizona and TCU dominated Iowa State. Florida State’s winning streak started with a 21-15 win over Georgia Tech in the 2012 ACC title game. Jameis Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, completed 21-of-30 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Seminoles, who won their 15th ACC championship overall since joining the conference in 1992. Dalvin Cook carried the ball 31 times for 177 yards and a score for Florida State. Rashad Greene caught seven passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Justin Thomas connected on 8-of-14 passes for 134 yards, one touchdown and an interception for the Yellow Jackets (10-3), who were trying for their first conference crown since 2009. Thomas also carried the ball 11 times for 104 yards. Synjyn Days rushed for 67 yards and three scores on 19 carries for Georgia Tech, which racked up 331 yards on the ground.


Final Score: (4) TCU 55, Iowa State 3

Trevone Boykin threw four touchdown passes and caught a pass for a score, powering fourth-ranked TCU to a share of the Big 12 title with a 55-3 rout of Iowa State. The Horned Frogs entered the game third in the College Football Playoff rankings and are hopeful Saturday’s effort will impress the selection committee enough to keep them in the exclusive four-team field. Boykin was 30-of-41 for 460 yards and added 44 yards on eight carries. Aaron Green rushed for 104 yards and a score and also caught a touchdown pass for TCU (11-1, 8-1 Big 12), which will be co-conference champions with the winner of Saturday night’s game between Kansas State and Baylor. Sam B. Richardson completed only 16-of-40 passes for 152 yards and one interception for the Cyclones (2-10, 0-9), who concluded the season with six consecutive losses.


Final Score: (5) Baylor 38, (9) Kansas State 27

Baylor earned a share of the Big 12 title Saturday as the fifth-ranked Bears pulled out a 38-27 win over No. 9 Kansas State. The question is: Was a victory over a top-10 opponent enough to vault the Bears into the College Football Playoff? The CFP committee had Baylor ranked sixth coming into the final weekend of the season, and every team in front of them, including TCU, Florida State and Ohio State, won on Saturday. The Bears (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) must jump two of those teams, and their fate will be determined when the national semifinal matchups are announced Sunday. They seemingly needed a lopsided victory against a Kansas State (9-3, 7-2) team that was also playing for a share of the conference title. Instead, Baylor settled for a close win and a tie with TCU atop the conference standings. The Bears are the only team to beat the Horned Frogs this season, but the Big 12 announced earlier this week the teams would be seen as co- champions if they both won their final regular season games. Bryce Petty had a memorable final game at McLane Stadium, passing for 412 yards with a touchdown and an interception while adding a rushing score. Johnny Jefferson added two TDs on the ground for the victors.


Final Score: (6) Ohio State 59, (11) Wisconsin 0

Third-string quarterback Cardale Jones excelled in his first career start, throwing for three touchdowns to lead No. 6 Ohio State to a 59-0 rout of 11th-ranked Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Jones, who attempted just 19 career passes prior to the game, amassed 257 yards on 12-of-17 passing for the Buckeyes (12-1), who have won 11 straight games. The sophomore signal-caller was thrust into action after Big Ten Freshman of the Year J.T. Barrett suffered a broken ankle last week in a 42-28 win over Michigan. Senior Braxton Miller entered camp as the starter, but underwent surgery on his right throwing shoulder prior to the start of the season. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 220 yards—a Big Ten Championship Game record—and two scores on 20 carries and Devin Smith hauled in a career-high three touchdown passes on four catches for 137 yards. Ohio State, which finished undefeated in conference play for the third straight season, entered the game at No. 5 in the latest College Playoff Rankings. The four teams that will compete for the championship will be announced on Sunday.


Final Score: Oklahoma State 38, (18) Oklahoma 35

Tyreek Hill’s 92-yard punt return tied the game late in regulation and Ben Grogan’s 21-yard field goal in overtime lifted Oklahoma State to a 38-35 win over Oklahoma in another classic in the Bedlam Series. The Sooners ran off 2 1/2 minutes of clock late in the fourth after an untimely Mason Rudolph interception, then looked to pin Oklahoma State deep in its territory with under a minute left. Hill waived for a fair catch inside his 20, but the Cowboys (6-6, 4-5 Big 12) were flagged for running into the kicker. That proved to be a beneficial penalty because Hill took the next punt down the far sideline to tie the game with 45 seconds on the clock. Oklahoma (8-4, 5-4) managed to move the ball near midfield, but poor clock management on fourth down with the Sooners in formation for a Hail Mary ended regulation. The Cowboys’ defense came out strong in the extra session, forcing a 44-yard field goal attempt from Michael Hunnicutt that he pulled wide left. Desmond Roland then took over for Oklahoma State, barreling his way down inside the 5 on a couple of tough runs to set up Grogan, who split the uprights to halt a two-game losing streak in the series.


Final Score: (22) Boise State 28, Fresno State 14

Grant Hedrick ran for two touchdowns for No. 22 Boise State, which is likely heading back to a major bowl game following a 28-14 win over Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium. Hedrick completed 9-of-16 passes for 155 yards and racked up 81 yards on nine carries for Boise State (11-2), which will take an eight-game win streak into bowl season. Jay Ajayi’s seven-game 100- yard streak came to an end, but the junior back still picked up 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the victory. With the Mountain West title, the Broncos will be the highest-ranked conference champ from the Group of 5. They are expected to receive a bid to either the Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl or Peach Bowl on Jan. 1. Brian Burrell threw for 332 yards on 30- of-45 efficiency with a touchdown and three interceptions for Fresno State (6-7), which had won three in a row coming into the game. The Bulldogs were denied a second straight conference title. Fresno State beat Utah State, 24-17, in the inaugural Mountain West championship game last season.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Giants’ Jennings questionable for Sunday

New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings was back on the practice field Friday, though his status for this weekend’s game against Tennessee remains uncertain.

Jennings exited New York’s 25-24 loss at Jacksonville last Sunday in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle and sat out both Wednesday and Thursday’s practices due to the injury. The Giants listed him as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

The ex-Jaguar was having a strong game against his former team, rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries prior to departing.

Rookie Andre Williams would draw the start against the Titans if Jennings is unable to go.

On the defensive side for the Giants, starting linebacker Jacquian Williams will miss a fourth straight game as he continues to experience symptoms from a concussion. Linebacker Mark Herzlich, dealing with a concussion as well, is questionable for Sunday’s tilt.


►  Cards’ Ellington out vs. Chiefs

Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington will miss Sunday’s Week 14 game against Kansas City with an injured hip.

Ellington left Arizona’s Week 13 loss to Atlanta with a hip pointer, and was unable to practice in the week leading up to the game with the Chiefs.

In 12 games this season, Ellington has totaled 660 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while adding 46 catches for 395 yards and two touchdowns.

Running backs Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes and Marion Grice will fill in for Ellington.

Also listed as out for the Cardinals are safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb), guard Paul Fanaika (ankle) and defensive end Ed Stinson (toe).

After missing Arizona’s last two games with a knee injury, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is expected to be a game-time decision, though he was a full participant in Friday’s practice.

Linebacker Larry Foote (foot) and tackle Jared Veldheer (ankle) are also considered questionable for Sunday’s game. Linebackers Lorenzo Alexander (knee) and Kenny Demens (hamstring) are probable.


►  Browns’ Cameron questionable to return vs. Colts

Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron was limited in practice for a third consecutive day Friday, though it still remains to be seen whether he’ll be cleared to play in Sunday’s game against Indianapolis.

Cameron has missed five straight games with a concussion he suffered during Cleveland’s 23-13 win over Oakland on October 26. Though the 2013 Pro Bowl tight end says he’s been feeling better every day, a neurologist still has to clear him for contact.

Backup tight end Gary Barnidge was declared out by the Browns (ribs). Also out are safety and NFL interception leader Tashaun Gipson (knee) and cornerback Robert Nelson (hamstring).

After missing two games with a knee injury, linebacker Karlos Dansby is questionable for Sunday after being a limited participant in practice. Running back Isaiah Crowell is questionable with a hip injury, and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (foot) is as well.


►  Jackson questionable for Sunday

Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson is questionable for Sunday’s home game against St. Louis.

Jackson didn’t participate in practice all week as he is suffering from bruises on both his legs in last week’s loss to Indianapolis.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee), defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee), nose tackle Chris Baker (chest) and cornerback E.J. Biggers (concussion) are all listed as questionable.

Safety Brandon Meriweather is doubtful with a toe injury.


►  Titans’ Mettenberger on track to start

The Tennessee Titans officially listed rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger as questionable for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants due to a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the team’s most recent contest.

However, the Tennessean reported on Friday that Mettenberger will start the game after putting in a third straight limited practice to close out the week.

Mettenberger left last week’s 45-21 loss at Houston after taking a big hit from the Texans’ J.J. Watt in the third quarter. The 2014 sixth-round pick was later diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain of his AC joint, the least serious variety.

The LSU product has started each of Tennessee’s last five games—all Titans’ losses—and has completed 60% of his passes for 1,287 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions on the season.

Mettenberger is one of five players termed questionable for the Titans for Sunday’s matchup, along with wide receiver Kendall Wright (hand), offensive tackles Taylor Lewan (ankle) and Michael Oher (toe) and cornerback Blidi Wreh- Wilson (back).

Wright, Lewan and Oher all did not participate in Friday’s practice.

Outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley will miss a second straight week with a hamstring injury.


►  Ravens’ Forsett questionable vs. Dolphins

Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett was listed as questionable on the team’s final injury report prior to Sunday’s matchup with the Miami Dolphins.

Forsett, who is fourth in the league with 1,009 rushing yards, was a limited participant in practice on Friday after sitting out the previous two days with a knee injury.

The 29-year-old has played in all 12 games (10 starts) this season and has ran for a team-best seven touchdowns.

Joining Forsett as questionable on the injury report are wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh), tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) and linebacker Albert McClellan (thigh).

Rookie defensive back Tramain Jacobs was ruled out with a thigh injury.


►  Bay Area battle: Niners visit hapless Raiders

After losing ground in a battle for a playoff spot, the San Francisco 49ers hope for better luck in the “Battle of the Bay.“

The Niners hope to rebound from a rough Thanksgiving night loss this Sunday as they visit the Oakland Raiders and the Coliseum.

San Francisco had a three-game winning streak halted as it was routed by the Seattle Seahawks 19-3 at home on November 27. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick struggled to just 16-of-29 passing for 121 yards while getting picked off twice by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

Seattle outgained San Francisco 379-164 and running back Carlos Hyde led all Niner receivers with 38 yards on three catches.

“In all areas, they played better team football,“ said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. “We have to come back and win them all.“

The 49ers dropped to 7-5 on the season, putting them a game back of the Seahawks for second place in the NFC West and two back of the front-running Arizona Cardinals. San Francisco can still keep itself in the hunt, though, as it visits Seattle on December 14 and then closes the regular season at home versus Arizona among its four remaining games.

The Niners hope to head to Seattle for a rematch off a winning note as they visit the 1-11 Raiders. The all-time series is tied at 6-6, but San Francisco has won three straight and four of the past five meetings.

San Francisco will visit Oakland for the first time since a 23-20 overtime victory in 2002 and this marks the fifth “Battle of the Bay” since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995.

The Raiders, though, haven’t beaten the Niners as the home team since 1991 while in Los Angeles.

Oakland snapped a 16-game losing streak dating back to last season with a 24-20 home victory over Kansas City on November 20, but any momentum from that Thursday victory was crushed last weekend in a 52-0 thumping at the hands of the hosting St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

The Raiders allowed 21 points in the first quarter and then saw Rams running back Tre Mason rip off an 89-yard touchdown run early in the second.

Meanwhile, Oakland managed just 244 yards of offense for the game.

“We didn’t start fast. We knew this was a team that started fast, one of the better teams in the league that way, and we didn’t start fast on either side of the football today,“ said Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano.

Rookie Derek Carr finished 24-of-39 passing for 173 yards and threw interceptions on consecutive drives in the second quarter. Wide receiver James Jones and running back Marcel Reece both caught six passes.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Points have been hard to come by for the Niners at times this season as they rank tied for 25th in the NFL with 19.3 per game. However, the Raiders are tied for 30th with 28.1 points allowed per game and are yielding 359.4 yards per game.

San Francisco hopes to get Kaepernick on track as he posted just a 36.7 passer rating versus the Seahawks and had a run of 18 straight games with a touchdown pass halted.

“We’re going to attack it. We’re going to get it right,“ Harbaugh said of getting Kaepernick adjusted. “There will be improvements that are made and I have great confidence that we can do that.“

Kaepernick has won six of his eight career starts versus the AFC with 12 total touchdowns in that span. Eight of those have come through the air with another four on the ground.

San Francisco’s quarterback will be trying to avoid a familiar face in Raiders cornerback Tarell Brown, who was a fifth-round pick by the Niners in 2007. He became a full-time starter in 2011 and recorded 11 interceptions with San Francisco before signing with the Raiders this season.

“He’s doing a very good job at diagnosing routes,“ Harbaugh said of Brown. “He’s very good at having the instincts to play the route. He’ll sit on routes. He gets involved with the breakups and he’s looking to be in position to get interceptions. A lot of respect for his game.“

Oakland actually added two former 49er defensive backs this offseason, signing Carlos Rogers as well, but he is out with a knee injury.

Brown will try to stop San Francisco receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. Both have recorded four touchdown catches this season, while Boldin leads the club with 68 receptions and 843 yards.

“I look forward to it. It’s going to be exciting,“ noted Brown. “They’ll be hyped up to play against me. I’ll be hyped up to play against them, and it’s always great competition when you go against guys you’re familiar with.“

Crabtree, though, was limited in practice on Wednesday after suffering injuries to his abdomen and knee versus Seattle.

The Niners defense slipped to fourth in the NFL with 306.7 yards allowed per game after struggling a bit versus the Seahawks, but the 49ers are just one of five teams to have at least three players with five or more sacks.

Linebackers Ahamd Brooks and Aaron Lynch, along with defensive tackle Justin Smith, have all hit the mark, with Lynch picking up a sack in three straight.

San Francisco’s linebackers are producing despite not having NaVarro Bowman all season due to injury and losing Patrick Willis to a toe injury on November 11 that ended his campaign. Linebacker Chris Borland has stepped in, recording 87 tackles, a sack and two interceptions in 12 games this season with six starts.

Borland, who has at least 13 tackles in four of his past five games, was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for November.

The unit will try to rattle Carr, who leads all NFL rookies with 2,422 passing yards and 14 touchdowns.

Despite Oakland’s struggles this season, Sparano doesn’t plan on sitting Carr and isn’t too concerned with performance versus the Rams.

“I didn’t feel like he looked rattled, but I thought that as the game went on and you’re in one of those kind of games where you have to throw the football, handing the football off at that point isn’t a huge option,“ said the coach.

Carr could be helped if running back Latavius Murray can play this weekend. He ran for a career-high 112 yards in the win over the Chiefs, but suffered a concussion in the victory and did not play against the Rams.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The good news for the Niners is that the extra time to stew about the loss to the Seahawks should help them avoid looking past the Raiders. They can’t afford to lose a game like this and should be amped up to get on track.

Also, since 2011, the 49ers are 3-0 following a game on “Thursday Night Football” and have outscored their opponents 84-6 in those three contests.

That doesn’t bode well for an Oakland team playing out the string, even if local bragging rights are on the line.

Predicted outcome: 49ers 20, Raiders 9


►  Hoyer remains Browns starter with explosive Colts looming

The Indianapolis Colts could be the first NFL team to clinch a division title in 2014 but they won’t be doing it at the expense of “Johnny Football.“

Many thought the Colts, who can wrap up the AFC South win a win in Cleveland on Sunday coupled with a Houston loss at Jacksonville, would be facing a Browns team with first-round pick Johnny Manziel under center for his first start.

Instead, Cleveland coach Mike Pettine backtracked Wednesday after a few days of contemplation and is sticking with the embattled Brian Hoyer, at least for the time being.

“After thorough evaluation and talking to the staff, we feel Brian gives us the best opportunity to win on Sunday,“ said Pettine. “This is a football decision and those are always going to be based on what we think is best for our team.“

Hoyer was benched early in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 26-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills and Manziel stepped in to engineer an 8-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown scramble.

Manziel ended the game 5-of-8 for 63 yards, forcing the Browns into a critical decision about the team’s future of the quarterback position.

Hoyer completed just 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and two interceptions before being benched. In the past three games, he has thrown only one touchdown pass and six interceptions.

The Browns are 7-5 heading into Sunday’s contest with the Colts and are tied with six other teams for the final AFC wild card spot.

“Brian has led our team to a 7-5 record,“ Pettine added. “I’m confident that we can get the entire offense playing at the level needed to accomplish the goals we set at the beginning of the season. Those goals are still very much attainable.“

Hoyer, who is 10-5 as Cleveland’s starting quarterback dating back to last season, has throw for 3,056 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 12 games this year.

“It wasn’t perfect and he’s made his share of mistakes, but (Hoyer’s) gotten the lion’s share of reps in practice and virtually all of them in games and has us in the thick of a playoff hunt,“ Pettine said. “That, to me, was probably the biggest determining factor.“

There is, of course, no such controversy with the Colts as Andrew Luck is piloting one of the best offenses in all of football.

In fact, Indianapolis scored six touchdowns of at least 30 yards in a 49-27 win over Washington in Week 13, becoming the first team to register at least six 30-plus touchdowns in a game since 1966 when the Redskins did it in a 72-41 drubbing of the New York Giants.

“We have incredibly explosive players all over the field,“ said Luck, who leads the league with 4,011 passing yards and joined Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history with at least 4,000 passing yards in two of their first three seasons.

Luck completed 19-of-27 throws against the Redskins for 370 yards and two of TDs went for more than 70 yards. Coby Fleener hauled in TD passes of 30 and 73 yards, while Donte Moncrief had scoring receptions of 48 and 79 yards in what was supposed to be a matchup of the top two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Robert Griffin III, the second overall choice in 2012, was benched earlier in the week by Redskins coach Jay Gruden after three straight losing efforts, however. Colt McCoy, the winning quarterback in Washington’s last two victories, threw for 392 yards with three touchdowns, but the Redskins defense could not stop Luck.

The Colts racked up 487 yards on just 49 plays, an average of 9.9 yards per play. Dan Herron added to the outburst with 88 yards on just eight carries, including a 49-yard touchdown run, as Indianapolis notched its second straight win.

Cleveland holds a slim 14-13 advantage in its all-time series with Indy but the Colts have won six of the past seven. The two teams haven’t locked up in the Forest City since 2008, a 10-6 Indianapolis win.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Manziel did provide a spark in a game that was long over last weekend but that was fool’s gold against a Bills D which took its foot off the gas. Rallying around the new guy is great but emotion like that can’t be sustained for an entire football game, never mind a complete playoff push in the month of December.

A move away from Hoyer would have signaled that the Browns were succeeding despite Hoyer and fans would have been expecting Manziel to traverse troubled waters that not only include Luck and the Colts but also division games against AFC North frontrunner Cincinnati and 7-5 Baltimore over the final month.

With Hoyer Cleveland probably has a slim chance to make the postseason. Without him, slim is hopping a cab and is on his way to Hopkins International.

Hoyer’s record as the starter in Cleveland is a number panned only by those who don’t understand the organization was 20-57 in its previous 77 games without him.

Moving away from the guy who has won at a .667 clip and moving toward Manziel, who completed his first NFL pass last week, would have been setting up the rookie to fail, especially in a matchup against the pure throwing Luck.

“Obviously, that’s a decision that’s made by coach Pettine,“ Manziel said. “And this week his answer was, ‘No’ so moving forward whatever transpires, maybe next time the answer will be, ‘Yes.‘“

Luck not only leads the NFL in passing yards, he is second with 34 TD passes and also second in the AFC at passer rating with a 103.0 mark. He captains an offense that is tops in all of football, piling up 438.3 yards per game with his favorite target being the explosive T.Y. Hilton, who leads the Colts with a career-high 1,145 receiving yards.

The Indy offense is also No. 1 the NFL with 6.2 yards per play and tops in explosive plays with 69 garnering over 20 yards.

“Once you throw the ball up for a big play, you want to be that guy,“ said veteran receiver Reggie Wayne, who has 54 catches for 636 yards of his own. “We had a lot of guys that were able to capitalize on that (Sunday). We got a lot of guys. We are pretty loaded.“

Things could get even more loaded for Luck with the potential return of tight end Dwayne Allen, who has missed two games with a balky right ankle.

The best-case scenario for the Browns is to play ball control and keep it out of Luck’s hands as much as possible and that means getting the running game going.

With Ben Tate now in Minnesota that means rookies Terrance West (502 yards, three touchdowns) and Isaiah Crowell (475 yards, seven touchdowns) need to have an impactful afternoon. Crowell, however, is dealing with a hip injury.

The game will also mark the return of Trent Richardson to Cleveland for the first time since being traded to the Colts on September 18, 2013. Richardson, who struggled with the Browns after being the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, hasn’t done much better with the Colts, amassing only 445 rushing yards at 3.3 yards per carry this season.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Credit Pettine for coming to his senses and doing his best to alleviate the rookie coaching mistake he made in Buffalo last weekend.

Cleveland has won four of its past six games and three of its past four at home but this looks like an untenable matchup because to beat Luck and the Colts, it almost has to be in a shootout. The Browns are ill-equipped to win in that fashion just yet. So why not let the veteran Hoyer take the heat?

“I always have a fire lit,“ Hoyer said. “Anytime someone questions you, you want to prove them wrong. I’m sure there are people questioning me all along, not just this week, throughout the entire season.“

Predicted outcome: Colts 33, Browns 17


►  Lions hope to pile on mistake-prone Bucs

The Detroit Lions try to keep their NFC North title hopes alive on Sunday when they welcome the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Ford Field.

Detroit snapped a two-game losing streak and picked up a much-needed win on Thanksgiving, as Joique Bell and Calvin Johnson each scored twice to help the Lions snatch a 34-17 victory over the Chicago Bears.

Matthew Stafford was 34-for-45 for 390 yards with two touchdown passes for the Lions (8-4), who bounced back from a pair of road losses to Arizona and New England.

“We had shown that we could do it in spurts at times this season,“ Stafford said of his offense. “To put it together for 60 minutes was gratifying.“

Detroit, which remains a game behind Green Bay for first place in the NFC North, has now won three in a row at home and hasn’t won four straight in the Motor City since 2007.

Bell totaled 91 yards on 23 carries, while Johnson had 11 catches for 146 yards for the Lions, who had lost nine straight in its traditional Thanksgiving Day game, but has now won its past two thanks to this win and a victory over an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay last year.

Johnson’s 25-yard touchdown reception was the Lions first in nine quarters and it was the first time the team went over 24 points since it hung 35 on the New York Giants in Week 1.

“It’s something to build off of,“ Stafford said. “Just being consistent with it, not having a bad quarter - maybe a bad series here, one or two, but making sure that we were playing well in every quarter.“

Tampa, meanwhile, continued to flounder in head coach Lovie Smith’s first season and fell to 2-10 on the season, despite a valiant effort in a 14-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Josh McCown went 15-for-29 for 190 yards with an interception, and Doug Martin had a rushing touchdown for the Buccaneers (2-10), who have dropped their past two games and remained winless in six tries at home this season.

“That’s how 2-10 football teams play, they find a way to lose the game at the end,“ said Smith. “We did some good things defensively and made some plays, but when you make dumb stupid penalties throughout the game they wind up biting you in the end.“

Compounding matters was a too many men on the field penalty with time winding down that cost the Bucs an opportunity to attempt a potential winning field goal.

The Bucs, who were flagged 13 times, are tied with Seattle for most penalties in the league and have let fourth-quarter leads slip away in five of their 10 defeats.

“Growing pains, learning situations, normally it doesn’t take this many games to get the point across,“ Smith said.

Sunday’s matchup between these former NFC Central foes will mark the fourth clash in five seasons between them, with the Lions winning two of the three previous matchups (2010, 2011).

The Lions, though, have dropped five of the past six home meetings in the series.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Detroit’s offense could be hitting its stride at the right time. The Lions generated a total of 474 yards in the win over the Bears with Megatron producing his finest game of the season.

The talented wideout, who returned November 9 after missing more than a month due to an ankle injury, was targeted a season-high 16 times in the victory. He’s hauled in 23 catches for 355 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his last three games versus the Buccaneers.

And that offense could get even more of a boost this week with the return of running back Reggie Bush, who has been sidelined the past three weeks with an ankle injury.

Even though Tampa comes into this contest with just two wins on the season, its opponents have averaged just 18.2 points per game over the past five games.

The Bucs may also be able to keep Johnson in check, as they have given up three pass plays of 40-plus yards on the year, tied for the lowest total in the NFL.

“I see Tampa really being a bend but don’t break defense,“ Detroit wideout Golden Tate said. “I see those guys being one of those teams where, ‘we’re going to let you mess up. We’re not going to press. We’re going to force a fumble or expect you to get a holding call on offense or throw an interception and we’re going to rally around that.‘“

The Bucs are minus-six in turnover differential on the year, but they’ve forced 19 takeaways, the same amount as the Lions’ defense. The problem is that Tampa Bay’s offense has turned the ball over 25 times.

Tampa’s offense has also failed to capitalize while in the red zone, particularly in the last three games, as they have managed a touchdown in just 28.6-percent of its chances.

“We’ve got to do a better job in just our focus and we’ve got to demand more from ourselves because those things are stopping us,“ said McCown. “And it’s a shame because, this past game specifically, because it puts you ... you get behind the sticks, especially when you’re running the ball the way we ran it in the first half, but you start having penalties and you get behind the sticks and you can’t run the ball, it changes what you’re doing.“

Martin managed a season-best 58 yards on the ground last week versus the Bengals, but he will be going up against a Lions defense that is ranked No. 1 in the league against the run after surrendering a mere 13 yards on the ground to the Bears.

The 13 yards allowed were the fewest since 1991 and team has given up just 2.7 yards per carry over the last four games.

Detroit, meanwhile, also boasts the league’s No. 1 defense when it comes to points allowed as it is holding opponents to just 17.3 points per game through 12 games.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Detroit actually controls its own destiny in terms of winning a division. The Lions have very winnable games the next three weeks before what could be a winner-take-all showdown with the Packers in Week 17. The Lions seem to be hitting on all cylinders at the moment and should be able to roll this week against what is an improving Buccaneers club.

Predicted outcome: Lions 23, Buccaneers 12


►  Rams intent to build on impressive win, tangle with Redskins

The St. Louis Rams hope they saved some points from their previous win and will visit the Washington Redskins Sunday at FedEx Field.

The Rams annihilated the lowly Oakland Raiders, 52-0, at home this past weekend and took advantage of five turnovers by the visiting team, including a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown by Trumaine Johnson.

All three phases worked in St. Louis’ favor and the team rode the legs of Tre Mason, who ran for a season-high 117 yards and two scores. He had an 89-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and posted just his second 100-yard game of the season. Mason also scored on a 35-yard screen pass.

“We practiced with a purpose, we met with a purpose,“ Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’ve been doing that all year long. It all just came together for us today.“

St. Louis improved to 5-7 and has rotated wins over the past eight games.

Veteran quarterback Shaun Hill made his third start since replacing rookie Austin Davis and threw for 183 yards with two touchdowns on 13-of-22 passing. Hill won his only career start against the Redskins as a member of San Francisco in 2008.

Oakland used two quarterbacks after rookie Derek Carr was intercepted twice and passed for 173 yards. Matt Schaub came on in relief and was intercepted, completing 5-of-9 attempts for 57 yards.

Johnson had two interceptions and was excited for his pick-six.

“This is my first pick six,“ Johnson said. “I scored and forgot what it was like to be in the end zone. My celebration was trash, but I’m just glad I caught it and put some points up for our team.“

E.J. Gaines posted the other interception for the Rams, who recorded six sacks, three of which by Robert Quinn. Quinn has nine sacks on the season and is 10 shy of matching his 2013 total.

The Rams are on the road, where they have lost two in a row and four of the last five games.

Washington is a dismal 3-9 this season and mired in a four-game losing streak. It will play three of four games at home to close the season.

The Redskins made a statement by benching franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III after a 17-13 loss at San Francisco. The move to Colt McCoy produced some numbers, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Sunday’s 49-27 loss in Indianapolis. McCoy threw for a career-high 392 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in his second start of the season, and Jordan Reed was his favorite target.

Reed caught nine passes for 123 yards and DeSean Jackson finished with five receptions for 84 yards and a score. Wide receiver Santana Moss recorded his first reception of the season in the second quarter, gaining 13 yards.

“Players have to start stepping up and taking some accountability at some point,“ Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching, that’s all I can say.“

The Colts had 487 total yards to Washington’s 425. Ryan Kerrigan posted the lone sack for the Redskins and has 9 1/2 this season. He also posted the 13th forced fumble of his career for the Redskins, who had three takeaways for the second straight week.

Washington’s defense has seen better days and is ninth in rushing yards allowed (102.8), 11th in total yards (344.0), 15th in passing yards (241.2) and 27th in points allowed (26.8). The Redskins are 14th in sacks (28.0) and 29th in interceptions (5).

“I think everybody in our room works hard,“ Redskins defensive back Ryan Clark said. “I love these dudes. I like the guys I work with. I love the way they work. I love the way they prepare, but you got to bring it to the grass and we need to bring it to the grass as a group.“

The Redskins lead the all-time series with the Rams, 24-12-1, but have lost four of the past six meetings between the two teams. St. Louis won the latest installment of this series by recording a 31-28 win on September 16, 2012. RG3 passed for 206 yards with a TD and an INT, and also ran for 82 yards and two scores. Alfred Morris posted 89 yards on 16 carries in defeat.

Washington is 11-5 all-time in regular season home games against the Rams.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Redskins are 10th and 11th, respectively, in passing yards (260.5) and total yards (370.2) this season. The Rams are allowing 245.2 passing yards and 356.3 total yards on defense, so this could turn out to be a win for the hosts.

St. Louis sacked the Raiders six times and Quinn led the way. Now he gets to face McCoy, who was sacked six times on Sunday and 11 times in three appearances this season. Quinn has nine sacks and four forced fumbles in his last seven games.

McCoy and the Redskins are closing out the season with pride and effort.

“We have unity. We have good guys in that locker room. We have good coaches and we know this isn’t how the season, this isn’t how we drew it up,“ McCoy said. “But we all still have a lot of pride and certainly in that receivers group, there’s a lot of pride. So I can be better and I think we all can be better. And we just have to continue to grind and continue to improve. The most important thing is to find a way to get a win. We’re going back home this week, so I’ll put my best foot forward and keep going.“

Speaking of the receivers, wide receiver Pierre Garcon surpassed 5,000 career receiving yards and Jackson posted his 400th career reception. Jackson eclipsed 7,000 career receiving yards and is a deep threat for the ‘Skins. He has 10 catches for 40 or more yards this season, and is nursing a leg bruise.

Jackson has faced St. Louis twice in his career as an Eagle, posting 12 receptions for 208 yards and a touchdown.

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather suffered a sprained toe and his status for Sunday is unknown. Other defensive players who sustained injuries against the Colts were cornerback Chase Minnifield, linebacker Will Compton and defensive lineman Kedric Golston.

Gruden said it’s “not looking good” for Meriweather to play this week. Golston could be out with both a back and foot ailment.

St. Louis hopes to run up the score on Washington like it did versus Oakland, and can take advantage of a nicked-up Redskins defense. Mason will face a Washington defense allowing just over 100 yards a game. The Colts had 126 rushing yards on Sunday and Dan Herron had 88 yards and a TD on eight touches.

Mason is riding a strong wave from the Oakland game and will try to carry it over into FedEx Field.

“I want to be the best player to ever touch a football, and that’s what I’m heading after,“ Mason said. “That’s a goal of mine.“

While those aspirations may be a bit far-fetched, Mason should have similar numbers Sunday.

“My mindset is that if I’ve done it once, why not do it again?“ Mason said. “I told myself coming into the league to be the best, to be the greatest. And I’m trying to do it.“

Mason leads NFC rookies with 562 rushing yards and has led the Rams in rushing in all eight games played.

Rams defensive end Chris Long returned against the Raiders after suffering an ankle injury in Week 1. Long had a sack and his coach is happy he’s back.

“It’s great to get him back. He’s not 100% yet, but I brought him back just to get him off my rear end,“ Fisher said. “He was just wearing me out to come back and play. Chris understands the game, he plays with leverage, he’s a good run defender. It’s great to get on the board from a sack standpoint.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Shutting out the Raiders in blowout fashion was no fluke by the Rams, but they’ve struggled on the road all season. The Rams are out of the playoff mix and would like to end the season on a positive note with high expectations for 2015.

And so would the Redskins.

With a new QB in tow for a second straight week, the home team has the edge in this one. Gruden liked the way McCoy competed against a tough Indy squad and had admiration for his QB, which has been rare this season.

“Colt competed,“ Gruden said. “There are some things I wish we would have done differently, play calls and execution-wise, but I feel like he competed and did a nice job out there.“

Washington’s defense may be banged up a bit, so it’s up to McCoy, Morris and some talented receivers to keep team pride intact.

Predicted outcome: Redskins 26, Rams 21


►  Steelers try to tighten AFC North race against Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals ran the gauntlet on the road, but they don’t have an easy task waiting for them back at home.

The Bengals try to avoid losing ground for the top spot in the AFC North this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, where they play host to a Pittsburgh Steelers club that is just one of many giving chase for the division crown.

Cincinnati departed on a three-game road trip following an ugly 24-3 home loss to Cleveland back on November 6, but managed successful runs through New Orleans, Houston and Tampa Bay. That gave the Bengals road victories over three consecutive weeks for the first time in franchise history.

The Bengals did not allow more than 13 points in any game over the swing and that was the key in Sunday’s 14-13 triumph over the Buccaneers as an ill Andy Dalton struggled with three interceptions and just 176 yards passing.

However, Dalton did run for a five-yard score late in the second quarter to get the Bengals on the board and hooked up with wide receiver A.J. Green for a 13-yard scoring strike with 2:04 to play in the third quarter that was the difference.

Dalton, in fact, literally left it all out on the field, and in the locker room.

“He looked bad before the game,“ said offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. “I never heard him say a word to anybody. The last I saw him before we took the field, he was bent over a trash can in the locker room.“

Dalton, though, didn’t blame the illness for his struggles.

“I’m not going to make any excuses for the way things started out,“ said Dalton, who threw all three of his interceptions in the first half. “(The virus) obviously isn’t something you want to deal with, but I’m not saying that’s the reason. Obviously I’ve got to play better in these games coming up.“

That’s because Cincinnati has limited room for error. At 8-3-1, it leads the AFC North, but has a trio of 7-5 teams right behind it in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore. The Bengals visit the Browns next weekend and close the regular season at the Steelers following a tough home test with Denver.

The Steelers have won six of their last eight versus the Bengals, but were defeated 35-32 by the New Orleans Saints last Sunday. Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed five touchdown passes to five different receivers.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 435 yards on 32-of-58 passing with two late touchdowns to wide receiver Antonio Brown, but was also picked off twice for a Pittsburgh club that had won four of five coming in.

“Just one of those days, a lot of balls were coming out high,“ said Roethlisberger. “I had to make throws early on that I didn’t make tonight and I usually do.“

Running back Le’Veon Bell led his club with 159 yards on eight receptions and had 95 yards rushing with a score on 21 attempts, while Brown ended up posting 97 yards on eight grabs.

Bell’s receiving yards and yards from scrimmage (254) were both career highs.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The focus of Cincinnati’s defense should be Bell, who has emerged as one of the top dual-threat backs in the NFL. His 65 receptions this season are a franchise record by a running back and he also is just 54 yards shy of becoming the first Steelers back to hit 1,100 in a season since Rashard Mendenhall in 2010.

Overall, Bell is the first player in team history to record consecutive games with 200 yards from scrimmage and he leads the AFC with 1,689 scrimmage yards, getting 643 of that through the air.

Of course, this late in the season one has to wonder how 22-year-old’s body is handling all of the touches, especially since the Steelers released LeGarrette Blount on November 18. Bell took all but two of Pittsburgh’s rushing carries versus the Saints and was targeted 11 times by Roethlisberger.

“We have some other guys that are capable, but obviously he’s going to get the bulk of the carries,“ said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “He’s a highly conditioned guy. He’s a mentally tough guy. He’s a competitor. Personally I think he’s built for it and he’s excited about having an opportunity to do it for us.

Roethlisberger agreed that Bell needs to be a big part of Pittsburgh’s offense.

“He’s one of the best players in the game,“ the quarterback said of Bell. “I know that we need to get him the ball and that’s running and passing. He played 80-something snaps in that football game and that’s kind of unheard of for a running back, especially to take the beating that he does. So as long as he stays healthy that’s what matters to me.“

While Bell may be the only top-level option in the ground game, Roethlisberger does have an excellent receiver to look towards in Brown, whose 11 touchdown catches this season are one shy of the club record held by four different players.

Brown gets plenty of attention, having notched at least five catches and 50 yards in an NFL-record 28 straight games. He leads the NFL with 1,258 receiving yards.

Despite those options, Roethlisberger has just four touchdown passes to five interceptions over the past three games.

“He hasn’t been as accurate as he had been,“ Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. “Some of it is due to some pressure created in the pocket. Some of it is due to game circumstances. Some we are lacking a little cohesion in some instances. None of those things really happen in a vacuum when you’re talking about quarterback play.“

Dalton will hope a return home will settle his stomach as the Bengals are 13-1-1 in their past 15 regular-season home games. In his past 15 at home, Dalton has thrown for 3,471 yards with 26 touchdowns.

Though he was sacked only twice, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis wasn’t happy with the play of his offensive line, one that is still trying to replace the injured Andre Smith, on injured reserve due to a triceps injury.

Marshall Newhouse started in Smith’s place versus Tampa Bay and played all but 19 snaps, with Clint Boling seeing the rest of the time there.

“Not good enough. Not as good as we need,“ said Lewis of the offensive line. “We had a couple guys play pretty well, but as a group we didn’t play as well as we need to play. We need to play better.“

While Newhouse could start again this weekend, the Bengals did sign 31-year- old veteran Eric Winston this week. Winston started all 16 games last season with Arizona, but was cut by Seattle after its preseason finale this year.

The Bengals rank just 25th against the run, giving up 125.1 yards per game and has two key players dealing with injury in linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) and defensive tackle Domata Peko (elbow).

Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds has 2 1/2 sacks in his last three games for Pittsburgh’s 12th-ranked defense.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The AFC North is very much up for grabs and it could very well be decided in Week 17 when the Bengals visit the Steelers. That makes drawing first blood in this matchup key for an edge down the road, assuming both clubs take care of business afterwards.

The Steelers rank third in the NFL with 417.3 yards per game on offense, but Roethlisberger only has an 87.1 career passer rating in this series and just one 300-yard passing game. That makes shutting down Bell key for Cincinnati.

“All of our division games are important games, we know. This is a very, very important football team this week,“ said Lewis. “It’s at home, so the fans will be out and excited big time and have a lot of fun on Sunday. It’s a really important game for us.“

A healthier Dalton and a home-field edge should allow the Bengals to take care of business this week.

Predicted outcome: Bengals 27, Steelers 24


►  Rex takes Geno and the ground game to Minnesota

Minnesota Vikings fans would surely concede Teddy Bridgewater is not Peyton Manning. But the Vikings’ rookie can soothe himself by recognizing that he’s also not Geno Smith.

Unlike his signal-calling counterpart for Sunday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium, the youngster from Louisville is not only playing well as the 2014 season reaches its final stages, but there’s also a very good chance - unlike Smith in New York - that he’s already penciled in for a starting job next year.

Bridgewater has four touchdowns against a single interception in his last two games, and played perhaps his best game of the season last week against Carolina - completing 15-of-21 passes for 138 yards, two scores and a 120.7 passer rating in a 31-13 defeat of the Panthers.

“I’m better at just making quicker decisions,“ he said. “Earlier in the year, I talked about getting rid of the ball faster. That wasn’t the issue. I think I just made quicker decisions, and if I’m able to make quicker decisions I’m able to get the ball out faster.“

One of his prime targets, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, should be around for the full 60 minutes against the Jets after having just one pass thrown to him last week. He only played three snaps against Carolina after attending a funeral during the practice week and dealing with a knee injury.

He caught six passes for 86 yards in Minnesota’s Week 8 defeat of Tampa Bay, but has caught just five balls since for 51 yards. He’s got 30 catches for 350 yards and one touchdown this season, after arriving as a rookie in 2013 and catching 45 passes for 469 yards and four TDs.

“I have high hopes for him. I’m in his corner. I want him to be a good player,“ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “It would help this football team. It would help me. It would help everybody around that he becomes a great player. It may be not right away.“

Meanwhile, though history shows the Jets last lost to the Vikings when Gerald Ford was president and Joe Namath still played at Shea Stadium, it doesn’t do a lot of good for modern-day Rex Ryan.

A 16-13 loss to Miami on Monday night plunged New York to 2-10 in Ryan’s sixth season and added another layer of certainty that the last four games of 2014 will be his last four at Gang Green’s helm.

“I’m embarrassed for myself, absolutely,“ he said.

“It’s an embarrassment. It’s definitely embarrassing to me. I feel like I’ve let my owner down. I’ve let our fan base down. The year hasn’t gone anywhere close to what we were thinking. I’m going to focus on beating Minnesota. I’m not worried about anything else but that. I don’t think that way. My job is not to worry about myself. My job is to get this team prepared to the best of my ability, and that’s what I plan on doing.“

Ryan’s teams reached the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons on the job in 2009 and 2010, winning four road playoff games with Mark Sanchez at the helm. They’ve not had a winning record since, however, and Sanchez was let go in the offseason after Smith became the rookie starter last year.

Sanchez is now quarterbacking the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, while Smith, backup Michael Vick, Ryan and even general manager John Idzik are on a collective hot seat with the Jets.

Smith completed only seven of 13 passes in the loss to the Dolphins, a game in which New York led by 10 points in the first half. The Jets ran the ball 49 times, but when they were forced into rally mode on a final drive, Smith was intercepted - which led to talk that the game plan reflected an absence of faith in the quarterback. Ryan insisted, though, that the run/pass ratio was not a reflection on Smith.

The second-year man, who was benched in favor of Vick before regaining the job, is last in the league among full-time quarterbacks with a 65.8 passer rating. He’s thrown 11 interceptions and has averaged 5.91 yards per pass attempt, and hasn’t thrown a TD pass in three games. Incidentally, the Vikings are sixth in the league in defending the pass, but have allowed 123.8 yards per game on the ground for the season and 157.0 per game over their last three outings.

“I understand the fact that we didn’t win and the passing attempts weren’t there,“ Ryan said. “But it had nothing to do with us not having confidence in Geno Smith. That’s completely false.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Awakening Johnson

Running back Chris Johnson was among the symbols of the Jets’ ineptitude in the early season as he tried to regain his 2,000-yard form from his days in Tennessee. But he’s started to pick things up in the second half and has amassed 305 yards on his last 58 carries - a 5.3-yard average per attempt. Minnesota is 24th of 32 teams against the run, so it could be another showcase for the veteran.

Strength against Weakness

The Vikings are by no means a scoring juggernaut when compared to the rest of the NFL, as an average of 19.4 points per game accurately indicates. But they’re facing an even more impotent outfit in the Jets, who are 30th in the league with a 15.8-point average. Minnesota’s defense has held offensive powers like New Orleans, Detroit and Chicago to less than 21 points, and has a real chance to do it again.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us two, three or four times, shame on us. While it’s true Ryan got more than he should have from an 8-8 team last year and true that he’ll probably land another NFL job and succeed after this season, the reality for 2014 is that he’s pretty much out of tricks.

The Vikings are not the Packers and the Jets could out-mediocre them, but the default setting is lose from here on out.

Predicted outcome: Vikings 17, Jets 7


►  Chiefs and Cardinals both plan to steady things

All of a sudden, it’s become crisis time in Kansas City.

Coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs were riding high on a five-game win streak - including a defeat of the defending Super Bowl champions - as they reached late November, but the arrival of the holiday season has meant particularly bad tidings when it comes to a would-be AFC playoff list.

First came an embarrassing loss to previously winless Oakland on a primetime Thursday night, which was followed up by another national television misstep, this time to the Denver Broncos last Sunday.

The result: Kansas City has dropped from first to third in the AFC West and now finds itself among a gaggle of conference teams - six, to be precise - with 7-5 records and postseason dreams.

“We didn’t finish the third quarter (of the season) the way that we wanted to. We’ve got to go back to it and get that part fixed,“ Reid said. “We’ve stalled the last two weeks, so we’ve got to get this thing turned around and get us straightened up.“

The Chiefs were in a 14-point hole against the Raiders before ultimately dropping a four-point decision, then were down, 17-0, to the Broncos last week. The offense generated just 120 yards in the opening 30 minutes in the Oakland game and only 59 in that same timeframe against Denver.

Running back Jamaal Charles carried 10 times for 35 yards and caught four passes for 24 yards last week, while quarterback Alex Smith was intercepted for the first time since Week 5.

“Our defense was out on the field the majority of that first half. Couldn’t help them out,“ Smith said. “To start off the game with those three-and-outs like that, you’re just not helping the team, and not getting into any rhythm hurt us.“

Kansas City matched up reasonably well with Denver’s prolific passing attack thanks to an aerial defense that’s the best in the league with an average of 196.8 yards allowed, but the Chiefs had few answers when the Broncos switched gears and pounded them for 214 yards on the ground.

In fact, the team has allowed 4.93 yards per run, worst in the league.

This week’s opponent, Arizona, throws the ball on more than 60% of its snaps and averages a league-worst 3.08 yards per attempt. The Cardinals ran just 11 times last week against Atlanta.

“It’s disappointing,“ Kansas City defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. “But we have a couple more games to play. It’s not like (the Denver game) was the last one. We still have some stuff to fix. We’ll come out this next game and play better.“

Arizona is trying to brandish the same confidence amid a raft of injuries.

Quarterback Carson Palmer was lost for the season with a knee injury during a Week 10 victory over St. Louis, and his replacement, Drew Stanton, has lost two of three starts as the Cardinals have tumbled from 9-1 and a clear No. 1 seed in the NFC to 9-3 with just a one-game division lead.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu will miss significant time, too, after fracturing his left thumb. He was part of a ball-hawking defense that had forced eight turnovers in a three-game stretch against Philadelphia, Dallas and St. Louis, but that same unit has generated only two takeaways in the last three games.

“It’s a sense of urgency, because we have to play lights-out football,“ cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We have all the confidence in the world in (Stanton), but we are still playing with a backup quarterback and that changes the dynamics of everything. As a defense, we have to do what got us here, which was taking the ball away, and as an offense, protecting the ball.“

Stanton has thrown three touchdown passes and five interceptions since becoming the starter, though he was without No. 1 receiver Larry Fitzgerald for the losses to Seattle and Atlanta. Arizona now leads the Seahawks by one game in the NFC West.

“When you stink, you stink. You point out how you stunk and get it corrected,“ Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “I don’t throw chairs and holler and do all that stuff that’s non-productive. That’s not teaching. You have to teach in order to get things corrected. There’s two pictures - the two-game losing streak and being 9-3. We have to get back to the things that got us to this point.

“The next one is huge to maintain where we’re at. The sky has not fallen yet. We’re still No. 1, and we need to stay there this week.“

Fitzgerald is labeled probable to face the Chiefs and help Arizona try to maintain an unbeaten record at its University of Phoenix home. The Cardinals have lost just once there in their last 11 games.

“We’ve played well at home, and this is a great opponent,“ Arians said. “Jamaal Charles is playing as well as any running back has in a while. He’s always an unbelievable challenge.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

What Can Brown Do?

Rookie wide receiver John Brown has been a home-field phenomenon for the Cardinals in 2014, making 25 of his 39 receptions and scoring all five of his touchdowns there. Considering that Arizona’s leading rusher, Andre Ellington, is listed as doubtful with a lingering hip injury, it’s likely that the third- round pick from tiny Pittsburg State will become a go-to as Stanton continues to seek offensive comfort.

Go Wide, Young Man

It’s a pretty remarkable stat that a quality team like the Chiefs - even after 12 games - has still not generated a single touchdown catch from a wide receiver. Indeed, Smith’s 15 TD throws have been divvied up among tight ends (eight) and running backs (seven), though Dwayne Bowe leads the team with 46 catches. Arizona is just 27th in the league is pass defense, so the drought could soon end.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

His teammates have said all the right things and his coach still insists that teaching is the way to end the recent doldrums, but the reality is that the Cardinals with Stanton at the helm are simply different than they’d been with Palmer. He’s got to play nearly mistake-free to win football games, and against a near-elite team like Kansas City, that’s a tough task to complete. In fact, it says here that he won’t.

Predicted outcome: Chiefs 24, Cardinals 14


►  Watt. Texans try to stay alive in AFC South

The Jacksonville Jaguars may indeed be a 2-10 football team, but to this weekend’s opponent - the Houston Texans - they’ve got definite world-beating potential.

Indeed, even though the Jaguars are fifth from the bottom of the league in both points allowed (27.4 per game) and yards allowed (383.2 per week), Texans coach Bill O’Brien is preaching respect.

Jacksonville comes into Week 14 after a come-from-behind defeat of the New York Giants in a game it had trailed by 18 points at halftime, and fresh off a 2013 season in which it scored a pair of victories over the Texans - then coached by Gary Kubiak - as part of a late-season three-game win streak.

“I don’t care what (Jacksonville’s) record is,“ O’Brien said. “I really don’t. It’s not coach-speak. It’s the truth. This team is a talented team, well- coached.“

Problem is, the Jaguars don’t score much. In fact, they’d only exceeded 20 points twice in 11 games before the defeat of the Giants saw them rack up 22 in the final 30 minutes - including a pair of defensive touchdowns.

Against Houston and MVP candidate J.J. Watt, it won’t be an easy repeat.

The Texans have allowed just 23 points in their last two road games, which have yielded victories over Cleveland and Tennessee. Watt had two sacks in the 45-21 dousing of the Titans to bring his total to 11 1/2 for the season, and he caught a touchdown pass - his third of the season - while lined up in a goal-line formation. One of his would-be foes on Sunday, Jacksonville right tackle Austin Pasztor, won’t play after suffering a ruptured right hamstring.

Watt has faced the Jaguars six times and has 5 1/2 sacks.

On the mend for Houston’s defense is cornerback Kareem Jackson, who’s questionable with a knee injury; and rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who’s played just four games thanks to illness and myriad injuries. He’s also questionable this week with a knee problem.

The No. 1 overall draft pick has seven tackles and no sacks in limited action, but he maintains the full faith and confidence of the coaching staff, according to O’Brien.

“I want to be real clear about this with him as it relates to us here and the Houston Texans,“ O’Brien said. “We think very highly of him. We know that he is going to be a really good player. He has been unlucky. He is a good kid. He is a good teammate and he is working hard to get back on the field.“

If he plays, he’ll aim for the inaugural sack against the player selected two picks after him, Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles, who’s been sacked 34 times overall and seven times last week. In spite of the pressure, the win over the Giants was a watershed for Bortles, who completed his first full game with no interceptions while amassing 194 yards passing, rushing for 68 and throwing a TD pass.

Bortles led an 11-play, 55-yard drive that yielded the winning field goal with 28 seconds to go.

“You could just see him wanting to take over the game, and his mentality,“ Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “He didn’t slide. When we needed a couple of extra yards, he went for it. That’s what the guys are gravitating toward - his competitiveness, his focus and his taking advantage of opportunities.“

His quarterback counterpart, Houston’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, is also trying to keep momentum.

The Harvard University product was benched for Ryan Mallett in early November, but regained the No. 1 status when Mallett was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. He completed 24-of-33 passes for 358 yards and threw six touchdowns in the rout of Tennessee, six days after turning 32.

Prior to losing his starting role, he had an 87.1 passer rating, 11 TD passes and eight interceptions.

“Maybe it helped Fitz to take a step back,“ O’Brien said. “You never want to see anybody get hurt like Mallett did, but maybe it helped Fitz to see how the offense was operated and he went in there and did a good job. The trick is, can we do it again?“

The Texans began the season with two straight wins, but had gone 3-6 over nine subsequent games before facing the Titans. They’re still mathematically in the divisional title race, but can be officially excluded with a loss to Jacksonville and win by Indianapolis, which leads the AFC South.

The 45 points against Tennessee were a franchise record. Running back Arian Foster had 105 yards on the ground and Fitzpatrick connected with DeAndre Hopkins nine times for 238 yards and two touchdowns - just a week after scoring a season-low 13 points against Cincinnati.

“It comes down to consistency,“ O’Brien said. “It’s really important. It’s vitally important to go out there and have a great week of practice and I think that’s what we did last week. Guys were really detailed and focused. That’s what we have to do this week again.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Where Art Thou, 99?

A matchup with a phenomenon like Watt would have been difficult enough if the Jaguars had Pasztor in his typical place as the starting right tackle. But with him out, the primary responsibility for contending with Watt falls to either Josh Wells, a rookie free agent; or Sam Young, a fifth-year player who’s been inactive for the last six weeks. Either way, Bortles might want to work hard on quick releases this week.

Make Ryan Be Ryan

Though Fitzpatrick had a dominant - and mistake-free - game last week, it’s hardly a consensus view that the showing against a poor pass defense indicates a change from a career speckled with inconsistency. The Jaguars’ 37 sacks are third-best in the NFL and the defense has forced eight fumbles in two games. Another effort like that could reveal more of the true Fitzpatrick under center.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It’d be easy to hear O’Brien talk about how legitimate a team the Jaguars are, then consider the fact that they’re home and find enough reason to go ahead and pick them. But it’s not that simple. The Texans still have the best player on the field in Watt, and more ammo on offense against a team that’s got few true weapons and an inconsistent rookie quarterback. A surprise is possible, but not at all likely.

Predicted outcome: Texans 31, Jaguars 23


►  Struggling Panthers aim to stay in NFC South race

The simple fact is that regardless of record, one team from the NFC South is going to get into the playoffs.

Both the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers still have a chance at grabbing that spot by way of a division title and the two rivals meet this Sunday at the Superdome with a lot on the line.

No team in the division has a winning record, with New Orleans being tied with the Atlanta Falcons for first place with matching 5-7 records. Carolina is an unimpressive 3-8-1 on the campaign, but there are still four games to be played and a victory over the Saints would keep the Panthers in the running for first place.

Only Tampa Bay at 2-10 figures to have no shot at winning the NFC South crown.

“Whichever team gets into the playoffs there is going to be no apologies for it,“ said Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. “That’s part of the game. You play the game that you play, they fall the way they may.

“Believe me, I think New Orleans is a good football team, as I do Atlanta, and I think we’re still a good football team.“

The Panthers didn’t look like a very good football team when they lost their sixth game in a row last Sunday with a 31-13 setback to the Minnesota Vikings, who blocked a pair of punts they returned for touchdowns.

Cam Newton completed 18-of-35 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Carolina, which is 1-8-1 since beginning the season with consecutive wins.

Carolina tallied 348 yards, outgaining Minnesota by 138, but its first six points of the game came on Graham Gano field goals before Newton completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Philly Brown in the third quarter.

“We need to do a better job of scoring touchdowns when we get into position,“ said Rivera. “We had two chances early in the game, but had to settle for field goals. Touchdowns in those situations could have changed the complexion of the game.“

The Saints had little trouble scoring touchdowns this past Sunday in Pittsburgh as Drew Brees threw five scoring passes to five different receivers in a 35-32 win over the Steelers.

Brees finished with 257 yards for the Saints (5-7), who put a three-game losing streak to rest. He recorded the seventh five-touchdown, zero- interception game of his career, an NFL record.

“My process doesn’t change regardless of whether people are singing my praises or telling me I can’t play anymore. I really don’t care,“ said a defiant Brees, addressing rumors from earlier in the week that the Saints are looking to draft his replacement.

Mark Ingram racked up 122 yards on 23 carries, while Kenny Stills posted 162 yards and a score on five receptions. Marques Colston, Benjamin Watson, Nick Toon and Erik Lorig added a TD catch apiece.

The Saints trail 20-19 in their all-time series with the Panthers despite a 28-10 victory in Carolina on October 30. New Orleans hasn’t swept its season series with Carolina since 2011.

Ingram keyed the Week 9 win with 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Brees once again has the Saints’ offense in top form, with the club ranking second in the NFL with 430.3 yards per game. New Orleans also is third with 303.9 passing yards per game, but the emergence of Ingram, who leads the NFL with 608 rushing yards since Week 8, has balanced out the attack.

Brees has thrown for over 300 yards with at least four touchdown passes in three straight home games versus the Panthers, posting a 129.8 passer rating.

One key to slowing down the Saints offense is the play of Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who leads his team with 125 tackles and posted two sacks against the Vikings.

Brees said it is rare that a middle linebacker like Kuechly can impact a quarterback, but the young playmaker does it well.

“And for being such a young player too, you can see just how knowledgeable he is about the game and about his opponent,“ added Brees. “On each and every snap he is getting guys lined up. He is making adjustments. He is anticipating where the ball is going, run pass he’s as good as he is in the run game. Really he is a total player.“

Carolina’s 21st-ranked offense has not been as effective, with Newton posting a 78.9 passer rating on the season while getting picked off 11 times to 13 touchdown passes. He also ranks second on the team in rushing with 342 yards behind only Jonathan Stewart (408 yards).

Stewart had 85 yards on 12 carries versus the Vikings, good for a 7.1 average per carry and Newton added 49 yards on nine carries, but DeAngelo Williams suffered a fractured right hand in the game after logging 21 yards on seven carries.

Williams can play through the injury as long as the swelling isn’t too bad, but its another blow to an inconsistent ground game. Fozzy Whittaker would see more carries behind Stewart if Williams can’t perform.

Not only that, but the Panthers started a different offensive line for a sixth week in a row versus the Vikings, with Mike Remmers making his first start at right tackle with Nate Chandler lost to a knee injury.

Carolina, though, was able to post 178 yards rushing against Minnesota and New Orleans ranks 23rd against the run.

“He played to his strengths,“ Rivera told his team’s website of Remmers. “He’s got good footwork, good hand placement and he moves well. He’s a smart, crafty guy. He understands what we’re doing. He did some good things. We did some things to help him as well, and as a whole I thought the unit did a nice job.“

Two of the league’s top tight ends will be on the field in New Orleans.

The Saints’ Jimmy Graham is tied for the NFL lead among tight ends with 65 catches, is second with nine touchdowns and fourth in yards with 670. Graham has a touchdown in six straight versus Carolina.

Greg Olsen of Carolina, meanwhile, is second in his position with 778 yards and fourth in receptions with 61 to go along with five TDs. He is on the verge of a third straight 800-yard season.

The Panthers held the Vikings to 210 yards last weekend, but will be better tested by Brees this weekend.

“Playing in the (Superdome) is a challenge and we will have to be at our best,“ noted Rivera. “We have shown the ability to play well, but have not been able to do it consistently enough and will need to do that against a very good football team.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It’s a miracle that both of these clubs still have a shot at the playoffs, but that is how the cards have fallen.

Though a December 21 home test with Atlanta figures to be the key game down the stretch, New Orleans can’t look past Carolina.

“It starts with this game. You want to build on the way we played this week,“ said Saints coach Sean Payton. “I think that as we hit this final four game stretch, paying attention to details, correcting mistakes, film study, it’s all the little things I think that go into the overall success.“

Success hasn’t followed the Panthers, who haven’t won since October 5, and asking their struggling offense to keep pace with the Saints may be too much to ask.

Predicted outcome: Saints 31, Panthers 17


►  Ngata-less Ravens head to Miami for key AFC tilt

Oh, to be in the NFC South in 2014.

If the Baltimore Ravens could jump regions and conferences prior to Week 14’s slate of games, they’d head to Miami’s Sun Life Stadium on Sunday with a comfortable two-game lead and at least one eye toward finalizing arrangements for a home playoff game in early January.

Instead, the trip to South Florida - given the jumbled competitive reality that is the AFC this year - is far more in the class of full-on business desperation than leisurely holiday comfort.

The Ravens and Dolphins are two of six conference teams with 7-5 records through 12 games, which means their get-together takes on particular urgency as the season’s final quarter gets under way.

Baltimore seemed destined for a more stable 8-4 record and a firm hold on playoff destiny heading into the fourth quarter last week, but instead saw a 10-point lead evaporate into a 34-33 loss to San Diego.

It was a second straight prolific performance for an opposing quarterback, with Philip Rivers amassing 383 yards and three touchdown passes just six days after Drew Brees threw for 420 yards and three scores in a game the Ravens ultimately won, 34-27, at New Orleans.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco had two TD passes last week before the late meltdown.

Miami enters the game with just 27 completions of more than 20 yards and just one TD pass of that length, but Baltimore coach John Harbaugh isn’t lessening the emphasis on secondary performance.

“We’ve got to make some plays,“ he said. “That’s really what it boils down to.“

The return of starting cornerback Asa Jackson from an injured toe could help. The third-year man last played in Week 5 before being placed on the returnable injured reserve list. He had 16 tackles and a pass deflection in early season action before the hiatus.

The loss of Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata certainly won’t help. Ngata was suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances Thursday.

Ngata said he took Adderall and apologized for the transgression that will keep him out of Baltimore’s remaining four games of the regular season.

“I made a mistake, and I own this,“ said Ngata in a statement Thursday. “I took Adderall and take full responsibility for doing this. I am deeply sorry and broken up over this. I let down my family, my teammates, Ravens fans and myself. My hope is that the Ravens make the playoffs, and I believe they can do this. And, then I can come back and help us win.“

Ngata, in his ninth season with the Ravens, is the center of Baltimore’s defense as the prominent run stopper in the club’s 3-4 scheme. He has 31 tackles with two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in 12 games this season.

“This is disappointing news for the Ravens,“ said general manager Ozzie Newsome. “We are disappointed with Haloti, but no more than he is with himself.“

The Dolphins defeated the New York Jets on Monday to improve to 7-5, but they’ve allowed better than 200 rushing yards to two consecutive opponents for the first time in 24 years. Coincidentally, the Ravens’ backfield is occupied by Justin Forsett, who leads the NFL with a 5.6-yard average per carry and has gained 400 yards while scoring four times in Baltimore’s last three games.

Flacco has four passing TDs and no interceptions in the same three-game stretch, and Baltimore for the season is sixth in the league with an average of 27.3 points per game.

“It’s hard to overload the box because they have those threats on the perimeter,“ Miami coach Joe Philbin said. “I think the key for them has been balance.“

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed just 21 of 40 passes in a three- point home loss to the Ravens in 2013, but he’s been among the hottest QBs in the league lately - completing at least 70% of his throws in five consecutive games. The last two passers with six-game runs of 70% or better were named Favre (in 2007) and Manning (Peyton, in 2008 and 2012).

Tannehill was 25-for-35 for 235 yards against the Jets.

“Their offense is a spread-option type of an offense that Tannehill runs very effectively - a lot of weapons,“ Harbaugh said. “They spread the ball out, they spread the formations out, they run the read option, they run the dive, quarterback keepers, quarterback-follow plays.“

Miami, which is tied with Buffalo in the AFC East - two games behind New England - faces the Patriots next week before finishing with Minnesota and a home rematch with the Jets.

The Dolphins last made the playoffs in 2008.

“We’ve talked to them more about the month of December and the importance of each and every game in December,“ Philbin said. “This one that we have coming up, Baltimore, both on paper and on film, is as good as team as we’ve seen.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Elvis is in the Backfield

Baltimore pass rusher Elvis Dumervil has 12 1/2 sacks in 2014 and was a chronic thorn in Rivers’ side last week, forcing three hurries and hitting the San Diego QB twice. Right tackle Dallas Thomas draws the assignment against him after allowing three pressures, but no sacks, in Monday’s defeat of the Jets. Thomas could be aided by Tannehill’s ability to throw while moving away from rushers.

Beating the Replacement

Miami’s Cortland Finnegan was a no-go at cornerback against New York and is listed as questionable for this week. If he’s again unable to play, or less than 100%, it tilts a matchup in the favor of Ravens veteran Steve Smith. R.J. Stanford started in Finnegan’s place Monday, but he’ll be much more challenged by Flacco and Smith than he was by the Jets’ tandem of Geno Smith and Eric Decker.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Though the Dolphins have won five of their last eight games - and only dropped the other three by a combined 10 points - a noticeable theme across 12 games is that they’ve feasted on lesser foes, and struggled with better ones. The five losses have all come against teams with at least seven wins, while the seven wins include Jacksonville, Oakland and the Jets. Baltimore is good, and matches up well.

“We have a huge game down in Miami,“ Harbaugh said. “There will a lot on the line and they’ll be ready and they’re good. We’ll have a great opportunity to make a move. It’s going to be very competitive (and) down to the wire to make the playoffs, to win the division, and we are in the thick of it.“

Predicted outcome: Ravens 28, Dolphins 27


►  Giants try to halt 7-game skid, visit Titans

It will be an exercise in futility when the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans go at it Sunday at LP Field.

The Giants have lost seven in a row to fall to 3-9 and the Titans are riding a six-game slide that has dropped them to 2-10.

New York suffered through an eight-game slide from November 7 - December 26, 2004. It was head coach Tom Coughlin’s first season in the Big Apple and the Giants went 6-10 that year. This could be Coughlin’s last season in New York.

Coughlin was obviously disappointed in last weekend’s 25-24 loss in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars rallied from a 21-0 deficit to stun the visiting Giants, who had only three points in the second half.

“Very disappointing, discouraging,“ Coughlin said. “We came down here feeling like we could win ... and nothing happened on game day.“

The Giants lost all three fumbles and quarterback Eli Manning passed for 247 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Manning fumbled late in the game when he was sacked by Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons.

Jacksonville scored twice on fumble returns.

Manning didn’t throw an interception for the first time since November 3 versus Indianapolis and had been picked off seven times in the previous three games. He’s focused on Tennessee and getting the Giants back on track for the first time since October 5 versus Atlanta.

Coughlin got his message across to Manning and the team.

“He wants us to worry about Tennessee, getting a win, be able to enjoy, be happy about we are doing, and be able to celebrate as a team together, and celebrate a victory,“ Manning said. “That is what we are going to do, we are going to focus on this week and take it one week at a time, and compete our tails off, and work hard, and that is all we can do, that is all we can control.“

The Giants have lost four in a row on the road and are 1-5 as the visitor. They need to clean up their act in the second half, having scored just 13 points over the last two quarters in the previous four games. The Jaguars had a 22-3 scoring advantage in the second half on Sunday.

“I don’t have a reason, I don’t have an explanation,“ Manning said. “We have to be better, we have to be better in the second half of all these games. That is where games are won. It is usually going to come down to that third and fourth quarter, who plays football. That is where the situations of the game come. We are not making the plays; we are making mistakes, we are not making enough plays in that situation to win the games.“

New York has lost the last three games in which it led at the half. The 3-9 record is the worst after 12 games since 1995, when the G-men had an identical mark.

The Titans haven’t won since October 12 versus Jacksonville and will play two straight and three of their last four games in the Music City. They are only 1-4 at LP Field this season.

Tennessee has given up 40 or more points (88 total) in each of the last two games and 20-plus points in the last five. In Sunday’s 45-21 demolition at the hands of the Houston Texans, the Titans allowed 457 total yards and Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 358 yards and six touchdowns.

Houston had a 24-0 lead in the first half.

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins scorched Tennessee for 238 yards receiving and two scores on nine catches. Tennessee’s defense has been abysmal all season and is 18th in passing yards allowed (243.8), 30th in total yards (385.2) and last in rushing yards allowed (141.5) and points (28.2).

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt discussed what the players could do to improve over the last few weeks of the season, especially the younger players.

“It’s an important part of the process,“ Whisenhunt said. “Getting a chance to see them in games, if you just look at the quarterback, for example, we’ve got to see him before this game against three pretty good defenses in the league, three pretty good, established defenses. You get a good assessment of him on where he is and how he’s going to handle that. We’re getting to look at a lot of different guys in situations. Some of it because you want to look at young players, some of it because it’s an injury situation. It does give them an opportunity to show what they can do.“

Titans rookie QB Zach Mettenberger left Sunday’s game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and suffered a Grade 1 AC sprain. Mettenberger, who passed for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception, said he thinks he will be able to come back versus the Giants, while Whisenhunt will make the decision later in the week.

According to Mettenberger, he’s “definitely playing this week” and is experiencing some soreness.

“It’s only been three days since I injured it, so obviously there’s soreness still,“ he said. “I can’t go out there and 100% rip a ball right now, but I’m sure by the end of the week I’ll be fine.“

Jake Locker, who was replaced by Mettenberger as the starter last month, completed 6-of-12 passes for 91 yards with a TD and two interceptions.

The Titans and Giants have split the first 10 meetings between the teams, and Tennessee has prevailed in each of the past five, including a 29-10 victory on September 26, 2010. Manning threw for 386 yards on 34-of-48 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

New York took the first five games in this series from 1973-1994.

Mettenberger and Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. were teammates at LSU. Beckham was just named Offensive Rookie of the Month.

“Without a doubt, he is the best athlete I have ever been around personally,“ Mettenberger said of Beckham. “Not just football, but basketball, baseball, soccer, he can do it all… I have seen him do it all. I am very proud of him and the work he has put in, and the success he is having on the field.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Manning has thrown for five touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games against AFC opponents. Protection has been an issue for Manning, who was sacked four times against the Jaguars. The Giants have allowed 21 sacks during the seven-game slide after giving up only seven in the first five games.

Perhaps that will change with the pending return of right tackle Justin Pugh. He has missed the last two games with a quadriceps injury.

The Giants made some moves this week and placed offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz and Adam Snyder, defensive linemen Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers, and linebacker Terrell Manning on injured reserve.

Coughlin commented on New York’s laundry list of injuries.

“The message is keep fighting; that’s what the message has been all along…The other message is opportunity.“

Giants running back Rashad Jennings posted 91 yards and two TDs on 26 rushes last week, while rookie Andre Williams leads all first-year NFC players with five rushing touchdowns. Jennings and Williams should see enough action against Tennessee’s shoddy run defense, the worst in the NFL.

Jennings is bothered by an ankle issue that is not deemed serious.

The Giants have struggled against the rush this season, allowing 140.6 yards per game. Titans rookie Bishop Sankey leads the team with only 474 yards and posted 42 on 10 carries last week. Sankey has yet to hit the 100-yard mark in a game this season.

New York will have to watch for Kendall Wright, who had 132 yards and a touchdown on seven catches against Houston. Titans tight end Delanie Walker ranks second among AFC tight ends in receiving yards (673) and has 44 catches for four touchdowns. Walker has good speed for his big frame.

Tennessee is rated near the bottom in most offensive categories, but should be able to move the football on a Giants stop unit ranked 19th against the pass, 25th in points allowed and 29th in total yards allowed.

Titans tackles Taylor Lewan (ankle) and Michael Oher (toe) have been limited this week and neither played against the Texans. They’re day-to-day.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Defense will be at a minimum between the Giants and Titans, while a sense of urgency is expected to be through the roof.

New York hasn’t been able to find success in the second half of games recently and no lead is safe. The Giants, though, are a much better team than the Titans and will fight their way to a road win Sunday.

It doesn’t matter who’s at quarterback for the Titans because they have more problems than making calls at the line of scrimmage.

Predicted outcome: Giants 27, Titans 24


►  Brady hopes to continue his mastery over Rivers

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will attempt to bounce back from a rare loss by doing what they usually do, beat the San Diego Chargers and Philip Rivers.

The Patriots have never lost to Rivers and the Chargers with Brady under center, winning five consecutive when the two veteran Pro-Bowlers duel.

Both clubs are currently in the thick of the AFC playoff race. The 9-3 Patriots had their seven-game winning streak snapped last weekend at Green Bay but are still in good position heading into December. By winning out, New England will clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC and secure a first-round bye for the fifth consecutive season.

The 8-4 Chargers, meanwhile, are currently the top wild-card team in the AFC and sit just one game behind Denver for the top spot in the West thanks to answering a three-game mid-season skid with an equally long winning streak, which extended to three with a heart-stopping 34-33 win in Baltimore in Week 13.

Trailing by 10 points with just over six minutes remaining, Rivers led San Diego back and capped the rally with a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Eddie Royal with 38 seconds left in the game.

Rivers completed 34-of-45 passes for 383 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Chargers, who outscored Baltimore by a 21-10 margin in the fourth quarter.

“These are the kind of games you have to win to get into the postseason,“ said Rivers. “And these are the kind of games you’ve got to win if you do get in.“

Keenan Allen caught 11 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns for San Diego while Royal hauled in nine passes for 81 yards.

“The players never gave up and we just kept plugging away,“ said Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “That’s what good teams do. The character of our team once again showed up, and when you’ve got a great quarterback like Philip Rivers, you got a chance to win every game just as long as there’s time left on the clock.“

Brady, on the other hand lost his Week 13 battle against one of the few people on the planet who are actually his peer, Aaron Rodgers.

A-Rod threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns and kept two NFL-record streaks alive in a 26-21 win last Sunday at Lambeau Field as the Packers remained perfect (6-0) at home this season.

Rodgers has now thrown 360 consecutive passed and 31 touchdown passes at Lambeau since his last interception on the field over two years ago, both NFL bests.

Brady was 22-of-35 for 245 yards with two touchdown passes to Brandon LaFell. Rob Gronkowski had seven catches for 98 yards and Brandon Bolden added a 6-yard touchdown run in the loss, New England’s first since falling 41-14 in Kansas City on September 29.

“I just wish we would have won this one,“ Brady said. “We put a lot into this one, and this was a great test for us. I think the guys knew how important this was for our season.“

The Pats are 20-14-2 all-time against San Diego and have won five of six overall. The lone Chargers win in that span came when Matt Cassel was filling in for an injured Brady in 2008.

The two teams haven’t met since 2011, a 35-21 New England win when Brady tossed for 423 yards and three scores. The Patriots haven’t been to San Diego since 2010, a 23-20 Pats win fueled by a Gronkowski TD and three Stephen Gostkowski field goals.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Much like last week with Brady versus Rodgers, all the hype is centering on the QBs because both have been so good for so long.

Brady, however, has always gotten the best of Rivers in the past, winning all five of his starts against the San Diego signal caller while compiling a 91.4 passer rating in those encounters. Conversely, Rivers has managed just five touchdowns with eight interceptions and a less-than-stellar 73.4 passer rating in those games.

Even though the two are never directly playing against each other, Rivers’ lack of success against Brady’s Pats is a narrative that will follow the North Carolina State product until he excels in this kind of environment.

“We’ve never played this Patriot team,“ a terse Rivers said when queried about his lack of success against Brady. “We’re 0-0 against this group. There’s a lot of guys in that locker room that have never played the Patriots in their life.“

Rivers is currently third in the AFC with a 102. 8 passer rating, slightly ahead of Brady’s 101.1, He also has an AFC-best 69.1 completion percentage but is behind Brady in both passing yards (3,243 to 3,218) and TD passes (28 to 25).

“It’s great to have him on our football team,“ McCoy said of Rivers. “He’s been very efficient. He’s done a great job of leading not only the team, but the offense week in and week out.“

However you slice it, both QBs are great. Brady has the best December winning percentage in over 70 years at 45-7 and Rivers is in second with a 30-6 mark.

Since losing to Kansas City to fall to 2-2 on the season, New England is 7-1 and has been scoring well over 30 points per game. Perhaps the biggest contributor to that has been the health of Rob Gronkowski, who is feeling good after a myriad of injuries in recent seasons and has an NFL-best 910 receiving yards for a tight end.

Gronk’s nine TDs, meanwhile, are equal to his counterpart with the Chargers, veteran Antonio Gates, one of the best pass-catching TEs in NFL history.

“Rob has done a good job for us and been on the field a lot, plays in a lot of situations, been productive in the passing game and the running game,“ New England coach Bill Belichick said.

The Pats mentor also had some flattering words for the ageless Gates, who remains one of the tougher matchup problems in the league.

“Gates seems timeless,“ Belichick said. “He’s a hard guy to defend. He’s got great size, athleticism, hands, does a real good job setting up his routes, beating man or zone coverage.“

The x-factor in the game could be the running backs. San Diego is back to leaning on Ryan Mathews, who returned a few weeks ago after missing seven games with a sprained knee. The talented Mathews gives San Diego far more balance and makes opposing defenses pause before putting an extra defensive back on the field.

“It’s great to have him back,“ McCoy said of Mathews. “He’s worked extremely hard to get back where he is today.“

The Pats, meanwhile, brought back LeGarrette Blount two weeks ago after he was released in Pittsburgh and the big man hasn’t missed a beat since he was with the Pats in 2013, averaging 68 yards a game and scoring two TDs.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Belichick is generally ahead of the curve when it comes to the little things that helps a team win.

Instead of flying from Green Bay back to Foxborough and then out to San Diego, the future Hall of Fame coach eliminated the East Coast to West Coast trek which always seems to be an issue by flying directly from Wisconsin to the Southern California.

It’s that kind of attention to detail that sets the Patriots apart and expect them to win a 10th game for the 14th consecutive season on Sunday, the first organization to turn that trick since the San Francisco 49ers reached double digits in every year from 1983-98.

Predicted outcome: Patriots 27, Chargers 20


►  Broncos try to edge closer to another postseason berth

A whole lot has to break their way, but the Denver Broncos could find themselves back in the playoffs by the end of Week 14. The Broncos try to move one step closer to a postseason berth on Sunday when they welcome the Buffalo Bills to Sports Authority Field.

Denver can get back to the postseason for the fourth straight year with a win over the Bills plus losses from Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Kansas City, as well as a loss or tie from Houston. They can also get in under the same scenario if Kansas City ties, as long as San Diego also loses.

Needless to say, the champagne will probably be on ice for another week or so.

Denver’s offense got itself untracked this past Sunday, as Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes and C.J. Anderson shined once again running the ball to help the Broncos to a wire-to-wire 29-16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Manning passed for a season-low 179 yards on 17-of-34 efficiency, but Anderson was the story in Denver’s 11th straight road win against an AFC West foe. The second-year running back out of California rushed for a career-high 168 yards on 32 carries, a week after gashing up Miami’s defense for 167 in a win over the Dolphins.

“I think you need to be able to win different types of football games,“ Manning said. “We wanted to establish the run.“

Anderson’s last two games were the two best rushing performances this season. Montee Ball, who started the season as Denver’s lead back, had a season-high 67 yards in Week 1 and Ronnie Hillman went for 109 yards on October 23.

“I like it,“ Manning said. “We kept the defense on their heels.“

Demaryius Thomas and Anderson caught TD passes and Connor Barth, whom Denver (9-3) signed on Tuesday to replace rookie kicker Brandon McManus, went 5- for-5 on field goals in his debut with the team. McManus was waived after hitting just 3-for-6 over his last five games.

Thomas has posted 88 receptions for 1,255 yards with 10 touchdowns this season to become just the sixth player in NFL history to reach 1,200 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in three consecutive years.

With 145 more receiving yards, Thomas will join Marvin Harrison (4) and Jerry Rice (3) as the only player in league history with three straight seasons totaling at least 1,400 yards receiving and 10 receiving scores.

Manning could have another weapon back at his disposal on Sunday, as tight end Julius Thomas, who leads the NFL with 12 touchdown receptions, could be back after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.

Buffalo also stayed in the AFC playoff hunt on Sunday, as Kyle Orton threw a touchdown pass, Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals in the fourth quarter and the Bills beat the Cleveland Browns, 26-10.

Orton finished 17-of-31 for 190 yards with two interceptions.

Fred Jackson had 70 yards on 21 carries for the Bills (7-5), who returned to Ralph Wilson Stadium after last Sunday’s scheduled home game was played a day later in Detroit after more than six feet of snow fell on the southern reaches of the Buffalo area.

A win on Sunday would give the Bills eight wins in a season for the first time since going 9-7 in 2004. Of course, Buffalo is trying for its first postseason berth since 1999.

After losing five straight in the series Denver has won the last two times it has played Buffalo, but it hasn’t faced the Bills since 2011.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Anderson has certainly made life easier for Manning the past few weeks, posting a league-best 658 yards from scrimmage - 113 more than anyone else - while averaging 5.68 ypc over the last two weeks.

Denver has won its last 11 games when it goes over 100 yards. Conversely, the Broncos have averaged just 37.5 yards on the ground in their three losses.

“I like it,“ Manning said after the win over Kansas City. “We kept the defense on their heels.“

That trend could continue this week, as the Bills have allowed 125.2 ypg on the ground and 4.85 ypc over the past six weeks. They had been one of the stingiest defenses in the league through their first six games when they held opponents to 67.5 yards and 2.79 ypc.

Regardless few teams are better up front than the Bills, who lead the league with 48 sacks. Overall, Buffalo’s D is ranked fifth in the league.

The Buffalo defense will certainly have its hands full against Manning, who leads the league with 36 touchdown passes this season and has thrown one in 51 straight games.

“He’s a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, and I think that says enough right there,“ coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday. “Not to compare the two, but we play against a Hall-of-Fame quarterback twice a year in (Tom) Brady. It’s the same thing. It’s challenging.

“You’ve got to just make sure you try to contain them. Obviously, it’s difficult. You’ve got to switch things up; you can’t keep things the same. If they get hot, then you can get yourself in trouble.“

Denver has averaged 304.4 yards through the air this season, while Buffalo ranks fifth for the season (216.1 yards per game) against the pass and has limited those last six opponents to 163.0

In four of their last six games played, Buffalo has held the opposing quarterback to under 200 yards passing (one of the two games over that mark was Miami with 205 yards in Week 11). A stark contrast to the first six games when each opposing QB passed for over 200 yards.

“In the beginning of the year, we had a couple new fresh faces in the secondary that we had to work with. So we had to get used to working with each other,“ said Buffalo safety Da’Norris Searcy, who had two interceptions in the win over Cleveland. “And now that we’ve been together for 12 games, we know how each other plays so now we just feed off each other. We know where each other is going to be so it makes it easier on the back end. Everybody is holding each other accountable and we’re all out here getting the job done.“

Buffalo’s defense now sits second in the league with 25 takeaways behind Houston and is tied for fourth in interceptions with 15.

Look for the Bills to take a page out of St. Louis’ book in trying to defend Manning. The Rams confused the future Hall of Famer all afternoon back on November 16 by disguising their coverages by waiting until the last possible moment before the snap to show what they actually were doing. By then, Manning had no time to adjust. He wound up throwing two interceptions, and only one touchdown, and finished with a season-low passer rating of 75.3.

“It’s not just one person,“ Marrone said. “That’s the difficult part about it when you play these types of quarterbacks. You go into a game and you want to take somebody away and, next thing you know, you’re getting your butt kicked by a guy that wasn’t as productive the week before or two weeks before.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

In Anderson Denver has found a new way to move the ball and that just makes Manning even more dangerous. The Bills defense certainly gets after the quarterback, but getting to Manning will be tough since he has only been brought down 13 times this season. The Bills secondary has been very good in recent weeks, but, again, Manning isn’t Brian Hoyer. He is going to give the Bills fits, especially if he has Julius Thomas back in the lineup.

Predicted outcome: Denver 35, Buffalo 17


►  Eagles search for statement win against defending champs

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll knows a lot about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Carroll coached Sanchez when the two were at USC and will face his former pupil when the Seahawks visit the Eagles Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I think he’s playing fast,“ Carroll said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence in the system. It’s obviously a system that helps the quarterbacks perform at a high level. The fact that Mark’s come off the bench and performed at a high level is really a statement about the program as well as the players. I think that’s what we’re seeing.“

Sanchez, of course, replaced Nick Foles (broken clavicle) under center in a win at Houston on November 2 and has started the last four games (3-1). The Eagles have won two straight and four of the last five games, and took sole possession of first place with a 33-10 road win over the rival Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Sanchez threw a touchdown pass and ran for another, while LeSean McCoy eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark with a season-high 159 yards and a touchdown on a season-high 25 carries. McCoy has cleared the 100-yard rushing mark in each of the past two games and is making it easier for Sanchez and the pass attack. In his last eight home games, McCoy has rushed for 825 yards and six touchdowns.

McCoy (6,491) needs 48 rushing yards to break Wilbert Montgomery’s team record of 6,538 yards, which he has held since 1984. He ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards (1,018) and second in carries (242).

Jeremy Maclin had eight catches for 108 yards in Dallas and rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews found the end zone for the fifth time in the last five games. Philadelphia amassed 464 yards to Dallas’ 267 and improved to 9-3.

The Eagles will face a much-improved Seattle defense, which is first in total yards allowed (285.8), third in both passing yards (199.4) and points allowed (18.4) and fifth against the rush (86.3). Seahawks talkative, talented and confident cornerback Richard Sherman is arguably the best at his position.

“We certainly have a healthy respect for the fact that (Sherman) is one of the finest corners in the league,“ Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Tuesday, “but I do think we’ve got some good receivers who can go out and match up.“

Shurmer’s offense went just 1-for-5 in the red zone against the Cowboys, so it’s important to come away with touchdowns on Sunday if the opportunity presents itself. The Eagles are fourth in both scoring (31.2) and total yards (416.2) and fifth in passing (286.0).

It will be tough sledding for the Eagles against this defense. The Seahawks have recorded back-to-back 19-3 wins over Arizona and San Francisco, and have won five of their last six games to erase a 3-3 start.

The Seahawks also played on Thanksgiving and recorded a 16-point victory on the road against the 49ers. Sherman picked off two passes and has three this season for the Seahawks, who have allowed just 204 yards the past two weeks.

“Every win is important,“ Sherman said. “This win is no more important than any other win this season.“

Sherman was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Since entering the NFL in 2011, Sherman has 23 interceptions, the most in the league during that span. His 23 picks are the most by a player in his first four seasons in the past 25 years.

Seahawks dangerous running back Marshawn Lynch posted 104 yards on 20 carries and is nearing his fourth straight 1,000-yard season at 956 yards. Lynch should reach that mark easily against Philadelphia’s 12th ranked run defense, which is allowing 107.7 yards per game. However, the Eagles held NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray to a season-low 73 yards.

Lynch has rushed for 253 yards and two touchdowns in two meetings against the Eagles, and needs one touchdown for 10 or more in the last four seasons. The man known as “Beastmode” has 17 TDs in the past 16 games, including the playoffs.

The Seahawks are 8-4 and one game behind Arizona for the NFC West lead. They will try to stop Philadelphia’s 10-game winning streak at home and trail the all-time series, 7-6. Seattle has won three of the last four meetings between the teams and is 2-0 at Lincoln Financial Field.

In a 31-14 Seahawks victory at home on December 1, 2011, Lynch ran for 148 yards and two scores and the defense recorded four interceptions. Seattle is unbeaten in its last three trips to the City of Brotherly Love.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Besides trying to contain Lynch, the Eagles have another challenge in Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson has a strong arm and can run, two perfect traits for Carroll’s offense. He is second on the team in rushing with 679 yards and threw for 236 yards and a TD against the 49ers.

Wilson hasn’t thrown an interception in the each of the past three games and is focused on keeping the Seahawks in control of their own destiny. If the Seahawks win out they’ll capture a second straight NFC West title. They will play the Cardinals on the road December 21.

“We want to keep building and keep growing,“ said Wilson, who is 8-2 in the month of December. “We’re going in the right direction. We have a lot more left and a lot more to do. It’s one game at a time, one practice at a time, one day at a time, one step at a time. We’re looking forward to that.“

Wilson makes plays with his ability to escape the rush and has great pocket awareness. When he’s scrambling for an open receiver, defenses tend to break down and fall behind.

Unless you live in or are from the Emerald City, Seattle’s receivers are not a household name. But that doesn’t mean the Eagles can take them for granted. Doug Baldwin (519 yards, 2 TD) leads the team in yards and catches with 48. Jermaine Kearse (414 yards, TD), Luke Willson (190 yards, TD) and Robert Turbin (159 yards, 2 TD) match up well with Philadelphia’s secondary, which is allowing 258.6 yards this season.

For how poorly the Eagles’ defensive backfield has been, it’s playing better in recent weeks. Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Fletcher Bradley can make it easy on the defense if they shut down Seattle’s pass attack. Lynch leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and is dangerous on screens.

The Eagles will need to apply pressure up front and not let Wilson out of their sights. Wilson has been sacked a lot this season because of his elusiveness and went down seven times against Arizona and four more times in San Francisco. He has been sacked at least twice in each of the last four games.

Philadelphia is second in the league with 42.0 sacks and linebacker Connor Barwin is second with 12 1/2. Barwin was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Month and posted 6 1/2 sacks, 24 tackles and a forced fumble in five November games. Barwin is the first Eagle to be named NFC Defensive Player of the Month since former safety Brian Dawkins won the award in December of 2008.

Barwin has 10 1/2 sacks in the past four games at home and will be one of 11 guys focused on stopping Lynch.

“He’s not just power,“ Barwin said. “He is a complete player. You have to account for him in every phase of the game. He will make you miss, too. He really does it all.“

Eagles defensive back Nolan Carroll said Lynch’s feet are always moving after contact, so it’s important to get him down immediately.

“Watching him on film, you can tell that he runs hard, but when you feel that first pop, and it kind of goes through your entire body, then you know he’s really running hard,“ Carroll explained.

Lynch has an NFL-best 1,113 yards rushing since 2011. McCoy is right behind Lynch with 1,029 yards on the ground.

The Eagles are hoping linebacker Emmanuel Acho will return from a groin injury to stabilize Philly’s defense. Casey Matthews did an admirable job as his replacement, but Acho is more talented. Defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan, and linebackers Trent Cole and Brandon Graham have to cover tight and apply pressure so the secondary doesn’t get buried.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It’s tough for a team to make a cross-country flight and have enough energy to burn on the field. The Seahawks, though, are a different breed and things are beginning to click for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Seattle faces a daunting task in south Philly and can change the playoff landscape with a victory. In what should be a low-scoring affair, which features two of the league’s top running backs, the Seahawks have their sights set on another NFC West title and will move closer to that goal.

“You just want to keep winning, one game at a time,“ Wilson said. “Go 1-0 every week and have a championship mindset. You just want to keep building, one week at a time.“

Seattle’s championship mindset has accrued 28 wins in the last 36 regular season games.

Predicted outcome: Seahawks 24, Eagles 20



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Two minute warning - Week 14

The truth of the matter is that at this time of the year, no football player is 100-percent healthy and everyone is feeling some pain.

However, the list below is of those players where it may effect their production and therefor your fantasy lineup.

The weather in Week 14 is once again not going to play a major factor. There is a slight chance of precipitation in Minnesota, but that’s about it for rain or snow. And it will be a little windy in the northeast and down in Florida.

Here is the latest information as we approach game-time. We will continue to update this story as the information changes all the way up to the kickoff.


Quarterbacks -

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh - Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who is usually on top of things, earlier this week said “Big Ben” had a broken bone in his wrist, but the team and the quarterback refuted the story. He practiced Thursday and Friday after taking Wednesday off. Start him as always.

Philip Rivers, San Diego - Like everyone else, Rivers has taken a few big hits, but he’ll be out there Sunday against the Patriots and has played very well at home (109.9 QB rating).

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville - The rookie is dealing with shoulder and ankle issues, but practiced this week and will play. However, the quarterback is turnover-prone and facing J.J. Watt and the Texans is not a very good option.

Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee - Another quarterback with a shoulder issue and he was limited in practice this week. He does face a below-average Giants’ pass defense, but without Justin Hunter any possibly Kendall Wright there are better fantasy options out there.

Brian Hoyer, Cleveland - Hoyer got the nod for Week 14, but could be on a short leash after throwing six interceptions over the past 15 quarters. Johnny Manziel is waiting in the wings.


Running Backs -

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle - Lynch was a full participant in Friday’s practice. He is dealing with a sore back, but there is no way he misses this big matchup with the Eagles and the Seahawks fighting for their playoff lives. He’s a must start.

Arian Foster, Houston - Foster (groin) practiced and is in line to return for Week 14. He’s a must start against a Jaguars’ defense that is yielding almost 130 ypg on the ground.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore - Forsett (knee) returned to a limited practice Friday and is expected to play Sunday, though his fantasy owners should check back here when inactives are announced for verification.

Andre Ellington, Arizona - Ellington (hip) has already been ruled out for Sunday. Stepfan Taylor figures to get the bulk of the rushing attempts with Marion Grice working as the third-down back. Michael Bush is a wildcard and could hurt Taylor with red zone carries.

Khiry Robinson, New Orleans - Robinson is expected to play for the first time since Week 7. Things have changed since he left and Mark Ingram is the workhorse. Robinson may steal a few carries, but isn’t going to have any fantasy value.

Shane Vereen, New England - Vereen is dealing with an ankle issue and is listed as questionable. Also questionable is his rushing workload which has been non-existent since the return of LeGarrette Blount.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants - Jennings has said he would play and made the trip to Tennessee, but he’s certainly not going to be anywhere near 100%. It’s a juicy matchup, but we’re not sure he can take advantage of the situation. It’s more likely a 50-50 split with uninspiring rookie Andre Williams.

C.J. Anderson, Denver - His ankle issue won’t keep him out of the lineup and his 335 yards over the past two games makes him a must start for every fantasy owner that has him on their roster.

Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland - A hip issue has been bothering him, but we expect him to play in Week 14. He was disappointing at Buffalo, but gets a much better matchup against the Colts this Sunday.

Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota - He’s out. Matt Asiata figures to get the bulk of the work with Ben Tate sprinkled in. Asiata is fantasy worthy.

Latavius Murray, Oakland - Murray passed his concussion tests. Now he just has to convince his coaches that he’s the guy to have out there. We’re convinced that the team has no reason to keep playing over-the-hill veterans Darren McFadden or Maurice Jones-Drew, so make Murray a low-end option, if needed, despite playing a tough 49ers defense.

Reggie Bush, Detroit - Bush is the Lions “starting” running back, but Joique Bell will continue to get the between-the-tackles work. We have no faith in Bush’s ability to post decent fantasy numbers.


Wide Receivers -

Demaryius Thomas, Denver - Thomas bruised an ankle Wednesday and was limited in Friday’s practice, but even at less than 100% is one of the best receivers in the league. No way you leave him on the bench in the fantasy playoffs.

DeSean Jackson, Washington - Most sources believe he’ll sit on Sunday and we agree. Jackson (shin) didn’t practice all week and if he can’t run full speed his value is greatly diminished. He’ll be a game-time decision, but be prepared to use your backup plan.

Julian Edelman, New England - Edelman has a thigh injury, but is expected to play and see his normal amount of targets.

Brandon LaFell, New England - LaFell took a blow to his shoulder, but is expected to play Sunday and has been a solid red zone option, with seven touchdowns, for Tom Brady.

Roddy White, Atlanta - White was limited in practice Saturday, but the extra day should help. The Falcons will need him if they are to keep pace with the high-powered Green Bay offense. It’s the Monday night game, however, which doesn’t leave many options if he can’t go.

Kendall Wright, Tennessee - Wright cracked a bone in his right hand in Wednesday’s practice and Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, who is usually on top of things in Tennessee, doesn’t expect him to play. That’s good enough for us. With Justin Hunter also sidelined, think Nate Washington.

Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona - He should be available Sunday, but he’ll be a true game-time decision. He’s been inconsistent this season and can’t be trusted in a playoff situation against a solid Chiefs’ secondary.


Tight Ends -

Julius Thomas, Denver - The late start and Thomas’ questionable ankle make this one of the toughest decisions in Week 14. Thomas has missed the last two games and will be a game-time decision.

Greg Olsen, Carolina - Olsen has been a solid option this season despite the Panthers’ failures and his current knee injury shouldn’t keep him from playing Sunday. Start him as always.

Jordan Cameron, Cleveland - A Friday night tweet from Cameron (concussion) indicated that he would play this weekend. He’d be a very high-risk play for fantasy owners given his situation.


Kickers -

Cody Parkey, Philadelphia - He’s been dealing with a groin injury, but that hasn’t stopped him from going 9-of-10 over the past two games. Keep starting him.

Dan Carpenter, Buffalo - He’s another kicker dealing with a groin injury, but will play Sunday. The light air in Denver should give him added distance.


►  Frank Gore: start him or sit him?

Back in Week 3 of the NFL season, I wrote a column giving my input on whether to start or sit San Francisco 49ers’ running back Frank Gore against the Arizona Cardinals.

My advice was to leave him on all benches, and after a six carry for 10 yard- performance, I hope fantasy owners listened.

Now, heading into Week 14, and likely the first week of the fantasy football playoffs, Gore has been in a slump.

Over the past two games, San Francisco’s starting tailback has accumulated 23 carries for only 64 combined yards, along with just one reception for eight yards. On top of that, Gore has essentially struggled all season long, rushing for over 100 yards two times, and recording only three touchdowns in 2014.

So, for fantasy owners getting ready for a do-or-die matchup, it seems pretty obvious, the play is to sit Gore.

Not so fast.

San Francisco’s upcoming opponent, the Oakland Raiders, need no introduction. Not only is this one-win team coming off a 52-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams, they also are giving up the most fantasy points (according to Yahoo) to opposing running backs, allowing 24.1 points per game.

My advice this week, is to go with the tailback who is facing the Raiders.

During Week 13, Mason added to Oakland’s miseries, scoring 34.4 fantasy points, the most the Raiders have allowed all season. I like for that trend to continue this week for Gore.

While he may not produce three touchdowns, like Mason did, Gore still has the potential to bust out of his funk. The 49ers will be fighting for their playoff lives, and they would be foolish not to attempt to get the running game going, after what they saw St. Louis do last week.

For fantasy owners who own Gore, and have the option to use him at the FLEX position, I feel that is a no-brainer to start him there.

Now, for owners who are deciding if they should start him at the RB2 position, that is definitely a little tougher, but I say roll with Gore. He is due for a big week, and with games against the Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, and Arizona Cardinals to close out the season, Sunday could be Gore’s last chance to put up big numbers.


►  Leap of Faith

The Indiana state bird is the cardinal, but for the rest of this season, it might as well be the heron.

Since Ahmad Bradshaw broke his leg in Week 11, fantasy owners have been without a running back, who through 10 games, led the Colts in rushing and was tied for third in the league with 38 receptions. Bradshaw still leads all running backs with six receiving touchdowns.

At this point in the season, it is near impossible to replace that kind of production. Indianapolis is having a hard time replacing him too as Trent Richardson continues to struggle, averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season.

Therefore, it seems possible Daniel Herron, with two R’s, takes over the backfield in Indianapolis.

Heron and Herron are very different of course ... one is a good luck charm with long legs and a protective snout who sometimes wears blue and the other ... is a heron.

I don’t actually know if Herron is a good luck charm, but I do know Herron has set a career-high in rushing yards each of the last two weeks. The 25-year-old rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries two weeks ago and then gained 88 yards on the ground last Sunday on eight carries.

It is a small sample size, but in Herron’s last 20 carries, he has rushed for 153 yards and added a touchdown against Washington. Over the same two games, Richardson has nearly the same amount of carries, 21, and gained about one- third of the yards, 54.

If there are owners planning on starting Richardson for the fantasy playoffs in Week 14, it is a no brainer to pick up Herron and start him instead. He is still available in 42% of Yahoo leagues.

For owners without Richardson, is it an option to plug Herron into a RB2 or FLEX slot?

During the playoffs, it would take a pretty big leap of faith to do that because again, the sample size just isn’t very big on Herron. In his prior two NFL seasons, he has never had more than eight carries in a season let alone in one game.

That being said, Herron’s matchups are favorable as the Colts face four teams ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards allowed. This week’s matchup against the Browns is particularly friendly as they are 29th against the run. Despite Indianapolis being a pass first team, Andrew Luck and company should take advantage of that weakness.

In addition, if the Colts do get pass happy on offense, Herron is a better pass catcher than Richardson. In the last two weeks, Herron has seven catches for 39 yards while Richardson has just one target.

If owners have the guts to roll with Herron in their lineup for Week 14, more power to them. More than likely, he is a good plug-in replacement for someone missing a running back such as Andre Ellington. At the very least, Herron is a player owners should stash away on the bench.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Women’s Basketball Roundup – 12.06.14

Urbana 99, West Liberty 94 (OT) | Final Stats
—Jeni Jordan scored 18 of Urbana’s 20 points in overtime as the Blue Knights stunned No. 24 West Liberty, 99-94.

Jordan finished with 26 points in the game. Kate Francisco led Urbana (1-6, 1-3) with 31 points. Kennedy Boggs scored 10 and Katy Barkley pulled down 10 rebounds.

Jasmin Kiley led WLU (5-2, 3-1) with 22 points. Liz Flowers added 19 for the ‘Toppers who played without Hillary Southworth. Jenn Mohney led all players with 12 rebounds.

Shepherd 80, Charleston 76 | Final Stats
—Shepherd remained unbeaten in MEC play with an 80-76 road win over Charleston.

Alex Weakland led the Rams (6-2, 4-0) with 18 points. Cara Mason had 15 and dished out nine assists, and Liz Myers added 15.

Kayla Dozier led UC (5-2, 2-2) with 16 points. Monet Saunders had 11 points and Kiara Johnson had 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.

Glenville State 94, UVa-Wise 81 | Final Stats
—Glenville State’s Keyanna Tate scored 30 points as the Pioneers broke open a close game at the half and won 94-81 over UVa-Wise.

In addition to 30 points, Tate also had eight rebounds for GSC (2-3, 2-2). Briauna Nix had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Angenay Williams chipped in 13 points. The Pioneers forced 30 turnovers in the game.

Kayla Carey scored 23 and had 20 rebounds for the Cavs (3-4, 3-1). Katie Jo Dockery netted 22 and Blair Harding had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame 78, Wheeling Jesuit 73 | Final Stats
—Notre Dame outscored Wheeling Jesuit 9-4 in the game’s final two minutes which proved to be the difference in a 78-73 win over the Cardinals.

Martha Nagbe poured in 33 points and added eight rebounds to lead NDC (3-4, 2-2). Molly Ritz scored 11 and Lauren Langenderfer added 10 for the Falcons.

Jaila Bryant and Emily Robinson each scored 19 for Wheeling Jesuit (3-2, 1-2). 

Fairmont State 70, West Virginia State | Final Stats
—Fairmont State erased a three-point halftime deficit and outscored West Virginia State 42-24 in the second half on its way to a 70-55 win over the Yellow Jackets.

Emily Lohr had a double-double for Fairmont State (7-2, 2-2) with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Emily Puskarich had 19 and Hailey Garrett contributed 10.

West Virginia State (2-5, 0-3) was led by Ashley Current who scored 15 points and added nine rebounds.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  No. 24 WVU women roll past Coppin State 83-43

Averee Fields and Lanay Montgomery recorded double-doubles and Bria Holmes scored 20 points as No. 24 West Virginia crushed Coppin State 83-43 in women’s basketball action.

The Mountaineers (6-1) shot 50 percent, dominated the boards and plucked 16 steals, which added up to their 13th consecutive home win.

“I thought we got any shot we wanted,” said Mountaineers coach Mike Carey. “We weren’t shooting well, but I thought Linda Stepney played extremely hard. I thought Lanay Montgomery played extremely hard. I thought Bria Holmes played hard. I thought Averee (Fields) played hard and I thought that Crystal Leary played hard. The problem is that I need to find about two or three more that play hard.”

Fields finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Montgomery added 12 rebounds and 10 points, while tying a career-best with five blocks.

Holmes grabbed seven rebounds, collected five steals and handed out four assists.

Freshman Teana Muldrow scored 10 points, and point guard Linda Stepney added eight points, even assists and six rebounds.

Coppin State (1-6) was no match, being outscored 54-16 in the paint. Tanaysa Henderson scored 13 and Bria Harris had 10 for the Eagles, who trailed 41-16 at the half and shot only 26 percent overall.


►  After being stunned by LSU’s comeback, No. 16 West Virginia aims to rebound as it visits mid-major

No. 16 West Virginia, fresh off a come-from-ahead loss to LSU, makes a curious nonconference stop on Sunday night.

At Northern Kentucky. Home of the Norse, of course.

If you haven’t heard of them, it could be because this is only the program’s third season in Division I. If the namerings a bell, it could be because back in 2011 the Norse waylaid West Virginia 77-74 in an exhibition stunner.

Tonight’s game is slated for a 6 PM tip on ESPN3 inside the Bank of Kentucky Center, a 9,400-seat like-new arena that shows NKU’s commitment to basketball.

Bob Huggins would like to see West Virginia (7-1) commit itself to making more shots in the paint after countless point-blank misses proved costly in the 74-73 loss to LSU. He noticed several defensive failings too, even though West Virginia forced 24 turnovers to remain the national leader in that category.

The fallout from that defeat, in which WVU blew a 14-point second-half lead, saw point guard Juwan Staten shouldering blame and vowing to refocus his teammates. That resonated with newcomers like freshman guard Daxter Miles, whose hustling tip-in off a missed free throw had given WVU a late lead.

“Many more (games) to come,” Miles said. “Of course we’re mad about the loss but we have to bounce back and practice hard. We’re not trying to let this happen again. This is definitely a learning process for us.”

Here’s our three-point scouting report on Northern Kentucky (3-4), where the process continues.

1) Multiple Kentucky connections: Three reasons explain why the Mountaineers are traveling to face an Atlantic Sun team—Northern Kentucky assistant Kevin Schappell, NKU guard Anthony Monaco and Mountaineers forward Devin Williams.

Schappell was a graduate assistant under Huggins from 2008 to 2010, a span during which West Virginia reached a Sweet 16 and a Final Four. Monaco is Huggins’ nephew (and a decent 3-point threat at 43 percent). Williams grew up in Cincinnati, right across the Ohio River.

NKU will repay West Virginia with two future games in Morgantown.

2) Flattened by the big boys: The Norse, picked fifth in the A-Sun preseason poll, have played two ranked teams this season, losing 62-31 at No. 3 Wisconsin and 80-61 at then-No. 21 Nebraska. NKU was out-rebounded 42-28 by the Badgers, struggled through 26-percent shooting and drew only nine fouls.

NKU also fell 81-60 at Eastern Washington and, most recently, lost 71-56 at home Wednesday to UT-Martin. The victories came at Idaho (79-74), vs. North Carolina A&T (68-55) and vs. D-II Ohio Mid+Western (98-48).

3) Persons of interest: In an oddity, freshman point guard Tayler Persons leads the Norse in scoring (11.3), assists, (3.1), steals (1.3) and rebounds (4.6). The former Indiana high school all-star should get an eyeful of long, aggressive West Virginia defenders trapping him tonight.

With no player taller than 6-foot-7, Northern Kentucky is a guard-oriented roster that figures to have trouble keeping WVU off the glass. With coach Dave Bezold still feeling out his lineup, 10 players have started games this season.

Prediction: West Virginia 72-53



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, December 06)


Final Score: (2) Wisconsin 49, Marquette 38

Frank Kaminsky scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, leading second-ranked Wisconsin to a 49-38 victory over Marquette on Saturday at the Bradley Center. Josh Gasser hit four 3-pointers and added 12 points for the Badgers (8-1), who bounced back from an 80-70 home loss to fourth-ranked Duke on Wednesday. Wisconsin beat its state rival for the second straight year and won for the fourth time in the last six meetings. Matt Carlino provided most of the offense for Marquette (4-4) with 18 points. The Eagles shot just 28.9 percent and fell to 0-3 against ranked opposition this season. Marquette also lost to Ohio State and Michigan State last month.


Final Score: (3) Arizona 66, (9) Gonzaga 63

Arizona’s winning streak at McKale Center survived a stiff test from Gonzaga, as the third-ranked Wildcats stole a 66-63 win in overtime from the No. 9 Bulldogs in a battle of unbeatens. These programs matched up in the NCAA Tournament in March, and Saturday’s top-10 showdown oozed that madness feel, albeit with a pro-Arizona crowd on hand. The Wildcats (8-0) trailed most of the day, but a Brandon Ashley jumper late in regulation forced overtime. T.J. McConnell scored six of his 12 points in the extra session, and Arizona won its 26th straight on its home floor. Gonzaga (7-1) committed five turnovers in OT but still had a chance to pull even after Elliott Pitts fouled Byron Wesley shooting a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining. Wesley, though, airballed his first attempt and missed the next two to end the Bulldogs’ chance at an upset. Ashley finished with 14 points, while Stanley Johnson and Kaleb Tarczewski netted 11 apiece for the Wildcats. Kyle Wiltjer paced Gonzaga with 15 points, and Przemek Karnowski recorded a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds in a losing cause.


Final Score: (7) Virginia 74, VCU 57

Justin Anderson’s status heading into Saturday’s game was questionable. He appeared fine on the court, however, and his performance spearheaded seventh-ranked Virginia’s 74-57 win over VCU. Anderson, who sprained his left ankle in Wednesday’s win over No. 21 Maryland, missed the two days of practice leading up to the game, then scored 21 points with eight rebounds to lead the Cavs. Anthony Gill supplied 18 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 15 for Virginia (9-0), which has won 11 of its 13 all-time meetings with the Rams. Treveon Graham did all he could late for VCU (5-3), but his team-high 17 points was not enough to slow down Anderson and company. Melvin Johnson was the only other Ram in double figures with 15 points.


Final Score: (8) Wichita State 81, Saint Louis 52

Ron Baker scored 18 points to lead No. 8 Wichita State to an 81-52 drubbing of Saint Louis on Saturday. Evan Wessel and Rauno Nurger each chipped in with 15 points for the Shockers (5-1), who responded from a 69-68 overtime loss to 25th-ranked Utah earlier in the week that snapped a 35-game regular-season winning streak. Wichita State shot 54 percent from the floor and had a 32-10 edge in the paint. The Billikens (5-3), meanwhile, lost their fifth straight game against a ranked opponent. Austin Gillmann led them with nine points off the bench.


Final Score: (10) Villanova 74, Saint Joseph’s 46

Josh Hart scored 12 points with eight rebounds as 10th-ranked Villanova cruised to a 74-46 win over Saint Joseph’s on Saturday. Darrun Hilliard and Phil Booth each had 11 points for the Wildcats (8-0), who never trailed en route to extending their Big 5 winning streak to eight games. Ten Villanova players scored at least two points as head coach Jay Wright went deep into his bench, which nearly outscored the Hawks by itself. The Wildcats’ reserves combined to contribute 40 points. DeAndre’ Bembry led Saint Joseph’s (4-4) with 13 points and Chris Wilson and Brendan Casper scored nine apiece.


Final Score: (14) Ohio State 70, Colgate 50

D’Angelo Russell scored 19 points to lead No. 14 Ohio State in a 70-50 rout of Colgate on Saturday. Marc Loving posted 17 points and five rebounds while Kam Williams gave 11 points for the Buckeyes (6-1), who bounced back from a loss at Louisville on Tuesday. Ethan Jacobs scored 18 points with five rebounds and Damon Sherman-Newsome scored 12 points with four boards for the Raiders (1-7), who have dropped five straight.


Final Score: Green Bay 68, (15) Miami-Florida 55

Carrington Love posted career-highs of 20 points and nine rebounds, helping Green Bay beat 15th-ranked Miami-Florida 68-55 on Saturday. Keifer Sykes scored 18 points with seven boards for the Phoenix (6-2), who held the Hurricanes to 32.8 percent shooting. Deandre Burnett paced Miami (8-1) with a personal-best 21 points. Sheldon McClellan finished with 16 points and eight rebounds and Angel Rodriguez added 12 points but shot 2-of-15 from the floor.


Final Score: NJIT 72, (17) Michigan 70

The New Jersey Institute of Technology is the only independent program in Division I men’s basketball. The power conferences aren’t going to want to schedule the Highlanders any time soon. Just ask Michigan. Damon Lynn scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half, as NJIT pulled off a stunning 72-70 win over the 17th-ranked Wolverines on Saturday at Crisler Center. Ky Howard and Winfield Willis each chipped in 17 points for the Highlanders (3-5), who played a top-25 team for the first time since joining the Division I ranks in 2006-07. Caris Levert tried to keep Michigan in the game with a career-high 32 points, connecting on 6-of-8 from 3-point range, but the Wolverines (6-2) came up short and had a two- game win streak stopped.


Final Score: (19) Michigan State 85, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 52

Travis Trice and Matt Costello each scored 15 points as No. 19 Michigan State thumped Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 85-52, on Saturday. Branden Dawson scored 12 points with seven rebounds and Bryn Forbes added 12 points for the Spartans (6-3), who were coming off back- to-back losses, including a one-point overtime setback to Notre Dame on Wednesday. Marcel Mosley had 19 points and Ghiavonnie Robinson added 13 for the Golden Lions (1-7), who have dropped their past five games.


Final Score: (21) Maryland 82, Winthrop 62

Jake Layman scored 21 points and Richaud Pack added 16, leading 21st-ranked Maryland to an 82-62 victory over Winthrop on Saturday. Melo Trimble contributed 16 points with seven assists and five rebounds for the Terrapins (8-1), who bounced back with a solid effort after suffering their first loss of the season on Wednesday at former conference rival Virginia. Jared Nickens chipped in 12 points, while Damonte Dodd finished with nine and 10 rebounds in the victory. Maryland shot 47.8 percent and made an efficient 29-of-35 free throws. Keon Moore scored 20 points and Keon Johnson added 18 for Winthrop (3-4), which has lost two straight and four of its last five.


Final Score: (23) Butler 65, Northwestern 56

Kellen Dunham had 19 points, Roosevelt Jones scored 12 and No. 23 Butler pulled away for a 65-56 victory over Northwestern on Saturday. Alex Barlow and Tyler Wideman each scored eight points for the Bulldogs (7-1), who have won three games in a row. Kameron Woods added seven points and nine rebounds. Bryant McIntosh led Northwestern with 12 points, followed by Alex Olah with 11. The Wildcats (5-3) suffered their third straight loss after a 5-0 start.


Final Score: (24) Illinois 70, American 55

Malcolm Hill posted 13 points as a balanced No. 24 Illinois used a first-half surge to dispatch American, 70-55, on Saturday. Rayvonte Rice contributed 10 points for the Illini (7-1), with Jaylon Tate and Maverick Morgan totaling eight apiece. Pee Wee Gardner picked up a game-high 16 points for the Eagles (5-4). Jesse Reed had 13 points and John Schoof poured in 12.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Saturday, December 06)


Final Score: Philadelphia 108, Detroit 101 (OT)

Robert Covington scored 25 points off the bench to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 108-101 overtime win on Saturday. Michael Carter-Williams had 20 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds and Luc Mbah a Moute added 14 points with 11 rebounds for the Sixers, who have won two of their last three since opening the season 0-17. Meanwhile, Detroit has taken the dubious distinction of basketball’s longest losing streak as it dropped an 11th straight game. The Pistons have not won since a Nov. 14 decision over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Josh Smith totaled 23 points with eight rebounds and Kyle Singler added 21 in the setback.


Final Score: Golden State 112, Chicago 102

Stephen Curry continued his shooting struggles at United Center, but Draymond Green picked up the slack. Green scored a career-high 31 points and stuffed the stat sheet as the Golden State Warriors pulled out a 112-102 road win over the Chicago Bulls to extend a franchise-best win streak to 12 games. Green made seven 3-pointers as part of an 11-for-20 shooting performance while also contributing seven rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Klay Thompson added 24 points and Curry scored 19 for the Warriors, who haven’t lost since a home setback to San Antonio on Nov. 11. Curry handed out a game-high seven assists but shot just 5-for-14 from the field in his first career win against the Bulls in Chicago. He hit a combined 19-for-55 in four previous losses. Jimmy Butler’s 24 points and Pau Gasol’s 22-point, 20-rebound effort weren’t enough for Chicago, which fell to 2-5 at home this season.


Final Score: Houston 100, Phoenix 95

Patrick Beverley returned from a hamstring injury to give the Rockets a big lift, scoring 19 points in Houston’s 100-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Beverley, who had missed Houston’s last five games, knocked down 5-of-8 attempts from 3-point range and added six rebounds off the bench. Trevor Ariza also had 19 points in a game the Rockets led from start-to-finish en route to their seventh win in eight outings. James Harden offset a 5-of-21 shooting night by posting 12 rebounds and seven assists. He finished with 15 points, while Donatas Motiejunas had 16 along with 11 rebounds. Phoenix received 23 points from Eric Bledsoe and 16 from sixth man Gerald Green, but couldn’t overcome a slow start and build off Friday’s 118-106 win at Dallas.


Final Score: San Antonio 123, Minnesota 101

Marco Belinelli led seven Spurs in double figures with 20 points as San Antonio cruised past the Minnesota Timberwolves, 123-101, on Saturday. The Spurs shot a scorching 57.3 percent from the field even though Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker took the night off. Tim Duncan recorded 13 points and 10 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph netted 18 points apiece and Boris Diaw scored 17 points off the bench in San Antonio’s 10th win in its last 11 games. Zach LaVine led Minnesota with 22 points and a career-high 10 assists, while Shabazz Muhammad chipped in 20 points in the club’s fifth straight setback.


Final Score: Orlando 105, Sacramento 96

Tobias Harris scored 27 points and the Orlando Magic took down the Sacramento Kings, 105-96. Victor Oladipo added 16 points and seven assists and Evan Fournier scored 15 for Orlando, which finished a six-game road trip with a 3-3 record. Darren Collison had 22 for the Kings, losers in five of their last six games.


Final Score: LA Clippers 120, New Orleans 100

Blake Griffin had 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the Los Angeles Clippers’ 120-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Griffin went over 7,000 points for his career on Saturday. He came into the game needing 12 to hit the mark. J.J. Redick made five 3-pointers en route to 21 points for the Clippers, who have won seven in a row. Jamal Crawford tallied 20 points and Chris Paul donated 18 points and 16 assists. Anthony Davis ended with 26 points for the Pelicans, who have dropped two straight and five of six. Omer Asik had 10 points and 10 rebounds.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Saturday, December 06)


Final Score: Pittsburgh 3, Ottawa 2

Christian Ehrhoff scored with 1:50 remaining to snap a tie and lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter also scored for the Penguins, who bounced back from a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Vancouver on Thursday and won for the third time in their last four games. Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves in the victory. Milan Michalek and Mika Zibanejad scored second-period goals for Ottawa, which has lost five in a row and seven of its last eight. Craig Anderson stopped 30 shots in defeat, but had little chance on Ehrhoff’s winner. The Penguins worked for the puck deep and Sidney Crosby emerged with it along the left boards. He backhanded a cross-ice pass to an unchecked Ehrhoff, who moved into the right circle alone and blasted a shot from the dot into the upper right corner of the net for his second goal of the season.


Final Score: St. Louis 6, NY Islanders 4

Martin Brodeur picked up his 689th career win and his first as a member of a team other than the New Jersey Devils. Subbing for an ineffective Jake Allen, Brodeur came up with 14 saves on 15 shots through the game’s final two periods as the St. Louis Blues rallied from three goals down to claim a 6-4 victory over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. T.J. Oshie began a three-goal final stanza with a power-play marker, while Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko added late scores for the Blues, who had lost back-to-back divisional road games. Allen gave up three goals on 12 shots in the first period. Frans Nielsen, Ryan Strome, Michael Grabner and John Tavares supplied offense for the Islanders, who had won their previous three contests. Jaroslav Halak was on the hook for all six goals on 40 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Philadelphia 2, Los Angeles 1

Steve Mason stopped 37-of-38 shots to help the Philadelphia Flyers steal two points from the Los Angeles Kings in a 2-1 victory Saturday at Staples Center. Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds tallied for the Flyers, who finished the California portion of their five- game, cross-continent road trip at 1-1-1. Philadelphia, which completes its travels on Tuesday in Columbus, also snapped a season-high six-game losing skid. Justin Williams registered the lone goal and Jonathan Quick made only 14 saves for the Kings, who had blanked Boston, Arizona and Minnesota in their last three victories.


Final Score: Toronto 5, Vancouver 2

Jake Gardiner and Richard Panik scored 45 seconds apart late in the first period and Jonathan Bernier made 44 saves, as Toronto raced out to a four-goal lead then held on to beat Vancouver, 5-2, from Air Canada Centre. Peter Holland and Joffrey Lupul tallied early in the second to complete the burst and David Clarkson added a late marker for the Maple Leafs, who have won five of their last seven. Daniel Sedin and Christopher Tanev provided offense for the Canucks, who had recorded road wins against Pittsburgh and Washington but fell to 3-2 on their seven-game road trip. Ryan Miller was pulled after giving up four goals on 14 shots in almost 26 minutes. Eddie Lack finished up by halting all 13 Toronto chances for the remainder of the contest.


Final Score: Detroit 3, NY Rangers 2

Darren Helm recorded the tie-breaking goal 7:40 into the third period as the surging Detroit Red Wings rallied for a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings trailed 2-0 deep into the second period before getting goals from Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening just over a minute apart. Jimmy Howard stoned the Rangers over the final two frames, finishing with 26 saves in Detroit’s sixth win in seven games. Cam Talbot stopped 31-of-34 shots for New York, which received early tallies from Kevin Klein and Rick Nash in its second straight loss.


Final Score: Columbus 3, Tampa Bay 1

Sergei Bobrovsky made 33 saves and the Columbus Blue Jackets topped the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 on Saturday. Boone Jenner and David Savard scored first-period goals for the Blue Jackets, who have won three straight games on the heels of a six-game slide. Jack Skille padded the lead in the third, and Bobrovsky stopped 33-of-34 shots he faced to help secure the win. Ondrej Palat spoiled Bobrovsky’s shutout with 1:13 left in the game, but it wasn’t enough for Tampa Bay, which had won five of six. Ben Bishop yielded all three goals on 20 shots.


Final Score: Florida 3, Buffalo 2

Nick Bjugstad scored the eventual game- winner in the closing seconds of the second period as the Florida Panthers downed the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, on Saturday. Brad Boyes and Tomas Kopecky also scored, and Aaron Ekblad assisted on all three of Florida’s goals in the club’s fifth straight win over Buffalo. Roberto Luongo, who shut the Sabres out on Oct. 17, stopped 26-of-28 shots, while Michal Neuvirth’s 34-save effort went for naught. Drew Stafford and Brian Gionta accounted for Buffalo’s offense.


Final Score: Washington 4, New Jersey 1

Jay Beagle scored the winner in the second period as the Washington Capitals grabbed a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Brooks Laich posted a goal and an assist while Karl Alzner and Evgeny Kuznetsov also lit the lamp for the Capitals, who have won their past two. Braden Holtby stopped 33 shots. Patrik Elias had the only goal while Cory Schneider allowed three goals on 28 shots for the Devils, who have lost six of their last seven.


Final Score: Chicago 3, Nashville 1

Marian Hossa scored two goals and the Chicago Blackhawks ended the Nashville Predators’ seven-game home winning streak with a 3-1 win on Saturday. Brandon Saad had one goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who have won six in a row. Scott Darling made 32 saves. Chicago moved ahead of Nashville for the Central Division lead. Colin Wilson scored the lone goal for the Predators, who fell to 11-2-1 at home this season. Pekka Rinne stopped 28-of-30 shots.


Final Score: Dallas 4, Montreal 1

Tyler Seguin finished with two goals and an assist to lead the Dallas Stars to a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt also scored, Jamie Benn assisted on both Seguin markers and Kari Lehtonen turned aside 16-of-17 shots for the Stars, who ended a four-game skid. Seguin leads the league with 21 goals and 35 points this season. Sven Andrighetto scored Montreal’s lone goal in his NHL debut and Carey Price made 25 saves in defeat. The Canadiens have now lost six of their last seven games.


Final Score: Boston 5, Arizona 2

Brad Marchand scored twice to lead the Boston Bruins in a 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. Simon Gagne, Loui Eriksson and Kevan Miller all scored for the Bruins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Tuukka Rask allowed two goals on 26 shots in the win. Joe Vitale and Mikkel Boedker lit the lamp for the Coyotes, who have lost six of their last seven. Devan Dubnyk was tagged for four goals on 24 shots while Mike Smith stopped 8-of-9 in relief.


Final Score: San Jose 3, Calgary 2

Patrick Marleau scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period as the San Jose Sharks extended their winning streak to four games with a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Saturday. Logan Couture and Justin Braun each had a goal and an assist and Tommy Wingels supplied two helpers for San Jose, which received 33 saves from Antti Niemi. Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau each scored for the Flames, who had their four-game winning streak halted. Karri Ramo stopped 27-of-30 shots in defeat.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Donald hanging on to lead at Nedbank Challenge

Luke Donald saw a 4-shot lead quickly evaporate on Saturday, but a birdie at the last helped him regain the lead after three rounds at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Donald fired a 3-under 69 at Gary Player Country Club Saturday and he leads by one shot over a surging Danny Willett. Donald, a seven-time European Tour winner who last won at the 2012 BMW PGA Championship, finished 54 holes at 13- under-par 203.

“I’m pretty pleased with the score,“ Donald said. “I could have played a little bit more solid on the back nine, but to be honest, around this course, I think with a lead, shooting a 69, that’s kind of what the game plan was, to go out and shoot a low round and keep myself ahead and in position for tomorrow.“

Willett, playing in the penultimate group Saturday, shot up the leaderboard with a 7-under 65 and he is nipping at Donald’s heels at 12-under 204.

First-round leader Ross Fisher struggled at times in his third round, but a strong finish helped him end three behind the leader at 10-under 206 through 54 holes. Fisher shot a 2-under 70 in round three.

The next-closest player to the trio of Englishmen is Marcel Siem, who is alone in fourth at 5-under 211 following a 71 Saturday.

Donald, leading by two over Fisher and five over Willett at the start of his round, extended his advantage to three shots with a birdie on four. Fisher, who traded a birdie on the second with a bogey at the third, got back to within two after another gain on the par-4 fifth.

Another birdie for Donald on the par-3 seventh put him at minus-12 and back up by three shots. Both Donald and Fisher poured in birdies on the ninth, keeping Donald’s advantage at three.

In the meantime, Willett was making his move on the front nine. The 27-year- old used gains on two, five and six to get within striking distance before going on a run. Willett’s next two birdies on nine and 10 got him even with Fisher at minus-10 and three shots behind Donald.

Donald used his second consecutive gain on No. 10 to push his lead to four and it appeared as if he was beginning to pull away. However, Willett drained his third straight birdie on No. 11 to get within three.

Both Donald and Willett made bogeys on 13 before Willett drained his seventh gain of the day on 14 to get to within two. Another Willett birdie on 16 paired with a Donald bogey on 17 all of a sudden had the duo tied atop the leaderboard at minus-12.

After Willett finished up with pars on 17 and 18, Donald’s approach out of the left rough on the last dropped to within five feet of the hole. He kicked that in for a birdie to retake the lead heading into the final round.

“I’m excited to be in that position again,“ said Donald. “That’s why we work hard and that’s why we practice so much, and I’m excited for the challenge tomorrow.“

Fisher was quiet on his back nine, but never fell too far behind. He made six straight pars from No. 10 before falling back to minus-9 with a bogey on 16. The 34-year-old salvaged his round with a nice birdie putt at the last to get to three behind Donald.

“Tomorrow is going to be a big day,“ Fisher said. “I just need to go out and play how I’ve been playing the first three days and how I putted on the first day. If I do that, I feel like I’ve got a really good chance of winning it.“

NOTES: Donald is also a five-time winner on the PGA Tour ... Willett, whose lone European Tour win came at the 2012 BMW International Open, had seven top-10 finishes last season without a victory ... Fisher has won five times on the European Tour ... Defending champion Thomas Bjorn shot his best round of the week with a 4-under 68 and he is tied for 24th at 4-over 220.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


SUNDAY, DECEMBER 07, 2014


National Football League
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (705)
Houston at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (706)
Baltimore at Miami, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (707)
NY Jets at Minnesota, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (708)
Indianapolis at Cleveland, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (709)
Tampa Bay at Detroit, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (710)
Carolina at New Orleans, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (711)
NY Giants at Tennessee, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (712)
St. Louis at Washington, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (713)
Kansas City at Arizona, 4:05 PM - CBS, DSS (714)
Buffalo at Denver, 4:05 PM - CBS, DSS (715)
San Francisco at Oakland, 4:25 PM - FOX, DSS (716)
Seattle at Philadelphia, 4:25 PM - FOX, DSS (717)
New England at San Diego, 8:30 PM - NBC


National Basketball Association
Washington at Boston, 1:00 PM - CSN-DC, New England, DSS
Denver at Atlanta, 3:30 PM - Altitude, DSS
Oklahoma City at Detroit, 6:00 PM - FS-Oklahoma, DSS
Miami at Memphis, 6:00 PM - SunSports, SportSouth, DSS
Milwaukee at Dallas, 7:30 PM - FS-Wisconsin, Southwest, DSS
Portland at New York, 7:30 PM - CSN-Northwest, MSG, DSS
New Orleans at LA Lakers, 9:30 PM - FS-New Orleans, Time Warner, DSS


National Hockey League
Anaheim at Winnipeg, 3:00 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, TSN3, DSS
Detroit at Carolina, 5:00 PM - FS-Detroit+, Carolina, DSS
Vancouver at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - CITY TV, TVA Sports, NHL Network, DSS
San Jose at Edmonton, 9:00 PM - CSN-California, SNET-West, DSS


College Basketball
Towson at Georgetown, 12:00 PM - FS1
Colorado at Georgia, 12:00 PM - SEC Network
Northern Colorado at Colorado State, 2:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Milwaukee at DePaul, 2:00 PM - FS1
Limestone at UNC Asheville, 2:00 PM - Big South Network
Charlotte vs. George Washington, 2:30 PM - MASN
East Carolina at North Carolina, 3:00 PM - ESPN U
Illinois State at UAB, 3:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, American Sports Network
Radford at Virginia Tech, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
California at Nevada, 4:00 PM - CBSSN
Missouri State at Oral Roberts, 4:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Ole Miss at Oregon, 4:00 PM - FS1
Utah State at USC, 5:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Arkansas at Clemson, 5:00 PM - ESPN U
Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky, 6:00 PM - SEC Network
West Virginia at Northern Kentucky, 6:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, ESPN3.com
Creighton at Nebraska, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
San Diego at UCLA, 7:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
San Diego State at Washington, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network


Women’s College Basketball
South Carolina at Duke, 1:00 PM - ESPN 2
Kentucky at Louisville, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Texas A&M at TCU, 2:00 PM - FSN
Florida at Florida State, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Towson at Maryland, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Tennessee at Lipscomb, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Nebraska at Alabama, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Colorado at Iowa, 3:00 PM - Mediacom, Big Ten Network+
Rutgers at Arkansas, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Baylor at Ole Miss, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
SE Louisiana at Mississippi State, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Michigan State at Georgia, 4:00 PM - SEC Network
California at Kansas, 6:00 PM - FS1


College Football
Playoff Selection Show, 12:45 PM - ESPN


Major League Soccer - MLS Cup
New England at Los Angeles, 3:00 PM - ESPN, TSN


International Soccer
West Ham vs. Swansea City, 8:30 AM - NBCSN
Aston Villa vs. Leicester City, 11:00 AM - NBCSN


Golf
EUROPEAN - Nedbank Challenge, 6:00 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Hero World Challenge, 12:00 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - Hero World Challenge, 1:30 PM - NBC

Sports News   141206

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bridgeport retains Class AA title

Dylan Tonkery ran for 315 yards to set a Class AA Super Six rushing record and Bridgeport won its second straight state championship by beating Frankfort 43-7 on Friday night in a steady rain.

“I can’t say enough,” said Bridgeport coach Josh Nicewarner, whose team finished 13-1. “Week to week, we’ve just gotten better and we grew. Our defense has been just unbelievable and these guys are so worthy of the state championship.”

Tonkery finished with three touchdowns on 25 carries, averaging 12.6 yards per rush. The previous Class AA rushing record was set in 2008 by Grafton’s Damon Waters who put up 287 yards against Magnolia.

“(Tonkery) had a lot of help too,” Nicewarner said. “Dylan is a phenomenal running back, but tonight he had 10 other guys out there working for him. Certainly, it’s a great individual honor for him, but we’ll take that state championship any day.”

Tonkery scored on the game’s first play with a 73-yard run, and Frankfort (13-1) never recovered.

“I just got to the outside on that opening play and it was good blocking. I got open space and I just started running,” Tonkery said. “I didn’t really focus (on the record) at all. I was just trying to get the win—I was just running the ball and I didn’t even know about the record until the fourth quarter.”

The Indians had won seven previous football titles but never in back-to-back seasons.

“It’s pretty special. It’s the first time we’ve ever done it and it just means so much to everybody,” Tonkery said. “Especially for the seniors—this was their last game and knowing that they went out with a win is awesome.”

Bridgeport outgained Frankfort 426-148. The Falcons had just 52 rushing yards on 21 carries, playing in their first state championship game.

“I’m very proud of our football team for finishing the season like we did to get to the title game,” said Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman. “But my hat goes off to Bridgeport. They have a very good football team with a lot of team speed and a lot of strength. They beat us fair and square. It was a long night for us, but we were still proud to be here and proud of what we accomplished.”

Bridgeport led 29-0 at the half, erupting for 22 points in the second quarter. Frankfort scored first in the second half on a 54-yard pass from Gage Shaffer to Jacob Kessel—a bizarre play where Bridgeport’s Luke Southern appeared to make the interception before the ball popped up and Kessel made the touchdown catch.

“I was hoping we could maybe score another touchdown or two,” Whiteman said. “But they controlled us the whole night. They earned it, they deserved it and they have a very good football team.”

Bridgeport limited Frankfort quarterback Gage Shaffer, and Maryland commitment,to just 8-of-21 passing for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Besides Tonkery, Dante Bonamico added 89 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 carries for the Indians, who improved to 8-1 in state championship games..

“These guys answered the call,” Nicewarner said. “These guys executed so well, our backs ran well and read well. But our defense, again, certainly won us this championship.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  The Manning Awards is presented annually to the nation’s top quarterback

Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato has been named one of the 10 finalists for the annual Manning Award.

The Manning Award is presented annually in January to college football’s top quarterback by the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Prior to the 2004 season, the Manning Award was created by the Sugar Bowl in honor of the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.

The award is presented after the bowl season as it is the only college football quarterback award that includes the candidates’ bowl performances in its balloting. The winner is selected by a panel of media covering college football, and each of the Mannings.

Cato leads the Herd into is second straight appearance in the Conference USA title game this Saturday versus Louisiana Tech.

Cato owns the NCAA’s FBS record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, at 44. He ranks among the top 10 quarterbacks in major-college history in passing yards (13,490) and total offense (14,276) and his 126 touchdown passes rank No. 5 in FBS history. He threw for a school-record seven touchdowns in last week’s overtime loss to Western Kentucky.

Cato was named MVP of the Herd’s Military Bowl victory over Maryland last December and has won MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors in Conference USA in past seasons. He ranks No. 2 in C-USA history in all passing and total offense categories to former Houston star Case Keenum, and this season surpassed former Herd greats Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich on the school’s career charts.

Cato is the only QB in Herd history to pass for at least 30 touchdowns in three seasons.

He is joined on the Manning Award finalists’ list by Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, TCU’s Trevone Boykin, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, USC’s Cody Kessler, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Alabama’s Blake Sims and Florida State’s Jameis Winston.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Football Game Results

(Friday, December 05)


Final Score: (3) Oregon 51, (8) Arizona 13

Oregon wasn’t going to let Arizona ruin its national title dreams for a second straight season. The Ducks were 9-1 going into last year’s meeting in Arizona, which the Wildcats won 42-16. Oregon followed that up with a 31-24 home loss to a then-unranked Arizona squad back in October. Since then, the third-ranked Ducks have won eight straight games, including a 51-13 rout of the eighth-ranked Wildcats in the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium. Marcus Mariota, the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, accounted for five touchdowns on Friday and the Ducks assuredly locked up a spot in the first College Football Playoff. Oregon (12-1, 8-1 Pac-12) entered the game No. 2 in the CFP rankings.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Rodgers stands alone

Name your quarterback.

Old timers swear by Johnny Unitas and those whose wheelhouse is the 1970s might wax nostalgic about Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach or Fran Tarkenton. For me Joe Montana is the best of all-time and others love the pure passing skills of Dan Marino or the all-around talent of John Elway.

The numbers say Peyton Manning is the best regular-season quarterback ever and Tom Brady belongs in any G.O.A.T (Greatest of All-Time) conversation.

No matter who you like, however, understand no man that has ever walked planet Earth has ever played football’s most important position at a higher level than Aaron Rodgers is right now.

The presumptive 2014 MVP leads the league with a 118.6 passer rating and has thrown for 32 scores against just three INTs, captaining a team that scores 31.7 points per game, the best mark in pro football.

He’s even better at home, throwing for 20 touchdowns without an interception at Lambeau Field.

A-Rod and the Packers took another step toward what would be a franchise- record fourth consecutive NFC North title in Week 13 when they outlasted the New England Patriots, 26-21, in a game that could have foreshadowed Super Bowl XLIX.

Rodgers was 24-of-38 in the game for 368 yards and has now thrown 360 consecutive passes with 31 touchdowns since his last interception at home, which was over two calendar years ago, as he outdueled Brady and Co.

His next test is against Atlanta on “Monday Night Football” and Falcons coach Mike Smith understands what he and his charges are up against.

“It’s a big challenge for us this week with Aaron Rodgers,“ Smith admitted. “No doubt, he’s playing the best of any quarterback in the NFL right now. He’s got a number of weapons he can get it to.

“He’s played extremely well at home. I don’t think he’s thrown an interception at home this season, and I don’t even want to talk about how many points they’ve scored.“

The answer to that is 40.9 points while more than doubling foes 245 to 106 at Lambeau.

“I don’t know that there’s been a quarterback that’s had a stretch like he’s had in the history of the NFL,“ Smith continued.

Rodgers finished November with 1,233 yards passing with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions for an NFL-best 128.1 passer rating. And more importantly a 4-0 record.

“No disrespect to any quarterback in the NFL, but right now he’s at a level that is much higher than anybody else,“ Smith said. “When you look at his pure statistics, they’re phenomenal.“

The key to Green Bay at home has been blitzing people out of the starting blocks. The Packers have outscored their opponents by an amazing 79-0 margin in the first quarter of their last five home contests. That number expands to 151-23 at halftime and 14 of those 23 points were scored by the powerful Patriots last week.

And Rodgers has been the very definition of greatness, a player who makes everyone around him better. In his case, the All-Pro even elevates teammates he’s not on the field with by putting them in desirous situations.

Packers opponents have been looking up and finding the score 14-0, or in the case of the Pats 13-0, minutes into the game and that has enabled a flawed Green Bay defense to excel as teams become more one-dimensional.

Despite some talent issues on the defensive side Green Bay has allowed just 17.3 ppg in its current four-game winning streak.

One NFC scout described Rodgers’ greatness to me like this: “The Packers are the only team in football who you actually want to run their offense.“

What did he mean?

With other quarterbacks, you strive to get them off their spots and disrupt things as much as possible. With Rodgers, you are hoping things don’t break down and descend into sandlot football because if he extends the play, his arm talent and accuracy down the football field are awe-inspiring.

So you take the lesser of two evils, say a 7-yard slant to Jordy Nelson instead of watching your coverage break down as Rodgers eludes the pass rush with his eyes downfield, searching for the kill shot.

“When you watch the tape, it’s even more impressive,“ Smith said. “(Rodgers has) got a great grasp of how to attack defenses. He’s extending plays. If he can extend the play and when the play gets off schedule, he can make the throws. He’s been very accurate.“

Elite is the term most often used today to describe the great quarterbacks currently playing in the NFL whether its Manning, Brady or Drew Brees with perhaps Andrew Luck the latest to join the group.

It’s time to coin a new adjective for Rodgers, though. “Elite” just isn’t good enough.


►  Packers plan to stay perfect at home

Let’s face it, the Atlanta Falcons are lucky to be playing meaningful football in December.

But the schedule doesn’t shape up as all that fortunate down the stretch.

The 5-7 Falcons are tied atop the dismal NFC South division with New Orleans in advance of their trip north to face the powerful Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on “Monday Night Football.“

And win or loss in Titletown, Atlanta will remain in control of its own destiny because of a perfect 4-0 record inside the division along with a looming Week 16 matchup at the Saints.

If you look ahead, however, you can see things figure to get far stickier for the Falcons starting in Week 14. While Atlanta has to battle the Packers, who are 6-0 at home this season, New Orleans is hosting a Carolina team that has lost six straight a day earlier.

Looker further the Saints will face opponents who currently have a 15-32-1 mark the rest of the way. Conversely, the Falcons face three teams with playoff aspirations (The Pack, Pittsburgh and New Orleans) before finishing off with the Panthers.

Both the Saints and Atlanta are attempting to avoid joining the 2010 Seattle Seahawks as being the only NFL teams to win a division with a sub-.500 record.

The Falcons have won three of four overall, including a big 29-18 win over the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals in Week 13 action at the Georgia Dome.

Matt Bryant connected on all five of his field-goal attempts in that one and Matt Ryan finished with a season-high 361 yards on 30-of-41 passing with scoring throws to Julio Jones and Levine Toilolo.

Jones led all receivers thanks to 189 yards on 10 receptions, Harry Douglas added 116 yards on nine grabs, and Steven Jackson contributed 101 yards on 18 carries.

Arizona signal caller Drew Stanton was picked off twice by the much-maligned Atlanta defense, once by Josh Wilson and another by Dwight Lowery.

The Packers, meanwhile, took another step toward what would be a franchise- record fourth consecutive division title when they outlasted the New England Patriots, 26-21, in a game that could have foreshadowed Super Bowl XLIX.

MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns and kept two NFL-record streaks alive as he outdueled Tom Brady and the Pats. Rodgers was 24-of-38 and has now thrown 360 consecutive passes with 31 touchdowns since his last interception at home, which was over two calendar years ago.

Eddie Lacy rushed 21 times for 98 yards and caught two passes for another 17, stretching his Green Bay running back record to four consecutive games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage.

Davante Adams had six receptions for 121 yards and Randall Cobb made seven catches for 85 as the Packers ran their winning streak to four games since their bye week.

“We’ve been great at home,“ said Rodgers. “The fans have been excellent with the noise and we’ve got a good advantage with it. We’ve just got to keep rolling.“

Green Bay leads its all-time series with Atlanta by a 14-12 margin, including a 22-21 win at Lambeau last season while Rodgers was out with a broken collarbone.

On Monday nights the Falcons have been dismal historically, compiling a 10-26 mark. The Packers are also underwater but much better at 28-31-1.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Rodgers has thrown for 20 touchdowns without an interception at home this season. Overall, the All-Pro leads the NFL with a 118.6 passer rating and has thrown for 32 scores against just three INTs, captaining a team that scores 31.7 points per game, the best mark in the league.

In his four previous career meetings against the Falcons Rodgers has always crossed the 300-yard barrier throwing the ball and has nine TDs against just one INT.

“It’s a big challenge for us this week with Aaron Rodgers,“ Falcons coach Mike Smith admitted. “No doubt, he’s playing the best of any quarterback in the NFL right now. He’s got a number of weapons he can get it to.

“He’s played extremely well at home. I don’t think he’s thrown an interception at home this season, and I don’t even want to talk about how many points they’ve scored.“

The answer to that is 40.9 points while outscoring foes 245 to 106 at Lambeau.

“I don’t know that there’s been a quarterback that’s had a stretch like he’s had in the history of the NFL,“ Smith continued.

Rodgers finished November with 1,233 yards passing with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions for an NFL-best 128.1 passer rating. And more importantly a 4-0 record.

“No disrespect to any quarterback in the NFL, but right now he’s at a level that is much higher than anybody else,“ Smith said. “When you look at his pure statistics, they’re phenomenal.“

The key to Green Bay at home has been blitzing people out of the starting blocks. The Packers have outscored their opponents by an amazing 79-0 margin in the first quarter of their last five home contests. That number expands to 151-23 at halftime and 14 of those 23 points were scored by the powerful Patriots last week.

Foes have been looking up and finding the score 14-0, or in the case of the Pats 13-0, and that has enabled a flawed Packers defense to excel as teams become more one-dimensional.

Despite some talent issues on the defensive side Green Bay has allowed just 17.3 ppg in its current four-game winning streak.

“When you watch the tape, it’s even more impressive,“ Smith said. “(Rodgers has) got a great grasp of how to attack defenses. He’s extending plays. If he can extend the play and when the play gets off schedule, he can make the throws. He’s been very accurate. His quarterback rating is off the charts.“

You would think the only way Atlanta can beat the Packers is in a shootout and Ryan isn’t too shabby himself, currently second in the NFL with 3,427 passing yards, slightly ahead of Rodgers’ 3,325. The veteran also has 21 TD passes versus 10 interceptions and a solid 93.7 passer rating.

Jones, meanwhile, is one of the best receivers in the game as evidenced last week when he torched the highly-regarded Patrick Peterson time and time again. The Falcons could also get a boost from the potential return of Jones’ regular running mate, Roddy White, who sat out last week with an ankle problem.

“Roddy was close to playing (last week),“ Smith said. “He worked with our athletic performance guys late in the week. We felt that it was in the best interest long term for him to not play in the game this past week. We anticipate, with the extra day, that he’ll be ready to go this week.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Rarely is a division leader favored by double digits over another division leader but that’s the story here and it’s hard to imagine a team with so many issues on defense like the Falcons solving Rodgers at Lambeau.

“We have some big goals, and we’re getting into December football now with a chance with everything right in front of us,“ A-Rod said.

Expect the Packers to keep rolling here.

Predicted outcome: Packers 34, Falcons 20


►  RB Williams out for Panthers

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams will not play in Sunday’s game at New Orleans after breaking a bone in his right hand during the team’s most recent contest.

Williams was able to finish out the Panthers’ 31-13 loss at Minnesota, but did not practice at all this week. The nine-year veteran will miss his seventh game this season, during which Williams has rushed for a career-low 219 yards on 63 attempts.

Tight end Greg Olsen, Carolina’s leader with 61 receptions this season, is listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup with a sore knee. He did practice on a limited basis both Thursday and Friday, however.

The Panthers are expected to get defensive tackle Star Lotulelei back for this weekend’s tilt. The 2013 first-round pick, who has missed Carolina’s last two games with a sprained ankle, is listed as probable.

►  Bucs release OC Tedford from contract

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have announced that the team has released offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford from his contractual obligations in order to allow him to pursue other opportunities.

Tedford, in his first year as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator under head coach Lovie Smith, left the team to have a heart procedure during the preseason, and was on an indefinite medical leave of absence since late September.

“Throughout these difficult circumstances, our primary concern was for Jeff’s health and well-being,“ said Smith. “After speaking with Jeff in recent days, it became obvious that a mutual decision to release him from his contract was the best way forward. We wish Jeff continued success in the next phase of his career.“

In a statement, Tedford said, “My wife and I want to thank the entire Buccaneers organization—from the Glazer family, to head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht—for all the faith and confidence they expressed in me. I will always be grateful to them for the opportunity to participate in the offseason program, the draft, free agency, training camp, the preseason and the beginning of the regular season. I have built friendships here with administration, coaches and players that will last a lifetime.“

Prior to joining an NFL coaching staff for the first time this season, Tedford spent 11 seasons as the head coach of California and left as the winningest coach in school history. He posted a record of 82-57 from 2002-12, with the Golden Bears earning eight bowl bids.


►  Bears’ Marshall still in hospital, out indefinitely

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall remains in a local hospital one day after injuring his ribs and lung in Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Bears announced that Marshall fractured two ribs as the result of a hit from Cowboys safety Barry Church during the second quarter of Chicago’s 41-28 loss. According to the team, the lung injury is what is keeping the Pro Bowl wideout hospitalized, and he has already been ruled out for the Bears’ next game against New Orleans on December 15.

There’s a strong possibility that Marshall’s season is over, since Chicago was officially eliminated from playoff contention with Thursday’s loss.

Marshall was transported to the hospital shortly after being helped off the field and taken to the locker room following the collision. He later sent out a Twitter message stating: “Thanks for the Prayers. .. I’m Good.“

The five-time Pro Bowl selection had three catches for 61 yards prior to exiting Thursday’s game. On the season, Marshall has recorded 61 receptions totaling 721 yards and is tied for the team lead with eight touchdown catches.


►  Rams sign P Hekker to contract extension

The St. Louis Rams signed punter Johnny Hekker to a six-year extension through the 2020 season on Friday.

ESPN.com reported that Hekker’s deal is worth $18 million and contains $9 million in guaranteed money, the largest ever given to a kicker or punter.

Hekker, 24, was set to become a restricted free agent after the 2014 season. The undrafted Oregon State product signed with the Rams prior to the 2012 campaign.

In 2013, Hekker earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors after setting an NFL single-season record for net punting average at 44.2 yards. His career net average is 42.1 yards.

This season, Hekker owns a 45.7 yards per punt gross average and a net average of 41.4 yards. In his three-year career, Hekker also has completed 5-of-6 passes with a touchdown.


►  Broncos’ TE Thomas questionable vs. Bills

Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, while running backs Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman were ruled out.

Thomas, who leads the NFL with 12 receiving touchdowns, was out of the lineup the past two weeks due to a sprained left ankle and was a limited participant in practice this week.

Ball will miss a third straight game with a groin injury that has kept the second-year Wisconsin product out of Denver’s lineup for seven games already this season.

Hillman, meanwhile, suffered a foot injury during a 41-17 win over Oakland on November 9 and has been out for the previous three weeks.

Neither running back practiced at all this week.

Cornerback Kayvon Webster (shoulder) and wide receiver Cody Latimer (concussion) were also ruled out, while tight end Jacob Tamme (ribs), safety Quinton Carter (knee), defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (elbow) and defensive end Quanterus Smith (ribs) were listed as questionable.


►  Cards’ Ellington out vs. Chiefs

Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington will miss Sunday’s Week 14 game against Kansas City with an injured hip.

Ellington left Arizona’s Week 13 loss to Atlanta with a hip pointer, and was unable to practice in the week leading up to the game with the Chiefs.

In 12 games this season, Ellington has totaled 660 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while adding 46 catches for 395 yards and two touchdowns.

Running backs Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes, Marion Grice and the recently- signed Michael Bush will fill in for Ellington.

Also listed as out for the Cardinals are safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb), guard Paul Fanaika (ankle) and defensive end Ed Stinson (toe).

After missing Arizona’s last two games with a knee injury, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is expected to be a game-time decision, though he was a full participant in Friday’s practice.

Linebacker Larry Foote (foot) and tackle Jared Veldheer (ankle) are also considered questionable for Sunday’s game. Linebackers Lorenzo Alexander (knee) and Kenny Demens (hamstring) are probable.


►  Lions’ RB Bush probable vs. Tampa Bay

Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush is listed as probably for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

Bush has missed the past three games with an ankle injury, but he was a full participant all week.

Receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle), running back Theo Riddick (toe), and offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Larry Warford, both listed with knee injuries, are also probable.


►  Colts CB Davis out against Browns with concussion

Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis is one of four players ruled out for Sunday’s game against Cleveland.

Davis suffered a concussion in Sunday’s 49-27 win over Washington and was absent from practice all week while following the league’s concussion protocol.

The six-year veteran has totaled 32 tackles, three interceptions and one forced fumble over 12 starts this season.

Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon (foot), linebacker Andy Studebaker (hamstring) and guard Hugh Thornton (knee) will also not play on Sunday.

Safety Mike Adams (back), cornerback Jalil Brown (ankle) and return specialist Josh Cribbs (knee) were all listed as questionable.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Murray Christmas

Thursday night of Week 14 was the beginning salvo for most fantasy league playoffs and Dallas running back DeMarco Murray burst out of the gate with an explosive performance.

Murray rushed 32 times for 179 yards and a touchdown and also caught nine balls for 49 yards. All told that amounted to almost 35 points in my fantasy league.

The Dallas star running back has always had this type of talent but until 2014 had never put it all together as a professional.

Murray was a stud running back out of Oklahoma where he ran and caught the ball with equal skill. In his final season, for example, he rushed for 1,214 yards, caught 71 balls for 594 yards and scored 20 times.

However, he arrived in “Big D” with little hype as a third-round selection, primarily due to injury concerns.

Things didn’t really jell for him right away.

That’s because the Cowboys were extremely pass-oriented. They had Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and the running game was just something to do while the receivers and Romo recovered from the last play.

During Murray’s first three seasons, the Cowboys threw the ball 62% of the time and ran it just 38%.

He also continued to deal with injuries. He played just 37 of 48 games from 2011-13 and missed multiple games in each season.

So fantasy owners could be excused for not drafting Murray in the first round this preseason even after he had rushed for more than 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.

But under the direction of new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, the Cowboys have become a run-first team. With the help of a much-improved offensive line that is comprised of three first-round selections, including the last two top Dallas picks, they have rushed the ball 400 times and passed it on only 390 occasions.

That’s a dramatic shift.

And it’s one that has helped turn Murray from a second-round fantasy selection last August (fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP 14.9) into a top-three star who could easily be the league’s fantasy MVP.

Through 13 games, Murray is averaging 123.5 ypg on the ground, another 30.2 yards receiving and has already matched last season’s rushing touchdown total (9). He’s scored a position-high 257 fantasy points. He’s closing in on the magical 2,000-yard rushing total for the season and most importantly, he’s still healthy.

Murray has put his fantasy owners in a great position to advance to the next round of the playoffs and possibly two weeks from now lead the team to the fantasy championship.

It could be a very Murray Christmas.


►  Alfred Morris: Jekyll and Hyde

The real life benching for the struggling Robert Griffin III likely didn’t hurt any fantasy owners’ playoff hopes. Let’s face it, if RGIII was a fantasy team’s starting quarterback, those teams likely aren’t making many playoff appearances.

However, Jay Gruden’s decision to send a healthy Griffin to the sidelines does still have a negative impact on fantasy owners.

It has been clear in 2014 that Alfred Morris is far more effective with Griffin as his quarterback than anyone else.

The two Washington players came into the league together as rookies in 2012 and combined to gain 2,428 rushing yards in their first season. In fact, Morris finished second in the NFL with 1,613 yards on the ground behind only Adrian Peterson, who nearly set the single-season rushing record that year.

Morris was not able to repeat his 100.8 yards per game or 4.8 yards per attempt averages in his second season, but in 2013, he ran for an average of 4.6 yards per carry on his way to 1,275 yards. Despite a lot of questions about his health, Griffin missed only four games in his first two seasons and the duel threat helped his running back to those numbers.

Still, he was not as effective on his own. In the four games without RGIII, Morris did not have a 100-yard game and his yards per carry dropped to 3.9.

With such a small sample and a healthy Griffin coming into 2014, no owner seemed to notice this or care about the dip in production for Morris without Griffin.

Fantasy owners going into a playoff matchup in Week 14 should now take notice.

This season, Griffin has made four starts, and in those games, Morris has rushed for at least 90 yards in each game and averaged 5.46 yards per carry. In the other seven games with Colt McCoy or Kirk Cousins, the running back does not have a single 90-yard rushing day and is averaging 3.55 yards per carry.

Even though Griffin has tried to become a pocket passer, it is obvious defenses cannot concentrate as much on stopping Morris if RGIII is playing. Just the threat of Griffin running makes a difference. Actually, it makes a big difference of nearly two yards per attempt.

It may be hard to do it at this point in the season because of where owners selected Morris in August, but it isn’t crazy to think about benching him for the playoffs. Without the yards this season, he is completely reliant on scoring touchdowns, which he has done in five out of 12 games.

I respect owners who wish to stick by a borderline stud just in case he explodes for a big game in the fantasy playoffs. As long as RGIII is benched those owners should realize Morris must find the end zone in order to help owners make a playoff run.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Friday, December 05)


Final Score: (1) Kentucky 63, (6) Texas 51

Kentucky shot 1-for-12 from 3-point range and was outrebounded 42-31 on its home floor. But Willie Cauley-Stein and the No. 1 Wildcats still found a way past sixth- ranked Texas, 63-51, in their first real test of the season. Cauley-Stein’s best game as a college player couldn’t have come at a better time for the Wildcats, who struggled to score all night but got it done on the defensive end. The 7-footer was dominant on D while also posting a career-high 21 points. He finished with 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocked shots. Dakari Johnson scored 11 points, Karl-Anthony Towns netted 10, and Alex Poythress chipped in eight for the unbeaten Wildcats (8-0). Open looks were at a premium for Texas (7-1), which finished just 14- of-47 from the floor and 4-for-20 from behind the arc. Jonathan Holmes paced the Longhorns with 14 points and Demarcus Holland had 10 with a game-high five assists.


Final Score: (5) Louisville 82, FIU 57

Montrezl Harrell scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead No. 5 Louisville to an 82-57 win over Florida International on Friday. The Cardinals (7-0) used strong defense and a balanced attack to dominate the Panthers. Anton Gill led Louisville with 15 points, including three shots from beyond the arc, and three others—including Wayne Blackshear—added double-digit totals. Louisville collected 21 assists on 32 made shots. Dennis Mavin paced FIU (5-4) with 15 points, but the Panthers could never establish any offense. Louisville forced 25 turnovers and scored 32 points off them. The Cardinals shot 57.1 percent from the floor and dominated down low, blocking nine shots and outscoring FIU 44-26 in the paint.


Final Score: (11) Kansas 71, Florida 65

Wayne Selden Jr. scored a game-high 21 points as No. 11 Kansas stormed from behind for a 71-65 win over Florida in an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game on Friday. Cliff Alexander had 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Frank Mason III and Perry Ellis scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Jayhawks (6-1), who outscored Florida 47-26 in the second half to win their fifth consecutive game. Devin Robinson supplied 13 points and Chris Walker donated 12 points and five boards for the Gators (3-4), who led by as much as 18 points in the second half, but still lost their second game in a row.


Final Score: (22) Oklahoma 82, Missouri 63

Ryan Spangler had a season-high 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting and No. 22 Oklahoma dismantled Missouri, 82-63, in another installment of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Buddy Hield scored 17 points and Isaiah Cousins netted 16 for the Sooners (5-2), who had a week to reflect on their 69-56 loss at No. 2 Wisconsin before returning to the court. Hield and Cousins both made three 3-pointers. Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas added nine points and five blocks. Johnathan Williams III led Missouri (4-4) with 16 points and eight rebounds and Montague Gil-Caesar scored 15 in the setback. The Tigers haven’t been .500 through eight games since the 2005-06 season, which is also the last time they finished a campaign with a losing record.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Unsung Warriors have huge impact

The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA for reasons passing the obvious.

Bold moves and commitment have put the Warriors atop the standings in the NBA. They haven’t lost since the Hoover Administration and are the association’s most lethal two-way threat.

They rank third in scoring and sixth in opponents’ scoring. Doesn’t take an analytics nerd to figure that yields a high margin of victory. The Warriors win by an average of 10.9 ppg. That’s also first.

The Splash Brothers are headed to the All-Star game, deservedly so.

Steph Curry is a statistical freak of nature. He’s sixth in scoring, fifth in assists, eighth in steals, third in free-throw shooting and first in 3- pointers made.

Klay Thompson is 14th in scoring, eighth in 3-point shooting percentage and fourth in made 3-pointers.

Even Curry has emerged into a legitimate NBA defender and Thompson was already considered an elite wing stopper.

So, yes, the Splash Brothers are studs who carry this team offensively. The nickname is still stupid, but the point is they are All-NBA caliber guys.

Their importance is paramount to be clear. It is not singular to the Warriors’ obscene success to this point.

Steve Kerr came into the Warriors’ coaching job as the trendy name this offseason. He brushed aside the courtship of one of his mentors, Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks, to take the Golden State gig.

He’s a west-coast guy and the rosters weren’t comparable, so it made sense. It wasn’t the easiest transition in the history of business transactions. Former coach Mark Jackson resuscitated this franchise, but was shown the door because of some friction with ownership.

Jackson’s players were fiercely loyal to their former coach, but now, it looks like Kerr has been their uncle for eternity. The group plays beautiful team basketball and Kerr made perhaps the biggest, boldest decision he could make from the beginning.

He reinserted Harrison Barnes into the starting lineup in favor of Andre Iguodala. Barnes started as a rookie two seasons ago, then went to the bench when Iguodala was signed in the summer of 2013.

Getting maximum output from Barnes has been crucial to the Warriors’ success. Building him back into the productive player he was as a rookie was a tough task for Kerr.

“I think he needed to play this year,“ Kerr said after Thursday’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. “Last year was a tough year for him. He needed to play and let loose. He’s taken advantage of the minutes.“

Draymond Green is a similar story. He played quite a bit in the last playoffs under Jackson, but now, he’s becoming vital.

And their presence has given Golden State’s biggest asset to date - their ability to switch on defense. With the exception of Andrew Bogut, every player in the starting five, and much of the bench, can switch any pick-and-roll on the floor.

“That’s the strength of our defense really, along with Bogs protecting the rim, the versatility on the wings, the ability to switch and get out on 3- point shooters,“ Kerr said.

Bogut is undervalued, but Kerr’s decision to tweak that starting lineup has been genius. It was a brash decision. Iguodala signed a four-year, $48 million contract in 2013, meaning, a man making a shade over $12 million was demoted for a third-year guy who lost his spot a season prior and a second-round pick in Green.

Its brilliance is how it’s enhanced the second unit. Iguodala isn’t the explosive player he once was, but can still get the opposition’s shirt. Shaun Livingston was signed in the offseason after a career redefining season with Brooklyn in 2013-14. Marreese Speights averages 12.4 ppg in 15.8 minutes per game.

“We have enough scoring coming off the bench, but the fact we can continue to defend even with our starters off the floor, that’s a really big factor for us,“ said Kerr.

And the bench should get enhanced shortly. David Lee has played all of seven minutes for the Warriors this season, but is expected back shortly from a hamstring injury.

Kerr should be committed if he tinkers with that first unit, so where does Lee fit in? We are talking about a two-time All-Star who averaged 18.2 ppg and 9.3 rebounds a night for Golden State last season.

“We need him. We’ll find ways to play,“ noted Kerr. “It may mean a few less minutes for Harrison and Draymond. We have great chemistry and guys are playing for each other. When David comes back, and things change rotation- wise, guys are going to accept it.“

And that demonstrates another beautiful aspect of this Warriors’ team. This is a cohesive group that doesn’t let ego get in the way of a good thing. Sounds simple and obvious enough, but in 2014, how often does that really happen?

“There’s nothing better in the NBA than being on a team like this where you have good guys and you’re winning,“ Kerr said.

For veterans like Iguodala and Lee to be willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the group is too uncommon. Barnes and Green are better players right now and better fits in Kerr’s schemes, which are predicated on versatility.

And good on Kerr for going with what’s best. Iguodala and Lee make a combined $27 million and were integral to the development and success of Golden State. It would be easy to play favorites to the veterans, especially in your first gig and especially considering the potentially fragile nature of the group after what transpired with Jackson.

But Kerr put his horses on display and it’s working. It also doesn’t hurt that Kerr has gone younger during this process.

“We talk about the development of [a franchise] is when your young players develop,“ said TNT’s Reggie Miller. “Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have gotten better each year. That’s why the Warriors franchise is in good hands moving forward.“

It’s in great hands now.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- Good for the Philadelphia 76ers. No one wants that record of worst start to a season. They play hard, they work hard, so good for them. The all-time worst record of 9-73 is, however, in play.

- Potential Western Conference All-Star guards: Curry, Thompson, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Monta Ellis and Damian Lillard. Frontcourt guys: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph. That doesn’t account for the fact that Kevin Durant will probably fare well in the fan vote and Dwight Howard was superb before injury.

- The Los Angeles Lakers are 5-14, but 1-13 within the Western Conference. So, that should show how bad the East is that LA is 4-1 against them.

- You love the Washington Wizards? I do. They’re loaded. Going to be a force in the Eastern Conference, right? The Atlanta Hawks are a game behind them. The always .500, duller than taupe Hawks could be the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference by the end of the weekend.

- Movie moment - I’m a sucker for the Oscars, so it’s cool to me that one of my favorite character actors - J.K. Simmons - is sounding like a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor. Before you look him up, he was the dad in “Juno,“ the psychiatrist in “Law & Order,“ the hideous white supremacist in “Oz,“ is the yellow peanut M&M and currently is the dean of students for Farmer’s Insurance. What range.

- TV moment - My son was acting up a bit on Thursday night so my girlfriend put on the live screening of “Peter Pan” on NBC. He said, “am I in trouble?“ I was harsh on “The Sound of Music” and I’d never watch that, or “Peter Pan” voluntarily, but I respect those involved. They knew scorn was coming, but did it anyway.


►  NBA Game Results

(Friday, December 05)


Final Score: Charlotte 103, New York 102

Kemba Walker’s layup with 0.3 seconds to play helped the Charlotte Hornets hold off a late New York Knicks surge and end their 10-game losing streak with a thrilling 103-102 victory on Friday. Carmelo Anthony gave the Knicks a 102-101 lead off a wide-open 3 from the left side with 40.7 seconds to play. After each team missed a jump shot, the Hornets took a timeout with four seconds to play after Marvin Williams rebounded Anthony’s miss. Coming out of the timeout, Walker raced up to the top of the arc to receive the inbound pass and darted through the key, laying the ball off the glass and into the net for the deciding basket as the buzzer sounded. Gerald Henderson finished with a season-high 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting, Al Jefferson had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Lance Stephenson also scored 16 points for Charlotte, which won its first game since Nov. 14 at Phoenix. Anthony had a game-high 32 points, while J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. supplied 14 and 13 points, respectively, off the bench in the Knicks’ seventh straight loss.


Final Score: Oklahoma City 103, Philadelphia 91

Russell Westbrook had 27 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder led wire-to-wire in a 103-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. The Thunder were coming off a loss in New Orleans on Tuesday that spoiled Kevin Durant’s return from offseason foot surgery and ended the team’s first winning streak of the season at two games. The reigning NBA MVP scored 27 points while playing nearly 30 minutes in his season debut. He played 29 minutes against the Sixers, scoring 10 on 3-of-11 shooting as Westbrook, in his third game back after missing 14 with a broken hand, led the way. Thunder coach Scott Brooks agreed Durant looked rusty, but stressed that he was just getting his game legs back, and that the team as it looked Friday has only practiced together three times. Serge Ibaka added 19 points for the Thunder and Jeremy Lamb scored 15 off the bench, including a couple of 3-pointers that thwarted an attempted Sixers rally late in the fourth quarter. The Sixers fell to 1-18, landing right back in the losing column after getting their first win on the road against Minnesota on Wednesday night. The victory kept them from matching the 2009-10 Nets for the worst start to a season in NBA history, but they remain winless (0-11) at home. Robert Covington scored a career-high 21 points off the bench to lead the Sixers. Michael Carter-Williams had 16 points and 14 assists working against Westbrook all night and Nerlens Noel also posted a double- double, scoring 11 with 10 rebounds.


Final Score: Washington 119, Denver 89

Kris Humphries scored 20 points to lead the Washington Wizards to a 119-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday. Rasual Butler and Kevin Seraphin each scored 16 points for the Wizards, who have won four straight. John Wall nearly had a triple-double as he scored nine points with eight rebounds and 12 assists. Wilson Chandler scored 20 points for the Nuggets, who have dropped their past two. Ty Lawson gave 14 points and 10 assists in defeat.


Final Score: Boston 113, LA Lakers 96

Tyler Zeller had 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting and pulled down 14 rebounds in the Boston Celtics’ 113-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. Jeff Green added 19 points for the Celtics, who have won two in a row since a five-game skid. Jared Sullinger tallied 17 points and 13 boards, Avery Bradley donated 16 points and Rajon Rondo scored 12 points and dished out 16 assists. Kobe Bryant ended with 22 points for the Lakers, who have dropped two straight. Nick Young and Jeremy Lin had 16 and 14 points, respectively.


Final Score: Atlanta 98, Brooklyn 75

DeMarre Carroll scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting to lead Atlanta to a 98-75 win over Brooklyn at Barclays Center Friday. Carroll’s 14 second-quarter points keyed a dominant period for the Hawks that saw them outscore the Nets 36-13. Paul Millsap contributed 17 points and nine rebounds in the winning effort, Atlanta’s fifth straight, and Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder scored 14 and 13 points, respectively. Brook Lopez paced Brooklyn with 20 points and seven boards as the Nets saw their two-game winning streak come to an end. Joe Johnson totaled 12 points with six rebounds and four assists for Brooklyn.


Final Score: Cleveland 105, Toronto 91

LeBron James had 24 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers extended their winning streak to six games with a 105-91 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. The Cavs, led by Kyrie Irving’s season-high 37 points, opened a three-game road trip with a win over Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks on Thursday night. Irving scored 15 in this one, including the bulk of Cleveland’s points in a key third-quarter run after Toronto had gone ahead for the first time. Tristan Thompson added 21 points and 14 rebounds off the bench for the Cavs and Kevin Love scored 15 with 13 boards. Amir Johnson had 27 points for the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors and Kyle Lowry scored 22 with nine assists.


Final Score: San Antonio 107, Memphis 101

One streak had to end and the San Antonio Spurs got the best of the Memphis Grizzlies again. Tim Duncan had his first triple double of the season with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Spurs defeated the Grizzlies 107-101 to snap Memphis’ 22-game regular season home winning streak on Friday night. San Antonio has beaten the Grizzlies nine straight times, including the postseason. The Spurs raced out to a 13-2 start in this one and never trailed by less than four the rest of the way, but that was with 21 seconds left when the game was already decided. Manu Ginobili tallied 17 points and seven assists and Danny Green added 16 points for the Spurs, who have won nine of their last 10 games. Marc Gasol, who was a game-time decision with a right knee bruise, posted 28 points, 12 boards and four blocks. The bruise was in the same knee that he tore his MCL last season and missed two months. Memphis went 10-13 during his absence. Mike Conley provided 23 points and 10 helpers, while Tayshaun Prince supplied 20 points off the bench for Memphis, which has lost two straight after coming into its last game Wednesday night with just two defeats on the season. The Grizzlies had their five-game winning streak snapped Wednesday against Houston when they committed 21 turnovers and were outrebounded 52-39 by a Rockets squad that played without Dwight Howard.


Final Score: Houston 114, Minnesota 112 (OT)

James Harden fouling out late in regulation opened the door for an unlikely hero. Seldom-used rookie Nick Johnson muscled past fellow rookie Zach LaVine and got a layup to go with 0.8 seconds left as the Houston Rockets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-112 in overtime on Friday. Harden scored 38 points on 17 shots in 36 1/2 minutes before picking up his sixth foul with 1:20 remaining in regulation. On the ensuing Minnesota possession, Andrew Wiggins had a putback dunk to give the Wolves a 105-101 lead. Donatas Motiejunas scored the final four points in regulation with a righty hook and a pair of free throws to force OT. It was tied at 112 late in the extra session when Jason Terry, who scored 19 points, drove and dished to a cutting Johnson. The first-year pro out of Arizona had missed his previous four shots before bullying his way to the basket for the game-winner. Thaddeus Young’s last-second jumper from near the foul line fell well short.


Final Score: Phoenix 118, Dallas 106

Goran Dragic had 28 points and 13 assists in the Phoenix Suns’ 118-106 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. Markieff Morris added 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who never looked back after scoring 40 points in the first quarter. Eric Bledsoe tallied 19 points and seven assists. Monta Ellis ended with 33 points for the Mavericks, who had a five-game winning streak snapped. Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons each had 15 points, with Chandler also pulling down 18 boards.


Final Score: Milwaukee 109, Miami 85

Kendall Marshall scored 20 points and the Milwaukee Bucks took control in the second half to beat the Miami Heat 109-85 on Friday night. Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton each scored 14 points for the Bucks, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 28 points for the Heat and Chris Bosh had 21 in their third straight loss. Jerryd Bayless scored 11 of his 12 points in the third quarter for the Bucks, who turned a tight game into a nine-point lead going into the fourth with a 13-2 run that came mostly at the foul line. Bayless hit six of Milwaukee’s nine free throws during the spurt, which made it 80-71. The Bucks then outscored Miami 29-14 in the fourth, leading by double-digits all the way after Middleton’s jumper to open the quarter. They shot better than 64 percent in the quarter and over 56 for the game.


Final Score: Orlando 98, Utah 93

Tobias Harris had 22 points and seven rebounds as the Orlando Magic defeated the Utah Jazz 98-93 on Friday night. Victor Oladipo posted 20 points and six assists for the Magic, who had dropped six of their last seven games coming in. Orlando starting center Nik Vucevic didn’t play due to back spasms. Derrick Favors provided 21 points and 13 boards, while Trey Burke added 13 points and 11 helpers for Utah, which has lost eight in a row.


Final Score: Sacramento 102, Indiana 101 (OT)

The Sacramento Kings finally won a game without DeMarcus Cousins. It wound up being a lot tougher than expected. Carl Landry’s go-ahead layup with 0.8 seconds left in overtime lifted the Kings to a 102-101 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. Sacramento led by as many as 17 in regulation, but the Pacers closed the fourth on a 10-2 run to force the extra session and a C.J. Watson 3-pointer preceded his floater in the paint to stake Indiana to a 101-100 edge with 1:03 remaining in overtime. After Darren Collison and David West traded missed jumpers, Rudy Gay took the clock down and rose up for a contested jumper along the right baseline. Landry hauled in the misfire for an offensive rebound and laid the ball in to put the Kings in front. West’s desperation turnaround heave at the horn ricocheted off the backboard. Cousins, who sat out a fourth straight game with a viral infection, was released from a hospital Wednesday after receiving treatment for the illness. The Kings had been 0-16 without their big man in his career coming in. Gay netted 27 points, while Collison added 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals for Sacramento, which snapped a four-game losing streak. West posted 16 points and eight boards, Rodney Stuckey supplied 14 points and four swipes and Watson added 14 points for the Pacers, who have dropped four in a row and five of their last six.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nats’ Werth to serve jail time for reckless driving

Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth was found guilty of reckless driving and was sentenced to 10 days in jail Friday, according to multiple reports.

Werth also had his driver’s license suspended for six months and was fined $1,000. The incident occurred on the Capital Beltway in Fairfax County, Virginia on July 6, with Werth clocked at 105 mph in a 55 mph zone.

Werth’s attorney stated that he will appeal the judge’s sentence. According to Washington television station WRC, it is likely that Werth will only have to serve half of his given sentence.

Werth, who signed a seven-year contract with the Nationals on December 5, 2010, compiled a .292 batting average with 16 home runs and 82 RBI over 147 games last season.

The Illinois native was a member of the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies and owns a career batting average of .276 with 186 home runs and 659 RBI. Werth also has posted a .246 batting average, 14 homers and 27 RBI in 53 postseason appearances.


►  Dodgers claim Lavarnway from Boston

The Los Angeles Dodgers have claimed catcher Ryan Lavarnway from the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox designated Lavarnway for assignment late last month after signing Pablo Sandoval and former Dodger Hanley Ramirez as free agents.

Lavarnway appeared in 97 games for the Red Sox from 2011-14, batting .201 with five homers and 34 runs batted in. The 27-year-old southern California native was hitless in 10 at-bats for Boston in 2014 and hit .285 in 67 minor league games while battling a strained left wrist.

The Dodgers also designated catcher Drew Butera for assignment on Friday.

Butera played in 61 games for Los Angeles last season and batted .188 with three homers and 14 RBI. He is a career .183 hitter in 251 games with the Dodgers and Minnesota Twins.


►  Padres add veteran IF Barmes

The San Diego Padres have finalized a one- year contract with free agent infielder Clint Barmes that includes a club option for the 2016 season.

Barmes joins the Padres after spending the past three seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 35-year-old appeared in 48 games as a utility player in 2014, finishing the year with a .245 average and seven RBI.

Highly regarded for his defensive abilities, Barmes owns a career .246 average with 86 home runs and 399 RBI over 12 major league seasons. The Indiana native played eight seasons with the Colorado Rockies from 2003-10 before spending the following campaign with the Houston Astros.

Barmes is expected to split time with the left-handed hitting Alexi Amarista at shortstop for San Diego, which did not tender former starter Everth Cabrera a contract at this week’s deadline.


►  Rays select Kevin Cash as new manager

The Tampa Bay Rays have named Kevin Cash as their new manager.

Cash spent parts of eight seasons as a catcher in the majors, retiring after the 2011 season. He joined the Toronto Blue Jays as an advance scout in 2012 and was the bullpen coach with the Cleveland Indians for the past two seasons.

“Kevin is passionate, genuine and dedicated, and those attributes will resonate throughout our clubhouse,“ said Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman in a statement Friday. “As a catcher, a scout and a coach, he has always been a student of the game, and his communication and tireless work will put our club in a position to win, night in and night out.“

Cash, a Tampa native who will turn 37 years old on Saturday, will be the youngest active manager in the majors. He played 13 games for the Devil Rays in 2005 and will become the first former player to manage for the franchise.

“We are proud to introduce Kevin as our manager,“ said Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg on Friday. “His energy and dynamic personality will fit seamlessly with our clubhouse. We are fortunate to have such a talented individual, and Tampa Bay native, to lead our club as we strive to achieve new heights as a team and organization.“

The Rays interviewed nine candidates in an effort to find a replacement for Joe Maddon, who opted out of his contract in October soon after long-time executive Andrew Friedman left for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Maddon quickly found a new job with the Chicago Cubs. He had guided the Rays to a record of 754-705 with two division titles, four postseason berths and the 2008 World Series during his nine-year tenure.

Cash also played for Toronto, Boston, the Yankees and Houston in a big league career that ended with a batting average of .183 and 12 home runs in 246 games. He played for World Series winning teams with Boston in 2007 and the Yankees in 2009.

The other finalists for the position were longtime major league outfielder Raul Ibanez and former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu.


►  Yanks deal for Gregorius as Jeter replacement

When former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers acquired Didi Gregorius from the Cincinnati Reds back in 2012 he said the shortstop reminded him of a young Derek Jeter.

Gregorius will now be the one who will replace Jeter, as the New York Yankees obtained the slick-fielding shortstop from the Diamondbacks as part of a three-team deal that also includes the Detroit Tigers.

The Yankees sent right-hander Shane Greene to Detroit in the swap, with the Diamondbacks receiving lefty Robbie Ray and minor league infielder Domingo Leyba from the Tigers.

Known more for his glove than his bat, Gregorius hit just .226 with a .290 on- base percentage in 80 games for the Diamondbacks last season. For his career, the 24-year-old Gregorius owns a modest .243 average in 191 games with the Reds and D-backs, and has hit 13 home runs over 647 at-bats in the majors.

Greene pitched well in his first big league season a year ago, going 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) for the Yankees. He also struck out 81 batters in 78 2/3 innings.

Ray, rated the No. 2 overall prospect in the Tigers’ system by MLB.com, was just 1-4 with an 8.16 ERA in nine games (6 starts) in the majors last season. He compiled a 7-6 record with a 4.22 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) at Triple-A Toledo.

The 23-year-old Ray was considered one of the key pieces that came to Detroit in last offseason’s trade that sent pitcher Doug Fister to Washington.

Leyva was ranked as the Tigers’ fifth-best prospect by Baseball America entering this season. The 19-year-old switch-hitter split the 2014 campaign between Short-Season A Connecticut and Low-A West Michigan, hitting .323 with 18 doubles, two homers and 24 RBI over a combined 67 games.


►  Dempster retires as a Cub

The Chicago Cubs have announced that right- hander Ryan Dempster has signed with the team to retire and join the front office as a special assistant to president Theo Epstein.

A two-time All-Star, Dempster missed all of last season, citing health and family issues. He last pitched in 2013 and won a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox that year.

Dempster struggled that season, though, as he pitched to a 4.57 ERA and allowed 249 baserunners in 171 innings. He also did not make a start during the Red Sox’ World Series run.

The 37-year-old spent nine of his 16 major league seasons with the Cubs from 2004-12. Dempster won a career-high 17 games with Chicago in 2008, when he returned to a starting role after working as the Cubs’ closer the previous three years.

Dempster retires with a career mark of 132-133 with 87 saves and a 4.35 ERA over 579 games (351 starts). The British Columbia native also pitched for the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers in addition to the Cubs and Red Sox.


►  Yankees closing in on Gregorius deal

When former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers acquired Didi Gregorius from the Cincinnati Reds back in 2012 he said the shortstop reminded him of a young Derek Jeter.

Gregorius now appears to be the one who will replace Jeter, as the New York Yankees are reportedly close to obtaining the slick-fielding shortstop from the Diamondbacks as part of a three-team deal with the Detroit Tigers.

WFAN Radio in New York, as well as Fox Sports, indicated that New York will send right-hander Shane Greene to Detroit, while the Tigers will ship lefty Robbie Ray and perhaps another player to the Diamondbacks to complete the deal.

Known more for his glove than his bat, Gregorius hit just .226 with a .290 on- base percentage in 80 games last season for the Diamondbacks. For his career, the 24-year-old Gregorius is only a .243 hitter in 191 games with the Reds and D-backs.

Greene pitched well in his first big league season a year ago, going 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) for the Yankees. He also struck out 81 batters in 78 2/3 innings.

Ray, meanwhile, appeared in nine games (6 starts) for the Tigers last season and was 1-4 with an 8.16 ERA. He was also traded last winter from Washington in the deal that sent Doug Fister to Detroit.


►  Baseball world set to converge on San Diego

Get ready for a ton of baseball rumors, wild trade scenarios and free agent signings, because the giant schmoozefest known as Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings gets underway next week at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront in San Diego, California.

Unlike the sleepy meetings a year ago, this latest edition of the get together figures to be action packed as most of the major A-list free agents are still on the market.

Of course, the biggest fish out there is left-hander Jon Lester, who will likely have at least four teams to choose from this week. The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers have all apparently made offers and are just waiting.

There was a belief that Lester would sign somewhere before the start of the meetings, but is now seems as if he is going to milk it and drive his price even higher.

And who knows, maybe the omnipresent “mystery” team will jump into the fray.

Boston always seemed like a longshot to get him back. The thought all along was that he would wind up in Chicago with former general manager Theo Epstein, but let’s face it, if the Dodgers want him, they are going to get him.

And if that does play out that could make things real interesting. For one, everyone who missed out on Lester will go hard after righties Max Scherzer and James Shields, and two, the Dodgers will likely make Zack Greinke available in that scenario.

Remember, Greinke can opt out of his contract after this season. If the Dodgers were to land Lester, Greinke is as good as gone. Heck, even if the Dodgers don’t get Lester there is a solid chance Greinke goes on the market.

This much is certain, though, Andrew Friedman, who left Tampa Bay to run the Dodgers’ baseball operations, will be a busy man next week. Between the Lester stuff, a potential Greinke deal and trying to rid himself of one of his outfielders, Friedman won’t have a lot of time to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather.

But then again, he lives in Los Angeles, so that’s probably not a big deal.

Friedman may have the most attractive bat out there in Matt Kemp. Baltimore has already had talks with the Dodgers and there figures to be others in the mix, like Seattle. It’s no secret that the Mariners, who just signed Nelson Cruz earlier in the week, would love to add another bat and they have the young pitching to get a deal done.

Kemp is so much more attractive to teams in a deal than say Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes because he still has five years remaining on his deal. Yes, he’s also owed $107 million, but Upton and Cespedes can both become free agents after the 2015 campaign.

One team to keep an eye on this week is the San Diego Padres. The Padres were willing to go close to $100 million for Pablo Sandoval, so they are willing to spend some money and are looking for a big bat.

The reliever market appears quiet at the moment. Lefty setup man Andrew Miller seems to getting the most attention and could have a deal in place by the end of the weekend. It looks as if the New York Yankees would rather give him four years than their own free agent David Robertson, who has been linked to Houston.

In a sign of the times, 28 years ago today the Philadelphia Phillies made Pete Rose the highest paid player in baseball, signing him to a deal that paid him just over $900,000 for the 1979 season.

Keep that in mind this week when you hear that third baseman Chase Headley has just inked a deal that guarantees him close to $17 million a year.

But, remember this, when it comes to the Winter Meetings believe nothing. There are going to be a-million-and-one rumors over the next week, and chances are none of them will come true.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Friday, December 05)


Final Score: Anaheim 5, Minnesota 4

Ryan Kesler had two goals and an assist as the Anaheim Ducks nabbed a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild on Friday. Tim Jackman posted a goal and an assist while Jakob Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey each scored for the Ducks, who have won their past three. Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 25 shots. Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Justin Fontaine and Jonas Brodin all scored for the Wild, who were coming off a win over Montreal on Wednesday. Darcy Kuemper allowed all five goals on 18 shots.


Final Score: Winnipeg 6, Colorado 2

Bryan Little’s hat trick powered the Winnipeg Jets to a 6-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. Little’s hat trick was the first for the Jets since the franchise relocated from Atlanta to Winnipeg. Eric Boulton scored the last hat trick in franchise history for the Thrashers on Dec. 18, 2010. Andrew Ladd tallied a goal and an assist, Chris Thorburn and Dustin Byfuglien also scored and Blake Wheeler supplied three helpers for the Jets, who are 4-0-1 over their last five games. Michael Hutchinson turned aside 20 shots in the win. Jarome Iginla scored twice and Gabriel Landeskog assisted on both markers for the Avalanche, who lost for the third straight contest. Semyon Varlamov gave up five goals on 30 shots, while Reto Berra conceded a goal on seven shots in defeat.

Final Score: Chicago 4, Montreal 3

Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Brandon Saad scored the winning goal with 27 seconds to play to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday. Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist while Ben Smith and Michal Rozsival also scored for the Blackhawks, who have won five straight. Antti Raanta turned away 38 shots in the win. Brendan Gallagher had a goal and an assist while Sergei Gonchar and P.K. Subban also scored for the Canadiens, who have lost five of their last six games. Carey Price allowed all four goals on 36 shots.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Crew chief changes for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015

Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Thursday a major shake-up with its crew chiefs for its NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series teams in 2015.

In Sprint Cup, JGR has reshuffled its crew chief lineup with Dave Rogers switching from Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota to Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota, while Hamlin’s previous crew chief, Darian Grubb, moving over to the organization’s new fourth team, the No. 19 Toyota, with driver Carl Edwards.

Adam Stevens will switch from JGR’s No. 54 team in the Xfinity Series (previously known as the Nationwide Series) to serve as crew chief for Busch on the 18 team in Sprint Cup.

Jason Ratcliff will remain the crew chief for JGR’s No. 20 Sprint Cup team, with driver Matt Kenseth. Ratcliff and Kenseth have been paired since the start of the 2013 season.

Edwards is joining JGR for the upcoming season after driving for Roush Fenway Racing in NASCAR’s top series since 2004.

“With the expansion of our NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operations to four teams next year with the addition of Carl Edwards, we have been able to take a step back and evaluate each of our teams and make decisions that we feel are best for our organization long term,“ JGR president J.D. Gibbs said in a team release.

Stevens spent the past four seasons as a crew chief in JGR’s Nationwide program, leading the team to 31 race wins and 95 top-10 finishes in 124 starts.

“Like Jason and Dave previously, Adam has clearly proven that he is ready to move into the Cup Series, and we feel that his familiarity with Kyle provides the opportunity for us to make that move now,“ Gibbs added. “We think pairing Dave with Denny and Darian with Carl will also make each team stronger heading into next season. Jason and Matt came together quickly, and we felt it was in the best interest of the 20 team to keep it as is.“

Busch, Hamlin and Kenseth all qualified for this year’s 16-member Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Hamlin made it into the final four for the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he finished seventh in the season-ending race and concluded the season third in the point standings. Edwards qualified for the Chase as well in his last year with RFR.

In the Xfinity Series, Chris Gayle will take over crew chief duties for JGR’s No. 54 Toyota, driven by multiple drivers, while Eric Phillips will serve in the role for the No. 18 Toyota, with new full-time driver Daniel Suarez. Mike Wheeler will replace Kevin Kidd as crew chief for the team’s No. 20 Toyota, also driven by multiple drivers.


►  Earnhardt Jr. recipient of Myers Brothers Award

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was named the recipient of the 2014 Myers Brothers Award for his contributions on and off the racetrack during Thursday’s National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, held at Wynn Las Vegas.

The Myers Brothers Award has been presented annually since 1958 in the names of pioneer NASCAR competitors Billy and Bobby Myers, and its winner is chosen by a vote of the NMPA. This prestigious award recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing.

Earnhardt, who turned 40 years old in October, has won 23 races during his career in NASCAR’s premier series, including victories in the 2004 and ‘14 Daytona 500s. Four of his victories came this season, as he made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and finished eighth in the point standings. Earnhardt also won back-to-back titles in NASCAR’s second-tier series from 1998-99.

Furthermore, Earnhardt is the co-owner of JR Motorsports, a team competing in the Nationwide (soon-to-be Xfinity) Series. JRM is also owned by his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and Sprint Cup team owner Rick Hendrick.

His Dale Jr. Foundation has raised a total of $913,000 that has been distributed to more than 70 different charities. He also has made 235 appearances on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a number that ranks in the top-five among professional athletes.

“The truth is I’m extremely humbled by this award, but I feel like I share it on so many levels,“ Earnhardt said during his Myers Brothers Award acceptance speech. “My sister, Kelley, along with everyone at JR Motorsports is as deserving of this as anyone. I’ve got a lot of passions with NASCAR, but I wouldn’t know how to make them realities without all those folks.

“They (at JR Motorsports) are why we just completed our 14th season at building race cars on some level or another. And they’re also why the Dale Jr. Foundation exists. I’m just as proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish there as anything we’ve ever done on the racetrack.“

Others receiving votes for the this year’s Myers Brothers Award were ESPN and NASCAR national touring series title sponsors Sprint and Nationwide Insurance.

Tony Stewart won the Myers Brothers Award in 2013, and Jeff Gordon was the recipient of it in 2012. Last year, Earnhardt received the NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award, which is presented by the NMPA, for a record 11th consecutive year.

“It’s one thing to lead the last lap and get the checkered flag, and it’s one thing to swim faster, run faster, hit a ball farther, get those sort of accolades for doing something phenomenal, but when your peers say, ‘Good job,‘ or when the people you’re around all the time acknowledge something, even if it’s just so minuscule, it’s such a good feeling,“ Earnhardt told reporters after the luncheon had concluded. “That’s really better than any kind of trophy for victories. It definitely is a great feeling.“

This season, JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott became the youngest competitor to win a NASCAR national series championship after clinching the Nationwide title. Elliott, now 19 years old, will likely join Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick and Cole Whitt as Sprint Cup regulars who have developed under Earnhardt full time at the Nationwide level.

In addition to his Nationwide program, Earnhardt contributes to racing at its grassroots levels, fielding Late Model or Street Stock cars since founding JR Motorsports. His Late Model drivers Josh Berry and William Byron finished 1-2, respectively, this season in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


SATURDAY, DECEMBER 06, 2014


National Basketball Association
Philadelphia at Detroit, 7:30 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, FS-Detroit+, DSS
Golden State at Chicago, 8:00 PM - CSN-Bay, WGN, DSS
Phoenix at Houston, 8:00 PM - FS-Arizona+, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Minnesota at San Antonio, 8:30 PM - FS-North, Southwest, DSS
Orlando at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - FS-Florida, CSN-California, DSS
New Orleans at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-New Orleans, Prime Ticket, DSS


National Hockey League
Ottawa at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM - RDS, TSN5, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
St. Louis at NY Islanders, 1:00 PM - FS-Midwest, MSG+, DSS
Philadelphia at Los Angeles, 4:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-West, DSS
Montreal at Dallas, 7:00 PM - TVA, CBC, FS-Southwest, DSS
Washington at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC, MSG+, DSS
Columbus at Tampa Bay, 7:00 PM - FS-Ohio, SunSports, DSS
Buffalo at Florida, 7:00 PM - MSG-Buffalo, FS-Florida, DSS
Vancouver at Toronto, 7:00 PM - CBC, DSS
NY Rangers at Detroit, 7:00 PM - MSG, FS-Detroit, NHL Network, DSS
Chicago at Nashville, 7:00 PM - CBC, CSN-Chicago, FS-Tennessee, DSS
Boston at Arizona, 8:00 PM - NESN, FS-Arizona, DSS
San Jose at Calgary, 10:00 PM - CSN-California, CBC, DSS


College Basketball
USC Upstate at Georgia Tech, 12:00 PM - RSN
Kent State at Kennesaw State, 12:00 PM - ESPN3.com
NJIT at Michigan, 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Rutgers at Seton Hall, 12:00 PM - FSN, MASN2
Oklahoma State at South Carolina, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
La Salle vs. Temple, 12:00 PM - ESPNews
Wisconsin at Marquette, 12:30 PM - CBS
SIU Edwardsville at Central Michigan, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Saint Joseph’s at Villanova, 1:00 PM - FS1
UMBC at Iowa, 1:07 PM - Big Ten Network+
Saint Peter’s at Boston Univ, 2:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Eastern Michigan at Dayton, 2:00 PM - FS-Ohio
UCF at Florida State, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Loyola-Chicago at Ill-Chicago, 2:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, ESPN3.com
American at Illinois, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Wagner at Lafayette, 2:00 PM - Patriot League Network
St. Francis-NY at Liberty, 2:00 PM - MASN
Winthrop at Maryland, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Green Bay at Miami-Florida, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
North Florida at Purdue, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Arizona State at Texas A&M, 2:00 PM - SEC Network
Miss State at Tulane, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Virginia at VCU, 2:00 PM - ESPN U
Ark-Pine Bluff at Michigan State, 2:15 PM - Big Ten Network
South Florida at Detroit, 3:00 PM - WADL, ESPN3.com
Canisius at Niagara, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
UTSA at Washington State, 3:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
North Dakota at Drake, 3:05 PM - MC22
Kansas State at Tennessee, 3:15 PM - ESPN 2
Northwestern at Butler, 4:30 PM - FOX
Colgate at Ohio State, 4:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Stony Brook at Princeton, 4:30 PM - Ivy League Digital Network
Tennessee State at Lipscomb, 5:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Gonzaga at Arizona, 5:15 PM - ESPN
St. John’s at Syracuse, 5:15 PM - ESPN 2
Hawaii vs. BYU, 6:00 PM - BYUtv
Penn State at Marshall, 6:00 PM - CBSSN
Saint Louis at Wichita State, 6:00 PM - COX Kansas
Western Kentucky at Murray State, 6:30 PM - American Sports Network, MASN2
Mount St Mary’s at Loyola-MD, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network, MASN
Savannah State at Indiana, 7:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Wake Forest at NC State, 7:30 PM - ESPN U
Abilene Christian at Houston, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
FDU at Notre Dame, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Alabama at Xavier, 8:00 PM - CBSSN
New Mexico at Valparaiso, 8:05 PM - ESPN3.com
UTEP at New Mexico State, 9:00 PM - American Sports Network, MASN
Bradley at Memphis, 9:30 PM - ESPN U
Boise State at St. Mary’s, 11:30 PM - ESPN U


Women’s College Basketball
Connecticut at Notre Dame, 3:15 PM - ESPN
SMU at Arizona State, 5:00 PM - Pac-12 Network


College Football
SMU at Connecticut, 12:00 PM - CBSSN
Louisiana Tech at Marshall, 12:00 PM - ESPN 2
Houston at Cincinnati, 12:00 PM - ESPN
Iowa State at TCU, 12:00 PM - ABC
Indiana State at Chattanooga, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Fordham at New Hampshire, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Richmond at Coastal Carolina, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Sam Houston St at Jacksonville St, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Northern Iowa at Illinois State, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 3:30 PM - FS1
South Dakota St at North Dakota St, 3:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Alabama vs. Missouri, 4:00 PM - CBS
Alcorn State vs. Southern U, 4:02 PM - ESPN U
Liberty at Villanova, 4:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Montana at Eastern Wash, 4:35 PM - ESPN3.com
Temple at Tulane, 7:30 PM - ESPN 2
Kansas State at Baylor, 7:45 PM - ESPN
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech, 7:45 PM - ABC
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State, 8:17 PM - FOX
Fresno State at Boise State, 10:00 PM - CBS


College Hockey
Minnesota at Michigan State, 5:00 PM - FS-North+
Maine at Massachusetts-Lowell, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
Colorado College at Minnesota-Duluth, 8:00 PM - FS-North, FCS, Altitude
Penn State at Wisconsin, 9:00 PM - American Sports Network


International Soccer
Newcastle vs. Chelsea, 7:40 AM - NBCSN
Elche CF vs. Club Atletico de Madrid, 9:55 AM - beIN Sport
English Premier League, 10:00 AM - NBCSN
AS Roma vs. US Sassuolo Calcio, 11:55 AM - beIN Sport
Manchester City vs. Everton, 12:00 PM - NBC
Real Madrid CF vs. Celta Vigo, 1:55 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
EUROPEAN - Nedbank Challenge, 6:00 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Hero World Challenge, 12:00 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - Hero World Challenge, 2:30 PM - NBC

Sports News   141205

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  State Championships Schedule

Class AA  Friday, December 05, 2014   07:30 PM   Record W-L Streak
 Bridgeport (WV)   (12 - 1 - 0) 11 W
   Frankfort (Ridgeley, WV) (14 - 0 - 0) 14 W



Class AAA   Saturday, December 06, 2014   12:00 PM Record W-L Streak
 Capital (Charleston, WV)   (12 - 0 - 0) 12 W
   South Charleston (WV) (11 - 2 - 0) 3 W



Class A   Saturday, December 06, 2014   07:00 PM Record W-L Streak
 Williamstown (WV)   (12 - 2 - 0) 7 W
   St. Marys (WV) (13 - 0 - 0) 13 W


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Highly motivated Herd ready for C-USA Championship

For the 11-1 Thundering Herd football team motivation in the 2014 Conference USA Championship comes in spades.

For Head Coach Doc Holliday, winning the title for the first time since Marshall joined the conference in 2005 is the only inspiration his squad needs.

“The bottom line is, your ultimate goal is to win a championship,” he said. “Here we are, playing for the championship here in Huntington. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s been 12 years since that’s happened here.”

The last time The Joan played host to a championship game, it was in 2002 when Byron Leftwich connected with Darius Watts from 40-yard out with under a minute left in the fourth quarter to defeat Toledo 49-42 for the MAC title.

This year’s championship comes on the heels of watching a perfect season float away in the form of a Brandon Doughty pass to the endzone on a two-point conversion in overtime to lift the Hilltoppers, 67-66.

While the team is understandably disappointed, the players are ready to put another accomplishment on a season that is full of them.

“We came out swinging and we tried to come back. We got close but we just didn’t finish the job,” Senior Offensive Lineman Chris Jasperse said. “Luckily we have the conference championship game this week and we’re looking forward to it.”

For the veteran players, there’s actually a loss from last year they consider to be a bigger letdown.

In the 2013 C-USA Championship, a 9-3 Herd traveled to Houston to take on a 9-3 Rice and was handedly defeated, 41-24.

“That hurt more,” Senior Linebacker Neville Hewitt said. “You’re playing for a championship and that’s something you never forget. So, that hurt worse.”

That disappointment made the team all the more motivated to get back and win this year’s title.

The attitude was infectious, as new players had no trouble picking up on the desire.

“They refer to it last year like they lost something, they got something took from them. All they talk about is not getting a ring last year,” Freshman Receiver Hyleck Foster said. “With me being a Marshall player now, I just got to take that under my belt.”

No matter what reason the team comes to play, Holliday has no doubt they’ll give everything they have.

“They’re going to come play their tail off Saturday and I don’t expect anything less.”

Kickoff against the 8-4 Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech is set for Noon.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Georgia Tech to ruin Florida State’s playoff chances

Florida State has been on the cusp of losing each of its last six games. Nevertheless, the Seminoles have come out on the winning end each time. However, this Saturday will be a different story.

Georgia Tech is the most accomplished opponent Florida State has faced this season even though the Yellow Jackets started slowly - struggling with Wofford and Tulane before defeating Georgia Southern and Virginia Tech by a combined seven points.

Then, after beating Miami-Florida, the Yellow Jackets lost back-to-back games to Duke and North Carolina. However, they bounced back playing their best ball in years with four straight wins by a combined 108 points. An upset victory over Georgia, their first win over the Bulldogs in six years, capped a 10-2 regular season.

Looking at it another way, Georgia Tech’s defense allowed an average of 28 points per game its first eight contests. Since then, the unit has given up 10 fewer points per game. Meanwhile, the offense has clicked for eight more points per game over the second half of the season compared to the first half.

Florida State’s inconsistencies have been well documented. The Seminoles outscored their opponents, 39-21 over the first six games but their margin of victory over the last six has been just seven points, with half of those six games separated by four points or less.

Many teams find it difficult to defend Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack, especially if they are not familiar with it. That will be the case in this one as Florida State has played the Yellow Jackets just once since 2009.

That matchup also was an ACC Championship contest with the Seminoles pulling out a 21-15 win as 15-point favorites. The Yellow Jackets won the prior two meetings, covering both games. Going back to 2002, Georgia Tech is 5-0 against the spread the last five battles with Florida State.

All the pressure is on the Seminoles as they must win to secure a spot in the four-team college football playoffs. They have had to deal with that pressure on a weekly basis in November and survived against lesser competition. This will be the week they fall.

Take Georgia Tech plus four points in this week’s lone five-star play.

THREE-STAR PLAYS

Marshall’s unbeaten season came to an end last week against Western Kentucky. The Thundering Herd scored 66 points but still lost in overtime by one point, 67-66. They remain home against Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA Championship matchup.

The Herd were in this spot last year but fell to Rice on the road. This time they host the Bulldogs and are favored by 11.5 points. They have not been this low a favorite since September when they gave 11 points at Akron. Will they cover? Will they even win straight up?

One thing is for certain, this is not the same team that outscored its opponents by an average margin of 47-16 over its first 10 games. The last two contests were tight battles over a pair of 4-4 C-USA squads in UAB and Western Ky.

Now Marshall faces a Louisiana Tech club coming off a 45-point stomping of Rice. The Bulldogs, 7-1 in C-USA play, have lost just one game since the beginning of October and it came in overtime. Their only two other FBS defeats came at the hands of Oklahoma and Auburn.

The Bulldogs have the firepower to stay with Marshall, so don’t expect them to get blown out, particularly with the way the Herd are playing.

Take Louisiana Tech plus 11.5 points.

The final two three-star selections come from the AAC.

Houston is at Cincinnati and the Bearcats are favored by seven points. They have won six consecutive conference contests but cannot win the league title due to their loss to Memphis.

Cincinnati won last year’s matchup in Houston by seven points but the Cougars were only 2-2 at home versus FBS competition last year. (They also are just 4-3 at home in 2014.)

This year’s matchup is an away game for the Cougars, who are 6-3 in their last nine road games, including a pair of upset victories over Memphis and Rutgers. Furthermore, they are 11-0 ATS in their last 11 road games.

These teams have played two league clubs with winning records. Houston defeated Memphis and lost to UCF by just five. Cincinnati was crushed by Memphis and barely pulled out the win over East Carolina despite the eight- point margin of victory.

Take Houston plus seven points.

SMU looks for its first win of the season against 2-9 Connecticut. The Mustangs came close to winning a few weeks ago before losing a one-point contest to South Florida - a game the Bulls won with four seconds remaining.

The Mustangs only other game against a weak opponent was a 10-point road loss to Tulsa. However, they were down by just seven with just over one minute on the clock.

Connecticut is just as bad as South Florida and Tulsa. The Huskies beat UCF for their lone FBS win but lost the following three games by a combined score of 117-31.

Even though this is a long trip to Storrs, the Mustangs have an extra day of rest after losing to Houston last Friday. They should be the hungrier of the two teams, and even if they fail to win, should cover the large spread.

Take SMU plus 12 points.

TWO-STAR SELECTION

Take Missouri +14.5 (Alabama).

ONE-STAR PLAYS

Take Bowling Green +6.5 (Northern Illinois), over 52.5 points in Ohio State- Wisconsin and Ohio State +4.5 (Wisconsin).

THIS YEAR’S RECORD

My overall record stands at 99-85-5 after a 5-2 mark in Week 14. The one five- star selection proved victorious so that record jumped to 9-8. The three-star plays went 1-2 and are 20-14-1 overall. The lone two-star choice was a winner so that total stands at 33-29. The one-star plays went 2-0 for a 37-34-4 mark.

THIS WEEK’S JEFF FRANK DIRTY DOZEN

1) Oregon, 106; 2) Michigan State, 104; 3) TCU, 103; 4) Alabama, 102; 5-T) Georgia and Ole Miss, 100.5; 7) Mississippi State, 99.5; 8) Baylor, 98; 9) Wisconsin, 97.5; 10-T) Georgia Tech, Kansas State and USC, 96.5

(The Dirty Dozen is not a reflection of a given team’s won-loss record. It is based on power ratings used to predict spreads for the upcoming week. At the beginning of the season, all FBS teams are assigned a power number, which changes on a week-to-week basis depending on the results of the previous week.)



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Game Results

(THURSDAY, DECEMBER 04)


Final Score: Dallas 41, Chicago 28

The Dallas Cowboys stayed perfect on the road and ended a three-game losing streak to the Chicago Bears by getting the ball to DeMarco Murray every chance they could. Murray had 41 touches and gained 228 yards from scrimmage as the Cowboys shook off a demoralizing division loss on Thanksgiving to beat the Bears 41-28 on Thursday night. There was no relief for the Bears, who lost not only the game, but also star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who was taken away from Soldier Field in an ambulance after suffering an injury to his ribs in the first half, though he tweeted later that he was OK. Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, followed last year’s 146-yard effort against the Bears with 179 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and added 49 yards on nine catches. Tony Romo had three touchdown passes—two to Cole Beasley—and earned his eighth career win in Thursday games as he and the Cowboys bounced back from a 33-10 loss to NFC East rival Philadelphia by winning in Chicago for the first time since 2007. Their loss a week ago came at home, of course, giving the Eagles the division lead for at least a week. It’s on the road where the Cowboys (9-4) have thrived this season, going 6-0. Matt Forte and Jay Cutler rushed for touchdowns in the fourth quarter—Cutler after an onside kick, cutting a 25-point Dallas lead to 10. But the Bears (5-8) lost for the second week in a row after falling in Detroit on Thanksgiving.


►  Ravens’ Ngata suspended four games for PED use

Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata was suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Ngata said he took Adderall and apologized for the transgression that will keep him out of Baltimore’s remaining four games of the regular season.

“I made a mistake, and I own this,“ said Ngata in a statement Thursday. “I took Adderall and take full responsibility for doing this. I am deeply sorry and broken up over this. I let down my family, my teammates, Ravens fans and myself. My hope is that the Ravens make the playoffs, and I believe they can do this. And, then I can come back and help us win.“

The Ravens are 7-5 entering Sunday’s matchup with the Miami Dolphins and are tied with five other teams for the final AFC wild card spot.

Ngata will be eligible to return following the regular-season finale against Cleveland and would be able to play if the Ravens qualify for the playoffs.

“This is disappointing news for the Ravens,“ said general manager Ozzie Newsome. “We are disappointed with Haloti, but no more than he is with himself.“

Ngata, in his ninth season with the Ravens, is the center of Baltimore’s defense as the prominent run stopper in the club’s 3-4 scheme. He has 31 tackles with two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in 12 games this season.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 14 player fantasy rankings - quarterbacks

It’s playoff time and it’s certainly not the time to make a mistake with your starting quarterback.

It’s never a mistake to start New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. Brees has been a stud fantasy quarterback since arriving in the Crescent City in 2006 and 2014 is no different. He’s thrown for 3,748 yards and 27 touchdowns in 12 games this season and averaged 28.5 fantasy ppg over the past two contests.

Brees will face a mediocre Carolina pass defense at home where he is historically an elite passer with a career 100.6 QB rating.

No. 2 on the list is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers and the Packers host the Atlanta Falcons Monday night in what should be another offensive explosion for the Green Bay offensive machine. The Falcons have yielded the most passing yard this season (284.9 ypg), but strangely have been stingy with touchdown passes - just 15 which is better than the league average. For that reason, Rodgers is “only” No. 2 in Week 14.

The Chicago Bears pass defense has been a mess this season and that isn’t likely to change in Week 14. They should be good “medicine” for the Dallas Cowboys passing offense and Tony Romo. Coming off their horrible Thanksgiving Day performance against Philadelphia, the Cowboys have had a full week to fix their issues and facing a Bears defense that has allowed 28.1 ppg and more than 50 points twice, should help then rebound.

You will also find Cam Newton in the top-10 which hasn’t been the case for most of the season. But Newton will travel to New Orleans to face Brees and the Saints and he’ll need to be productive if his team is to keep pace with the New Orleans offense. Fortunately, the Saints defense has been in a giving mood for much of the season, yielding 268.4 ypg through the air.

If you are looking for a “Hail Mary” this weekend, it could be Ryan Fitzpatrick. No, he’s not going to repeat last weekend’s six touchdowns, but he does face a weak Jacksonville Jaguars bottom-10 defense.

Top-25 Quarterback Rankings

—————————————-

1) Drew Brees, New Orleans

2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

3) Tony Romo, Dallas

4) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

5) Peyton Manning, Denver

6) Matthew Stafford, Detroit

7) Tom Brady, New England

8) Jay Cutler, Chicago

9) Ryan Tannehill, Miami

10) Cam Newton, Carolina

11) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco

12) Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia

13) Matt Ryan, Atlanta

14) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston

15) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

16) Philip Rivers, San Diego

17) Joe Flacco, Baltimore

18) Russell Wilson, Seattle

19) Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

20) Eli Manning, New York Giants

21) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

22) Alex Smith, Kansas City

23) Kyle Orton, Buffalo

24) Drew Stanton, Arizona

25) Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee


►  Week 14 player fantasy rankings - wide receivers

Despite this being the “Year of the Pass,“ not all wide receivers have been active participants.

Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson had been one of the biggest disappointments ... at least until last weekend when the “real” Megatron finally showed up for the first time since Week 1. He appears 100% healthy and will face a Tampa Bay defense that is among the worst at defending against wide receivers.

In Week 14 he’ll continue to “make amends” to his fantasy owners, at least those who somehow managed to overcome his poor early season production, and still made it into the fantasy playoffs.

Even with Darrelle Revis covering him everywhere he went last Sunday, Green Bay wideout Jordy Nelson still managed double-digit fantasy points. In Week 14, he won’t have to worry about escaping Revis’ grasp as the Packers face the very generous Atlanta Falcons pass defense Monday night. I expect Nelson to explode for close to 150 yards and a touchdown.

Dez Bryant was one of the many non-existent Cowboys in an ugly home loss to Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day, but should rebound nicely against the Chicago Bears Thursday night. The Bears defense has yielded a league-worst 27 passing touchdowns and is on a short practice week so Bryant figures to add to that touchdown total.

The Pittsburgh Steelers pass defense has been one of the worst in the league too, yielding 24 touchdown passes and only coming up with eight interceptions. So it’s a great time for A.J. Green and the Bengals to host the Steelers. Green has posted double-digit fantasy points in three consecutive games and four of five since missing a trio of games due to injury.

There are quite a few former “big-named” receivers near the bottom of the list. Many are there because of questionable health (ex” DeSean Jackson, Roddy White, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne), but a few simply haven’t performed as expected this season.

Michael Crabtree has done very little and become Colin Kaepernick’s No. 3 receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson.

Houston’s Andre Johnson has become a “possession” receiver while second-year wideout DeAndre Hopkins (9-238-2 last weekend) has taken over as the Texans’ deep threat.

And Pierre Garcon, who last season posted a league-high 113 receptions for 1,346 yards, has virtually disappeared due to the Redskins’ quarterback ills and the acquisition of Jackson.

Despite their obvious talent, it’s hard to recommend starting any of them with the fantasy championship on the line.

Top-50 Wide Receiver Rankings

——————————————-

1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit

2) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

3) Dez Bryant, Dallas

4) A.J. Green, Cincinnati

5) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

6) Demaryius Thomas, Denver

7) Julio Jones, Atlanta

8) Josh Gordon, Cleveland

9) Emmanuel Sanders, Denver

10) Randall Cobb, Green Bay

11) Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

12) T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

13) Golden Tate, Detroit

14) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

15) Brandon Marshall, Chicago

16) Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

17) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

18) Keenan Allen, San Diego

19) Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia

20) Anquan Boldin, San Francisco

21) Michael Floyd, Arizona

22) Jarvis Landry, Miami

23) Julian Edelman, New England

24) Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati

25) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay

26) Terrence Williams, Dallas

27) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia

28) Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

29) Brandon LaFell, New England

30) Marques Colston, New Orleans

31) Mike Wallace, Miami

32) Kendall Wright, Tennessee

33) Torrey Smith, Baltimore

34) Kenny Stills, New Orleans

35) Roddy White, Atlanta

36) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

37) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis

38) Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh

39) John Brown, Arizona

40) Greg Jennings, Minnesota

41) Malcolm Floyd, San Diego

42) DeSean Jackson, Washington

43) Andre Johnson, Houston

44) Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore

45) Percy Harvin, New York Jets

46) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

47) Pierre Garcon, Washington

48) Michael Crabtree, San Francisco

49) Reuben Randle, New York Giants

50) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City


►  Week 14 player fantasy rankings - running backs

Last week, Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell was our top-ranked tailback, with Dallas Cowboys’ halfback DeMarco Murray ranked directly behind him.

Heading into Week 14, we are simply flipping the two.

Even in a week where Murray averaged under four yards per carry, for the first time in 2014, he still managed to record 17.3 fantasy points (according to Yahoo) against the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only is he a threat to run the ball, but Murray can also catch passes out of the backfield (seventh among tailbacks in receiving yards, with 343), making it extremely tough on opposing defenses to completely shut him down. As a result, Murray has 215.0 fantasy points, which leads all running back, and further backs up our choice with him as our top-ranked halfback for Week 14.

Bell comes in as our second-ranked halfback for the week. He has the second- most fantasy points (198.9), behind only Murray. After describing Dallas’ star running-back as a dual-threat, Bell is a guy who epitomizes that role even more. Pittsburgh’s tailback is just one of four players with over 1,000 rushing yards in 2014 (1,046), and on top of that, Bell’s 643 receiving yards is the second-most among halfbacks (Matt Forte has 650 receiving yards). We expect Bell to continue his strong season on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, who give up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, allowing 21.7 points per game.

When considering all the facts, our third-ranked tailback, Houston Texans’ running back Arian Foster, has had an extremely impressive season. He has the sixth-most rushing yards in the league (901), as well as the fifth-most fantasy points (177.6), yet has missed significant time with a groin injury.

Not only did Foster miss two games, but he also left two games early with the injury, which obviously has affected his stats. If he had been healthy for every game in 2014, there is a legitimate chance that Foster would have the most fantasy points among halfbacks.

Nevertheless, owners should expect Foster’s success to carry over to Week 14 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are giving up an average of 21.4 ppg to opposing tailbacks.

One player who jumped up in our rankings for this week is Green Bay Packers’ running back Eddie Lacy. After being the ninth-ranked halfback heading into Week 13, Lacy jumped all the way up to No. 4 for Week 14, and rightfully so. His opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, are giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing halfbacks (23.7 ppg), and combined with Lacy being on fire over his past six games, makes for a tremendous opportunity for fantasy owners. Lacy has recorded at least 10 fantasy points, during his past six games, and has produced over 15 points in four of those contests. He is clearly playing his best football of the season and we expect that to continue against the Falcons.

Another guy we love is Cleveland Browns’ running back Isaiah Crowell. While he is not coming off a particularly strong Week 13 performance (19 touches, 44 yards), it was important to note that he did not make any mistakes against the Buffalo Bills. Head coach Mike Pettine called out tailback Terrance West in an extremely negative way after Sunday’s loss, as he had a costly fumble in the third-quarter. With Crowell already seeing the majority of the workload, we think his touches will increase, making him a solid RB2-option Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts give up 21.6 fantasy ppg to opposing running backs (eighth-most points allowed to opposing halfbacks), further cementing Crowell’s value.

Top-50 Running Back Rankings

——————————————

1) DeMarco Murray, Dallas

2) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

3) Arian Foster, Houston

4) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

5) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

6) Matt Forte, Chicago

7) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

8) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

9) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

10) Mark Ingram, New Orleans

11) Justin Forsett, Baltimore

12) C.J. Anderson, Denver

13) Alfred Morris, Washington

14) Frank Gore, San Francisco

15) Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

16) Tre Mason, St. Louis

17) Daniel Herron, Indianapolis

18) Ryan Mathews, San Diego

19) Denard Robinson, Jacksonville

20) Rashad Jennings, New York Giants

21) Joique Bell, Detroit

22) Lamar Miller, Miami

23) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

24) Fred Jackson, Buffalo

25) Chris Ivory, New York Jets

26) Andre Ellington, Arizona

27) Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota

28) Reggie Bush, Detroit

29) Steven Jackson, Atlanta

30) Carlos Hyde, San Francisco

31) Trent Richardson, Indianapolis

32) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

33) Shane Vereen, New England

34) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

35) LeGarrette Blount, New England

36) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee

37) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

38) Roy Helu, Washington

39) Latavius Murray, Oakland

40) Matt Asiata, Minnesota

41) Chris Johnson, New York Jets

42) Pierre Thomas, New Orleans

43) DeAngelo Williams, Carolina

44) Terrance West, Cleveland

45) Charles Sims, Tampa Bay

46) Jonas Gray, New England

47) Knile Davis, Kansas City

48) Alfred Blue, Houston

49) Juwan Thompson, Denver

50) Theo Riddick, Detroit


►  Week 14 player fantasy rankings - tight ends

Many fantasy owners felt that once New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski was able to take the field and healthy, that he would produce as one of the top tight ends in the league.

Yet, it is hard to imagine that all of those owners thought he would be the No. 1 fantasy tight end given his questionable health.

After not playing a single snap during the preseason, the jury was out heading into the NFL season, as to how Gronkowski would play. Well, not only does he lead all tight ends with 910 yards, he is also tied for the league-lead in receptions (65), and second in touchdown catches (9). On top of that, Gronkowski has the most fantasy points among tight ends (according to Yahoo), with 145.0 points, making him a clear choice to head our Week 14 tight-end rankings.

There are two tight ends who are tied with Gronkowski at 65 receptions.

One is New Orleans Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham, who will open this week ranked directly behind the Patriots’ superstar. Graham had a surprisingly quiet Week 13, recording zero catches, even though Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees threw for 257 yards and five touchdowns. With Graham putting up a “donut” last weekend, we expect him to bounce back in a big way Sunday versus the Carolina Panthers. In a Week 9 victory over Carolina, Graham recorded seven receptions for 83 yards and a score, which should lead fantasy owners to believe he can, at the minimum, duplicate that performance.

The other player with the same number of catches as “Gronk” is Chicago Bears’ tight end Martellus Bennett, who heads into Week 14 as our third-ranked tight end.

Bennett had been mediocre from Week 9-12, producing less than 10 fantasy points combined, however, he rebounded in a big way on Thanksgiving, with eight receptions for 109 yards, showing he is still a solid TE1. Chicago’s upcoming opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, are giving up the third-most points to opposing tight ends (11.0 points per game), giving owners another reason to show confidence in Bennett.

Fantasy owners must keep tabs on Denver Broncos’ tight end Julius Thomas. After missing the past two games with an ankle injury, which includes being a true game-time decision for Week 13, Thomas has a great chance to return to action on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning should love the sound of that, as tight ends Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green have combined for just three catches and 13 yards during the past two games. Thomas has the most touchdowns (12) among tight ends, and as long as he is able to suit up, we expect him to record lucky No. 13 on Sunday.

One tight end who owners may want to think about sitting, who is actually ranked in our top-10, is the Carolina Panthers’ Greg Olsen. Benching Olsen will be no easy task, as he has the fifth-most fantasy points among tight ends, with 107.8. However, if there is one thing Olsen’s Week 14 opponent, the Saints do well, it is defending tight ends. New Orleans is giving up the least amount of fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2014 (4.7 ppg), and to make matters worse, Olsen had a rough outing against them in Week 9 (three catches, 30 yards). Most weekends, we would have Olsen as a top-five tight-end, yet with a tough matchup on Sunday, we advise owners to consider alternative options.

Top-25 Tight End Rankings

————————————-

1) Rob Gronkowski, New England

2) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans

3) Martellus Bennett, Chicago

4) Antonio Gates, San Diego

5) Julius Thomas, Denver

6) Jason Witten, Dallas

7) Delanie Walker, Tennessee

8) Coby Fleener, Indianapolis

9) Greg Olsen, Carolina

10) Larry Donnell, New York Giants

11) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh

12) Jordan Reed, Washington

13) Tim Wright, New England

14) Owen Daniels, Baltimore

15) Travis Kelce, Kansas City

16) Scott Chandler, Buffalo

17) Mychal Rivera, Oakland

18) Vernon Davis, San Francisco

19) Jared Cook, St. Louis

20) Brent Celek, Philadelphia

21) Luke Wilson, Seattle

22) Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis

23) Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota

24) Charles Clay, Miami

25) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia


►  Week 14 player fantasy rankings - kickers

Usually kickers in cold weather during the first week of December are not positioned very high on the weekly ranking list.

Owners should make an exception to that rule this week, because the two we have chosen have been fantasy studs lately.

Since coming off the Packers bye week four games ago, Mason Crosby has made 9- of-11 field goals and 17 extra-points. Against the Falcons defense, the Packers have a chance to score a lot of points again at Lambeau.

Cody Parkey has really been a fantasy stud all season as he has scored fewer than eight fantasy points just once. The last two weeks, Parkey has hit 9- of-10 field goals and converted seven extra-points.

“Mr. Reliables,“ Stephen Gostkowski and Adam Vinatieri follow Crosby and Parkey on the Week 14 rankings. Gostkowski actually missed a field goal last week, just his second miss of the season, and scored only one fantasy point, but he should bounce back in warm, sunny San Diego.

Vinatieri did not attempt a field goal last week, but still had seven fantasy points because the Colts scored seven touchdowns. Owners shouldn’t shy away from starting him because he will be in frigid Cleveland.

Dallas’ Dan Bailey rounds out the top-five for this week as the Cowboys take on the Bears on Thursday night. Bailey has missed just three field goals this season (22 attempts), and Chicago allows the most fantasy points to opposing kickers.

Unless there is a surprise snowstorm in a city where one of these place- kickers are playing, all these guys should be in lineups.

If owners are in need a kicker, recently-signed Connor Barth made all five of his attempts in his Broncos debut in Week 13. He is available in 89% of Yahoo Leagues.

Top-25 Kicker Rankings

———————————

1) Mason Crosby, Green Bay

2) Cody Parkey, Philadelphia

3) Stephen Gostkowski, New England

4) Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis

5) Dan Bailey, Dallas

6) Justin Tucker, Baltimore

7) Steven Hauschka, Seattle

8) Matt Bryant, Atlanta

9) Matt Prater, Detroit

10) Connor Barth, Denver

11) Caleb Sturgis, Miami

12) Dan Carpenter, Buffalo

13) Mike Nugent, Cincinnati

14) Phil Dawson, San Francisco

15) Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh

16) Nick Novak, San Diego

17) Randy Bullock, Houston

18) Cairo Santos, Kansas City

19) Shayne Graham, St. Louis

20) Blair Walsh, Minnesota

21) Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona

22) Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis

23) Billy Cundiff, Cleveland

24) Josh Brown, New York Giants

25) Patrick Murray, Tampa Bay


►  Week 14 player fantasy rankings - defense

When J.J. Watt is on your defense, the unit is always going to be ranked among the best in fantasy. When that defense is facing the Jaguars, it jumps all the way to the head of the class.

Houston travels to Jacksonville for its first of two matchups with the Jaguars in the final four weeks. If your league has a Week 17 championship game, the Texans will be a top defensive option that week too as they host the Jaguars in their season finale.

The Eagles take on the Seahawks in the most highly-anticipated matchup of Week 14. Since the game is in Philadelphia, the Eagles are the better defensive option. Philadelphia allows the 14th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, but that is a bit misleading because they allowed 26 fantasy points against the Packers a couple weeks ago.

Minnesota is coming off a big fantasy performance last week with two blocked punts. Although the Vikings will obviously not repeat that, they remain a top defensive option, simply because the Jets are coming to town.

The Bills are one of the best fantasy defenses this season, but owners will have to start them with caution versus the explosive Broncos. Eight different defenses have scored negative fantasy points against Peyton Manning and Denver.

The Buffalo defense’s one saving grace is they lead the league with 48 sacks, so perhaps they can get some pressure on Manning like the Rams did a few weeks ago. That’s a big maybe because the Broncos have allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL (13).

Speaking of sacks, the Giants got to Blake Bortles seven times last week and have another juicy matchup with the Titans in Week 14. New York is still a bit of a risky play because the defense doesn’t provide much else, but if owners are in a bind, the Giants should get a few sacks on whomever plays quarterback for the Titans. Tennessee has allowed 33 sacks this season.

The Buccaneers defense has quietly strung together a few great weeks. The unit is averaging 13.3 fantasy points the last three games and actually has a decent matchup in Detroit, who allows the 12th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. Along with the New York Giants, Tampa Bay is an option for owners hurting at defense or facing a top offense.

Top-25 Defense/Special Teams Rankings

——————————————————-

1) Houston Texans

2) Detroit Lions

3) St. Louis Rams

4) San Francisco 49ers

5) Philadelphia Eagles

6) Minnesota Vikings

7) Cincinnati Bengals

8) Green Bay Packers

9) Denver Broncos

10) Arizona Cardinals

11) Seattle Seahawks

12) Buffalo Bills

13) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

14) Miami Dolphins

15) New York Giants

16) Baltimore Ravens

17) Dallas Cowboys

18) New England Patriots

19) Washington Redskins

20) New York Jets

21) New Orleans Saints

22) Cleveland Browns

23) Tennessee Titans

24) Pittsburgh Steelers

25) Kansas City Chiefs



The Gilmer Free Press

►  WVU Loses to LSU

Josh Gray’s layup with six seconds to go lifted LSU to a 74-73 win over No. 16 West Virginia in an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game on Thursday.

LSU trailed by one after Daxter Miles Jr.‘s tip-in. Out of a timeout, Gray drove the lane on an isolation play for an uncontested layup to push the Tigers in front.

Juwan Staten proceeded to take the ball up the floor for the final shot, but his attempt from just inside the arc was long and LSU held on for the win.

Tim Quarterman had 21 points off the bench and Jarell Martin scored 18 points with 14 rebounds for the Tigers (6-2), who had lost 14 straight road games against ranked opponents since beating No. 13 West Virginia in overtime in 2005.

Jordan Mickey, LSU’s leading scorer, spent most of the first half on the bench due to foul trouble and finished with four points and six rebounds.

Staten paced the Mountaineers (7-1) with 17 points and Miles totaled 13.

LSU, which committed 19 turnovers in a win over UMass its last time out, had another tough time protecting the ball in this one, turning it over 24 times.

Gray had a team-high eight of those turnovers, however, made amends for them late.

The Mountaineers used momentum from the end of the first half to open the second on a 9-0 run. Following a Gary Browne steal, Miles canned a 3-pointer before Jonathan Holton swiped the ball away in LSU’s defensive zone and finished a layup to make it 52-38.

The Tigers worked their way back, however, scoring 10 straight to turn a 12- point deficit into a 55-53 game with 11 minutes left. Keith Hornsby, who supplied 15 points, tied the game minutes later with a 3-pointer.

The lead was three for the Mountaineers and LSU committed another turnover. Miles picked up the loose ball by the baseline, was fouled on his drive and hit 1-of-2 from the stripe to make it a two-possession game.

Quarterman came storming in for a putback dunk at the other end, then Hornsby nailed a corner 3 to give the Tigers a 72-71 lead with 33 seconds left.

Out of a timeout, West Virginia had trouble inbounding the ball, but Holton was fouled by Martin, who picked up his fifth foul on the play. Holton missed the free throw, then Miles just got a hand on the rebound to tip it in for the lead.

It then became a little frantic at the Coliseum, as LSU nearly threw the ball away. Hornsby was fouled hard on the play and came up bleeding from his nose, but officials ruled it a common foul. Gray then pushed the visitors in front with his driving layup.

Staten’s layup gave the Mountaineers a 13-11 lead with over 13 minutes left in the first half, then Quarterman scored six points during an 11-3 burst for the Tigers. Quarterman hit a 3-pointer and a three-point play on back-to-back possessions to help the visitors take a 22-16 advantage.

West Virginia regained the lead on Elijah Macon’s three-point play later which was part of a 9-1 run to end the half for a 43-38 edge at the break.

Game Notes

LSU improved to 2-2 on the road this season and grabbed a 2-1 lead in the all- time series with West Virginia ...

Mickey’s first basket came with 4:59 left in second half ...

The Mountaineers, who entered the game leading the nation with 20.7 offensive rebounds per game, finished with 15 offensive boards in the loss ...

The Tigers shot 46% from the floor ...

West Virginia scored 25 points off turnovers.


►  Huggins: Fundamental failings led to WVU’s first loss

Beyond the defensive breakdown that permitted LSU’s winning layup in the final seconds, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins found several factors contributed to a 74-73 loss Thursday night.

Trapping the wrong ballhandlers on the press, missing too many point-blank shots, and making only 7-of-13 second-half free throws were mistakes that, when added to the poor halfcourt defense, explained how the Mountaineers lost a 14-point lead and their first game of the season.

Huggins hoped the defeat taught his players to refocus on the fundamentals that had been slipping of late.

“They listened really good until after the Connecticut game,” he said. “But you get ranked and everybody’s running around telling them how good they are, and they don’t know how to handle it.”



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, December 04)


Final Score: LSU 74, (16) West Virginia 73

Josh Gray’s layup with six seconds to go lifted LSU to a 74-73 win over No. 16 West Virginia in an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game on Thursday. LSU trailed by one after Daxter Miles Jr.‘s tip-in. Out of a timeout, Gray drove the lane on an isolation play for an uncontested layup to push the Tigers in front. Juwan Staten proceeded to take the ball up the floor for the final shot, but his attempt from just inside the arc was long and LSU held on for the win. Tim Quarterman had 21 points off the bench and Jarell Martin scored 18 points with 14 rebounds for the Tigers (6-2), who had lost 14 straight road games against ranked opponents since beating No. 13 West Virginia in overtime in 2005. Jordan Mickey, LSU’s leading scorer, spent most of the first half on the bench due to foul trouble and finished with four points and six rebounds. Staten paced the Mountaineers (7-1) with 17 points and Miles totaled 13.


Final Score: (20) Iowa State 95, (18) Arkansas 77

Bryce Dejean-Jones and Georges Niang had 27 and 26 points, respectively, and No. 20 Iowa State cruised past 18th-ranked Arkansas 95-77 on Thursday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Dejean-Jones made all eight of his shots and went 4-of-4 from beyond the arc for the Cyclones (5-1), who have won 24 straight non-conference home games. Niang added eight assists and six rebounds. Dustin Hogue tallied 14 points for Iowa State, which shot 64% from the field and went 10-of-19 from 3-point range. Monte Morris and Naz Long had 11 and 10 points, respectively. Bobby Portis ended with 19 points and eight rebounds for the Razorbacks (6-1). Alandise Harris donated 15 points.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Thursday, December 04)


Final Score: Cleveland 90, New York 87

Kyrie Irving’s season-high 37 points and two timely LeBron James baskets helped the Cleveland Cavaliers avenge an opening-night loss to the New York Knicks with a 90-87 win on Thursday. The Cavaliers trailed for most of the second half, but James scored five straight points late in the fourth to put them back in front. The Knicks went to a Carmelo Anthony isolation on the game’s final possession. Anthony shook James and shot a 3 from the right wing, but it was just off the mark. Irving hit 12- of-18 from the floor and made 10 of his 11 free throw attempts for Cleveland, which has won a season-high five straight games. James gave 19 points and 12 assists, and Kevin Love posted 11 points and 11 boards. The Cavaliers dropped a 95-90 decision to the Knicks on Oct. 30. Since then, New York has managed just three more wins in 19 games. Tim Hardaway Jr. paced the Knicks with 20 points off the bench. Amar’e Stoudemire had 18 and Quincy Acy scored a career- high 15 in New York’s sixth straight setback. Anthony shot just 4-for-19 for nine points.


Final Score: Portland 88, Indiana 82

Damian Lillard scored 23 points and LaMarcus Aldridge posted his fourth straight double-double as the Portland Trail Blazers held off the Indiana Pacers, 88-82, on Thursday. Aldridge finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds for Portland, which has won three straight and 12 of 13. Nicolas Batum added 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. Rodney Stuckey scored 16 points and Solomon Hill added 15 with eight rebounds in Indiana’s third straight loss.


Final Score: Golden State 112, New Orleans 85

Stephen Curry had 19 points and 11 assists and the Golden State Warriors matched the longest winning streak in franchise history with a 112-85 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night. The Warriors have gone nearly a month without a loss, winning 11 in a row to match the team record set in 1971-72. Klay Thompson led the way with 23 points while Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green each posted double-doubles. Anthony Davis had 30 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Pelicans, who were coming off a win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday but have lost four of five.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Mariners make it official with Cruz

The Seattle Mariners signed outfielder Nelson Cruz to a four-year contract on Thursday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it was reported on Monday that the contract is worth $57 million with an added $1 million signing bonus.

Cruz spent the 2014 season in Baltimore, signing a one-year deal last February in the wake of his 50-game suspension that stemmed from the Biogenesis scandal in August 2013.

The 34-year-old Dominican native helped the Orioles to the American League East title in 2014. He led the majors with 40 home runs and finished third in the American League with a career-high 108 runs batted in while batting .271 in 159 games.

“I am excited to join the Mariners,“ Cruz said. “Watching Seattle play from the other side of the field, I know how close this team is to the postseason, and I am hopeful that I can help to get us there.“

Cruz spent eight seasons with Texas from 2006-13 and also played eight games for Milwaukee in 2005. He has 197 career home runs with 597 RBI, a .268 average and a .501 slugging percentage in 963 games.

“Our number one goal this offseason was to improve our offense, ideally by adding right-handed power, and with the addition of Nelson Cruz we think we’ve accomplished that goal,“ Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He is an impact hitter that will bat in the middle of our lineup. Nelson has a track record as a middle of the order hitter on pennant contending clubs. He will be an asset on the field and in the clubhouse. Nelson’s presence in our clubhouse and as a teammate will continue to help our club advance to the next level. We see him as an ideal fit as we strive toward our goal of winning a world championship.“

A three-time All-Star, including last year, Cruz was also the 2011 ALCS MVP for the Rangers when he slugged six homers and drove in 13 runs in a six-game victory over Detroit.


►  Rangers re-sign Lewis

The Texas Rangers re-signed pitcher Colby Lewis to a one-year contract on Thursday.

Lewis went 10-14 with a 5.18 ERA in 29 starts for Texas in 2014 after missing the previous season following elbow and hip surgeries. He led all Rangers in starts and innings last year, and tied Yu Darvish for most wins on the staff.

The 35-year-old right-hander was selected by Texas with the 38th overall pick in the 1999 June draft and has spent the bulk of his major league career with the Rangers. He has a career mark of 54-58 with a 4.84 ERA in 181 games with the Rangers and Oakland Athletics (2007).

Lewis also has four career postseason victories, the most in franchise history.

The Rangers also signed pitcher Michael Kirkman to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training on Thursday.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Thursday, December 04)


Final Score: Vancouver 3, Pittsburgh 0

Brad Richardson had two goals and an assist to support a 21-save effort from Eddie Lack as the Vancouver Canucks posted an impressive 3-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center. Shawn Matthias added a goal and an assist in the Canucks’ NHL-best 11th road win of the season, while Lack was rarely challenged by a lethargic Penguins team in recording his fifth career shutout and first of 2014-15. Thomas Greiss finished with 28 saves for Pittsburgh, which was blanked for only the second time this season.


Final Score: Washington 2, Carolina 1

Fehr scored a tiebreaking goal with 4:02 remaining in the third period to lift the visiting Washington Capitals to a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Jay Beagle had a goal in the first period and Braden Holtby made 29 saves for the Capitals, who snapped a two-game losing streak with a fifth straight win at PNC Arena. Alexander Semin scored his first goal of the season for Carolina, which has dropped five of its last seven games. Anton Khudobin stopped 26 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Detroit 5, Dallas 2

Darren Helm scored two goals and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Thursday. Stephen Weiss had one goal and two assists for the Red Wings, who bounced back from a 4-3 loss to the Panthers on Tuesday. Pavel Datsyuk and Kyle Quincey each had one goal and an assist. Jimmy Howard made 22 saves in the win. Colton Sceviour and Tyler Seguin lit the lamp for the Stars, who have lost four in a row. Jussi Rynnas, who was recalled by Dallas from the AHL on Wednesday, stopped 24- of-29 shots in his first NHL game since Feb. 19, 2013.


Final Score: Tampa Bay 5, Buffalo 0

Ben Bishop faced just 13 shots in his first shutout of the season and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-0 on Thursday night to split a home-and-home series. Steven Stamkos, Brenden Morrow, Nikita Kucherov, Jason Garrison and Brett Connolly scored for the Lightning, who had a four-game winning streak snapped in Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss in Buffalo. Bishop stopped five shots in the first period, three in the second and made five more saves in the third for his ninth career shutout. Jhonas Enroth gave up all five Tampa Bay goals on 35 shots as the Sabres lost for only the second time in their last eight games.


Final Score: Columbus 4, Florida 3 (SO)

Ryan Johansen scored the lone goal of the shootout to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Johansen skated in slowly on Roberto Luongo and nonchalantly snapped a shot past the Panthers netminder to give the Blue Jackets their 10th straight win in the series. Sergei Bobrovsky was stellar in net for Columbus, turning aside 52 shots and making a highlight-reel glove save on Nick Bjugstad in the fourth and final round of the shootout. Cam Atkinson tallied a goal with an assist, while Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner also scored for the Blue Jackets. The Panthers tied a franchise record with 55 shots on goal. Bjugstad notched two goals and an assist and Tomas Fleischmann added a goal with an assist. Luongo made 17 stops in the setback.


Final Score: New Jersey 5, Toronto 3

Mike Cammalleri’s tiebreaking power-play goal late in the second period helped the New Jersey Devils stop a five-game losing streak with a 5-3 decision over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite playing without Jaromir Jagr due to a bout with the flu, the Devils had little trouble producing offense. Steve Bernier and Eric Gelinas both recorded a goal and an assist, with Stephen Gionta and Adam Henrique also lighting the lamp to back a 28-save effort from Cory Schneider. Jonathan Bernier managed just 21 saves for Toronto, which entered Thursday’s matchup 4-0-1 over its last five outings. Mike Santorelli had a goal and an assist in the loss.


Final Score: NY Islanders 2, Ottawa 1

Casey Cizikas’ goal with 6:27 remaining spoiled an emotional night for the Ottawa Senators while lifting the New York Islanders to a 2-1 victory. The Senators honored franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson, who signed a one-day contract with the team on Thursday to officially announce his retirement, prior to the game’s start. However, Ottawa mustered just 21 shots and Mika Zibanejad’s power-play goal to extend their losing streak to four games. Brock Nelson added a goal in the red-hot Islanders’ eighth win in their last nine outings, while Jaroslav Halak posted 20 saves to set a team record with his 11th consecutive win between the pipes. Craig Anderson stopped 23 shots for Ottawa, which was coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to New York in Long Island in Tuesday’s opener of this home-and-home set.


Final Score: Nashville 4, St. Louis 3

Colin Wilson’s breakaway goal in the third period proved to be the game-winner as the Nashville Predators beat St. Louis 4-3 to spoil Martin Brodeur’s debut with the Blues. Mike Ribeiro tallied his third goal in as many games and added two assists for the Predators, who won their seventh straight home game. Filip Forsberg and Eric Nystrom also scored, while Pekka Rinne made 29 saves. Brodeur, for the first time in his career, appeared in a game for a team other than the New Jersey Devils and allowed four goals on 24 shots. Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice for St. Louis, which has dropped two straight after opening its four-game road trip with a 3-2 shootout win at Minnesota.


Final Score: Calgary 4, Colorado 3 (OT)

Sean Monahan scored 1:47 into overtime to lift the Calgary Flames to a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. Calgary’s Dennis Wideman scored his second goal of the game with 1:17 remaining in regulation to force overtime. Monahan won it when he collected his own rebound and fired it past Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov, who returned after missing six games with a groin injury, thought the puck was covered after denying Monahan’s initial bid from the slot. Kris Russell collected three assists for the Flames, but was undressed on a glittering goal by Alex Tanguay that gave the Avalanche a 3-2 lead with 5:46 left in the third. Karri Ramo won his sixth consecutive start with a 26-save effort. The win was the 400th in the career of Calgary head coach Bob Hartley, who guided the Avalanche to a 2001 Stanley Cup title. Varlamov stopped 21 shots in his first action since Nov. 15.


Final Score: Los Angeles 4, Arizona 0

Martin Jones made 26 saves for his second consecutive shutout as the Los Angeles Kings claimed a 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. Jones made 28 saves in the Kings’ 4-0 win over the Wild on Nov. 26. Los Angeles has back-to-back shutouts—Jonathan Quick blanked the Boston Bruins 2-0 on Tuesday. Dustin Brown had two goals and an assist for the Kings, who have won three of four. Jarret Stoll and Alec Martinez both had one goal and an assist. Mike Smith got the start for the Coyotes and gave up three goals on 20 shots before being pulled. Devan Dubnyk stopped 21-of-22 shots in relief.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


FRIDAY, DECEMBER 05, 2014


National Basketball Association
Oklahoma City at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - FS-Oklahoma, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
New York at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - MSG, SportSouth, DSS
Denver at Washington, 7:00 PM - Altitude2, CSN-DC, NBA TV
Cleveland at Toronto, 7:30 PM - FS-Ohio, TSN5, DSS
LA Lakers at Boston, 7:30 PM - Time Warner, CSN-New England, DSS
Atlanta at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, YES, DSS
San Antonio at Memphis, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, SportSouth, DSS
Houston at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Southwest, FS-North, DSS
Phoenix at Dallas, 8:30 PM - FS-Arizona, Southwest, DSS
Miami at Milwaukee, 8:30 PM - SunSports, FS-Wisconsin, DSS
Orlando at Utah, 9:00 PM - FS-Florida, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Indiana at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - FS-Indiana, CSN-California, NBA TV


National Hockey League
Anaheim at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, North+, DSS
Colorado at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - Altitude, TSN3, DSS
Montreal at Chicago, 8:30 PM - RDS, CSN-Chicago, DSS


College Basketball
Providence at Boston College, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Yale at Connecticut, 7:00 PM - SNY
Manhattan at Fairfield, 7:00 PM - MASN, ESPN3.com
Texas at Kentucky, 7:00 PM - ESPN
FIU at Louisville, 7:00 PM - RSN, FS-South, Florida, Detroit+, ESPN3.com
Western Carolina at Minnesota, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Duquesne vs. Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Quinnipiac at Siena, 7:00 PM - Time Warner Sports
Wyoming at SMU, 7:00 PM - ESPNews
Coastal Carolina at Auburn, 9:00 PM - FS-South, Florida
Florida at Kansas, 9:00 PM - ESPN
Missouri at Oklahoma, 9:30 PM - ESPN U
St. Katherine at UNLV, 10:00 PM - Mountain West Network


College Football
Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Arizona vs. Oregon, 9:00 PM - FOX


College Hockey
Minnesota at Michigan State, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit
Ohio State at Michigan, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Nebraska Omaha at Miami-Ohio, 7:30 PM - FCS, Time Warner
Boston College at New Hampshire, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
Penn State at Wisconsin, 9:00 PM - ESPNews


International Soccer
ACF Fiorentina vs. Juventus FC, 2:30 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
EUROPEAN - Nedbank Challenge, 6:00 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Hero World Challenge, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel

Sports News   141204

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Holtz expecting defense from Herd’s first 11 games

Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz watched the Herd’s game against Western Kentucky last Friday and saw Marshall’s defense get carved up for by Hilltoppers’ quarterback Brandon Doughty. WKU rolled up 738 yards of total offense and Doughty threw eight touchdown passes.  But Holtz is not expecting Marshall’s defense to have another day like that anytime soon.

“They (WKU) had 49 points at halftime and I think they hit a couple of big play,” assessed Holtz. “There was not one thing that they did that said, ‘wow, they really exposed this.’ When I look at this defense, there is nothing to expose.”

Going into last week’s game Marshall’s defense was ranked first in Conference USA in total defense and scoring defense. Its still tops in C-USA allowing 20.7 points per game and second in total defense, right behind this week’s opponent, Louisiana Tech.

“There is not one area where we say, ‘alright, we are going to pick on this like their defensive line or their secondary.’ What [WKU] did was make some plays. They made some one-on-one jump balls and they threw the ball down the field. They executed, they hit some guys in dead stride that had to be perfect plays,” said Holtz.

While at times there were wide open receivers, WKU did make some outstanding plays throughout the game. There was at least one diving catch for a touchdown and credit Doughty for threading the needle and fitting passes in to some very tight windows.

That’s why Holtz is not coming to Huntington on Saturday expecting to put 65 points on the scoreboard. The body of evidence suggests that last Friday was an anomaly.

“They (WKU) could not do a lot wrong, but you come back and look at the end of regulation and they scored 10 points in the second half. They scored 49 in the first and 10 in the second and then scored a touchdown and went for two in overtime. They played really well in the first half, but then it seemed like Marshall came out in the second half and said enough of this. It was just a little too little too late to make up.”

Marshall gave up a little more than half as many yards in the second half as it did in the first half against WKU and limited to the Hilltoppers to 2-of-6 on third downs in the final two quarters.

“Marshall is not real complicated with what they do. They are fast, athletic and simple in what they do. They run to the ball and keep it in front of them. They got beat a couple of times deep, but they did not start changing their scheme. They did not start blitzing or changing coverages. They do what they do and they are very stern with what they do and give their players a chance to execute.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Sooners and Cowboys collide in Battle of Bedlam

The historic Battle of Bedlam is on tap for Saturday afternoon at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, as the 18th- ranked Oklahoma Sooners play host to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Big 12 Conference regular-season finale.

At just 5-6 overall (3-5 Big 12), Oklahoma State is in danger of missing out on bowl season for the first time since 2005. After an excellent 5-1 start to the season, the Cowboys have dropped five straight games, most recently falling at nationally-ranked Baylor on November 22, 49-28.

Despite his team’s struggles, coach Mike Gundy remains optimistic about his team’s progress.

“We’ve had a number of young players who have continued to improve,“ Gundy said. “Unfortunately, we probably played out best game we’ve played in six weeks last night against what could have very well been the best team on our schedule this year.“

Oklahoma had sky-high expectations coming into the season as the No. 4 team in the country, but it has fallen well short of its lofty goals by dropping out of the Big 12 race with three losses this season to all three teams ahead of it in the standings - TCU (37-33), Kansas State (31-30) and Baylor (48-14). Since their most recent setback the Sooners have righted the ship with two straight wins to get reintroduced to the polls, most recently downing Kansas at home on November 22, 44-7.

“(Oklahoma State is) one of the teams that are better than the record indicates,“ Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “They always do a good job with balance, run and pass. Gundy’s teams are always that way.“

It’s been a one-sided all-time series, with Oklahoma holding to a 83-18-7 advantage, including a 39-9-2 showing in Norman.

Oklahoma State doesn’t fit in very well in the high-scoring Big 12, as it ranks in the bottom half of the league in terms of both scoring (26.5 ppg) and yardage (369.7 ypg).

Daxx Garman (.549 completions, 2,041 yards, 12 TDs, 12 INTs) missed the Baylor game with a concussion and is questionable to return on Saturday. In Garman’s absence the last time out, Mason Rudolph had an uneven performance, throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns but on just 13-of-25 passing with a pair of interceptions.

The Cowboys have run more rushing plays this season (431) than passing (339), but they have only picked up 3.5 yards per carry for 137.5 ypg. Desmond Roland (579 yards, eight TDs) and Tyreek Hill (496 yards, TD) earn the most work.

David Glidden (39 receptions, 549 yards, two TDs) and Brandon Sheperd (27 yards, 483 yards, two TDs) anchor a modest receiving corps.

The Cowboys’ defense has not done a good job picking up the slack for an underachieving offense, as they allow 31.7 ppg and 438.5 ypg.

Emmanuel Ogbah is one of the best pass rushers in the league with 16.5 TFL and 11.0 sacks, while Josh Furman (12.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks) has found some success opposite him. Jordan Sterns and Ryan Simmons are tied for the team lead in tackles with 85. Ramon Richards has picked off three passes.

The Sooners possess a potent offense, as they rack up 39.3 ppg and 485.6 ypg, and the unit is riding high after a record-setting performance by its freshman tailback the last time out.

Just a week after Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set a single-game FBS rushing record, Semaje Perine topped it with a historic performance of his own against Kansas by running for 427 yards and five touchdowns.

“The guy is just so exceptional in everything that he does,“ Stoops said. “We were thinking about resting him, and then someone said he only needs 35 more yards, and you know, that’s just too close not to do it, and there was too much time left in the game.“

Perine’s emergence late in the season has left him with 1,428 yards and 19 touchdowns on 214 carries (6.7 ypc).

Perine and the running game were leaned on heavily in the Kansas win with quarterback Trevor Knight (2,197 passing yards, 340 rushing yards, 19 TDs, nine INTs) out with a concussion. Even with a bye week in between, Knight will not be ready to play on Saturday, leaving another start for Cody Thomas, who’s completed just 20-of-49 passes this season for 222 yards, a touchdown and four picks, although his rushing numbers (149 yards, TD) have been stellar.

Thomas’ presence under center has hindered the production of the receivers, especially Sterling Shepard (59 receptions, 957 yards, five TDs), who’s bidding for an All-Conference selection at year’s end.

The Sooners’ defense has not lived up to the expectations of a Stoops-led unit, but they have nonetheless played admirably this season in allowing only 23.5 ppg while forcing 18 turnovers.

Zack Sanchez has a large say in the turnover battle with five interceptions. Dominique Alexander is the leading tackler with 93 stops and Eric Striker generates a strong pass rush with 13.5 TFL and 7.0 sacks.


►  Top-10 foes clash in Big 12 matchup

With the Big 12 Conference championship on the line, the No. 5 Baylor Bears welcome the No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats to McLane Stadium on Saturday night.

Heading into Saturday, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU are all tied atop the league standings with a 7-1 conference record. In the unlikely event that TCU losses at home to Iowa State, the survivor of this contest would win the league title outright. Otherwise, without a conference championship game, there will be co-champions, leaving the fate of winners in the hands of the College Football Playoff rankings.

Kansas State has exceeded expectations this season with an outstanding 9-2 record, with its only loss in league competition coming at TCU on November 8, 41-20. Since that setback, the Wildcats have reeled off two straight wins at West Virginia (26-20) and at home against Kansas (51-13) to set up this make- or-break contest.

“We want to win a Big 12 Championship and we have that ahead of us,“ Kansas State wide receiver Curry Sexton said. “We have struggled with Baylor over the past couple of years…I think we owe them one. It is a tough game and they are a really good football team. We are looking forward to the challenge and going to be (as) ready as possible.“

Since losing its only game of the season at West Virginia on October 18 (41-27), Baylor has pieced together a four-game winning streak to move to 10-1 overall, most recently edging out Texas Tech last Saturday, 48-46. The Bears have a lot going for them in this matchup, as they have won 15 in a row at home (the second-longest active streak in the nation) and they are 7-0 against Top-25 teams in the last three seasons.

“Baylor never won a Big 12 Championship until last year so making history is good, but it’s about winning football games now,“ Baylor coach Art Briles said. “(We’re) trying to create consistency in a program and trying to prove that we belong with the nation’s elite in college football and we can win on a consistent basis and it’s not easy to do.“

Kansas State has 7-4 lead in the all-time series with Baylor, but the Bears have won two of the last three matchups.

The Wildcats’ offense has been extremely effective this season with 36.6 ppg an 428.1 ypg, and they are coming off one of their best performances of the season in a 51-point, 505-yard effort over Kansas last week.

Jake Waters was nothing short of outstanding in the KU win, completing 21- of-27 passes for 294 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s completing just shy of 65% of his passes this season for 2,863 yards with 18 touchdowns and five picks, and he’s thrown for at least 200 yards in every game. The quarterback is also a potent rushing threat with 440 yards and eight scores.

Waters is fortunate enough to have one of the nation’s best receiving duos on his side in Tyler Lockett (79 receptions, 1,193 yards, eight TDs) and Sexton (67 receptions, 940 yards, five TDs). The two combined for 18 catches, 260 yards and three scores last week.

The backfield workload is split evenly between Charles Jones (111 carries, 476 yards) and DeMarcus Robinson (101 carries, 410 yards), with Jones getting the call in the red zone and cashing in with 12 touchdowns.

Defensively, Kansas State has done a great job keeping the potent Big 12 offenses down, as it yields just 20.3 ppg and 341.0 ypg.

Jonathan Truman is one of the league’s best tacklers with 101 stops. Dante Barnett (65 tackles), Randall Evans (55 tackles) and Morgan Burns (46 tackles) all have three interceptions, while Ryan Mueller has 7.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks.

Under Briles, the Baylor offense has become the nation’s most lethal, as it ranks first in the FBS in both scoring (49.8 ppg) and yardage (581.1 ypg), and with a 48-point showing last week, it has put up 40 or more points in all but two games this season.

Bryce Petty was in the midst of a great game last week (18-of-25, 210 yards, two TDs) before getting knocked out in the third quarter with a head injury, but after passing all the concussion tests, he is expected to play on Saturday.

“He was feeling pretty good (at practice early in the week),“ Briles said of his quarterback. “He actually felt pretty good at the end of the game the other day.“

Petty is completing just 59.3% of his passes this season but he has thrown for 289.3 ypg, accounted for 29 touchdowns and tossed just five interceptions. In the unlikely event that Petty doesn’t play, the call will go to Seth Russell (804 passing yards, 11 total TDs, INT).

Petty has an arsenal of receiving weapons to rely on, as Corey Coleman, KD Cannon, Antwan Goodley and Jay Lee all have at least 539 yards and five touchdowns to their credit. Coleman (53 receptions, 928 yards, 10 TDs in just eight games) and Cannon (47 receptions, 800 yards, six TDs) are the stars of the unit.

The potent rushing attack picks up more than 240 yards per outing, with Shock Linwood earning the majority of the work with 1,135 yards and 15 touchdowns on 222 carries.

Baylor’s defense had a major hiccup last week in giving up 46 points and 712 yards to Texas Tech, but the unit has still performed well this season in allowing only 23.9 ppg and 364.5 ypg, while forcing 23 turnovers.

The Bears’ top defensive playmakers are Bryce Hager (89 tackles, 9.0 TFL, sack, INT, two FF), Orion Stewart (64 tackles, four INT), Shawn Oakman (17.5 TFL, 9.0 sacks, three FF) and Xavian Howard (39 tackles, three INTs, 14 passes defended).


►  TCU jumps FSU to No. 3 in CFP rankings

TCU returned to the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, moving up two spots to No. 3 ahead of reigning national champion Florida State.

Alabama was No. 1 for the third week in a row after beating Auburn in the highest-scoring Iron Bowl in history and Oregon was No. 2 for the fourth week running.

The Crimson Tide (11-1) will face Missouri in Saturday’s SEC championship game while the Ducks (11-1) are getting ready for Friday’s Pac-12 title game against Arizona, which is No. 7 in this week’s poll.

TCU, after routing Texas by 38 points for its sixth consecutive win, returned to the top four for the first time in three weeks with its highest ranking in the poll to date.

The Horned Frogs (10-1) face Iowa State on Saturday in their final regular season game.

After being ranked No. 3 for three weeks in a row, Florida State fell one spot in the poll despite being the only remaining unbeaten FBS team.

The Seminoles (12-0) play Georgia Tech on Saturday for the ACC championship.

Ohio State moved up one spot to No. 5 despite losing Heisman Trophy hopeful J.T. Barrett to a broken ankle during Saturday’s win over Michigan, and Baylor was ranked sixth this week.

Ohio State (11-1) faces Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday and Baylor (10-1), which beat TCU in October, plays Kansas State.

The selection committee will meet one more time this weekend before announcing the final standings on Sunday.

The top four teams in the final rankings will play in the national semifinals on January 01.

The winners of the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day will move on to the national championship game on January 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The playoff system replaced the oft-criticized BCS, which was in place from 1998 until last season.

Michigan State, Kansas State and former CFP No. 1 Mississippi rounded out the top 10 on Tuesday. Mississippi State tumbled six places from No. 4 last week after losing to Ole Miss.

Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Wisconsin, Georgia, UCLA, Missouri, Arizona State, Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma, Louisville, Boise State, Utah, LSU and USC rounded out the top 25.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Herd meet Bulldogs for Conference USA crown

The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs made it out of the Conference USA West Division with a 7-1 mark in league play, and will travel this weekend to face the Marshall Thundering Herd in the conference’s championship clash at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Louisiana Tech breezed through Conference USA competition during the regular season until an overtime loss against Old Dominion in the second-to-last week raised some concerns. But the Bulldogs squashed those feelings with an absolutely dominant 76-31 victory over defending C-USA champion Rice at home to earn a spot in the title game.

Marshall had already clinched its spot in the title contest after running through East Division play and earning an unblemished record up until the regular-season finale. Even though the Herd’s dreams of a perfect record were shattered by Western Kentucky last weekend in a 67-66 loss, the team is still a favorite to take the conference crown.

These two conference rivals have met just one time on the football field before this championship matchup - a 26-0 shutout by the Bulldogs back in the 1942 season in Ruston, Louisiana. It’s been 72 years since that clash, so this second matchup could be well worth the wait.

Louisiana Tech entered this season with high hopes, but it wasn’t until the team took the field that fans saw what the Bulldogs were capable of. The strong offense, which averages 38.8 ppg entering the title tilt with Marshall, is led by two of the strongest offensive stars in the league. Running back Kenneth Dixon had a stellar regular season, finishing the campaign with 1,080 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 220 carries. He led the team averaging 90.0 ypg, but also served as a primary target out of the backfield in the passing game. He caught five touchdown receptions and averaged another 25.5 ypg through the air during the season. Dixon is coming off a three-touchdown game against Rice.

Cody Sokol took the reins under center and ran with them this season. The signal caller passed for 3,117 yards (ranked 23rd in the FBS) with 29 touchdown tosses. He averaged 259.8 passing ypg in 12 contests, and comes into this game sporting a completion percentage just shy of 60%. As an offensive unit, the Bulldogs are gaining 415.2 ypg.

Dixon is certainly one of Sokol’s main weapons through the air, but Trent Taylor has made his mark more than anyone in the passing game. Taylor enters this weekend averaging 67.3 ypg receiving, having caught 61 passes this season for 808 yards and a team-best nine touchdowns. Dixon’s five receiving scores is second on the squad, while Paul Turner has proven his worth with 38 receptions for 466 yards and four scores through the air.

The team’s defense will have its hands full as it prepares for a Marshall offense that ranks second in the nation in scoring and total offense. But that hasn’t stopped the Bulldogs from doing plenty of damage this season, holding opponents to 349.6 offensive ypg and 25.2 ppg. The same Western Kentucky team that just posted 67 points on Marshall’s defense was held to a mere 10 points by Louisiana Tech back on the first day of November, which could be very telling.

Kentrell Brice leads the Bulldogs this season with 73 tackles, adding in three sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles. But Tony Johnson isn’t far behind Brice’s tackle total with 69 on the season, adding in six quarterback hurries. Linemen Houston Bates (nine tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries) and Vernon Butler (12.5 tackles for loss) are going to need to be very active in trying to get to Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and slowing down a high- powered run game. The Bulldogs do lead the nation in takeaways with 36 (12 fumble recoveries, 24 interceptions).

“This football team is really special to me because I do not know that I have had a football team that has had to overcome so much, with the schedule, new faces, new coaches and everything to make this year work,“ coach Skip Holtz said. “This group of guys is really special. They will always have a special place in my heart.“

Marshall could be in for a real shock if running back Devon Johnson can’t go this weekend after suffering a shoulder injury in last weekend’s loss to WKU. The tailback carried the ball just three times before he was knocked out of the game and replaced by Steward Butler, who ran for 233 yards and a pair of scores in the relief effort. This season, Johnson has been a monster out of the backfield, gaining 1,602 yards with 16 rushing scores, averaging 145.6 rushing ypg. It’s unclear if he will be ready to go this weekend

“Devon, he’s not in real good shape right now,“ coach Doc Holliday said after the team’s loss to the Hilltoppers.

Fortunately for Marshall, Butler has rushed for 761 yards and seven touchdowns this season in the reserve role. Cato has been a capable runner as well, scoring six touchdowns with his feet. But the passing game is where Cato excels the most, throwing for 3,314 yards and 35 touchdowns against 12 interceptions (four of which came in last weekend’s loss). The senior signal caller did toss a school single-game record seven touchdowns in that contest, however. He’s the centerpiece of an offense that is averaging 46.7 ppg and 574.6 offensive ypg.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to put (the loss to WKU) behind us because we’re playing for a championship,“ Holliday said. “And the leadership on this football team has to do a tremendous job of putting this game behind us and moving on because the ultimate goal was to win a championship, and we’ve still got that out there for us.“

Defensively, the Herd have been dominant as well. The 67 points allowed to Western Kentucky raised the team’s scoring average significantly, and it’s still at a mere 20.7 ppg. It was the first time all season long that Marshall allowed more than 27 points to a challenger, and just the third time all season the Herd gave up more than 20 points or more in a single game.

Linebacker Neville Hewitt leads the team with 100 tackles this season, adding in 10.5 tackles for loss with 4.5 sacks. He and lineman Arnold Blackmon (13 tackles for loss, eight sacks, four forced fumbles) will be the two players the Herd turn to in order to slow down Dixon and Sokol. Darryl Roberts (15 pass breakups), Corey Tindal (11 pass breakups) and Taj Letman (four interceptions) will be tasked with keeping the strong Louisiana Tech pass game in check.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Ryan’s actions tell the true story

NFL coaches can be a lot like politicians when it comes to word play.

That’s why when you really want to know what a mentor is thinking, you ignore the semantics—artful or not—and focus in on the actions.

Understand, unless your Jay Gruden, NFL coaches simply don’t put players on blast and that’s why you won’t see a Rex Ryan stepping to the podium and giving you his honest assessment of a player like Geno Smith.

Ryan’s handling of the second-year quarterback who ultimately will cost him his job in New York couldn’t have been more transparent on Monday night, however.

“It had zero to do with us not having faith in our quarterback,“ Ryan claimed after figuratively tying Smith up in a 16-13 loss to Miami. “It had everything to do with us trying to win the game.“

In one fell swoop Ryan lied to his constituency before rebounding and allowing a grain of truth to escape. Inject Ryan with sodium pentothal and that statement would have read “I have no faith in our quarterback and I was trying to win the game.“

With Ryan and his team limping toward the finish line, the Jets (read that GM John Idzik) turned back to Smith at quarterback against the playoff-hopeful Dolphins.

Ryan, who will be first in line to file his change of address form on “Black Monday,“ understands the only power he has left with this team is between the lines on game day and this contest served as his very own occupy movement, a protest against the GM who forced an ill-equipped QB on the coach.

The overmatched Smith threw a total of 13 times against Miami, five of which came after the Dolphins kicked what proved to be the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Up until Caleb Sturgis converted that 26-yard chip shot, Ryan ordered his offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to make Smith hand it off again and again and again ... and again.

The Jets’ run-to-pass ratio was a ridiculous 49-8 before necessity gave Smith a few meaningful throwing opportunities, a clear indication Ryan had absolutely no confidence in the signal caller.

And the coach’s lack of belief was only amplified by that fact that two of the Dolphins’ top three cornerbacks—Cortland Finnegan and Jamar Taylor—were injured and Miami was forced to play street free agent R.J. Stanford.

Granted the Jets were more than successful on the ground early, piling up 210 yards in the first half but when the Dolphins ultimately adjusted and stacked the box, New York still wouldn’t allow Smith take a shot against a corner who was busy getting his early Christmas shopping done the previous week.

“The game plan was to try to establish the run and when you have that kind of success running, that helps the football team and that’s why we stayed the course,“ Ryan said.

What Ryan left out was the fact that the course was originally plotted because he didn’t believe the quarterback could carry his own water.

“Well, I don’t know about that,“ Ryan said Tuesday when asked whether Smith gave him the best chance to win. “I have said all along that I feel good, that we could win with either Mike Vick at quarterback or Geno Smith and I have always said that. Geno Smith wouldn’t be in there if we didn’t think we had an opportunity to win. I can promise you that.“

Again, ignore the words and watch the actions.

The decision to take the ball out of the quarterbacks’s hands was ultimately Ryan’s definition of giving his team the best chance to win.

“If we can run for 300 yards again this week, I would love to sign up for it,“ Ryan said. “We are just trying to find a way to give us a chance to win the football game and I thought we did that, it’s just unfortunate (that) we came up short.“

And then the dam broke.

“Yep, absolutely, 100%,“ Ryan responded when asked if he was embarrassed by his team’s 2-10 record. “I’m embarrassed for myself absolutely. It is, it’s an embarrassment. It’s definitely embarrassing to me. I feel like I’ve let my owner down. I’ve let our fan base down.“

The absence of Idzik’s and Smith’s names in Ryan’s confession stood out as starkly as his game plan on Monday night.

WEEK 14 (All Times Eastern)

Dallas (8-4) (-3 1/2) at Chicago (5-7), Thursday, 8:25 PM - Week 14 of the NFL season kicks off on Thursday night when the Bears host the Cowboys at Soldier Field. Each team will try to rebound from lopsided divisional losses on Thanksgiving Day as Dallas laid a 33-10 egg against visiting Philadelphia, and the Bears suffered a 34-17 setback at Detroit. Dallas is a perfect 5-0 on the road this season, the best mark in the league as a visitor and relies on a strong running game, led by DeMarco Murray who tops the NFL with 1,427 rushing yards and has run for at least 100 yards in 10 of the team’s 12 games this year.


Bears 28, Cowboys 23

Pittsburgh (7-5) at Cincinnati (8-3-1) (-3), Sunday, 1 PM - The AFC North rivals clash at Paul Brown Stadium in the first of two meetings over the final four weeks. The Bengals, who have won five of six and are 13-1-1 in their last 15 at home, hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the other three teams in the division (Steelers, Baltimore and Cleveland). Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown enters the final month of the season leading the NFL with 96 catches and 1,258 yards.


Bengals 24, Steelers 21

Indianapolis (8-4) (-4) at Cleveland (7-5), Sunday, 1 PM - The Colts can be the first team to clinch a division title with a win and a Houston loss but they won’t be doing it against Johnny Manziel. The embattled Brian Hoyer will remain the starting quarterback for the Browns, at least for the time being.

“After thorough evaluation and talking to the staff, we feel Brian gives us the best opportunity to win on Sunday,“ said Cleveland coach Mike Pettine in a statement on the club’s website. “This is a football decision and those are always going to be based on what we think is best for our team.“

Last week, Indianapolis scored six touchdowns of at least 30 yards in a 49-27 win over Washington, becoming the first team to register at least six 30-plus yard touchdowns in a game since 1966 (Washington, November 27, 1966, 72-41 win vs. New York Giants).


Colts 33, Browns 17

Tampa Bay (2-10) at Detroit (8-4) (-9 1/2), Sunday, 1 PM - The ex-NFC Central inhabitants renew hostilities with the Lions being the only relevant participant. Detroit is one game behind Green Bay in the NFC North with a Week 17 matchup looming. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has averaged 301 passing yards and three TDs in two career meetings with the Bucs.


Lions 27, Buccaneers 17

Houston (6-6) (-5) at Jacksonville (2-10), Sunday, 1 PM - The J.J. Watt show invades Jacksonville as the presumptive NFL Defensive Player of the Year looks to build on his historic season. Watt is first player with three offensive TDs and two TDs on takeaways since Bill Golding in 1948. He also leads all AFC players with 48 sacks since entering the league in 2011.


Texans 24, Jaguars 14

Baltimore (7-5) at Miami (7-5) (-3), Sunday, 1 PM - The Ravens and Dolphins are two of five AFC teams at 7-5 and the loser of this one could be crippled in the conference playoff hunt. Baltimore QB Joe Flacco is 3-0 in his career against Miami with a 105.1 passer rating, a number which foreshadows success for the Ravens. Baltimore is 49-9 when Flacco crosses the 90.0 barrier.


Ravens 21, Dolphins 20

NY Jets (2-10) at Minnesota (5-7) (-6), Sunday, 1 PM - The Jets have won seven straight and are 8-1 all-time against Minnesota but Rex Ryan has checked out when it comes to Geno Smith while Vikings rookie signal caller Teddy Bridgewater is trending upward, compiling a career-high 120.7 passer rating against Carolina in Week 13.


Vikings 20, Jets 13

Carolina (3-8-1) at New Orleans (5-7) (-9 1/2), Sunday, 1 PM - The Saints have been uncharacteristically bad at the Superdome, losing three straight but Carolina has dropped six consecutive overall and Drew Brees has a 129.8 passer rating in his past three at home against the Panthers.


Saints 31, Panthers 14

NY Giants (3-9) at Tennessee (2-10) (pick ‘em), Sunday, 1 PM - Two dismal teams battle in Music City. The Giants have lost seven straight and failed to beat 2-10 Jacksonville last week after jumping out to a 21-0 lead. Titans rookie QB Zach Mettenberger is expected back under center this week after being knocked out against Houston with a shoulder injury. Tennessee has failed in six consecutive tests.


Giants 17, Titans 16

St. Louis (5-7) (-2 1/2) at Washington (3-9), Sunday, 1 PM - The Rams have remained very competitive thanks to their strong from on defense which includes star pass rusher Robert Quinn, who has nine sacks and four forced fumbles in his past seven games, and rookie DT Aaron Donald, who leads all freshman with six sacks. Washington is sticking with Colt McCoy at QB after a 392-yard, three-TD performance in a shootout loss to Indianapolis last weekend.


Rams 23, Redskins 21

Kansas City (7-5) at Arizona (9-3) (-1 1/2), Sunday, 4:05 PM - Two teams aiming to stop the bleeding after consecutive losses tangle in the desert. The Chiefs are now among five teams at 7-5 on the AFC side and can ill afford another setback, while Arizona’s 9-1 start has regressed to 9-3 and a slim, one-game edge on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks in the NFC West. The Cards are 6-0 at home this season and have won 10 of their last 11 overall in Arizona.


Cardinals 20, Chiefs 17

Buffalo (7-5) at Denver (9-3) (-10), Sunday, 4:05 PM - Buffalo’s stout front will try to slow down the powerful Broncos. The Bills lead the NFL with 48 sacks and are the only team with three players who have nine-or-more sacks (Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes). Williams has 6 1/2 sacks in his past four games while Dareus leads all interior lineman with 10 QB takedowns. Hughes, meanwhile, needs just one-half sack to record back-to-back 10-sack seasons. Denver QB Peyton Manning leads the NFL with 36 TD passes and has a TD pass in 51 consecutive games.


Broncos 27, Bills 20

San Francisco (7-5) (-8) at Oakland (1-11), Sunday, 4:25 PM - The Bay Area Bragging Rights Bowl shouldn’t be much of a contest as the 49ers are in desperation mode to keep their playoff hopes alive and the 1-11 Raiders are fresh off a 52-0 drubbing at the hands of the St. Louis Rams.


49ers 31, Raiders 10

Seattle (8-4) at Philadelphia (9-3) (-1), Sunday, 4:25 PM - The Seahawks and Eagles are both coming off big divisional Thanksgiving Day victories. Seattle won at San Francisco 19-3 while Philadelphia recorded a 33-10 win at Dallas. After two consecutive division wins - both by scores of 19-3—the Seahawks enter the final month in control in the NFC West. If Seattle wins out, which includes a Week 16 matchup against the 9-3 Cardinals, Seattle will take home the division crown for the second consecutive year. The Eagles have sole possession of first place in the NFC East and LeSean McCoy surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark (1,018) against the Cowboys while wide receiver Jeremy Maclin reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark (1,088).


Seahawks 23, Eagles 20

New England (9-3) (-3 1/2) at San Diego (8-4), Sunday 8:30 PM - Sunday’s action concludes with two teams in the thick of the AFC playoff race. At 9-3, the Patriots lead the AFC East and are in control for home-field advantage in the conference. The 8-4 Chargers are currently the top wild-card team and sit just one game behind Denver for the top spot in the AFC West. The Pats, who have won seven of eight, need one win to join the 1983-98 San Francisco 49ers as the only NFL teams with 10-plus wins in 14 consecutive seasons.


Patriots 27, Chargers 20

Atlanta (5-7) at Green Bay (9-3) (-12), Monday, 8:30 PM - Rarely is a division leader favored by double digits over another division leader but that’s the story here. The Falcons enter the final month tied with New Orleans for the top spot in the NFC South at 5-7. The powerful Packers are 6-0 at Lambeau Field this season, outscoring opponents 245-106 in those contests. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 360 consecutive passed and 31 touchdown passes at home since his last interception, both NFL records.

Packers 34, Falcons 20


►  Bears sign K Feely

With Robbie Gould nursing a quad injury, the Chicago Bears signed kicker Jay Feely on Wednesday.

Gould sat out practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and is listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game in Dallas.

Feely has connected on 329-of-398 field goal attempts (82.7 percent) over 13 seasons with Atlanta (2001-04), the New York Giants (2005-06), Miami (2007), the New York Jets (2008-09) and Arizona (2010-13). He has also hit 444-of-446 PATs for a total of 1,431 points.

To make room for Feely, the Bears waived injured wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams.

Chicago also listed defensive end Cornelius Washington as doubtful for Thursday’s game. Wide receiver Chris Williams and linebacker Darryl Sharpton are out. Starting wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is questionable with a hamstring injury and starting tight end Martellus Bennett is probable with a foot ailment.


►  Jags place Pasztor on IR

The Jacksonville Jaguars placed tackle Austin Pasztor on injured reserve Wednesday.

Pasztor ruptured his hamstring during Sunday’s 25-24 win over the New York Giants, the Jags’ second victory of the season.

Pasztor missed the first four games of the year recovering from a broken right hand.

In addition, Jacksonville signed linebacker A.J. Edds.


►  Cowboys take playoff push to Chicago

Neither the Dallas Cowboys or the Chicago Bears had all that much to give thanks for last week.

Each team will try to rebound from lopsided divisional losses on Thanksgiving Day when they kick off Week 14 of the NFL season on Thursday night at Soldier Field.

The Cowboys laid a 33-10 egg against visiting Philadelphia on Turkey Day, and the Bears suffered a 34-17 setback at Detroit.

Dallas is now a game behind the Eagles in the NFC East with just four to play and the Bears are all but done in the NFC North at 5-7, three games south of the Lions and four behind division-leading Green Bay.

“No excuses,“ Cowboys defensive tackle Jeremy Mincey said. “We just gotta get better. Sometimes it’s good to get a good old fashioned butt-kicking to get you going again.“

The Eagles ended Tony Romo’s consecutive games streak with a touchdown pass at 38 in North Texas and held league rushing leader DeMarco Murray to under 100 yards.

Romo completed 18-of-29 passes for 199 yards and threw two interceptions as Dallas dropped its third straight home game.

“Today was an opportunity that we didn’t cash in on, but we have to learn from this game and move forward,“ Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said.

Murray failed to reach the century mark for only the second time in 2014, finishing with a season-low 73 yards on 20 carries against the Eagles.

The Cowboys will meet the Eagles again in Philadelphia on December 14, meaning this could serve as a bit of a trap game for Dallas, although the Bears haven’t scared many foes this season.

In the Motor City on Turkey Day, embattled QB Jay Cutler was 31-for-48 for 280 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to Alshon Jeffery along with two interceptions for Chicago, which had won its previous two coming into the contest. Jeffery had nine catches for 71 yards.

“We had a fast start which was good,“ Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “Then they got on a roll and really made their money throwing the football and moving it around.“

The all-time series between the ‘Boys and the Bears is tied at 11 apiece but Garrett has yet to beat Chicago in his head-coaching career, losing three straight.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Cutler has always seemed very comfortable against Dallas and has passed for 552 yards with five touchdowns and a gaudy 138.2 passer rating in his previous two starts against the Cowboys.

He has plenty of weapons offensively starting with lengthy wideouts Jeffery, who has seven touchdown catches this season, including four in the previous three games, and Brandon Marshall as well as 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett.

“We’ve got a big game in primetime this Thursday night,“ said Marshall, who has 22 catches for 432 yards and three touchdowns in four career games against Dallas. “We’ve definitely got to put our best game forward against the Cowboys.“

Meanwhile, running back Matt Forte has been nearly as productive as Murray this season with the two ranking first and second in the NFC, respectively, in scrimmage yards this season.

Forte (828 rushing, 650 receiving) is the only NFL player with at least 800 rushing yards and 650 receiving yards in 2014 and he tends to be even better at home where he 147.2 scrimmage yards per game with four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving).

“(Forte is) almost half of their offense if you put it all together,“ Garrett said. “Very versatile, very productive, and they use him really well - similar to what Philly does in using their backs a lot of different ways.“

Despite all that skill-position talent, however, Chicago is just 21st in the league, averaging only 21.1 points per game.

“I think with the guys we have and character and integrity of the guys, I don’t think anybody’s going to quit,“ Cutler said. “I think the coaches won’t let us, they’re not going to quit on us.“

Dallas has been much better on the road this season than at home, piling up over 30 points per game and compiling a perfect 5-0 mark away from the Lone Star State.

“I think (it) turns me on a little bit - to come into someone’s house and hear the boos and all that,“ Murray said. “I think it’s a great thing. We’ve just got to focus, and have more patience, especially on the road, and not make many mistakes. I think we’ll be fine.“

Romo has been exceptional as the visitor, passing for 1,164 yards with 12 touchdowns and a league-best 122.0 passer rating when he is in unfamiliar surroundings. .

As a starter on Thursday games, Romo has led the Cowboys to a 7-2 record with a 103.1 passer rating. Of course, he is also coming off one of those losses.

The recipe for Dallas’ success this season has been getting Murray going and they need to get back to that default setting. The NFL’s leading rusher has at least 100 rushing yards in 10 of 12 games heading into Thursday, and has 1,427 yards this season.

In three career Thursday games, Murray has 343 scrimmage yards (114.3 per game) and four rushing touchdowns.

With all the focus on Cutler and the offense’s failings that has masked the bigger issue in Chicago, a poor defense which lacks playmakers.

Overall the Bears’ stop unit is 26th in a 32-team league and really doesn’t do anything all that well. It’s 10th against the run but that is more indicative of just how easy it has been to throw the ball against Chicago.

“We’re going to come out and play ball,“ said Bears defensive end Willie Young. “We’re going to stick to our game plan against Dallas. It should be a good game.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Bears are technically still alive in the NFC playoff race but they would need to win out and get plenty of help. Dallas on the other hand is a legitimate player but one that could be heading for another late-season collapse if it can’t get things done here.

“I think it’s just about this week, this Thursday against the Chicago Bears,“ Romo said. “More than anything, it’s a time to start playing your best football and our football team needs to understand the sense of urgency is now. I think our guys understand what’s ahead of them if they can go on and play their best football.“

Romo and the offense isn’t the problem, though. The Cowboys defense, which allowed a season-high 464 yards against Philadelphia, is starting to leak oil and that figures to continue here.

Predicted outcome: Bears 28, Cowboys 23


►  Fitzpatrick among AFC’s best of the week

Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was among those selected as the AFC’s top players for Week 13 of the NFL season.

Joining Fitzpatrick on the honor roll were Indianapolis linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee.

Fitzpatrick threw for 358 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in a 45-21 win over Tennessee last Sunday to capture the offensive award. His six TD passes set a single-game franchise record and his passer rating of 147.5 was the second-highest by a Houston quarterback, behind only the 147.7 set by Matt Schaub in 2011.

Jackson posted seven tackles and returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown in the Colts’ 49-27 win over Washington to earn the defensive honor. His 35-yard score was one of six touchdowns of at least 30 yards by Indianapolis during the game.

Scobee garnered the special teams nod after kicking the winning 43-yard field goal in Jacksonville’s 25-24 triumph over the New York Giants. His kick with 28 seconds remaining helped the Jaguars rally from a 21-0 deficit to secure the largest comeback win in franchise history.

Others considered for the offensive award were San Diego receiver Keenan Allen, who caught 11 passes for 121 yards with two touchdowns in a 34-33 win over Baltimore; Denver running back C.J. Anderson, who rushed for 168 yards on 32 carries and caught a touchdown pass in a 29-16 win over Kansas City; and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who threw for 370 yards with five touchdowns against the Redskins.

Defensive nominees included Miami linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who notched 16 tackles in a 16-13 victory over the Jets; and Houston’s J.J. Watt, who had three tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown reception against the Titans.

Buffalo’s Colton Schmidt was up for the special teams award after three of his five punts finished inside the 20-yard line in a 26-10 win over Cleveland.


►  Bears sign K Feely

With Robbie Gould nursing a quad injury, the Chicago Bears signed kicker Jay Feely on Wednesday.

Gould sat out practice on Tuesday and his status for Thursday’s game in Dallas is uncertain.

Feely has connected on 329-of-398 field goal attempts (82.7 percent) over 13 seasons with Atlanta (2001-04), the New York Giants (2005-06), Miami (2007), the New York Jets (2008-09) and Arizona (2010-13). He has also hit 444-of-446 PATs for a total of 1,431 points.

To make room for Feely, the Bears waived injured wide receiver/kick returner Chris Williams.


►  Brees highlights NFC Players of the Week

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ five-touchdown pass performance helped him garner NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for Week 13.

Brees completed 19-of-27 passes for 257 yards with no interceptions for a 140.0 passer rating in the Saints’ 35-32 win at Pittsburgh. It marked his seventh career game with at least five touchdown passes and no interceptions, the most in NFL history.

Since joining the Saints in 2006, Brees has won 18 of his career 20 Player of the Week Awards, the most in franchise history. During that span, Brees’ 18 Player of the Week Awards are the most in the NFL.

Also named NFC Players of the Week were Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and Minnesota special teamer Adam Thielen.

Sherman, the Defensive Player of the Week, had two interceptions and two tackles in the Seahawks’ 19-3 win at San Francisco. He recorded an opponent’s passer rating of 0.0 in throws targeted in his direction, allowing just one of six completions for six yards and intercepting two passes.

Thielen, the Special Teams Player of the Week, blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown in the Vikings’ 31-13 win over Carolina. He also added two tackles on special teams. He was part of a special teams unit that scored two touchdowns on blocked punts. The Vikings are the first team to accomplish the feat in one half since the 1975 Detroit Lions.


►  Browns place Austin on IR; sign Draughn

The Cleveland Browns have placed wide receiver Miles Austin on injured reserve because of a kidney issue.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said Austin was hospitalized after sustaining the injury during last Sunday’s game against Buffalo.

“Our thoughts are with him and we wish him a speedy recovery,“ said Pettine on Wednesday. “Miles is a guy who embodies what ‘Play like a Brown’ means and instills that in our receiving corps.“

Austin, signed as a free agent in May, was Cleveland’s second-leading receiver this season with 47 catches for 568 yards and two touchdowns.

The Browns signed running back Shaun Draughn to fill the roster spot.

Draughn will join his third team this season, having played two games for Chicago and four with San Diego. He had 19 yards on 10 carries for the Chargers.

The 26-year-old North Carolina product has also played for Kansas City and Baltimore since 2011 and saw his most extensive playing time in 2012 with the Chiefs when he ran for 233 yards and two touchdowns on 59 carries.


►  Titans waive DB Ghee

The Tennessee Titans waived cornerback Brandon Ghee on Wednesday.

Ghee appeared in six games this season with the Titans, recording four tackles and an interception.

In 29 career games, the four-year veteran has 21 tackles and one pick. Ghee played his first three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

To replace Ghee on the roster, the Titans signed defensive back Jemea Thomas off the St. Louis Rams’ practice squad.


►  Hoyer to remain starting QB

Brian Hoyer will reportedly remain the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, at least for the time being.

According to various reports, including NFL.com and FOX Sports, Browns coach Mike Pettine decided to keep Hoyer in the starter’s role over Johnny Manziel for Sunday’s game against Indianapolis.

Pettine will likely make it official Wednesday afternoon in a briefing with the media.

Hoyer was benched early in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 26-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Manziel stepped in and engineered an 8-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown scramble.

Manziel ended the game 5-of-8 for 63 yards, forcing the Browns into a critical decision about the team’s future of the quarterback position.

Hoyer completed just 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and two interceptions before being benched. In the past three games, he has thrown only one touchdown pass and six interceptions.

The Browns are 7-5 heading into Sunday’s contest with the Colts and are tied with five other teams for the final AFC wild card spot.


►  Bills end Toronto Series agreement

The Buffalo Bills have ended their agreement to play home games in Toronto.

The Bills had an agreement with Rogers Media through 2017, and had moved a home game from Ralph Wilson Stadium to the Rogers Centre for six years from 2008 through 2013.

However, in March, the two sides announced a suspension of the agreement for the 2014 campaign and on Wednesday decided to terminate the remainder of the contract.

“We greatly appreciate the support we’ve received over the past seven years from all of the tremendous people at Rogers Communications,“ said Bills president Russ Brandon in a statement Wednesday. “We will continue to work hard to solidify our footprint in Southern Ontario. Our fan base in this region remains extremely important to our organization and their support has been well documented.“

The Bills began playing games in Toronto in 2008, matching up against the Steelers in the preseason and the Dolphins during the regular season. The 2013 regular-season game against Atlanta drew 38,969 fans for the Falcons’ 34-31 overtime win.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  The Big Push

One of my very favorite Vince Lombardi quotes goes something like this:

“Gentleman, we have our team now. We have the men we’re going with ... This is the beginning of the big push.“

Just like those Packers’ players under Lombardi, fantasy owners have been pushing all season just at a chance of making the playoffs. For those who have gotten there, the really big push begins right now.

From now through Week 17, my writing will concentrate on just fantasy football in attempt to breakdown every little detail to win owners that elusive fantasy title.

Unlike the Lombardi quote though, owners might not have all the “men” they’re going with particularly at defense.

When planning what defenses to use for the playoffs, owners have to look past the upcoming week and plan ahead. At this point in the season, it is acceptable to have defenses occupy two or three roster spots as long as owners will indeed use them in future weeks.

The Week 14 Defense rankings will appear on our site Thursday, but let’s take a look at the defensive options for Weeks 15, 16 and 17.

Minnesota Vikings

The defenses recommended in this article will be available in at least one- third of Yahoo Leagues. Minnesota is actually available in over half of them.

Three of the four matchups remaining for the Vikings are against teams that are in the top half of fantasy points allowed to defenses. The Jets at home this week is a very juicy matchup, and then the Vikings travel to Detroit and Miami. The Lions allow the 14th most fantasy points to defenses and the Dolphins are 20th.

Minnesota finishes the season at home against Chicago, who has the sixth most giveaways this season.

Green Bay Packers

Adding the Packers defense this week is a classic proactive move. They don’t have a very good matchup this week against the Falcons, which could be a shootout. Therefore, no one will be targeting the Green Bay defense to start them this week.

The next three weeks, however, the Packers have nice matchups against the Bills, Buccaneers and Lions. In particular, the Week 16 matchup, when most fantasy championships take place, is extra nice. The Packers are in Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers, who allow the fourth most fantasy points to defenses.

As far as picking up defenses on the waiver wire goes, there won’t be a better matchup than that available for championship week.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are available in about 43% of Yahoo leagues and are a middle-of-the-pack fantasy defense this season. The unit has scored double- digit fantasy points three times, but also has three weeks where they scored just one or two points.

Baltimore also has non-favorable matchups in three of the four remaining weeks, so readers may be wondering why even bring them up. Well, if owners can add the Vikings and Packers, the Ravens would work wonderfully in that platoon.

As discussed previously, Minnesota plays the New York Jets this week and Green Bay is going against Tampa Bay in Week 16. Neither one has a really, really juicy matchup in Week 15, and that’s where Baltimore would come into play.

The Ravens face the Jaguars in Week 15, who allows the most fantasy points to opposing defenses in the league. Jacksonville leads the NFL in sacks allowed, 50.0, which is 11.0 more than second place. The Jaguars also have 24 giveaways, which is fifth most in the league. Expect Baltimore’s veteran pass rush to eat rookie Blake Bortles alive.

To conclude, by no means am I recommending sitting the top fantasy ranked Eagles defense against the Redskins in Week 16 or the fourth-ranked Cardinals defense against the Rams in Week 15. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

This list is for owners in the playoffs who have streamed defenses all season long.

As for one last recommendation for championship week: The Browns take on the Panthers in Week 16, who allow the sixth-most fantasy points to defenses. If the Packers aren’t available, the Browns are another great option. Cleveland is available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.

The combination of the Vikings, Ravens and then Packers/Browns defenses give owners streaming defenses the best opportunity for defensive production each playoff game.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 Men’s College Basketball Game Results

(Wednesday, December 03)


Final Score: (4) Duke 80, (2) Wisconsin 70

Tyus Jones had 22 points, Rasheed Sulaimon scored 14 and fourth-ranked Duke beat No. 2 Wisconsin 80-70 in a marquee ACC/Big Ten Challenge game. Jahlil Okafor and Quinn Cook added 13 points each for the Blue Devils (8-0), who snapped Wisconsin’s regular-season winning streak over non-conference opponents at 23 games. Traevon Jackson led the Badgers (7-1) with 25 points and Frank Kaminsky scored 17. Duke has won each of its first eight games by double digits for the first time in 12 years. It was the first meeting between the teams since Wisconsin knocked off then-No. 6 Duke 73-69 in Madison on December 2, 2009—the Blue Devils’ first-ever loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.


Final Score: (7) Virginia 76, (21) Maryland 65

It’s nights like this that Maryland is probably glad it left the ACC. Malcolm Brogdon scored 18 points and seventh- ranked Virginia never trailed in handing the No. 21 Terrapins a 76-65 loss in Maryland’s first game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge as a member of the opposite side. The Cavaliers completely dictated this meeting with their longtime ACC cohorts, which ended a 61-year association with the league to join the Big Ten at the conclusion of last season. Virginia shot 53.1% from the field, outrebounded the Terps by a 34-22 margin and led many as many as 18 points to deal newly ranked Maryland its first defeat of the season. Virginia (8-0) did lose leading scorer Justin Anderson to an apparent ankle injury with 9:24 left, the lone negative on an otherwise celebratory night for the Cavs. Anderson tallied 16 points and six rebounds before exiting, with Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill adding 14 and 11 points, respectively, to the victory. Maryland (7-1) struggled offensively all throughout, shooting just 40% and never sustaining any level of comfort against the Cavaliers’ tight defense. Star freshman Melo Trimble finished with 16 points, but most of that total came from the free throw line.


Final Score: (10) Villanova 84, La Salle 70

Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis each scored 15 points as No. 10 Villanova remained unbeaten with an 84-70 win over rival La Salle on Wednesday in the Big 5 opener for both schools. Josh Hart and JayVaughn Pinkston had 12 points apiece with Daniel Ochefu adding 10 and eight rebounds for the Wildcats (7-0), who next face Saint Joseph’s on Saturday in the 2014 edition of the Holy War between the Catholic institutions. Jerrell Wright totaled a game-best 19 points for the Explorers (4-3), who play Temple in another rivalry game on Saturday. Khalid Lewis picked up 17 points and Jordan Price had 10 in La Salle’s third consecutive loss.


Final Score: Iowa 60, (12) North Carolina 55

Mike Gesell’s three-point play broke a tie with 1:16 remaining, and North Carolina missed a 3-pointer in the dying seconds, allowing the Iowa Hawkeyes to leave the Dean Smith Center with a 60-55 win over the 12th-ranked Tar Heels. Gesell made a short jumper after being fouled on a drive through the lane, then sank the free throw to put Iowa up 58-55. Marcus Paige was called for a charge on the next North Carolina possession. However, the Tar Heels still trailed by three when Jarrod Uthoff missed a shot with 13 seconds left. Paige looked to force overtime, but his game-tying 3-point attempt did not fall. Gesell sealed the win with two free throws and finished with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Adam Woodbury scored 11 points with seven rebounds for Iowa (6-2), which has won four straight since dropping consecutive games to then-No. 10 Texas and then-No. 23 Syracuse on November 20-21 at Madison Square Garden. Kennedy Meeks posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Tar Heels (5-2), who returned home after going 2-1 at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas last week.


Final Score: Notre Dame 79, (19) Michigan State 78 (OT)

Jerian Grant threw the ball away with just over a minute remaining in overtime, Notre Dame’s first turnover in nearly 26 minutes. Luckily for the Irish, it didn’t come back to haunt them. Grant had 27 points and six assists as Notre Dame defeated No. 19 Michigan State 79-78 on Wednesday night in this installment of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Grant miscue came after Denzel Valentine sunk 2-of-3 free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer, pulling the Spartans with 76-73 with 1:33 remaining in the extra session. There was miscommunication between Grant and Steve Vasturia at the other end and Grant’s pass intended for him in the left corner went out of bounds. Travis Trice missed a desperation leaning triple from the left wing with the shot clock running down on the Spartans’ next trip down the floor and Pat Connaughton sunk a pair of foul shots for Notre Dame. Trice nailed a jumper with seven seconds on the clock, pulling MSU within 78-75, but Demetrius Jackson split a pair of bonus shots to put the game away. Notre Dame posted just four turnovers in the victory.


Final Score: (23) Butler 77, Indiana State 54

Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham scored 14 points apiece and No. 23 Butler rolled to a 77-54 win over longtime rival Indiana State on Wednesday night. Kameron Woods added 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs (6-1) and Kelan Martin scored 11. Devonte Brown had 16 points and Jake Kitchell scored 14 to lead the Sycamores (3-4), who were coming off consecutive losses to Illinois and Memphis. Butler was coming off a 64-58 win over Big East foe Georgetown on Friday in the third-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament after losing to Oklahoma the day before.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pulse of the NBA

The New Orleans Pelicans snapped their three-game losing streak Tuesday with a 112-104 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Kevin Durant’s first game of the season.

The three-game skid for the Pelicans coincided with losing starting two guard Eric Gordon indefinitely due to a torn left labrum.

Gordon hasn’t exactly been lighting it up this season (9.5 ppg), but his presence has been sorely missed because the guys getting additional minutes with him sidelined have been awful for the most part.

Darius Miller got the start in the first game following Gordon’s injury, and was 0-for-3 from the floor and went scoreless in 14 minutes. That performance earned him a seat on the bench for the next two games, and then the Pelicans waived him on November 30.

Austin Rivers replaced Miller in the starting lineup, but that promotion lasted all of two games because of how poorly he played. In his first start, the third-year guard was 0-for-8 in 21 minutes and failed to get into the scoring column. The following game wasn’t much better as Rivers was 1-of-5 from the field and scored four points in 29 minutes.

Luke Babbitt moved into the starting lineup last night with Tyreke Evans sliding over to shooting guard, and produced six points in 15 minutes. But don’t expect too much from Babbitt, who is a very limited offensive player and a liability on defense.

Jimmer Fredette has also been of no help in the limited minutes he’s received since Gordon has been sidelined, going 1-for-7 from the field and scoring three points in 31 minutes.

John Salmons has also seen additional playing time with some mixed results, but can’t be counted on for consistent production at this stage of his career. The Pelicans put up just 89, 91, and 80 points respectively in the first three games following Gordon’s injury, but finally broke out offensively Tuesday night against the Thunder only because they got excellent production from their core players with Tyreke Evans scoring a season-high 30 points, while Anthony Davis had 25, Ryan Anderson 23 and Jrue Holiday 16.

The Pelicans are reportedly considering signing free agent forward Dante Cunningham, but he’s not a good offensive player and wouldn’t give the Pelicans a player like Gordon who can create his own shot.

I think New Orleans should sign point guard Sebastian Telfair, who was recently released by the Thunder and is rumored to be close to returning for a second stint in China.

If the Pelicans fail to add a player who can provide some scoring punch, I think they’ll continue to have their share of games where they struggle offensively, and it’ll also put a lot of pressure on their main guys to carry too much of the load.

One team which certainly doesn’t have to worry about where their points will come from is the Golden State Warriors.

Steve Kerr’s team is third in the league in points per game at 106.5 and boasts the highest scoring backcourt tandem with Stephen Curry (23.7 ppg) and Klay Thompson (20.9 ppg).

But you’d probably be shocked to find out that it’s another Warriors’ player that leads the NBA in scoring per 48 minutes.

That distinction belongs to Marreese Speights, who is having a career year. The six-year veteran is averaging 12.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in just 15.8 minutes per game, and is shooting 56.6% from the field.

Speights’ performance has even been a huge surprise to his coach.

“I figured he was a guy who could give us a spark off the bench every now and again, but I didn’t see him as our full-time backup center. ... but Mo has been way better than I expected,“ Kerr said.

Speights actually got very little playing time at the start of the season, averaging just over eight minutes per game in his first five games, which Kerr explained by saying “because I’m an idiot.“

The backup big man has had several huge games, including one in which he almost single handedly won in the fourth quarter. Speights scored the Warriors’ first 16 points of the final quarter last Friday as Golden State rallied to win in Charlotte.

“We were struggling to find a rhythm and he came in and dominated, took over the game,“ Curry said. “He basically won us the game. Without him tonight our team doesn’t even come close.“

“He saved us again,“ added Kerr. “It’s like the fourth time he’s saved us. He’s just having a terrific season.“

Speights knocked down 8-of-9 shots in that fourth quarter and finished with 27 points in just 24 minutes. It marked the third time this season he topped the 20-point mark, and on all three occasions, Speights’ point total was greater than the minutes he played. He had 28 points in 25 minutes in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he scored 24 points in 20 minutes in the Warriors’ rout of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Speights has even drew praise from the guy he backs up.

“Mo has been huge for us,“ said starting center Andrew Bogut. “He’s one of the most talented guys in this locker room. He’s very, very talented.“

Said Speights: “I think it shows we got a deep team.“


►  NBA Game Results

(Wednesday, December 03)


Final Score: Chicago 102, Charlotte 95

Pau Gasol amassed 19 points and 15 rebounds and the Chicago Bulls finished strong to record a 102-95 win over Charlotte, the Hornets’ 10th consecutive loss. Jimmy Butler and Derek Rose each scored 15 points for Chicago, which squandered a 13-point third- quarter lead before embarking on a 15-4 run in the fourth to put the scuffling Hornets away. Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic each posted double-doubles in the victory, with Noah compiling 14 points and 10 rebounds and Mirotic contributing 11 points and 12 boards off the bench. Charlotte received 23 points from Kemba Walker and 20 out of Lance Stephenson, but was badly outshot by the Bulls from the perimeter. The Hornets hit just 2-of-15 attempts from 3- point range, compared to a 12-of-28 mark for Chicago.


Final Score: Washington 111, LA Lakers 95

John Wall scored 17 points and handed out 15 assists to lead Washington to a 111-95 win over the Lakers on Wednesday. Wall was just 6-of-18 from the field, but he set up his teammates and ran the Wizards offense effectively as they picked up their third straight win. Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points and collected seven assists himself. Marcin Gortat contributed 21 points and 11 boards, and Kris Humphries dominated the glass with 20 rebounds. Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 29 points, 15 of which came in the first quarter. Former Wizard Nick Young made 5-of-8 3-pointers on his way to 21 points for the Lakers, whose two- game winning streak was snapped.


Final Score: Boston 109, Detroit 102 (OT)

The Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics both entered Wednesday night’s game riding lengthy losing streaks. Greg Monroe did his part to end Detroit’s slide, but Jared Sullinger was just as clutch to push Boston to a victory. Sullinger scored 10 of his 14 points in overtime to help the Celtics snap their five-game losing streak with a 109-102 win. Jeff Green supplied 32 points to pace Boston and Kelly Olynyk added 20 in a reserve role. Monroe was a force inside down the stretch, and his 29-point effort off the bench was a huge reason his team made a game of it late. His effort was all for naught, however, as Detroit lost its 10th straight game. Andre Drummond deposited 27 points with 14 rebounds and five blocks in the setback.


Final Score: Brooklyn 95, San Antonio 93 (OT)

Mirza Teletovic had 26 points and 15 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-93 in overtime on Wednesday night. The Spurs didn’t record a field goal in the extra session until Danny Green hit a right corner 3-pointer with 1:38 left, pulling the defending champions within 95-93. Manu Ginobili, though, missed a pair of potentially go-ahead triples in the final 1:06, including one in the final five seconds to seal the outcome. Brook Lopez posted 16 points and 15 boards, Deron Williams recorded 17 points and nine assists and Bojan Bogdanovic added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Nets, who have won four of their last six games on the heels of a five-game losing streak.


Final Score: Atlanta 112, Miami 102

Jeff Teague had 27 points, six assists and three steals in the Atlanta Hawks’ 112-102 victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday. Kyle Korver added 18 points, six rebounds and two steals for the Hawks, who have won four in a row. Dennis Schroder and Paul Millsap tallied 16 and 14 points, respectively. Dwyane Wade ended with 28 points, seven assists and two steals for the Heat, who have lost three of four. Chris Bosh had 27 points an
d 11 rebounds.

Final Score: Houston 105, Memphis 96

James Harden had 21 points and the Houston Rockets rolled to a 105-96 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night in a battle of Southwest Division powers. The Rockets led for the final 38 minutes of the game and by as many as 27 points in the second half. A 12-0 run at the end of the game made it look respectable for the Grizzlies, who entered play on a five-game winning streak and tied for the NBA’s best record at 15-2. Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry scored 16 points apiece for the 14-4 Rockets, who have won five of their last six, and Donatas Motiejunas scored most of his 15 points during a couple of key runs for Houston. Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 15 points and Jarnell Stokes scored 12 off the bench.


Final Score: Dallas 107, Milwaukee 105

Monta Ellis’ jumper as time expired lifted the Dallas Mavericks to a 107-105 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. Ellis, whose season-high 38 points helped the Mavs to a grueling double- overtime victory over Chicago on Tuesday, supplied eight of the final nine points for Dallas to burn his former team. With the game tied after Brandon Knight’s jumper, Ellis drove down the right sideline out of a timeout, spun to his left to gain separation from O.J. Mayo and hit a tough fadeaway jumper as the buzzer sounded to give Dallas its fifth straight win. Ellis had 23 points with seven assists, Tyson Chandler dropped in 18 points with 20 rebounds and Chandler Parsons chipped in with 14 points. Knight paced the Bucks with 25 points and Khris Middleton registered 21 points off the bench. Milwaukee has lost three straight following a three-game winning streak.


Final Score: Philadelphia 85, Minnesota 77

The Philadelphia 76ers finally won a basketball game. It wasn’t pretty, but the Sixers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 85-77, to avoid tying the 2009-10 Nets for the worst start in NBA history. The victory means the 1-17 Sixers don’t have to put their name next to the Nets in the NBA record book of shame. The 2009-10 Nets began 0-18. Sixers forward Robert Covington was an unlikely hero, scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. Michael Carter-Williams ended with 20 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Minnesota forward Thaddeus Young ended with 16 points and six rebounds against his former team. Young played the first seven seasons of his career with the Sixers and was part of the three-team blockbuster trade that landed Kevin Love in Cleveland and Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett with the Timberwolves.


Final Score: Toronto 123, Utah 104

Kyle Lowry scored a career-high 39 points to lead Toronto to a 123-104 win over Utah on Wednesday. Lowry was 13- of-22 from the field and hit four shots from beyond the arc. Toronto as a team shot 57% from the field and made 12-of-21 3-point attempts. Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez each scored 17 for Toronto, which went 2-1 on a three-game road trip. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter led Utah with 19 points each. Kanter also pulled in a game-high nine rebounds. Gordon Hayward chipped in 16 points for the Jazz, who have lost seven games in a row.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pirates ink Richard to minor-league deal

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed left-handed pitcher Clayton Richard to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp on Wednesday.

Richard went a combined 1-2 with a 5.91 ERA in four starts last year between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system.

The 31-year-old veteran was originally selected by the White Sox in the eighth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. He made his big league debut in 2008 with Chicago before being traded to San Diego on July 31, 2009. In 2012, he established a career-high in innings pitched (218.2) while tying his career highs in both wins (14) and starts (33).

Since breaking into the big leagues in 2008, he has posted a career record of 46-47 with a 4.33 ERA in 147 appearances (129 starts).


►  Padres, Cabrera part ways

San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera is now a free agent after the team declined to offer him a contract for the 2014 season.

Cabrera only appeared in 90 games last season for the Padres and hit just .232 after making the All-Star Game in 2013. He, of course, was also suspended 50 games that season for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic accused of supplying performance-enhancing drugs

The 28-year-old also ran into some legal problems late last season when he was arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. Cabrera faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor.

He is scheduled to be arraigned in San Diego on Monday.

Cabrera wasn’t the only former National League All-Star to hit the free agent market, as the Pittsburgh Pirates chose not offer a contract to first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

Also, infielders Gordon Beckham, Justin Smoak and Daniel Descalso, as well as outfielders Eric Young Jr., John Mayberry Jr., Andy Dirks and Kyle Blanks were not offered deals, as were left-hander Wade LeBlanc and righty Logan Ondrusek.


►  Rangers’ Ogando becomes free agent

Texas Rangers pitcher Alexi Ogando is a free agent after the team declined to offer him a contract for next season.

Ogando was an All-Star in 2011, but has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons and the Rangers did not want to offer him a contract that would have made him arbitration-eligible.

The 31-year-old right-hander made his debut in 2010 with a stellar 1.30 ERA in 44 games out of the bullpen, then was a 13-game winner for the Rangers in 2011 when he made 29 starts.

After a return to the bullpen in 2012, Ogando had three stints on the disabled list because of arm issues in 2013 and elbow problems forced him to miss the final four months of 2014. He was 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA in just 25 innings over 27 relief appearances last season.

First baseman Mitch Moreland and pitcher Neftali Feliz were tendered contracts before the deadline, while pitcher Michael Kirkman and infielder Adam Rosales were not tendered offers.


►  Mariners finalize deal with Seager

The Seattle Mariners have finalized a seven- year contract with third baseman Kyle Seager.

The deal runs through the 2021 season and includes a club option for 2022.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but reports last week indicated it to be worth $100 million.

“I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity that the Seattle Mariners have given me,“ said Seager in a statement. “This is an amazing honor for me and my family to remain with such a great organization for the foreseeable future.“

Seager led the Mariners with 25 home runs and 96 runs batted in last season. He batted .268 in 159 games and was named to the All-Star team for the first time while also earning his first Gold Glove.

“As one of our homegrown players it is nice to know that he will remain with us for at least seven more seasons,“ said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. “Kyle has taken a step forward each season since joining the organization in 2009, and has turned into one of the premier third baseman in the game. He has exhibited class both on and off the field and is someone we are all extremely proud of. We are very pleased to announce this joint commitment by the Seattle Mariners and Kyle Seager as we strive toward our goal of winning a world championship.“

Seager was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft and made his debut with the Mariners on July 7, 2011. He has appeared in 520 of the club’s last 540 games since August 2011.

The 27-year-old native of North Carolina has 67 home runs and 251 RBI with a .262 batting average since the start of the 2012 season, his first full year in the big leagues.


►  Yankees avoid arbitration with Rogers

The New York Yankees avoided arbitration with right-hander Esmil Rogers on Wednesday, signing the right-hander to a one-year deal.

The deal is believed to be worth $750,000, but he could earn up to $1.48 million.

Rogers was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on July 31 and made 18 appearances (one start) for the Yankees, going 2-0 with a 4.68 ERA. He also posted a 23/10 K/BB ratio in 25 innings.

The 29-year-old hurler broke into the majors with Colorado in 2009 and is 18-21 lifetime with a 5.54 ERA in 192 games (43 starts) for the Rockies, Cleveland Indians and Yankees.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Wednesday, December 03)


Final Score: Minnesota 2, Montreal 1

Darcy Kuemper stopped 18 shots and Jason Pominville scored an unconventional game winner in the second period as Minnesota clipped Montreal, 2-1, at Xcel Energy Center. Jason Zucker provided a first-period tally for the Wild, who have won three of their last five. Alex Galchenyuk scored a late marker for the Canadiens, who have dropped four of their last five. Carey Price stopped 33 pucks in defeat.


Final Score: Chicago 4, St. Louis 1

Kris Versteeg scored and set up Patrick Kane for two goals, all in the first 5:19 of the third period, as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Wednesday. Marcus Kruger had a first-period goal for the Blackhawks, who returned to United Center following a 5-1-0 road trip and won their fourth straight home game. Antti Raanta made 40 saves in his first start since a 3-2 loss at St. Louis on October 25. Raanta will see his workload increase with No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford sidelined 2-to-3 weeks with a left foot injury he suffered when he missed a step leaving a recent concert. Ian Cole scored the lone goal for St. Louis, which fell to 1-1-0 halfway through its road trip. Jake Allen stopped 29-of-33 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Winnipeg 3, Edmonton 2 (OT)

Mathieu Perreault’s redirection goal came only 17 seconds into overtime and lifted Winnipeg to a 3-2 victory over hapless Edmonton at MTS Centre. The Jets controlled the puck following the faceoff to begin the extra session, and on the dump-in to the Edmonton zone, Evander Kane fished the puck away from the left-wing boards. He dished to the point for Jacob Trouba, whose wrister was tipped en route by Perreault to end the contest. Trouba finished with a goal and two assists, while Dustin Byfuglien supplied the other marker for the Jets, who improved to 2-2 in games decided by the five-minute overtime period. Ondrej Pavelec made 22 saves as Winnipeg has taken three of its last four outings. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Teddy Purcell lit the lamp for the Oilers, who remained winless against Western Conference competition this season. Ben Scrivens stopped 23 shots as Edmonton has dropped 11 straight games.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Marshall to host 1st meet on indoor track

Marshall University is set to hold the first meet on its indoor track.

The women’s dual meet with Ohio University will be held Thursday night in the Chris Cline Athletic Complex in Huntington.

It will be the first meet hosted by Marshall since the last one was held in 2000 on its outdoor track, which was removed in 2006.

The 300-meter indoor track was dedicated in late October.

Two other women’s meets will be held in January and February.

The track is named after Marshall track and field coach Jeff Small, whose father, Richard, donated $1 million to the Marshall Vision Campaign for Athletics.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


THURSDAY, DECEMBER 04, 2014


National Football League
Dallas at Chicago, 8:25 PM - NFL Network


National Basketball Association
Cleveland at New York, 8:00 PM - FS-Ohio, TNT
Indiana at Portland, 10:00 PM - FS-Indiana, CSN-Northwest, DSS
New Orleans at Golden State, 10:30 PM - TNT


National Hockey League
Vancouver at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - SNET-360, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Washington at Carolina, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC, FS-Carolina, DSS
Dallas at Detroit, 7:30 PM - FS-Southwest, Detroit, NHL Network, DSS
Columbus at Florida, 7:30 PM - FS-Ohio, Florida, DSS
Buffalo at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - MSG-Buffalo, SunSports, DSS
NY Islanders at Ottawa, 7:30 PM - MSG+, TSN5, RDS, DSS
New Jersey at Toronto, 7:30 PM - MSG, TSN4, DSS
St. Louis at Nashville, 8:00 PM - FS-Midwest, Tennessee, DSS
Colorado at Calgary, 9:00 PM - TVA, Altitude, SNET-1, DSS
Los Angeles at Arizona, 9:00 PM - FS-West, Arizona, DSS
Boston at San Jose, 10:30 PM - NESN, CSN-California, DSS


College Basketball
NC A&T at USC Upstate, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Baylor at Vanderbilt, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
LSU at West Virginia, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Morehead State at UAB, 8:00 PM - American Sports Network, MASN
Arkansas at Iowa State, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
TCU at Ole Miss, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
San Diego at San Diego State, 11:00 PM - ESPN U


Women’s College Basketball
Iowa at Louisville, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
North Carolina at Rutgers, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
SE Louisiana at Auburn, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
UT Martin at Alabama, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Georgia at Mercer, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
South Dakota State at Arkansas, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Charlotte at South Carolina, 8:00 PM - SEC Network


College Football
UCF at East Carolina, 7:30 PM - ESPN


International Soccer
Olympique Lyonnais vs. Stade Reims, 2:55 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
EUROPEAN - Nedbank Challenge, 6:00 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Hero World Challenge, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel

Sports News   141203

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Michigan fires Hoke after 4 seasons

The University of Michigan has reportedly fired head football coach Brady Hoke after four seasons.

The Detroit Free Press, citing a person with knowledge of the situation, reported the firing Tuesday.


►  UAB shuts down football program

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has dropped its football program over what it says are the “fiscal realities” of rising operational costs that have placed a strain on the athletics budget and made it too hard to keep a competitive team on the field.

The 2014-15 academic year will also be the last for its bowling and rifle programs, the school announced Tuesday.

Despite the rumors surrounding its future, the Blazers football team went 6-6 this season and is bowl-eligible for the first time in 10 years.

UAB is the first school to shutter a major football program since Pacific in 1995.

“The fiscal realities we face—both from an operating and a capital investment standpoint—are starker than ever and demand that we take decisive action for the greater good of the athletic department and UAB,“ said university president Ray L. Watts.

“As we look at the evolving landscape of NCAA football, we see expenses only continuing to increase. When considering a model that best protects the financial future and prominence of the athletic department, football is simply not sustainable.“

Watts said “the financial picture” currently facing the athletics department—mainly, that it would cost too much to keep a competitive football team—made the decision to drop the program “very clear.“

Funds will be redirected to the remaining athletic programs, he said.

“We will not cut the current athletic budget, but in order to invest at least another $49 million to keep football over the next five years, we would have to redirect funds away from other critical areas of importance like education, research, patient care or student services,“ he said.

“These are challenging times in higher education with flat or reduced state and federal funding, and it is more important than ever that we take a close look at overall operations, set priorities and aggressively align our resources in the areas where we have the potential to make the most difference.“

UAB said it will honor the scholarships for athletes and contracts for coaches whose programs are being canceled.

“It is our No. 1 priority to make this transition as easy as possible for our student-athletes, coaches and others affected,“ Watts said. “We will support our UAB family and help impacted individuals make the best decisions for their futures.“

UAB became bowl-eligible with a 45-24 win over Southern Miss on Saturday. The week before, it held a lead into the fourth quarter against then-nationally ranked and unbeaten Marshall before losing on a late fumble in the end zone.

UAB coach Bill Clark praised his players after the Marshall game.

“I am so proud of them,“ he said. “With all the adversity and turmoil that has been surrounding them, to come out here and fight like they did today was unbelievable. That is what I expected.“

The Blazers lost the only bowl game they played in, falling to Hawaii in the 2004 Hawaii bowl.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Fantasy Player of the Week - Week 13

Even in the “Year of the Pass” this past week was special. Until Sunday, we had never seen three quarterbacks throw five or more touchdown passes on the same day and they have been playing professional football for a very long time.

But Ryan Fitzpatrick (6), Drew Brees (5) and Andrew Luck (5) accomplished the feat against Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Washington, respectively.

The following players were the best at their positions in Week 13.


Quarterbacks -

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston - Not only did Fitzpatrick throw a Week 13 high six touchdown passes, but he also earned his fantasy owners the 300-yard bonus. Too bad he wasn’t in many starting lineups. To show you how few people directly benefited from his performance, in my FOX Sports league he’s owned in just 5.5% of the leagues and was started in a minuscule 1.4% of them.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis - No surprise here. Luck still leads the fantasy world in points, adding to his lead with a 370-yard, five-touchdown virtuoso performance against Washington. What’s really impressive is that he threw just 27 passes to amass those totals.


Running Backs -

Tre Mason, St. Louis - The Rams demolished the floundering Oakland Raiders to the tune of 52-0 and much of the damage was done by Mason. He scored the first points of the day with a 35-yard reception in the opening quarter and broke the game wide open with a stunning 89-yard run early in the second quarter. He finished with 164 yards from scrimmage and the two scores worth 39 fantasy points.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh - Bell was outstanding in a losing effort, totaling 254 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 95 yards and a score and caught eight of 11 targets for 159 yards. That’s why he’s so valuable to fantasy owners. Whether the Steelers are ahead or behind, Bell is still an integral part of the offense.


Wide Receivers -

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston - We are seeing a “changing of the guard” in Houston where Hopkins has assumed the top rung over former fantasy star Andre Johnson. Behind a great game from their just re-installed starting quarterback, Fitzpatrick, Hopkins posted career-best numbers - 238 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit - Megatron’s fantasy owners have waited since Week 1 for the star to strut his stuff and on Thanksgiving Day he did just that. Johnson consistently exposed the Bears weak secondary catching 11 of 16 targets for 146 yards, two touchdowns and 35 fantasy points.


Tight Ends -

Coby Fleener, Indianapolis - As expected Dwayne Allen was inactive and Fleener had a very productive afternoon in his absence. He opened the Colts’ scoring with a 30-yard touchdown reception and his second TD catch, a 73-yarder in the third quarter, put the game out of reach.

Jordan Reed, Washington - Reed finally showed fantasy owners what he is capable of with nine receptions for 123 yards, but he was still the second- best tight end on the field, behind Fleener.


Kickers -

Matt Bryant, Atlanta - Kicking indoors is always an advantage late in the season when the weather around the country turns bad and Sunday it paid dividends for fantasy owners who starter Bryant. The Falcons place-kicker hit all five field goal attempts to win the position.


Defense/Special Teams -

St. Louis Rams - There were a lot of surprising defensive performances in Week 13, but the 52-0 shutout of Oakland topped the list. The Rams intercepted three passes, returning one for a touchdown, recovered a pair of fumbles, sacked the Raiders quarterbacks six times and completely throttled the Oakland offense for 34 fantasy points.

And the winner of the TSN Fantasy Player of the Week is ... Houston wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Just think what he could do if he had a Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Or if the Texans could just get their quarterback situation settled.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Player of The Week

Concord’s Mike Boyd has been named Mountain East Conference Player of the Week for his efforts in leading the Mountain Lions to a 2-1 week.

Boyd, a senior guard from Cincinnati, Ohio, averaged 20 points, 5.6 rebounds and six assists in three games for the Mountain Lions. In a league win over Urbana, Boyd scored a career-high 31 points to become the 36th player in CU history to score 1,000 career points, and also had 10 rebounds against the Blue Knights. He added 15 points in a win over Bluefield State and 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds in an overtime loss to Francis Marion to conclude the week.

Other Top Performances:

Seger Bonifant (WLU) had 31 points in a win over West Virginia State ...

Donte Morales (GSC) had 25 points and 13 rebounds in a league win over Fairmont State ...

Lawrence DeArmond (NDC) tallied 29 points in a win over UVa-Wise ...

Vince Dillard (UC) averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Golden Eagles ...

Jamel Morris (FSU) played in one game last week and scored 35 points in a non-conference victory over Lincoln (PA) ...

A.J. Carr (SU) had a game-high 18 points in just 21 minutes of action against West Virginia Wesleyan ...

Haywood Highsmith (WJU) averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds in a 1-1 week ...

Dominic Phillips (WVSU) averaged 17.3 points and 3.7 assists in two games ...

Chris Dewberry (WVWC) averaged 14 points and three assists in a pair of contests.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November17 Seger Bonifant (WLU)
November 24 Donte Morales (GSC)
December 1 Mike Boyd (CU)


►  MEC Women’s Basketball Player of The Week

The University of Charleston’s Nichole Perry has been named Mountain East Conference Player of the Week after leading the Golden Eagles to a 2-0 week.

Perry, a senior from Poseyville, Ind., averaged 14.5 points and shot 64% from the field in UC’s two wins. She led all players with 17 points in a MEC win over Wheeling Jesuit, and then helped the Golden Eagles to a 50-47 non-conference win over Malone with 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Other Top Performances:

Hillary Southworth (WLU) scored 22 of her 25 points in the second half to lead the ‘Toppers to a win over West Virginia State ...

Keyanna Tate (GSC) scored 23 points to get the Pioneers their first win of the season ...

Alex Weakland (SU) averaged 14.5 points in a 1-1 week ...

Kyle Molisee (CU) had 14 points and 16 rebounds in a road win over Urbana ...

Blair Harding (UVa-Wise) averaged 19.5 points in a 1-1 week for the Cavs ...

Jeni Jordan (UU) had her first career double-double against Concord ...

Amanda Ruffner (FSU) came off the bench and had 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots against Glenville State ...

Jaila Bryant (WJU) had 16 points and six rebounds in a loss to Charleston ...

Kelsey Miller (NDC) averaged 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November17 Hallie Gunnoe (FSU)
November 24 Hailey Garrett (FSU)
December 1 Nichole Perry (UC)


<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, December 02)


Final Score: (3) Arizona 91, Gardner-Webb 65

Freshman phenom Stanley Johnson led four Wildcats in double figures with 18 points and No. 3 Arizona used a big second half run to take down Gardner-Webb, 91-65, on Tuesday. Fresh off winning MVP of the Maui Invitational and Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for the first time in his young career, Johnson shot 6-of-9 from the floor and pulled down eight rebounds for the unbeaten Wildcats (7-0). The future lottery pick has scored at least eight points in every game this season and has reached double-figures in six straight. Gabe York also scored 18 for Arizona, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kalec Tarczewski posted 11 and 10, respectively. Tyler Strange’s five 3-pointers in six tries gave him 15 points to go along with six assists for Gardner-Webb (3-4), which upset Clemson in the opening round of the Paradise Jam last week before consecutive losses. Tyrell Nelson also scored 15 points and Jerome Hill tallied 13 with six rebounds and six assists.


Final Score: (5) Louisville 64, (14) Ohio State 55

Terry Rozier’s clutch 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining helped No. 5 Louisville hold off 14th-ranked Ohio State’s late comeback attempt for a 64-55 victory on Tuesday. Trailing by five, Ohio State received the ball following a Chris Jones traveling violation with 1:12 to play. D’Angelo Russell made it a one- possession game by making a pair at the line, but Rozier’s timely trey gave Louisville breathing room for a 59-53 advantage. Following Amir Williams’ thunderous dunk, Anas Mahmoud made a free throw and Montrezl Harrell rebounded Mahmoud’s miss on the second shot to force a foul and put the game away with a foul shot with 28 seconds remaining. Wayne Blackshear had a game-high 22 points with six rebounds and three steals, Harrell finished with 13 points and 10 boards and Rozier supplied 11 points, seven rebounds and seven helpers for the Cardinals (6-0), who won their third straight game against the Buckeyes. Russell had 17 points and seven assists to pace the Buckeyes (5-1), who were coming off a 73-56 win over James Madison on Friday.


Final Score: (6) Texas 63, Texas-Arlington 53

Myles Turner scored 14 of his 18 points at the free throw line, pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked five shots in No. 6 Texas’ 63-53 win over Texas-Arlington. Turner shot just 2-of-10 from the field, but he got to the line 17 times to make the Mavericks pay for their fouls. Jonathan Holmes led the Longhorns with 16 rebounds, and he also chipped in nine points. Texas (7-0) out-rebounded its in-state foe, 52-25. Jamel Outler and Greg Gainey each scored nine points to lead the Mavericks (3-4). Johnny Hill had five points, six rebounds and four assists.


Final Score: (9) Gonzaga 76, SE Louisiana 57

Kyle Wiltjer totaled a game-high 20 points as No. 9 Gonzaga claimed a 76-57 victory over Southeastern Louisiana in the first-ever meeting between the schools from McCarthey Center. Domantas Sabonis had 14 points and Kevin Pangos added 12 for the Bulldogs (7-0), who head to Arizona on Saturday. Joshua Fillmore picked up 14 points while DeVonte Upson and Zay Jackson added 12 points each for the Lions (2-6). Andrew Guillory totaled 10 with three assists in the setback and Upson had a team-high eight rebounds.


Final Score: (15) Miami-Florida 70, (24) Illinois 61

Deandre Burnett scored 19 points and No. 15 Miami beat No. 24 Illinois 70-61 on Tuesday night as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Manu Lecomte added 15 points and Sheldon McClellan had 14 for the Hurricanes (8-0), who have won their first eight games for the first time in five years. Rayvonte Rice had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead Illinois (6-1) and Malcolm Hill scored 13.


Final Score: (17) Michigan 68, Syracuse 65

Spike Albrecht totaled 11 points and a career-high nine assists with no turnovers off the bench as No. 17 Michigan held off Syracuse, 68-65, in this installment of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Albrecht, who became a household name when he scored 17 first-half points against Louisville in the National Championship game two years ago, broke a 63-63 deadlock when he stepped into an NBA range 3-pointer with 31 seconds to play. Michael Gbinije got a quick two at the other end, and Syracuse (5-2) had two chances to take a lead after Michigan missed two free throws but squandered both. Chris McCullough, who secured Derrick Walton’s miss from the line, overthrew Kaleb Joseph on his outlet pass. LeVert then missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Joseph lost the ball on a drive to the basket. LeVert sank two with 4.5 to play, and Joseph’s final look from 3 hit nothing but air as the clock expired. Zak Irvin led Michigan (6-1) with 18 points while LeVert and Ricky Doyle scored 12 apiece. The Wolverines improved to 5-0 at home this season.


Final Score: (20) Iowa State 96, Lamar 59

Bryce Dejean-Jones had 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and No. 20 Iowa State pulled away starting late in the first half for a 96-59 win over Lamar on Tuesday. Matt Thomas led the Cyclones (4-1) with 14 points and Georges Niang scored 13, including seven during a big run at the end of the first half that pulled them out of a three-point hole. Iowa State bounced back from a loss to Maryland last Tuesday in the final of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic and collected its 23rd consecutive win at home against non-conference opponents. LeMon Gregory scored 13 points to lead Lamar (2-5), which has lost five of its last six.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nothin’ but Net: Pump the brakes on realignment

It’s no big secret the Western Conference is miles better than the Eastern Conference.

It’s been that way for some time, but the disparity in quality has led to a lot of discussion by smarter people than me about a way to fix it. Zach Lowe and Tom Ziller have floated ideas about realignment or even scrapping conferences all together.

There are eight teams in the Western Conference with double-digit victories compared to only four in the Eastern Conference. The East is a woeful 26-64 against its big brother, but are these relatively nuclear options really necessary?

No, because basketball, like White House occupancy, trends in jeans and almost everything else in life, is cyclical.

The West is best now, but it won’t be in perpetuity. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich will retire. Kevin Durant will go to the Washington Wizards. Just like that, the balance of power will shift.

That’s assuming you buy the premise. The sample size for western domination is still small, but does anyone believe LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers won’t figure things out by season’s end? Does anyone think Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, when healthy, (if such a thing exists in Bulls Land), won’t be major contenders by May?

The Toronto Raptors have the third-most wins in the NBA. They gave the Memphis Grizzlies, the league’s best, one of their only two losses.

So, maybe, just maybe, this notion that the league is so lopsided that change is needed, is a little too quickly conceived.

The San Antonio Spurs are a modern dynasty. They are the defending NBA champions, but the Miami Heat won the two before that. Miami is very eastern. The Eastern Conference champions are 4-6 in the last 10 NBA Finals. That’s hardly worthy of changing the structure of the league.

Realignment is not an easy step. There’s different travel requirements and hurdles to leap both in ownership and with the players’ association. Lowe reported that Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns is interested in change. Of course he is. His team narrowly missed the playoffs last season despite going 48-34.

Mark Cuban is also an advocate for change. He opined on ESPN’s broadcast of the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks Wednesday night that the three Texas teams could go east with three Central Division teams heading to the Western Conference. Part of the rationale was change for the sake of competitiveness, the other part was that the trips are equidistant to Portland. That hardly seems like a reason to realign - mileage to Portland.

There is inequity in the depth between the two conferences, but sounding the alarm button so drastically as to realign is too much. For all of the chatter about how supreme the Western Conference is, if the NBA seeded the top 16 teams and sent them to battle last season, only the Atlanta Hawks would have been out in favor of the Suns. The Hawks took the Indiana Pacers to seven games and should have pulled off the rare 8 over 1 upset.

Yes, it stinks that the Sacramento Kings, or Denver Nuggets, or, heaven forbid, even the Oklahoma City Thunder may miss out on the playoffs because the West is so great. Yes, it seems unfair that this incarnation of the Pacers may make the playoffs when any of the above-mentioned teams would have a better chance of advancement.

But, is the answer really tinkering the infrastructure? That’s so drastic. What happens when lottery picks like Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart and the entire 76ers roster pans out?

As Lowe pointed out, what happens when the Nets and Knicks spend the money they have coming to them? Won’t free agents want to come East because it’s an easier path to the Finals?

The balance could change, so what happens then when Texas becomes Eastern? Does the NBA change conference positioning every two seasons based on competitiveness? That’s nonsensical.

Reshuffling the deck is fun. It’s even a valid theory with some merit because the ultimate goal of sports is to come up with the best champion through any means necessary. We’ve begged college football for years to come up with a playoff. It’s a true test and you want the best teams competing.

Taking the step of shifting conferences is too much. It’s unnecessary and the idea that it’ll make it more competitive for a year or two is not enough of a reason to pull something this huge.

If a Western Conference team wants to compete for an NBA title, my advice is to qualify for the postseason. Will it be difficult? Of course it will be, but that’s how the league operates at the moment.

Changing schedules and conferences because one is so clearly better doesn’t change anything significantly other than give a Dallas or Houston homecourt in the first round of the playoffs if they were in the Eastern Conference. (That’s not a small thing, as Lowe illustrated. There’s a little thing called money involved.)

Realignment is just not needed at the moment. Even if you buy the premise that the disparity is so monumental, pushing the panic button should be the final resort and the league is nowhere near that yet.

The best player resides in the Eastern Conference. Basketball legacies like the Celtics, Knicks and Sixers are there, too, and while they’re in decline, they don’t need the Dallas Mavericks interfering with their storied pasts.

The balance of power resides now in the Western Conference, at least during the regular season. It stinks that all of the great teams out there, first have to play each other more, but also won’t see the postseason.

Can’t blame geography for everything.

If realignment was needed because of travel problems like say Memphis to Portland, then it’s an important topic for discussion. If realignment is brought up to make the Eastern Conference better, just wait for the Eastern Conference to get better.

It will. It’s cyclical.


►  NBA Game Results

(Tuesday, December 02)


Final Score: Cleveland 111, Milwaukee 108

Ever since LeBron James called the Cleveland Cavaliers “fragile” last week they’ve been anything but. Kyrie Irving had 28 points and six assists, Kevin Love added 27 points and 10 rebounds and Cleveland defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 111-108 on Tuesday night. The Cavaliers have won four straight games since James made those comments, outscoring their opponents by a combined 73 points during the stretch. One of those was a 26-point beatdown of the Washington Wizards, who handed Cleveland a 13-point defeat during a four-game slide the Cavs endured prior to their winning stretch. James provided 26 points and 10 helpers in the triumph. Brandon Knight posted 27 points, eight assists, six boards and three steals, while Jabari Parker supplied 22 points and eight rebounds for Milwaukee, which has dropped two straight on the heels of a 6-2 stretch.


Final Score: Atlanta 109, Boston 105

Kyle Korver was the linchpin to Atlanta’s comeback on both ends of the floor as the Hawks rallied from 23 points down to upend the Boston Celtics, 109-105, at Philips Arena. Korver scored 13 of his 24 points in the second half and helped slow down Rajon Rondo and the Celtics, who committed 23 turnovers and shot just 35.0 percent from the field after the break. Paul Millsap totaled 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Hawks, who capped their four-game homestand with three straight wins. Jeff Green netted 25 points for the Celtics, but he missed a potential tying jumper down the stretch as Boston dropped its fifth straight.


Final Score: LA Lakers 106, Detroit 96

Jordan Hill put up 22 points and 13 rebounds and the Los Angeles Lakers remained unbeaten against the Eastern Conference with a 106-96 win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. Kobe Bryant finished with 12 points and 13 assists, but was responsible for 10 of the 14 Lakers turnovers. Bryant posted the unofficial triple-double two days after recording the 20th legitimate one of his career. Nick Young added 19 points off the bench as the Lakers won their fourth straight against the East to start the season. They are just 1-13 against the West. Josh Smith filled the stat sheet with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and Andre Drummond pulled down 13 boards, but Detroit lost its ninth game in a row. The struggling Pistons have dropped six home games in that stretch, their longest since a 10-game slide in March, 2013. Only the winless 76ers have a worse record than the Pistons, who fell to 3-15 on the season.


Final Score: Brooklyn 98, New York 93

Brook Lopez had 23 points and eight rebounds, Joe Johnson added 22 points, eight boards, six assists and three steals and the Brooklyn Nets defeated the New York Knicks 98-93 on Tuesday night. Deron Williams posted 19 points, five boards and five helpers for the Nets, who are 3-2 on the heels of a five-game losing streak. Carmelo Anthony tallied 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists for New York, which has dropped five straight to fall to 4-15 on the season.


Final Score: Dallas 132, Chicago 129 (2-OT)

Monta Ellis scored 38 points, and the Dallas Mavericks outlasted the Chicago Bulls, 132-129, in double-overtime on Tuesday. Ellis, who shot 16-of-35 from the floor, sent the game to overtime with three free throws and essentially won it with a 3-pointer in the second overtime to help the Mavs win their fourth straight. Chandler Parsons deposited 24 points and Dirk Nowitzki netted 22 on 8-of-22 shooting in the win. Devin Harris added 20 points off the bench. Pau Gasol led the Bulls with 29 points to go along with 14 rebounds, while Jimmy Butler dropped in 23 points and Mike Dunleavy chipped in with 20. Derrick Rose, who banked in a 3 to tie the game as time expired in the first overtime, had 18 points and 10 assists. Chicago had its two-game winning streak snapped in its return to the United Center following a seven-game circus road trip.


Final Score: New Orleans 112, Oklahoma City 104

The Thunder welcomed back Kevin Durant on Tuesday, but Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans gave the reigning MVP a glimpse of the uphill climb Oklahoma City faces the rest of the season. Davis totaled 25 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and four blocks, and the Pelicans never trailed in the second half en route to a 112-104 victory over the finally-healthy Thunder. Durant was aggressive in his first game of the season following right foot surgery in October and showed flashes of being in midseason form. He finished with 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting and played nearly 30 minutes. The Thunder went 5-12 with Durant sidelined, and while hopes are high with their projected starting lineup back on the court, they still sit near the bottom of the competitive Western Conference. Davis received plenty of help from his teammates as New Orleans convincingly snapped a three-game slide. Tyreke Evans led all scorers with 30 points, while Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson both recorded double-doubles.


Final Score: Portland 105, Denver 103

Robin Lopez’s layup with 1.3 seconds left lifted the Portland Trail Blazers to a 105-103 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. LaMarcus Aldridge gave the visitors the lead late in the fourth before Arron Afflalo tied the game with 1:31 to play. Following a couple of empty possessions from each team, Damian Lillard’s point-blank layup rimmed out, but the rebound went out of bounds off Denver. Out of a timeout, Aldridge took the inbounds pass at the foul line and fed Lopez, who shielded J.J. Hickson and easily converted the basket. Danilo Gallinari’s 3-pointer as time expired was all air as the Blazers held on. Aldridge posted a season- high 39 points to go along with 11 rebounds to lead Portland, while Lillard registered 17 points with six assists and Wesley Matthews added 15 points in the win. Ty Lawson deposited 24 points and 13 assists for the Nuggets, who had their two-game winning streak halted.


Final Score: Phoenix 116, Indiana 99

Goran Dragic had 34 points, five rebounds and four steals as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Indiana Pacers 116-99 on Tuesday night. Eric Bledsoe posted 27 points, seven assists and four swipes, Markieff Morris provided 15 points and six boards and Gerald Green netted 15 points off the bench for the Suns, who had dropped three of their last four games coming in. Roy Hibbert tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana, which has lost four of its last six contests.


Final Score: Toronto 117, Sacramento 109

Kyle Lowry scored 27 points, handed out 13 assists and made a critical 20-footer down the stretch to lead the Toronto Raptors past the Kings, 117-109, in a rare road win at Sacramento. The Raptors had dropped 14 of their previous 15 trips to Sacramento but used six double-digit scorers to rebound from a head-scratching overtime loss to the Lakers on Sunday. Terrence Ross netted 20 points, James Johnson added 19, and Jonas Valanciunas went for 15 for Toronto, which saw former teammate Rudy Gay hand out a career-best 10 assists to go with 20 points and six rebounds. Ben McLemore donated 21 points and Derrick Williams had 18 for the Kings, who have dropped four in a row—the last three with star forward DeMarcus Cousins sidelined because of a virus.


Final Score: Golden State 98, Orlando 97

Stephen Curry’s 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left lifted the Golden State Warriors to a 98-97 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. With Golden State trailing by two, Elfrid Payton missed a wild layup attempt and Draymond Green pulled the rebound down with 6.9 seconds on the clock. Green then quickly found Curry, who calmly dribbled up court, gave a shake of the shoulders as he gained separation from Tobias Harris and canned the winning 3. Orlando called a pick for Harris on the final play out of a timeout, but Green batted the inbounds pass down court and time expired. Golden State has now won 10 straight games, which is the longest streak in franchise history since an 11-game run from Dec. 29-Jan. 22, 1971-72. Curry scored 22 points and fellow sharpshooter, Klay Thompson, netted 20 in the win. Harrison Barnes posted 14 points and 12 rebounds. Victor Oladipo poured in a season-high 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting for the Magic, who have lost four straight to the Warriors. Kyle O’Quinn chipped in with 21 points and 11 rebounds starting in place of Nikola Vucevic, who was a late scratch due to back spasms.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Frustration in Philadelphia

The chance to see one of your fantasy players in person is rare.

But on December 01, the San Antonio Spurs were in Philadelphia and yours truly had the night off ... impeccable timing. It was the best chance I had at seeing one of the best big men of all-time, and my seventh-round fantasy selection, Tim Duncan, in person.

Gregg Popovich had other plans.

With the Spurs playing the day before, Duncan sat out to receive extra rest. Tony Parker owners in Philadelphia were disappointed too, as he rode the bench next to Duncan.

And San Antonio still won, 109-103, behind Kawhi Leonard’s 26 points, which tied a career-high, and 10 rebounds. At least Leonard’s owners were pleased.

I could blame Popovich and the Spurs for my missed opportunity at laying my own eyes on one of the best dynasties in modern sports history, but the athlete in me understands. San Antonio didn’t win five championships by beating a bad Eastern Conference team in December.

Perhaps I could blame the NBA for scheduling the Spurs on back-to-back nights or having too many games. Both would be legitimate beefs.

The real blame, however, should go to the 76ers, who have failed to put a product on the court fans or fantasy owners can like at all. There are some fantasy-relevant players despite the 0-17 start, but that is only because someone on the team has to accumulate some kind of stats.

Tony Wroten leads the team with 17.9 ppg, 6.3 apg, and 1.9 spg. Michael Carter-Williams missed the beginning of the season, but in the 10 games since his return, he has averaged 15.6 ppg, 5.8 apg and 6.8 rpg. Last Saturday versus Dallas, Carter-Williams recorded a triple-double.Both those players are worth owning.

Nerlens Noel (7.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.29 bpg), Henry Sims (10.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and K. J. McDaniels (10.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.29 bpg) are worthy of consideration in deeper leagues. For all five of those players, though, fantasy owners wish they were on the court more.

Not a single 76ers player is ranked in the NBA’s top-50 players in minutes. Twenty-seven of the other 29 teams have at least one player ranked in the top 50 in minutes. Minnesota and, ironically, San Antonio are the other teams that don’t.

Wroten leads the 76ers with 32.6 mpg, which is 14th among shooting guards. Carter-Williams and Noels are the only other players averaging more than 30 minutes per night.

One would think on a team as thin as Philadelphia, the stars, if fans can call them that, would play a crazy amount of minutes and even if there percentages were below average, would accumulate a lot of stats. Playing the starters a lot of minutes would also help the young players develop.

Instead, Philadelphia plays rookies such as McDaniels just 24.4 mpg, which limits his fantasy upside, apparently in the interest of losing and earning a better draft pick.

This completely frustrates fantasy owners and fans who want to see the out-of- town stars play a competitive game at the Wells Fargo Center. In the case of Monday, it hurts the chances of seeing those out-of-town stars at all.

As far as seeing Duncan, now I’ll have to wait-and-see if March 17 works with my schedule and travel up to New York to see him play the Knicks. Or hope he plays one more season, wait until he is back in the City of Brotherly Love next year, and pray he suits up that night.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Mariners ready to take next step

You want to know how important the Seattle Mariners’ signing of Nelson Cruz was? They don’t have to do another thing this offseason and they will be my pick to win the American League West.

Now with that said, I don’t think they are done just yet.

Seattle went into this offseason intent on upgrading its lineup - as it did last winter when it signed Robinson Cano. Yes they probably overpaid Cano, but they had to land one superstar to get another.

Felix Hernandez or not, Seattle just wasn’t a popular landing spot for free agents. It seemed to be the same story every offseason for the Mariners. They were in on every big bat available, yet they’d land nobody.

Or anyone who would make a difference.

That’s why the Cano signing last winter was so important. The ground work was being laid for something much bigger.

And they knew more had to be done.

Cano may have watched his power numbers decline in spacious Safeco Field, but he remained one of the best left-handed hitters in the game, despite having little or no protection in a lineup that ranked second to last in the AL last season with a .244 average.

Seattle, and Cano for that matter, desperately needed some help from the right-side of the plate, as the Mariners’ .604 OPS by right-handed hitters in 2014 was the lowest for any team since the 1988 Pittsburgh Pirates.

The right-handed hitting Cruz, meanwhile, had a .977 OPS against left-handed pitchers.

As good as Cano was a year ago, he’ll be even better with Cruz, the only player in the league last season to hit 40 home runs. Even at 34 years of age, Cruz will drastically upgrade a designated hitter spot for the Mariners that last season produced an awful .190/.266/.301 line with 15 home runs and 50 RBI.

Of course Safeco Field will likely sap some of Cruz’ power, but the majority of his power numbers last season came on the road rather than the hitter friendly confines of Camden Yards. Cruz hit .289 with 25 homers and 68 RBI away from home last year opposed to the 15 HRs and 40 RBI in Baltimore.

Regardless, he’s a nice piece to slot in between Cano and third baseman Kyle Seager, who recently inked a $100 million extension.

And the Mariners aren’t done.

They are still in on outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes.

Of the three the Mariners would probably prefer Kemp since he is signed through 2019, whereas Cespedes and Upton can become a free agents after this season.

It’s no secret that the Los Angels Dodgers - like many other teams - covet Mariners’ right-handed pitching prospect Taijuan Walker, but Seattle doesn’t seem inclined to include him in a deal for Kemp or anyone else for that matter.

This much is certain. With King Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and yes, even Walker, along with what was the best bullpen in the AL a year ago, the Mariners have enough pitching to win. Their lineup has to catch up.

Signing Cruz was a nice next step. Now we wait for what’s coming next.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Tuesday, December 02)


Final Score: NY Islanders 3, Ottawa 2 (OT)

New month, same New York Islanders. Thomas Hickey scored off an opponent’s skate 3:06 into overtime on Tuesday to lift the red-hot Islanders to a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators in the first game of a home-and-home. Hickey’s wrap-around on the left side crossed the crease and deflected off Ottawa defenseman Cody Ceci’s left skate before going in. The goal gave the Islanders a win in their first game this month after they went 11-3 in November. They improved to 8-0 in overtime and shootout games this season and pushed their home winning streak to seven games. New York also kept pace with the Penguins for a tie atop the Metropolitan Divisions after Pittsburgh beat the Devils at home, 1-0. Jaroslav Halak made 16 saves and extended his personal winning streak to 10 games to tie the franchise record set by Billy Smith in the 1981-82 season. Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome also scored in the win. Mike Hoffman and Clarke MacArthur scored for the Senators, who fell to 1-4-1 in their last six games. Craig Anderson gave up three goals on 28 shots. Ottawa went 1-3-1 on a five-game road trip, so Senators coach Paul MacLean was happy with the point.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 1, New Jersey 0

Evgeni Malkin’s early third-period marker was the lone offense of the contest as Pittsburgh topped New Jersey, 1-0, at CONSOL Energy Center. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots to record his league-best fifth shutout of the season for the Penguins, who have won two in a row and four of their last five. Cory Schneider made 22 saves for the Devils, who have lost a season-high five straight games.


Final Score: Vancouver 4, Washington 3

Daniel Sedin scored twice, including the winner halfway through the third, to lead the Vancouver Canucks in a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals. Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist and Derek Dorsett also scored for the Canucks, who have won four of their last five. Ryan Miller allowed three goals on 26 shots in the win. John Carlson had two goals and an assist and Brooks Laich also scored for the Capitals, who have lost four of five. Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Carolina 2, Nashville 1

Jeff Skinner had a goal and an assist, Cam Ward made 32 saves and the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Tuesday. Ward’s best work came in the third period when he turned away 14 of Nashville’s 15 shots. Skinner’s first-period goal gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead, and he assisted on Victor Rask’s goal in the third period that proved to be the game-winner. Mike Ribeiro scored Nashville’s only goal in the third period. Pekka Rinne made 23 saves in the loss, ending Nashville’s four game winning streak.


Final Score: Buffalo 2, Tampa Bay 1 (SO)

Jhonas Enroth stopped 26 shots in regulation and overtime plus both shootout chances as Buffalo claimed a 2-1 decision over Tampa Bay on Tuesday in the opener of a home-and-home series. Zemgus Girgensons tallied in regulation for the Sabres, who have won three in a row and six of their last seven. Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis hit the net in the game’s final segment. Ondrej Palat lit the lamp and Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves for the Lightning, who couldn’t maintain momentum from a 6-3 road win in Manhattan on Monday.


Final Score: Toronto 5, Dallas 3

Joffrey Lupul scored twice to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. Nazem Kadri finished with a goal and two assists, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel also scored and Mike Santorelli tallied three assists for the Maple Leafs, who have won two straight games and four of five. Jonathan Bernier stopped 35-of-38 shots in the win. Jason Spezza, Ryan Garbutt and Ales Hemsky each lit the lamp and Kari Lehtonen made 35 stops for the Stars, who dropped their third consecutive game.


Final Score: Florida 4, Detroit 3

Vincent Trocheck had a goal and two assists to guide the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Jimmy Hayes posted a goal and an assist while Aaron Ekbald and Sean Bergenheim also scored for the Panthers, who have won three of their last four. Roberto Luongo turned away 38 shots in the win. Pavel Datsyuk posted a goal and an assist while Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar also scored for the Red Wings, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Jimmy Howard allowed four goals on 31 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Calgary 5, Arizona 2

Josh Jooris picked up his first career hat trick in Calgary’s 5-2 win over Arizona Tuesday. His second goal at the 7:13 mark of the second period proved to be the game-winner, and his empty-net goal in the final minute sealed the win. Karri Ramo made 27 saves on 29 shots for the Flames, who won their third straight game. Calgary’s Dennis Wideman, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Glencross and Jiri Hudler all had two assists. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Sam Gagner potted Arizona’s goals in its second loss in three games, both to Calgary. Mike Smith allowed four goals on 23 shots.


Final Score: San Jose 2, Philadelphia 1

Matt Nieto scored with 11.5 seconds to play as the San Jose Sharks stole a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. In the waning moments of the contest, Patrick Marleau came charging down the middle and got a shot off that Steve Mason was able to turn aside. However, Mason came out of the crease to try and play the rebound and was crashed into by Tommy Wingels, allowing Nieto to snap the disc into the open net for the winning goal. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had the other goal and Antti Niemi turned away 28 shots for the Sharks, who have won their past two. Sean Couturier scored the only goal of the game for the Flyers, who have lost their past five games. Mason stopped 25 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Los Angeles 2, Boston 0

Jonathan Quick stopped all 31 shots fired his way to post his third shutout, lifting the Los Angeles Kings to a 2-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli scored and Anze Kopitar supplied two assists for the Kings, who bounced back from a tough 4-1 loss to Chicago on Saturday. Niklas Svedberg allowed just one goal on 34 shots in Boston’s second straight loss on the West Coast.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  This Week in Golf—December 03-07

PGA TOUR - HERO WORLD CHALLENGE, Isleworth Golf & Country Club, Windermere, Florida - After a week off, the PGA Tour is back in action at the Hero World Challenge, which is hosted by Tiger Woods.

Last year, Zach Johnson made par on the first playoff hole to defeat Woods and win this event for the first time. Johnson shot up the leaderboard with a final-round, 4-under 68 to join Woods (70) at 13-under-par 275 at the end of regulation.

Both Johnson and Woods are back in the field again this week along with 16 others. The field features 18 players who are all ranked in the top 40 in the world, including seven of the top 11 and 15 of the top 25.

Woods is back in action after taking time off to get healthy and to get his game on track. He last played at the PGA Championship at the beginning of August, where Woods missed the cut. Woods played in just eight events last season and withdrew from two of them.

Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Jimmy Walker and Bubba Watson are the other 16 players this week.

Golf Channel will have extensive coverage of all four days, including early coverage on the weekend before handing things off to NBC on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

The PGA Tour will be back in Florida again next week for the Franklin Templeton Shootout, where Matt Kuchar and Harris English defeated Retief Goosen and Freddie Jacobson by seven last year.


EUROPEAN TOUR

NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE, Gary Player Country Club, Sun City, South Africa - The European Tour kicks off its 2014-15 campaign this week with the Nedbank Golf Challenge, where Thomas Bjorn emerged victorious by two shots last season.

Bjorn fired a 7-under 65 in his final round last year to finish at 20-under- par 268, which was two shots better than Sergio Garcia and Jamie Donaldson. Last year’s win was the last victory Bjorn earned on the European Tour. He has 15 in his career.

Bjorn is back in the field again this week along with 29 others. The 2014 U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer will also be in action this week. The field consists of 25 players ranked between 12th and 86th in the world rankings.

Other notable players participating this week are Luke Donald, Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood.

The golf Channel will have early morning coverage of all four rounds.

The European Tour will be back in South Africa for its second of three straight events there for the Alfred Dunhill Championship, where Schwartzel ran away with a 4-shot win over Richard Finch last year.


LPGA TOUR

LPGA FINAL QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT, LPGA International (Arthur Hills Course/Rees Jones Course), Daytona Beach, Florida - A total of 155 players have reached the final stage of the LPGA Q School as they attempt to earn a spot on tour for the upcoming season in 2015.

The top-20 finishers this week will earn category 12 status on the LPGA Tour priority list, while those finishing between 21 and 45 get category 17 status. Those who do not earn category 12 or 17 status will still have the opportunity to play for status on the Symetra Tour priority list.

Last year, Jaye Marie Green ran away with a 10-shot victory at this event. Green carded five straight rounds in the 60s, including a 10-under 62 in the first round. Green shot a 4-under 68 on the final day to finish at 29-under- par 331.

In 2014, Green missed 11 cuts in 22 events and she did not finish inside the top 10 once. Green’s best finish came at the Marathon Classic, where she tied for 18th.

There is no television coverage this week. The event lasts five rounds and begins on Wednesday.

This is the last tournament for the LPGA Tour until the 2015 season kicks off on January 28 in Florida at the Coates Golf Championship, which is a new event.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Looking back at the 2014 F1 season

Following 19 rounds during an eight-month period, the one thing that stands out in the 2014 Formula One season is the dominance of Mercedes with its drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

While Red Bull had been the dominant team in F1 the past four years, Mercedes was in a league of its own this season, thanks in part to the new technical regulations. The cars were equipped with a new power unit, which consisted of a 1.6-liter, V6 turbocharged engine along with an Energy Recovery System (ERS). Mercedes adapted to the regulations much better than its rivals, particularly Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren. The Williams F1 team, which uses a Mercedes engine, had a much-improved season.

Mercedes won its first constructors’ championship in F1, clinching the title with Hamilton’s victory in the October 12 inaugural Russian Grand Prix, as three races remained in the season. Hamilton claimed his second world championship, defeating his teammate and title rival Rosberg by 67 points.

The intense rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg throughout the season provided lots of drama and made for most of the headlines in F1, but there were other notable stories worth recalling.


MERCEDES’ REIGN OF SUPREMACY

Mercedes had a banner year in winning its maiden constructors’ title. The team set a record for most grand prix victories in a season with 16. Hamilton scored 11 wins compared to five for Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo, in his first season with Red Bull, was the only other driver who had wins this season—three of them.

With victories in 16 of the 19 rounds, Mercedes’ winning percentage of 84.2 for the season was fifth-highest all-time in F1. McLaren won 15 of 16 grand prix in 1988, setting the record for highest winning percentage of 93.8.

Mercedes also won a total of 18 poles this year (Rosberg had 11 compared to 7 for Hamilton), tying Red Bull’s record for most poles in a season, set in 2011. Felipe Massa, driving for Williams this season after spending the past eight years with Ferrari, claimed the pole for the Austrian Grand Prix in June.

Mercedes ended the season with a record 701 points, which was 296 points more than its closest competitor, Red Bull.

“This is really something incredibly special, what this team has put together, and I think we’ve got great people in their right positions, and Nico and I will continue to push the team forward,“ Hamilton said. “It’s been phenomenal this year. I think it’s really important the steps we take moving forwards to continue improving, and I believe 100% the team will do that. I’m looking forward to battling with people for sure, but I do believe that we’ll be there fighting with people hopefully for some time.“

Following the conclusion of the 2013 season, Mercedes reshuffled its management team, as Ross Brawn stepped down as team principal and handed over his leadership to executive director (business) Toto Wolff and executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe. Then in April, Mercedes announced that its technical director, Bob Bell, would leave the team at season’s end. Lowe is taking over Bell’s duties.


HAMILTON VS. ROSBERG

Hamilton and Rosberg’s tug of war for this year’s F1 world championship was compared much to the fierce rivalry between McLaren teammates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988 and ‘89.

Rosberg began the season by winning in Australia, but Hamilton went on to score victories in the next four grand prix—Malaysia, Bahrain, China and Spain. The two had a hard-fought battle in Bahrain, with Hamilton beating Rosberg to the line by just one second.

Tension between the two reached a boiling point for the Monaco Grand Prix in May and then the Belgian Grand Prix in August.

In the Belgian GP in Spa, Rosberg and Hamilton made contact while battling for the lead on the opening lap, with Hamilton suffering a punctured left-rear tire when Rosberg’s front wing clipped it.

Hamilton then dealt with an ill-handling car before he was forced to retire with a handful of laps remaining in Belgium. He trailed Rosberg by 29 points after that race. But Hamilton rebounded nicely from there, winning the next five grand prix—Italy, Singapore, Japan, Russia and United States. He took over the points lead in Singapore and kept it for the remainder of the season.

“Spa was a low moment,“ Hamilton said. “I came back to the next races with a slightly different approach, and I won’t explain exactly what I did because I need to bring it to the next races next year, but I did tweak some of my approach throughout the weekend which helped me get those wins.“

Rosberg snapped Hamilton’s five-race winning streak in Brazil, and he kept his title hopes alive heading into the November 23 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which for the first time in F1 history awarded double the amount of points. Rosberg came to Abu Dhabi 17 points behind.

Hamilton won in Abu Dhabi, while Rosberg, who had started on the pole, experienced a problem with his ERS early in the race, which led to a 14th- place finish.

“2014 has been an incredible year for me,“ Rosberg said. “I’ve been particularly inspired by the huge support from my fans around the world. It gave me extra strength yet again. I’ll be back on the offensive next year.“

The relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg this season ended on a positive note, as Rosberg congratulation Hamilton on his race victory and second world championship after the completion of the Abu Dhabi GP. Hamilton’s first title occurred in 2008 when he drove for McLaren.

“We’ve been fighting all season, and there have been good moments and bad moments, but we’ve worked together professionally, I think, all year long to push this team, so the team has no problems,“ Hamilton said of his battle with Rosberg for the championship.


VETTEL’S WINLESS SEASON

One year ago, Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull matched Alberto Ascari’s 60-year- old record of nine victories in a row and tied Michael Schumacher’s 2004 season record of 13 wins. Vettel also won his fourth straight world championship, finishing the year 155 points ahead of second-place Fernando Alonso from Ferrari.

But Vettel’s season this year went in the opposite direction, as he failed to win a grand prix and appeared on the podium just four times. He finished fifth in the championship standings, while his teammate, Ricciardo, placed third. Ricciardo finished ahead of Vettel in 13 grand prix this season.

In one of the biggest driver changes in F1 history, Vettel is moving over to Ferrari where he is replacing Alonso for the 2015 season. It’s widely rumored that Alonso will return to McLaren.

Vettel is already working on the upcoming season with his new team, as he spent time at Ferrari’s facilities in Maranello, Italy this past weekend.

“The possibility to drive the car and get to know the team was a unique experience,“ Vettel said. “Obviously, it’s a very different color for me, everybody is dressed in red, everything is red, but it’s really something special, and I’m very much looking forward to the challenge that we took on for the next years.“

Vettel spent the past six seasons with Red Bull.


A YEAR OF CHANGES AT FERRARI

Ferrari has been the most successful constructor in F1, but the Italian team endured one of its worst seasons ever.

That prompted a lot of changes at Ferrari throughout the year, most notably Vettel joining the team and Alonso departing.

Last week, Ferrari announced that Maurizio Arrivabene replaced Marco Mattiacci as team principal. In April, Stefano Domenicali stepped down as team principal, with Mattiacci taking over the position. Then in September, Luca di Montezemolo resigned as Ferrari chairman, while Sergio Marchionne moved into that role.

Ferrari ended the season fourth in the constructors’ championship and failed to win a race this year. It was the first time the team was winless in a season since 1993.

Alonso concluded his last season with Ferrari sixth in the drivers’ standings, and Raikkonen, in his first season back with the team, placed 12th.


BIANCHI’S HORRIFYING CRASH IN JAPAN

The 2014 F1 season had many exciting moments but a sad one as well. Marussia driver Jules Bianchi was involved in a serious accident in the closing laps of the October 5 Japanese Grand Prix. Heavy rain associated from Typhoon Phanfone had an effect on the race. Bianchi 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.

Bianchi, a 25-year-old Frenchman, suffered a severe head injury. He remains in critical but stable condition. Last month, Bianchi was taken out of an artificial coma and transported from Japan to a French hospital.

In Monaco, Bianchi finished ninth to give Marussia its first points since entering F1 competition in 2010.


FINANCIAL TROUBLES FOR TWO F1 TEAMS

Two teams—Caterham and Marussia—faced financial issues during the season, which led to both organizations missing the grand prix in the United States and Brazil. Those two grand prix featured just an 18-car field, the smallest grid since 2005.

Caterham returned to competition in Abu Dhabi, with Kamui Kobayashi and Will Stevens on the grid. Stevens made his F1 debut, as he replaced Marcus Ericsson, who had already departed the team.

Marussia has ceased its operations and is currently selling its assets.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 03, 2014


National Basketball Association
Chicago at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, SportSouth, DSS
LA Lakers at Washington, 7:00 PM - Time Warner, CSN-DC, DSS
Atlanta at Miami, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, SunSports, DSS
Detroit at Boston, 7:30 PM - FS-Detroit, CSN-New England, DSS
San Antonio at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - FS-Southwest, YES, DSS
Memphis at Houston, 8:00 PM - SportSouth, ROOT-Southwest, NBA TV, DSS
Dallas at Milwaukee, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, Wisconsin, DSS
Philadelphia at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-North+, DSS
Toronto at Utah, 9:00 PM - SNET-360, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Orlando at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-Florida, Prime Ticket, DSS


National Hockey League
Montreal at Minnesota, 7:00 PM - SNET, RDS, FS-North, DSS
St. Louis at Chicago, 8:00 PM - TVA, NBCSN
Edmonton at Winnipeg, 9:00 PM - SNET, SNET-1, DSS
Philadelphia at Anaheim, 10:30 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, FS-West, DSS


College Basketball
Temple at Saint Joseph’s, 6:30 PM - CBSSN
Sacred Heart at Colgate, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Charlotte at Davidson, 7:00 PM - Time Warner Sports
Northeastern at Harvard, 7:00 PM - NESN, Ivy League Digital Network
Florida Tech at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
St. Francis-PA at Lehigh, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
WM & Mary at Richmond, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC+
Buffalo at St. Bonaventure, 7:00 PM - Time Warner Sports, SNY
Michigan State at Notre Dame, 7:15 PM - ESPN 2
Virginia Tech at Penn State, 7:15 PM - ESPN U
Iowa at North Carolina, 7:30 PM - ESPN
Rochester College at Oakland, 7:30 PM - ESPN3.com
UNLV at Arizona State, 8:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Western Carolina at East Tennessee State, 8:00 PM - MASN
North Texas at Oklahoma State, 8:00 PM - FS-Oklahoma, FCS-Central
Southern Ill at SIU Edwardsville, 8:00 PM - FS-Midwest
Sam Houston State at Texas A&M, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Creighton at Tulsa, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Bowling Green at Western Ky, 8:00 PM - American Sports Network, MASN2
Villanova at La Salle, 8:30 PM - CBSSN
Grambling State at Air Force, 9:00 PM - Mountain West Network
UTEP at Colorado State, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Auburn at Texas Tech, 9:00 PM - SEC Network, ESPN3.com
Virginia at Maryland, 9:15 PM - ESPN 2
Georgia Tech at Northwestern, 9:15 PM - ESPN U
Duke at Wisconsin, 9:30 PM - ESPN
Montana at California, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
San Francisco at Colorado, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
UC Irvine at Fresno State, 10:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Concordia (OR) at Oregon, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Loyola Marymount at USC, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Idaho at Washington State, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Wichita State at Utah, 11:15 PM - ESPN 2
Miss Valley State at Oregon State, 12:00 AM - Pac-12 Network
CS Fullerton at UCLA, 12:00 AM - Pac-12 Network


Women’s College Basketball
Northwestern State at Texas A&M, 12:00 PM - SEC Network+
Northern Kentucky at Kentucky, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Louisiana Tech at LSU, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
Maryland at Notre Dame, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Minnesota at NC State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
St. Francis-PA at Tennessee, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Duke at Nebraska, 7:30 PM - Big Ten Network
New Mexico at Texas, 8:00 PM - Longhorn Network
Loyola-Chicago at Missouri, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Seton Hall at Creighton, 8:00 PM - FS1
MVSU at Vanderbilt, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+


International Soccer
CE L’Hospitalet vs. Club Atletico de Madrid, 1:55 PM - beIN Sport
Chelsea vs. Tottenham, 2:40 PM - NBCSN
SD Huesca vs. FC Barcelona, 3:55 PM - beIN Sport

Sports News   141202

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Heisman Rankings: Week 14

While plenty of Heisman hopefuls played their way out of consideration on an eventful last full Saturday of the college football season, the favorites managed to separate themselves even more.


1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (last week: No. 1)—With the No. 2 player on this list breathing down his neck, Mariota came through in Oregon’s 47-19 Civil War victory over rival Oregon State with one of the best performances of his illustrious career. The signal caller scored a season-high six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) in the turnover-free performance, while completing 19-of-25 passes and amassing just shy of 400 total yards. Mariota, who has been the Heisman frontrunner for most of the season, has been consistently outstanding with multiple touchdowns and at least 277 yards in every game this season, leaving him with simply astounding numbers on the season with 3,470 passing yards, 636 rushing yards, 48 total touchdowns and just two interceptions. A win in the Pac-12 Championship Game will all but sew up the award for Mariota, but that’s not a forgone conclusion just yet. The Pac-12 South champs Arizona may have the formula to slowing down Mariota, as it delivered Oregon its only loss back on October 2 (31-24), while holding the quarterback to his lowest yardage total of the season (277).


2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (last week: No. 2)—There’s some other notable performers named below, but this might as well be a two-name list in regard to players who have a legitimate chance at winning the award. With another stellar showing (29 carries, 151 yards, TD) in a win over Minnesota to determine which team gets to play for the Big Ten title, Gordon became the league’s all-time single-season rushing leader with 2,260 yards, and with two games left, Barry Sanders’ FBS record of 2,628 is well within reach for the explosive tailback. The Badgers have ridden Gordon’s talents to seven straight victories to set up a showdown with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday, and if he can lead his team to the title, the potential to unseat Mariota as the Heisman favorite becomes much greater.


3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (last week: No 8)—It was impossible for this year’s version of the Iron Bowl to live up to 2013’s epic finish, but it certainly tried its best, as Alabama overcame a 12-point, second-half deficit to capture a 55-44 victory in the highest-scoring game in series history. Cooper, with the help of quarterback Blake Sims, lifted his team with three touchdowns, two of which came in the third quarter as the Crimson Tide mounted their comeback. Cooper caught 13 balls and had more than 70% of the team’s receiving yards, tying his own single-game school record with 224 yards. Cooper ranks in the top-three nationally in receptions (103), yards (1,573) and touchdowns (14), and if he puts up another strong performance against Missouri in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game, he can bank on being a finalist.


4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU (last week: No 4)—The Horned Frogs’ big win over Texas on Thanksgiving night (48-10) is especially important now that Mississippi State is out of the mix for the fourth spot in the College Football Playoffs, as they are now the likely favorite to scoop up that coveted place. Boykin was his typical, multi-faceted self in the victory, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 50 yards and another score, leaving him with 3,254 passing yards, 598 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns against only six interceptions for the season. A lot is still left to be to be determined on Saturday with TCU, Baylor and Kansas State all in action, and each sitting at 7-1 in the league, but if the Horned Frogs can take care of business against Iowa State, Boykin’s status as a finalist should be a lock.


5. Cody Kessler, QB, USC (last week: unranked)—Every time Kessler was about to make his mark in the Heisman race, USC would suffer an untimely loss to put both he and the team on the back burner, at least nationally, but with his regular season done it’s time to finally give him the recognition he deserves. For all of the TroJanuarys’ issues in an underachieving season, Kessler’s play under center was not one of them. Five times this year he threw for at least four touchdowns an no interceptions, including in a statement win over Notre Dame over the weekend, when he completed 32-of-40 passes for 372 yards and six touchdowns. With the second-best completion percentage in the nation (.707), the sixth-most yards (3,505) and tied for the second-most passing touchdowns (36), paired with only four picks, Kessler’s season sizes up with the best of the elite USC quarterbacks of the recent past.


6. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (last week: unranked)—Petty was on his way to a big game against Texas Tech with 210 yards and two touchdowns before he was forced to leave with a concussion in the third quarter, and in his absence the Bears just barely held on for a 48-46 win. With a matchup next week against Kansas State that could very well decide the Big 12 as well as Baylor’s fate in the College Football Playoff rankings, Petty vowed to be ready to play, confident he will pass the concussion protocol tests. It’ll give Petty one more opportunity to impress Heisman voters and improve upon strong numbers (2,893 yards, 25 TDs, five interceptions).


7. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana (last week: unranked)—Of the 18 2,000-yard rushing seasons in FBS history, none have come more quietly than Coleman’s, who crossed the threshold on Saturday with a 130-yard performance as Indiana snapped a six-game losing streak with a 23-16 win over Purdue. Playing for the 4-8 Hoosiers has kept Coleman out of the national spotlight, but the fact that he is his team’s only viable playmaker on offense has made his accomplishments all the more impressive.


8. Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona (last week: unranked)—To say that Solomon found his way on this list by default would be overstating things, but with Dak Prescott and Brett Hundley coming up small in big games and J.T. Barrett going down with an injury, Solomon’s stock is way up as he keeps leading his team to victories. The Wildcats’ won their fourth straight game against rival Arizona State last Friday and clinched the Pac-12 South title behind a stellar performance from Solomon, who completed 15-of-21 passes for 208 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was hardly a fluky performance for the signal caller, who sits with 3,424 yards, 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions on the season, to go with solid rushing numbers (282 yards, TD). Arizona now gets another shot at Oregon in the Pac-12 title tilt this Saturday after handing the Ducks their only loss of the season back in October.


9. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (last week: No. 7)—Although the Sooners had off this past weekend, Perine is still basking in the glory of his FBS-record- setting 427 rushing yards against Kansas on November 22. The freshman tailback has exceeded even the loftiest of projections this season by picking up 1,428 yards and 19 touchdowns on 214 attempts, with 640 yards and eight scores coming in the last two games. He’ll have one more opportunity to build upon his dark-horse resume’ in the Battle of Bedlam with Oklahoma State on Saturday.


10. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (last week: No. 5)—Prescott’s stock really took a nose-dive late in the season with losses to Alabama and Ole Miss to not only squash Mississippi State’s SEC title hopes, but its chances at a College Football Playoff berth. But while he failed to step up his play when it mattered most, the Bulldogs’ signal caller still needs to be recognized for an outstanding season in leading his underdog squad to the No. 1 ranking for a large chunk of the year. Prescott heads into MSU’s bowl game with just shy of 4,000 total yards (2,996 passing, 939 rushing, 35 receiving) and 38 touchdowns.


Dropped Out: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (injury); Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA; Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia; Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State


Honorable Mention: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska; Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn; Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss; Gerod Holliman, DB, Louisville



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bengals place LB DiManche on IR

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Jayson DiManche was placed on season-ending injured reserve Monday.

The second-year linebacker broke his forearm in Sunday’s 14-13 win over Tampa Bay.

DiManche played in all 12 Bengals games this season, making one start on defense. Between defense and special teams, he totaled 10 tackles and a forced fumble.

A Southern Illinois product, the undrafted DiManche appeared in all 16 games for Cincinnati as a rookie in 2013.


►  Steelers place Keisel on IR

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed defensive end Brett Keisel on injured reserve Monday.

Keisel tore his left triceps in Sunday’s loss against New Orleans, and an MRI confirmed the injury on Monday.

The 13-year veteran played in all 12 games with the Steelers this season, starting four of them. He totaled 17 tackles and a sack.

To take his spot on the roster, the team signed defensive end Clifton Geathers, who has played 37 games since entering the NFL in 2010.


►  Cardinals’ Mathieu has fractured thumb, may miss 3 weeks

The Arizona Cardinals are dealing with many key injuries following Sunday’s 29-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Cardinals watched safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb), right guard Paul Fanaika (ankle) and running back Andre Ellington (hip pointer) exit the game early. In addition, left tackle Jared Veldheer suffered an ankle injury late in the contest.

Mathieu has a broken left thumb and his status for Sunday’s game against Kansas City is unknown. He was at the doctor as Arizona coach Bruce Arians met with the media Monday.

Arians said Mathieu could have a pin inserted in the thumb to help it heal, a procedure that would cost him three weeks. There is also a chance Mathieu will be able to cast it up and play.

Fanaika, Ellington and Veldheer will be monitored as the week progresses.

Arians also said that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has missed the past two games with a sprained MCL in his left knee, should be able to practice on Wednesday.

Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (knee) is expected to play Sunday. He has been practicing but wasn’t allowed to be activated until this week after being placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list earlier this season.


►  NFL Game Results

(MONDAY, DECEMBER 01)


Final Score: Miami 16, NY Jets 13

The Miami Dolphins finally won a close one. A much needed one at that. Caleb Sturgis nailed a go-ahead 26- yard field goal with 1:57 left and the Dolphins rallied for a 16-13 win over the run-heavy New York Jets on Monday night. Geno Smith, who had recorded just eight pass attempts heading into his final drive, was intercepted by Miami safety Reshad Jones with 39 seconds remaining to seal the outcome. The Dolphins (7-5) are one of six 7-5 teams in the AFC, but are currently the second wild card in the conference due to the tiebreaker. Miami had been 0-3 in games this season decided by four points or fewer, including a 39-36 defeat last Sunday when it blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead. The Dolphins also gave up late leads to Green Bay in Week 6 and Detroit in Week 10. Miami, however, was down by seven heading into the final frame in this one and posted just its second win in its last 50 games on the road when it trailed at any point in the fourth. Lamar Miller carried the ball 13 times for 56 yards and a touchdown, while Ryan Tannehill was 25- of-35 for 235 yards with an interception for the Dolphins, who have won five of their last seven games. Miami allowed 67 rushing yards in the second half on 20 carries after giving up 210 on 29 totes over the opening 30 minutes. Dolphins’ linebacker Jelani Jenkins was busy in rush defense, totaling 16 tackles, and his pass deflection led to the game-clinching interception. The Jets (2-10) called 49 run plays for 277 yards and their 13 pass attempts were an NFL season low.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Things we learned on Week 13

Even in the “Year of the Pass” Week 13 was special.

How many times in NFL history have we seen three quarterbacks throw five or more touchdown passes on the same weekend?

The answer, until Sunday, was never.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (6), Drew Brees (5) and Andrew Luck (5) accomplished the feat against Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Washington, respectively

Below are a few more things we observed:


San Diego at Baltimore

Early on, it looked like it might be another disastrous game for Philip Rivers owners. Baltimore put pressure on him on the first series and forced an interception on a tipped pass. Rivers, however, responded with a touchdown on the next drive as he found Keenan Allen.

The duo connected again for a second score in the fourth quarter as Rivers threw two late touchdown passes and led the Chargers back to defeat the Ravens. Rivers finished 34-of-45 with 383 yards, three touchdowns and just the one early interception.

Allen is coming on strong to end the season and into the fantasy playoffs. In addition to the two touchdown catches, Allen finished with 11 receptions for 121 yards. Eddie Royal caught nine passes for 83 yards, including the game- winning touchdown, Antonio Gates had seven receptions for 83 yards, and Malcolm Floyd had just three catches, but also went over 80-plus receiving yards, with 85.

Baltimore moved the ball well, but could not put away the pesky Chargers. Joe Flacco completed 19-of-31 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns.

Justin Forsett hit the century-mark again with 106 yards on 24 carries.

Torrey Smith has clearly taken over the reigns as the top receiver in Baltimore. He had six catches for 65 yards and both of Flacco’s touchdowns. Steve Smith Sr. had just four targets and caught one pass for two yards. He had a drop on what could have been a huge play in the third quarter.


Washington at Indianapolis

Speaking of bad starts, Andrew Luck turned the ball over, a fumble and then interception, on the Colts’ first two drives of Week 13. Like Rivers, Luck responded to throw three touchdowns in the first half and lead the Colts to 49 total points.

Luck added two more scores in the second half to finish with five touchdowns versus one pick, which is extremely impressive considering he threw just 27 times.

Trent Richardson owners might want to finally give up on the former Brown as another running back has moved in front of him on the depth chart. Dan Herron had just eight carries but gained 88 yards. Richardson had the same number of rushes for 12 yards.

Donte Moncrief and Coby Fleener each went for over 100 receiving yards and caught two touchdowns.

T.Y. Hilton hit double-digit fantasy points. He had five catches, 62 yards and scored the other Luck TD pass.

Statistically, Colt McCoy was impressive, throwing 47 times for 392 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was Jordan Reed, who had nine receptions for 123 yards. Reed’s two biggest games this season are with McCoy under center. DeSean Jackson, Roy Helu and Logan Paulsen scored the touchdowns.

Reed may love playing with McCoy, but Alfred Morris misses Robert Griffin III. In games with RGIII at quarterback this season, Morris averages 101 yards on the ground. In games where McCoy or Kirk Cousins started, Morris barely averages 60 rushing yards. He should probably ride fantasy benches as long as Griffin is on the real bench.


Cleveland at Buffalo

Two words: Johnny Football.

As great a story as the 7-5 Buffalo Bills are, everyone talking about this game at the water cooler on Monday will be discussing Johnny Manziel. He replaced the ineffective Brian Hoyer and went 5-of-8 and rushed for a touchdown. Hoyer completed 60% of his passes, higher than his season average, but threw two more picks.

Hoyer has five interceptions and no touchdowns the last two weeks. It will be fascinating to see who coach Mike Pettine goes with under center next week as the Browns are in the thick of things in the AFC. Either way, it is not recommended to count on either quarterback for fantasy.

Isaiah Crowell was a huge disappointment with 29 yards on 16 carries. Terrance West gained 32 yards with seven rushes but lost a fumble.

Now, to the team that actually won the game, it was puzzling to see Buffalo throw so often early in the game against a Browns defense that came into Week 13 allowing over 134 rushing yards per game. The Bills, however, did end up pretty balanced with 32 pass attempts versus 30 rushing plays.

Fred Jackson had 21 carries for 70 yards and is clearly the No. 1 back again.

Kyle Orton threw a touchdown and two picks. Robert Woods led the team with four catches for 71 yards, and Chris Hogan caught the touchdown.

Buffalo added a 18-yard fumble recovery returned for a touchdown and four second-half field goals from the very hot Dan Carpenter to beat Cleveland.


Tennessee at Houston

Is it not a big deal to throw six touchdowns anymore? Ryan Fitzpatrick became the third quarterback to hit that mark in 2014.

DeAndre Hopkins was his favorite target ... as usual. He got off to a great start, but Hopkins owners might have been a bit apprehensive after Fitzpatrick’s first two touchdowns went to Ryan Griffin and Arian Foster. Who can blame those owners for not expecting more touchdowns from Fitzpatrick as he hadn’t thrown three touchdowns in a game since 2009.

Fitzpatrick doubled that with six scores, going 24-of-33 for 358 yards and no interceptions. Hopkins caught two of those touchdowns and set a career-high with 238 yards on nine catches. Andre Johnson caught seven passes for 53 yards and a score.

By the way, J.J. Watt continued to pad his resume with three tackles, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and another touchdown catch, Fitzpatrick’s final of the day. Watt is the first defensive lineman with five touchdowns in a season since 1944.

Zach Mettenberger continued to look good, at least for a sixth-round selection. He completed 13-of-19 passes for 184 yards, a touchdown and interception before he left with a shoulder injury.

Jake Locker replaced him and promptly threw an interception. Locker was just 6-of-12 with 91 yards, a touchdown and two picks. He’s not the answer.

Kendall Wright led the Titans in receiving with seven catches and 132 yards. He caught Mettenberger’s touchdown strike while Nate Washington had five receptions for 61 yards and caught the score from Locker.

Bishop Sankey had just 10 carries and rushed for 42 yards.


New York Giants at Jacksonville

Just mentioning the phrase “defensive touchdowns” makes Giants’ fans shiver after the loss in Jacksonville. The Jaguars recovered a fumble in the end zone and returned another fumble for a score as they beat New York, 25-24. Those owners who streamed a defense from this game likely chose the wrong one.

Besides the Jacksonville defense, no other Jaguars player was fantasy relevant. Denard Robinson had 11 carries for 44 yards and Blake Bortles went 21-of-35 for 194 yards and a score.

There was a Marquise Lee sighting as he caught his first NFL touchdown and led the Jaguars with six receptions and 75 yards.

Eli Manning avoided throwing anymore picks, but he could not avoid the Jacksonville pressure. The Jaguars sacked him four times, which led to a pair of lost fumbles.

For the most part, however, fantasy owners of Giants players were still pleased despite the New York loss. Rashad Jennings had 26 carries for 91 yards and scored twice. He scored the first Giants touchdown, then offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo surprisingly turned to Andre Williams on the second drive in the end zone.

The Giants did manage to score on that drive as Manning found Preston Parker in the end zone on third-and-goal, but Jennings quickly returned on the next red zone trip to rush for another score.

Even though Odell Beckham did not score, he had a decent fantasy day with seven receptions and 90 yards. Larry Donnell had five catches for 55 yards, but coughed up the fumble the Jaguars returned for a touchdown.

Giants kicker John Brown has not been much of a fantasy kicker this season, and he disappointed any owner who may have streamed him on Sunday. He missed a 43-yard field goal that proved costly in the one-point defeat.


Carolina at Minnesota

Another bad day from Cam Newton. Remember when Newton and Robert Griffin III were the “toast” of the NFL? Now, not so much. The Vikings’ top-10 pass defense held Newton to 194 yards on 35 pass attempts.

Minnesota’s best scoring play was the blocked punt. Their blocked punt TD in the first quarter was the team’s in 28 years!. About 12 minutes later they did it again.

Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t have a touch. Wasn’t he a third- or fourth-round selection on Draft Day?

For fantasy owners wondering about the distribution of the running workload without Jerick McKinnon, it was primarily a Matt Asiata day, but he didn’t do much with it.


New Orleans at Pittsburgh

Drew Brees and the Saints offense were held scoreless in the first quarter. But they adjusted and he hit backup TE Ben Watson, fullback Erik Lorig and wideouts Nick Toon, Kenny Stills and Marques Colston for touchdowns. That didn’t make Jimmy Graham owners very happy.

Graham had no targets or catches.

When Shaun Suisham missed a long field goal attempt just before halftime, it was the first miss by a Saints opposing kicker all season.

Mark Ingram returned to form as the Saints ran the ball 26 times and threw it 27 times. That’s all Ingram’s fantasy owners ask for ... balance. Ingram rushed for 122 yards earning the 100-yard bonus for the fourth time in the last six games.

Ben Roethlisberger smacked his hand against a helmet and it seemed to effect his throwing. But he more than made up for it in “garbage time” posting 435 yards and two scores (two INTs) in 58 passing attempts.

Another monster Le’Veon Bell game. He totaled 254 yards and a score from scrimmage, most of that receiving (159 yards).

Antonio Brown continued to shine, but only because of the productive garbage time by the Steelers. He scored twice in the final two minutes to go along with 97 yards.


Oakland at St. Louis

If this was the English Premier League, the Raiders would be relegated to the second division immediately after this embarrassing 52-0 demolition.

There were no Oakland players worth discussing.

It’s called versatility. Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin ran one in from 18- yards out and running back Tre Mason caught one from a 35-yard score.

Mason also shredded the Oakland defense for an 89-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and finished the day with 117 yards on the ground. We have liked what Mason has shown us since he finally got his chance beginning in Week 7.

Austin, however, needs to be a better pass receiver if he wants to be a fantasy asset.

When did Stedman Bailey become a viable fantasy option? Answer: Week 12 when he caught seven balls for 89 yards and a score. He continued the hot streak in Week 13 cracking the 100-yard mark for the first time in his two-year NFL career.


Cincinnati at Tampa Bay

Andy Dalton threw three first-quarter interceptions against the Bucs! Tampa Bay only had eight picks all season.

The Bengals quarterback tried to make amends with his fantasy owners by running one in just before halftime. Perhaps Mohamed Sanu should take over as quarterback, He’s never thrown an incomplete pass in his four-year career, going 5-of-5 with a pair of touchdown passes.

A.J. Green posted a third consecutive double-digit day for fantasy owners. He’s finally healthy.

Jeremy Hill (13 rushing attempts) and Giovani Bernard (10) split the carries fairly evenly ruining the fantasy value for both running backs.

Who was the running back in the Doug Martin uniform in the first half? He didn’t run anything like the guy who we have watched all season. Instead, he looked like the rookie who rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. He returned to mediocrity after halftime.

The Bucs passing offense, with Josh McCown at the controls, was no where to be found.


Arizona at Atlanta

The 17 first-quarter points by Atlanta forced Arizona to open up their offense more than normal. In the first half, while trying to get back into the game, they threw twice as many times as they ran the ball. Stanton ended up throwing 39 times for 294 yards.

Michael Floyd was the recipient of most of the targets (10), but produced just 53 yards.

Andre Ellington still can’t run the ball efficiently and eventually left the game due to a hip injury. If this prevents him from playing next weekend, this isn’t good news for Cardinals fans or fantasy owners as the options are Marion Grice or newly-signed Michael Bush.

Matt Ryan threw 29 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns ... in the first half. Unfortunately, he also tossed an 88-yard “pick-six” to the Cardinals’ Rashad Johnson. But he came back to finish with 361 yards and the two scores in a dominating victory.

With Roddy White sidelined, you just knew Julio Jones was going to post a big number and he did just that. He had eight receptions for a career-best first- half total of 132 yards and finished with 10 catches for 189 and one score.


New England at Green Bay

If you thought Jonas Gray was going to have a rebound game, sorry to disappoint you. The Patriots used Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen while Gray sat on the sidelines. He didn’t touch the ball until the last play of the third quarter. Blount was the dominant back with 10 of the team’s 18 carries for 58 yards.

Ton Brady was just average, throwing for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Brandon LaFell.

Early on the Patriots doubled both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but Aaron Rodgers adapted well and at halftime had thrown for 282 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rodgers easily earned his 300-yard passing bonus.

No. 3 receiver Davante Adams tied for the team high 11 targets and led them with 121 yards.

Meanwhile, to try and foil the double team, the Packers lined Cobb up in the backfield. Cobb totaled 93 yards from scrimmage.

The Packers used Eddie Lacy for 51 of 53 yards on the first drive, then he disappeared and finished the first 30 minutes with just 12 more yards. He just missed earning the 100-yard rushing bonus finishing with 98 yards on 21 carries.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pioneers Fall on the Road to Non-Conference Opponent

Glenville State Pioneers had three players score in double figures but it wouldn’t be enough as the men’s basketball team fell to Winston Salem State on the road in a non-conference game by nine points, 84-75.

In the first half of action both teams would go up and down the court trying to get an early feel for each other, however Winston Salem State would take a seven point lead over the Pioneers at the 14:32 minute mark as they Rams led, 13-6.

But the Pioneers would then go on a, 7-0, run over the next couple of minutes as Glenville State took a one point lead over the Rams, 14-13, as Brett Morris drained one of two free-throws. However the Rams would take 12 point halftime, 44-32.

In the second half, Winston Salem State would hold their lead over GSC early but the Pioneers would go on a 9-0 run and at the 11:48 minute mark and cut the lead to just two points, 59-57.

Despite the Pioneers run the Rams would build an 11 point lead, 75-64, with under 3:30 left to play in the game. Glenville State would try and cut into the lead but wouldn’t not be able to as they would fall by nine points, 84-75.

The Pioneers had way too many turnovers in the ball game as they turned it over 18 times while Winston Salem State would convert those turnovers into 21 points. The Rams also had 18 second-chance points while the Pioneers only had eight in the game.

Glenville State was also out-scored in the paint as Winston Salem State scored 42 points in the paint to the Pioneers 18 points. Glenville State’s largest lead of the game was three points while Winston Salem State’s largest lead was 12 points.

Brett Morris led the Pioneers in scoring as he scored 18 points. He also pulled down a team high eight rebounds. Reggie Williams scored 17 points and handed out three assists while Luke Campbell scored 15 points all coming off three-pointers.

Winston Salem State was led by Marquez Jones as he scored a game high 22 points while Wykevin Bazemore finished with a double-double as he scored 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

The Pioneers (4-2, 2-0) return to action Thursday, December 04, 2014 when Concord travels to Glenville with tip-off set for 7:30 PM.


Official Basketball Box Score
Glenville State vs. Winston-Salem State University
12.01.14 7:00 PM at Winston-Salem, NC. (C.E. Gaines Center)
————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
VISITORS: Glenville State 4-2

                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
01 Sedric Nady…...... g  1-6    0-2    1-2    2  3  5   4   3  4  0  0  0  35
03 Donte Morales….... g  3-11   2-5    0-0    2  4  6   4   8  1  4  0  0  28
11 Reggie Williams….. g  4-8    3-7    6-7    1  2  3   3  17  3  0  0  1  29
12 Luke Campbell….... g  5-11   5-11   0-0    1  0  1   3  15  0  4  0  0  23
23 Brett Morris…..... g  6-13   2-5    4-5    0  8  8   2  18  3  7  1  2  40
00 Brien Winston…....    2-3    1-1    2-4    1  0  1   3   7  0  0  0  0  10
05 Kade Kager….......    1-2    1-1    1-2    1  2  3   0   4  0  3  0  1  23
32 Juwan Wells…......    1-3    0-1    1-2    0  1  1   3   3  0  1  1  0  12
   TEAM….............                         3  2  5
   Totals…...........   23-57  14-33  15-22  11 22 33  22  75 11 19  2  4 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  9-29 31.0%   2nd Half: 14-28 50.0%   Game: 40.4%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  6-18 33.3%   2nd Half:  8-15 53.3%   Game: 42.4%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  8-10 80.0%   2nd Half:  7-12 58.3%   Game: 68.2%    6

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
HOME TEAM: Winston-Salem State University 5-1

                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
05 HARPER,Donta…..... f  3-5    0-1    1-2    1  3  4   4   7  1  6  0  0  17
22 BAZEMORE,WyKevin…. f  7-11   0-0    5-6    7  8 15   2  19  3  2  1  2  34
23 FORD,C.J…......... f  2-9    0-3    4-4    0  4  4   1   8  2  1  0  1  36
00 JONES,Marquez….... g  5-13   2-6   10-12   2  2  4   2  22  3  2  0  2  37
01 WELLS,Javan…...... g  0-2    0-2    2-2    1  3  4   4   2  0  0  1  0  13
02 LEACH,Terrell…....    8-14   3-8    0-0    0  1  1   3  19  0  1  0  3  32
15 LONG,Nate…........    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  0  0   2
21 CAROWAY,Stacy…....    2-3    0-0    1-1    1  0  1   1   5  0  1  0  0  10
32 TIJANI,Muhammad…..    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  0  0   2
33 BYRD,Dedric…......    1-4    0-1    0-0    0  2  2   2   2  0  0  0  1  17
   TEAM….............                            1  1
   Totals…...........   28-61   5-21  23-27  12 24 36  19  84  9 13  2  9 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 15-34 44.1%   2nd Half: 13-27 48.1%   Game: 45.9%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  3-12 25.0%   2nd Half:  2-9  22.2%   Game: 23.8%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half: 11-12 91.7%   2nd Half: 12-15 80.0%   Game: 85.2%    3

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
Technical fouls: Glenville State-Sedric Nady; Luke Campbell. Winston-Salem

State University-None.

Attendance: 1822

Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
Glenville State…............   32   43  -   75
Winston-Salem State University   44   40  -   84



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  College Men’s Basketball Rankings

Associated Press Top 25
1. Kentucky
2. Wisconsin
3. Arizona
4. Duke
5. Louisville
6. Texas
7. Virginia
8. Wichita State
9. Gonzaga
10. Villanova
11. Kansas
12. North Carolina
13. San Diego State
14. Ohio State
15. Miami (Florida)
16. West Virginia
17. Michigan
18. Arkansas
19. Michigan State
20. Iowa State
21. Maryland
22. Oklahoma
23. Butler
24. Illinois
25. Utah



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Monday, December 01)


Final Score: San Antonio 109, Philadelphia 103

Growing pains were expected and the Philadelphia 76ers are a loss away from a dubious distinction. The hope is that the drastic rebuild will eventually lead to what the San Antonio Spurs did last season. But that possibility is in the far distant future. Kawhi Leonard had 26 points, 10 rebounds and four assists as the Tim Duncan and Tony Parker-less Spurs defeated the Sixers 109-103 on Monday night. Philly can tie the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets (0-18) for the worst start to an NBA season when it travels to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves on Wednesday night. The Sixers, of course, endured an NBA-record 26-game losing streak last season en route to a 19-63 campaign. San Antonio, which played Sunday, sat Duncan and Parker for rest purposes. Tiago Splitter didn’t suit up due to calf tightness. Aron Baynes posted 15 points and nine boards, Manu Ginobili netted 14 points and Cory Joseph added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Spurs, who have won eight in a row and 11 of their last 12 games. Michael Carter-Williams tallied 24 points, 11 rebounds and seven helpers to lead Philadelphia, which set its franchise record for most losses to start a season Saturday.


Final Score: Washington 107, Miami 86

Rasual Butler had 23 points off the bench and the Washington Wizards cruised past the Miami Heat, 107-86, on Monday. John Wall added 18 points, 13 assists and two steals for the Wizards, who avenged a 107-95 loss to these Heat in Miami on October 29. Marcin Gortat tallied 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Chris Bosh ended with 21 points, eight boards and two blocks for the Heat, who went 2-of-22 from beyond the arc. Dwyane Wade donated 20 points.


Final Score: Denver 103, Utah 101

Ty Lawson made a go-ahead jumper with 29.6 seconds left to lead the Denver Nuggets past the Utah Jazz, 103-101, on Monday. Lawson ended with 15 points and 12 assists for the Nuggets, who almost let a 22-point lead slip away. Wilson Chandler also scored 15 points. Denver guard Arron Afflalo had 14 points before being ejected with 5:55 to play. Darrell Arthur and Kenneth Faried tallied 12 and 11 points, respectively. Gordon Hayward ended with 25 points for the Jazz, who have lost six in a row. Alec Burks and Enes Kanter had 22 and 17 points, respectively, with Kanter also pulling down 15 rebounds.


Final Score: LA Clippers 127, Minnesota 101

Blake Griffin had 23 points and eight rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers routed the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-101 on Monday night. The Clippers went on an elongated 66-27 run after the Timberwolves took a 37-31 lead early in the second quarter. J.J. Redick supplied 23 points, Chris Paul provided 12 points and eight assists and DeAndre Jordan added 11 points and 13 boards for Los Angeles, which has won five in a row and seven of its last eight games. Shabazz Muhammad posted 18 points, 10 boards and four assists for the Wolves, who have dropped 10 of their last 12 contests.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pirates pick up Rodriguez from Rays

The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired infielder Sean Rodriguez from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a player to be named and cash considerations.

Rodriguez was designated for assignment by the Rays last week after the club signed pitcher Ernesto Frieri, who spent the last part of 2014 in Pittsburgh.

The 29-year-old Rodriguez batted .228 with 40 homers and 172 RBI over the past five seasons with the Rays. In 2014, he hit only .211, his lowest average during his Tampa Bay tenure, but set career highs with 12 homers and 41 RBI in 96 games.

A versatile player, Rodriguez started 14 games at both first and second base last season, while also starting 12 games in left field and seven at third base. He can also play shortstop.

Rodriguez made his big league debut with the Angels in 2008 and owns a career average of .225 with 84 doubles, 45 home runs and 186 RBI in 624 games for the Angels (2008-09) and Tampa Bay (2010-14).


►  Nelson Cruz headed to Seattle

The Seattle Mariners are apparently set to make yet another splash in the free agent market, as reports indicate that slugger Nelson Cruz has agreed to a multi-year contract.

The Mariners signed the top free agent position player available last December when Robinson Cano left the New York Yankees for a reported 10-year, $240 million contract.

ESPN and the Dominican Republic publication El Caribe each reported that Cruz has agreed to a four-year deal worth $57 million with the Mariners. The ESPN report added that the veteran outfielder also will receive a $1 million signing bonus.

Cruz spent the 2014 season in Baltimore, signing a one-year deal last February in the wake of his 50-game suspension that stemmed from the Biogenesis scandal in August 2013.

The 34-year-old Dominican native helped the Orioles to the American League East title in 2014. He led the majors with 40 home runs and finished third in the American League with a career-high 108 runs batted in while batting .271 in 159 games.

Cruz spent eight seasons with Texas from 2006-13 and also played eight games for Milwaukee in 2005. He has 197 career home runs with 597 RBI, a .268 average and a .501 slugging percentage in 963 games.

A three-time All-Star, including last year, Cruz was also the 2011 ALCS MVP for the Rangers when he slugged six homers and drove in 13 runs in a six-game victory over Detroit.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Monday, December 01)


Final Score: Tampa Bay 6, NY Rangers 3

Tyler Johnson had two goals and an assist to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Monday. Brett Connolly scored twice, Ondrej Palat posted a goal and an assist while Matthew Carle also had a goal for the Lightning, who have won four straight. Ben Bishop posted 32 stops. Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast and Martin St. Louis all lit the lamp for the Rangers, who had a two-game winning streak broken. Henrik Lundqvist allowed five goals on 20 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Columbus 2, Florida 1

Boone Jenner scored the game-winning goal in the third period as the Columbus Blue Jackets ended a six-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Monday. Matt Calvert also scored and Kerby Rychel registered his first NHL point for the Blue Jackets, whose last win was a 2-1 decision against San Jose on November 15. Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 24 shots in the win. Aaron Ekblad supplied the lone marker for the Panthers, who had their two-game win streak came to an end. Al Montoya stopped 21-of-23 shots. The two teams close out their home-and-home set in Florida on Thursday.


Final Score: Montreal 4, Colorado 3

Max Pacioretty scored the winning goal late in the third period to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban each had a goal and an assist and Jiri Sekac also scored for the Canadiens, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Carey Price turned away 26 shots in the win. Tyson Barrie, Daniel Briere and Ryan O’Reilly all scored for the Avalanche, who have lost two of their last three. Calvin Pickard allowed all four goals on 30 shots.


Final Score: Arizona 5, Edmonton 2

Tobias Rieder scored two straight short- handed goals to ignite an unrelenting Arizona Coyotes attack en route to a 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday. Martin Erat and Oliver Ekman- Larsson both scored, Mikkel Boedker had a goal and an assist and Mike Smith made 25 saves for the Coyotes, who ended a three-game skid. Jordan Eberle and Jeff Petry each scored for the Oilers, who lost their 10th straight game. Viktor Fasth allowed all five goals on 24 shots. Edmonton has now lost 10 consecutive games for the first time since March 8-31, 2011.


Final Score: Anaheim 3, Boston 2

Matt Beleskey’s goal proved to be the difference as the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-2, on Monday. Sami Vatanen and Devante Smith-Pelly both scored for the Ducks, who ended a two-game skid. Frederik Andersen stopped 32 shots in the win. Brad Marchand and Simon Gagne lit the lamp for the Bruins, who have lost three of their last four games. Tuukka Rask gave up all three goals on 28 shots.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Golf Tidbits: Spieth finally grabs second win

For over a year now, Jordan Spieth had to wonder when he would win again. He came close a few times, but his second professional victory had eluded him.

Sixteen months ago, Spieth became the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour since 1931. He finally grabbed his second victory on Sunday when he pulled away from the field to win the Australian Open.

Spieth had to endure some heartache between victories. He posted four runner- up finishes, including a playoff loss at the 2013 Wyndham Championship. He also shared second place at the Masters earlier this year.

After a solid season in which he finished 11th on the PGA Tour money list, Spieth took some time off before heading overseas.

The 21-year-old shared 35th place at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where he failed to break 70 in any of the four rounds. Last week, he finished one stroke out of a playoff at the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

Spieth then headed to Australia for his first Australian Open start. He entered the final round tied for the lead with a pair of Australians, Brett Rumford and Greg Chalmers.

As the wind continued to howl, as it did all week, the Texas native beared down and torched the field. Spieth pulled away with four birdies in a 5-hole span from the third.

That burst moved him to 9-under par, where he was three clear of the field. He ran off six pars in a row before catching fire down the stretch.

Spieth converted birdie chances on four of the last five holes en route to winning by six strokes.

It wasn’t either of his birdie runs that impressed Spieth though.

“Really, I would say the reason I won (Sunday) was eight through 11, digging in and playing those even-par,“ admitted Spieth.

His late birdies gave Spieth the course record at the Australian Golf Club. And if he didn’t put together that late burst, things could have gotten interesting as Rod Pampling birdied five of the last six to take second place.

As solid as Spieth has been in his short time on tour, not many of his numbers jump off the page at you. He posted eight top-10 finishes in 27 starts in 2014, was 13th in scrambling and 14th in scoring average, but just 146th in total driving (distance and accuracy combined).

Spieth is a younger version of Steve Stricker, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Spieth rarely misses the cut—he’s played the weekend in 42 of 50 starts over the last two years—and contends frequently as he has 17 top-10 finishes in those 50 events.

What Spieth is doing is referred to as learning to win. Unless you’re Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Rory McIlroy, victories are hard to come by.

McIlroy was impressed with Spieth’s closing 63 as he tweeted, “You could give me another 100 rounds today at The Australian and I wouldn’t sniff 63 ... Well done @JordanSpieth very impressive!“

Even at 21, Spieth has the respect of this fellow competitors. That may not help him win tournaments, but it shows he plays the game the right way.


WOODS BACK IN ACTION

Tiger Woods returns to the course this week as he hosts his own Hero World Challenge, and it will be interesting to see how he plays.

The first question is, what will his swing look like? Will it be similar to any of his old swings like these?

Will he be able to make it through four rounds without re-injuring his back is another lingering question.

While those are pertinent questions, and there are plenty of others, he’ll have a strong field at Isleworth. The 18 players competing this week are all ranked in the top 40 in the world, including seven of the top 11 and 15 of the top 25.

There are world ranking points available, but only the semi-retired Steve Stricker needs to concern himself with that. Stricker could slide outside the top 50 in the world by seasons end, which could cost him a spot in the Masters and other majors next year.

As for Woods, this will be his first tournament action since missing the cut at the PGA Championship. There have been reports of him hitting shots and playing practice rounds, but none of that compares to tournament action.

There were similar reports in July before he returned at the Quicken Loans National, which he also hosts, but he missed the cut by four strokes. Woods won’t have to worry about the cut this week as there isn’t one with just 18 players competing.

As interesting as Woods’ performance will be this week, it will be equally as interesting to see when he plays again. The Farmers Insurance Open is likely to be his next PGA Tour start, and that is two months from now.

If that is his next event, Woods will have played one event in nearly six months. That is plenty of time to get healthy and work out the kinks in his swing.


MINI-TIDBITS

- The European Tour also has a small field event this week with 30 players competing at the Nedbank Challenge. U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer headlines a field in which 25 of the 30 players are ranked between 12th and 86th in the world rankings.

- Australians Rod Pampling, Brett Rumford and Greg Chalmers may have fallen short at the Australian Open, but they did earn invites to the Open Championship as the top three finishers who were not otherwise exempt for the year’s third major at St. Andrews.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


TUESDAY, DECEMBER 02, 2014


National Basketball Association
Milwaukee at Cleveland, 7:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin, Ohio, DSS
LA Lakers at Detroit, 7:30 PM - Time Warner, FS-Detroit, DSS
Boston at Atlanta, 7:30 PM - CSN-New England, SportSouth, DSS
Brooklyn at New York, 7:30 PM - YES, MSG, DSS
Dallas at Chicago, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, CSN-Chicago, DSS
Oklahoma City at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - FS-Oklahoma, New Orleans, DSS
Portland at Denver, 9:00 PM - KGW, Altitude, DSS
Indiana at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - FS-Indiana, Arizona, DSS
Toronto at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - SNET-360, CSN-California, DSS
Orlando at Golden State, 10:30 PM - FS-Florida, CSN-Bay, DSS


National Hockey League
Vancouver at Washington, 7:00 PM - SNET-Pacific, CSN-DC, DSS
New Jersey at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - TVA, MSG+, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Ottawa at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - RDS, TSN5, MSG+2, DSS
Nashville at Carolina, 7:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, Carolina, DSS
Florida at Detroit, 7:30 PM - FS-Florida, Detroit+, DSS
Tampa Bay at Buffalo, 7:30 PM - NBCSN
Dallas at Toronto, 7:30 PM - FS-Southwest+, TSN4, DSS
Arizona at Calgary, 9:00 PM - FS-Arizona+, SNET-West, DSS
Philadelphia at San Jose, 10:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, NBCSN
Boston at Los Angeles, 10:30 PM - NESN, FS-West, DSS


College Basketball
Georgia at Chattanooga, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Stony Brook at Cincinnati, 7:00 PM - FS-Ohio, ESPN3.com
Pittsburgh at Indiana, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Massachusetts at LSU, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
Stephen F. Austin at Memphis, 7:00 PM - ESPNews
Mount St Mary’s at Seton Hall, 7:00 PM - FS2
Niagara at St. John’s, 7:00 PM - FS1
Minnesota at Wake Forest, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Syracuse at Michigan, 7:30 PM - ESPN
Georgia Southern at UCF, 7:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Middle Tennessee at Belmont, 8:00 PM - American Sports Network, MASN
VCU at Illinois State, 8:00 PM - CSN-DC+, Chicago+, SNY
Nebraska Omaha at Kansas State, 8:00 PM - FS-Kansas City
SE Missouri State at Missouri, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Texas-Arlington at Texas, 8:00 PM - Longhorn Network
South Florida at Alabama, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
Gardner-Webb at Arizona, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Northern Ill at DePaul, 9:00 PM - FS1
SE Louisiana at Gonzaga, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest
Illinois at Miami-Florida, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
NC State at Purdue, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
BYU at Utah State, 9:00 PM - CBSSN
Denver at Wyoming, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Ohio State at Louisville, 9:30 PM - ESPN


Women’s College Basketball
Marquette at Auburn, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
USC Upstate at Alabama, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Coppin State at Georgia, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
North Dakota State at Mississippi State, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+


International Soccer
Real Madrid CF vs. UE Cornella, 1:55 PM - beIN Sport
Manchester United vs. Stoke City, 2:40 PM - NBCSN

Sports News   141201

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Shell finally goes the distance, running behind a backup

Waiting all season for a breakaway run, West Virginia’s Rushel Shell finally found a crack and ran 54 yards.

And he did it running through a hole created by a backup guard.

With Tony Matteo pressed into his first meaningful action by an ankle injury to Quinton Spain, the Mountaineers turned their sixth play of Saturday’s game into a touchdown. Shell took a stretch play and cut through Matteo’s gap.

“I was really impressed,” said Shell. “I told him he made the perfect block, all I had to do was cut off of him.”

Shell ran for 146 yards on 22 carries, feeling healthy for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain against Baylor on October 18. Even before the injury, when Shell was drawing raves for piling up tough yards, he wasn’t making second-level defenders miss.

“You just want it so bad,” he said. “It gets annoying sometimes and you just want to be able to break a 30- or 40-yarder. But you have to be patient. It will happen.”

It finally happened against Iowa State.

“I cut off of Tony’s butt and I saw the safety right there,” Shell said. “All week in practice Coach Holgorsen and Coach (JaJuan) Seider talked about getting north and south, not east and west. I decided I was just going to run straight and outrun him. And it worked out.”

Spain had started 36 consecutive games, but wasn’t able to practice this week.

“When guys go down, other people have to be ready to step up and Tony was ready today,” Shell said. “He played excellent.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Herd to host Louisiana Tech in C-USA Championship Game

Good news for Marshall University football fans.

Conference USA just announced the Thundering Herd will play host to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the championship game on Saturday, December 6th. Game time is set for Noon.

Conference USA Associate Commissioner Alfred White made the announcement via email to Marshall Football on Sunday.

Ticket prices are $37.00 for sideline and $27.00 for the end zone.

Tickets ordered through Herdzone.com will be mailed until noon on December 2nd. Student tickets are $5.00. Members of the Marshall Maniacs are free.

For more information on purchasing tickets, follow THIS LINK

This is the first time the conference football championship has been played in Huntington since 2002.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Game Results – Week 13

(SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30)


Final Score: San Diego 34, Baltimore 33

Eddie Royal’s 1-yard touchdown catch with 38 seconds remaining lifted the San Diego Chargers over the Baltimore Ravens, 34-33, on Sunday. Philip Rivers completed 34-of-45 passes for 383 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Chargers (8-4), who outscored Baltimore by a 21-10 margin in the fourth quarter. Allen caught 11 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns for San Diego, which has won three in a row. Royal hauled in nine passes for 81 yards. Joe Flacco connected on 19-of-31 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens (7-5), who are tied with Pittsburgh and Cleveland for second place in the AFC North. Flacco also ran for a score. Justin Forsett carried the ball 24 times for 106 yards and reached the 1,000-yard rushing milestone for the first time in his career. It was his third consecutive game of more than 100 rushing yards.


Final Score: Buffalo 26, Cleveland 10

Kyle Orton threw a touchdown pass, Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals in the fourth quarter and the Buffalo Bills beat the Cleveland Browns 26-10 on Sunday. Orton finished 17-of-31 for 190 yards with two interceptions. Fred Jackson had 70 yards on 21 carries for the Bills (7-5), who returned to Ralph Wilson Stadium after last Sunday’s scheduled home game was played a day later in Detroit after more than six feet of snow fell on the southern reaches of the Buffalo area. Cleveland rookie Johnny Manziel scored his first NFL rushing touchdown after replacing starter Brian Hoyer, who was benched in the fourth quarter following his second interception and fifth in the last two weeks. The Browns (7-5) remained tied for second in the crowded AFC North. Baltimore and Pittsburgh also lost Sunday, leaving all three teams 1 1/2 games behind Cincinnati. The Bengals won to improve to 8-3-1.


Final Score: Houston 45, Tennessee 21

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two of his career- high six touchdown passes to DeAndre Hopkins as the Houston Texans cruised past the Tennessee Titans, 45-21, in an AFC South blowout on Sunday. Fitzpatrick, back as Houston’s starter because of the injury to Ryan Mallett, and Hopkins hooked up nine times and accounted for 238 of the quarterback’s 358 passing yards. J.J. Watt punctuated the rout with his third touchdown catch of the season and threw in two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for good measure. Arian Foster, who missed the previous two games with a groin injury, totaled 105 yards from scrimmage and caught a touchdown pass for the Texans (6-6), who still trail the division-leading Colts by two games with four to play. The Titans (2-10) dropped their sixth straight and saw starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger exit with a shoulder injury in the third quarter.


Final Score: Indianapolis 49, Washington 27

Andrew Luck threw for 370 yards with five touchdowns, leading the Indianapolis Colts to a 49-27 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was supposed to be a matchup of the top two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, but only Luck, the No. 1 selection, played. And he played very well. Luck completed 19-of-27 throws, two of which went for scores of more than 70 yards. Coby Fleener hauled in TD passes of 30 and 73 yards, while Donte Moncrief had scoring receptions of 48 and 79 yards. Robert Griffin III, the second overall choice in 2012, was benched earlier this week by Redskins coach Jay Gruden after three straight losing efforts. Colt McCoy, the winning quarterback in Washington’s last two victories, threw for 392 yards with three touchdowns, but the Redskins defense could not stop Luck. The Colts (8-4) racked up 487 yards on just 49 plays, an average of 9.9 yards per play. Dan Herron added to the outburst with 88 yards on just eight carries, including a 49-yard touchdown run, as Indianapolis notched its second straight win. Washington (3-9) has lost four in a row since McCoy guided the team to an overtime win at Dallas on October 27. The Redskins were productive with 425 yards of offense after mustering just 213 last week in a loss to San Francisco.


Final Score: Jacksonville 25, NY Giants 24

Josh Scobee kicked a 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining to give the Jacksonville Jaguars a stunning 25-24 come-from-behind victory over the reeling New York Giants on Sunday at EverBank Field. The Jaguars (2-10) scored a pair of defensive touchdowns in the second half to rally from a 21-0 deficit, ending a four-game slide while sending the Giants (3-9) to their seventh straight loss. Blake Bortles helped the comeback, throwing for 194 yards with a touchdown. He also rushed for a team-high 68 yards on five carries, including a 20-yard run that set up Scobee’s go-ahead kick. Josh Brown kicked a 33-yard field goal to give the Giants a 24-22 lead with 3:26 remaining, ending a string of 22 straight Jacksonville points, but the Jaguars would not be denied.


Final Score: Minnesota 31, Carolina 13

Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen scooped up blocked punts and returned them for scores as the Vikings defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-13 on Sunday afternoon. Thielen’s 30- yard return in the first quarter was the longest blocked punt return touchdown in Vikings history, but that mark was short-lived. Griffen’s 43- yard return in the second established the new record. Teddy Bridgewater was 15-of-21 for 138 yards with two touchdowns, while Greg Jennings caught five passes for 45 yards and a score for the Vikings (5-7), who have won three of their last five games. Cam Newton completed 18-of-35 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Carolina, which is 1-8-1 since beginning the season 2-0. The Panthers, though, are still just 1 1/2 games behind New Orleans in the up-for-grabs NFC South.


Final Score: New Orleans 35, Pittsburgh 32

Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers to stoke the New Orleans Saints’ 35-32 decision over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13 action. Brees finished with 257 yards on 19-of-27 attempts for the Saints (5-7), who put a three-game losing streak to rest. Mark Ingram racked up 122 yards on 23 carries, while Kenny Stills posted 162 yards and a score on five receptions. Marques Colston, Benjamin Watson, Nick Toon and Erik Lorig added a TD catch apiece. Ben Roethlisberger threw two late TD passes to Antonio Brown, ending up 32-of-58 for 435 yards with two interceptions for the Steelers (7-5), who had won four of their last five coming in. Le’Veon Bell led his club with 159 yards on eight receptions and had 95 yards with a score on 21 attempts, while Brown ended up posting 97 yards on eight grabs. Pittsburgh remains in a three-way tie with Baltimore and Cleveland for second place in the AFC North.


Final Score: St. Louis 52, Oakland 0

Tre Mason ran for two touchdowns and caught one more as the St. Louis Rams trounced the visiting Oakland Raiders 52-0 on Sunday. Shaun Hill completed 13-of-22 passes for 183 yards and threw two touchdowns during a dominant first half that saw the Rams (5-7) pile up 38 points. St. Louis scored touchdowns on its first five possessions and added a field goal on its sixth. Rookie Derek Carr finished 24-of-39 for 173 yards and threw interceptions on consecutive drives in the second quarter for Oakland (1-11), which snapped a 16-game losing streak with last Thursday’s 24-20 home victory over Kansas City.


Final Score: Cincinnati 14, Tampa Bay 13

Andy Dalton had one touchdown through the air and one on the ground and the Cincinnati Bengals held on for a 14-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Dalton also had three interceptions and went 19-for-27 for just 176 yards as the Bengals (8-3-1) went 3-0 during a three-game road swing to stay atop the AFC North. Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore all lost on Sunday to sit in a three-way tie in the division with marks of 7-5. Josh McCown went 15-for-29 for 190 yards with an interception, and Doug Martin had a rushing touchdown for the Buccaneers (2-10), who have dropped their past two games and fell to 0-6 at home this season.


Final Score: Atlanta 29, Arizona 18

Matt Bryant connected on all five of his field-goal attempts and Matt Ryan finished with 361 passing yards as the Atlanta Falcons claimed a 29-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13 action. Ryan was 30-of-41 with scoring throws to Julio Jones and Levine Toilolo for the Falcons (5-7), who are still tied atop the NFC South with New Orleans. Jones led all receivers thanks to 189 yards on 10 recepions, Harry Douglas added 116 yards on nine grabs, and Steven Jackson contributed 101 yards on 18 carries. Drew Stanton was picked off twice, completing 24-of-39 attempts with a touchdown for the Cardinals (9-3), who have dropped back-to- back games. In the absence of inactive wideout Larry Fitzgerald, Jaron Brown totaled 75 yards on seven catches.


Final Score: Green Bay 26, New England 21

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers remained perfect at home with a win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns and kept two NFL- record streaks alive in a 26-21 win on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Packers (9-3) improved to 6-0 at home this season, tying the NFL’s best mark shared by New England and three other teams. The Patriots (9-3) had a seven-game winning streak snapped, losing for the first time in more than two months. Rodgers was 24-of-38 and has thrown 360 consecutive passes with 31 touchdowns since his last interception at home, extending both NFL records. Eddie Lacy rushed 21 times for 98 yards and caught two passes for another 17, stretching his Packers running back record to four consecutive games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage. Davante Adams had six receptions for 121 yards and Cobb made seven catches for 85 as the Packers ran their winning streak to four games since their bye week. Brady was 22-of-35 for 245 yards and the two touchdown passes to LaFell. Rob Gronkowski had seven catches for 98 yards and Brandon Bolden added a 6-yard touchdown run in the loss, New England’s first since falling 41-14 in Kansas City on September 29.


Final Score: Denver 29, Kansas City 16

Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes and C.J. Anderson shined once again running the ball as the Denver Broncos led wire-to-wire in a 29-16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Manning passed for a season-low 179 yards on 17-of-34 efficiency, but Anderson was the story in Denver’s 11th straight road win against an AFC West foe. The second-year running back out of California rushed for a career-high 168 yards on 32 carries, a week after gashing up Miami’s defense for 167 in a win over the Dolphins. Anderson’s last two games were the two best rushing performances this season. Montee Ball, who started the season as Denver’s lead back, had a season-high 67 yards in Week 1 and Ronnie Hillman went for 109 yards on October 23. Demaryius Thomas and Anderson caught TD passes and Connor Barth, who Denver signed on Tuesday to replace rookie kicker Brandon McManus, went 5-for-5 on field goals in his debut with the team. McManus was waived after hitting just 3-for-6 over his last five games. Alex Smith threw two touchdowns and an interception for Kansas City, which lost its second straight game on the heels of a five-game win streak. The Chiefs finished with just 11 first downs and only converted 1-of-9 on third down.


(THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27)


Final Score: Detroit 34, Chicago 17

Joique Bell and Calvin Johnson each scored twice as the Detroit Lions grabbed a 34-17 victory over the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving. Matthew Stafford was 34-for-45 for 390 yards with two touchdown passes for the Lions (8-4), who bounced back from a pair of road losses to Arizona and New England. Bell totaled 91 yards on 23 carries while Johnson had 11 catches for 146 yards for Detroit, which had lost nine straight in its traditional Thanksgiving Day game, but has now won its past two thanks to this win and a victory over Green Bay last year. Jay Cutler was 31-for-48 for 280 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to Alshon Jeffery along with two interceptions for the Bears (5-7), who had won their previous two coming into the contest. Jeffery had nine catches for 71 yards.


Final Score: Philadelphia 33, Dallas 10

Mark Sanchez threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score as the Philadelphia Eagles seized sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a 33-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Sanchez had 217 yards on 20-of-29 passing, and LeSean McCoy posted 159 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries for the Eagles (9-3), who raced out to a 14-0 first- quarter lead and never looked back on their way to improving to 6-0 on Thanksgiving. The only thing preventing the score from being even more lopsided was Philadelphia’s inefficiency in the red zone. The Eagles scored a touchdown only once and settled for four Cody Parkey field goals in five trips, but it didn’t come back to haunt them because of a strong defensive effort. The Eagles ended Tony Romo’s consecutive games streak with a touchdown pass at 38 and held league rushing leader DeMarco Murray to under 100 yards. Romo completed 18-of-29 passes for 199 yards and threw two interceptions as Dallas (8-4) dropped its third straight home game. Murray failed to reach the century mark for only the second time in 2014. He finished with a season-low 73 yards on 20 carries against the Eagles. The teams will meet again in Philadelphia on December 14.


Final Score: Seattle 19, San Francisco 3

Richard Sherman’s two interceptions highlighted a dominant defensive effort, as the Seattle Seahawks routed the San Francisco 49ers, 19-3, in a highly anticipated NFC West Thanksgiving clash. The outspoken cornerback, whose key defensive stop against San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree in January’s NFC Championship Game helped vault the Seahawks into the Super Bowl, picked off Colin Kaepernick twice as Seattle (8-4) limited the 49ers offense to just 164 total yards. Russell Wilson completed 15-of-22 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown pass to Robert Turbin, Marshawn Lynch ran for 104 yards on 20 carries and Steven Hauschka kicked four field goals for the Seahawks, who have won five of their last six games. The Seahawks now sit all alone for second place in the NFC West behind Arizona. Kaepernick threw for 121 yards on 16-of-29 passing as the 49ers (7-5) had their three-game win streak come to an end.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  No. 22 West Virginia Women held Fairfield to 11 first-half points and extended its home winning streak to 12 games

No. 22 West Virginia held Fairfield to 11 first-half points and extended its home winning streak to 12 games by cruising to a 67-53 victory Saturday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.

Averee Fields produced 18 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Mountaineers (4-1), who led wire to wire and essentially put the game away with suffocating defense early. Fairfield (1-5) managed just four baskets, shot 16% and committed 16 turnovers during the first half, leading to a 32-11 cushion for WVU.

“West Virginia was everything we thought they would be,” said Stags coach Joe Frager. “Coach (Mike) Carey does as good of a job defensively as any coach. Because of their length and the fact that they were able to switch and deny our screens, it made it hard for us to run our offense.”

Bria Holmes added 15 points and seven rebounds, while freshman Teana Muldrow knocked down three 3s for 10 points and pulled in four boards.

West Virginia led by as much as 26 in the second half before Fairfield’s Kristin Schatzlein got hot to finish with 17 points.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it,” said WVU associate head coach Chester Nichols. “We have some work to do. It was a tale of two halves. At one stretch during the first half, we got a lot of defensive stops. And we had a lot of runs off those defensive stops. In the second half, we didn’t duplicate that.”

Bre McDonald in her second game as a Mountaineer added eight points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists in just 18 minutes of play. Meanwhile, senior Linda Stepney matched a career-high with 10 assists.

The Mountaineers hit the road for a 7 PM contest at Fairleigh Dickinson (1-3) on Wednesday.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Sunday, November 30)


Final Score: (1) Kentucky 58, Providence 38

Kentucky and Providence were both undefeated coming into Sunday’s meeting at Rupp Arena, and it was virtually even for 20 minutes before the top-ranked Wildcats pulled away. Willie Cauley- Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns each recorded 11 points and six rebounds, and Kentucky held the Friars to 16 points after the break en route to a 58-38 win. The Wildcats (7-0) saw five other players finish with six points, including Andrew Harrison, who added four assists and four steals. Tyler Harris and Carson Desrosiers each netted 10 points for the Friars (6-1), who made just 4- of-24 (16.7 percent) in the deciding second half.


Final Score: (4) Duke 93, Army 73

Jahlil Okafor had 21 points, Tyus Jones scored 16 with 10 assists and No. 4 Duke posted a 93-73 win over Army at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon supplied 13 points apiece for the Blue Devils (7-0), who won an NCAA-best 113th straight home game against a non-conference opponent and extended the nation’s longest active home winning streak to 37 games. Kyle Wilson scored 17 points in the first half for Army (5-1), but was held to two in the second half.


Final Score: (7) Texas 55, (24) Connecticut 54

Jonathan Holmes drained a 3-pointer from the left corner with 2.2 seconds remaining to lift seventh-ranked Texas to a 55-54 victory over No. 24 Connecticut on Sunday. Ryan Boatright missed the second of two free throws with 15 seconds to play, leaving Connecticut with a 54-52 lead. After a timeout by each team with 4.4 seconds left, Boatright couldn’t fight through a screen on the inbounds pass and fell to the floor, leaving Holmes wide open in the corner for his winning shot. Holmes scored 13 points for the Longhorns (6-0), who played their first true road game of the season. Boatright, who had to be helped off the floor after the game, scored 24 to lead Connecticut (3-2), which hadn’t played since a loss to West Virginia last Sunday in the title game of the Puerto Rico Tip-off.


Final Score: (11) Kansas 61, (20) Michigan State 56

Perry Ellis had 17 points and nine rebounds as No. 11 Kansas defeated 20th-ranked Michigan State 61-56 in the championship game of the Orlando Classic. The Spartans had missed eight straight tries from beyond the arc before Travis Trice pulled up from the left wing in transition and nailed a 3-pointer to pull them within 59-56 with 1:36 remaining. Frank Mason turned the ball over at the other end, but Branden Dawson was off the mark on a jumper and then failed to convert a left-handed layup after corralling his own miss. Jamari Traylor sunk two free throws with 30 seconds left and Trice was unable to connect from deep down the other end of the floor to seal the outcome.


Final Score: (12) Villanova 78, Delaware 47

Kris Jenkins scored 15 points to help No. 12 Villanova to a 78-47 rout of Delaware on Sunday. Daniel Ochefu had 12 points and six rebounds while Darrun Hilliard II gave 12 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who were coming off a slim five-point win against Michigan on Tuesday. Cazmon Hayes scored 17 points and Devonne Pinkard gave 11 for the Blue Hens (0-5), who have lost their past four games by double-digits.


Final Score: (25) Arkansas 94, Iona 77

Michael Qualls had 20 points and nine rebounds and No. 25 Arkansas beat Iona 94-77 on Sunday. Anthlon Bell also scored 20 points for the Razorbacks (6-0), who have won their first six games for the first time since 1997-98. Rashad Madden tallied 16 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. David Laury ended with 25 points and 14 boards for the Gaels (4-2), who had a three-game winning streak snapped. A.J. English also had 25 points.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Sunday, November 30)


Final Score: San Antonio 111, Boston 89

Danny Green had 18 points and the San Antonio Spurs used a strong second half to beat the Boston Celtics, 111-89, on Sunday. Boris Diaw added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs, who have won seven in a row. Tim Duncan tallied 14 points, eight boards and two blocks. Aron Baynes and Kawhi Leonard finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively, for San Antonio, which outscored Boston by a 66-40 margin in the second half. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich returned from a two-game absence following a minor medical procedure. Jeff Green ended with 16 points for the Celtics, who have dropped four straight. Evan Turner and Avery Bradley donated 12 and 11 points, respectively.


Final Score: Chicago 102, Brooklyn 84

Jimmy Butler had 26 points, Pau Gasol scored 25 with 13 rebounds and the Chicago Bulls led for the final 39 1/2 minutes on the way to a 102-84 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. The Bulls went 4-3 on the annual road trip they take while the circus moves into United Center. Derrick Rose added 14 points in 26 minutes for Chicago and Nikola Mirotic had 12 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 13 points to lead the Nets, who shot under 38% from the field coming home off a 2-1 road trip. Jarrett Jack chipped in 12 points off the bench in the loss.


Final Score: Golden State 104, Detroit 93

Stephen Curry had 16 points and 10 assists as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Detroit Pistons 104-93 on Sunday afternoon. Draymond Green posted 20 points and six rebounds, while Klay Thompson added 15 points for the Warriors, who have won their last nine games. Brandon Jennings tallied 22 points and six helpers, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope netted 23 points and Greg Monroe supplied 13 points and 10 boards for Detroit, which has dropped eight in a row.


Final Score: Memphis 97, Sacramento 85

Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol benefited from DeMarcus Cousins being sidelined as the frontcourt duo combined for 40 points in leading the Memphis Grizzlies to a 97-85 win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Randolph totaled 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Gasol scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter for the NBA-best Grizzlies, who have won five straight and nine of their last 10 overall. Tony Allen chipped in 13 points, while Courtney Lee and Mike Conley added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the victors. Reggie Evans produced a solid 17- point, 20-rebound showing off the bench, but the Kings could not overcome 23 turnovers and the absence of Cousins, who missed a second straight game due to a virus.


Final Score: Miami 86, New York 79

Dwyane Wade scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to help the Miami Heat pull out an 86-79 road win over the New York Knicks on Sunday. Wade also had five assists and five rebounds and Chris Bosh had 20 points and nine boards for Miami, which has won three of its last four games. Luol Deng posted 10 points and 10 boards. Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 31 points while the other four starters combined for 20 points on 9-for-29 from the field in yet another New York loss. The struggling Knicks have dropped four straight and fell 4-14 on the season. Amar’e Stoudemire had 19 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.


Final Score: Orlando 93, Phoenix 90

Tobias Harris scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead the Orlando Magic to a 93-90 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. Nikola Vucevic tallied 18 points with eight boards and Evan Fournier chipped in 15 points for the Magic, who snapped a four-game losing streak. Goran Dragic led the Suns with 22 points and Markieff Morris supplied 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the loss. Phoenix has lost two straight and three of its last four.


Final Score: Portland 107, Minnesota 93

LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points and 15 rebounds and the Portland Trail Blazers led for the final 28 minutes of the game in a 107-93 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Wesley Matthews scored 23 and Damian Lillard had 17 points and eight assists for the Blazers, who bounced back from Friday’s streak-stopping loss to Memphis to win for the 10th time in their last 11 games. Shabazz Muhammad scored a career-high 28 points off the bench to lead the Timberwolves, who fell to 2-9 in their last 11. Mo Williams added 21 points and 11 assists and Thad Young scored 14 in the loss.


Final Score: LA Lakers 129, Toronto 122

Kobe Bryant registered his 20th career triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 129-122 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Bryant finished with 31 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds, while also becoming the first NBA player in history to record 30,000 points and 6,000 assists. Nick Young deposited a season-high 20 points and Carlos Boozer added 18 points and nine rebounds in the win. Kyle Lowry led the way for Toronto, which was playing its first game without DeMar DeRozan, with 29 points, nine assists and six rebounds. DeRozan is out indefinitely with a torn tendon in his left groin. Terrence Ross had 20 points, while Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams each added 19 points for the Raptors, who have lost two straight.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Sunday, November 30)


Final Score: Detroit 5, Vancouver 3

Pavel Datsyuk scored twice to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser all lit the lamp for the Red Wings, who have won their last four. Jimmy Howard stopped 30 shots in the win. Linden Vey had two goals and an assist and Yannick Weber also scored for the Canucks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 29 shots in defeat, ending a personal shutout streak.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


MONDAY, DECEMBER 01, 2014


National Football League
Miami at NY Jets, 8:30 PM - ESPN


National Basketball Association
San Antonio at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Miami at Washington, 7:00 PM - SunSports, CSN-DC, DSS
Denver at Utah, 9:00 PM - Altitude2, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Minnesota at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-North, Prime Ticket, DSS


National Hockey League
Florida at Columbus, 7:00 PM - FS-Florida, Ohio, DSS
Tampa Bay at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - SunSports, MSG, NHL Network, DSS
Montreal at Colorado, 9:00 PM - RDS, Altitude, DSS
Arizona at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - FS-Arizona, SNET-West, DSS
Boston at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - NESN, FS-West, DSS


College Basketball
Marist at Boston College, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Rutgers at Clemson, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Nebraska at Florida State, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Siena at Fordham, 7:00 PM - SNY
Furman at Liberty, 7:00 PM - MASN
Barber-Scotia at USC Upstate, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
South Carolina at Marshall, 7:30 PM - CBSSN
Texas Southern at Baylor, 9:00 PM - ESPN U


Women’s College Basketball
NC Central at South Carolina, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Vermont at Syracuse, 7:00 PM - Time Warner Cable
Virginia Tech at Florida, 9:00 PM - SEC Network

Sports News   141130

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  WV Football Semifinal Playoff Results


FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2014,  7:30 PM


CLASS A:

#6 Williamstown (10-2)  42  at   #2 Tug Valley (11-1)  28


SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2014, 1:30 PM


CLASS AAA:

#4 Martinsburg (11-1)  7   at   #1 Capital (11-0)  35

#7 Huntington (9-3)  21   at   #6 South Charleston (10-2)  35


CLASS AA:

#5 Wayne (10-2)  7   at   #1 Bridgeport (11-1)  48

#6 Westside (10-2)  16   at   #2 Frankfort (12-0)  49


CLASS A:

#4 Clay-Battelle (11-1)  14   at   #1 St. Marys (12-0)  20



The Gilmer Free Press

►  The sophomore with five TD passes in less than six quarters contends he’ll help the team

Remember the Skyler Howard from spring practice? The quarterback who tended to throw the football to defenders with the same regularity he threw it to his own guys?

The kid looked like a wasted scholarship back then, but Howard’s November is overshadowing his April.

With three more touchdowns against Iowa State on Saturday, the sophomore has thrown for five scores without an interception during the six quarters since Clint Trickett sustained a concussion. After West Virginia’s 37-24 victory, his teammates were

“It’s crazy,” said receiver Jordan Thompson. “He probably didn’t think he was gong to play this year, but you’ve got to expect the unexpected. He’s doing a fantastic job. He was throwing the ball on the money today”

Howard threw for 285 yards, despite an injury that limited primary receiver Kevin White, and he ran for 69 more as the Mountaineers (7-5, 5-4) earned their first win of the month and secured their first winning league record in three Big 12 seasons.

What Howard didn’t do in his first start was steal the job from Trickett, who should be clear-headed in time for bowl practices. Coach Dana Holgorsen said WVU’s plan will be to return Trickett to the lineup once he receives the medical OK.

That’s OK with Howard, who has progressed lightyears since the summer when Holgorsen said he would be redshirting.

“I’m on this team to play my role, whatever that is, whatever (the coaches) decide,” Howard said. “I’ll be the best backup we have or I’ll be the best starter we have.”

Despite some effective relief work last week, Howard couldn’t rescue a win over Kansas State. Lo and behold, he found himself down 21-7 to Iowa State before throwing two second-quarter touchdowns to Mario Alford.

In the final 69 seconds of the half, Howard completed four straight passes—highlighted by a 16-yarder to Daikiel Shorts—to set up Josh Lambert’s 32-yard field goal for a 27-21 lead.

“I think our guys rallied around him,” said West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who worried how Howard would play this time, given a week to contemplate it. “That’s what I’m proudest of, the way he prepared. There is a big difference in being the guy and coming off the bench.”

Just like there’s a big difference in the Howard who won his first start Saturday vs. the guy who looked lost seven months ago.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Football Game Results

(Saturday, November 29)


Final Score: (1) Florida State 24, Florida 19

Style points continue to elude Florida State, but the Seminoles nevertheless keep winning. The No. 1 team in the country was put the test yet again Saturday but held off rival Florida, 24-19, to complete a second straight undefeated regular season. Florida State (12-0) won its 28th straight game in spite of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who threw four interceptions—three in the first quarter alone—and completed just 12-of-24 passes for 125 yards. Winston did toss a pair of touchdown passes to Nick O’Leary, while Dalvin Cook gained 144 yards on 24 carries for the defending champion Seminoles, whose last three wins have come by a combined 12 points. A matchup against Georgia Tech in the ACC title game next week is the final hurdle in FSU’s quest for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Florida (6-5) missed two potential go-ahead field goals in the second half and had the ball at midfield in the waning minutes. Treon Harris went 0-for-6 through the air on the final drive and finished 13-of-32 for 169 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned 94 yards for a TD by Terrance Smith.


Final Score: (2) Alabama 55, (15) Auburn 44

Blake Sims and Amari Cooper led Alabama to a win in the highest-scoring Iron Bowl ever, giving the Crimson Tide a fresh memory in their fierce rivalry with Auburn. The “Kick Six” was so last year. Cooper had 13 catches for an Iron Bowl-record 224 yards and scored on three of Sims’ four touchdown passes as second-ranked Alabama rallied for a 55-44 win over No. 15 Auburn on Saturday night. Sims overcame three interceptions to pass for 312 yards in the thrill-a-minute game, which came almost a year to the day after Chris Davis’ 109-yard touchdown return off a missed field goal gave Auburn an instant-classic win over then-No. 1 Alabama to ruin the Crimson Tide’s national title hopes. This year, Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) clinched the Western Division title and a spot in the conference championship game before it even took the field after Mississippi State lost to Ole Miss earlier Saturday. The Crimson Tide, who are likely to retain their No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, will face Eastern Division winner Missouri next Saturday in Atlanta. Sammie Coates had four catches for a career-high 153 yards in the first half and the Tigers (8-4, 4-4) scored 17 points off three Sims interceptions to hold a 33-21 lead four minutes into the second half. But Alabama outscored them 34-11 the rest of the way with Cooper catching touchdown passes of 39 and 75 yards in the third quarter and Sims scrambling for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth. Alabama snapped a six-game losing streak to ranked Auburn teams, winning such a matchup for the first time since 2001.


Final Score: (3) Oregon 47, Oregon State 19

The 118th installment of the Civil War wasn’t even close as Marcus Mariota led No. 3 Oregon to a 47-19 rout of Oregon State on Saturday. Mariota polished off the regular season and his potential Heisman Trophy campaign with six total touchdowns in helping the Ducks (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) down their in-state rival for the seventh consecutive time. He threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for 39 yards and two scores. Oregon now sets its sights on a meeting with Arizona in the Pac-12 championship on Friday night. The Wildcats handed the Ducks their lone loss of the season, a 31-24 setback in Eugene on Oct. 2. Oregon has won seven consecutive games since. Royce Freeman rushed for 135 yards and caught a touchdown pass, Charles Nelson hauled in two touchdowns from Mariota, and Byron Marshall led the team with 131 yards receiving in the win. Sean Mannion threw for 162 yards with a touchdown and Storm Woods rushed for 128 yards with a touchdown for Oregon State (5-7, 2-7), which has lost two straight and six of its last seven overall.


Final Score: (18) Ole Miss 31, (4) Mississippi State 17

Mississippi State’s hopes for a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff have likely been cracked like an egg. Jaylen Walton rushed for a career-high 148 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown, and 18th-ranked Ole Miss kept the No. 4 Bulldogs’ high-powered offense mostly in check to hand their bitter rivals a damaging 31-17 loss in the latest edition of the Egg Bowl. Walton’s spectacular 91-yard touchdown run and Evan Engram’s career-best 176 yards on five catches each played huge roles in the Rebels denying Mississippi State a possible appearance in the SEC title game—and probably a spot in the four-team playoff as well. The Bulldogs (10-2, 6-2 SEC), who stood fourth in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, were eliminated in the SEC West race with the costly defeat, which vaulted Alabama into the conference championship game opposite Missouri. Bo Wallace hit on just 13-of-30 throws for Ole Miss (9-3, 5-3), but still put up 296 yards through the air while adding a rushing score.


Final Score: (5) Baylor 48, Texas Tech 46

Shock Linwood totaled 158 yards and scored twice on 24 carries as No. 5 Baylor escaped with a 48-46 victory over Texas Tech in a shootout in North Texas on Saturday. Bryce Petty threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-25 efficiency before being taken out in the third quarter for the Bears (10-1, 7-1 Big 12), who have won four in a row and complete their regular season by hosting Kansas State next week. Seth Russell finished the contest 8-of-17 for 82 yards and a TD to Levi Norwood. Norwood ended up with 63 yards on five catches, Corey Coleman added 57 yards on six grabs, while Antwan Goodley also notched a score through the air. Patrick Mahomes exploded for 593 yards and six touchdowns on 30-of-56 passing for the Red Raiders (4-8, 2-7), who nearly rallied from a 42-17 deficit but have dropped four of their last five. Three of those scores went to Bradley Marquez, who ended up totaling 130 yards on six receptions. Jakeem Grant topped the list with 150 yards and a TD on five catches, with DeAndre Washington and Devin Lauderdale posting a receiving touchdown each.


Final Score: (7) Ohio State 42, Michigan 28

The season is over for the Michigan Wolverines and, unfortunately, for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. Barrett left the field on a cart after breaking his right ankle early in fourth quarter in a 42-28 victory for the seventh-ranked Buckeyes over their rivals. Ohio State (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten) scored two touchdowns in a minute late in the fourth to put the game away and become the first Big Ten team to win all its regular-season conference games in three consecutive seasons. Barrett completed 13-of-21 passes for 176 yards with one touchdown and rushed for 89 yards and two scores before exiting. Ezekiel Elliott had 121 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries for the Buckeyes, who will play Wisconsin in next week’s Big Ten title game. Devin Gardner was 22-of-32 for 233 yards with two touchdown passes for Michigan (5-7, 3-5), but he also committed two turnovers - one of which was returned for a score.


Final Score: (16) Georgia Tech 30, (8) Georgia 24 (OT)

Yet another Georgia Tech-Georgia clash came down to the wire, and this time the Yellow Jackets survived in a Peach State thriller. Zach Laskey’s third touchdown run of the day accounted for the only score in overtime, and the 16th-ranked Yellow Jackets escaped Sanford Stadium with a memorable 30-24 victory over the No. 8 Bulldogs. The roller- coaster finish saw Georgia Tech give up a go-ahead touchdown with 18 seconds left in regulation, only to have Harrison Butker force OT with a clutch 53- yard field goal. Butker’s extra point in overtime was blocked, but D.J. White picked off Hutson Mason on the ensuing possession to give Georgia Tech (10-2) its first win over its in-state rival since 2008. Mason finished with 194 passing yards for Georgia (9-3), which committed three turnovers after totaling 11 in its first eight games.


Final Score: (10) Michigan State 34, Penn State 10

Jeremy Langford totaled 118 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries as No. 10 Michigan State wrapped up its regular season with a 34-10 rout of Penn State. Connor Cook went 13-for-25 for 180 yards with one touchdown and one interception for the Spartans (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten), who won their final three games after a loss to Ohio State kept them from battling for the Big Ten championship. Akeel Lynch had a rushing touchdown while Christian Hackenberg was 21-for-45 for 195 yards along with an interception and a lost fumble for the Nittany Lions (6-6, 2-6), who lost their last two games of the regular season.


Final Score: (11) Kansas State 51, Kansas 13

Jake Waters threw for 294 yards with four touchdowns and also ran for a score to lead No. 11 Kansas State to a 51-13 win over Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown. Tyler Lockett had 119 yards on nine receptions with two touchdowns, while Curry Sexton also caught nine passes for 141 yards and a score for the Wildcats (9-2, 7-1 Big 12). Lockett entered the game four receptions (217) and two touchdowns (26) shy of tying his father, Kevin, for the school record in each category. Charles Jones caught a touchdown pass from Waters and ran for another in the win. Michael Cummings went 16-for-27 for 139 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Jayhawks (3-9, 1-8), who have lost six straight meetings to their in-state rival.


Final Score: (14) Wisconsin 34, (22) Minnesota 24

The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe had a lot more riding on it this season. The result, however, remained the same. Melvin Gordon carried the ball 29 times for 151 yards with two total touchdowns as No. 14 Wisconsin defeated 20th-ranked Minnesota 34-24 on Saturday afternoon to clinch the Big Ten West. The Badgers (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten), who erased a 14- point second quarter deficit by ripping off 24 straight points to win their 11th straight meeting against the Golden Gophers, will face Ohio State in the Big Ten title game next Saturday night. The Buckeyes will be without their standout quarterback J.T. Barrett, who left Saturday’s game against Michigan on a cart after suffering a broken ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter. Wisconsin received a scare late in the fourth when Gordon grabbed his right ankle and limped off the field following a 6-yard run with about three minutes left. Gordon posted a receiving score and his other on the ground for Wisconsin, which has won seven consecutive games. Alex Erickson caught five passes for 160 yards, while Joel Stave completed 11- of-18 passes for 215 yards with two touchdowns in the triumph. Corey Clement, who came in with just 44 yards in his last three games, put up 89 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. David Cobb tallied 118 yards and a score on 25 totes for Minnesota (8-4, 5-3), which dropped three of its last five games to close the regular season.


Final Score: (23) Clemson 35, South Carolina 17

Clemson is back on top in the Palmetto State as the 23rd-ranked Tigers ended South Carolina’s winning streak in the longtime series with a 35-17 victory at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Gamecocks had won five straight meetings against their in-state rivals but were limited to 339 yards and scored 18 points below their season average. Deshaun Watson played through a knee injury and completed 14-of-19 passes for 269 yards and added two scores on the ground for the Tigers (9-3), whose senior class has totaled a school-record 41 wins over the last four years. Watson was credited with a pair of scores through the air, but Artavis Scott did most of the work on two shovel passes that went for TDs and totaled 123 yards. Scott finished with 185 yards on seven catches, while Wayne Gallman gained 191 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Dylan Thompson passed for 249 yards and a touchdown for South Carolina (6-6), which finished its disappointing regular season at .500 after coming into the year ranked No. 9 in the AP poll.


Final Score: (24) Louisville 44, Kentucky 40

Brandon Radcliff ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 2:47 remaining in the fourth quarter to lift 24th-ranked Louisville to a 44-40 win over Kentucky on Saturday. Kyle Bolin threw three touchdown passes to DeVante Parker in relief of injured Cardinals quarterback Reggie Bonnafon. Bolin finished with 381 yards and one interception on 21- of-31 passing for Louisville (9-3), which posted its fourth straight win over Kentucky. Stanley Williams rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries for the Wildcats (5-7), who ended the season on a six-game skid. Patrick Towles completed 14-of-29 passes for 176 yards and threw two interceptions, the second pick sealing Kentucky’s fate.


Final Score: (25) Boise State 50, Utah State 19

Jay Ajayi tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns as No. 25 Boise State punched its ticket to the Mountain West Conference Championship game with a 50-19 victory over Utah State. Ajayi finished with 229 yards on 27 carries, and Grant Hedrick threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-24 passing for the Broncos (10-2, 7-1 MWC), who won their final seven games to claim the Mountain Division. Alec Dhaenens and Thomas Sperbeck each caught a Hedrick touchdown pass in the win. Kent Myers completed 16-of-28 passes for 159 yards with an interception and ran for a score, and Daniel Gray returned a fumble for a 50-yard touchdown for the Aggies (9-4, 6-2), who ended their season on a sour note after winning their previous five games. The Broncos, who have defeated the Aggies in 12 straight games, will take on Fresno State in the title game on Saturday.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Cardinals try to bounce back against Falcons

Despite having the best record in the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals don’t have much room for error in their quest to make the playoffs.

The Atlanta Falcons, meanwhile, still have the inside edge at winning the NFC South despite checking in at three games under .500.

The playoff hopefuls shoot for a much-needed victory this Sunday when the Cardinals visit the Falcons and the Georgia Dome.

Arizona had a six-game winning streak halted with a 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday. The dropped the Cardinals to 9-2 on the year, but they are in danger of losing more ground this weekend as the Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night.

That improved Seattle to 8-4 on the year and it could move within a game of first place if Arizona losses to Atlanta.

Despite holding an opponent under 20 points for a seventh straight game, the Cardinals were bested by the Seahawks after getting held to just 204 yards of offense and a 23-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro in the second quarter.

Drew Stanton connected on 14-of-26 passes for 149 yards and an interception for the Cardinals, who lost for the first time since October 5 at Denver.

“Everybody took turns today. It wasn’t one position group or anything like that. Offensively, we didn’t play well enough to win,“ said Stanton. “Any time you score three points and come in here and only put up that number, you’re not going to be successful.“

Defensive end Calais Campbell accounted for three of Arizona’s season-high seven sacks, but the offense failed to get much done without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald had his consecutive games played streak halted at 110 due to a knee injury as he sat out a contest for the first time since December 2, 2007 versus Cleveland.

The setback denied Arizona in its first bid to record double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1975-76.

Atlanta, meanwhile, had a two-game winning streak snapped with Sunday’s 26-24 setback to Cleveland. The loss dropped the Falcons to 4-7, but they remain tied for first place in the division with the New Orleans Saints.

Matt Bryant hit a go-ahead 53-yard field goal for the Falcons with under a minute left to play, but the Browns took over with 44 seconds on the clock and moved close enough to allow Billy Cundiff to convert on a 37-yard field goal try as time expired.

Matt Ryan was 27-of-43 passing for 273 yards with one interception and touchdown passes to Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers.

“This was a tough loss for our team because it felt like it was our game to win,“ said Atlanta cornerback Desmond Trufant, who had an interception. “You have to give the Browns a lot of credit because they found a way to come out on top. I felt like we made a lot of plays in the game but I guess it was not enough. We just couldn’t stop them from scoring the last-second field goal.“

Arizona picked up a 27-13 victory at home over Atlanta on October 27, 2013 and lead the all-time series 15-12.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Ryan and Atlanta’s seventh-ranked passing offense will try to move the ball against a Cardinals defense that held Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch to just 39 yards last weekend and also has racked up 17 sacks in the past three games.

Arizona had just eight sacks through its first eight games and now ranks 11th in total defense and third against the run at 84.5 yards allowed per game. The Cardinals have now allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 straight games and has held teams under 100 yards rushing total in 10 of 12 games this season.

That leaves a lot of pressure on Ryan, who has been picked off nine times in his past two meetings with the Cardinals. He was intercepted five times in a 2012 meeting and another four times last year, marking the only two times in 105 career games he has thrown four or more picks in a game.

Ryan also has posted a passer rating below 50.0 just six times, with two of those coming against Arizona.

“They’re playing with a lot of confidence, playing at a high level. Defensively, they’re really good at all three levels,“ Ryan said of Arizona’s defense.

“They’ve done a great job of playing to their system regardless of who’s been in there. They’re missing some of the guys that have been really productive for them in the past, but the guys that have filled in have played well within the scheme. They put pressure on you with the scheme.“

Ryan has thrown a touchdown pass in 16 straight games and Jones figures to be one of his main targets as he tries to solve the Arizona defense. Jones has racked up 50 catches for 802 yards and four touchdowns in his past seven games at Georgia Dome.

Also, fellow wideout Roddy White has been slowed this week by an ankle injury, but he should play.

Atlanta safety William Moore could also return from a shoulder injury that landed him on injured reserve/designated to return after Week 4. Moore has 14 career picks and has 16 tackles in four games this season.

The Falcons’ defense ranks last in total yards (409.9) and passing yards (284.1) allowed per game, but did pick up three interceptions versus the Browns. Trufant and safeties Kemal Ishmael and Dezmen Southward all had picks.

Ishmael has intercepted a pass in each of the last three games and leads the team with a career-high four picks, while Trufant has an interception in two consecutive games while leading the team with 12 passes defensed.

Their job would be easier this weekend if Fitzgerald didn’t play, but the wideout said this week he is much improved.

“I feel good and everyday it’s getting stronger and stronger. I’m highly likely (to play), but it’s not my call,“ said Fitzgerald, who has 46 catches for a team-high 658 yards with two touchdowns.

Arizona showed its weakness without Fitzgerald against Seattle as it gained only 64 yards on the ground and ranks 31st in the NFL with 78.4 rushing yards per game.

Without running back Jonathan Dwyer since mid-September following his arrest on domestic violence charges, the Cardinals have seen running back Andre Ellington rush for just 648 yards on 196 carries this season while matching Fitzgerald’s 46 receptions.

Ellington did have 154 yards rushing, including an 80-yard TD, last season versus the Falcons and should finally get some help down the road after Arizona signed veteran Michael Bush for the rest of the season.

The 245-pound Bush has not played since last season with Chicago, so there is a pretty solid chance he won’t be active against the Falcons.

“We didn’t sign him for this week. We signed him for the long haul, so we’ll have him ready when we need him and we’ll go from there,“ said Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. “It would be hard to have a guy who didn’t play in OTAs and didn’t have a training camp, for me to give him the ball on Sunday would be pretty hard.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Arizona has had success in winning the games it should win, with its lone losses coming against last season’s Super Bowl participants. The Cards responded with a nice winning streak after the loss to Denver and may need the same kind of effort to hold off Seattle.

“When we lost to Denver, we lost pretty bad, but we bounced back, won six straight,“ special teamer Justin Bethel told Arizona’s website. “We knew going into Seattle it would be a tough game. It’s one of the hardest places to play in the NFL.“

This late in the season, Arizona can’t afford to look past Atlanta despite upcoming games against Kansas City, San Francisco and Seattle. The Falcons know they are lucky to be in the position they are in as far as playoff chances and could be a motivated team down the stretch.

“You can’t help but understand where you’re at. Moving forward we’ve got everything we want right in front of us,“ said Ryan. “Obviously, we can’t change the previous 11 games, and what we’ve done up until this point; I just hope that we can control what we do moving forward.“

The Falcons have a chance to pull off the upset if the Cardinals’ offense struggles for another week in a hostile environment. That will depend on Ryan having a good game, but he has won two of three in his career versus the Cardinals and Atlanta should be able to put up just enough points at home.

Predicted outcome: Falcons 17, Cardinals 10


►  Bengals head to Tampa with something to prove

Perhaps it’s time for Cincinnati Bengals 2.0.

The Bengals were the NFL’s last unbeaten team of the season before a humbling primetime loss to the New England Patriots began a 0-2-1 stretch that had them sitting barely above .500 by mid-October.

Things have changed for the better since, however, and Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis is now leading a team that’s won four of its last five games and holds a lead - albeit a slim one - over a cast of three-games-above-.500 characters in a hyper-competitive AFC North Division.

“We control everything, and that’s all we have to worry about,“ Lewis said. “This is what you play for. This is the way it’s supposed to be every year. That’s the only thing we can control. Our guys have earned an opportunity to be in this position, and now to take advantage of this position.“

The return to prosperity has coincided in some manner to the return of top- flight wide receiver A.J. Green, who was hurt in Week 1, missed the bulk of Week 2 and then was out entirely for three games in October. His first two games back in uniform yielded just six catches, but he crossed the 100-yard barrier in a defeat of New Orleans in Week 11, then had 12 catches for 121 yards last week against Houston.

“It’s been big,“ quarterback Andy Dalton said. “For him to have a performance like he did - at least that’s what we expect from him. He’s so talented we feel like he matches up with almost anybody.“

Mohamed Sanu began making his own name during Green’s down time and he’s now leading the team with both 719 receiving yards and five touchdowns. In the backfield, second-round draft pick Jeremy Hill is the new focal point of a run game that’s seven-best in the league at 125.6 yards per week.

Hill had 87 yards and scored once against Houston, and veteran Giovani Bernard, who’d missed three games, came back with 67 yards against the Texans as well.

“We’re starting to find a groove and I think that’s very important,“ Hill said. “We’re finding our spots at the right time in the season. We’re finally getting our groove back.“

For the Bengals’ Week 13 opponent, Tampa Bay, running hasn’t been nearly so productive.

Doug Martin was a 1,926-yard (from scrimmage) revelation as a rookie in 2012, but he’s been an oft-injured afterthought for the most part since, appearing in just six games in all of last season and in just six of the 11 that the Buccaneers have played so far in 2014.

He’s averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, and Tampa Bay as a team has racked up just 2.7 yards per attempt in its last two games against Washington and Chicago.

Cincinnati allowed 4.5 yards per attempt in its first nine games, but 3.1 in its last two games.

“Since I’ve been here, the injuries have stopped Doug’s progress,“ Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said. “But I haven’t seen anything to say that he can’t get back to form. Injuries would stop anyone. He’s back healthy now, so we’re looking for him to finish up strong these last five-plus games.“

His team enters those final five games in a unique contending position - they’re just two games out of first place in the NFC South - in spite of a dreadful 2-9 record.

All four teams in the South are at least three games under .500, while all four teams in the Bengals’ AFC North are at least three games above .500. The North is 10-1-1 against the South this season, though the South’s lone with came from Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh in Week 4.

The Bucs lost five in a row between that game and a 27-7 defeat of Washington in Week 11, but fell backward last week via a 21-13 loss at Chicago in which they committed four turnovers and misfired after amassing a 10-0 halftime lead. Quarterback Josh McCown was picked off twice and lost a fumble against the team for which he’d played from 2011 to 2013.

He threw a career-high 48 times and competed 25, for 341 yards.

“(No one) in our division expected to be where we’re all sitting right now and it’s unfortunate,“ he said. “But the reality of our division right now is that it is still up for grabs, and we’re not in the favorable position but we’re not out. You don’t want it to come like this, with this kind of record. Hopefully we can continue to put ourselves in position to do that and it starts by beating Cincinnati.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Putting McCown Down

Because the Tampa Bay passer does have some respectable weapons in the forms of wide receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, it’s more incumbent on the Cincinnati defense - particularly the front seven - to put pressure on him and not leave the job entirely to the secondary. Evans and Jackson have size and athletic ability and could cause some big trouble if McCown’s uniform stays clean.

Dueling Dalton

Similar to the Cincinnati defense’s task against McCown, it’s an absolute necessity for the Buccaneers’ front seven to get to Dalton or risk being eaten alive by a prodigious offense. Tampa Bay is just 22nd in passing yards allowed (252.1 per week) and 20th in interceptions (eight in 11 games), but there is some pressure talent in the form of tackle Gerald McCoy, who has 7.5 sacks in 10 games played.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Cincinnati is in the midst of a second opportunity to prove itself as an elite NFL team, a task it failed badly at performing in its first go-round earlier this season.

If the lessons painfully learned at New England in October have truly been absorbed, then the Bengals won’t fall victim to a lesser foe here, even though it’s a post-holiday road game. Get to 8-3-1, or risk revoking of your “contender” card.

Predicted outcome: Bengals 27, Buccaneers 14


►  No ‘Luck’ for RG3 in Indy

Sunday’s game between the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium was supposed to feature the top two quarterbacks taken in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the top overall pick that year, will be starting under center, but Robert Griffin III, who was selected No. 2 by the Washington Redskins, won’t.

Griffin was recently informed by Redskins first-year head coach Jay Gruden that Colt McCoy will take the reigns in Indy. Gruden did not hold back on criticizing Griffin for his footwork and ability to read defenses among other fundamental flaws. Griffin was anointed the franchise quarterback after a stellar rookie season, but injuries have taken a toll.

Gruden recently apologized his publicly undressing RG3, who completed 11 of his 19 pass attempts for 106 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in Sunday’s 17-13 loss in San Francisco. The once slippery Griffin had 11 yards on four rushes.

“I think it was a mistake on my part,“ Gruden said Wednesday. “After a loss like that, we’re very disappointed in the way we played, and the question came up about how we played, and all that stuff from that. I just answered with the first thing that came to my mind, and sometimes the first thing that comes to your mind isn’t the smartest thing. It wasn’t the right thing to do on my part.“

Griffin has been sacked 17 times in three games since returning from an ankle injury and now it’s McCoy’s turn again. The Redskins won two consecutive games earlier this season with McCoy under center.

McCoy replaced an ineffective Kirk Cousins in the second half of the Redskins’ Week 7 matchup against Tennessee and rallied the team to a 19-17 decision. He then led the way in an overtime road upset of Dallas a week later.

“The reports are accurate, Colt is going to start this week at quarterback,“ Gruden said. “We’re going to play Colt, he’s done some good things in his time as a starter. I felt like he deserved a bit of a promotion.“

The Redskins (3-8) have lost three in a row and are just 1-5 on the road this season. They have lost 11 of the last 12 road games dating back to a September 29 win at Oakland.

Indianapolis is 7-4 and sits atop the AFC South standings. It will close out a stretch of three straight games at home and is coming off Sunday’s 23-3 drubbing of the division-rival Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, as Luck passed for 253 yards with a TD and no interceptions.

Fresh off the birth of his daughter, Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had four catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Hilton pretended the ball was a newborn when he scored and leads the team with 1,083 yards and four TDs.

Colts tight end Dwayne Allen has a team-best seven touchdown receptions.

The Colts rebounded from a 42-20 loss versus New England and have won two of three games. They are first in passing yards (323.1) and total yards (433.8), and fourth with 30.2 ppg. Luck is first among QBs in passing yards (3,641) and 331.0 passing yards a game. He is third with 29 TD passes.

Luck needs one touchdown pass to join Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning as the only QBs in club history with 30 or more touchdown passes in a season. Luck has nine 300-yard passing games this season, matching Manning’s mark established in 2009.

Indianapolis is 19-10 all-time against Washington with a 13-3 record at home. In the last meeting between the teams on October 17, 2010 at FedEx Field, Manning threw for 307 yards with two TDs and no INTs. Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon played for the Colts then and had 103 yards and a touchdown on four catches.

Sunday’s game marks the first trip to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Redskins, who haven’t defeated the Colts since a 26-21 verdict on October 27, 2002. The last Washington victory in Indy occurred on October 23, 1994.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Redskins running back Alfred Morris is playing like the days of old and is approaching 1,000 yards for a third straight season. He has amassed 826 yards and seven touchdowns on 193 carries, and recorded a season-high 125 yards and a score on 21 touches in San Francisco. It was his first 100-yard rushing performance since Week 10 of the 2013 season at Minnesota.

Morris has carried the ball 20 or more times in the last two games, and said he hasn’t been trying to force the issue the last few weeks. Patience and understanding the basics of the game have helped Morris in the previous games. With his next 100-yard rushing game, Morris will tie Earnest Byner, George Rogers and Terry Allen for the fifth-most 100-yard rushing games in team history (12).

Morris, who has four TD runs in his last four games, is one of only 17 running backs in NFL history to exceed 3,700 rushing yards (3,714) in his first three seasons, joining the likes of Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Jim Brown.

With McCoy under center again, it’s important for Washington to feed Morris the ball. Morris had 73 yards and a score on 18 touches in McCoy’s first start against Dallas.

“That’s very important and we’re going to rely on that,“ Gruden said of keeping Morris loose and active. “We have to rely on that for us to be any kind of successful team in the future. Moving forward, I think we have to get our running game going and Alfred has been running really hard the last few weeks.“

Indianapolis is allowing 109.9 rushing yards per game. Look for Colts linebacker and leading tackler D’Qwell Jackson to be all over the field. He has 94 stops and four sacks this season.

Some experts believe the run game opens the pass. If true, expect McCoy to hook up often with Garcon and speedster DeSean Jackson. Jackson had 136 yards on six receptions in Dallas with McCoy under center.

“He led us on some drives. He was very efficient,“ Gruden said of McCoy in that Dallas game. “Everybody got the ball, which really made this offense click. “

Gruden went back to Griffin the next week, a 29-26 loss at Minnesota.

The Colts should have no trouble moving the football on the Redskins unless Luck gets sacked seven times and throws a few interceptions. Washington did pull off the impossible in stopping the Cowboys on Monday night, but the Colts are geared up for a division title.

Luck, though, was sacked five times against Jacksonville. The Jaguars are brutal and couldn’t convert the defensive effort into a win against Luck, who has gone down 14 times in the last six games.

“It was hard to get stuff going,“ said Luck. “That’s a good defense, a good front four. We had our share of self-inflicted penalties and didn’t do a good job taking care of the football, but a lot of those are because of what they did. A lot of credit goes to what they did on defense in stifling us early.“

It was the first time since October 5 versus Baltimore Luck threw for just one touchdown pass. Luck has thrown two or more TD passes in a game nine times and three or more on six separate occasions.

The Colts have six players with two or more receiving touchdowns, but one of those is running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who is out for the season with a fractured leg and posted six TDs. Bradshaw also had two rushing scores.

Hilton is Indy’s top receiving threat and, of course, veteran Reggie Wayne is still around. Wayne, though, isn’t the same player he used to be and occasionally has bursts of energy.

Trent Richardson and Daniel Herron will carry the workload on the ground. Richardson leads the Colts with 433 yards on 127 carries and has three TDs, and will go against a Washington defense allowing 100.7 yards per game.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Redskins can surpass their win total from last season (4) with an improbable win over the playoff-bound Colts. They won’t because Luck will pick apart the Washington defense and receive protection in the pocket.

Indianapolis has been plagued by injuries across the offensive line, as right tackle Gosder Cherilus and right guard Hugh Thornton are banged up. Cherilus (shoulder) could return Sunday, but Thornton (knee) is expected to miss the game. Allen (ankle) is questionable.

The Colts will play three of four games on the road to close out the regular season, so it’s important for them to not overlook Washington with a trip to Cleveland slated for December 7. Luck should consider this game a tune-up for the stretch run and the postseason.

Predicted outcome: Colts 31, Redskins 20


►  Chiefs aim to tighten AFC West race, host Broncos

The Denver Broncos have a chance to extend their lead atop the AFC West standings on Sunday when they visit the Kansas City Chiefs in an important divisional matchup at Arrowhead Stadium.

Denver nearly lost for the third time in four weeks on Sunday to Miami, but it rallied late, as Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes, three to Demaryius Thomas and two during a fourth-quarter rally that lifted the Broncos to a hard-earned 39-36 win.

The Broncos trailed a gritty Dolphins team for most of the game and were down 28-17 after three quarters, then erupted for 22 unanswered points in the fourth to regain sole possession of first place in the AFC West and bounce back from Week 11’s startling 22-7 loss at St. Louis.

Manning hit Thomas and Wes Welker for touchdowns during the stretch, while C.J. Anderson had a go-ahead touchdown run with 5:01 left to highlight a career-high 167-yard, 27-carry performance.

“You have to earn them all. We definitely earned a victory against a good football team today,“ said Manning.

Thomas amassed 10 catches totaling 87 yards and Emmanuel Sanders snared nine Manning passes for 125 yards in the Broncos’ eighth straight home victory. Manning finished a sharp 28-of-35 for 257 yards for Denver, which holds a one- game edge on both the San Diego Chargers and Chiefs.

Manning may once again be without one of his favorite targets this week, as tight end Julius Thomas is questionable with an ankle injury that caused him to miss the Miami game. Thomas leads the NFL with 12 receiving TDs.

Now the Broncos hit the road where they are just 2-3 this season. Making that mark even less impressive is the fact that their two road wins have come against the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, teams that have combined to go 3-19 this season.

Kansas City has won four of its five home games this season and is traditionally one of the harder places in the league to play.

“It’s one of the loudest places to play, in my opinion, in the NFL,“ Manning said of Arrowhead. “They are playing really well at home. It’s a night game and the place is going to be rocking so it is a challenge. The communications is the challenge, all 11 guys hearing the call, hearing the possible audible, knowing exactly what to do, not nine guys doing one thing two guys doing another.“

Just 16 of the Broncos’ 50 first-quarter points this season have come on the road. During their five road games, the Broncos have been the first team to score just once (Week 6 against the Jets).

“We just didn’t come out to play, plain and simple,“ Chris Harris Jr. said. “In all our road games, we kind of woke up when it was too late. That accounted for our losses.“

Kansas City certainly didn’t help its cause any in Week 12, as it became the first victim this season of the Oakland Raiders, as it had a five-game winning streak stopped in a 24-20 setback.

Alex Smith completed 20-of-36 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and Jamaal Charles ran 19 times for 80 yards while also adding a receiving score in the loss.

“We gotta handle this the right way. We gotta build from it,“ said Smith. “We can regroup and get it together. We still have a lot of time in front of us.“

Kansas City might have a little something extra to play for this week after placing safety Eric Berry on the non-football injury list Monday with what may be lymphoma.

“I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent,“ the All-Pro safety said. “I have great confidence in the doctors and the plan they are going to put in place for me to win this fight. I believe that I am in God’s hands and I have great peace in that.“

The Chiefs are 56-52 all-time versus the Broncos but haven’t been able to do much with Denver since Manning arrived.

The Broncos edged the Chiefs, 24-17, in Week 2 and are 5-0 against Kansas City with Manning at the controls. The All-Pro threw three touchdowns in the early season matchup and has thrown 14 touchdown passes in those five games against the Chiefs.

The five-game winning streak versus the Chiefs is Denver’s longest since winning eight straight from October 24, 1976-October 28, 1979.

Since John Fox arrived in Denver in 2011, the Broncos haven’t lost to the Chiefs on the road. In fact, Fox’s Broncos are 6-1 against the Chiefs with their only loss being a 7-3 defeat at Sports Authority Field where Tim Tebow went 6-of-22 for 60 yards.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in six of his last nine games, but has struggled on the road, where he has thrown seven of his nine interceptions on the year.

To make matters worse for Manning, Kansas City has limited opponents to a league-low 198.9 yards per game. And the Chiefs haven’t allowed a 300-yard passer in 13 straight regular-season contests.

The Broncos, though, may have unearthed a gem in the win over Miami, as Anderson spearheaded the 201 yard rushing attack and is averaging a team-best 5.6 yards per carry and 157.7 scrimmage yards over his last three games.

“Obviously, we would rather be running it than passing it, but we have a guy that can pass it pretty good,“ center Will Montgomery said. “So, to be effective in the long run we need to do both, and we can do both.“

That might be bad news for a Chiefs team that has looked vulnerable on the ground the past few weeks. They gave up 179 yards rushing and their first two rushing touchdowns of the season against the Raiders and surrendered 383 yards on the ground over their past two games.

“We weren’t playing our gaps and it’s like a high school football game,“ linebacker Tamba Hali said.

Denver will also have a new kicker this week, as it signed kicker Connor Barth on Tuesday after waiving Brandon McManus, who missed a 33-yard field goal against the Dolphins to fall to 9-for-13 on the season.

Barth beat out Jay Feely in a competition this past week, but hasn’t played since 2012 after tearing his right Achilles tendon.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

We can analyze this game from all angles to the cows come home. It simply comes down to this. Denver has not looked good on the road this season and Kansas City is traditionally a tough place to play. Plus you add in the fact that Chiefs might be an inspired group following the Berry news earlier in the week and you may have all the makings of an upset.

Sometimes it’s just that easy.

Predicted outcome: Chiefs 28, Broncos 17


►  Coughlin returns to Jacksonville with reeling Giants

The New York Giants were feeling good after three straight wins for a 3-2 start in early October.

Then the wheels began to fall off one at a time.

New York hopes to earn some respect and stop a six-game losing streak Sunday on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Giants lost their first six games of the 2013 season and haven’t suffered seven straight losses since an eight-game slide from November 7 - December 26, 2004. It was head coach Tom Coughlin’s first season in the Big Apple and the Giants went 6-10 that year.

It looks as if the G-men are headed to another disappointing finish and can point fingers in all directions as to why 2014 has been a dud. Quarterback Eli Manning and his interception issue (12), a poor running game (99.3 ypg) and even more porous defense under coordinator Perry Fewell.

Fewell could be looking for a new job at season’s end. His unit is 24th in passing yards allowed (253.9), 27th in points allowed (26.7), and 31st in both rushing yards permitted (142.6) and total yards given up (396.5). However, the Giants are tied for fifth in the NFL in interceptions (13) this season.

The defense did show up in last Sunday night’s 31-28 loss to the visiting Dallas Cowboys until the final minute, when Tony Romo found Dez Bryant for the go-ahead score. Defensive end Damontre Moore and linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka each had a sack, but it wasn’t enough to phase Romo, who had four touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Manning played better with three TD passes to just one interception, a far cry from what he did the previous week in a 16-10 loss to San Francisco in which he was picked off five times and had one touchdown pass. Manning and the Giants are frustrated, and hope to end the slide Sunday.

“I think everybody wants to win,“ Manning said. “Everybody wants to get that feeling back. I have seen that these last few weeks, we haven’t got discouraged, it is frustrating.“

The Giants can’t take the Jaguars for granted this week.

“We are going to Jacksonville; they have one win, and we have three wins,“ Manning said. “I don’t think we are in a position to label anybody or to think we are better than anybody. We have to play well. We’ve got to find a way to get a win, we’ve got to put 60 minutes together and play great football for that whole time.“

Manning became the 16th quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 250 touchdowns and is nearing his 10th straight year with at least 3,000 yards.

New York will play its next two games on the road against Jacksonville and Tennessee, two teams from the AFC South. Coughlin was Jacksonville’s first- ever head coach from 1995-2002 and won a franchise-best 72 games. Manning, who has made 162 consecutive starts, has four TDs and no interceptions in his last two games against AFC opponents.

The Giants are 1-4 on the road and have lost three straight as the guest.

Jacksonville is mired in a four-game losing streak and fell to a lowly 1-10 on the season after Sunday’s 23-3 loss at Indianapolis last Sunday.

The Jaguars amassed only 194 yards of offense and that has been a major issue all season. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles was intercepted once and threw for 146 yards on 15-of-27 passing with no touchdowns. Bortles has thrown an interception in every game this season (15 total) and hasn’t recorded a touchdown pass in the last two games.

“It was hard. The defense played really well,“ Bortles said of not converting on Andrew Luck’s miscues. “They stood up when we put them in some bad situations and they got us some turnovers, so that was good. I thought they did a really good job and obviously we weren’t able to capitalize on it.“

Bortles knows he has to improve on his end, too.

“There are passes I could get off quicker, and make a quicker decision, so that’s all part of it,“ Bortles said. “That’s all part of it. It’s a part of getting reps and continuing to learn from it.“

Jacksonville hopes to find some success in its first game at EverBank Field since October 26 against Miami. It 1-4 at home and will also welcome the division-rival Houston Texans to the Sunshine State.

The Jaguars have been abysmal on offense this season. They are 24th in rushing yards (96.5), 27th in passing yards (207.6), 31st in total yards (304.1) and dead last in scoring with just 14.6 points.

It gets no better on defense. Jacksonville is 27th against the pass (257.5), 28th against the rush (130.6), 30th in total yards allowed (388.3) and last in points against (27.7). On a positive note for the defense, the Jaguars have recorded 33 sacks in 11 games and have been led by Chris Clemons, who has registered seven sacks. Defensive end Ryan Davis is second with 5 1/2 sacks and DT Sen’Derrick Marks has five.

Clemons had three of the five sacks on Luck last week and has six in his past seven games. Marks has posted a sack in three of the past four.

Jacksonville, which is the best in red-zone defense, will try to get to Manning, who was sacked twice versus Dallas and has gone down at least two times (9 total) in his past four games. Manning has been sacked 22 times this season.

New York is 302 all-time against Jacksonville and the home team has won each time. The Giants won the last encounter between the team by a 24-20 score on November 28, 2010, when Manning put the Giants ahead to stay with a 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Boss. Current Giants running back Rashad Jennings was a Jaguar then and had 53 yards and a score on seven carries.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Rumor has it that Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr had a terrific grab for a touchdown against the Cowboys last week. Beckham, who missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury, grabbed a Manning pass with one hand for a score and set social media into a frenzy.

Beckham has a bright future for the Giants and will give them a solid 1-2 punch when Victor Cruz returns from a torn knee ligament. Beckham will try to continue his success against a weak Jacksonville defense and leads the team with 69 yards receiving. He had 10 catches for 146 yards and two scores versus Dallas and owns three 100-yard receiving games in the past four.

He is currently dealing with a back contusion and said he just had to loosen it up. Beckham has 31 receptions for 503 yards in November, and said he’s trying to put his one-handed catch in the rearview mirror.

“It’s definitely still there. There’s no way of denying that,“ he said. “For the most part I’m just trying to get ready for this week. We do have another game coming up Sunday. You’ve got to put it behind you at some point.“

Beckham will get behind coverage once or twice Sunday.

Jacksonville hopes to get to Manning before he settles in to make that happen for Beckham and the New York offense. Coughlin knows the Jaguars can cause problem up front.

“Their front is really good. Deep, they’ve got all kinds of guys that ran rush,“ Coughlin said. “The kid that comes off the edge with the second group, Ryan Davis, is a pass rusher whether he plays over the guard or outside. They’re very fast at the linebacker plateau, very fast. They have good speed at the corners.“

Demetrius McCray and Dwayne Gratz are the starting corners and safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans provide help on top and against the run.

“At safety, (Johnathan) Cyprien is the leader of the secondary. He’s physical, he plays down in the box,“ Coughlin said. “They want him in the box, they want Josh Evans in the middle of the field.“

On offense, Jags wide receiver Allen Hurns leads the team with five touchdown receptions and Denard Robinson is the leading rusher with 508 yards and four TDs. Robinson, who was a passing and running threat at Michigan, is averaging 98.2 yards from scrimmage this season and plays a role in the aerial attack.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Are the Giants counting down the days for a new coach and quarterback? Does Manning still have enough talent and confidence to lead another New York resurgence? It’s too early to tell, but patience is running thin for the G-men and all they can do from here is play hard and earn respect.

In order to avoid a seventh consecutive loss, the Giants must not overlook the Jaguars and come out firing from the jump. Jacksonville also needs to bounce back and has the home crowd in its corner. Some of the fans can do a better job than some of the players, but let’s be realistic.

New York finally gets off the schneid this week for its first win since October 5 and Manning is the reason why.

“They are pretty talented defensively. Their front four, they get a lot of sacks. They are big up front. Their linebackers can really run. They have a good scheme. They get after some teams. They get after the quarterback,“ Manning said. “We have to be safe with the ball, protect the ball, and try to get into a good rhythm and down and distance and see if we can hit a couple big plays.“

Manning said playing a clean game and not turning the ball over will help in capturing a win.

“Finish strong. We have to get this first win,“ he said. “It has been a while. We have been doing some good things and have been close in the last two. We played it right down to the wire. We had great opportunities, but we have to find a way to get over that hump and get a win.“

Predicted outcome: Giants 24, Jaguars 13


►  Jets go back to Geno as Dolphins arrive for ‘MNF’

The margin for error is getting smaller and smaller when it comes to the AFC playoff hunt for the Miami Dolphins.

And the Dolphins can’t afford another slip up when they put a period on Week 13 of the NFL season by visiting a hapless New York Jets team turning back to Geno Smith on “Monday Night Football.“

Smith, who started the first eight games this season before being benched, replaced Michael Vick under center during last Monday’s 38-3 drubbing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, a setback that dropped the Jets to 2-9.

Embattled New York coach Rex Ryan claims to have made the decision and informed both quarterbacks Wednesday morning.

“Everybody’s on board with this decision,“ Ryan said. “I have said it all along that I feel we have two good quarterbacks, I definitely feel that. And we have another guy that is a decent quarterback as well, in (Matt) Simms. But I feel that way.“

Smith had been the Jets’ starter for the first 24 games of his career after the team selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was benched in the Week 8 loss to Buffalo after throwing three interceptions in the first 10 minutes of the contest and Vick was named the starter the following week.

“We purposely put Geno back, let him observe,“ Ryan said. “Now is the opportunity for him to step back in and let’s see how it goes. I, for one, am excited to watch him. He has my support on this, and that’s what I’ll say about it.“

Vick started the past three games for the Jets, leading the team to a victory in Week 10 against Pittsburgh to end an eight-game losing streak. He struggled in Monday’s game against the Bills at Detroit’s Ford Field, completing just 7- of-19 passes for 76 yards with an interception while being sacked five times.

The game was moved from Ralph Wilson Stadium after the venue was deemed unplayable due to several feet of snow that fell last week, crippling Buffalo and neighboring areas.

Smith entered in the third quarter and connected on 10-of-12 throws for 89 yards while being sacked twice.

“Horrible performance. We couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t block. Couldn’t tackle. Couldn’t cover. It was just an awful performance,“ Ryan admitted.

The Dolphins suffered their own disappointing, almost debilitating loss at Denver in Week 12, albeit a far more competitive one when Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes, three to Demaryius Thomas and two during a fourth- quarter rally, that lifted the Broncos to a hard-earned 39-36 win.

The Broncos trailed a gritty Miami team for most of the game and were down 28-17 after three quarters, then erupted for 22 consecutive points in the fourth to regain sole possession of first place in the AFC West.

Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to put Miami in position for the upset before Manning engineered his 41st career fourth- quarter comeback. The young quarterback completed 26-of-36 throws for 228 yards with a costly late interception that helped seal the outcome.

“As a competitor, you don’t like to see it,“ Tannehill said. “We didn’t score enough points in the second half.“

Jarvis Landry hauled in two of Tannehill’s scoring strikes and recorded seven catches for 50 yards.

The Jets lead their all-time series with Miami by a 50-45-1 margin. On Monday night, the Dolphins play .500 football at 40-40 while New York is underwater at 20-29.

The two teams will rematch in South Florida during Week 17.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Miami has struggled mightily in close games this season, going 0-3 in contests decided by four or fewer points. In addition to the loss in Denver, the Dolphins suffered setbacks to Green Bay in Week 6 and Detroit in Week 10 due to late-game collapses.

“We have to find a way to win some of those games,“ Miami coach Joe Philbin admitted. “We’re going to be in some more of those games. That’s just the way the NFL is.“

Entering Week 13, 11 of the AFC’s 16 teams had six-or-more wins and most them were above the Dolphins, making this a virtual must win for a team which hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2008.

“I don’t think the records really matter right now,“ Philbin said. “We have to go win a game against the New York Jets. That’s really the only thing that is on my mind and should be on our players’ minds at this point.“

Getting to play the Jets twice in the final five weeks will only help, especially now that they have turned back toward Smith, who looked terribly overmatched in his first eight opportunities this season. The West Virginia product has thrown for 1,459 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season.

Turnovers have been a major issue for the Jets, who are minus-12 on the season, a number that helps explain how the team can be ranked No. 7 in total defense (328.8 yards per game) but be tied for 30th in points allowed (27.5 points per game).

Tannehill, meanwhile, has been hot recently and is third in the NFL with a 70.9 completion percentage over his last six games while throwing 12 TD passes against just three interceptions over that span.

With Smith back under center the Jets will try to rely on a running game that stumbled against the Bills, gaining just 92 yards on the ground. Miami, however, allowed a season-high 201 against the Broncos with the lightly- regarded C.J. Anderson gashing them for 167.

“They have an outstanding defensive line,“ Ryan said of the Dolphins. “Absolutely it starts up front. If we can’t block them it doesn’t matter who you have at quarterback.“

New York is also expected to be without star defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson due to an injured toe suffered in Detroit.

“It doesn’t look good for Big Mo,“ Ryan said. “If you’re in a boot, that doesn’t look good for this week. But, hopefully, we’ll get him back as soon as we can.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

By going back to Smith, Ryan has essentially waived the white flag on the season and his career as the Jets’ head coach. It also plainly indicates the power in the organization is with unpopular general manager John Idzik.

The Jets aren’t a good team with either signal caller but Vick can at least get hot every now and again and make New York competitive, albeit inconsistently.

“I think the best thing for this team right now is to play Geno Smith,“ Ryan said unconvincingly. “Right now, for all the reasons we talked about. Is one of those reasons, does he give you a great chance to win, or a chance to win? I believe he does give us a chance to win.“

Not much of one moving forward.

Predicted outcome: Dolphins 23, Jets 16



The Gilmer Free Press

►  West Virginia routs College of Charleston

Jonathan Holton had 21 points and 10 rebounds to guide No. 21 West Virginia to an 86-57 win over the College of Charleston.

Jaysean Paige had 15 points and Juwan Staten added 10 for the Mountaineers (7-0), who have won all but one of their games by double digits.

“I think he’s just scratching the surface of what he can be,“ West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said of Holton.

Evan Bailey and Donovan Gilmore each scored 13 points for the Cougars (2-4), who were coming off a one-point win at George Mason.

A jumper from Devin Williams three minutes in gave the Mountaineers a 5-4 lead, a lead which the team never gave up.

That bucket started a 7-0 run and the team had an 8-0 run a few minutes later with a 3-pointer from Nathan Adrian giving the team a 20-10 lead.

West Virginia built its lead as high as 13 in the first half before eventually taking a 38-29 advantage into the break.

The Mountaineers went on a 14-0 run in the second half, as the Cougars went eight minutes without a point.

Adrian’s 3-pointer capped the burst to give the team a 52-31 lead 7 1/2 minutes in, and the Mountaineers cruised to the finish line.

Game Notes

Adrian finished the game with nine points and four rebounds ... This was the first matchup between these two schools.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, November 29)


Final Score: Old Dominion 73, (14) VCU 67

Aaron Bacote scored a career-high 31 points on a perfect shooting effort from the floor, leading Old Dominion to a 73-67 upset of No. 14 VCU at the Constant Center. Bacote hit all eight of his field goal attempts and went 4-for-4 from 3-point range, while the Monarchs knocked down 9-of-17 attempts from beyond the arc to earn their first win over a ranked opponent since 2009. Trey Freeman added 15 points in a game the Monarchs (5-1) led virtually the entire way due to their marksmanship from the perimeter and ability to handle VCU’s trademark pressure defense. Treveon Graham tallied 29 points for VCU (4-2), with Melvin Johnson recording 14 in the loss.


Final Score: (9) Wichita State 75, Tulsa 55

Fred VanVleet had 21 points and nine assists as No. 9 Wichita State routed Tulsa 75-55 on Saturday afternoon. Ron Baker netted 19 points and Darius Carter added 14 for the Shockers (4-0), who led by as many as 23. James Woodard posted 19 points to lead Tulsa (3-3).


Final Score: (19) Michigan 91, Nicholls State 62

Caris LeVert totaled a game-high 24 points thanks to 5-of-6 shooting beyond the arc, and dished out six assists as No. 19 Michigan had its way with Nicholls State, producing a 91-62 rout on Saturday at Crisler Arena. Ricky Doyle poured in 15 points with six rebounds and Zak Irvin totaled 14 for the Wolverines (5-1), who rebounded from a loss to Villanova on Tuesday. Ja’Dante Frye recorded 15 points and six boards for the Colonels (0-4), who next face Loyola-New Orleans one week from today. T.J. Carpenter had 12 points in the resounding defeat.


Final Score: (23) Creighton 57, Middle Tennessee 47

Austin Chatman and Isaiah Zierden both scored 10 points and No. 23 Creighton defeated Middle Tennessee State, 57-47, in the third-place game of the Emerald Coast Classic. Chatman and Zierden were the lone double-digit scorers for the Bluejays (5-1), who lost to Mississippi in the semifinals Friday night. Jaqawn Raymond led the Blue Raiders (3-3) with nine points off the bench.


Final Score: (21) West Virginia 86, College of Charleston 57

Jonathan Holton had 21 points and 10 rebounds to guide No. 21 West Virginia to a 86-57 win over the College of Charleston. Jaysean Paige had 15 points and Juwan Staten added 10 for the Mountaineers (7-0), who have won all but one of their games by double digits. Evan Bailey and Donovan Gilmore each scored 13 points for the Cougars (2-4), who were coming off a one-point win at George Mason.


Final Score: (8) Virginia 45, Rutgers 26

Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill each scored 13 points to lead No. 8 Virginia in a 45-26 win over Rutgers in the Barclays Center Classic. Trailing 18-17 at the half, the Cavaliers (7-0) opened things up in the second half while maintaining their strong defense to limit the Scarlet Knights to just eight points after the break. Kadeem Jack paced Rutgers (3-3) with eight points on 4-of-11 shooting. Greg Lewis scored four points and blocked five shots. Rutgers was limited to 12-of-48 shooting from the floor, and the two teams combined to go just 2-of-29 from beyond the arc with Rutgers missing all 13 of its attempts.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Saturday, November 29)


Final Score: Dallas 110, Philadelphia 103

The discrepancy wasn’t as big, but the Dallas Mavericks still inched the Philadelphia 76ers closer to a dubious distinction. Tyson Chandler had 20 points, 13 rebounds and four steals as the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavs defeated the Sixers 110-103 on Saturday night. Dallas beat the Sixers by 53 points earlier this month. Of the 10 teams in the last 20 years that have lost by 50-plus points, eight of them won the rematch. Philly is now two losses away from tying the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets (0-18) for the worst start to an NBA season. Monta Ellis posted 18 points, five assists and three swipes and Chandler Parsons tallied 17 points, six rebounds and six assists for Dallas, which has won three in a row and nine of its last 11 games.


Final Score: Washington 83, New Orleans 80

Marcin Gortat posted 24 points and 13 rebounds to help the Washington Wizards hold off the New Orleans Pelicans 83-80 on Saturday. Bradley Beal had 12 points, John Wall totaled 11 points with seven assists and Paul Pierce scored 10 for the Wizards, who snapped a two-game losing streak. New Orleans’ Anthony Davis led all scorers with 30 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Jrue Holiday chipped in 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting in the Pelicans’ third straight loss.


Final Score: Atlanta 105, Charlotte 75

Paul Millsap scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half and the Atlanta Hawks led by as many as 44 in a 105-75 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night. Mike Scott had 14 points, Dennis Schroder scored 12 and the two bench players led a 20-0 run that helped give the Hawks a 64-28 lead at halftime. Atlanta improved to 2-1 on a four-game homestand with its 12th win in the last 14 games against Charlotte.


Final Score: Cleveland 109, Indiana 97

Kevin Love had 28 points and 10 rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Indiana Pacers 109-97 on Saturday night. Kyrie Irving posted 24 points, 10 boards and five assists, while LeBron James added 19 points and seven helpers for the Cavaliers, who have won three in a row on the heels of a four-game losing streak.


Final Score: Houston 117, Milwaukee 103

James Harden scored 34 points to go along with eight assists and six rebounds as the Houston Rockets defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 117-103, on Saturday. Donatas Motiejunas netted 20 points, Jason Terry had 18 and Trevor Ariza chipped in with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won four of their last five. Jabari Parker led the Bucks with 19 points, Ersan Ilyasova dropped in 18 and Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 17 with seven rebounds. Milwaukee had its three-game winning streak snapped.


Final Score: LA Clippers 112, Utah 96

Blake Griffin had 28 points, Chris Paul scored 17 with 10 assists and the Los Angeles Clippers rolled to a 112-96 win over the slumping Utah Jazz on Saturday night to finish off a successful road trip. Jamal Crawford added 22 points off the bench and J.J. Redick scored 13 for the Clippers, who finished 6-1 on their seven-game trek. They have won 11 in a row against the Jazz since Utah’s last victory in the series on Jan. 17, 2012. Gordon Hayward poured in 30 points to lead the Jazz, who have lost five in a row overall. Derrick Favors chipped in 19 points and Trevor Booker scored 15 off the bench.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Saturday, November 29)


Final Score: NY Rangers 5, Philadelphia 2

Derick Brassard scored two goals, Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves and the New York Rangers posted a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers to sweep a home-and-home series. Brassard’s second goal broke a 2-2 tie and was one of three scored by the Rangers in the third period. Jesper Fast netted his first NHL goal and added an assist for the Rangers, who have won 10 straight regular-season games against the Flyers played at Madison Square Garden. After being shut out by Cam Talbot in each of the teams’ first two meetings this season, the Flyers were able to finally light the lamp, but they suffered their fourth consecutive loss and eighth in the last nine games. Ray Emery allowed four goals on 34 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Toronto 6, Washington 2

Jonathan Bernier stopped 35 shots and Tyler Bozak tallied twice as Toronto took down Washington by a 6-2 count at Air Canada Centre. Joffrey Lupul and Morgan Rielly added a goal and assist each for the Maple Leafs, who have recorded points in each of their last four outings (3-0-1) since a 9-2 loss to Nashville on Nov. 18. Toronto, which went 3-for-4 on the power play, also received tallies from Cody Franson and David Clarkson, while James van Riemsdyk, Jake Gardiner and Phil Kessel contributed two helpers each. Troy Brouwer and Tom Wilson supplied offense for the Capitals, who were coming off a home win against the Islanders but lost for the fifth time in eight contests. Justin Peters played the first and third periods, allowing three goals on 11 shots. Braden Holtby took over in the second and gave up three scores on 12 shots.


Final Score: Buffalo 4, Montreal 3 (SO)

Brian Flynn tied the game late in the third period to force overtime and produced the lone goal of the shootout as the Buffalo Sabres finished off a home-and-home sweep of the Montreal Canadiens with a 4-3 victory on Saturday. After each team’s first four shootout participants were unsuccessful, Tomas Plekanec followed suit for Montreal as Jhonas Enroth calmly turned aside his offering with a stick save. Flynn put an end to the skills competition with a shot into an open net off a slick backhand-forehand deke past a sliding Dustin Tokarski. Zemgus Girgensons and Chris Stewart also scored in regulation for the Sabres, who defeated Montreal 2-1 on Friday. Enroth turned aside 41 shots and stopped five more in the shootout. Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller all lit the lamp for Montreal, which has lost its last three games. Tokarski made 23 saves in defeat.


Final Score: Tampa Bay 4, Ottawa 1

Ben Bishop made 26 saves and Tampa Bay scored four unanswered goals to top Ottawa, 4-1, on Saturday. Alex Killorn scored the eventual game-winner 1:16 into the third period, and Brenden Morrow and Nikita Kucherov added insurance goals for the Lightning, who won all three games on their homestand. Killorn and Ryan Callahan each tallied a goal and an assist for the Lightning. David Legwand scored Ottawa’s lone goal and Robin Lehner made 28 saves on 32 shots against. The Senators have lost four of their last five.


Final Score: NY Islanders 3, New Jersey 1

Jaroslav Halak posted 34 saves, and the New York Islanders grabbed a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Casey Cizikas had a goal and an assist while Cal Clutterbuck and Nikolay Kulemin each scored a goal for the Islanders, who have won six of their last seven. Damien Brunner had the only goal of the game for the Devils, who have lost four straight and six of seven. Cory Schneider allowed two goals on 27 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 3, Carolina 2

Thomas Greiss came up with 32 saves to help the Pittsburgh Penguins exact some revenge on the Carolina Hurricanes with a 3-2 victory. The Penguins supported Greiss’ solid effort with first-period goals by Chris Kunitz and Robert Bortuzzo, with Christian Ehrhoff netting the eventual game-winner in the third as Pittsburgh bounced back from a 4-2 home loss to the Hurricanes on Friday. Justin Faulk scored just over 3 1/2 minutes in to give Carolina an early edge, but the Hurricanes didn’t get another past Greiss until Eric Staal’s power-play tally with 11.7 seconds remaining. Anton Khudobin stopped 30 shots in the loss, Carolina’s fourth in five games.


Final Score: Nashville 2, Columbus 1

Colin Wilson’s goal with 2:12 remaining lifted the Nashville Predators to a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in a matchup of teams going in opposite directions. Mike Ribeiro also scored for Nashville, and Pekka Rinne recorded 21 saves to help the Preds run their winning streak to a season-high four games. Columbus fell to 0-5-1 in its last six contests despite an outstanding effort from goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who kept his team in it with a 40-save performance.


Final Score: St. Louis 3, Minnesota 2 (SO)

Vladimir Tarasenko scored in the final round of the shootout to lift the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. After Jake Allen stopped a Jason Pominville wrister, Tarasenko skated in and snapped a wrister into the left corner of the net for the win. Tarasenko also scored in regulation as did David Backes for the Blues, who have won four of their last five. Jake Allen posted 36 stops in the win. Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise scored goals for the Wild, who have lost three of their last five. Niklas Backstrom stopped 24 shots in the defeat.


Final Score: Colorado 5, Dallas 2

Alex Tanguay recorded a goal and two assists, as Colorado claimed a 5-2 victory over Dallas at Pepsi Center. Matt Duchene, Jarome Iginla, Danny Briere and Gabriel Landeskog added tallies for the Avalanche, winners in five of their last seven. Tyson Barrie picked up three assists as Calvin Pickard stopped 22 shots for the victory. Cody Eakin and Patrick Eaves lit the lamp in the first period for the Stars, losers of two in a row and five of eight. Anders Lindback stopped 42 pucks in defeat.


Final Score: Calgary 3, Arizona 0

Karri Ramo made 26 saves to lead the Calgary Flames to a 3-0 shutout win of the Arizona Coyotes. Ramo was busiest in the second period when he had to make 15 stops, including having to shut down the Coyotes’ only attempt on the power play. T.J. Brodie scored the eventual game-winner 4:34 into the second period, and Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler added insurance tallies for the Flames in the third period. Hudler had a hand in all three Flames goals to help them win their sixth game out of their last eight. Devan Dubnyk made 26 saves on 29 shots in Arizona’s third straight loss. In his second straight start for Calgary, Ramo shut out his opponent. Going back to Nov. 22 against New Jersey, he has a personal 1:34:34 shutout streak ongoing.


Final Score: Chicago 4, Los Angeles 1

Brad Richards scored twice to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals. Daniel Carcillo and Brandon Saad also lit the lamp and Kris Versteeg supplied two assists for the Blackhawks, who have won three straight and six of their last seven games. Corey Crawford turned aside 19 shots in his 14th consecutive start. Jordan Nolan had the lone goal for the Kings, who eliminated the Blackhawks in a spirited seven-game series en route to their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Jonathan Quick made 21 stops in defeat.


Final Score: San Jose 6, Anaheim 4

Tommy Wingels finished with four points to lead the San Jose Sharks in a thrilling 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Wingels had a goal and three assists and Logan Couture scored twice for the Sharks, who halted a four-game skid Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto also lit the lamp and Antti Niemi stopped 30-of-34 shots in the win. Corey Perry posted two goals and an assist, Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and two assists and Matt Beleskey also scored for the Ducks, who have dropped their last two games on the heels of a three-game win streak. Frederik Andersen allowed five goals on 19 shots and Jason LaBarbera turned aside 15 pucks in defeat.

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2014


National Football League
San Diego at Baltimore, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (705)
Cleveland at Buffalo, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (706)
Tennessee at Houston, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (707)
Oakland at St. Louis, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (708)
Cincinnati at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (709)
Washington at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (710)
NY Giants at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (711)
Carolina at Minnesota, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (712)
New Orleans at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (713)
Arizona at Atlanta, 4:05 PM - FOX, DSS (714)
New England at Green Bay, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (715)
Denver at Kansas City, 8:30 PM - NBC


National Basketball Association
San Antonio at Boston, 1:00 PM - FS-Southwest, CSN-New England, DSS
Chicago at Brooklyn, 3:00 PM - WGN, YES, DSS
Golden State at Detroit, 3:30 PM - CSN-Bay, FS-Detroit+, DSS
Memphis at Sacramento, 6:00 PM - SportSouth, CSN-California, DSS
Miami at New York, 7:30 PM - SunSports, MSG, DSS
Orlando at Phoenix, 8:00 PM - FS-Florida, Arizona, DSS
Minnesota at Portland, 9:00 PM - FS-North, CSN-Northwest, DSS
Toronto at LA Lakers, 9:30 PM - SNET, Time Warner, DSS


National Hockey League
Vancouver at Detroit, 2:00 PM - City TV, TVA, FS-Detroit, DSS


Canadian Football League - Grey Cup
Hamilton vs. Calgary, 6:30 PM - ESPN 2, TSN


College Basketball
Orlando Classic, 10:30 AM - ESPN3.com
Texas at Connecticut, 12:00 PM - ESPN 2
Army at Duke, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Orlando Classic, 1:00 PM - ESPN
Lipscomb at Colorado, 2:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Providence at Kentucky, 2:00 PM - ESPN 2
Maine at Northern Ill, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Wooden Legacy, 2:00 PM - ESPN U
Air Force at Texas Tech, 2:00 PM - FS-Southwest, MASN2
Tennessee Tech at Tulane, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Stanford at DePaul, 2:30 PM - FS1
Bowling Green at Detroit, 3:00 PM - WADL, ESPN3.com
Charlotte at UNC Asheville, 3:00 PM - American Sports Network, MASN
Morgan State at Virginia Tech, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Iona at Arkansas, 3:30 PM - SEC Network
USC at New Mexico, 4:00 PM - CBSSN
Orlando Classic, 4:00 PM - ESPN 2
Long Island at Temple, 4:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Wooden Legacy, 4:30 PM - ESPN U
Delaware vs. Villanova, 4:30 PM - FS1
Florida Gulf Coast vs. South Daktoa State, 5:00 PM - FS-North
California at Fresno State, 6:00 PM - CBSSN
VMI at Maryland, 6:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Bethune-Cookman at UCF, 6:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Orlando Classic, 6:30 PM - ESPN U
Monmouth at SMU, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Wooden Legacy, 7:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Portland State at Oregon, 8:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Wooden Legacy, 10:00 PM - ESPN 2


Women’s College Basketball
Alabama at Quinnipiac, 11:00 AM - ESPN3.com
Duke at Texas A&M, 1:00 PM - SEC Network
Kansas vs. Notre Dame, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Louisville at Valparaiso, 2:35 PM - ESPN3.com
Marist at Baylor, 3:00 PM - FS-Southwest+
Milwaukee at Missouri, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Tennessee at Texas, 6:30 PM - FS1


Major League Soccer - Playoffs
Los Angeles at Seattle, 9:20 PM - ESPN


International Soccer
Southampton vs. Manchester City, 8:25 AM - NBCSN
AC Milan vs. Udinese Calcio, 8:55 AM - beIN Sport
Tottenham vs. Everton, 10:55 AM - NBCSN
Juventus FC vs. Torino FC, 11:55 AM - beIN Sport
Valencia CF vs. FC Barcelona, 2:55 PM - beIN Sport

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