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Sports News - 10.31.14

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Glenville State vs. Shepherd University

The Glenville State Pioneer football team racked up 588 yards of total offense as they held on to a thrilling victory, 41-38, over the Notre Dame College Falcons at Morris Stadium.

Between the Pioneers offense and the Falcons offense there was 1,152 total yards of offense in the game.

GSC running back Rahmann Lee rushed for a game high 121 yards and two touchdowns while Tevin Drake rushed for 69 yards on 13 carriers.

Quarterback Sean Steele threw for 392 yards, a career high, as he went 20 for 26 with two touchdowns. Dante Absher was the Pioneers leading receiver as he caught seven passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Rahmann Lee also caught four passes for 100 yards on the day.

On defense the Pioneers were led by Spencer Steele as he had a team high 13 total tackles. Jeff Kidder finished the day with 13 total tackles and an interception while Gary Henderson chipped in with 11 tackles and an interception.

Notre Dame was led by quarterback Ray Russ as he threw for 438 yards as he went 49 for 67 with five touchdowns but had three costly interceptions. Russ’s favorite target was Mitchel Shegos as he had a career day as he caught 23 passes for 160 yards.

The Pioneers improve to 4-4 (4-4) on the season and in conference play. They return to action next Saturday, November 1st when they travel to Shepherd University with kickoff starting at 12pm.

This week the Pioneers travel to Shepherd to take on the Rams. Shepherd comes into the matchup after having a bye last week.

Last Years the Pioneers fell at home to Shepherd 45-19.

Rahmann Lee is ranked 8th in All Purpose Yards in the country and 10th in Rushing Yards.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 10 High School Games in the Area

Class A

Parkersburg Catholic (2-6)  at   Gilmer County (3-5)

Calhoun County - A (2-7)  at   Clay County (4-4)

Liberty (H) - AA (5-4)  at   #5 Doddridge County (7-1)

#9 Williamstown (6-2)  at   Ritchie County - AA (3-5)

Roane County - AA (3-5)  at   Wirt County (1-7)

#6 Ravenswood - AA (7-1)  at   #1 St. Marys (8-0)

#2 Clay-Battelle (8-0)  at   #6 Notre Dame (6-2)

Valley - Wetzel (5-3)  at   #14 Tyler Consolidated (5-3)

South Harrison (4-4)  at   Paden City (3-5)


Class AA

Braxton County (3-6)    BYE WEEK

Pocahontas County - A (4-5)  at   Webster County (2-6)

#1 Bridgeport (7-1)  at   #10 Fairmont Senior (6-2)

#11 Robert C. Byrd (6-2)  at   Elkins AAA (3-5)

Lincoln (2-7)    BYE WEEK

Pikeview (2-7)  at   #9 Nicholas County (7-1)

East Fairmont (2-6)  at   Philip Barbour (1-7)


Class AAA

#11 Lewis County (7-2)    BYE WEEK

#16 Buckhannon-Upshur (5-3)  at   #16 Preston (5-3)

Riverside (0-9)  at   Parkersburg (4-4)

#9 Wheeling Park (6-2)  at   #8 Parkersburg South (6-2)



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Paisley is the picker for GameDay

ESPN College GameDay announced Thursday afternoon West Virginia native and country music superstar Brad Paisley would be the ‘guest picker’ during GameDay’s show in Morgantown Saturday morning.

GameDay Host Chris Fowler tweeted, “Hello West Virginia! Good memories here thru the years. @CollegeGameDay honored to have native @BradPaisley join as guest picker!“

The official College GameDay Twitter account followed, “This week’s guest picker is @BradPaisley! #GetUp4GameDay”

Paisley, a Glen Dale native, grew up on Mountaineer football and remains a huge fan today. Paisley once walked on stage at the CMA awards with a guitar sporting a “Flying WV.“

GameDay’s guest picker comes on set the last few minutes of the show and makes predictions on the the top college football games of the day. WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins was guest picker during GameDay’s last visit in 2011.


►  West Virginia fans are not happy about Marshall QB Rakeem Cato coming to GameDay

ESPN’s College GameDay will be headed to Morgantown this weekend for the Mountaineers’ big game against TCU. A guest of honor, appropriately, is the best college football player in West Virginia, Rakeem Cato (yes, even including WVU WR Kevin White). But that’s kind of awkward, since he isn’t a Mountaineer.

West Virginia has this weird thing with Marshall where they’re too embarrassed to consider a Conference USA school their rival, but they also really don’t like the Thundering Herd. Mountaineers fans aren’t too pleased about seeing Cato get honored on their big day, and even Marshall fans are on edge to see what will happen.


►  Clint Trickett’s Long Journey to Success and a Life in Coaching

It took until his senior year of college, but West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett finally has a team to call his own.

Trickett’s journey back to West Virginia has been well documented. The son of Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett spent his early teenage years around the Mountaineers program when his father was an assistant under Rich Rodriguez from 2001-06.

But the former 3-star recruit signed with Florida State, not West Virginia, in 2010. A career backup, Trickett sat behind EJ Manuel and transferred in the spring of 2013 before Jameis Winston was inevitably named the starter.

However, it was the stress of playing under his father, not playing time, that caused Trickett to finish his career elsewhere. “The working environment was uncomfortable with my dad on staff,“ Trickett told Bruce Feldman, then of CBSSports.com, in January.

Now the main man for the Mountaineers, Trickett has led his team by his actions and his words.

At 6-2, the Mountaineers are ranked No. 20 in the first College Football Playoff standings and host No. 7 TCU on Saturday, with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance. More importantly, West Virginia controls its destiny in the Big 12 title hunt.

Trickett was willing to do anything for the teammates he’d just met. He didn’t know them well, having just transferred as a grad student from Florida State. So he took the “show-me” route instead—and took hit after hit and played the 2013 season with one good arm.

“If they saw me get hurt,“ Trickett said, “take a couple of shots a game and play at 50 percent, they’d say ‘He’s going to sacrifice his body for this team.‘“

“Sacrifice” is an interesting, albeit accurate, choice of words, as it felt like Trickett was, in essence, sacrificed to blitzing defenders regularly. At a listed weight of 185 pounds, that’s a lot of punishment.

In his interview with Feldman, Trickett acknowledged that he played through most of last season—a disappointing 4-8 campaign for the Mountaineers—with a torn labrum, which he sustained in his first start against Oklahoma State.

That same month, he sent out a picture from his Twitter account, which has since been deleted, showing the gruesome result post-surgery.

Nine months later, Trickett is 100 percent healthy and ranks sixth in the country with 2,763 passing yards. He’s played for his father and with a torn labrum. TCU he can handle. 


Building Relationships

Trickett returned to a place he knew with an opportunity to start as a grad student. For someone who grew up around the West Virginia program, though, Trickett felt like a stranger upon his return to Morgantown in 2013.

“I came here last year and people didn’t know me,“ Trickett said. “But I knew if, given the time, [my teammates and I] could build a relationship.“

The chemistry between Trickett and his teammates didn’t come right away. Chemistry was an issue in general for West Virginia a season ago. Between myriad injuries and a revolving door at quarterback with Trickett, Paul Millard and Ford Childress, the Mountaineers couldn’t consistently get things to work on offense. As a result, West Virginia averaged 26 points a game.

“That timing and that rapport did not exist at any time last year,“ head coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Trickett’s shoulder injury didn’t allow him to physically develop that timing with his receivers in the offseason. “I wasn’t able to competitively throw until right before camp started,“ Trickett said. So, he did everything else he possibly could.

He watched spring practices from the sidelines and a coach’s point of view. Though he couldn’t actually practice, Trickett made sure he stayed as mentally sharp as possible. Trickett essentially doubled up on his “film sessions” by watching film and then watching live-action practices. “You hear the term mental reps,“ Trickett explained, “well, there were a lot of mental reps.“

He also spent the offseason getting to know his teammates on a deeper level. Mike Casazza of The Charleston Daily Mail wrote in August of the car rides Trickett would give leading receiver Kevin White in the offseason. It was that time, traveling together, that the two really built their relationship:

“It was West Virginia’s quarterback who came up with clever way to spend more time with his big receiver, Kevin White. Trickett was the one who said he’d drive 20 or so minutes out of his way after a brief getaway in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Allentown, where he’d pick up White and take him back to campus. He knew they’d be in the car for about five hours and they could make the time count.
“I got to know Clint outside of football,” White said. “We talked about life stuff. It helped us bond and get to know each other better.”
They talked football, too, and went over the 2013 season, how they fared in their first year with the Mountaineers, what they wanted to change as seniors this fall. They got to know what they thought of one another, of strengths and weaknesses, of what one could do to make the other better.”

Through eight games, Trickett and White have connected 72 times for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns. Not bad for a quarterback-receiver combo that hadn’t truly practiced together in well over seven months.

While White is getting the Heisman consideration, Tricket has been a completely different player this year. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards in seven of West Virginia’s eight games, including a 511-yard performance in a 40-37 win over Maryland. (White had a season-high 216 yards against the Terps.) Trickett’s “worst” performance? A modest 238 passing yards and two touchdowns in a 34-10 win over Oklahoma State.


The Leader

Trickett has, barring injury, five more games in a West Virginia uniform. He’s been determined to make every one count. After a tough first season in Morgantown, Trickett has taken over as the team’s unquestioned leader.

It starts on the field. With the exception of four attempts by freshman William Crest in garbage time against Towson, Trickett has thrown every pass for the Mountaineers in 2014. He is, without a doubt, the go-to guy for the Mountaineers offense.

Holgorsen added that Trickett’s relationship with White tells just part of the story. The quarterback has a strong bond with second-leading receiver Mario Alford, who had a season-high 136 yards against Oklahoma State while White was held in check with just three catches for 27 yards.

Trickett also takes responsibility for the offensive line, which has been much-maligned over recent years. “At the Oklahoma State game, Clint huddled up those guys [before each drive] and talked to them for about 10 to 15 seconds to calm them down,“ Holgorsen said.

“That relationship exists with each and everybody on offense.“

It’s no surprise that a coach’s son is the vocal leader of the team. Put simply, the Trickett family is made to coach. Trickett’s brother, Travis Trickett, is the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Samford University.

Trickett wants to keep playing, whether in the NFL or Canadian Football League, for as long as he can. Football is what he knows. To him, it’s fun. He’s enjoying the moment because he knows it will eventually come to an end.

At that point, Trickett will follow the family path and get into coaching. “That’s been set up for me from when I was born,“ he said. “A 9-to-5 job? I can’t imagine doing that. February? That’s signing day for me.“

Four years ago, Trickett signed his National Letter of Intent with Florida State. In a couple of months, he’ll leave West Virginia as one of the better turnaround stories in college football.

The journey has been long for Trickett, at times both awkward and painful. It certainly hasn’t always gone according to script. It has, however, molded Trickett into the player he is today. And the coach he’ll be one day.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,“ he said.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Holliday not worried about rankings; looking forward to seeing Cato on ‘GameDay’

Doc Holliday continued a familiar refrain Thursday morning when he was asked about his reaction to Marshall not being included in the initial top 25 ranking by the College Football Playoff Committee.

“We just worry about what we control and that is becoming a better football team every day, going out and preparing to play each game and take them one at a time. At the end of the day we’ll look up and see where we are.”

That’s been Marshall’s attitude since the preseason when hype of an undefeated season began to build momentum with prognosticators forecasting Marshall’s first perfect season since 1999. With two-thirds of the season in the books, Marshall is right where it expected to be. It is a perfect 8-0, is dominating opponents by an average of 30 points per game and is ranked 23rd in both the AP and Amway Coaches’ Polls.

However, it is still on the outside looking in when it comes to the poll that determines if the Herd is playing in a major bowl game on New Years’ Eve or another bowl around Christmas.

“We understand that rankings right now don’t mean a whole heck of a lot,” said Holliday. “What the important thing is, that five or six weeks down the road we are where we want to be. That’s when they are important and they are relevant.”

Despite being left off the initial rankings, Marshall has found itself back in the college football discussion nationally. ESPNU aired a half-hour All Access on Marshall’s campus this past week and coaches and players have made multiple appearances on national radio and television shows throughout.

Marshall will again be in the national spotlight this weekend when quarterback Rakeem Cato makes a live appearance on ESPN “College GameDay,” which just happens to be originating from Morgantown this weekend.

Obviously, that did not sit well with man WVU fans who took to social media to express their displeasure. When Holliday was asked if Cato appearing on “GameDay” in Morgantown, he didn’t see any issue with it.

“Here you’ve got a great success story who just happens to play for a football team in West Virginia, who has overcome a lot of adversity, and they’ve invited him to come up there and tell his story,” said Holliday.

This will be the second time “GameDay” has featured Cato. He was the subject of a piece voiced by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi earlier this season documenting his upbringing in Miami and his journey to Huntington where he was become one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

Holliday doesn’t feel Cato being on the set of “GameDay” in Morgantown is in anyway an attempt to try to upstage WVU. In fact, he sees the success that Marshall and WVU are experiencing this season to be a positive for the entire state and an opportunity to showcase the best the West Virginia has to offer.

“I’m happy for the state of West Virginia. We’ve got hard working people that football is extremely important to them. What’s wrong with having two good football teams in the state? Their food tastes a little better, everybody is happy and there’s nothing wrong with that.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Ingram runs for 2 TDs, Saints beat Panthers

New Orleans followed up Sunday night’s drubbing of Green Bay with another impressive showing.

Except this one came on the road.

And it put the Saints on top of the so-so NFC South.

Mark Ingram ran for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns and New Orleans defeated the Carolina Panthers 28-10 on Thursday night.

The Saints broke a scoreless deadlock by scoring on three straight possessions in between the second and third quarters to build a 21-7 advantage and cruised the rest of the way en route to ending their seven-game, regular-season road losing streak.

Following a career-high 172 rush yards Sunday, Ingram topped the 100-yard mark again after tallying just one 100-yard rushing performance prior in his first 40 games.

Drew Brees was 24-of-34 for 297 yards with a touchdown and an interception and added a rushing score for the Saints (4-4), who have bounced back from a 1-3 start by winning three of their last four contests.

Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for 83 yards and a score, while Kenny Stills added five receptions for 72 yards in the triumph.

Junior Galette recorded two of New Orleans’ four sacks and its defense held Cam Newton to just 151 yards passing with an interception on just 10-of-28 efficiency.

Newton carried the ball seven times for 43 yards and a touchdown for Carolina (3-5-1), which accumulated just 231 total yards.

The Panthers are 1-5-1 since a 2-0 start.

The first of the Saints’ three straight scores came at the 2:38 mark of the second quarter.

Newton initially eluded some Saints pressure by moving to his right, but didn’t see a converging Galette from behind as he strip-sacked him at the Carolina 4.

New Orleans linebacker Curtis Lofton recovered the loose ball and Ingram followed the pulling left guard Ben Grubbs off the right side for a 3-yard TD run two snaps later.

The Saints defense then forced a three-and-out and briskly traveled 85 yards in 10 plays to put another touchdown on the board right before the half.

Brees hit Stills for a 17-yard completion on a 3rd-and-10 and Carolina cornerback Antoine Cason committed a pass interference on Robert Meachem in the end zone on a 3rd-and-17 from the Carolina 33.

Brees then flipped a back-shoulder throw to Graham isolated in coverage in the back right corner of the end zone with three ticks to go in the half.

Carolina picked up 70 yards of offense on its initial march of the third, nearly matching its first half total of 89.

DeAngelo Williams took a screen pass for 30 yards on the opening play and Newton finished off the sequence with a 10-yard TD run. On the highlight-reel score, Newton spun to his left to escape from cornerback Patrick Robinson’s blitz off the edge and ran away from Galette along the left sideline before diving inside the 5 and reaching the ball out inside the left pylon.

The Saints answered with an elongated 6:10, 14-play, 80-yard series.

Brees found Brandin Cooks for a 15-yard completion on an initial 3rd-and-9, hit Stills to pick up 12 on a 3rd-and-7 and snuck it in on fourth down to complete the drive late in the third.

Graham Gano nailed a 31-yard field goal early in the fourth to get Carolina within 21-10, but the Saints drained the ensuing 7:27 off the clock prior to Ingram darting through for the back-breaking 3-yard score with 5:30 left.

New Orleans turned the ball over on its first two touches, each while in Carolina territory.

Panthers defensive tackle Dwan Edwards hauled in a deflected pass while the Saints were driving inside the red zone on their first sequence, and Mario Addison recovered a Brees fumble following Charles Johnson’s strip-sack on their second.

Carolina, though, couldn’t capitalize despite driving into Saints territory on each of its first three series.

Saints cornerback Corey White picked off Newton to end the Panthers’ third drive after Brenton Bersin dropped a pass over the middle early in the second.

Game Notes

Ingram became the first Saints back to run for over 100 yards in consecutive games since Deuce McAllister from Dec. 3-10 of the 2006 season ... New Orleans began the season 0-4 away from home ... The Saints had 375 total yards ... New Orleans was 7-of-13 on third down, while the Panthers finished 6-of-14.


►  NFL Game Results - Week 9

Final Score: New Orleans 28, Carolina 10

New Orleans followed up Sunday night’s drubbing of Green Bay with another impressive showing. Except this one came on the road. And it put the Saints on top of the so-so NFC South. Mark Ingram ran for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns and New Orleans defeated the Carolina Panthers 28-10 on Thursday night. The Saints broke a scoreless deadlock by scoring on three straight possessions in between the second and third quarters to build a 21-7 advantage and cruised the rest of the way en route to ending their seven-game, regular-season road losing streak. Following a career-high 172 rush yards Sunday, Ingram topped the 100-yard mark again after tallying just one 100-yard rushing performance prior in his first 40 games. Drew Brees was 24-of-34 for 297 yards with a touchdown and an interception and added a rushing score for the Saints (4-4), who have bounced back from a 1-3 start by winning three of their last four contests. Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for 83 yards and a score, while Kenny Stills added five receptions for 72 yards in the triumph. Junior Galette recorded two of New Orleans’ four sacks and its defense held Cam Newton to just 151 yards passing with an interception on just 10-of-28 efficiency. Newton carried the ball seven times for 43 yards and a touchdown for Carolina (3-5-1), which accumulated just 231 total yards. The Panthers are 1-5-1 since a 2-0 start.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Knicks spoil LeBron’s return to Cleveland

LeBron James is home.

It doesn’t matter that he only shot 5-of-15 in his first home game in front of a raucous crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in four years, or that he turned the ball over eight times, or even that his Cavaliers lost.

What matters, is that he’s home.

Carmelo Anthony spoiled James’ homecoming, scoring 25 points to lead the New York Knicks past Cleveland on Thursday, 95-90.

James’ long anticipated return to Cleveland didn’t go quite according to plan, but there are 81 more regular season games to go for the new-look Cavs to sort things out. Kevin Love, acquired in a blockbuster deal from the Timberwolves, had 19 points and 14 rebounds in his first action in a Cleveland uniform, while returning star Kyrie Irving led the way with 22 points and seven assists.

The four-time MVP James famously left his hometown for the Miami Heat following the 2009-10 season. He led Miami to four straight championship appearances, winning two, before signing with Cleveland this offseason.

“It was a huge night,“ said James. “It was exciting for the fans, exciting for the city. Now we can just play regular basketball.“

James finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists in the setback. The Cavs are 2-6 in season openers with him in the lineup.

“My turnovers, some of them were careless and some of them were chemistry. I’m throwing passes where I was hoping some of my teammates would be.“

After leading 67-64 through three quarters, the Knicks used a 10-1 run midway through the fourth to create a nine-point cushion. Anthony capped the surge with a 3-pointer, and the lead was 80-71.

With 2:20 to play, Love hit a 3-ball from the left wing to pull the Cavs within five. Cleveland then forced a 24-second violation and Irving hit a circus layup.

Love could have tied it with another 3 from the left wing on the next possession, but hit the front rim. At the other end, J.R. Smith got a floater to fall to give the Knicks some breathing room with 48 seconds to play.

Anthony followed a James layup with a difficult baseline jumper with 25.9 left, and Irving’s 3-ball at the other end spun around the rim and fell out. Jason Smith secured the rebound, and the game for the Knicks.

“They showed a high level of trust and confidence in each other,“ said new Knicks head coach Derek Fisher. “They showed a lot of patience and composure, and those are the types of things we need as we move through this season.“

Earlier, Love carved out space underneath for an open layup on Cleveland’s first possession of the game, entering the scoring column just 13 seconds in. Anthony then scored six straight points at the other end around a pair of James missed jumpers.

James’ first field goal of his return came at 6:30 of the first on a trademark outlet pass from Love. James absorbed a foul from Anthony in transition and muscled in a layup but missed the ensuing free throw out of a timeout.

His layup was part of a 14-2 Cavs run that Shane Larkin finally ended with a pull-up jumper seven minutes in.

Cleveland assisted on nine of its 10 field goals in the first quarter and led 25-18 after one.

The lead reached 11, but New York clawed to within three midway through the second after Quincy Acy’s layup and tied it late in the period on J.R. Smith’s 3-pointer. It was 42-42 with time winding down in the half when Irving threw an alley-oop to Tristan Thompson just before the buzzer sounded.

James finished the opening half 1-for-9 from the floor with four turnovers, but Cleveland led 44-42.

The Knicks were the hot team out of the break, opening the third quarter on a 9-2 run to go in front, 51-46. They never trailed after that.

Game Notes

This was the first game of James’ career that he had at least eight turnovers, fewer than 20 points and fewer than five assists ... James and Irving both logged more than 43 minutes of playing time ... New York’s bench outscored Cleveland’s, 41-12 ... Jason Smith and Iman Shumpert both scored 12 for the Knicks ... Prior to the game, the Knicks announced that point guard Jose Calderon would miss 2-to-3 weeks with a strained right calf.


►  Mavs top Jazz in home opener

Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons dropped 21 points apiece and the Dallas Mavericks toppled the Utah Jazz on Thursday, 120-102, in their home opener.

Two nights after losing a tight game to the defending-champion Spurs, Dallas’ stars made sure it wouldn’t fall to 0-2. Nowitzki and Parsons shot a combined 17-of-29 from the floor.

“We were moving the ball,“ Parsons said. “Our spacing was unbelievable.“

Al-Farouq Aminu contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, Monta Ellis netted 14 points with six assists and Tyson Chandler scored 13.

The Mavs led by as many as 30 points and never trailed.

Derrick Favors went for 17 points and 11 rebounds for Utah, which hasn’t won in two games this season. Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke both scored 16 points in defeat.

“We have to focus on the defensive end,“ said Favors. “We did a good job with it in the preseason, and I think that got to our heads a little bit. We thought we were a good defensive team, and now reality set in.“

Dallas made its first eight shots from the floor, asserting its dominance from the opening tip. Nowitzki, Ellis and Chandler each hit a pair of field goals in the early going to stake the hosts a 20-11 lead. The Mavericks shot 64 percent (16-of-25) in the opening period and led 36-20.

Devin Harris came off the bench and scored eight of his 12 points in the second as the red-hot Mavs extended their lead to 69-44 at halftime.

Utah made things interesting late in the third, twice pulling to within 14 points, but Aminu and Brandan Wright both made two free throws and J.J. Barea nailed a jumper to make it 88-68. The lead was 20 after three.

Barea signed with Dallas earlier this week after he was waived by Minnesota. The speedy, undersized combo guard was a key cog during the Mavericks’ title run three years ago before signing with the T’Wolves the following offseason.

Game Notes

The Mavs have won 21 of 23 against the Jazz at home, and six straight meetings overall ... Seven Mavericks scored in double figures ... Dallas only turned the ball over nine times ... Utah was outscored 52-28 in the paint.


►  Pekovic, Wolves top Pistons

Nik Pekovic had 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Detroit Pistons 97-91 on Thursday night.

Thaddeus Young posted 19 points, Ricky Rubio supplied 11 points and eight assists and Mo Williams added 13 points and four assists for Minnesota, which fell at Memphis in its opener Wednesday night.

“Good win overall, I thought that we played pretty good defense for most of the game. Played hard, played aggressive,“ Wolves head coach Flip Saunders said.

Caron Butler tallied 24 points and eight rebounds off the bench to lead the Pistons, who lost at Denver to open their season Wednesday.

D.J. Augustin provided 20 points and six assists, while Andre Drummond put up 11 points and 12 boards in defeat.

After Butler’s triple tied the game at 88-88 with 1:43 left in the fourth, Minnesota outscored Detroit 9-3 the rest of the way.

Young knocked down a three at the other end and following Drummond’s missed hook shot, Williams banked in a runner to give the Wolves a 93-88 advantage with 52.4 seconds to play.

Drummond split a pair of foul shots for Detroit before Minnesota sunk 4-of-6 foul shots to seal the outcome.

Earlier, the game was tied 21-21 after a quarter of play and Young’s late jumper in the first half gave the Wolves a 45-44 edge heading into the locker room.

A 15-2 Minnesota third-quarter run helped it build a 70-51 spread at the 4:56 mark and took a 75-65 margin into the fourth.

“We just absolutely melted down,“ Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said.

Butler netted the first six points during a 12-0 Detroit spurt, which Drummond capped with a layup to pull the Pistons within 80-79 just before the midway point of the fourth.

Game Notes

Top overall NBA draft choice Andrew Wiggins had eight points on 4-of-9 shooting for the Timberwolves… Minnesota shot 48.7 percent (37-of-76) from the floor, while Detroit finished at 41.8 percent (38-of-91).


►  Wall, Wizards down Magic

John Wall had 30 points and 12 assists as the Washington Wizards defeated the Orlando Magic 105-98 on Thursday night.

Marcin Gortat posted 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Paul Pierce supplied 16 points for the Wizards, who bounced back from a season-opening loss at Miami Wednesday.

“We created more offense from our defense than our eight preseason games and the one last night,“ Wizards head coach Randy Whittman said.

Nene added 12 points, five assists and three steals in his season debut after serving a one-game suspension after leaving the bench during a scuffle with Chicago in the preseason.

Nik Vucevic provided 23 points and 12 rebounds, Ben Gordon netted 22 points off the bench and Evan Fournier put in 21 for Orlando, which fell to New Orleans on Tuesday.

“I loved the urgency they played with once they got down,“ Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn said.

After Wall sunk two free throws to stake Washington to a 94-83 advantage midway through the fourth, Fournier knocked down a 3-pointer to pull the Magic within 96-93 with 3:27 left.

Pierce sandwiched a pair of jumpers around two Fournier free throws for a 100-95 Wizards lead with 1:53 remaining.

Tobias Harris turned the ball over and Vucevic missed a jumper on consecutive possessions before Gordon hit all three of his free throws after being fouled from beyond the arc to whittle the gap to 100-98 with 44.1 ticks on the clock.

Wall responded with a driving layup at the other end and scored the final five points in all to seal the outcome.

Earlier, Washington led 28-23 after a quarter of play and Wall nailed a triple at the first-half buzzer for a 54-51 edge heading into the locker room.

Wall scored six points and Pierce netted the final five during a 15-4 Washington surge in the third, giving the Wizards a healthy 72-57 spread midway through the frame.

The Wizards built that margin to as high as 17 before settling for an 82-66 cushion heading into the final frame.

Game Notes

Washington was 7-of-13 (53.8 percent) from beyond the arc and scored 17 points off 18 Orlando turnovers ... Orlando shot 51.4 percent (37-of-72) from the floor.


►  Westbrook leaves with hand injury

The most injury-ridden team in the NBA might have lost another one of its key pieces on Thursday.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook left the game against the Los Angeles Clippers with a right hand injury and is out for the remainder of the game.

Westbrook appeared to get his hand caught on teammate Kendrick Perkins’ torso while battling for offensive rebounding position midway through the second quarter. He remained in the game for a possession before removing himself and heading to the locker room.

The Thunder are already without reigning MVP Kevin Durant, who had foot surgery during the preseason, along with guards Reggie Jackson, Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb and big man Mitch McGary.


►  NBA Game Results

Final Score: Washington 105, Orlando 98

John Wall had 30 points and 12 assists as the Washington Wizards defeated the Orlando Magic 105-98 on Thursday night. Marcin Gortat posted 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Paul Pierce supplied 16 points for the Wizards, who bounced back from a season-opening loss at Miami Wednesday. Nene added 12 points, five assists and three steals in his season debut after serving a one-game suspension after leaving the bench during a scuffle with Chicago in the preseason. Nikola Vucevic provided 23 points and 12 rebounds, Ben Gordon netted 22 points off the bench and Evan Fournier put in 21 for Orlando, which fell to New Orleans on Tuesday.


Final Score: Minnesota 97, Detroit 91

Nik Pekovic had 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Detroit Pistons 97-91 on Thursday night. Thaddeus Young posted 19 points, Ricky Rubio supplied 11 points and eight assists and Mo Williams added 13 points and four assists for Minnesota, which fell at Memphis in its opener Wednesday night. Caron Butler tallied 24 points and eight rebounds off the bench to lead the Pistons, who lost at Denver to open their season Wednesday. D.J. Augustin provided 20 points and six assists, while Andre Drummond put up 11 points and 12 boards in defeat.


Final Score: Dallas 120, Utah 102

Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons dropped 21 points apiece and the Dallas Mavericks toppled the Utah Jazz on Thursday, 120-102, in their home opener. Two nights after losing a tight game to the defending-champion Spurs, Dallas’ stars made sure it wouldn’t fall to 0-2. Nowitzki and Parsons shot a combined 17-of-29 from the floor. Al-Farouq Aminu contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, Monta Ellis netted 14 points with six assists and Tyson Chandler scored 13. The Mavs led by as many as 30 points and never trailed. Derrick Favors went for 17 points and 11 rebounds for Utah, which hasn’t won in two games this season. Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke both scored 16 points in defeat.


Final Score: New York 95, Cleveland 90

LeBron James is home. It doesn’t matter that he shot only shot 5-of-15 in his first home game in front of a raucous crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in four years, or that he turned the ball over eight times, or even that his Cavaliers lost. What matters, is that he’s home. Carmelo Anthony spoiled James’ homecoming, scoring 25 points to lead the New York Knicks past Cleveland on Thursday, 95-90. James’ long anticipated return to Cleveland didn’t go quite according to plan, but there are 81 more regular season games to go for the new-look Cavs to sort things out. Kevin Love, acquired in a blockbuster deal from the Timberwolves, had 19 points and 14 rebounds in his first action in a Cleveland uniform, while returning star Kyrie Irving led the way with 22 points and seven assists. The four-time MVP James famously left his hometown for the Miami Heat following the 2009-10 season. He led Miami to four straight championship appearances, winning two, before signing with Cleveland this offseason. James finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists in the setback.

The Gilmer Free Press


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2014


National Basketball Association
Memphis at Indiana, 7:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Indiana, DSS
Cleveland at Chicago, 8:00 PM - FS-Ohio, CSN-Chicago, ESPN
Philadelphia at Milwaukee, 8:30 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Wisconsin, DSS
San Antonio at Phoenix, 10:00 PM - KENS, FS-Arizona, DSS
Portland at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, California, DSS
LA Clippers at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, Time Warner, ESPN


National Hockey League
Toronto at Columbus, 7:00 PM - SNET-Ontario, FS-Ohio, DSS
Los Angeles at Detroit, 7:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, Detroit, DSS
Anaheim at Dallas, 8:30 PM - FS-West, Southwest, DSS
Nashville at Calgary, 9:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, SNET-West, DSS


Canadian Football League
Hamilton at Ottawa, 7:30 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com


College Football
Cincinnati at Tulane, 8:00 PM - ESPN 2
Tulsa at Memphis, 8:00 PM - ESPN U


College Hockey
Boston U at Providence, 7:00 PM - OSN
Massachusetts Lowell at New Hampshire, 7:00 PM - FCS
Vermont at Notre Dame, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
Minnesota at St. Cloud State, 8:30 PM - FSN-North, FCS
Boston College at Denver, 9:30 PM - ROOT-RM


Major League Soccer - Playoffs
No games scheduled


International Soccer
AS Monaco FC vs. Stade Reims, 3:25 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
CHAMPIONS - Charles Schwab Cup Championship, 4:30 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - CIMB Classic, 11:00 PM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
NATIONWIDE - O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge practice, 12:00 PM - FS1
SPRINT CUP - AAA Texas 500 practice, 1:00 PM - FS1
CAMPING WORLD - WinStar World Casino 350 qualifying, 3:00 PM - FS1
FORMULA ONE - U.S. Grand Prix practice, 3:00 PM - NBCSN
NATIONWIDE - O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge practice, 4:30 PM - ESPN 2
SPRINT CUP - AAA Texas 500 qualifying, 6:30 PM - ESPN 2
CAMPING WORLD - WinStar World Casino 350, 8:30 PM - FS1


Horse Racing
Breeders’ Cup World Championships, 5:00 PM - NBCSN

Sports News - 10.30.14

The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Football Preview – Week 9

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2014

West Liberty (5-3, 5-2) at Charleston (5-3, 4-3), 7:00 PM

Last Year: Charleston won 26-9

Notes: UC led only 7-6 at the half in last year’s game ... the Golden Eagles had just 98 yards passing but rushed for 229 ... the Hilltoppers are ranked 10th in the first edition of the NCAA Super Region 1 rankings ... WLU is looking for its first four-game winning streak since 2009 ... UC has lost three of its last four, including a narrow 24-20 decision to #19 Concord last week.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 01, 2014

West Virginia State (2-6, 1-6) at Notre Dame (5-3, 5-2), Noon

Audio | Live Stats

Last Year: Note Dame won 42-16

Notes: NDC rushed for 269 yards in last year’s win ... Ray Russ only threw 19 passes for 139 yards ... the Falcons bring in one of the most potent passing offense this year averaging 359.1 yards per game through the air ... the Yellow Jackets are fourth in the league in total defense.


Glenville State at #20/22 Shepherd, Noon

Video | Live Stats

Last Year: Shepherd won 45-19

Notes: The Rams scored a defensive TD and on a kickoff return in last year’s win ... GSC’s Rahmann Lee rushed for 148 yards in the game ... the Rams possessed the ball for 38 minutes ... Shepherd’s defense is ranked first against the run this year allowing 40.3 yards per game ... the Pioneers are third in the MEC in total offense (470.5).


Fairmont State (3-4, 3-4) at West Virginia Wesleyan (3-5, 3-5), 1:00 PM

Last Year: West Virginia Wesleyan won 40-37 in overtime

Notes: Michael Anderson rushed for 224 yards as the Bobcats edged the Falcons in last year’s game ... FSU actually out-gained WVWC on the ground, though, 267-237 ... since an 0-2 start, FSU has won three of its last five ... WVWC QB Jeremy Musselman returned to the lineup and threw for 300 yards last week in a loss at West Liberty.


#15/16 Concord (8-0, 7-0) at UVa-Wise (1-7, 1-6)

Live Stats

Last Year: Concord won 44-6

Notes: The Mountain Lions had three interceptions and nearly doubled UVa-Wise in total offense in last year’s matchup ...CU is ranked second in the initial NCAA Super Region 1 rankings ... two of CU’s wins have come by four points or less ... UVa-Wise is coming off its first win of the season ... the Cavs had their first defensive touchdown of the season last week.


Malone (1-7) at Urbana (1-7, 1-7), 1:00 PM

Video | Live Stats

Last Year: Did not meet

Notes: The two teams met for 16-straight seasons when both were members of NAIA ... they have not played since 2008 ... Malone won that game 22-6 ... UU has out-gained its opponent in five of eight games ... the Blue Knights were penalized for 215 yards in last week’s game against FSU ... Malone is coming off a 55-34 loss to Lake Erie ... the Pioneers are allowing 40.6 points per game on the year.

Team News & Notes CHARLESTON   The Golden Eagles held the nation’s highest-scoring offense to its lowest output last week limiting Concord to 24 points ... UC is second in scoring defense in the league ... two of UC’s three losses this year have been by four points ... Jermaine Kelly rushed for 125 and threw for 121 in last week’s game ... Torie Wagner is the only player in the MEC to have two punt returns for a touchdown this season ... RB Marvin Elam has not found the end zone in the last four games ... Justin Avery is sixth in the league in total tackles with 8.5 per game.

CONCORD   The Mountain Lions are ranked 15th by d2football.com and 16th by the AFCA ... it’s the fourth-straight week they’ve been ranked in both polls ... CU is also ranked second in the initial NCAA Super Region 1 rankings ... RB Calvinaugh Jones has eight 100-yard games this season, one more than Rahmann Lee (GSC) and Pedro Powell (NDC) last year ... Jones surpassed the 1,000 yard mark for the season ... QB Brian Novak is second in the country in passing efficiency with a rating of 177.2 ... Concord is the only team in the league to average over 500 yards of total offense (518.9) ... the team does not have an individual ranked in the MEC’s top 25 in total tackles.

FAIRMONT STATE   The Fighting Falcons were idle last week ... FSU overcame a 21-point deficit in its win last week ... QB Cooper Hibbs is vying to become just the eighth quarterback in school history to throw for 2,000 yards in a season ... he currently has 1,769 passing yards ... DB Emanuel Ivey recorded a game-high five pass breakups last week, including two on the final drive ... Ivey is also the team’s top tackler averaging 7.4 per game.

GLENVILLE STATE   After an 0-3 start, the Pioneers have won four of their last five ... RB Rahmann Lee has gone over 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first three seasons ... he is 188 yards shy of 4,000 for his career ... QB Sean Steele turned in one of his top performances last week completing 20-of-26 for 392 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions ... Steele has more than three times as many touchdowns (18) as interceptions ... the Pioneers are +2 in turnover margin on the year.

NOTRE DAME   Notre Dame was handed its first road loss of the season last week at Glenville ... in the last three games, QB Ray Russ has thrown for 1,445 yards and 14 touchdowns ... he’s the first MEC quarterback to have three consecutive passing games of 400 yards or more ... he ranks in the top five in most NCAA passing categories ... WR Mitchel Shegos established a new conference record with 23 catches last week vs. Glenville State ... NDC is 0-3 in games it commits more turnovers than its opponent.

SHEPHERD   The Rams are ranked 20th in the AFCA poll and 22nd in the D2Football.com poll ... SU is also ranked seventh in the initial NCAA Super Region 1 rankings ... the Rams were idle last week.

URBANA   The Blue Knights scored 28 points in the first half of last week’s game, but managed just three in the second ... Cale Burdyshaw had a season-high 338 yards last week ... his previous best was 143 yards in week one ... it was the first 300-yard game by a UU quarterback this season ... D’Gary Wallace leads the league in total tackles with 9.9 ... he filled the box score last week with six solo tackles, three of which went for a loss, and a forced fumble.

UVa-WISE   The Cavs snapped an eight-game losing streak that dated back to last season with the win last week ... the vicory was also the first for UVa-Wise on the road in the MEC ... Nehemiah Jones interception return for a touchdown provided the only score for the Cavs in the second half ... UVa-Wise held WVSU to just 210 yards of total offense ... LB Zack Blair continues to lead the league in tackles for a loss with 20.5 (2.56 per game) ... that average would lead the NCAA, but UVa-Wise is not eligible to be ranked in the statistics.

WEST LIBERTY   The Hilltoppers are on a three-game winning streak ... West Liberty is ranked 10th in the initial NCAA Super Region 1 rankings ... WLU is +7 in turnover margin in the last three games ... the ‘Toppers forced two turnovers in the red zone last week against WVWC ...  WLU held the Bobcats to -4 yards rushing.

WEST VIRGINIA STATE   The Yellow Jackets are fourth in the league in total defense ... WVSU has moved the ball as well, but has struggled in the red zone converting just 16 of its 28 chances into scores (57.1 percent) ... QB Matt Kinnick has thrown four interceptions and no touchdowns in the last two games ... WVSU is out-scoring opponents 39-30 in the fourth quarter of games this year.

WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN   QB Jeremy Musselman was back in the WVWC lineup last week after missing the previous two weeks ... the Bobcats have not had more than 100 yards rushing in any of the last three games ... six different players have interceptions this season, led by Denzel Butler’s three ... Desmond Holley has a team-best 9.0 tackles for a loss.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Holgorsen welcomes ‘national attention’ for TCU

At the top of Dana Holgorsen’s wish list this week? For West Virginia’s offensive line to pass protect better than it did in Stillwater, for Clint Trickett to unchain himself from analysis paralysis, and for Terrell Chestnut to clear concussion protocols.

Those were the talking points Tuesday during Holgorsen’s weekly news conference, a preview of No. 20 West Virginia welcoming No. 10 TCU for a showdown of teams on an eerily similar three-year arc since joining the Big 12.

Both teams went 7-6 in 2012 with the Frogs winning an overtime game 39-38 in Morgantown. Both squads slumped to 4-8 in 2013 with the Mountaineers claiming an overtime win 30-27 in Fort Worth. Both squads already own six victories this season to rank among the Big 12′s biggest surprises.

West Virginia is 10-13 all-time in its new conference, while TCU is 9-13—records on the rise as they chase a conference championship.

“There’s going to be a lot of national attention on this game,” said Holgorsen, who learned earlier in the day that Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game was a sellout. “We’re pretty fired up to host TCU.”

Signs point to a return by Chestnut, a seven-game starter at cornerback before missing last week’s win at Oklahoma State.

“He hasn’t been cleared yet, but we’ll see how he responds,” Holgorsen said. “I would be incredibly disappointed if he wasn’t able to go. When you’re dealing with that type of an injury, that’s out of my hands. That’s completely 100 percent in the doctors’ hands.”

While medics check Chestnut’s head, Holgorsen wants Trickett to clear his.

The quarterback is so intuitive regarding multiple facets of the game—from gauging teammates’ attitudes, to reading defensive cues, to dissecting risk/reward scenarios—that Holgorsen warned him not to be overly meticulous:

“He’s very aware of his surroundings. He knows what the mood is with the guys, He knows when to pick them up, he knows when to challenge them and he know when to slow things down.

“He’s obviously going to be a great coach, but at times you’ve got to just cut loose and play the game. Don’t try to be perfect, don’t try to control the game. He needs to make sure he understand that he’s a player, and don’t forget to play, so to speak.”

Watch Holgorsen’s complete news conference at the top of the page, including another light-popping moment, like the one preceding the Towson game.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Big 12 showdown pits Horned Frogs against Mountaineers

Ranked foes in the Big 12 Conference mix it up on Saturday afternoon, as No. 20 West Virginia entertains No. 10 TCU.

TCU is the nation’s highest scoring team (50.4 ppg), and the Horned Frogs are hoping to secure their seventh win of the season this week. A wild 61-58 loss to another high-octane conference club in Baylor is the team’s only blemish on an otherwise perfect resume’. Since that loss, TCU has won two straight, the most recent of which being an eye-popping 82-27 triumph over visiting Texas Tech last Saturday. That came on the heels of a 42-9 shellacking of Oklahoma State the week prior. Save for this week and next versus league-leading Kansas State, the remaining schedule (Kansas, Texas, Iowa State) is favorable for coach Gary Patterson’s squad.

West Virginia has surprised many this season by winning six of its first eight games, including four of its five conference encounters. Coach Dana Holgorsen’s club has won four in a row since dropping a 45-33 decision to Oklahoma on Sept. 20, and it is coming off a 34-10 triumph at Oklahoma State last weekend. Prior to that, the Mountaineers took down high-powered Baylor at home, 41-27. In addition to hosting TCU this week, a visit to Texas, a home game versus Kansas State, and a trip to Iowa State to close out the regular season remain.

West Virginia has won two of the three meetings in the series with TCU, with both tussles since the pair joined the Big 12 going to overtime. WVU won in Fort Worth last season, 30-27.

TCU’s high-octane offense is directed by Trevone Boykin, and the junior signal caller has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for more than 2,300 yards, 21 TDs and only three INTs. Josh Doctson leads the receiving corps with 35 catches for 573 yards and seven TDs, while Deante’ Gray has 27 grabs for 431 and six scores. Kolby Listenbee averages better than 22 yards per reception in totaling 494 receiving yards and three TDs. As for the Frogs’ rushing attack, B.J. Catalon has rumbled his way to 388 yards and eight TDs, while Boykin has scrambled out of the pocket for 374 yards and three scores, and Aaron Green has 315 yards and three TDs.

Defensively, the Horned Frogs rank among the Big 12 leaders in average points allowed (21.6), as well as rushing yards (132.3). They have been a bit more lax against the pass (239.6 ypg), but that is due in large part to the fact that most foes have had to battle from behind. TCU leads the league in turnover margin (+12), coming up with 21 takeaways which is far and away the most of any team in the Big 12. The Frogs have also been unforgiving on third down, giving way on a conference-best 27.4 percent of conversion attempts. Paul Dawson paces the unit with 79 tackles, which includes 11 TFL and three sacks. He has also picked off a pair of passes and recovered three fumbles.

In last week’s rout of the Red Raiders, TCU churned out 305 yards on the ground, another 480 through the air in totaling a school-record 785 yards of total offense. Boykin, who hit 13 different receivers on the day, threw a program-record seven TD passes, and his 433 yards were not only a career-high, but also the third-best effort in school history. Other standout performances were turned in by Gray (four rec., 165 yards, two TDs), Doctson (four rec., 76 yards, two TDs), Trevorris Johnson (10 carries, 105 yards, two TDs) and Aaron Green (six carries, 105 yards, TD).

From a defensive standpoint, the Frogs gave up two long TD passes in the opening quarter but not much else as they shut down the Red Raiders’ rushing attack (101 yards). Sure they permitted 345 passing yards, but with the offense scoring at a record pace that was to be expected. Dawson led the way with 11 tackles, seven of which were unassisted, and the unit as a whole was credited with six TFL and four turnovers.

While generally pleased, Patterson tried to downplay last week’s lopsided outcome.

“I’m way happy for them, but I told them before the ball game they weren’t ready after watching them warm-up. Fortunately for us, we didn’t play well and we won a ballgame. That hadn’t happened around here over the last two years. We were sloppy, had a guy kicked out of the game, didn’t play very good pass coverage in the first half. We have to get ready to play.“

West Virginia scored a couple of quick touchdowns last week, effectively taking the Oklahoma State Cowboys out of the game shortly after it started. Clint Trickett saw his streak of eight straight 300-yard passing games come to an end, but he was effective in completing 21-of-30 passes for 238 yards and a pair of TDs, hitting Mario Alford seven times for 136 yards and a score. Star wideout Kevin White was held to 27 yards on three catches, ending his streak of seven straight games with at least 100 yards. Wendell Smallwood carried the ball 23 times and amassed 132 yards, while Dreamius Smith finished with 72 yards and a score on only five totes.

Oklahoma State put forth a balanced attack in tallying 194 yards on the ground and 242 through the air, but the Pokes were just 2-of-14 on third down, 1-of-5 on fourth down, and committed two turnovers. The WVU defense even got in on the scoring as Dravon Henry returned an interception, one of his two in the game, 52 yards for a TD late in the fourth quarter. Karl Joseph paced the unit with eight tackles, and the team as a whole was credited with seven TFL and a pair of sacks.

Holgorsen praised his defense for the effort last week against the Cowboys.

“We won the turnover battle, which was good. Our defense played well, third downs, once again was off the charts good.“

Trickett leads the Big 12 in completion percentage (.683), and his 345.4 ypg also tops the conference. His TD-to-INT ratio (17-5) is exemplary, and while White had an off day last week, he is still No. 1 in the conference with 9.0 receptions per contest, 1,047 receiving yards, and eight TD catches. Presently, there are four backs who have gained at least 160 yards this season, with Rushell Shell leading the way with his 503 yards and six TDs. Smallwood and Smith both average in the neighborhood of five yards per carry, with the former scoring once and the latter three times.

The West Virginia defense is led by Nick Kwiatkoski (62 tackles, 9.0 TFL), while Shaq Riddick (6.0 sacks) is the guy Holgorsen expects to get after the quarterback. Forcing turnovers has been an issue for the Mountaineers this season, as they have only six (all INTs), and their 14 sacks ranks them seventh in the league. Speaking of turnovers, WVU is next-to-last in the conference at -9. Overall, the unit is allowing 25 points and 389 yards per tilt.


►  Wildcats tangle with Bruins is Pac-12 tussle

After yet another close call, the 25th- ranked UCLA Bruins will attempt to pull off an upset of the 14th-ranked Arizona Wildcats when the two teams meet in Pac-12 Conference action at the Rose Bowl.

Since its stunning 31-24 victory over Oregon on Oct. 2, Arizona has been a fixture in the AP Top-25. The Wildcats currently sit at No. 14 following a 59-37 shootout win at Washington State last weekend. That victory allowed the Wildcats to bounce back from a 28-26 disappointment against USC, their first and only loss of the season.

UCLA lost back-to-back games to begin October, but it has recovered since with consecutive victories, although the Bruins have just barely scraped by in those contests, topping California (36-34) and Colorado (40-37 in double- overtime). They are now 6-2 overall and 3-2 against the rest of the conference.

Last season, UCLA held on for a 31-26 victory over Arizona, earning its second straight victory in the series. As a result, the Bruins lead by a 21-15-2 margin, which includes a 9-4-1 mark in Pasadena.

Powering Arizona’s impressive season has been its strong play on offense. The Wildcats lead the Pac-12 in total offense (541.9 ypg), topping even mighty Oregon in the first seven games. They also rank third in scoring (40.6 ppg).

At the forefront of the attack is a redshirt freshman. Anu Solomon has rewarded head coach Rich Rodriguez’s confidence this season, as he has thrown for 2,430 yards and 20 touchdowns, while completing 63.3 percent of his pass attempts and tallying all of four interceptions. By averaging 347.1 yards per game, he is ranked third in the Pac-12. He carved up Washington State last weekend, finishing with 294 yards and five scores on 26-of-38 passing.

“He made some really good decisions, saw the field well and made some really good throws,“ Rodriguez said of Solomon’s performance. “His demeanor and ability to understand the moment have been really good, and I think that is why he has had so much success.“

It is clear that Cayleb Jones is Solomon’s favorite target. Jones leads the Wildcats in receptions (46), receiving yards (670) and touchdown receptions (seven). Jones finished with 78 yards and a score on seven grabs, and Hill added 63 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Austin Hill (29 receptions, 408 yards, four TDs) and Nate Phillips (23 receptions, 251 yards, two TDs) provide depth in the receiving corps.

Nick Wilson (592 yards, seven TDs) and Terris Jones-Grigsby (406 yards, three TDs) have each been important parts in the running game. Jones-Grigsby got most of the work against Washington State, finishing with 107 yards on 13 carries.

Scooby Wright leads the way for the Arizona defense. The linebacker is second in the Pac-12 in tackles (78) and tackles for loss (14.0), while ranking third in sacks (9.0). However, despite his efforts, Arizona still leaves something to be desired on defense, allowing 28.3 points and 447.9 yards per game.

Although it took two overtimes for UCLA to dispatch Colorado, the Bruins showed a ton of power on offense, finishing with 509 total yards, including 309 on the ground. Their potency on offense is well documented, with the team averaging 35.8 points and 494.5 yards per game.

Paul Perkins really did a number on the Colorado defense, finishing with 180 yards and two touchdowns on only 19 carries. Perkins is the second-leading rusher in the Pac-12 (996 yards), and one of only three players in the conference to be averaging more than 100 yards per game. However, he only has five rushing scores.

Brett Hundley is still the focal point of the offense, at least when it comes to media attention. Hundley has been solid this season, although he has not lived up to the immense hype. He has completed 70.8 percent of his passes for 2,056 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also added 415 yards and five scores on the ground. He showed off his versatility against Colorado, accounting for 200 yards passing and 110 rushing. Coach Jim Mora liked Hundley’s play on the ground, but was a bit discouraged by his passing performance.

“He was a little off. The ball was sailing on him a little bit,“ Mora said. “(He) ran the ball well. He ran for over 100 yards but the throws, he wasn’t as crisp as he’s been.“

Jordan Payton (47 receptions, 664 yards, six TDs) is the team’s top receiving threat, and by a wide margin. Devin Fuller (38 receptions, 297 yards, TD) is second on the team in receptions, while Thomas Duarte (18 receptions, 329 yards, two TDs) and Eldridge Massington (19 receptions, 311 yards, two TDs) are the closest to Payton in terms of yardage.

Obviously, the issue against Colorado was not the offense, but rather a poor defensive effort. The Bruins allowed 500 total yards to the Buffaloes, who are still winless in Pac-12 play. On the season, UCLA is allowing 30.2 points and 434.9 yards per game.


►  Iowa State entertains No. 19 Oklahoma

Having had a couple of weeks to regroup following their second loss of the season, the 19th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners return to action this Saturday as they visit the Iowa State Cyclones in Big 12 Conference action.

Oklahoma dropped a heartbreaking 31-30 decision at home to Kansas State on Oct. 18, saddling the squad with its second conference loss—the other being a 37-33 setback at TCU two weeks earlier. The Sooners need to win out and get a ton of help to get back in the Big 12 title race, as they will face Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State following this clash.

Iowa State also enjoyed a bye last weekend, that coming after the team dropped a nailbiter of its own in a 48-45 final at Texas. The loss was the Cyclones’ fifth of the season, and their only two wins came at intrastate rival Iowa (20-17) on Sept. 13, and at home versus Toledo (37-30) on Oct. 11. Oklahoma is the fourth ranked team coach Paul Rhodes’ squad will have faced this season, and a win here would mark its first over the Sooners since 1990, and its first at home against Oklahoma since 1960.

Oklahoma owns a commanding 71-5-2 record all-time versus Iowa State, which includes victories in the last 15 meetings. The Sooners have won 21 straight in Ames.

Oklahoma is a solid team in all phases of the game, ranking third in the conference in both scoring offense (39.0 ppg) and scoring defense (22.9 ppg). Samaje Perine has been a force with the ball is his hands, as he sits second in the Big 12 in rushing (657 yards, 10 TDs), helping the Sooners average 192 ypg on the ground. Quarterback Trevor Knight hasn’t had the type of season he had hoped, but he has been effective in completing roughly 60 percent of his passes for 1,821 yards, nine TDs and six INTs. Sterling Shepard paces the receiving corps with 49 grabs for 911 yards and five scores.

Defensively, the Sooners’ strength comes when the opposition decides to run the football as they permit only 122.3 ypg and have allowed a mere six rushing TDs, both of which are the third-fewest in the league. Jordan Evans spearheads the unit with 56 tackles, while Dominique Alexander is close behind with 54. Collectively, Oklahoma has notched 19 sacks, and the team ranks second in the Big 12 in turnover margin (+6).

It was a rough day for usually reliable kicker Michael Hunnicutt in the loss to Kansas State, as he missed a pair of field goals and had an extra point blocked. The special teams mishaps were particularly painful when you consider the Sooners rolled up 533 yards of total offense compared to only 385 for the Wildcats. Knight threw for 318 yards and three TDs, but OU was guilty of the only two turnovers of the game. Also wasted in the loss was the effort of Shepard who pulled down 15 balls for 197 yards and a TD. Perine finished with 89 yards and a score on 24 carries.

Despite the poor showing by his kicker, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops still has full confidence in Hunnicutt.

“I put my arm around him in the locker room. I feel for him because that sticks out, but there is more [to the loss] than that.“

Stoops also spoke about the spot his team is in now after coming into the season with such high expectations.

“Am I surprised? No. I know we can always be beat. It’s easy to think that way when you’re not the one that has to do it. Nothing surprises me.“

Iowa State’s offense doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators, as the team churns out just 364 ypg. The run has been the biggest issue for Rhodes’ squad, as it ranks last in the league with an average of only 117.1 ypg. Quarterback Sam B. Richardson has done it all for the Cyclones, as he is hitting the mark on 61.1 percent of his passes for 242.7 ypg with 13 TDs and only six INTs, while also pacing the rushing attack with 319 yards, finding the end zone twice as well. Aaron Wimberly has scored four TDs on the ground, but the team as a whole is averaging just 3.6 ypc.

On the other side of the ball, the Cyclones have their share of trouble as well with foes lighting up the scoreboard for 35.3 ppg while amassing 455.7 ypg. Save for a solid series here and there, they have been equally inept against both forms of attack, surrendering 209 ypg on the ground and a league- high 24 rushing TDs, while being torched for 246.7 ypg through the air, but only four aerial scores. Unfortunately, they’ve only come up with five INTs and 11 sacks. Jevohn Miller leads the unit with 68 tackles, while both T.J. Mutcherson and Nigel Tribune have two picks apiece.

Texas got a late field goal to pull out the three-point win a couple weeks back, but the Cyclones did themselves proud by outgaining the Longhorns, 524-512. They got outstanding individual efforts from Richardson (36-of-55, 345 yards, three TDs, two INTs, one rushing TD), Wimberly (14 carries, 110 yards, TD), and receivers E.J. Bibbs (10 rec., 73 yards, two TDs), D’Vario Montgomery (nine rec., 100 yards) and Allen Lazard (eight rec., 88 yards, TD).

Mutcherson and Tribune led the ISU defense with nine tackles apiece, nearly all of which were unassisted, while Miller (seven solo stops) scooped up a fumble and returned it 51 yards for a TD at the outset of the second quarter. The Cyclones tallied six TFL in the game, but only one sack.


►  Struggling Pokes come calling on surging ‘Cats

The 11th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats continue their quest for the Big 12 Conference crown, as they play host to the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday night.

Oklahoma State dropped a narrow decision to defending national champion Florida State (37-31) in the season opener, and then went on a five-game win streak. Coach Mike Gundy’s squad won its first three conference bouts, but has since lost two in a row in blowout fashion, falling at TCU (42-9) and to visiting West Virginia (34-10). The Cowboys need one more win to gain bowl eligibility, but doing so won’t be easy as their final four games are against K-State, Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma—three of which take place on the road.

Kansas State is the only team in the Big 12 yet to suffer a league loss, giving coach Bill Snyder’s club the inside track to the conference title should they win out. Doing so of course won’t be a cakewalk, as the Wildcats have bouts with TCU, West Virginia and Baylor remaining. A narrow home loss to Auburn (20-14) is the only blemish on an otherwise sparkling resume’ for the Wildcats, who are coming off a 23-0 whitewashing of visiting Texas last weekend. That victory was the 500th in program history, which is quite remarkable considering it had won a total of 299 games in the 93 years it fielded teams prior to 1989.

Oklahoma State owns a 37-23 advantage in the all-time series with Kansas State, and the Cowboys have won five of the last seven meetings.

Trailing 14-10 at halftime in last week’s tussle with West Virginia, the Oklahoma State offense stalled over the final 30 minutes while the defense surrendered an additional 20 points. When it was all said and done, the Cowboys tallied 436 yards to 448 for the Mountaineers, boasting a balanced attack that saw 210 yards come on the ground and 238 through the air. Quarterback Daxx Garman completed only 21-of-41 passes and he had one scoring strike while being intercepted twice. James Washington and David Glidden combined for 10 catches and 150 yards, while speedy RB Tyreek Hill amassed 78 yards on 14 carries.

The Pokes did a tremendous job shutting down one of the nation’s top receivers, as WVU’s Kevin White was held to 27 yards on three catches, ending his streak of seven straight games with at least 100 yards. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers couldn’t contain Mario Alford, as he finished with seven grabs for 136 yards and a TD. Jordan Sterns was all over the field for Gundy’s defense, logging 20 tackles (14 unassisted), and the team as a whole was credited with four sacks, but no takeaways.

Gundy knows it’s important for his squad to stay focused as it stares down a difficult home stretch.

“I shared with them that we have a game next Saturday whether we like it or not. We have to rally, stay together as a group, come back tomorrow and go to work.“

For the season, Oklahoma State ranks seventh in the Big 12 in both scoring offense (30.2 ppg) and scoring defense (28 ppg). The Cowboys are among the league leaders in sacks (24), but they are the worst when it comes to allowing them (20). Garman is a 54.7 percent passer, who has thrown for 1,735 yards, 11 TDs and nine INTs, and while no player has more than 28 receptions (Glidden), six have double-digit grabs, with all totaling at least 236 receiving yards. Desmond Roland spearheads the rushing attack with 512 yards and seven TDs, while Hill averages better than five yards per carry in generating 326 yards. He has yet to record a rushing TD, however.

Sterns and Ryan Simmons are the team’s top tacklers, logging 63 apiece, the bulk of which have been solo efforts. Emmanuel Ogbah leads the conference and ranks third nationally with 8.0 sacks, while Josh Furman has 5.0. While OSU ranks last in the Big 12 in pass defense (282.1 ypg), corner Kevin Peterson, who was tasked with blanketing White last week, has 11 PBUs to rank fourth in the country.

Kansas State is considered to be one of the elite teams in the Big 12, but it is really a middling offensive squad, statistically speaking, in that it ranks fifth in scoring (36.9 ppg) behind typical outputs of 178.3 ypg rushing and 246.3 ypg passing. Defensively however, the ‘Cats have been one of the sturdier units in yielding a mere 19.3 ppg (No. 1), with foes generating just 99.3 ypg on the ground (No. 1) and 230.4 ypg through the air (No. 4).

Jake Waters has been one of the more efficient signal callers in the conference this season, hitting the mark on 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,655 yards, nine TDs and only three INTs. Tyler Lockett (43 rec., 588 yards, four TDs) and Curry Sexton (40 rec., 450 yards, two TDs) have been his favorite targets, while Charles Jones, Waters and DeMarcus Robinson have all run for more than 320 yards and a combined 20 TDs.

Johnathan Truman continues to pace the defense with his 68 tackles, which is 19 more than his closest teammate, and he is coming off an eight-tackle performance in last week’s win over Texas. The Wildcats permitted only 196 yards of total offense to the Longhorns (90 rushing, 106 passing), while nearly doubling them up in time of possession.

Waters went 19-of-30 for 224 yards, but failed to throw a TD pass, nor was he picked off. Still, Lockett had another outstanding day, hauling in eight balls for 103 yards. The run game totaled just 143 yards, but accounted for both of the team’s TDs. Matthew McCrane booted through three field goals for the ‘Cats.

Snyder praised his team following the triumph over Texas, specifically remarking how difficult it is to keep an opponent off the scoreboard.

“I cannot remember the last time we had a shutout. It just does not happen in this day and age. I thought it was something to be truly proud of.“

He continued, “We needed to be as good as we were. We played awfully well.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFC Players of the Week

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr and Washington Redskins kicker Kai Forbath have been named the NFC Players of the Week for their Week 8 efforts.

Fitzgerald, the offensive player of the week, caught seven passes for 160 yards and one touchdown in the Cardinals’ 24-20 win over Philadelphia. His 80- yard touchdown was the longest reception of his career and his fifth catch of 70-plus yards.

The performance marked the ninth 150-yard game of his career, including the playoffs, and was his best output since Jan. 10, 2009, when he had 166 yards in a divisional playoff victory at Carolina.

Barr, the defensive player of the week, had eight tackles, a sack and scored the game-winning touchdown in the Vikings’ 19-13 overtime win at Tampa Bay. On the first play from scrimmage in overtime, Barr forced a fumble which he recovered and returned 27 yards for the game-winning score.

He became the only player in NFL history to force a fumble, recover the ball and return it for a touchdown in overtime.

Forbath, the special teams player of the week, converted both field-goal attempts, including a 40-yard game-winner in overtime, and added two PATs in the Redskins’ 20-17 win at Dallas.

It marked the second consecutive week that Forbath kicked a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation or in overtime. In Week 7, he converted a 22- yard field goal as time expired to give Washington a 19-17 win against Tennessee.


►  Saints and Panthers battle for first place

Reaching .500 is usually not the recipe for first place in any sport but that’s exactly where the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers find themselves as the two NFC South rivals get ready to meet on “Thursday Night Football.“

The winner of Thursday’s contest at Bank of America Stadium will take over sole possession of the top spot in the division, a testament to just how bad the NFC South has been thus far.

A Week 8 loss to Seattle dropped the Panthers to 3-4-1, percentage points clear of New Orleans, which is 3-4 and coming off its most impressive win of the season, a 44-23 drubbing of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The 2-6 Falcons and 1-6 Buccaneers round out the disappointing foursome.

“If you said at the start of training camp or OTAs, ‘hey, you have a chance in Week 9 to be playing for first place, would you take it?‘ Yeah, I’d take it,“ offensive coordinator Mike Shula told the Panthers’ website. “That’s the mindset. You have to keep moving forward and forget about what’s happened.“

The Saints will arrive in the Queen City knowing they are 0-4 away from the Bayou this season and have lost seven straight regular-season games away from New Orleans dating back to 2013.

Carolina has its own concerns, most notably a 1-4-1 record over the last six games following a 2-0 start to the season.

“The truth of the matter is we had opportunities and we didn’t make them on both sides of the ball,“ said Panthers coach Ron Rivera. “You have to take advantage of opportunities in the red zone by putting the ball in the end zone. When you have third down and long, you have to be able to stop them.“

The Panthers were inside the red zone on their first two possessions last Sunday against Seattle and came away with two field goals. Later, they suffered a turnover inside the 20-yard line. As a result, all of the Carolina scoring in a 13-9 loss came from three Graham Gano field goals.

The Seahawks, who have never lost three straight games with Russell Wilson under center, were on the verge of doing exactly that in Charlotte before Wilson willed his team to a come-from-behind road victory, firing a touchdown pass to tight end Luke Willson with 47 seconds remaining to lift Seattle to the hard-fought win.

Cam Newton struggled for the second straight week for Carolina, completing just 12-of-22 passes for 171 yards and an interception. He missed both of his throws and was sacked twice on the Panthers’ final possession.

“We didn’t play our best football,“ Newton admitted. “The next opportunity awaits on Thursday and I’m anticipating that to be a great game for us.“

Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin continued to be a bright spot offensively for Carolina, recording four catches for 94 yards, including a career-long 51- yard reception in the fourth quarter to set up one of the team’s three field goals. Benjamin currently leads NFC rookies with 571 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

For the Saints, Drew Brees tossed three touchdown passes in Week 8 as New Orleans pulled away in the second half during the triumph over Green Bay.

The game was deadlocked at 16 at halftime, but the Saints intercepted the red- hot Rodgers twice over an 11-attempt span in the final 30 minutes, quite the accomplishment because the veteran QB hadn’t tallied a pick in his previous 213 throws.

Brees, meanwhile, completed all 11 of his passes in the second half and finished 27-of-32 overall for 311 yards.

Mark Ingram carried the ball 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown and Brandin Cooks caught six passes for 94 yards and a score and added a 4-yard TD run for the Saints, who squandered a fourth-quarter lead for the third time this year in the prior week’s 24-23 loss at Detroit.

Jimmy Graham hauled in all five of his receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown in the second half in the triumph.

“I think the tempo was better today and I think that’s something we’ll continue to emphasize,“ Brees said.

Division foes since Carolina’s inaugural NFL season in 1995—first in the NFC West from 1995-2001 and now the NFC South beginning in 2002—the Panthers and Saints will be meeting for the 39th time with Carolina holding a slim 20-18 advantage in the all-time series.

The two clubs will meet again in Week 14 in New Orleans.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Brees generally excels at night. Since joining New Orleans in 2006, the star signal caller has led the Saints to an impressive 22-10 mark in primetime games, the third-best record of any team during that span.

And despite their pedestrian record the Saints have been as explosive as ever offensively and are tops in the NFC, averaging 445.4 yards per game, far ahead of Carolina (332.5 YPG).

Brees in second in the conference with 2,227 passing yards but the issue has been ball security and New Orleans has a minus-six turnover ratio coming in, a stark contrast to the Panthers’ positive plus-four mark.

“Certainly there’s all sorts of goals and there’s big picture, small picture and I think what we’ve tried to do is really focus on the smallest picture - and that’s our own team getting better,“ Saints coach Sean Payton said.

New Orleans cleaned up things against the Pack and were plus-two in that game so it’s possible the worm has turned or at least the impact of Ingram’s game against the dismal Green Bay run defense created more balance and enabled Brees to stop forcing the issue.

If that’s the case, the recipe could be there for a sequel because the Carolina D is a far cry from the unit that dominated in 2013 and is surrendering 378.5 YPG, slightly better than the often-maligned NOLA stop unit which is giving up about 12 yards more per contest.

The Panthers gave up at least 37 points-or-more in four of their previous games until righting the ship a bit against the Seahawks. The main struggle has been to stop the run, as Carolina has surrendered 135.2 YPG on the ground, 28th best in a 32-team league.

Offensively the Panthers hope to solve their red-zone woes and turn those Gano 3s into 7s. Carolina’s 46.2 percent TD efficiency inside the 20 is also 28th in football.

“It’s tough when you don’t score touchdowns and miss opportunities,“ Rivera said. “You have to make hay down in the red zone.“

The offense could be in line for a boost with the potential return of running back DeAngelo Williams, who has missed the previous four games with a balky ankle.

“It’ll be a nice boost,“ said Rivera. “When he and Jonathan (Stewart) get rolling and doing the things they do that’s a huge thing for us. That could be a nice shot in the arm.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me five times? Let’s just say it’s tough to pick the Saints away from the Superdome but this is the team trending in the right direction and no one is happy about the way Carolina is looking.

Furthermore, despite that lack of road success, New Orleans has been very close to getting over the hump, leading into the fourth quarter in three of their four road setbacks this season and losing those games by a total of just six points.

So, let’s be a glutton for punishment one more time here and figure on Payton and Co. finally figuring out a way to finally win one outdoors.

“There’s no more important game than this quick turnaround, the Thursday night game at Carolina,“ said Brees. “This was the team that won the division last year. We are going to need our best performance to beat them.“

Predicted outcome: Saints 23, Panthers 20


►  Patriots sign Alan Branch

The New England Patriots signed defensive lineman Alan Branch and released linebacker Deontae Skinner on Wednesday.

Branch, 29, is a veteran of seven NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (2007-10), Seattle Seahawks (2011-12) and Buffalo Bills (2013). The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder went to training camp with Buffalo this past summer but was released in August.

A second-round pick by Arizona in 2007, Branch has started in 47 of 94 NFL games and has recorded 170 total tackles with eight sacks. Last season with Buffalo, he played in all 16 games and finished with 39 total tackles.

Skinner, 24, was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Mississippi State. He was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Sept. 13 and played in seven games with one start, accumulating 10 total tackles and three special teams tackles.


►  Big Ben, Delmas, Davis named AFC’s best for Week 8

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Miami Dolphins safety Louis Delmas and Kansas City Chiefs returner Knile Davis were selected as the AFC’s top players for Week 8 of the NFL season.

Roethlisberger was named the top offensive player after setting franchise records with 522 passing yards and six touchdowns during the Steelers’ 51-34 win over Indianapolis. He connected on 40-of-49 passes to become the first player in league history to complete more than 80 percent of his throws in a 500-yard effort.

It’s the 10th weekly award for Roethlisberger, who tied for the fourth-most passing yards in a single game and is now the only player with two 500-yard games.

Delmas picked up the defensive award thanks to an 81-yard interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery in Miami’s 27-13 win over Jacksonville. He is the first NFL player to recover a fumble and return a pick for a score in the same game since Dallas’ Roy Williams in 2002.

Davis earned the special teams honor with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Kansas City’s 34-7 win over St. Louis. His return opened the second half and provided the Chiefs with a 17-7 lead. He also ran for 49 yards with a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Other offensive candidates included New England quarterback Tom Brady, who would have won the award most weeks after completing 30-of-35 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns in a 51-23 win over Chicago; Houston running back Arian Foster, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 151 yards on just 20 carries in a 30-16 win over Tennessee; and Denver receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who caught nine passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-21 win over San Diego.

Defensive consideration went to Buffalo linebacker Preston Brown, who had nine tackles and an interception in a 43-23 win over the New York Jets; and Miami cornerback Brent Grimes, who also returned an interception for a touchdown.

Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon was also nominated for the special teams award after a blocking a field goal in the win over the Jaguars.


►  Romo day-to-day, Durant placed on IR

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said quarterback Tony Romo will be day-to-day for practice this week because of his injured back.

The Cowboys also placed linebacker Justin Durant on injured reserve because of a torn biceps.

Romo suffered a back contusion during the third quarter of Monday’s loss to Washington and sat out most of the fourth quarter before returning to the contest. He underwent a CT scan earlier this week.

“It’s a day-by-day thing with Tony,“ said Garrett on Wednesday. “We’ll see how he handles the pain and we’ll see how functional he is as the week goes on.“

Romo normally doesn’t practice on Wednesday as part of his recovery from back surgery last year. He appeared somewhat limited during the final possession of regulation and overtime of Monday’s 20-17 setback to the Redskins.

Durant was hurt in the second half on Monday. He was leading the team with 49 total tackles despite missing two games.

The Cowboys signed linebacker Tim Dobbins to fill the roster spot. Dobbins last played in the NFL during the 2013 season with Houston. He has also played for San Diego and Miami in an eight-year career, and has 253 total tackles.


►  Bengals’ Burfict sidelined after knee surgery

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict will miss at least Sunday’s game against Jacksonville after undergoing knee surgery on Wednesday.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Burfict had an arthroscopic procedure performed to have loose cartilage removed. The 2013 Pro Bowl selection was hurt during this past Sunday’s game against Baltimore, but played through the injury.

Lewis also said Burfict will most likely miss Cincinnati’s Week 10 game against Cleveland since it takes place next Thursday and will likely return for the Nov. 16 game against New Orleans.

Burfict, who signed a new four-year contract this summer after leading the team in tackles each of his first two seasons, missed two games earlier this year because of concussions and also hurt his neck two weeks ago against Indianapolis.


►  Jaguars place Ball on IR

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Alan Ball will miss the remainder of the season because of a biceps injury.

Ball was hurt in a Week 7 game against Cleveland before sitting out this past Sunday’s contest against Miami. He started the first seven games and finished the season with an interception and 22 tackles.

The 29-year-old Illinois product joined the Jaguars in 2013 after also playing for Dallas and Houston in his first six years. He started 15 games last season and notched a pair of interceptions.

Jacksonville filled the roster spot by signing cornerback Tommie Campbell, who spent three seasons with Tennessee before being waived by the Titans in August.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Giants win Game 7 for 3rd title in 5 years

Madison Bumgarner watched as Pablo Sandoval worked his way under the ball.

Moments later, the San Francisco Giants ace was swarmed by teammates near the mound after punctuating one of the great postseason performances in any sport.

Some of them stopped first to congratulate Sandoval, who was on his back after catching the last out.

And on the edge of the celebration, Buster Posey dropped to his knees, a smile on the catcher’s face that showed both happiness and relief.

This is some dynasty, and it almost unraveled on an error.

Bumgarner pitched five scoreless innings out of the bullpen and the Giants held on to beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 in Game 7 on Wednesday night, capturing their third World Series title in five years.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, after Bumgarner had retired 14 batters in a row, Alex Gordon sliced a hit into left-center field that bounced past Gregor Blanco and went to the wall, suddenly giving the Royals a sliver of hope.

Left fielder Juan Perez bobbled the ball on the warning track and Gordon made it all the way to third on a two-base error.

“I’m not sure what happened. I didn’t see it,“ Bumgarner said. “But I was starting to get a little nervous. He was digging around a little bit and it’s a big outfield.

“It was a little nerve-wracking.“

But Bumgarner threw six fastballs to Salvador Perez, who popped up into foul territory near third base, where Sandoval squeezed it before falling onto his back with his arms in the air.

“Relief,“ said Bruce Bochy, who has managed each of these three championship teams. “Because anything can happen—a bloop, a wild pitch. There’s a man on third base there and (Bumgarner) just made some great pitches.“

Bumgarner pitched on two days’ rest after throwing a four-hit shutout in Game 5 on Sunday for his second win of the series. He was named World Series MVP, to no one’s surprise, after throwing 21 innings and giving just up one run, nine hits and one walk.

Sandoval, due to be a free agent, reached base four times in Game 7 and scored twice, including the go-ahead run on Michael Morse’s single back in the fourth inning. Sandoval had three hits, giving him an MLB-record 26 this postseason.

The Royals, trying to win a title for the first time in 29 years, came up a win short. They forced Game 7 with Tuesday’s 10-0 blowout, extending their magical season for another day, but scored their only runs Wednesday in the second inning.

“You work all year to climb to the top of the mountain and then ‘Boom!‘ You fall back down and have to restart next season,“ Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.

The wild-card Giants, an 88-win team that finished six games behind the rival Dodgers in the NL West, rode a Bumgarner shutout to an 8-0 win in Pittsburgh on Oct. 1 and finished their title run two days shy of Halloween.

Bumgarner’s wins in Games 1 and 5, and his five-inning save in the clincher, cemented his role at the age of 25 as a postseason star on a Giants team that has carved an odd dynasty into recent baseball history.

The Giants have made the postseason only three times in the last 11 years—winning the World Series each time. Wednesday’s celebration followed titles in 2010 over Texas and 2012 over Detroit.

They snapped a nine-game losing streak by road teams in World Series Game 7s, becoming the first team to win that way since the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates, who clinched in Baltimore.

Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt had two hits apiece in Game 7, including back- to-back singles in the second inning after Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie grazed Sandoval with a pitch leading off. Morse and Brandon Crawford followed with sacrifice flies for the Giants’ first two runs.

Hours later, the Giants celebrated in customary fashion by spraying champagne in the locker room.

So used to their backs being against the wall during their three title runs, the Giants got their eighth straight win in an elimination game—including six on the road.

After beating Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game, they never sniffed another elimination test until the World Series. They closed out Washington in four games in the NL division series and needed just five games to beat St. Louis.

They won the pennant on Travis Ishikawa’s dramatic ninth-inning homer on Oct. 16 at AT&T Park in a game that saw them snap a streak of 242 consecutive plate appearances without a homer.

Big moments came from all over the lineup, of course, but the Giants produced little in the way of big blows over the past week, winning Games 4 and 5 with 28 hits, including 24 singles. They scored 15 straight runs before Kansas City’s seven-run rally in the second inning of Game 6 on Tuesday, when the Giants were shut out over seven innings by rookie Yordano Ventura.

They had eight more hits in Game 7—all but one of them a single.

It was the eighth World Series title in franchise history.

“That was a phenomenal series,“ said Yost. “They played great baseball. And Madison Bumgarner, man. What can you say about him?“

The Royals, perennial down-and-outers in the AL Central, snatched a wild-card spot to reach the playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 1985. Building a brand as an underdog favorite, they won their first eight playoff games against the Athletics, Angels and Orioles before running into Bumgarner in Game 1 last week.

Their 10-0 win in Game 6—a party from nearly start to finish for the 40,000 fans in attendance—was the most lopsided World Series shutout since Kansas City’s 11-0 win over St. Louis in Game 7 in 1985.

“It hurts to come as close as we came,“ said Yost. “As magical as our run has been, to end up losing the ballgame by 90 feet is tough.“

That magic which produced extra-inning wins in the Royals’ first three playoff games—and four of their first five—wasn’t reproduced against the Giants. Their three wins in the series came by 16 runs. That includes Friday’s 3-2 victory in Game 3, when the Royals took a 2-1 lead in the series on the backs of bullpen stars Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Finnegan, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, who combined to throw four no-hit innings in the game.

All three pitched on Wednesday after Guthrie (1-1) went 3 1/3 innings. The Royals got to 39-year-old Tim Hudson, scoring two runs in the second inning on Gordon’s double and Omar Infante’s sacrifice fly.

Hudson, the oldest pitcher ever to start Game 7, got just five outs and Jeremy Affeldt (1-0) threw 2 1/3 innings to pick up the win, running his streak to 22 consecutive appearances in the postseason without allowing a run, one shy of the record held by Yankees great Mariano Rivera.

Bumgarner finished with 270 innings pitched in the regular and postseason and ran his career World Series record to 4-0.

Game Notes

Sandoval broke the old postseason hits record of 25 shared by Marquis Grissom (1995), Darin Erstad (2002) and David Freese (2011) ... Hudson, who is MLB’s active wins leader with 214, also pitched Game 3 on Friday. He is without a postseason win since Game 2 of the 2001 ALDS, when he pitched Oakland past the Yankees ... Royals great and 1985 World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen threw out the first pitch ... Home teams are now 18-19 in World Series Game 7s.


►  Giants ride one-man wrecking crew to a title

The San Francisco Giants got a combined nine outs from their starting pitchers in Games 6 and 7. Yet here they are celebrating a third World Series title in five years.

How is that even possible?

Well, had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it.

San Francisco lefty Madison Bumgarner put forth a postseason performance we may never see again.

The Giants left-hander went seven innings to win Game 1, then pitched a four- hit shutout in Game 5. But what he did in Game 7, though, is something people will be talking about for years.

On just two-days rest and his team leading, 3-2, Bumgarner entered the game in the fifth inning and tossed five more scoreless innings to lower his overall World Series ERA to an amazing 0.25, while earning the save in the decisive seventh game.

Bumgarner got a little scare in the ninth, as Alex Gordon ripped a single back up the middle that center fielder Gregor Blanco compounded with a two-base error. But with Gordon on third, Bumgarner got Salvador Perez to pop out in foul territory to third baseman Pablo Sandoval to put a bow on one of the most impressive postseason runs in baseball history.

Twenty-one innings in this World Series and he allowed just one run.

He threw 68 pitches on Wednesday after throwing 117 on Sunday and looked as if he could have thrown 100 more.

Two wins and a save. Never has an MVP choice been easier.

You want more numbers?

Bumgarner pitched 52 2/3 innings this postseason, which was the most ever in a single playoffs, eclipsing Arizona’s Curt Schilling (48 1/3 in 2001). He gave up just six earned runs in the postseason and his 1.03 is the third best in a single playoff run.

His 0.43 ERA against the Royals was also the lowest in a single World Series among pitchers with at least 15 innings since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax compiled a 0.38 ERA for the 1965 Dodgers.

We all knew Bumgarner would be there in some fashion on Wednesday. Personally, I figured he’d be able to give the Giants two innings, maybe three if everything broke right.

But five? And those five? Are you kidding me?

Bumgarner is not going to win an NL Cy Young Award this season. In fact he probably won’t even get a first-place vote. But what he has earned here this past month means a whole lot more.

He very well could be the best World Series pitcher of all-time.

As incredible as Bumgarner was the Giants don’t win Game 7 without the double play started by second baseman Joe Panik in the third inning.

With Lorenzo Cain on first base after a leadoff single, Eric Hosmer ripped a sharp grounder headed towards right-center field. Panik dove, snared the ball as it came up on a big hop, and flipped the ball with his glove to shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Crawford fired to first, and Hosmer slid into first base, ahead of the throw and was called safe.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy challenged the call and after 2 minutes, 47 seconds, Hosmer was called out, delaying one of the finest World Series double plays you’ll ever see.

Not to mention killing whatever momentum the Royals may have had. The Giants scored the go-ahead run in the next inning and Bumgarner entered the game the inning after that.

Goodnight, the lights.

You can debate whether or not the Giants are a dynasty all you want. Yes they haven’t won back-to-back titles, but they are just the third team in almost 70 years to win three championships in five years. And they have done it in the free agent era.

That’s good enough for me.

One thing that is not up for debate, though, is just how good Madison Bumgarner was this October.

The Gilmer Free Press


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2014


National Football League
New Orleans at Carolina, 8:25 PM - NFL Network


National Basketball Association
Washington at Orlando, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC, FS-Florida, DSS
Detroit at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-Detroit, North, DSS
New York at Cleveland, 8:00 PM - TNT
Utah at Dallas, 8:30 PM - ROOT-Northwest, FS-Southwest, DSS
Oklahoma City at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - TNT


National Hockey League
Winnipeg at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - TSN3, MSG, DSS
Los Angeles at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - FS-West, ROOT-Pittsburgh, NHL Net, DSS
Boston at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - NESN, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Arizona at Florida, 7:30 PM - FS-Arizona, Florida, DSS
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, SunSports, DSS
Chicago at Ottawa, 7:30 PM - CSN-Chicago, RDS, TSN5, DSS
San Jose at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - CSN-California, FS-North+, DSS
Anaheim at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, Midwest, DSS
NY Islanders at Colorado, 9:00 PM - MSG+, Altitude, DSS
Montreal at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - RDS, SNET360, DSS


College Football
Troy at Georgia Southern, 7:30 PM - ESPN U
Florida State at Louisville, 7:30 PM - ESPN


Major League Soccer - Playoffs
Kansas City at New York, 8:00 PM - ESPN 2, TSN2


International Soccer
Hellas Verona FC vs. SS Lazio, 3:40 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
CHAMPIONS - Charles Schwab Cup Championship, 4:30 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - CIMB Classic, 11:00 PM - Golf Channel

Sports News - 10.29.14

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Places Three Squads In Regional Rankings

Three teams from the Mountain East Conference have earned spots in the first edition of the regional rankings released today by the NCAA.

Concord, which sports an 8-0 record, in ranked second in Super Region I. Shepherd (6-1) is currently seventh, and West Liberty (5-3) is ranked 10th. 

The regional rankings are used to determine the fields for the NCAA playoffs. The final rankings will come at the conclusion of the regular season. 

REGION/RANK SCHOOL DIVISION II RECORD OVERALL RECORD
SUPER REGION ONE
1 Bloomsburg 8-0 8-0
2 Concord 8-0 8-0
3 California (PA) 7-1 7-1
4 West Chester 7-1 7-1
5 Winston-Salem 7-1 7-1
6 American Int’l 6-1 6-2
7 Shepherd 6-1 6-1
8 Virginia St. 6-2 6-2
9 Slippery Rock 6-2 6-2
10 West Liberty 5-2 5-3


The Gilmer Free Press

►  QBs help TCU, WVU surge in Big 12

Big 12 teams have typically gone as far as their quarterbacks have taken them.

TCU and West Virginia have learned that a strong passing game is key to competing for the Big 12 title, while more than a few perennial contenders are struggling along with their signal callers.

Trevone Boykin has thrown for 2,306 yards and 21 TD passes for No. 10 TCU (6-1, 3-1 Big 12), which ascended to the top spot nationally in scoring offense (50.4 ppg.) after an 82-point outburst against Texas Tech over the weekend. Clint Trickett leads the Big 12 with 345.4 passing yards per game for No. 20 West Virginia (6-2, 4-1), which has won four in a row.

The Mountaineers will host Boykin and the Horned Frogs on Saturday in a matchup of two of the nation’s most improved quarterbacks.

“He plays with more confidence right now. He’s not making nearly as many mistakes as he was,“ Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of Trickett, who threw for 238 yards in a 34-10 win over the Cowboys on Saturday. “You see that happen to players. The quarterback for TCU is playing with confidence right now. Last year I didn’t think he played with any confidence.“

Boykin’s transformation from a part-time wide receiver to a Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback has been one of the more remarkable stories in the country so far.

Many thought Boykin would relinquish the starting quarterback job and move over to wide receiver for good once Matt Joeckel transferred from Texas A&M. But Boykin has thrived under new co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, and he’s getting better each week.

“I think he’s the best player in the country,“ Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It’s night and day from where he was last year.“

Boykin has thrown for 843 yards and 10 touchdown passes in his last two games, including seven in Saturday’s rout of Texas Tech, to help TCU surpass its Big 12 win total from 2013 by the end of October. Boykin’s touchdown-to-interception ratio of 21 and 3 is the best in the league; Baylor’s Bryce Petty is second at 17 and 3.

“It all starts with Boykin. He’s a tremendous athlete that keeps the play alive. He’s hard to tackle. He’s got a quick release and he’s extremely accurate,“ West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.

West Virginia finished 2013 by blowing a 24-point lead at home and losing to Iowa State, but the Mountaineers have bounced back behind Trickett, who has finally lived up to his potential as a senior.

Trickett was rushed into starting duty in 2013 and it showed. He completed just 52.8 percent of his passes and, like Boykin, threw for seven TDs with seven picks a year ago. This season, he is completing 68.3 percent of his passes and his yards per attempt have gone from 6.8 to 8.7. He has thrown 17 TDs against just five picks.

“I think it’s a little bit like Trevone Boykin, our quarterback. I think (Trickett) is doing a good job, Trevone is doing a good job and I think also he has skill players around him and their offensive lines have both gotten better than they were a year ago,“ TCU coach Gary Patterson said about Trickett’s improvement.

But as TCU and West Virginia thrive behind their star quarterbacks, many Big 12 teams have seen their fortunes dip in part because of inconsistent play behind center

Texas Tech’s Davis Webb has thrown 11 picks during his last six games, and the Red Raiders are 1-5 following a 2-0 start.

Oklahoma sophomore Trevor Knight has taken a step back after leading the Sooners past Alabama in last season’s Sugar Bowl, throwing for just nine TD passes in seven games. First-year starter Daxx Garman has thrown multiple picks in back-to-back games for Oklahoma State (5-3, 3-2), which dropped games against TCU and West Virginia by 57 combined points.

“The difference this year is really that, we’ve had to use some new quarterbacks (before), but they’ve had veteran offensive lines,“ Gundy said. “Right now, we’re trying to get experience for at least three linemen ... and then our quarterback is not an experienced player. So we’re just trying to feel our way through.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Police: FSU RB Williams subject of battery case

Florida State running back Karlos Williams, the team’s leading rusher, is the subject of a domestic battery investigation, according to police.

The Tallahassee Police Department said Monday that it was “working an alleged domestic battery involving Karlos Williams” after receiving the case on Saturday night, but offered no other details.

“The alleged crime is an active ongoing investigation and Florida law does not allow TPD to discuss the details of any case while it is ongoing,“ the department said in a statement. “Once the case is complete, it will be released under the guidelines of Florida Public Records Law.“

The Florida State athletics department said in a statement that it is aware of the investigation.

“Until we receive more information regarding the alleged incident his status with the team will be under review,“ the department said.

Williams, a senior, has rushed for 378 yards and seven touchdowns on 82 carries for the No. 2 Seminoles.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Panthers place LB Blackburn on IR

The Carolina Panthers have placed linebacker Chase Blackburn on injured reserve, one of several moves the team announced on Tuesday.

Blackburn missed the last two games with a knee injury and ends the season with only 12 tackles and one forced fumble in six games.

The Panthers also signed offensive tackle Mike Remmers to the active roster from the St. Louis Rams’ practice squad, promoted safety Robert Lester from their own practice squad and waived running back Darrin Reaves.

Reaves had 77 yards on 32 carries and caught five passes for 31 yards in six games, but DeAngelo Williams’ pending return resulted in his removal from the 53-man roster.

Williams is expected to play Thursday against the New Orleans Saints after missing four games with an ankle injury.


►  Romo exits with injury, returns

Tony Romo left Monday night’s game against the Redskins after aggravating a back injury early in the third quarter.

The Cowboys quarterback heroically returned for the final possession of regulation, but Dallas ultimately lost, 20-17, in overtime.

The injury occurred when Romo dropped back and was sacked by linebacker Keenan Robinson. Robinson appeared to inadvertently knee Romo in his surgically- repaired back, and Romo twisted as he went to the ground.

He remained on the turf in obvious pain for several minutes before being helped to the locker room, where he stayed until roughly five minutes in regulation remained.

Romo, who underwent surgery on his back following Week 16 last season, was on the sideline seemingly pleading his case to return and was granted that wish when the Cowboys took over at their own 3 with under two minutes to play in the fourth.

After nearly losing a fumble near the goal line, Romo led Dallas to its own 32 before being whistled for intentional grounding on third down, which led to a punt and overtime.

Washington kicked a field goal on the first possession of the extra session, and Romo threw incomplete on third and fourth down on the next series to end the game.

Romo and head coach Jason Garrett confirmed after the game that it is a back contusion, and he is expected to be ready to go next week against Arizona.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  National Basketball Association Game Reults

Final Score: San Antonio 101, Dallas 100

Tony Parker finished with 23 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with under a minute left, to help the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in a 101-100 season-opening win over the Dallas Mavericks. San Antonio, which improved to 5-0 when receiving its championship rings, has now defeated its in-state rival 10 straight times during the regular season. The Mavs, however, were the only team in last year’s playoffs to threaten the Spurs, taking them to seven games in a first- round exit. Manu Ginobili scored 20 points with six assists off the bench and Tim Duncan totaled 14 points and 13 rebounds for San Antonio, which hasn’t lost to Dallas during the regular season since March 17, 2012. Monta Ellis paced the Mavs with 26 points on 11-of-21 shooting and Dirk Nowitzki added 18 points with six boards in the setback.


Final Score: New Orleans 101, Orlando 84

A healthy Pelicans team is a dangerous one. Just ask the Orlando Magic following Tuesday’s season opener in New Orleans. Anthony Davis fell one block shy of a triple-double and Ryan Anderson scored 22 points off the bench as the Pelicans pulled away from the Magic for a 101-84 victory at Smoothie King Center. Davis filled the stat sheet with 26 points and 17 rebounds and accounted for nine of New Orleans’ 17 blocks. Omer Asik, acquired in an offseason trade with Houston, donated 14 points and 17 boards in the winning cause. Tobias Harris led Orlando with 25 points, while Nikola Vucevic pulled down a game-high 23 rebounds to go with 15 points in the setback.


Final Score: Houston 108, LA Lakers 90

James Harden scored a game-high 32 points in just three quarters and the Houston Rockets spoiled Kobe Bryant’s return with a resounding 108-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday to open the season. Terrence Jones registered a 16-point, 13-rebound double- double and Dwight Howard tallied 13 points with 11 rebounds for Houston, which has won four in a row over the Lakers. Bryant, who played just six games last season because of Achilles and knee injuries, paced the Lakers with 19 points on 6-of-17 shooting. Lakers rookie Julius Randle suffered a broken right leg in his first NBA game, going down in the fourth quarter.


►  Magic, Pelicans kick off campaign in Big Easy

Could this be the year Anthony Davis leads the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs?

Optimism is at a high level for Davis, who will lead the Pelicans against the Orlando Magic Tuesday in the NBA season opener for both teams.

Davis is entering his third season and the first overall pick in the 2012 draft is anxious to get started in hopes of ending a three-year playoff drought for the organization.

“My NBA journey so far has been incomplete,“ Davis said. “I say ‘incomplete’ because I want to make the playoffs. When we do that, it still won’t be complete, but that’s the next step for me and my team. To be one of the teams in the league that people talk about.“

Plenty in the basketball world know about Davis, especially for his defensive skills and rim protection. Davis led the Pelicans in points (20.8), rebounds (10.0), field-goal percentage (51.9), blocks (2.8) and steals (1.3) last season.

A first-time All-Star last season, Davis further polished his skills as a champion in this summer’s FIBA World Cup and hopes the experience will get the Pelicans out of the Southwest Division basement.

It will be difficult for New Orleans to compete in the highly talented Western Conference, so the Pelicans should target at least 50 wins. They posted 34 in 2013-14. Dallas captured the eighth seed in the West last season with 49 wins.

The Pelicans have to stay healthy in order to make a playoff run. Point guard Jrue Holiday appeared in 34 games and posted 14.3 points and 7.9 assists. Ryan Anderson played in 22 games and averaged 19.8 points. Anderson is a deep threat from 3-point range and made 40.9 percent last season.

Tyreke Evans is a big contributor to head coach Monty Williams’ scheme and scored 14.5 ppg in 72 games. It was the most games Evans has played since his rookie season of 2009-10 (72).

“We’ve got a good group of guys,“ Evans said. “It would be great to get that playoff berth and be able to play playoff basketball. But we’ve got to start with the regular season and take one game at a time.“

The Pelicans have guards Eric Gordon, Jimmer Fredette and Austin Rivers along with forward John Salmons. Experience is not a strength right now for New Orleans, but this is a young and athletic team.

New Orleans bolstered its interior with the addition of center Omer Asik in a trade with the Houston Rockets. Asik averaged a double-double in 2012-13, posting 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds while starting all 82 games, but saw his role diminish this past season after the Rockets signed Dwight Howard. Asik’s minutes were slashed from 30 per game in his first season with the Rockets to 20.2 this past season. He made just 19 starts.

The Pelicans were 19-11 against the Eastern Conference last season and will play three of their first four games at Smoothie King Center.

Orlando has accumulated 43 wins over the previous two seasons and things are not expected to go well again in 2014-15.

The Magic were 23-59 last season, but it didn’t keep the team from extending the contracts of head coach Jacque Vaughn and general manager Rob Hennigan through the 2015-16 seasons.

“Rob and Jacque have worked extremely hard in establishing a culture which embodies teamwork, hard work, hunger for success and humility,“ said Magic CEO Alex Martins in a statement. “With their strategic direction and leadership we feel we are headed in the right direction, which will allow us to achieve our goals of contending in a long term sustainable fashion.“

Many speculate the recent downfall of the Magic is due to the blockbuster trade of superstar center Dwight Howard. The face of the franchise is probably center Nikola Vucevic and second-year guard Victor Oladipo. Oladipo, though, will miss the start of the season after suffering a facial fracture in practice. He was already bothered by a sprained left MCL.

Oladipo was a First Team All-Rookie selection last season after averaging 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 80 games. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting, behind Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams.

Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 18.2 points per game and was traded to the Denver Nuggets this season. Forward Tobias Harris was second with 14.6 ppg and Vucevic tallied 14.2 with a team-high 11.0 rebounds.

“There is still a sense of growing up for us,“ Vaughn said. “My kids, once they started walking, they still fell down sometimes. They still got scratches on their knees and nothing was perfect the rest of their lives. That’s part of growing up; continuing to push yourself and have expectations. But if you keep things relatively simple in life, you can still have some growth along the way.“

Guard Maurice Harkless hopes to be one of those players who continues to grow and played in 80 games last season. Harkless said it was time for Orlando to start winning games right away.

“It starts (Tuesday). We’re going to go out there and try to start the year off right,“ Harkless said.

The Magic, who have missed the playoffs in the last two seasons and went 6-24 against the West in 2013-14, added veteran guard Ben Gordon. Gordon spent the past two campaigns with the Charlotte Bobcats and appeared in just 19 games last season.

Orlando’s top two draft picks, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, will get to showcase their skills and can add to this nucleus of young talent. Gordon started in all 38 games during his only season at the University of Arizona, averaging 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists. In 100 career games over three years at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Payton averaged 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He was selected by Philadelphia before being acquired by Orlando.

Payton is a native of Louisiana and will return to the Big Easy tonight. Ben Gordon is impressed with how Payton has handled himself so far.

“He has poise, he’s gritty and he’s not going to get shaken,“ Gordon said. “I think he’s one of those guys who just sort of loses himself in the game. He’s a really tough competitor.“

Orlando and New Orleans split two meetings last season. The Pelicans have won six of the last games in this series.


►  Spurs, Mavs tip off NBA season

The San Antonio Spurs will begin defense of their NBA title on Tuesday night when they kick off the 2014-15 campaign with a home matchup against bitter rivals, the Dallas Mavericks.

The Spurs will receive their championship rings in a pre-game ceremony and, for the fifth time in franchise history, San Antonio will raise a title banner.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,“ said All-Star guard Tony Parker. “At the same time, it’s a tough night because you know you’re happy and you get a ring, but you have to focus on the game. It is difficult.“

The Spurs are 4-0 in the previous games they received their championship rings.

The Spurs cruised to a fifth title in the Tim Duncan/Gregg Popovich era in June, dismantling the Miami Heat in more ways than one. San Antonio cruised to a five-game NBA Finals victory, and LeBron James bolted South Beach, thus ending the Big Three incarnation in Miami.

And, basically, the Spurs returned everyone from that title roster. Not everyone will play in the season-opener. Kawhi Leonard, the Finals MVP, will miss the game with a right eye infection, Tiago Splitter has a calf injury, and Patty Mills will miss the first few months after shoulder surgery.

But Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pop are back. The Spurs’ only additions this offseason were first-round pick Kyle Anderson and Becky Hammond, the first female assistant coach to start a season in the NBA.

San Antonio, despite its great record in ring games, will need all hands on deck Tuesday night. The Spurs open with their inter-state rivals, a Mavericks team that gave them their most difficult challenge last postseason.

Dallas took the Spurs to seven games, a feat the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Heat all failed to reach. San Antonio gained confidence from its thrilling first-round escape.

“Game 7 was definitely a big one win for us, got us focused,“ said Parker. “Then, we started rolling after that. There’s a fine line between winning and losing.“

The Mavericks improved this offseason with the signings of Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson, coupled with the trade for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. Chandler returns after anchoring the defense that helped Dallas win the NBA title in 2011.

However, the Mavericks are still led by Dirk Nowitzki, a 12-time All-Star. The future Hall of Famer returned to the midseason classic last season, and, while excited to have his fellow big man back in Big D, Nowitzki cautioned about returning to the past.

“We’ve got a good and deep team now, and we just want to make our own destiny,“ Nowitzki said. “We can’t always live in 2010-11. That was a great year for us, but this is almost a completely new team. But, you know, we’re very deep. We’ve got a lot of scorers on this team and we’ve got a lot of playmakers. It’s fun to play that way, and offensively we’re just sharing the ball. Hopefully, we can keep it going.“

The Mavs improved, but lost several solid veterans like Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. With Nowitzki at the helm, Monta Ellis manning a wing and head coach Rick Carlisle pacing the sidelines, the Mavs should be in the thick of things come playoff time.

Despite the epic seven-game Western Conference semifinal series, the Spurs have owned the Mavericks in the regular season. San Antonio has taken nine straight regular-season meetings, including seven consecutive in the AT&T Center.


►  Kobe leads Lakers into season opener vs. Rockets

Kobe Bryant returns to the Los Angeles Lakers’ lineup Tuesday night as they open the season at the Staples Center against the Houston Rockets.

Bryant played just six games last season after starting the campaign recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon. He then hurt his left knee and was shut down for the season.

The 36-year-old future Hall of Famer will begin his 19th season, all with the Lakers, with the added significance, even if Bryant wants to downplay it to some degree, of returning from injury.

“It’s step one of a long journey,“ said Bryant. “I’m excited to get back out there and I can’t say I haven’t missed the game. I missed it so much. I’m just happy to be playing.“

The Lakers have to be happy as well. The team endured a 27-55 campaign, the franchise’s worst mark in the 82-game schedule era, and only the second season under .500 since Bryant joined the NBA.

Things didn’t get much better in the offseason, excluding Bryant’s return to the lineup.

Pau Gasol left the team via free agency, deciding to sign with the Chicago Bulls. Steve Nash’s tenure with the team will end with a missed season due to a back injury.

Mike D’Antoni resigned as head coach and the Lakers, very late in the hiring process, brought back former player, Byron Scott. He’s been very successful in stops in New Orleans and with the Nets, but his recent run with the Cleveland Cavaliers was less than memorable.

Jeremy Lin was acquired from the Houston Rockets, Carlos Boozer was claimed after the Bulls amnestied him and the team selected Julius Randle with its first-round pick.

Nick Young, the team’s leading scorer last season, will miss time at the start of the season thanks to a torn radial collateral ligament in his right thumb.

The Rockets are coming off an impressive 54-28 2013-14 season, but were bounced in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs by the Portland Trail Blazers. Houston held the homecourt advantage in the series, but it didn’t matter.

Needing to improve, the Rockets went in the opposite direction. They lost key personnel and failed to land the big free-agent prize in the summer, despite sending rotation players packing in order to free up cap space.

The Rockets shipped Lin to the Lakers and packaged Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans. These moves were done with the intention of prying Chris Bosh from the Miami Heat. Seemed like the Rockets were in a good position to do that when LeBron James left the Heat for the Cavs, but Bosh re-upped with the Heat.

Then, Chandler Parsons, the team’s third-leading scorer last season, signed an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks. Houston opted not to match, so Trevor Ariza was brought in as his replacement.

Houston lost three key players, failed to get Bosh and has taken steps backward in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

“Game starts tomorrow, so we’re going to have to be ready,“ head coach Kevin McHale said Monday. “We’re ready to get going and find out where we’re at.“

The Rockets still have All-NBA performers in shooting guard James Harden and center Dwight Howard. McHale’s squad needs to improve its rebounding, especially on the defensive side, and defense in general. Ariza is a massive upgrade defensively over Parsons, point guard Patrick Beverley made the All- Defensive second team and Howard was the Defensive Player of the Year four times.

The Rockets won three of four against the Lakers last season, but are 3-6 in the last nine as the visitor in this series.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Royals force Game 7 with 10-0 win over Giants

Mike Moustakas smoked a double inside the right-field line, opening the flood gates.

Nori Aoki slapped a single through the left side, Lorenzo Cain dropped a bloop hit into center and Eric Hosmer bounced a double over a drawn-in infield.

By the time Billy Butler ended a half-hour rally with a gapper to the outfield wall, the party was well underway in front of 40,000 fans.

And just like that, two innings into a game they had to win, the Kansas City Royals renewed their hopes of a first World Series title in 29 years.

Seven hits keyed a relentless seven-run rally in the second inning on Tuesday night and the Royals beat the San Francisco Giants 10-0 to force a Game 7.

The AL-champion Royals, loosening their collars in a big way after being shut out by Madison Bumgarner in Game 5, snapped a 16-inning scoreless streak with the biggest World Series inning in franchise history.

The perennial down-and-outers from the AL Central will now get a chance to host the biggest spectacle in baseball on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

How good were things on Tuesday? Omar Infante ran through a stop sign at third base in the fifth inning, with his team leading 8-0, and looked dead-to-rights but for an artful head-first slide at home plate to beat the tag.

This was an all-time breather.

The Royals, after starting the postseason with eight straight wins, suddenly stared elimination in the face after scoring just four runs over the last 21 innings in San Francisco.

Every player in the Royals starting lineup had at least one hit. Moustakas got two, including a homer in the seventh inning to make it 10-0, dropping a bonfire on the birthday cake.

It was the most lopsided World Series shutout since Kansas City’s 11-0 win over St. Louis in Game 7 in 1985.

Not that Yordano Ventura needed much help.

The 23-year-old rookie threw seven shutout innings, walking five but giving up just three hits while striking out four. Ventura dedicated his start to Oscar Taveras, the St. Louis Cardinals rookie who died along with his girlfriend in a car crash on Sunday in his native Dominican Republic.

The was a moment of silence before the game to honor Taveras, who was buried Tuesday. Ventura, who is from the Dominican Republic, wrote Taveras’ initials and uniform number on his hat, along with “R.I.P.“

“He had that look in his eye,“ said Royals manager Ned Yost. “It didn’t matter how many runs we scored he was going to go out and win that game.“

Fellow right-hander Jake Peavy, 10 years Ventura’s senior, got just four outs and lost for the second time in the series.

The starters for Game 7 will be veteran righties Jeremy Guthrie for the Royals and Tim Hudson for the Giants. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy shrugged off the notion that Bumgarner could start on two days’ rest, but said he will be available to pitch out of the bullpen, as expected.

“This guy’s human. You can’t push him too much,“ Bochy said. “We’re confident in Hudson.“

Before their seven-run inning Tuesday, the Royals hadn’t scored since taking a 4-1 lead with a four-run flurry in the third inning on Saturday. The Giants rallied to win that game 11-4, then took Sunday’s Game 5 by a 5-0 count behind Bumgarner.

The Giants had scored 15 straight runs entering Game 6, moving within one win of their third World Series title in five years.

“The best thing about this game is we get to wash it off,“ said Bochy. “It’s exciting. We’re going into a seventh game. It’s good for baseball.“

The Royals improved to 7-0 this postseason when scoring the first run. Their rally in the second inning started in the bottom of the lineup after Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez opened with consecutive singles.

Peavy came out after giving up Moustakas’ double and Aoki’s bases-loaded hit, which gave the Royals a 2-0 lead.

Cain followed with his bloop two-run single, Hosmer’s double bounced in front of the plate and scored two, and Butler’s double split the center and right fielders to make it 7-0.

The Royals’ seven hits in the inning came after they produced just four on Sunday against Bumgarner.

The Giants looked to pour a little water on Kansas City’s fire after Ventura walked three batters in a row in the third, but Buster Posey grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Cain hit an RBI double off Jean Machi in the third for the Royals’ eighth run.

The Royals were able to go without using bullpen stars Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, who will be fresh for Game 7.

Home teams are 18-18 in World Series Game 7s, but have won each of the last nine since 1982.

Game Notes

Seven runs were the most the Royals have ever scored in one inning during a World Series game. It was the highest-scoring inning by a team in the World Series since the Giants got seven in the eighth inning of Game 2 against Texas in 2010 ... Ventura also started Game 2 last Wednesday, which the Royals won 7-2 ... The Giants used five pitchers, including starter Ryan Vogelsong.


►  And then there was one

After a 162-game regular season and three rounds of playoffs it all comes down to this. One game. Do or die for the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants in a Game 7 on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.

It doesn’t get much better than a decisive game in any sport. Television ratings may suggest otherwise, but this has been a thrilling World Series.

And we will be treated to one more game because a young Kansas City right- hander turned into an ace in front of our eyes and the Royals offense exploded, as 23-year-old Yordano Ventura dominated the Giants over seven scoreless innings on Tuesday in a 10-0 rout.

Pitching with a heavy heart following the death of his good friend Oscar Taveras over the weekend, Ventura put forth his best effort of this postseason, as he allowed just three hits and recorded his first win of the playoffs.

And just like that all the momentum San Francisco had from winning the last two games in its ballpark is gone and now we move on to Game 7.

The Royals should have a clear edge in the pitching department on Wednesday. Yes I know that Madison Bumgarner will probably make an appearance at some point. But let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

And at best Bumgarner is going to give the Giants two innings.

Kansas City will give the ball to righty Jeremy Guthrie, who has been as good as any pitcher in baseball since the start of September and defeated the Giants in Game 3.

Guthrie gave up a pair of runs in five innings of that one and became the first pitcher in baseball history to earn a victory without allowing a walk or striking out a batter.

He has won six of seven decisions since falling to Oakland on Aug. 12 and has allowed one run or less in six of those 10 starts in that span. He’s only given up three runs in 10 innings this postseason.

“My memories of a Game 7 probably go back to Jack Morris, ‘91,“ Guthrie said. “I remember that game. I was 12 years old, so certainly could appreciate the effort that he gave and the magnitude of the game, to be able to pitch like he did and win the World Series.“

And thanks to Ventura, the Royals’ incredible bullpen triumvirate of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland will be fully rested.

San Francisco, meanwhile, will rely on veteran righty Tim Hudson, who has given up seven runs 11 1/3 innings of his last two starts. Hudson lost to Guthrie and the Royals on Friday and surrendered three runs in 5 2/3 frames.

However, the 39-year-old, who will be the oldest pitcher to start a Game 7, was terrific in his NLDS start versus Washington.

Recent history is also on the Royals’ side as the home team has been victorious in each of the last nine World Series Game 7’s. In fact there hasn’t been a road team to prevail in this situation since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates upended Baltimore.

Furthermore, 13 of the last 14 teams to win a Game 6 at home to force a Game 7, in either the LCS or World Series rounds, went on to win Game 7. The only exception was the 2006 Mets, who lost NLCS Game 7 to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Also 9 of the last 10 teams to lose Game 6 with a 3-2 lead have gone on to lose the series.

The last team with a 3-2 lead to lose Game 6 and win the series was the 1997 Marlins, and prior to them, the last such occurrence was the 1975 Reds.

And the Giants have never won a winner-take-all World Series game.

So yea, it doesn’t look good for the Giants on Wednesday.

But remember, this is an even year. And they do have Madison Bumgarner in their back pocket.

I picked Royals in six at the start. It may have taken them an extra game, but I’m sticking with the home team in Game 7.

GAME 7 PREDICTION: ROYALS, 6-2. (oh and I still give Bumgarner the MVP)

~~  Chris Ruddick,  ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Youth is served on PGA Tour

The fall events on the PGA Tour are perfect stops for young players to pick up their first tour win, and that has happened in the first three events of the 2014-15 wrap-around schedule.

Sang-Moon Bae, who won the season-opening Frys.com Open, was the grizzled veteran of the first three winners. Bae, 28, is starting his fourth full season on the PGA Tour.

The other two winners - Ben Martin and Robert Streb - are both 27 years old and at the start of their third PGA Tour season.

Of the three, Bae has had the most success. He earned his first tour title at the 2013 Byron Nelson Championship. Bae was also runner-up at the 2012 Transitions Championship.

Martin, the 2009 U.S. Amateur runner-up, had four top-10 finishes and 10 top 25s in his first two seasons combined. He spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons back on the Web.com Tour after failing to keep his PGA Tour card following his rookie season in 2011.

Last season, Martin tallied three third-place finishes and finished 76th on the FedExCup points list.

Streb combined for two top-10 and 12 top-25 finishes in his first two seasons. He was the runner-up at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, an event that included just 10 of the top-30 FedExCup leaders at the time.

The field that Streb topped on Sunday had six players—Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Chris Kirk, Bill Haas, Webb Simpson and Brendon Todd—ranked in the top 50 in the world. Not a powerful field by any means.

Regardless of how weak or strong the fields at the first three events have been, these three came out on top. It helps when guys like Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, to name a few, aren’t around.

The depth of the tour is greater than it has ever been, and it proves that anyone can win on any given week. You want more proof?

Bae had missed the cut in six of his previous nine starts, and he missed the cut in his next start in Las Vegas as well.

Martin shot 78-79 and finished next-to-last at the Frys.com Open, the week before his victory. He came back with four rounds in the 60s, including a third-round 62, to win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Streb, who won in 2012 on the Web.com Tour, was the anomaly of the three. He had tied for 31st and 10th at the season’s first two events and carried the momentum with him to Sea Island. Streb has shot in the 60s in nine of his 12 rounds.

They might be no-names to the casual golf fan, maybe even die-hard fans, but they are among the core of the tour membership that keeps the machine that is the tour going.

Bae, Martin and Streb may never challenge McIlroy for the top spot in the world rankings, but they are PGA Tour winners. And each has made at least $2.9 million in their career.

I’m not sure about you, but I would take that if I were still in my late 20s.

LANGER’S DOMINATION OF THE CHAMPIONS TOUR

There is an overabundance of statistics that one can use to measure a golfer and his success. Bernhard Langer tops most of those statistical categories on the Champions Tour this year.

Here is a sampling of the categories Langer leads - birdie average, scoring average, par breakers, top-10 finishes and ball striking.

Armed with that knowledge, it is not difficult to see why Langer has already clinched the $1 million annuity that comes with winning the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race.

Langer has truly been “the ultimate driving machine.“

Over the weekend, Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee was heaping praise on Langer for his dominance. Chamblee pointed to Langer’s proficiency in hitting greens as the greatest display in golf history.

Chamblee was not exaggerating, either.

At the height of his domination, Tiger Woods hit 75.15 percent of greens in regulation in 2000. Woods won nine times that season, including the final three majors.

Langer hasn’t been that dominant results-wise, though he does have nine top-2 finishes in 20 starts. He has accomplished those numbers by hitting a remarkable 79.01 percent of greens in regulation.

Overall, Langer has posted 17 top-10 finishes in 20 starts. In the three events he wasn’t in the top 10, Langer still averaged 7-under par.

In the majors this year, Langer has two wins, a tie for third and he shared ninth place at the other two. He also tied for eighth at the Masters.

Langer has five wins this season, and that marks the second time in his career he has won five times in a single season on the Champions Tour. In both of those seasons, Langer won two majors.

He may not have matched some of Hale Irwin’s best seasons on the Champions Tour, but Langer has been far and away the best player on tour this season.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Tough weekend for the LPGA in China: Several rain delays trimmed the event from 72 to 54 holes, and they still needed to go into Monday morning to finish the tournament. South African Lee-Anne Pace claimed her first tour win a week after she won in her homeland.

- Speaking of Irwin, the Champions Tour’s all-time wins leader, he shot 69 in the second round last weekend at the AT&T Championship. That marked the 17th time he has shot his age or better on the Champions Tour.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Fantasy Player of the Week - Week 8

Once again, the passing game won out over the rushing game. For the first time in NFL history, four quarterbacks threw for 400-yards or more in the same weekend.

And 20 of the top 24 fantasy scores in Week 8 were guys who either throw the ball or catch the ball for a living.

The following players were the best at their position in Week 8.

Quarterbacks -

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh - After Sunday’s 522-yard, six-touchdown performance, “Big Ben” is the only quarterback in NFL history who can say he’s thrown for 500 yards in a game more than once. Read Dave Holcomb’s fantasy piece, “The top 10 fantasy quarterback performances this century” - http://tinyurl.com/lkolawq to see where the performance ranks in recent history.

Tom Brady, New England - Imagine your fantasy quarterback going 30-of-35 for 354 yards and five touchdowns and not winning his head-to-head matchup. It could have happened if Brady’s owner was playing against Roethlisberger’s owner. I’ll bet Brady’s owners were still mighty pleased.

Running Backs -

Arian Foster, Houston - Coach Bill O’Brien has made the choice to “ride” his stud running back and it’s working. The Texans have already won twice as many games as all last season and Foster has produced six big-time fantasy totals in seven tries. Sunday might may have been his best yet - 151 yards and two scores on the ground and four receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown worth 38 fantasy points.

Matt Forte, Chicago - Ahead or way behind, as his team was Sunday, it doesn’t seem to matter, Forte gets his points. Against the Patriots he rushed for 114 yards and caught six balls for 54 yards and a touchdown worth 30 fantasy points.

Wide Receivers -

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia - Heading into Week 8 Maclin had one of the lowest catch percentages of any top fantasy receiver. He had caught just 27 of 60 targets or 45 percent. Sunday he was much more efficient, catching 12-of-16 for 187 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was by far his best performance of the season and the best fantasy total by any receiver (42 points) in a very high-scoring weekend of football.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver - The week got off to a huge start for Sanders owners when their guy went crazy in the Thursday night contest, catching nine balls for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Considering his struggles to get into the end zone all season, he had just one touchdown in the first six games, this 36-point explosion came completely out of the blue.

Tight Ends -

Rob Gronkowski, New England - “Gronk” has been a fantasy stud since 2011, but Sunday’s nine catches for 149 yards and three scores worth 39 fantasy points was easily the best total of his career.

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh - Miller is a much better football player than fantasy player because of the way he’s used in Pittsburgh, but every once in a while he is allowed to show what he can do. Sunday was one of those days as he caught seven for 112 yards and a touchdown.

Kickers -

Stephen Gostkowski, New England - It certainly helps when your team puts a 51- point total on the board as the Patriots did a number on the Bears. None of his three field goals were long, but when added to six extra points, gave Gostkowski a position-leading 15 fantasy points. He’s only missed one kick all season connecting on a league-leading 21 field goals and making all 25 extra points.

Defense/Special teams -

Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins took advantage of a rookie quarterback and twice returned interceptions for a touchdown. They also sacked the Jaguars’ Blake Bortles four times and forced a fumble for a position-high 28 fantasy points.

And the winner of the TSN Fantasy Player of the Week for Week 8 is ... Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. This should surprise no one after he completed 40-of-49 passes and led his team to a 51-34 victory. The only bad news is that he was started by less than 20 percent of his owners, but those who were brave enough, were rewarded with a historic performance.


►  The top 10 fantasy quarterback performances this century

For the first time in NFL history, four quarterbacks hit the 400-yard mark on the same Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger topped them all, breaking franchise records with 522 yards and six touchdowns.

With such a prolific passing day, let’s take some time to reflect back on the biggest fantasy days from the quarterback position this century and see where “Big Ben” lands.

10. Tony Romo, Week 5 2013: Romo edges Donovan McNabb by percentage points for the No. 10 ranking this century. The Dallas quarterback went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning and the highest-scoring offense in NFL history on this Sunday. Romo completed 25-of-36 passes for 506 yards and five touchdowns.

His last throw of the game, an interception, however, is what most fans remember. Romo’s pick cost the Cowboys the game and prevented Romo from joining the 40-point club. He is the only quarterback on this list who lost.

Fantasy Points: 38.94

9. Tom Brady, Week 6 2009: If we expanded this list to top 20 or 25, Brady would be on there several times. His best fantasy performance came in a 59-0 crushing of the Titans.

Brady only had five incomplete passes, going 29-of-34, for 380 yards and six touchdowns. Fantasy owners certainly didn’t mind Bill Belichick running up the score.

Fantasy Points: 39.2

8. Matt Flynn, Week 17 2011: These next three guys are the most unlikely candidates for top 10 fantasy quarterback performances this century.

Flynn, the most unlikely candidate of all the unlikely nominations, sat behind Aaron Rodgers that year and watched No. 12 set a single-season record for passer rating.

With Rodgers resting for the playoffs, Flynn set Packers franchise records with 480 passing yards and six touchdowns. Green Bay won a thriller at Lambeau over Detroit to finish the season, 15-1.

Flynn did throw one interception, which cost him a few spots on this list.

Fantasy Points: 41.2

7. Jeff Garcia, Week 13 2003: The next two quarterbacks benefited from their running ability.

Garcia threw for 252 yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinals, on 19- of-28 passing, but also rushed for 32 yards and two scores. The 49ers routed the Cardinals, 50-14.

Fantasy Points: 41.28

6. Daunte Culpepper, Week 14 2002: Culpepper also rushed for two touchdowns in his most prolific fantasy day. The Vikings quarterback scored 6.5 fantasy points in the final 10 seconds to join the 40-point club.

Culpepper found Randy Moss for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter and rather than go for the tie, Minnesota went for the win with a two- point conversion. Culpepper ran it in himself.

Fantasy Points: 41.78

5. Nick Foles, Week 9 2013: Similar to Flynn, Foles started the 2013 season as a backup and took over the starting role from Michael Vick.

Foles tied the all-time, single-game, passing touchdown record with seven in Oakland. He threw for a then career-high 406 yards while completing 22-of-28 passes.

Fantasy Points: 44.24

4. Ben Roethlisberger, Week 8 2014: Roethlisberger is the only quarterback in NFL history with two 500-yard passing days.

Too bad less than 20 percent of owners in ESPN leagues started “Big Ben” versus the Colts in Week 8.

Fantasy Points: 44.82

3. Aaron Rodgers, Week 4 2011: Any owner will take 408 yards and four touchdowns from their fantasy quarterback even with an interception. Aaron Rodgers, however, put himself in the record book with 36 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.

Fantasy Points: 45.92

2. Peyton Manning, Week 1 2013: Who can forget Manning’s incredible night to open the 2013 season?

He tied an NFL record, which Foles later tied as well, with seven touchdown passes. He also threw for 462 yards, a career-high until this season.

Fantasy Points: 46.48

1. Michael Vick, Week 9 2010: Coincidentally, Vick also started the 2010 season as a backup to Kevin Kolb. Vick shined immediately after Kolb suffered a concussion in Week 1, and he was at his peak against the Redskins on Monday night in Week 9.

Vick threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 80 yards and two more scores. He didn’t even play the fourth quarter.

But it didn’t matter because he already put up the best fantasy day of any quarterback this century and erased pretty much any deficit an owner had before the Monday night game.

Fantasy Points: 49.32



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Darren Collison: the ultimate sleeper

With the NBA season set to get underway Tuesday night, fantasy basketball owners are putting the finishing touches on their opening-day rosters.

What normally sets a fantasy champion apart from the rest of the field, is the ability to select players late in drafts, who end up producing numbers comparable to the upper echelon players in the NBA.

I am not talking about drafting a guy in the 12th round and expecting that player to perform like Cleveland Cavaliers star forward LeBron James. However, if fantasy owners were to find an asset in rounds 10-15, and if that player produced similarly to a player that was selected in the fourth- or fifth- round, those owners would most likely be in line for a solid season.

One player who could provide the punch needed to be considered a sleeper, is Sacramento Kings point guard Darren Collison.

According to Yahoo, Collison’s average draft position is No. 111, giving him an opportunity to drastically outperform those expectations.

Over the past two seasons, he has suited up for the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively, and on each team has served as the backup point guard. However, due to injuries to Jose Calderon in 2012-13 and Chris Paul last season, Collison started 83 a total of games over the past two seasons, and now that he is firmly entrenched as Sacramento’s starting point guard, he will have a great opportunity to improve on his career numbers.

As a starting point guard in the past (started 79 games in 2010-11 and 56 games in the 2011-12 shortened season for the Indiana Pacers), Collison’s minutes were not much different than his career average of 28.7 minutes per game, and combined with the fact that he was only 23 and 24- years-old during those two seasons, owners need to realize that he was not as complete a player as we see today.

Collison does have solid averages at this point in his career (11.4 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.2 spg, 46% FG, 86% FT), but for him to raise those numbers, he will have to be given more minutes on the floor, and that is exactly what should happen this season.

With former starter Isaiah Thomas signing with the Phoenix Suns during the offseason, the door was left open for Sacramento to bring in another playmaker to be the floor general. Last season, Thomas averaged 20.3 ppg, 6.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.8 three per game, but more importantly played 34.7 minutes a night.

If Collison sees close to the time Thomas saw last season, it is only natural for the numbers to improve, and with head coach Mike Malone returning for a second season, there is no reason to think that the offensive system is going to change.

Owners will hope that Malone and the Kings simply stick Collison into the same role Thomas occupied last season.

As a result, while he may not be able to average 20 points per game as Thomas did, Collison should be able to at least average a career-high in a number of categories, including points, assists, rebounds, steals, and three-pointers.

At 27-years-old, Collison is just entering the prime of his NBA career, and after playing behind a superstar like Paul last season, owners need to assume that some of Paul’s traits rubbed off on him. Now entering the 2014-15 season, Collison will have a unique opportunity to prove that he can be a productive starting point guard, and if he is able to do so, he will provide fantasy owners great value for a player who has been consistently drafted as the 111th-overall pick.

The Gilmer Free Press


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2014


Major League Baseball - World Series
*San Francisco at Kansas City, 8:07 PM - FOX


National Basketball Association
Milwaukee at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin, SportSouth, DSS
Philadelphia at Indiana, 7:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Indiana, DSS
Brooklyn at Boston, 7:30 PM - YES, CSN-New England, DSS
Washington at Miami, 7:30 PM - CSN-DC, SunSports, DSS
Atlanta at Toronto, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, DSS
Chicago at New York, 8:00 PM - WGN, MSG, ESPN
Minnesota at Memphis, 8:00 PM - FS-North, SportSouth, DSS
Houston at Utah, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, CSN-Houston, DSS
Detroit at Denver, 9:00 PM - FS-Detroit, Altitude, DSS
Golden State at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - CSN-Bay, California, DSS
LA Lakers at Phoenix, 10:00 PM - Time Warner, FS-Arizona, DSS
Oklahoma City at Portland, 10:30 PM - FS-Oklahoma, KGW, ESPN


National Hockey League
Detroit at Washington, 7:30 PM - TVA Sports, NBCSN
Nashville at Edmonton, 10:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, SN1, DSS


Major League Soccer - Playoffs
Vancouver at FC Dallas, 9:00 PM - TSN, Time Warner-TX


International Soccer
Manchester City FC vs. Newcastle United FC, 3:40 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
PGA - CIMB Classic, 11:00 PM - Golf Channel

Sports News - 10.28.14

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Week 8 Football Players of the Week

Rahmann Lee (Glenville State), Jeremiah Johnson (Concord) and Griffin Yocum (West Liberty) have earned Mountain East Conference Player of the Week honors.

Lee, a junior running back from Capitol Heights, MD, is the Offensive Player of the Week after leading the Pioneers to a win 41-38 over Notre Dame. Lee had 121 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score on a 26-yard run in the fourth quarter. He also had four catches for 100 yards against the Falcons. Lee is eighth in the country in all-purpose yards (188.0 per game) and is 10th in rushing yards (1,048).

Johnson, a freshman from Baltimore, MD, is the Defensive Player of the Week for helping keep 19th-ranked Concord’s unbeaten record intact. Johnson had four solo tackles in the game, and also provided an interception on Charleston’s final drive that preserved the win for the Mountain Lions.

Yocum, a senior from Glen Dale, WV, is the Special Teams Player of the Week. The punter booted four times for an average of 41.5 yards. He had two punts of over 50 yards in the game, including a long of 56 yards. Yocum leads the MEC averaging 41.7 yards per punt on the season.


Other Top Performances



Offense: Mitchel Shegos (Notre Dame) had a conference record 23 catches against Glenville State ... the 23 catches are the most by any player in NCAA Division II this season ... T.J. Smith (Concord) had three catches for 96 yards with a pair of scores ... Dakota Conwell (West Liberty) threw for 175 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 81 yards ... Cooper Hibbs (Fairmont State) was 23-of-37 for 332 yards and two touchdowns ... Cale Burdyshaw (Urbana) threw for 338 yards and three scores.

Defense: Emmanuel Ivey (Fairmont State) had seven tackles and broke up five passes, including two on Urbana’s final drive ... Alec Wood (West Liberty) had three stops and a red zone interception ... Jeff Kidder (Glenville State) notched 13 tackles and an interception ... D’Gary Wallace (Urbana) had a team-high six tackles, three tackles for a loss and one forced fumble ... Mike Savage (West Virginia Wesleyan) had 13 tackles ... George Berry (Notre Dame) had 13 tackles (eight solo) and one tackle for a loss.

Special Teams: Kyle Kaplan (Notre Dame) connected on all five PATs ... Garrett Lee (Concord) placed three punts inside the 20-yard line ... Kasper Bernild (West Virginia Wesleyan) drilled a 47-yard field goal and averaged 45.8 yards per punt.


2014 MEC Players of the Week
Week Offense Defense Special Teams
September 08 Brian Novak (CU) Marlon Oden (NDC) Anton McCallum (WLU)
September 15 Ray Russ (NDC) Shaneil Jenkins (SU) Josh Wilson (WLU)
September 22 Kenneth Butler (NDC) Justin Avery (UC) Kyle Kaplan (NDC)
September 29 Marvin Elam (UC) Gary Henderson (GSC) C.J. Davis (SU)
October 06 Tevin Brown (WVSU) C.J. Davis (SU)
Kevin Coffie (WVSU)
Torie Wagner (UC)
October 13 Rahmann Lee (GSC) Earon Settle (GSC) Kelly Carter (UU)
October 20 Ray Russ (NDC) D’Andre Muhammad (WLU) Torie Wagner (UC)
October 27 Rahmann Lee (GSC) Jeremiah Johnson (CU) Griffin Yocum (WLU)


The Gilmer Free Press

►  WVU student gear up for GameDay

Several WVU students plan to camp out all week on the Mountainlair Plaza in Morgantown in hopes of getting a front row seat when ESPN’s College GameDay goes live from the WVU campus Saturday morning ahead of Saturday afternoon’s WVU-TCU game.

Student Mike Garrity, a Westport, Conn., native, pitched a tent and was one of the first students in line Sunday.

“We’re all pretty excited about it,” Garrity told MetroNews Monday. “We have a few other Pikes (Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity) down here. We’re all setting up and getting an early start.”

GameDay was at WVU ahead of the 2011 game against LSU. Students and fans jammed the plaza and lined the streets on the downtown campus. Student Zach Schwartz, of Morgantown, expects a similar atmosphere this Saturday.

“Bananas,” Schwartz predicted. “I expect streets to be lined over here. I expect it to be crazy.”

The students camping out said they plan on alternating times spent on the plaza so they can go to class. One tent already has a TV installed.

Student C.J. Walters, from Gay, WV, was on campus for GameDay’s 2011 visit. He wants to experience it again.

“It was absolutely nuts. There were thousands of people here and the atmosphere was crazy. It’s something you can’t miss,” he said.

The #20 Mountaineers and #10 Horned Frogs will battle at 3:30 Saturday afternoon.


►  Step aside Mississippi, West Virginia is college football’s hottest state right now

The following is a list of states with multiple teams in the latest edition of the Associated Press Top 25: Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

The following is a list of states with its only FBS teams ranked in the latest AP Top 25: Arizona and West Virginia.

While the last half-decade has belonged to Alabama and this season has undoubtedly lived in Mississippi, it’s the Mountain State’s time to shine as College GameDay takes the country roads to Morgantown.

West Virginia’s two FBS clubs – N0. 20 West Virginia and No. 23 Marshall – hold a combined record of 14-2, equating to an .875 winning%age – the best among all states represented in FBS. All while hailing from a state of less than two million people.

Dana Holgorsen‘s Mountaineers are 6-2 and on a four-game winning streak. With their win over then-No. 4 Baylor, West Virginia sits at 4-1 in the Big 12 and in control of its own destiny for the conference title, with both No. 10 TCU (Saturday) and No. 11 Kansas State (November 22) heading to Morgantown, and winnable road games at Texas and Iowa State.

Doc Holliday‘s Thundering Herd is 8-0, the first team in college football to hit the eight-win mark. With every one of its eight wins by 15 points or more, Marshall is the AP’s second-highest ranked Group of Five team, seemingly putting itself in line (with the help of its newly-hired p.r. firm) of reaching a New Year’s Six bowl.

Both teams rank among the top 10 nationally in total offense and are led by prolific quarterbacks. West Virginia’s Clint Trickett ranks fifth nationally in passing with 2,763 passing yards, while Marshall’s Rakeem Cato ranks 13th nationally with 20 touchdown passes.

Not bad for a pair of programs that went a combined 12-13 just two years ago.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Big 12 sets 3:30 PM start time for WVU-Texas

West Virginia’s game at Texas on November 8 will kick off at 3:30 PM on Fox Sports 1, the Big 12 announced Monday.

It will mark the Mountaineers’ second trip to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. They won 48-45 there in 2012.

No. 20 West Virginia (6-2, 4-1) hosts 10th-ranked TCU this Saturday at 3:30 PM



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Johnson & Holmes named C-USA Players of the Week

Devon Johnson rushed for a Marshall record 272 yards and racked up four touchdowns in Saturday’s win over FAU. Monday he was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.

On the other side ball, senior linebacker Jermaine Holmes tallied 18 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss to earn the Defensive Player of the Week.

Johnson ran for a school-record 272 yards on 24 carries with four touchdowns in Marshall’s 35-19 win over Florida Atlantic. Three of those four touchdowns came on runs of 58, 62 and 66 yards. He helped lead a Marshall offense that gained 546 yards on just 59 plays (9.3 per play). Johnson is second nationally in total rushing yards (1,203), fourth in rushing touchdowns (15) and rushing yards per game (158.38) and 10th in yards per carry. This is his second weekly honor in 2014.

Holmes racked up 18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble in the Herd’s 35-19 win over Florida Atlantic Saturday. He led a Marshall defense that held the Owls scoreless over the game’s final 32 minutes and allowed just 4.3 yards per play to go along with a 7-19 clip on third down and 1-3 on fourth in that span. The 18 tackles were the most by a Marshall player since 2010.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Heisman Rankings: Week 9

While the names at the top are becoming familiar, there’s a changing of the guard in the Heisman Trophy rankings this week because the former favorite has regained his position at No. 1.


1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (last week: No. 2)—With the sting of Oregon’s October 2 loss to Arizona beginning to fade away, it’s time to start considering Mariota as the front-runner for the award once again. The Ducks’ defense proved to be vulnerable yet again this past weekend, but it didn’t matter thanks to another masterful performance from Mariota as they captured a 59-41 triumph at Cal. The signal caller had one blip on the night with his first interception of the season (a pass that was tipped twice), but the 326 passing yards and five touchdowns easily made up for that. The milestones keep piling up for Mariota, who has 30 total touchdowns in eight games. He’s now the program’s all-time leader in passing yards (8,625), eclipsing Bill Musgrave’s previous mark. He’s also thrown at least one touchdown in every appearance of his career (33 games) and has tossed multiple scores in eight straight games, the longest active streak in the country.


2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (last week: No. 1)—After holding to the No. 1 spot on this list through the Bulldogs’ bye, Prescott dips slightly this week, which had less to do with his performance than it did with Mariota’s continued dominance. The No. 1 Bulldogs were challenged at Kentucky over the weekend but still managed to escape with a two-touchdown victory (45-31), and the offensive output was spearheaded by another strong showing by Prescott, who threw for 216 yards, ran for 88 and scored three touchdowns. It wasn’t the signal caller’s sharpest outing - he completed less than 55% of his passes and tossed just his fifth interception of the season - but it’s hardly a reason to worry, especially on the road in the SEC, where nothing ever comes easily.


3. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (last week: No. 3)—Abdullah’s incredible season reached new heights in the Cornhuskers’ 42-24 triumph over Rutgers. Not only did he rush for 225 yards on just 19 carries - his fourth 200-yard rushing performance of the season - but he added 90 kick return yards and 26 receiving for a school-record 341 all-purpose yards, which was also the highest total in the FBS this season. Abdullah has been outstanding all season, as indicative of his nation-leading 1,249 rushing yards, but his run over the past five games has been particularly sensational, scoring 15 touchdowns over that time to up his season total to 19. The tailback’s illustrious career already includes owning the top spot on Nebraska’s all-purpose yards list (6,604), and adding a Heisman Trophy to his list of accolades isn’t out of the question.


4. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (last week: No. 4)—After a brief hiccup in early October, Cooper has returned to his torrid pace in recent weeks to clearly establish himself as the nation’s most dominant receiver. His season reached a new, historic plateau in Alabama’s 34-20 win at Tennessee, as he caught nine passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, breaking Julio Jones’ previous single-game receiving yardage record of 221 (Cooper also has the program’s fourth-best total with 201 yards versus Florida earlier this season). Despite being the only viable receiving threat on the Crimson Tide - no one else has more than 23 catches - Cooper has been no less uncoverable, as he ranks in the top three in the FBS in receptions (71), yards (1,132) and touchdowns (nine).


5. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (last week: No. 6)—Gordon may have lost some ground in the race as the nation’s best running back thanks to the monster performance by Abdullah, but he still earned a slight bump on this list thanks to yet another stellar showing in Wisconsin’s 52-7 victory over Maryland. The workhorse tailback had 22 carries for 122 yards - his sixth 100-yard rushing performance in seven games this season - and scored three touchdowns to give him 17 on the season. Gordon is the nation’s fourth-leading rusher with 1,168 yards, and he’s right in line with the pace he set last year as a timeshare back (7.8 yards per carry in 2013, 7.6 in 2014). With five more regular-season games, a possible Big Ten Championship appearance and a bowl game still left, the tailback has a great chance of topping 2,000 yards.


6. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (last week: No. 5)—The reigning winner is doing his best to make voters forget about his litany of off-the-field issues with continued great play, leading the No. 2 Seminoles, especially in the second half of the team’s signature victory over Notre Dame on October 18. With a modest 13 touchdown passes, it appears Winston will fall well short of the 40 scores he tossed as a freshman, but he’s shown improvement elsewhere with an outstanding 70.6 completion%age (third-best in the nation).


7. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU (last week: unranked)—The Horned Frogs’ signal caller was on the radar a few weeks back with an honorable mention, but he clearly asserted himself as a worthy contender with this weekend’s incredible performance in his team’s 82-27 rout of Texas Tech. In TCU’s highest-scoring game in school history, Boykin threw for a career-high 433 yards, a school- record seven touchdowns (the same amount he threw during the entire 2013 campaign) and zero interceptions. The outing was hardly an anomaly for Boykin, as he’s racked up 2,306 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with just three picks to go with 374 rushing yards and three more scores for a top-10 TCU squad looking to make a push for the Big 12 championship.


8. Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame (last week: No. 9)—Even on Notre Dame’s bye week coming off a heartbreaking loss to Florida State, Golson managed to creep up a spot in the rankings. Although his numbers are still very much worthy (1,996 passing yards, 239 rushing yards, 23 TDs), he has to show significant improvement and cut down on his turnovers (10 in the last four games) down the stretch if he wants to be considered a favorite once again. He’ll have plenty of chances for the one-loss Fighting Irish as they compete for a bid in the College Football Playoff with marquee matchups versus Arizona State and USC still to come.


9. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss (last week: No. 7)—Losing to LSU in Death Valley is unstandable, but when you’re one of the front-runners to win the SEC Western Division like Ole Miss, it’s definitely a disappointment. The Rebels’ 10-7 loss to the Tigers dropped them a game behind Mississippi State in the race for the SEC championship game berth, and Wallace’s underwhelming showing was unfortunately a big reason for the setback. For the second straight week, he completed less than 50% of his passes (14-of-33), finishing with 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception. One poor performance can’t erase a season’s worth of strong ones, however. Wallace has still be outstanding (2,075 passing yards, 18 TDs, seven interceptions; 162 rushing yards, two TDs), and the Rebels are far from out of it with a matchups against Auburn and rival MSU still on tap.


10. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn (last week: unranked)—Marshall lost a lot of momentum with Auburn’s October 11 loss to Mississippi State rolling right into its bye week, but the squad used that time off to recuperate nicely. The No. 5 Tigers downed South Carolina, 42-35, over the weekend, thanks in no small measure to Marshall’s near-flawless showing. The signal caller was on point with 12-of-14 passing for 139 yards and a touchdown to go with 89 yards and three more scores on the ground, finishing the win with a QBR of 99.0. Marshall and his 18 touchdowns will have another marquee game to prove himself in the aforementioned bout with Ole Miss in Oxford this week.


Dropped Out: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia; Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor


Honorable Mention: Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall; Clint Trickett, QB, West Virginia; Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana; Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss


►  The AP Top 25 Poll

1
Mississippi State (46)
SEC
Record: 7-0
PV Rank
1
Points
1,486
2
Florida State (14)
ACC
Record: 7-0
2
1,453
3
Alabama
SEC
Record: 7-1
4
1,290
4
Auburn
SEC
Record: 6-1
5
1,267
5
Oregon
Pac-12
Record: 7-1
6
1,199
6
Notre Dame
Division I FBS Independents
Record: 6-1
7
1,161
7
Mississippi
SEC
Record: 7-1
3
1,095
8
Michigan State
Big Ten
Record: 7-1
8
1,086
9
Georgia
SEC
Record: 6-1
9
1,074
10
TCU
Big 12
Record: 6-1
10
1,030
11
Kansas State
Big 12
Record: 6-1
11
930
12
Baylor
Big 12
Record: 6-1
12
839
13
Ohio State
Big Ten
Record: 6-1
13
676
14
Arizona
Pac-12
Record: 6-1
15
669
15
Arizona State
Pac-12
Record: 6-1
14
667
16
LSU
SEC
Record: 7-2
24
574
17
Nebraska
Big Ten
Record: 7-1
16
535
18
Utah
Pac-12
Record: 6-1
19
524
19
Oklahoma
Big 12
Record: 5-2
17
430
20
West Virginia
Big 12
Record: 6-2
22
379
21
East Carolina
The American
Record: 6-1
18
366
22
Clemson
ACC
Record: 6-2
21
265
23
Marshall
Conference USA
Record: 8-0
23
184
24
Duke
ACC
Record: 6-1
26
121
25
UCLA
Pac-12
Record: 6-2
25
106

Others receiving votes: Colorado St. 29, Southern Cal 22, Wisconsin 14, Stanford 9, Louisville 8, Missouri 7, N. Dakota St. 3, Oklahoma St. 2



The Gilmer Free Press

►  McCoy, Redskins pull out OT win vs. Cowboys

Colt McCoy led a game-winning field goal drive in overtime in his first start since 2011 as the Washington Redskins went into AT&T Stadium and stunned the Dallas Cowboys, 20-17, on Monday night.

McCoy, who began the season third on Washington’s depth chart behind Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, relieved the turnover-prone Cousins last week and led a come-from-behind victory over Tennessee. With Griffin still recovering from an ankle injury, McCoy was given his first start since December 08, 2011, when he was with the Browns.

McCoy completed 25-of-30 passes for 299 yards and ran for a touchdown, as Washington (3-5) won its second straight with the former University of Texas star under center.

“He led us on some drives. He was very efficient,“ said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. “Everybody got the ball, which really made this offense click. “

Alfred Morris helped his quarterback with 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and DeSean Jackson made six catches for 136 yards. Jackson went over the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in the last six games.

The Redskins won the coin toss and started overtime with a 23-yard pass from McCoy to Pierre Garcon. Later, McCoy found Jordan Reed for five yards near the left sideline to move the sticks. On the very next play from the Dallas 45, McCoy rolled to his left and lofted a pass to a well-covered Reed, who adjusted his body in mid-air and made a miraculous catch on the sideline.

The drive stalled at the 22 after Reed was tackled near the line of scrimmage on 3rd-and-3, and Kai Forbath drilled a 40-yard field goal to make it 20-17.

Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense had a chance to tie the game or win it with a touchdown, but Bashaud Breeland knocked down a fourth down pass intended for Dez Bryant to secure the victory.

“My first thought is ‘how great did our defense play!‘“ McCoy said. “I made a ton of mistakes early in the game. I settled in because our defense created turnovers and kept us in the game. Huge win for us.“

Romo, who left the game in the third quarter and spent the majority of the second half in the locker room being evaluated, returned for the final series of regulation and the lone possession in overtime.

Romo finished 17-for-28 for 209 yards and a touchdown, while DeMarco Murray extended an NFL record with his eighth straight game over 100 rushing yards to start the season. Murray gained 141 yards on 19 carries and made four catches for 80 yards but was kept out of the end zone for the second time this season.

Brandon Weeden, another Browns cast-off, took over when Romo went down in the third and led two scoring drives. He threw for 69 yards and a touchdown on 4- of-6 efficiency.

Dallas was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession, and Andre Roberts made them pay by returning Chris Jones’ 56-yard boot 37 yards to the Dallas 48. McCoy hit Niles Paul for 20 yards, setting up Forbath’s 44-yard field goal.

Later in the first, Joseph Randle spelled Murray and carried for 12 yards, but Brandon Meriweather knocked the ball loose at the end of the run. Trent Murphy, making his first career start for the injured Brian Orakpo, pounced on it at the Cowboys 25-yard line.

McCoy got greedy with the short field and went up top to Roberts in double coverage in the back of the end zone. J.J. Wilcox made a leaping interception, giving momentum to the home team.

Washington stole it right back by forcing another Dallas fumble. Murray took a screen pass near midfield four plays into the Cowboys series, made a defender miss along the right sideline and ran all the way to the Redskins 8. Fighting for extra yards, Murray was wrapped up by a trio of defenders, and the ball popped out just before his knee touched down.

Dallas finally found the end zone late in the first half thanks to individual heroics from Romo and Bryant. After moving the sticks with a 20-yard pitch- and-catch with Bryant, Dallas faced 3rd-and-6 from the Redskins 44 when Romo expertly maneuvered the pocket and flipped a pass to Murray underneath for a 24-yard gain. Two plays later Romo threw a quick screen to Bryant, who made a one-handed catch before muscling through two players and stretching the ball over the goal line.

The final drive before halftime stalled when Romo was sacked by Ryan Kerrigan on third down, and the Cowboys led 7-3 at the break.

Washington regained the lead on the opening drive of the second half. Morris punctuated an 8-play, 80-yard march with a 5-yard touchdown run off right tackle. He also picked up 29 yards on a second down run on the second play of the drive.

That’s when things took a turn for Dallas. On 3rd-and-11 midway through the third, Keenan Robinson blitzed up the middle and was unblocked on his way to laying a crushing blow on Romo. Romo aggravated his surgically-repaired back and lay on the turf for several minutes before being helped to the locker room.

“He got hit in the back. Looks like he has a back contusion,“ Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said after the game. “The X-rays were negative, which is positive news for us.“

Weeden’s first snap was a handoff to Murray, who took it 51 yards all the way to the Redskins 6-yard line. Weeden looked for Bryant twice on second and third-and-goal, but both passes were batted away and the Cowboys had to settle for a 21-yard Dan Bailey field goal.

McCoy and Jackson hooked up for a 45-yard pickup late in the third quarter, and Washington found the end zone on the third play of the fourth. On 3rd-and- goal from the 7, McCoy dialed his own number and ran up the middle on a draw, absorbing multiple hits as he dove into the end zone.

Then it was Weeden’s turn to lead a touchdown drive. He was a perfect 4-for-4 on the drive, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Jason Witten, who made the grab near the 10 and outran a Washington defender before diving over the right pylon.

The Redskins drove to the edge of Forbath’s field goal range late in the fourth, but McCoy was sacked on third down and they were forced to punt.

After prolonged discussions with Jerry Jones and team doctors, Romo convinced the Cowboys brass to let him return to the game for the final drive. He avoided disaster when Murray recovered his fumble inside the Dallas 10-yard line with just over a minute remaining. Washington sent pressure later in the drive and forced a punt.

McCoy took a knee, and regulation ended in a 17-17 tie.

Game Notes

McCoy has completed 36-of-42 passes this season ... The Redskins snapped an eight-game losing skid against NFC East opponents ... This was Romo’s 36th straight game with a touchdown pass, matching Brett Favre for fifth-longest streak in NFL history ... Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant left the game with an arm injury ... The two teams have split 16 all-time meetings on “Monday Night Football.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pacers’ Hill, West, Watson to miss start of season

Indiana Pacers guard George Hill is expected to miss at least three weeks with a left knee contusion, the team announced Monday.

Hill averaged 10.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 76 games last season.

The team also announced that guard C.J. Watson will be sidelined at least two weeks with a bruised right foot, while a sprained right ankle will force forward David West to sit out at least the first three games of the season.

Indiana opens its campaign Wednesday against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Athletics name Aldrete bench coach

The Oakland Athletics have named Mike Aldrete as the bench coach for manager Bob Melvin.

Aldrete worked as the bench coach for the St. Louis Cardinals the past three seasons and will rejoin Melvin’s staff. He previously worked under Melvin as first base coach for the Seattle Mariners in 2004 and has hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2005-06.

The Athletics needed a replacement for Chip Hale, who was recently hired as manager of the Diamondbacks.

Aldrete, a native of Carmel, California, and graduate of Stanford University, played as a first baseman and outfielder for seven different teams during a 10-year big league career, ending as part of the 1996 World Series champion New York Yankees. He was a .263 hitter for San Francisco (1986-88), Montreal (1989-90), San Diego (1991), Cleveland (1991), Oakland (1993-95), the Angels (1995-96) and the Yankees (1996).


►  Braves hire Seitzer as hitting coach

The Atlanta Braves have hired Kevin Seitzer to replace Greg Walker as hitting coach.

The 52-year-old Seitzer was the hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays this past season. He also served in a similar position for the Kansas City Royals from 2009-12 and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007.

“Kevin is a well-respected, experienced hitting coach,“ Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said in a statement Monday. “He was a great player and as a coach he has a skill set that will benefit our club.“

A two-time All-Star, Seitzer batted .295 in 12 seasons with the Royals, Milwaukee, Oakland and Cleveland.

Walker resigned after the Braves finished ahead of only San Diego in the majors with 573 runs scored.

The Braves also named Jose Castro the assistant hitting coach.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Newman a big surprise in the Chase

Ryan Newman is making a Cinderella run in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, hoping to become one of the four drivers contending for the title in the November 16 season finale at Homestead.

When NASCAR revised the playoff format for its premier series prior to the start of this season, it put more emphasis on winning races than scoring points. Any driver who won a points-paying race during the regular season was virtually guaranteed of making the Chase.

With the playoffs now including elimination rounds, any championship-eligible driver who wins a race will automatically advance into the next round.

Newman, who’s in his first season as driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, has yet to win a race this year, but he has been consistent throughout the season, particularly in the second half.

He accumulated enough points during the 26-race regular season to earn the last seed in the 16-driver Chase field.

After finishing 15th at Chicagoland, the first race in the Chase, and then 18th at New Hampshire, Newman managed to advance from the Challenger Round into the 12-driver Contender Round with an eighth-place run at Dover. He then moved on to the eight-driver Eliminator Round with finishes of sixth (Kansas), seventh (Charlotte) and fifth (Talladega).

Newman concluded the Contender Round third in the point standings, just four points behind then-leader Joey Logano.

Newman’s third-place run on Sunday at Martinsville matched his best finish of the season. He bounced back from a pit-road speeding penalty and then survived a wild ending to the race. The last caution set up a five-lap shootout to the finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed Tony Stewart for the lead with four laps left and then held it for his first Martinsville win.

“I put us a bit behind there with that pit-road penalty, which is something rare for me to do, but we managed to race our way out of that and get back to the top 15 and top 10 and then put us in a good place for this finish,“ Newman said. “Those last five laps were pretty intense, and I’m glad we came out of it how we did. It could have been big there, and I was expecting another caution.“

Jeff Gordon’s second-place finish gave him the points lead, while Newman is just three points behind him. Since Earnhardt won Martinsville but had been eliminated from the Chase following the Contender Round, at least two of the final four positions for the championship at Homestead will be decided by points. Texas (on Sunday) and Phoenix (November 9) are the remaining races in the Eliminator Round.

“We came here (to Martinsville) to do what we needed to do,“ Newman said. “We’re going to go to Texas to do what we need to do. That’s a lot easier said than done. To me, it’s just another race. It’s an entirely different race than what we had at Martinsville. Phoenix will be the same.“

Newman’s last win in the Sprint Cup Series occurred in July 2013 at Indianapolis (49 races ago). He drove for Stewart-Haas Racing at the time. Last year, Newman got into the playoffs after point penalties were levied against Michael Waltrip Racing and Martin Truex Jr. following MWR’s cheating scandal in the Chase-cutoff race at Richmond. Truex’s loss of points removed him from the playoff field. Newman finished the season 11th in championship standings.

With the new Chase format, Newman now has a great shot at winning his first title in the series. Following each elimination round, the point totals for each championship-eligible driver is reset (3,000 for Contender, 4,000 for Eliminator and 5,000 for championship). The highest finisher among the final four in the Homestead race will win the title. Bonus points for laps led will not apply at Homestead.

Newman’s best points finish in his Sprint Cup career is sixth, which happened three times, most recently in 2005 when he drove for Roger Penske’s team.

If Newman were to advance into the final four at Homestead and then be the highest finisher of the four there, but without winning any one of the three remaining races, he would become the first champion in the 66-year history of the Cup Series to not score a victory during his title season.

“It’s played to our advantage the entire time as far as not having a win, not having bonus points,“ Newman said. “Even if you’re 8 of 12 or 16, you’re still getting caught up, making free points that they’re giving you to be tied to the next bracket.

“It’s been to our advantage the whole entire time. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be from the drop of the green in Texas or from the drop of the green in Homestead. It has played to our advantage mathematically, no doubt. We were the 16th seed coming in without a win. We’ve not won yet. We were tied for the lead in the points with four races to go. So mathematically, it has played to my advantage, as others, but probably mine mostly.“

Newman has 17 career victories in the series, including one at Texas (March 2003) and Phoenix (April 2010). His best finish at Homestead is third, which came in 2012.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Things we learned on Sunday of Week 8

The Pittsburgh Steelers wore their throwback uniforms Sunday. Sorry I can’t stand them.

And in another look backward, the passing combination of Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski used to be the best scoring duo in football. They turned back the clock Sunday hooking up three times.

Oh, Arian Foster and Ben Roethlisberger were pretty good too.

Below are a few more things we observed.

Detroit at Atlanta

Many though Detroit simply was missing too many weapons on offense with Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson and their three top tight ends sidelined by injury, but they found a way to win ... or did Atlanta find a way to lose.

Fantasy owners expected big things from two Lions players - Joique Bell and Golden Tate. Tate did his job catching 7 balls for 151 yards and a score, but Bell was a non-factor in the 21-point comeback with just 39 yards rushing, 22 receiving and no touchdowns.

Theo Riddick was the No. 2 receiving target for Matthew Stafford catching 8- of-12 targets for 74 yards and a score.

Matt Ryan playing well on the road, doesn’t happen often, but it did Sunday morning at least for the first 30 minutes. The seventh-year signal caller was 14-of-17 for 160 yards and two scores in the first half. Unfortunately they play 60 minute games and his second half produced little expect a loss.

Even rarer a sight is Steven Jackson running the ball into the end zone. That happened too. The 11-year pro surpassed 11,000 rushing yards for his career, a very nice average, but since the move to Atlanta hasn’t been a fantasy-worthy.

Seattle at Carolina

Are the rumors of his not coming back in 2015 getting to Marshawn Lynch? He’s not getting the workload we are used to and not doing much with it. A total of 15 touches and 64 yards. That’s not enough for fantasy owners who picked him in the first round last August.

A Russell Wilson who isn’t running isn’t likely to give his fantasy owner many points. That held true in the first half. He was better in the second half, but still totaled just 234 yards between running and passing.

Doug Baldwin continues to be Wilson’s featured receiver, yet despite that he’s owned in less than 60% of all Yahoo leagues.

Cam Newton’s running was held in check and like Wilson that makes it tough for him to help fantasy owners. Twelve carries for 24 yards won’t cut it.

Without a touchdown and just 266 total yards in offense, running back Jonathan Stewart and wideout Kelvin Benjamin did their best by at least cracking the 90-yard mark.

Baltimore at Cincinnati

Michael Campanaro led the Ravens in first half receiving yards ... who? He did nothing after the break. Neither did any other Ravens receiver as the Baltimore passing game was missing in action.

Lorenzo Taliaferro played the role of goal line running back to perfection, scoring twice from inside the 10-yard line. Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett owners eat your heart put.

Justin Tucker was the Ravens best weapon hitting two 50-yard plus field goals.

Giovani Bernard saw just seven touches in the first half. With A.J. Green inactive, you would think the Bengals would want to get their most explosive guy the ball more often. He was only slightly more active in the second half with 11 touches, but short touchdown run helped. Still, Bernard’s fantasy owners can’t be happy that Andy Dalton ran it in twice.

Dalton’s two touchdown runs made up for his “touchdown-less” passing day.

Mohamed Sanu only touched the ball seven times, but totaled 152 yards of offense. Maybe he should get more opportunities?

Miami at Jacksonville

The Dolphins led the game 7-0 early in the second despite three yards of offense thanks to a Louis Delmas 81-yard interception return. They scored a second time thanks to a Brent Grimes “pick-six” off Blake Bortles. Bortles, unfortunately, leads the NFL in that category with four.

Given their slow start, it’s understandable that none of the Dolphins offensive player posted big fantasy numbers.

Denard Robinson had close to 100 yards at the half. I guess we’ve seen the future and it doesn’t include the plodding Toby Gerhart. Down 24-6 after three quarters he finished with just 108 yards rushing.

St. Louis at Kansas City

No Rams receiver had more than one catch in the first half. Hard to be fantasy worthy based on that type of workload. Kenny Britt led the team with 52 yards and Zac Stacy with three reception for the game. Ouch!

Tre Mason was the “feature back,“ but seven rushing attempts, and 32 yards, isn’t going to turn him into a fantasy stud.

Jamaal Charles scored from a yard out or his first half production, 21 yards, would have been a nightmare. He made his fantasy owners smile when he went the distance from 36 yards early in the fourth quarter and finished with a combined 117 yards. Nice comeback.

With Charles healthy, Knile Davis doesn’t get to run the ball much anymore, but he made his presence felt with a 99-yard kickoff return to start the second half. Davis also scored in garbage time, but it’s hard to depend on him under these conditions.

Chicago at New England

Anybody that thought Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady’s career was hanging in the balance, after a Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, was flat out incorrect. Not only has Brady led New England to four consecutive victories, but he was also on fire during Week 8 against the Chicago Bears. His first- half numbers were off the charts, as Brady threw for 203 yards and four touchdowns in the first 30 minutes and finished the afternoon with 354 passing yards and five scores.

Fantasy owners who own Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski may begin doing their “happy dance,“ as he torched the Bears’ defense for nine receptions, 149 yards, and count ‘em, three touchdowns. Any questions about his health, are now far behind.

New England’s other tight end, Tim Wright, produced on the stat sheet as well, hauling in seven catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Owners who gambled on Wright after putting up a “donut” in Week 7, had it paid off nicely.

The Patriots may have found their new No. 1 wide receiver in Brandon LaFell. Not only did he catch his third touchdown over the past three games, but LaFell also produced an impressive 11 receptions for 124 yards. If he is still on the waiver wire, owners better run to their computers to put a bid in for him.

Although the Bears were completely dominated, Jay Cutler was still able to perform for fantasy owners, as he totaled 227 yards and three touchdowns. However, Cutler did throw one interception and lost a fumble, giving him eight picks on the season, along with six fumbles. He needs to do a better job taking care of the football.

Chicago tailback Matt Forte continued his stellar play this season, rushing for 114 yards along with hauling in six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Forte has combined for at least 100 yards in six of his past eight games, and now has 22 career 100-yard rushing games.

The Bears did not receive much help from their star-studded wide receiver duo. Alshon Jeffrey did score a garbage-time touchdown in the fourth quarter, but only hauled in five balls for 59 yards. Brandon Marshall was even worse totaling only three catches for a dreadful 35 yards.

Chicago tight end Martellus Bennett led the team in receiving, collecting six receptions for 95 yards and a score. This was a welcomed sight for fantasy owners as Bennett had not seen the end zone since Week 3

Buffalo at New York Jets

Fantasy owners who own New York Jets’ quarterback Geno Smith hopefully did not have him in their starting lineups on Sunday. After going 2-of-8 for only five yards, along with an ugly three interceptions, Smith was benched in the first quarter in favor of Michael Vick.

Vick was able to move the offense, passing for 153 yards and rushing for an additional 69 yards, but turnovers continue to plague him as well (one interception and two lost fumbles). Owners will need to monitor who gets the call for Week 9.

Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Kyle Orton on the other hand, played out of his mind, going 10-of-17 for 238 and four touchdowns. He actually would have had a fifth scoring pass, if wide receiver Sammy Watkins did not showboat on an 84-yard reception.

Watkins ended up having a nice fantasy day, with three catches for 157 yards and a touchdown, but he should have had even more, after catching a bomb in the second quarter from Orton. Watkins thought he was in the clear for a walk- in touchdown, but was mistaken, as he was caught from behind, leading to a two-yard Frank Summers score.

Jets’ wide receiver Percy Harvin managed seven touches in his team-debut, but totaled only 50 yards. Tight end Jace Amaro led New York in receiving with five catches for 51 yards, and wide receiver Eric Decker chipped in seven receptions, but for only 40 yards. Harvin should help open up the field for other Jets’ players, but fantasy owners need to be aware that this team will continue to struggle to score points.

One of the biggest questions on the day, throughout all of fantasy football, was who would produce from the Bills’ running back position. Anthony Dixon handled the majority of the workload, totaling 22 carries, but had only 44 yards, and Bryce Brown managed only seven rushing attempts for a lowly 15 yards. On top of that, neither tailback contributed in the passing game either, leaving both Dixon and Brown as risky fantasy-plays, moving forward.

The Jets’ running game was nothing to write home about, with Vick leading the team in rushing. Halfback Chris Ivory was coming off a 107-yard game in Week 7, but was unable to build off that performance, as he managed 13 carries for only 43 yards.

Minnesota at Tampa Bay

Although this game had an exciting ending, with Minnesota Vikings’ linebacker Anthony Barr returning a fumble for a game-winning touchdown in overtime, the overall contest was not a pleasant sight for fantasy owners.

Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was definitely better today, completing 24-of-42 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown and didn’t turn the ball over. Still, owners would have liked to see him have more of an opportunity to run the football. Bridgewater had only one carry.

A player who continued to run the ball well was tailback Jerick McKinnon. He turned 16 carries into a respectable 83 yards, but wasn’t part of the passing game which limits his upside. McKinnon should continue to be a solid RB2 option.

The starting running back on the other side of the field was Tampa Bay halfback Doug Martin. Before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter, Martin was completely ineffective, rushing the ball 10 times for only 27 yards.

Bobby Rainey did not fare much better on the ground, with eight carries for 25 yards, but at least he was able to produce six receptions for 41 yards. Maybe it’s not the running back, but the guys trying to open the holes up front?

Buccaneers’ wide receiver Mike Evans led the team in receiving on Sunday, totaling four receptions on seven targets for 78 yards, but the guy who lines up as the other starting receiver was invisible. Vincent Jackson had just one catch for 13 yards.

Surprise! The Vikings received some production from their top wide receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson. He caught six of 12 targets for 86 yards, which were all season-highs. Patterson also contributed one carry for 10 yards. While he did not find the end zone, owners should be happy from this output.

Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon helped the Buccaneers overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, but failed to do much from a fantasy-perspective. He passed for only 171 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, and will be no more than a QB2 next week and beyond.

Houston at Tennessee

In his first-career start, Zach Mettenberger did a decent job, for any fantasy owner who was forced to start him, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns, but did turn the ball over twice (one interception and one fumble lost). The fact that Mettenberger lacks a dynamic playmaker, will hinder his production as the 2014 season moves on.

The “playmaker” who led the Titans in receiving yards was wide receiver Nate Washington, as he totaled four receptions for 68 yards, but failed to find the end zone. Tight end Delanie Walker was able to find pay-dirt however, for his fourth touchdown of the season.

Titans’ tailback Bishop Sankey has been seemingly handed the keys to the castle, as he has started the previous two games for Tennessee. However, starting games does not equal production and Sankey carried the ball only nine times for 35 yards and combined for 60 yards from scrimmage. He is merely an RB3/flex play, moving forward.

Houston Texans’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick performed his standard “game- manager” role, completing 19-of-35 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. The Texans will take it from their starting quarterback if they continue to win games, but fantasy owners who started Fitzpatrick will be slightly disappointed.

Fitzpatrick does have a nice wide receiver combo with Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins led Houston in receiving during Week 8 with 95 yards on five catches and Johnson caught seven for 55 yards. Both pass-catchers combined for a hefty total of 23 targets.

Last, but certainly not least, Texans’ running back Arian Foster was the guy who caught Fitzpatrick’s lone touchdown pass. That was just a small part of Foster’s afternoon, however, as he ran over, under and around Tennessee defenders for 151 rushing yards and two more scores. For the first time in his career, he has rushed for over 100 yards in four consecutive games,

Philadelphia at Arizona

Nick Foles continues to be a turnover machine. That’s as compared to last season, not the New York Jets quarterbacks duo. On the other hand he threw 62 times for 411 yards. At that pace he’s is going to throw more interceptions ... and have a very tired arm.

Eagles place-kicker Cody Parkey has become a solid fantasy option. He’s 14- of-15 on the season and 3-of-3 from 50 yards or more.

Jeremy Maclin has stayed healthy in 2014 and it shows in his numbers. With DeSean Jackson plying his trade in Washington, Maclin is putting up buckets of fantasy points. Sunday he caught 12 for 187 yards and two scores, including a beautiful 54-yard scoring strike.

Andre Ellington continues to run despite playing at less than 100%. He posted a combined 85 yards and a touchdown.

Larry Fitzgerald (7-160-1) has always “owned” the Eagles and that didn’t change today. Carson Palmer hit him with a short pass to start the third quarter which he turned into an 80-yard catch and run for a touchdown.

Oakland at Cleveland

The only people watching this one were family members and fantasy owners. And not many fantasy owners since these teams have scant few fantasy-worthy assets.

Derek Carr did rack up a lot of yards in garbage time to finish with 328 yards passing. It took him 54 throws.

After 15 minutes, Browns RB Ben Tate had five carries for a total of negative-5 yards. His best run was for zero yards. He was much improved in the second half and finished with 25 yards and a score on the ground.

No, there isn’t a lot to talk about in this one. OK, the field goal kicking by Billy Cundiff and Sebastian Janikowski was pretty good.

On the hot seat, Brian Hoyer finally led his team to a touchdown in the fourth quarter to put this one away. Had it been any other team but the woeful Raiders, we’d be talking about start of the “Johnny Football Era.“

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh

This was the game everyone needed to have a player in. The two teams combined for 45 second-quarter points. That’s got to make every fantasy owner smile, except for those who may have foolishly started either of these defenses.

With the Colts down 21-3 courtesy of an Andrew Luck “pick-six” Indy abandoned what little running they planned to do. He threw for 258 yards and two scores at the half and his team was still down by 15 points (35-20). He finished with 400 yards and three scores and a sixth consecutive 300-yard passing day, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

If you haven’t been paying attention, rookie Donte Moncrief (7-113-1) is becoming a viable fantasy option.

In a huge upset, Roethlisberger threw two early touchdown passes to his wide receivers and neither went to Antonio Brown. “Big Ben” remedied that in the second quarter, hitting his favorite target for two scores (8, 47).

Roethlisberger had great numbers - 320 yards and four touchdowns ... at half- time. The only thing he did wrong was get a quick kick blocked. He finished the day with the second 500-yard passing game of his career (40-of-49 for 522, 6 TDs). No one NFL quarterback can make that claim.

Martavis Bryant has played two games and has three touchdown passes on his resume. Is he on a roster in your league? He should be!

The Gilmer Free Press


TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2014


Major League Baseball - World Series
*San Francisco at Kansas City, 8:07 PM - FOX


National Basketball Association
Orlando at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - FS-Florida, New Orleans, DSS
Dallas at San Antonio, 8:00 PM - TNT
Houston at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - TNT


National Hockey League
Minnesota at Boston, 7:00 PM - NESN, NBCSN
Ottawa at Columbus, 7:00 PM - RDS2, TSN5, FS-Ohio, DSS
Los Angeles at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - FS-West, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
New Jersey at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - MSG, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Winnipeg at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - TSN3, MSG+, DSS
Buffalo at Toronto, 7:30 PM - MSG-Buffalo, TSN4, DSS
Arizona at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - FS-Arizona, SunSports, DSS
Anaheim at Chicago, 8:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, CSN-Chicago, DSS
St. Louis at Dallas, 8:30 PM - FS-Midwest, Southwest, DSS
San Jose at Colorado, 9:00 PM - CSN-California, Altitude, DSS
Montreal at Calgary, 9:00 PM - RDS, SN-West, DSS
Carolina at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - FS-Carolina, SNET-Pacific, DSS


International Soccer
Liverpool FC vs. Swansea City AFC, 3:55 PM - beIN Sport

Sports News - 10.27.14

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pioneers Win a Thriller over Notre Dame

The Glenville State Pioneer football team racked up 588 yards of total offense as they held on to a thrilling victory, 41-38, over the Notre Dame College Falcons at Morris Stadium.

After a thrilling first half of action and both offenses scoring points at will the Pioneers would head into halftime up by 10 points over the Falcons, who upset #8 Shepherd last week, 27-17.

However Notre Dame would come out in the third quarter and score 14 straight points to take a 31-27 lead.

On the Pioneers next offensive possession they would stall and give the ball back to Notre Dame. But GSC’s defensive end Gary Henderson would make a great play as he batted the pass, from Notre Dame’s quarterback Ray Russ, up into the air and then picked it off as he took it 52 yards to the end-zone as the Pioneers took a, 34-31 lead.

Then Notre Dame would answer and re-take the lead, 38-34, with 13:02 left to play in the game as Ray Russ hit Kyle Perkins from five yards out.

Again the Glenville State offense would put together a great drive as they drove 57 yards in just three plays as they re-took the lead, 41-38, the score coming from Rahmann Lee from 26 yards out.

The Notre Dame Falcons would then miss a 35 yard field goal with 8:41 left to play.

However, on the Pioneers next possession they would be forced to punt as Notre Dame got another chance with 5:08 left to play, but on a first and 10 defensive back Zack Mayes would make a great play as he intercepted Ray Russ at the Pioneers 17 yard line.

The Pioneers would then try and run out the clock but two costly penalties would ended up giving the ball back to Notre Dame for one final drive with just 46 seconds left to play.

Notre Dame would then drive all the way down to the Pioneers 29 yard line with no timeouts left. The Falcons would attempt to go for it on a fourth and 17 but the pass would be broken up by Gray Henderson as the Pioneers held onto the exciting victory, 41-38.

Between the Pioneers offense and the Falcons offense there was 1,152 total yards of offense in the game.

GSC running back Rahmann Lee rushed for a game high 121 yards and two touchdowns while Tevin Drake rushed for 69 yards on 13 carriers.

Quarterback Sean Steele threw for 392 yards, a career high, as he went 20 for 26 with two touchdowns. Dante Absher was the Pioneers leading receiver as he caught seven passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Rahmann Lee also caught four passes for 100 yards on the day.

On defense the Pioneers were led by Spencer Steele as he had a team high 13 total tackles. Jeff Kidder finished the day with 13 total tackles and an interception while Gary Henderson chipped in with 11 tackles and an interception.

Notre Dame was led by quarterback Ray Russ as he threw for 438 yards as he went 49 for 67 with five touchdowns but had three costly interceptions. Russ’s favorite target was Mitchel Shegos as he had a career day as he caught 23 passes for 160 yards.

The Pioneers improve to 4-4 (4-4) on the season and in conference play. They return to action next Saturday, November 1st when they travel to Shepherd University with kickoff starting at 12:00 PM.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  No. 22 West Virginia Rolls Past Oklahoma St 34-10

West Virginia, picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 this year, will enter November with a chance for the conference title.

Wendell Smallwood ran for a career-high 132 yards to help the 22nd-ranked Mountaineers beat Oklahoma State 34-10 on Saturday.

Clint Trickett passed for 238 yards and two touchdowns and Mario Alford caught seven passes for a season-high 136 yards for the Mountaineers (6-2, 4-1), who earned their fourth straight win and remained a game behind league leader Kansas State.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who was Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator in 2010, said he got what he expected — a hard-fought game from a team that was tied for second with the Mountaineers and Baylor in the conference. West Virginia had a 17-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“I’m excited for our coaches and our players to come to Stillwater and get a victory,“ Holgorsen said. “There wasn’t anything easy about it. It was a lot more challenging than what the final score indicated.“

Smallwood stepped in for Rushel Shell, who injured a foot during a win over then-No. 4 Baylor last weekend. The sophomore had 23 carries and helped the Mountaineers dominate possession in the second half.

West Virginia receiver Kevin White was held to 27 yards on three catches, ending his nation-leading streak of seven straight games with at least 100 yards. West Virginia took advantage of Oklahoma State’s focus on White by rushing for 210 yards.

“We figured they would try to shut down the pass, so it opened it up for all the backs,“ Smallwood said.

Daxx Garman passed for 242 yards in Oklahoma State second straight poor offensive performance. The Cowboys (5-3, 3-2) were held to 258 yards last weekend in a 42-9 loss to TCU.

Oklahoma State’s 10 points were its fewest at home since a 34-0 loss to Colorado in 2005 in coach Mike Gundy’s first year with the program.

“In the third quarter, we weren’t able to maintain the run,“ Gundy said. “I thought we lost up front. We became one-dimensional, and when we’re one-dimensional, we’re an average football team.“

West Virginia marched down the field on its opening drive, and White’s 19-yard touchdown reception opened the scoring.

On the next drive, Trickett connected with Alford for a 79-yard play to give the Mountaineers a 14-0 lead with 7:49 left in the first quarter. It was the longest pass of Trickett’s career and the longest catch for Alford.

Oklahoma State finally got on the board when Ben Grogan hit a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter.

On the Cowboys’ next drive, Brandon Sheperd went 51 yards on a reverse, setting up Garman’s 8-yard touchdown pass to fullback Teddy Johnson, cutting West Virginia’s lead to 14-10.

Oklahoma State got inside the West Virginia 10 on its next drive, but Garman took a sack on third down, and Grogan missed a 36-yarder.

West Virginia led 14-10 at halftime despite allowing 299 yards before the break. The Mountaineers scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the first half, but punted on their last five.

West Virginia’s Josh Lambert made a 39-yard field goal in the third quarter, and then added a 43-yarder with 10: 14 remaining in the game to make it 20-10. West Virginia’s Dravon Henry returned an interception 52 yards to make it 27-10 with 4:44 remaining.

The Cowboys will have to recover quickly — they play at Kansas State on Saturday.

“We have a game next Saturday, whether we like it or not,“ Gundy said. “We have to rally, stay together as a group, come back tomorrow and go to work.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Johnson sets rushing record, carries Marshall to 35-16 win

Devon Johnson set a Marshall single-game rushing record and carried the 23rd ranked Thundering Herd to a 35-16 victory over FAU. Johnson rushed for 272 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries, breaking Ron Darby’s record of 262 yards set back in 1988.

“All the credit goes to the line, with out them I couldn’t have got it,” said Johnson. “My line does a great job and I knew they were going to give me holes when they did I just hit it.”

Johnson’s 272 yards gives him 1,203 yards for the season, in just the eight games, making him the fastest Marshall running back to reach the 1,000 yard plateau in a season.

“We did a good job and everybody got a hat on a hat and Devon just did what does,” said center Chris Japserse.

Johnson started the game with a bang. On the first play from scrimmage the 245-pound back burst through the line and sprinted to a 58-yard touchdown. It was the first of three big touchdown runs for Johnson on the night. Johnson broke loose for touchdown runs of 62 yards later in the second quarter and 66 yards in the fourth quarter. Johnson added a 7-yard score to ice the game away with 51 seconds remaining.

“I just did what I had to do to make sure the team got the win,” said Johnson. “We were mentally strong and not just physically and made us push through it.”

Marshall faced adversity throughout the game as FAU controlled the ball for much of the first half. FAU had a 16-14 lead at halftime, marking the first time this season the Herd had trailed at intermission. The Owls ran 53 plays and held the ball for 20:53 of the first half. Meanwhile, Marshall ran only 25 plays and had the ball for 9:07.

“I think they struggled with tempo and that is something we have seen on their film,” explained FAU coach Charlie Partidge. “That is part of our wheelhouse and it is something that we do and something that we do and something that we are working to create pressure on defenses.”

Jaquez Johnson connected with tight end Alex Deleon for a 16-yard touchdown with 11:36 to go in the second quarter. Greg Joseph added field goals from 30, 40 and 24 yards to give the Owls the 16-14 advantage at the break. However, Marshall’s defense would pitch a shutout in the final two quarters.

FAU was limited to 166 yards of total offense in the second half, held to 2-of-8 on third downs and 0-for-2 on fourth down conversion attempts.

“We came out in the second half and did what we had to do,” said coach Doc Holliday. “I though our defense played tremendous and our offense made plays in the second half. We did what we had to do to win the football game.”

As Marshall’s defense stepped up in the second half, so did the offense. Rakeem Cato found Tommy Shuler for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 3:09 to go in the third quarter, extending Cato’s streak to 40 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

Devon Johnson did the rest. Johnson’s two touchdowns in the fourth quarter put the game away.

“I think we did the same thing in the second half that we did in the first, we just did a little better job executing,” thought Jasperse.

“To go out and win the way we did in the second half was critical and I am happy with what those kids did and how they reacted in the second half,” said Holliday.

Marshall finished the day with 546 yards of total offense. Cato threw for 218 and a touchdown.

Marshall, now 8-0 on the season, has a bye coming up next week before going on the road at Southern Miss on Nov. 08.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  ESPN’s “College GameDay” coming to Morgantown

ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Morgantown on Saturday when West Virginia University hosts TCU for a Big 12 Conference matchup with big implications, according to an announcement posted Sunday on GameDay’s Facebook page.

The announcement came after No. 22 West Virginia beat Oklahoma State Saturday in Stillwater, OK, 34-10, while No. 10 TCU ran over Texas Tech in Fort Worth, TX, 82-27.

“College GameDay,” the college football preview show that airs on ESPN on Saturday mornings, includes Greg Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, David Pollack and Samantha Ponder.

The show visits a new location each week. This past Saturday, “College GameDay” was in Baton Rouge, La. ahead of the matchup between No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 24 LSU. The Tigers beat the Rebels 10-7.

“GameDay” last made a stop in Morgantown on Sept. 24, 2011 when No. 16 WVU hosted No. 2 LSU.

Kickoff for WVU vs. TCU on Saturday is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ABC.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Game Results - Week 8

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26

Final Score: Detroit 22, Atlanta 21

Matt Prater booted his second chance through the uprights as time expired and the Detroit Lions grabbed a 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons to cap an incredible comeback at Wembley Stadium in London. A one-sided first half saw the Lions enter the break trailing by 21 points, but they scored a pair of touchdowns and field goals in the second half, with a failed two-point attempt leaving the team trailing by two. Getting the ball back with 1:38 to play, Matthew Stafford hit Golden Tate for 32 yards on the first snap. A 20-yard one-handed catch from Theo Riddick and 10-yard grab by Jeremy Ross got the ball down to the Atlanta 31. Prater eventually lined up for a 43-yard try with just four seconds left and missed it to the right, but a delay of game call on Detroit moved the ball back five yards and gave him one more chance. The second time, he hit the 48-yarder just inside the left upright as the much-maligned field goal unit gave the Lions a victory. Prater is Detroit’s third kicker on the season as the team had let go of Nate Freese after he went 3-for-7, then Alex Henery after he went just 1- for-5, including an 0-for-3 effort in a 17-14 home loss to Buffalo in Week 5. Stafford went 24-for-47 for 325 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while Tate finished with seven catches for 151 yards and a score for the Lions (6-2), who have won three straight. Matt Ryan was 20-for-27 for 228 yards with two scores and an interception for the Falcons (2-6), losers of five in a row.


Final Score: Seattle 13, Carolina 9

The Seattle Seahawks had never lost three straight games with Russell Wilson under center. After dropping consecutive games to Dallas and St. Louis, Seattle trailed late in the fourth quarter in Carolina to put that streak in jeopardy. But Wilson willed his team to a come-from-behind road victory, firing a touchdown pass to tight end Luke Willson with 47 seconds remaining to lift his Seahawks to a 13-9 win over the Panthers. The defending Super Bowl champs trailed 9-6 after Graham Gano’s third field goal of the game with 4:37 to play. But the Panthers (3-4-1) left too much time on the clock for Wilson, who led a 9-play, 80-yard scoring drive. First down throws to Cooper Helfet and Kevin Norwood preceded Wilson’s 14-yard scramble to midfield. Marshawn Lynch then picked up a first down on the ground, and three plays after the two-minute warning, Wilson hit his tight end for a 23-yard touchdown down the middle of the field. Cam Newton was sacked twice and threw two incompletions on Carolina’s final possession.


Final Score: Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 24

Andy Dalton’s second touchdown run of the game, a 1-yard sneak on 4th-and-goal with 57 seconds remaining, lifted the Cincinnati Bengals to a thrilling 27-24 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in an important AFC North clash from Paul Brown Stadium. Dalton redeemed himself after committing a pair of fourth-quarter turnovers that led to 10 straight Baltimore points and gave the Ravens a 24-20 lead with under four minutes left. The Bengals (4-2-1) then survived a near comeback from their division rivals in the final minute to halt a three-game winless streak and move percentage points ahead of Baltimore for first place in the AFC North. The Ravens appeared to have scored a go-ahead 80-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith with 32 seconds to go, but Smith was flagged for offensive pass interference and Baltimore (5-3) was ultimately stopped on downs. Dalton lost a fumble and threw a late interception to help trigger the Ravens’ comeback from a 17-6 third-quarter deficit, but finished a sharp 21- of-28 for 266 yards. Mohamed Sanu contributed a career-high 125 yards on five catches in the pivotal win, which gave Cincinnati a tiebreaker edge on Baltimore in the division race by virtue of a season series sweep. Flacco tossed a pair of third-quarter interceptions that were converted into 10 Cincinnati points, but Lorenzo Taliaferro ran for two touchdowns during a 17-3 swing that sent the Ravens ahead before the deciding drive. Flacco completed just 17-of-34 attempts for 195 yards.


Final Score: Miami 27, Jacksonville 13

Louis Delmas and Brent Grimes both returned interceptions for touchdowns to highlight the Miami Dolphins’ 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Miami (4-3) won back-to-back games for the first time this season in spite of an offense that sputtered most of the day. Lamar Miller totaled 99 yards from scrimmage, while Ryan Tannehill was held to 196 yards with a touchdown and an interception through the air. Blake Bortles was unable to build off earning his first win as a starter last week against the Browns. The rookie signal-caller completed 18-of-34 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown but turned it over three times, including two costly interceptions that directly led to 14 Miami points. Denard Robinson ran for 108 yards on 18 carries while Allen Robinson caught a late touchdown pass for the Jaguars (1-7), who trailed 10-3 at halftime despite holding a 219-56 advantage in yards.


Final Score: Kansas City 34, St. Louis 7

Jamaal Charles rushed for 73 yards with two touchdowns, and the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense stood tall in a 34-7 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Alex Smith, who threw just one incompletion in the first half, finished with 226 yards on 24-of-28 passing for the Chiefs (4-3), who have won four of their last five. Kansas City, which won its sixth straight over St. Louis, totaled seven sacks in the victory. Knile Davis returned a kickoff for a touchdown and also rushed for a score. The Rams (2-5) couldn’t build off of last week’s emotional home win over Seattle. Austin Davis went just 15-of-25 for 160 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and the Rams’ rushing unit was limited to just 84 yards.


Final Score: New England 51, Chicago 23

Tom Brady threw touchdown passes on five of New England’s first six drives as the Patriots posted a 51-23 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Brady was 30-of-35 for 354 yards in his best performance of the season. Rob Gronkowski had 149 yards on nine receptions and caught three of Brady’s touchdown passes. Gronkowski left in the third quarter and didn’t return due to dehydration. Brandon LaFell set career-highs with 11 receptions and 124 receiving yards and had a touchdown grab for New England (6-2), which won its fourth straight game and extended its home winning streak to 13 games. The Patriots scored three touchdowns in a 57- second span during a 31-point second quarter. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler completed 20-of-30 passes for 227 yards with three touchdowns (two coming with the outcome already decided) and committed a pair turnovers. Matt Forte had 114 yards on 19 carries in the Bears’ (3-5) fourth loss in five games.


Final Score: Buffalo 43, NY Jets 23

Kyle Orton threw four touchdown passes and the Buffalo Bills cruised past the turnover-prone New York Jets, 43-23, on Sunday. Orton completed 10-of-17 passes for 238 yards for the Bills (5-3), who forced six turnovers. Sammy Watkins caught three passes for 157 yards and a score. Anthony Dixon carried the ball 22 times for 44 yards for Buffalo, which lost starters C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to serious injuries last week. Geno Smith found himself on the bench after throwing three interceptions in the first quarter for the Jets (1-7). Smith completed just 2-of-8 passes before being benched for Michael Vick, who connected on 18-of-36 passes for 153 yards and an interception. Vick also lost two fumbles. Percy Harvin caught three passes for 22 yards and carried the ball four times for 28 yards in his Jets debut. Harvin was traded to New York from Seattle on Oct. 17 for a conditional draft pick.


Final Score: Minnesota 19, Tampa Bay 13 (OT)

Anthony Barr returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown in overtime to lift the Minnesota Vikings over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 19-13, on Sunday. After his team blew a 10-0 lead in the fourth quarter, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh made a 38-yard field goal as time expired in regulation to tie the game at 13. On the first play of overtime, Austin Seferian-Jenkins fumbled the ball and Barr raced 27 yards the other way for the game-winning score. Teddy Bridgewater completed 24-of-42 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (3-5), who snapped a three-game skid. Jerick McKinnon carried the ball 16 times for 83 yards and Cordarrelle Patterson caught six passes for 86 yards. Mike Glennon connected on 19-of-28 passes for 171 yards, one touchdown and an interception for the Bucs (1-6), who have lost three in a row.


Final Score: Houston 30, Tennessee 16

Arian Foster finished with three total touchdowns to lead the Houston Texans to a 30-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Foster rushed for a 151 yards and two scores on 20 carries and added a receiving touchdown for the Texans (4-4), who snapped a three-game skid. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 19-of-35 passes for 227 yards and a score, and DeAndre Hopkins had a game-high 95 receiving yards on five catches in the win. Rookie Zach Mettenberger threw for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns with an interception on 27-of-41 efficiency in his first career start. Delanie Walker and Justin Hunter each caught a score for Tennessee (3-5), which dropped its second straight game heading into its bye week.


Final Score: Arizona 24, Philadelphia 20

The Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles played down to the wire, and it was a rookie who made the biggest play. John Brown hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer with 1:21 to play and the Cardinals held off one last Eagles drive to survive a 24-20 thriller on Sunday. A matchup between two of the four remaining one-loss teams lived up to its billing, and an unlikely hero emerged in Brown. The third-round pick out of unknown Pittsburg State caught Nate Allen peaking into the backfield on 3rd-and-5 from the Arizona 25 and sprinted past the safety before making a terrific over-the-shoulder grab. The speedster was tracked down near the goal line but not before crossing the plane. Nick Foles led the Eagles down to the Arizona 16 in the final seconds and took three shots at the end zone that all fell incomplete. His last pass to Jordan Matthews was caught, but the rookie receiver was well out of bounds in the left corner of the end zone. Arizona (6-1) is off to its best start since winning its first seven games in 1974. Palmer finished with 329 yards and two touchdowns through the air, with most of his focus going to Brown and Larry Fitzgerald, who caught seven passes for 160 yards and a score. Brown logged five catches for 119 yards. Foles had a busy day for the Eagles (5-2), passing for 411 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions on 36-of-62 attempts.


Final Score: Cleveland 23, Oakland 13

Brian Hoyer shook off a poor performance from a week ago to lead the Cleveland Browns to a 23-13 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Hoyer, who converted just 16-of-41 passes in a loss to lowly Jacksonville last week, was an efficient 19-of-28 for 275 yards with one touchdown against the Raiders. It wasn’t all that great of a performance by the Browns offense, though, as the rushing attack of Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell managed only 39 yards on 25 carries. Cleveland (4-3) has won three of its last four. Derek Carr passed for a career-high 328 yards on 34-for-54 passing with a touchdown for Oakland (0-7), which has now dropped 13 straight games dating back to last season.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 51, Indianapolis 34

With a legacy-defining streak on the line, Ben Roethlisberger rose to the occasion and played the best football of his career. Roethlisberger carved up a good Indianapolis defense for 522 yards and six touchdowns and became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to win 100 of his first 150 career starts in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 51-34 victory over the Colts on Sunday. Roethlisberger completed 40-of-49 passes to nine different receivers and matched Boomer Esiason for the fourth- most passing yards in a single game in league history. He finished just 32 yards shy of Norm Van Brocklin’s NFL record of 554, which was set back in 1951. He also set the Steelers franchise mark for passing yards and touchdowns. Antonio Brown was once again Roethlisberger’s favorite target, reeling in 10 passes for 133 yards and a pair of scores. Heath Miller had seven grabs for 112 and a touchdown, Martavis Bryant went for 83 yards and two touchdowns and Markus Wheaton found the end zone for the first time in his career. Le’Veon Bell also gained 148 yards from scrimmage for the Steelers (5-3), winners in three of their last four games. Roethlisberger’s career day overshadowed Andrew Luck’s second career 400-yard passing game. Luck completed 26-of-45 for 400 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. T.Y. Hilton made six catches for 155 and a touchdown as the Colts (5-3) saw their five-game win streak come to an end.


Final Score: New Orleans 44, Green Bay 23

Aaron Rodgers helped the Green Bay Packers erase the memories of a poor start by guiding them to four straight wins. Now Drew Brees is hoping to do the same for the New Orleans Saints. Brees tossed three touchdown passes and the Saints pulled away in the second half for a 44-23 win over the Packers on Sunday night. The game was tied 16-16 at halftime, but New Orleans intercepted the red-hot Rodgers twice over an 11-attempt span in the final 30 minutes after he hadn’t tallied one in 213 throws en route to breaking the game open. Rodgers had thrown for 977 yards and 13 touchdowns without an interception during the winning streak. Brees completed all 11 of his passes in the second half and finished 27-of-32 for 311 yards. Mark Ingram carried the ball 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown and Brandin Cooks caught six passes for 94 yards and a score and added a 4-yard TD run for the Saints (3-4), who squandered a fourth-quarter lead for the third time this year in last week’s 24-23 loss at Detroit. Despite the poor start, New Orleans can take sole possession of first place in the NFC South with a win over Carolina on Thursday night in Charlotte. Jimmy Graham hauled in all five of his receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown in the second half in the triumph. Rodgers threw for 208 of his 418 yards in the first quarter, completing 28-of-39 passes overall with a touchdown for Green Bay (5-3), which fell a game behind Detroit for first place in the NFC North. Randall Cobb posted five catches for 126 yards and a score, while Eddie Lacy recorded eight receptions for 123 yards and added 59 yards on 13 carries in defeat.


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23

Final Score: Denver 35, San Diego 21

Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to savor his latest NFL record for career touchdown passes, but he added to that record on Thursday night. Manning threw three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders in the Denver Broncos’ 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers. The reigning and five-time NFL MVP broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdown passes in a 42-17 rout of the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. On Thursday, Manning completed 25-of-35 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns to bring his career TD total to 513. Sanders caught nine passes for 120 yards for the Broncos (6-1), who have won four in a row. Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 105 yards. Ronnie Hillman carried the ball 20 times for 109 yards and Juwan Thompson rushed for 24 yards and two scores on seven carries. Philip Rivers connected on 30-of-41 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Chargers (5-3), who have lost two straight since a five-game winning streak.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Magic pick up options on Oladipo, three others

The Orlando Magic announced Sunday that they have exercised their third-year option on the rookie contract of guard Victor Oladipo while picking up fourth-year options on forwards Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson as well as guard Evan Fournier.

Oladipo, the second overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, is coming off a strong debut season in which the Indiana product finished second in voting for the league’s Rookie of the Year Award.

The athletic 22-year-old started 44 of his 80 games played and averaged 13.8 points, 4.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and a team-best 1.61 steals.

Harkless has averaged 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals over his first two NBA seasons and shot a strong 38.3 percent from 3-point range over 80 games (41 starts) in 2013-14. The 15th overall selection of the 2013 draft by Philadelphia, he was traded to the Magic by the 76ers as part of the multi- team Dwight Howard deal in June of 2012.

Fournier, acquired by the Magic from Denver over the summer, averaged 8.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 76 games with the Nuggets last season. The 21-year-old Frenchman is a career 38.1 percent 3-point shooter through two NBA seasons.

Nicholson has averaged 6.8 points and 3.4 rebounds over two seasons in Orlando. The former Atlantic 10 Player of the Year was the Magic’s first-round choice (19th overall) in the 2012 draft.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bumgarner’s shutout has Giants on brink

Madison Bumgarner and a singles-happy lineup moved the San Francisco Giants within one win of a third World Series title in five years.

Bumgarner sparkled in a four-hit shutout to beat fellow ace James Shields for the second time in the series and the Giants hit 11 more singles in a 5-0 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 5 on Sunday night.

The Giants won two of the last three games at their home park to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Kansas City for Game 6 on Tuesday and Game 7 on Wednesday, if necessary.

The Giants have scored 15 unanswered runs since trailing 4-1 after 2 1/2 innings in Game 4 on Saturday.

Eleven of their 12 hits on Sunday were singles, the outlier being Juan Perez’s two-run double off the top of the center-field wall to highlight a three-run rally in the eighth inning to make it 5-0.

They rolled to an 11-4 win on Saturday night in similar fashion, collecting 13 singles among their first 14 hits before doubles by Joe Panik and Hunter Pence broke it open.

Bumgarner (2-0) polished his already shiny Fall Classic resume by throwing the first World Series shutout since Josh Beckett’s Game 6 clincher in 2003 for the Marlins against the Yankees.

Bumgarner struck out eight, walked none and retired 24 of the final 26 batters he faced, including the last nine.

The 25-year-old left-hander improved to 4-0 in four World Series starts, two of them in this series and one each during San Francisco’s title runs in 2010 and 2012.

The NL Championship Series MVP is 4-1 in six starts this postseason, starting with a victory in Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game on Oct. 1.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he thought about taking Bumgarner out, “but he was throwing too good.“

“He didn’t have any stressful innings,“ Bochy said. “He was strong all night. When this guy’s on, he’s fun to watch.“

The Royals have lost two games in a row for the first time since Sept. 19 and 20 against Detroit.

But Kansas City manager Ned Yost said he liked his team’s chances in front of a home crowd he expects will be “absolutely crazy”—and one that’s seen the Royals win five of six games this postseason.

“We’ve got to walk the tightrope without a net, but we’re not afraid to walk the tightrope without a net,“ said Yost. “We fall off, we’re dead.“

Five days after being knocked around for five runs in three innings in Kansas City’s 7-1 loss in Game 1, Shields (0-1) gave up two runs on eight hits in six innings.

Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt hit consecutive singles off Shields to start the second inning and Pence later scored on Brandon Crawford’s groundout to give the Giants the only run the needed.

Crawford had three RBI, the second on a two-out single in the fourth. But the Giants put the game away with a rally against vaunted middle relievers Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis in the eighth inning.

Perez came within inches of hitting a three-run homer and Crawford followed with a single to score him.

The Giants finished 6-2 at home this postseason after going 45-36 at AT&T Park during the regular season.

Game Notes

The last eight World Series complete games have been thrown by NL pitchers ... Bumgarner was the first Giants pitcher to toss a complete game in the Series since 1962, when Jack Sanford threw a shutout in Game 2 against the Yankees and Billy Pierce had a complete game in Game 6 ... The first pitch was thrown by the son of late comedian and Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams, a Bay Area resident and longtime Giants fan. Standing in front of his siblings Zelda and Cody, Zak delivered the pitch to actor and comedian Billy Crystal, a friend of Williams’.


►  Taveras’ death overshadows Giants’ Game 5 win

The San Francisco Giants moved one step closer to their third World Series title in five years on Sunday.

But, whatever transpired on the field seemed a bit inconsequential to what happened down in the Dominican Republic earlier in the day, as St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras and a female companion were killed in a car accident.

Taveras was 22.

“We are all stunned and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of the youngest members of the Cardinals family,“ Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Oscar was an amazing talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends tonight.“

Taveras may have only had 80 games under his belt, but his was a name that we’ve all heard about for years. Always ranked near the top of whatever young prospects list you follow, Taveras’ sweet swing almost certainly had him headed for stardom.

Now, sadly we’ll never know.

“I simply can’t believe it,“ Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement. “I first met Oscar when he was 16 years old and will forever remember him as a wonderful young man who was a gifted athlete with an infectious love for life who lived every day to the fullest.“

Still, there was a game that was played and Madison Bumgarner is not just having a nice run anymore, it’s historic. And there is no more debate. He is the best postseason pitcher in the game.

Bumgarner followed up his Game 1 gem with an even better outing, as he tossed a four-hit shutout to lead the Giants to a 5-0 win, San Francisco now holds a 3-2 edge in the series and will get its first shot at closing it out on Tuesday in Kansas City.

But make no mistake it is only in this position because of Bumgarner, who has now won all four of his World Series starts and has pitched to a 0.29 ERA in the process. He has only allowed 12 hits and one run in 31 innings with 28 strikeouts.

That’s not Josh Beckett stuff, that’s Bob Gibson stuff.

His performance on Sunday was just magnificent, as he became the first pitcher in World Series history to toss a shutout with no walks and at least eight strikeouts.

Offensively the Giants aren’t doing anything special. After rapping out 13 singles during Saturday’s 11-4 outburst, they hit 11 more in Sunday’s win.

And neither team has homered since the series shifted to San Francisco.

It’s essentially the series we all thought we’d get. The Giants would win the Bumgarner games, the Royals would probably get the others. But if San Francisco could find a way to win one of the other games before heading back to Kansas City, the Royals would be in trouble.

That’s exactly how it has played out.

But I still like the Royals. Mainly because I give them the edge in both pitching matchups. Yordano Ventura was terrific in his Game 2 start. At the very least he was better than his counterpart Jake Peavy.

And I don’t think people realize just how good Jeremy Guthrie has been since the start of September. I’d have no problem giving him the ball in a Game 7, especially against Tim Hudson.

Now if this does go seven games, and I’d be shocked if it doesn’t, you better believe we are going to see Bumgarner again in some capacity.

Here’s a nice little stat to raise the Royals hopes, This is the third time the Giants have found themselves ahead in a World Series, 3-2, They eventually lost the other two series.

So, yes, the Giants will try to close out the Royals for their eighth world title on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.

But, I think everyone’s thoughts are with the St. Louis Cardinals organization.


►  World Series Game Result

Final Score: San Francisco 5, Kansas City 0

Madison Bumgarner and a singles-happy lineup moved the San Francisco Giants within one win of a third World Series title in five years. Bumgarner sparkled in a four-hit shutout to beat fellow ace James Shields for the second time in the series and the Giants hit 11 more singles in a 5-0 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 5 on Sunday night. The Giants won two of the last three games at their home park to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Kansas City for Game 6 on Tuesday and Game 7 on Wednesday, if necessary. The Giants have scored 15 unanswered runs since trailing 4-1 after 2 1/2 innings in Game 4 on Saturday. Eleven of their 12 hits on Sunday were singles, the outlier being Juan Perez’s two-run double off the top of the center-field wall to highlight a three-run rally in the eighth inning to make it 5-0. They rolled to an 11-4 win on Saturday night in similar fashion, collecting 13 singles among their first 14 hits before doubles by Joe Panik and Hunter Pence broke it open. Bumgarner (2-0) polished his already shiny Fall Classic resume by throwing the first World Series shutout since Josh Beckett’s Game 6 clincher in 2003 for the Marlins against the Yankees. Bumgarner struck out eight, walked none and retired 24 of the final 26 batters he faced, including the last nine. The 25- year-old left-hander improved to 4-0 in four World Series starts, two of them in this series and one each during San Francisco’s title runs in 2010 and 2012. The NL Championship Series MVP is 4-1 in six starts this postseason, starting with a victory in Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game on Oct. 01. The Royals have lost two games in a row for the first time since Sept. 19 and 20 against Detroit.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Earnhardt Jr. wins Chase race at Martinsville

One week after being eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Martinsville Speedway for the first time.

Earnhardt, who started 23rd, grabbed the lead from Tony Stewart with four laps remaining and then held off Jeff Gordon, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and title contender, at the finish by 0.3 seconds for his fourth win of the season and the 23rd of his Sprint Cup Series. Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 in February and scored a season-sweep at Pocono during the summer months.

The 15th and final caution for an accident involving Marcos Ambrose and rookie Kyle Larson with 12 laps to go set up a five-lap shootout to the finish. Stewart opted not to pit during the caution and led the way for the last restart. Earnhardt made a four-tire change and restarted in fifth.

“Oh, man, we’ve been trying to win here for so many years,“ said Earnhardt, whose first Martinsville win came in his 30th start here. “This place is so special to me. I’ve wanted to win here so bad. We brought the good cars. I’m out of breath from celebrating more than driving. It’s a real emotional win. This team on pit road was great, and (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and the guys (No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team) did a real good job all day. They gave me a great shot at it there with the call at the end to take tires.“

Earnhardt’s 31st-place finish last week at Talladega—the third and last race in the Contender Round—knocked him out of the Chase.

Gordon’s second-place finish moved him to the top of the Chase point standings. Martinsville was the first race in the Eliminator Round.

Gordon had to bounce back from a pit-road speeding penalty early in the race, which had dropped him to 30th in the field.

Earnhardt and Gordon gave Hendrick a 1-2 finish on the weekend that marked the 10-year anniversary of the fatal plane crash that occurred near this 0.526- mile short track in Southern Virginia. Team owner Rick Hendrick’s son, Ricky, and brother, John, as well as his two nieces, Jennifer and Kimberly, were among the 10 people killed in the crash.

“What an incredible tribute that is, a 1-2 finish,“ Gordon said. “We know how much the fans love to see Dale Jr. win. They certainly got that today. He did a great job, but for all of those at Hendrick Motorsports that lost friends and family members, people that paid an important in Hendrick Motorsports and in this sport, a 1-2 finish is the best way you can pay tribute to them.“

Gordon led the most laps with 130.

Earnhardt Jr. drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in ‘04. He joined Hendrick’s team for the start of the 2008 season.

“I just wanted to support Hendrick Motorsports during that time,“ Earnhardt said of the tragic plane crash a decade ago. “Everybody in the garage at that time was wearing Hendrick hats. This sport came together. I lost my daddy (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) a long time ago (fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500), and I know how hard that is. I can’t imagine losing the magnitude of people that Rick lost. My heart goes out to him during this weekend.

“I love that his cars are good here to get to victory lane. So this honors them. I’m just real proud to be able to win at Martinsville in a Hendrick car. They always win here.“

Hendrick now has a record-extending 22 Cup Series race wins at Martinsville. Gordon won last year’s Chase event here.

Ryan Newman, who remains in the Chase, continues to be on a hot streak with a third-place run. He has finished eighth or better in the last five races.

Stewart, who is a non-Chaser, ended up fourth, marking his first top-five finish since March 23 at Fontana, California.

“I don’t think it was a gamble by any means,“ Stewart said of his decision not to pit with less than 10 laps to go. “I think if we were in that position 100 times over, that is the same call we would do. It felt like it was the right thing for this team. I thought we gave ourselves the best shot to race for the win.“

Chevrolet sweep the top-four positions in this 500-lap race.

The other drivers still in the Chase and their finishing positions include: Joey Logano (fifth), Matt Kenseth (sixth), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Carl Edwards (20th), Brad Keselowski (31st) and Kevin Harvick (33rd).

Keselowski triggered a five-car crash following a restart late in the race when he experienced a transmission issue and slowed on the track. Casey Mears plowed into the back of him. Kasey Kahne, Danica Patrick and Martin Truex Jr. were also caught up in the incident. Keselowski, who won at Talladega to advance into the next playoff round, spent 28 laps behind the wall for repairs before returning.

“It’s not the day we wanted by any means, but the guys (No. 2 Team Penske Ford team) did a great job,“ Keselowski said. “They put a gear in this car in 28 laps at Martinsville. That’s pretty phenomenal, but it was just unfortunate the way the day played out.“

Harvick suffered damaged to the front end of his Chevrolet and spent more than 40 laps in the garage after he was involved in an accident with Stewart and Kenseth on lap 228.

“The good thing about this (playoff) format is you have two more weeks and two racetracks that we can win on,“ Harvick said. “Everybody was so worried about us starting in the back, and we wrecked at the front. Unfortunate.“

The Gilmer Free Press


MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2014


National Football League
Washington at Dallas, 8:30 PM - ESPN


Major League Baseball - World Series
No game scheduled


National Hockey League
Minnesota at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - FS-North, MSG, DSS
Montreal at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - RDS, SN1, DSS


International Soccer
QPR vs. Aston Villa, 3:55 PM - NBCSN

Sports News - 10.26.14

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 8 MEC Football Roundup

#19 Concord 24, Charleston 20 | Final Stats

—Concord’s Brian Novak hit Davon McGill from seven yards out with less than two minutes left to help the Mountain Lions nip Charleston, 24-20, at Callaghan Stadium. Jeremiah Johnson picked off a Charleston pass to stop the final Golden Eagles on their final drive to preserve the victory for CU. 

The 19th-ranked Mountain Lions kept their unbeaten record intact and improved to 8-0 overall and 7-0 in the MEC. Charleston dropped to 5-3 overall and 4-3 in the conference.

Calvinaugh Jones rushed 23 times for 171 yards to help pace the Concord offense. Novak was 8-of-21 for 129 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Gary Saylor and Keith Ferguson each had 10 tackles, and Will Greathouse recorded two tackles for a loss. 

Charleston’s Jermaine Kelly was 19-of-42 for 121 yards and carried the ball 15 times for 125 yards and a touchdown. Justin Avery led all players with 13 tackles, including six solo stops. 

Concord finished the game with 341 yards of total offense, while Charleston had 323. The Golden Eagles held the ball for 34:25, but Concord forced them to settle for field goals on each of their three trips to the red zone.  


Glenville State 41, Notre Dame 38 | Final Stats

—Rahmann Lee had 121 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including the game-winner from 26 yards out with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and added 100 yards receiving to lead Glenville State past Notre Dame, 41-38, at Morris Stadium.

The win was Glenville State’s third in a row and fourth out of its last five to improve to 4-4 on the year. Notre Dame slipped to 5-3 overall and 5-2 in the MEC. 

Quarterback Sean Steele was 20-of-26 for 392 yards and two touchdowns. Dante Absher was his favorite target hauling in seven passes for 129 yards. Jeff Kidder led the GSC defense with 13 total tackles and had one of Glenville State’s three interceptions on the day.

Ray Russ was 49-of-67 for 438 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. The game was the third-straight for Russ going over 400 yards, and he has 14 touchdown passes in the last three contests. Mitchel Shegos had a conference-record 23 catches for 160 yards. Kenneth Butler had 75 yards rushing for the Falcons. George Berry made 13 tackles, including eight solo for NDC.


Fairmont State 35, Urbana 31 | Final Stats

—Fairmont State erased a 28-7 halftime lead and defeated Urbana, 35-31, on Saturday at Duvall-Rosier Field.

With the win, the Falcons improved to 3-4 overall and 3-4 in the MEC. Urbana dropped to 1-7 both overall and in conference play.

FSU’s Cooper Hibbs was 23-of-37 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Austin White, Chazzy Thomas and Daniel Monroe each had rushing touchdowns for the Falcons. Daniel Marc-Sears had four catches for 121 yards, including a 55-yard TD reception. Marcus Porter had a game-high 10 tackles, including seven solo and two for a loss to lead the defensive unit. 

Urbana out-gained Fairmont State 449-392 in the game. Urbana’s Cale Burdyshaw was 25-of-46 for 338 yards and three touchdowns against one interception. Cedric Presley carried 13 times for 74 yards and a touchdown. Karim Jones Jr. had six catches for 111 yards for the Blue Knights. D’Gary Wallace led UU with six solo tackles, half of which went for negative yardage, and forced a fumble in the game. Kevin Chapple and Curtis Galloway each had a pair of tackles for a loss. 


UVa-Wise 16, West Virginia State 13 | Final Stats

—Nehemiah Jones’ 21-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter helped UVa-Wise pick up its first win of the season, a 16-13 decision over West Virginia State at Lakin Field.

UVa-Wise’s record now stands at 1-7 overall and 1-6 in the MEC. West Virginia State fell to 2-6 overall and 1-6 in conference play. 

The Cavs rushed for a season-high 279 yards backed by 111 yards from Carlton Griffith. UVa-Wise had just 65 yards passing in the game but still out-gained the Yellow Jackets, 344-210. 

Chriss Flood the the Cavs with 11 tackles, and Zack Blair recorded a team-best five solo stops, including 2.5 for a loss. 

WVSU’s Matt Kinnick was 12-of-31 for 96 yards and was picked twice. Talir Rowe added 62 yards on the ground for the Yellow Jackets. Mitchell Rowell led all players with 15 tackles, and Wenley Belliard had 2.5 tackles for a loss. 



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►  Trickett leads No. 22 West Virginia over Oklahoma State

Clint Trickett threw two early touchdown passes and No. 22 West Virginia blanked Oklahoma State in the second half to run away with a 34-10 win at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Trickett completed 21-of-30 passes for 238 yards, as WVU (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) won its fourth straight game to improve to 3-0 on the road this season. The senior QB has thrown at least two touchdowns in six of his last seven games.

Wendell Smallwood got the start for injured running back Russel Shell (ankle) and carried 23 times for a career-high 132 yards. Kevin White and Mario Alford had touchdown receptions, though White was held under 100 yards for the first time this season.

It was another forgettable performance from OSU quarterback Daxx Garman, who went 21-of-41 for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. The Cowboys (5-3, 3-2) have dropped five straight against ranked opponents.

Oklahoma State has been outscored 76-19 the past two weeks.

The Trickett-White connection, which has been among the most lethal combinations in college football this season, got going right away with a 19- yard touchdown on West Virginia’s first series. Oklahoma State turned the ball over on downs on the game’s opening possession, and Smallwood had three touches for 37 yards to set up the score.

Trickett threw short to Alford on third down a series later and the speedy receiver outran everybody, going 79 yards untouched for another West Virginia touchdown.

Ben Grogan’s 40- yard field goal late in the first put the Cowboys on the board, and a six-play, 89-yard drive early in the second saw them score an offensive touchdown for the first time since the second quarter of an October 11 win over Kansas.

Tyreek Hill carried three straight times for 30 yards before Brandon Sheperd’s 51-yard carry to the WVU 8. Garman hit Teddy Johnson from there to make it 14-10.

Grogan missed a 36-yarder later in the second quarter, and the score held until halftime.

Josh Lambert hit field goals of 39 and 43 yards to push the spread to 20-10.

OSU had one final shot after receiving a punt with 5:40 to play. Garman completed a 10-yard pass to Favid Glidden following Hill’s 9-yard run, but the drive ended abruptly when Dravon Henry picked off Garman and ran it back 52 yards to the end zone.

After a turnover on downs, Dreamius Smith punctuated the victory with a 40- yard touchdown run.

Game Notes

West Virginia opened 3-0 away from home for the first time since 2006 ... Alford made seven catches for 136 yards ... Oklahoma State has lost two straight games following a five-game win streak ... OSU’s four-game home win streak came to an end ... OSU was just 2-for-15 on third down.



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►  Marshall rallies past FAU, remains unbeaten

Devon Johnson ran for a school record 272 yards with four touchdowns and No. 23 Marshall survived a scare from upset- minded Florida Atlantic with a 35-16 win on Saturday.

The Thundering Herd (8-0, 4-0 C-USA), who trailed at halftime for the first time this season, received three 50-plus yard runs from Johnson to keep their perfect season alive.

Rakeem Cato extended his NCAA record of consecutive games with one touchdown pass to 40, but was held in check for most of the day, throwing for 218 yards on 13-of-24 passing.

Jaquez Johnson threw for 179 yards with one touchdown for the Owls (3-5, 2-2), who have dropped two of their last three.



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►  Kansas State blanks Texas

DeMarcus Robinson and Charles Jones scored rushing touchdowns to lead No. 11 Kansas State in a 23-0 victory over Texas on Saturday.

Jake Waters passed for 224 yards on 19-of-30 efficiency and Matthew McCrane hit all three of his field goal attempts for the Wildcats (6-1, 4-0 Big 12), who have won four straight since a loss to Auburn.

“We have a lot of football ahead of us,“ said Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder. “We are only as good as today, and tomorrow is a different day. To have the continuity and to be able to do it continuously, would be a good thing. We have not done it continuously all year. We got a ways to go.“

Tyrone Swoopes went just 13-for-25 for 106 yards for the Longhorns (3-5, 2-3), who were coming off a narrow win over Iowa State last week.

“One week it is the offense, one week it is the defense, and one week it is the special teams,“ said Texas head coach Charlie Strong. “All three phases have to play well and that is the only way we are going to win games. We had our chances and we just did not take advantage of them.“

The shutout was the first time Texas had been blanked since Oklahoma did it on October 9, 2004.

Kansas State held the ball for over six minutes on its first possession of the game and faced a 1st-and-goal at the 2, but three straight runs saw the team stopped each time and a 19-yard field goal from McCrane gave the hosts a 3-0 lead with 7:14 left in the first.

Another three-and-out from Texas saw the Wildcats get the ball back at the Texas 42 as a poor punt of just 12 yards gave them excellent field position. They were only able to get three more points, though, as McCrane hit a 30- yarder for a 6-0 lead with three minutes left in the opening quarter.

Texas’ first touch of the second quarter saw the team start with the ball at the Kansas State 40, and the first snap was a 12-yard run from Swoopes. The team converted another first down and had the ball at the KSU 16, but a holding call moved it back 10 yards, and a 10-yard sack on third down forced a punt.

After another exchange of punts, the Wildcats had the ball at their own 15 and Waters converted a 3rd-and-13 with a 24-yard completion to Curry Sexton. Jones followed with a 14-yard run to get the ball to midfield. After a 29-yard completion from Tyler Lockett got the ball to the Texas 3, Robinson took the next snap to the end zone and give the team a 13-0 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half.

After punting on their first touch of the second half, the Wildcats quickly got the ball back as they recovered a D’Onta Foreman fumble near midfield, turning that into a 38-yard field goal from McCrane for a 16-0 lead with under three minutes to play in the third.

The Longhorns pushed the ball across midfield on their ensuing touch thanks to a 21-yard catch from Marcus Johnson on 3rd-and-10. However, facing a 4th-and-1 at the Kansas State 14, Johnathan Gray got stuffed and the Wildcats took over control.

Kansas State then put the nail in the coffin, driving the length of the field and making it a 23-0 game on a 1-yard touchdown run from Jones with 9 1/2 minutes left.

Game Notes

It was Kansas State’s first shutout since blanking Kent State three years ago, and first conference shutout since keeping Iowa State off the board on November 8, 2003 ... Kansas State hosts Oklahoma State next Saturday ... Texas plays at Texas Tech next week ... The Wildcats have won six of the last seven games against the Longhorns, and lead the series 9-6 ... Kansas State totaled 367 yards, holding Texas to just 196 while also controlling the ball for over 39 minutes ... It was the 500th win for the Kansas State program.


►  TCU hangs 82 on Texas Tech

Trevone Boykin threw a school-record seven touchdown passes and the 10th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs scored the most points in school history in an 82-27 rout of the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday.

Boykin completed 22-of-39 passes for a career-high 433 yards for the Horned Frogs (6-1, 3-1 Big 12), who racked up 785 yards of total of offense.

Deante’ Gray caught four passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns for TCU, which has won two in a row. Josh Doctson hauled in four passes for 76 yards and two scores before leaving with a right ankle injury.

Trevorris Johnson rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, while Aaron Green carried the ball six times for 105 yards and a score.

Davis Webb connected on 15-of-30 passes for 300 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Red Raiders (3-5, 1-4), who failed to build off last week’s win over Kansas. Webb left in the third quarter with a left ankle injury.

Texas Tech leading receiver Jakeem Grant played despite being injured in a shooting in Lubbock last Sunday morning. He caught two passes for 70 yards Saturday before exiting with a left ankle injury.



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►  Top-25 College Football Game Results

Final Score: (1) Mississippi State 45, Kentucky 31

Josh Robinson ran for a career-high 198 yards and two touchdowns, the last a back-breaking 73-yarder in the fourth quarter that helped No. 1 Mississippi State to a hard-earned 45-31 win over Kentucky. Robinson’s critical run with 11:47 to play came with the Bulldogs clinging to a 31-24 lead and enabled Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0 SEC) to withstand a four-touchdown effort from Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles and remain unbeaten in its first-ever game as the nation’s top-ranked team. Dak Prescott aided the cause by running for two touchdowns and throwing for another, though the Heisman candidate was overall outplayed by Towles, who put up 390 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air and added 76 rushing yards and two scores. His final TD run brought Kentucky (5-3, 2-3) within 38-31 with 2:31 remaining, but MSU’s Christian Holmes took the ensuing onside kick attempt 61 yards for a touchdown that foiled the upset bid. Prescott finished 18-of-33 for 216 yards with one interception and tallied 88 yards on the ground on 18 attempts.


Final Score: (24) LSU 10, (3) Ole Miss 7

Anthony Jennings’ 3-yard touchdown pass to Logan Stokes with 5:07 remaining provided the winning points as No. 24 LSU dealt third-ranked Ole Miss its first loss of the season with a 10-7 decision at an emotional Tiger Stadium. Held to just a field goal while turning the ball over four times through three-plus quarters of play, the Tigers went ahead by putting together a 13-play, 95-yard drive that ended in Stokes—a seldom-used senior tight end—making his first career catch. Jennings was intercepted twice earlier and completed just 8-of-16 passes for 142 yards, but got plenty of help from a ground game that churned out 264 yards and a defense that stifled Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace all game long. Leonard Fournette rushed for 113 yards on 23 carries and Terrence Magee added 74 on 12 attempts in a game LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC) virtually needed to win to keep its SEC West title chances intact. The comeback victory also capped a roller-coaster weekend for head coach Les Miles, who was on the sidelines less than 24 hours after his 91-year-old mother, Martha, passed away. Wallace got Ole Miss (7-1, 4-1) down as far as the LSU 25 in the closing seconds, but his final pass was intercepted by Ronald Martin near the goal line to seal the result. The pick finished off a rough night for the senior quarterback, who went just 14-of-33 for 176 yards with a touchdown and the one interception.


Final Score: (4) Alabama 34, Tennessee 20

Amari Cooper set a new Alabama single-game record for receiving yards with 224, and the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide rolled past the Tennessee Volunteers, 34-20, on Saturday. Cooper had two touchdowns on nine catches for the Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC), who have won eight straight against Tennessee. Alabama’s previous single-game receiving mark of 221 yards by Julio Jones came in 2010 at Tennessee. Blake Sims completed 14- of-24 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns for the Crimson Tide, who have won three in a row. He also carried the ball six times for 42 yards and a score. Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon also scored on the ground for the victors. Saturday’s game marked the return of Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to Knoxville. Kiffin guided the Vols to a 7-6 mark in 2009 before he bolted for Southern California in contentious fashion that caused rioting on the Tennessee campus. Joshua Dobbs connected on 19-of-32 passes for 192 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Volunteers (3-5, 0-4), who have dropped two straight. He also rushed for 75 yards on 19 carries.


Final Score: (5) Auburn 42, South Carolina 35

Auburn put up touchdown after touchdown in the second half and then finally stopped South Carolina on fourth down. When the Gamecocks got the ball back, there wasn’t enough time to travel the length of the field again. Nick Marshall ran for three touchdowns and threw for another as the fifth-ranked Tigers defeated South Carolina 42-35 on Saturday night. Auburn scored touchdowns on six straight possessions at one point, with Marshall’s go-ahead 5-yard TD sprint with 11:22 left providing the Tigers a 42-35 lead. The Gamecocks converted their first five fourth-down opportunities—including two on their ensuing drive—before Dylan Thompson overthrew Shaq Roland in the end zone on a 4th-and-14 at the Auburn 19. Four of those fourth-down conversions came in South Carolina’s own territory. South Carolina then forced its first punt of the second half and regained possession at its own 15 with 1:08 to go and no timeouts. Jonathan Jones, though, intercepted his second pass on Thompson’s Hail Mary heave in the end zone on the final play of the game to preserve the win and national title hopes for the Tigers. Cameron Artis-Payne ran for 167 of Auburn’s 395 yards on the ground to go with a touchdown. Marshall was 12-of-14 for 139 yards and a touchdown and added 89 yards rushing on 10 carries for the Tigers (6-1, 3-1 SEC), who bounced back from their lone loss of the season two weeks ago at Mississippi State. Thompson completed 29- of-50 passes for 402 yards with a school-record five touchdowns to go with three interceptions for South Carolina (4-4, 2-4), which has dropped three of its last four games.


Final Score: (8) Michigan State 35, Michigan 11

Bragging rights in the Wolverine State once again belong to the Spartans following a blowout win on Saturday. Jeremy Langford ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns as No. 8 Michigan State continued its recent dominance over Michigan with a lopsided 35-11 win. The Spartans (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) have beaten their in-state rival six of the past seven years by a combined score of 197-101. Connor Cook threw for 227 yards in windy conditions, with a big chunk of that yardage coming on a third- quarter scoring strike to Tony Lippett that essentially made sure the Paul Bunyan Trophy stayed in East Lansing. Even with an extra week of preparation, the Wolverines (3-5, 1-3) managed just 186 total yards to Michigan State’s 446. One of the two interceptions Devin Gardner threw was returned for a touchdown, and the embattled quarterback completed a mere 13- of-28 passes for 121 yards.


Final Score: (10) TCU 82, Texas Tech 27

Trevone Boykin threw a school-record seven touchdown passes and the 10th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs scored the most points in school history in an 82-27 rout of the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday. Boykin completed 22-of-39 passes for a career-high 433 yards for the Horned Frogs (6-1, 3-1 Big 12), who racked up 785 yards of total of offense. Deante’ Gray caught four passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns for TCU, which has won two in a row. Josh Doctson hauled in four passes for 76 yards and two scores before leaving with a right ankle injury. Trevorris Johnson rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, while Aaron Green carried the ball six times for 105 yards and a score. Davis Webb connected on 15-of-30 passes for 300 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Red Raiders (3-5, 1-4), who failed to build off last week’s win over Kansas. Webb left in the third quarter with a left ankle injury. Texas Tech leading receiver Jakeem Grant played despite being injured in a shooting in Lubbock last Sunday morning. He caught two passes for 70 yards Saturday before exiting with a left ankle injury.


Final Score: (11) Kansas State 23, Texas 0

DeMarcus Robinson and Charles Jones scored rushing touchdowns to lead No. 11 Kansas State in a 23-0 victory over Texas on Saturday. Jake Waters passed for 224 yards on 19-of-30 efficiency and Matthew McCrane hit all three of his field goal attempts for the Wildcats (6-1, 4-0 Big 12), who have won four straight since a loss to Auburn. Tyrone Swoopes went just 13-for-25 for 106 yards for the Longhorns (3-5, 2-3), who were coming off a narrow win over Iowa State last week. The shutout was the first time Texas had been blanked since Oklahoma did it on Oct. 9, 2004.


Final Score: (13) Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 (2-OT)

J.T. Barrett shook off a rough game through the air with a pair of critical touchdown runs in overtime. Barrett and Ohio State’s rejuvenated offense took a step back Saturday, but the 13th-ranked Buckeyes did just enough to escape Happy Valley with a 31-24 victory in double overtime. Ohio State had scored 50-plus points in four straight games coming in but was shut down completely after taking a 17-0 lead late in the second quarter. Barrett, who threw for just 74 yards and was intercepted twice, countered Bill Belton’s touchdown run in the first extra session with one of his own, then called his number again for the eventual game-winning 4-yard score. The Buckeyes (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) sacked Christian Hackenberg on fourth down on the ensuing possession to seal the team’s fifth consecutive win. Hackenberg threw for 224 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Nittany Lions (4-3, 1-3), who have dropped three in a row on the heels of a promising 4-0 start. Penn State’s defense nearly made up for an offense that gained just 240 yards.


Final Score: (14) Arizona State 24, Washington 10

Taylor Kelly tossed a go-ahead 7-yard touchdown pass to Gary Chambers with three minutes left and No. 14 Arizona State defeated Washington 24-10 on Saturday night. Kelly, who had missed the last three games with a right foot injury, tossed a 23-yard completion to Jaelen Strong along the left sideline and scampered up the middle for a 12- yard gain two plays later. Demario Richard rumbled for 18 yards to set up a 1st-and-goal from the 10 on the next snap. The winning pass came on 2nd-and- goal. Just before he was dragged down from behind by Wasington’s Hau’oli Kikaha, Kelly floated a pass in the end zone for Chambers, who came back to the ball to haul in the catch and put ASU in front. Armand Perry intercepted Troy Williams on a 4th-and-25 on Washington’s ensuing possession and returned it 61 yards for a score to seal the outcome with 52 seconds remaining. Williams made his first career start after Cyler Miles suffered a concussion against Oregon last week. Kelly finished 14-of-25 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Sun Devils (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12), who have won three in a row since losing 62-27 to UCLA at home on Sept. 25. Kelly made his first appearance since Sept. 13 against Colorado. Mike Bercovici filled in admirably during his absence, leading Arizona State to back-to-back victories over ranked opponents—USC and Stanford. Arizona State remains atop the Pac-12 South division with a showdown upcoming against Utah next Saturday. Strong had three receptions for 55 yards and a score in the triumph.


Final Score: (15) Arizona 59, Washington State 37

Anu Solomon threw five touchdown passes against a deplorable Washington State defense, leading 15th-ranked Arizona to a 59-37 rout on Saturday. Solomon did most of his damage in the first half, as the Wildcats (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) jumped out to a 31-0 lead early in the second quarter. Washington State’s potent offense woke up after that, but the damage was done. Solomon threw for 294 yards on 26-of-38 passing efficiency, Terris Jones-Grigsby ran 13 times for 107 yards and five different players hauled in touchdown receptions in the dominant victory. Connor Halliday, who set the NCAA single-game passing record earlier this season, stuffed the stat sheet once again, but most of his crooked numbers came with the game already out of reach. Halliday completed 56-of-79 for 489 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Vince Mayle led all receivers with 14 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown, and Isiah Myers scored twice among his six grabs for 95 yards. Washington State (2-6, 1-4) has dropped four straight home games to the Wildcats.


Final Score: (16) Nebraska 42, Rutgers 24

Ameer Abdullah ran for three touchdowns in a record-setting performance, leading 16th-ranked Nebraska to a 42-24 victory over Rutgers on Saturday. Abdullah rushed for 225 yards on just 19 carries, caught two passes for 26 yards and added 90 yards on a pair of kickoff returns to finish with 341 all-purpose yards. He set a Nebraska single- game mark, eclipsing Roy Helu’s previous record of 321 in 2010. Tommy Armstrong threw for a pair of scores and added another touchdown on the ground for the Cornhuskers (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten), who have won two straight after a tough five-point loss at Michigan State. Rutgers (5-3, 1-3) suffered its second straight blowout loss on the heels of its first-ever conference win over Michigan. The Scarlet Knights dropped a 56-17 decision at Ohio State last week and will face another stiff test next Saturday with a visit from Wisconsin. Quarterback Gary Nova missed the second half for Rutgers after injuring his right knee on a hit from Nebraska’s Maliek Collins late in the second quarter. He threw for 156 yards with a touchdown and an interception before exiting the contest.


Final Score: (19) Utah 24, (20) Southern California 21

Travis Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Kaelin Clay with eight seconds left lifted No. 19 Utah to a dramatic 24-21 win over No. 20 USC on Saturday night. Utah’s winning drive came after the Trojans failed to convert on a 4th-and-2 and included an 18-yard scramble by Wilson to the 1-yard line. He found Clay in the right side of the end zone two plays later, giving the Utes (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) their first win in four games against USC (5-3, 4-2) since joining the conference in 2011. Wilson passed for 194 yards without an interception and Devontae Booker rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown in the win. Utah’s first touchdown came on a 53- yard fumble return by Davion Orphey on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Cody Kessler passed for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception a week after throwing a USC-record seven touchdown passes in a win over Colorado. His 4-yard touchdown pass to Darreus Rogers gave the Trojans a 21-17 lead with 10:18 left in the game.


Final Score: (21) Clemson 16, Syracuse 6

Cole Stoudt threw for 209 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions to help the 21st-ranked Clemson Tigers to a 16-6 win over the Syracuse Orange in a sloppy game from Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Tigers committed four turnovers, while Syracuse gave it away three times. Kickers Ammon Lakip and Cole Murphy accounted for five made field goals in just the third meeting between the two schools. Wayne Gallman had 101 yards on 28 carries for Clemson (6-2, 5-1 ACC), which has won five straight since a 23-17 overtime loss to Florida State. AJ Long struggled to just 82 yards on 12-of-27 passing with two interceptions for the Orange (3-5, 1-3), who have dropped five of their last six since opening the season 2-0.


Final Score: (22) West Virginia 34, Oklahoma State 10

Clint Trickett threw two early touchdown passes and No. 22 West Virginia blanked Oklahoma State in the second half to run away with a 34-10 win at Boone Pickens Stadium. Trickett completed 21- of-30 passes for 238 yards, as WVU (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) won its fourth straight game to improve to 3-0 on the road this season. The senior QB has thrown at least two touchdowns in six of his last seven games. Wendell Smallwood got the start for injured running back Russel Shell (ankle) and carried 23 times for a career-high 132 yards. Kevin White and Mario Alford had touchdown receptions, though White was held under 100 yards for the first time this season. It was another forgettable performance from OSU quarterback Daxx Garman, who went 21-of-41 for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. The Cowboys (5-3, 3-2) have dropped five straight against ranked opponents. Oklahoma State has been outscored 76-19 the past two weeks.


Final Score: (23) Marshall 35, Florida Atlantic 16

Devon Johnson ran for a school record 272 yards with four touchdowns and No. 23 Marshall survived a scare from upset- minded Florida Atlantic with a 35-16 win on Saturday. The Thundering Herd (8-0, 4-0 C-USA), who trailed at halftime for the first time this season, received three 50-plus yard runs from Johnson to keep their perfect season alive. Rakeem Cato extended his NCAA record of consecutive games with one touchdown pass to 40, but was held in check for most of the day, throwing for 218 yards on 13-of-24 passing. Jaquez Johnson threw for 179 yards with one touchdown for the Owls (3-5, 2-2), who have dropped two of their last three.


Final Score: (25) UCLA 40, Colorado 37 (2-OT)

Brett Hundley’s 8-yard touchdown run in the second overtime gave No. 25 UCLA a 40-37 win over Colorado on Saturday. After Ka’imi Fairbairn and Will Oliver exchanged field goals in the first overtime, Oliver hit a 34-yarder to give Colorado the lead in the second extra session. Hundley, though, took the first snap 17 yards, then used a fake handoff to set up his keep up the middle and into the end zone for the win. Hundley went 24-for-39 for 200 yards and a score, adding 110 yards on the ground on 12 carries for the Bruins (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12), who have won their past two. Paul Perkins had 180 yards on 19 carries with two scores. Sefo Liufau went 27- for-45 for 246 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Buffaloes (2-6, 0-5), who have lost four straight.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Seahawks search for swagger in Carolina

The Seattle Seahawks will try to avoid their longest losing streak in nearly three years on Sunday as they head out east to visit the Carolina Panthers and Bank of America Stadium.

The Seahawks began defense of their Super Bowl championship by winning three of their first four games, coming out of a Week 4 bye with a triumph over the Washington Redskins.

Pete Carroll’s club has hit a bit of a rut over the last two weekends, getting bested at home by the Dallas Cowboys on October 12 prior to a 28-26 setback to the hosting St. Louis Rams. That gave Seattle its first losing streak since late October of 2012.

In the first of back-to-back on the road, Seattle saw rival St. Louis return a punt for a touchdown and convert a gutsy fake punt attempt in its own end late in the game to seal the outcome.

The loss spoiled an outstanding effort from Russell Wilson, who threw for 313 yards with two touchdowns and also rushed for a game-high 106 yards and a score. In the process, Wilson became the first player in NFL history with 300- plus passing yards and 100-plus rushing yards in a single game.

“In terms of the milestone, it doesn’t mean anything unless you win,“ Wilson said. “I’m not about stats. The only thing I really care about is winning.“

The second loss came days after the Seahawks made a surprise move in trading wide receiver Percy Harvin to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick. Doug Baldwin led the way in his absence, recoding game highs of seven catches for 123 yards while getting targeted 11 times and catching a TD pass.

“We felt that it was the best thing for our club and it’ll help us down the road,“ Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of the trade.

Still, Seattle lost for just the fourth time in its past 13 on the road and is now in danger of losing three in a row for the first time since October 23-November 6, 2011.

The Seahawks still have more wins over the past five weeks than the Panthers, who are 1-3-1 since beginning the campaign with consecutive wins. They followed up a Week 6 tie at Cincinnati with last weekend’s 38-17 setback in Green Bay.

After rushing for a season-high 107 yards the previous game, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was held to 41 yards running on seven carries while throwing for 205 yards. He was picked off once with a touchdown pass as well.

The Panthers, though, trailed 21-0 after the first quarter and 28-0 late in the second before Graham Gano hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart returned from a three-week absence caused by a knee injury and ran for 55 yards on 14 carries. Tight end Greg Olsen had eight catches for 105 yards and rookie wide out Kelvin Benjamin added three receptions for 62 yards.

That was the case Sunday as TE Greg Olsen had eight receptions for 105 yards and rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin caught three passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.

“I don’t think the defense gave us an opportunity to win in the first quarter,“ Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “I’m disappointed.“

The good news is that the Panthers still lead the NFC South ahead of 2-4 New Orleans.

Seattle leads the all-time series 4-2 and has won three in a row over Carolina.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

There wasn’t much time for the Seahawks’ players to process the Harvin trade, but Carroll said he thought his club handed it well.

“They took it in stride,“ the coach said this week. “I think they trust our decision-making and they’ve stood by us throughout and I don’t think there is any fall out at all.“

Harvin was leading Seattle with 22 catches to go along with 133 yards while adding 92 rushing yards and a score on the ground.

Baldwin’s big game put him atop the club with 23 catches with 310 yards. There will now be plenty of more balls up for grabs for the likes of Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette, with Baldwin set to see more time in the slot.

“Yes, he’s been very effective there for us in the slot, Carroll said of Baldwin. “He’s played a lot of outside stuff for us, which he does fine, but he’s always been really difficult to cover inside. He’s got a great sense for it—he and Russell have a good chemistry and I think that was pretty obvious that that was back in our favor; hoping we’ll continue to get that from those guys.“

Wilson had his big day on the ground and Seattle posted 171 yards rushing despite losing fullback Derrick Coleman to a cracked bone in his foot during warmups. Coleman is expected to miss at least a few games with the injury and running back Robert Turbin played fullback for the first time in his absence.

Seattle will now be able to scheme better for the loss of its lone fullback and could allow Turbin to help in the blocking again this weekend.

Regardless, the Seahawks will try to keep its second-ranked ground game on track against a Panthers club that is giving up 137.6 yards per game on the ground to sit 26th in the NFL.

Carolina also ranks 22nd against the pass and has allowed 30 or more points in four of its last five games.

“We have to be more discipline and make plays when they are there to be made,“ Rivera told Carolina’s website.

Wilson and Newton are two talented quarterbacks that make plays with their arm and legs, but Newton will be going up against a Seattle unit that yields just 85.5 yards per game on the ground.

Carolina also is banged up along the offensive line, losing guard Trai Turner to a knee injury and tackle Byron Bell to an elbow issue last weekend. Turner will not play in this game, while Bell could return.

“The news on Byron was a lot better than we expected, thank goodness,“ Rivera said on Carolina’s website. “We’ll see how he reacts on Wednesday. He just has to get that strength back and get that swelling down.“

Rivera also said that he is optimistic starting guard Amini Silatolu could return for this game after sitting out versus the Packers because of an injured calf.

In addition to getting Stewart back, running back DeAngelo Williams could return from an ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the past three weeks.

Even with Newton’s contributions—he leads the club with 190 yards rushing, Carolina is putting up just 89.9 yards per game on the ground.

Williams, though, is averaging 4.2 yards per carry on 25 attempts.

Cornerback James Dockery could be tested by the Seahawks offense this weekend as he moves into the nickel spot vacated by the released Charles Godfrey. Godfrey was shifting to the role after playing safety the first six seasons of his career and started last weekend with Bene Benwikere inactive due to an ankle issue.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It’s been rare to see the Seahawks stumble like this, but the club draws a favorable matchup as it tries to get on track.

Seattle’s strength on offense is usually dictated by running the ball and that is something that Carolina has failed to stop this season. Wilson and Marshawn Lynch should get the Panthers on their heels and open up things in the passing game.

Carolina has been a better passing team this season and will likely need to go to the air if Seattle gets off to a fast start. The one thing working in the Panthers’ favor is the Seahawks having to travel to the east coast, but that won’t be enough to slow down the hungry club.

Predicted outcome: Seahawks 20, Panthers 17


►  Ravens try to seize control of AFC North

Shut out a weekend ago, the Cincinnati Bengals will try to rebound and keep their club-record home unbeaten streak alive this Sunday in a big matchup with the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals ripped off three straight victories to begin the season—including a Week 1 road win over the Ravens—but have yet to win following a Week 4 bye. They have dropped road contests around a 37-37 tie to visiting Carolina on October 12, falling into third place in the division.

Baltimore has grabbed early control of the AFC North by winning five of six since its loss to Cincinnati, going a game up on 4-3 Pittsburgh.

The Bengals had won 11 in a row at home before tying the Panthers in a shootout-like contest, but their offense did nothing a week later against the Indianapolis Colts. Cincinnati was outgained 506-135 in losing a 27-0 contest.

Without star wide receiver A.J. Green for a second straight week due to a toe injury, Cincinnati mustered only eight first downs. Andy Dalton threw for just 126 yards on 18-of-38 passing while under heavy pressure for much of the day.

“When you don’t have one of your better players, it’s a difficult thing when you don’t score points, but you can’t use that as an excuse,“ said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “We didn’t play well enough across the board.“

Tight end Jermaine Gresham came up with a career-best 10 catches for 48 yards in the lopsided loss, but running back Giovani Bernard was held to a mere 17 yards on seven carries.

“They played well and we didn’t execute. I think that’s what it comes down to,“ said Dalton. “We got beat in every part of it offensively.“

Cincinnati will try to make up ground as it will play three straight at home. The club has not lost at home since December 9, 2012. The Bengals have won four of their last five at home over the Ravens as well while also taking three of the previous four meetings overall.

The Ravens have used a quick-starting offense and sack-heavy defense to win two in a row. Quarterback Joe Flacco has seven touchdown passes over that span, throwing five against Tampa Bay on October 12 before hitting Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels for scoring throws in last Sunday’s 29-7 rout over visiting Atlanta.

Flacco threw for 258 yards while also getting picked off twice. Smith ended with 81 yards receiving on three catches and the defense logged five sacks for a second straight week.

“That’s a hard-fought game and a big win,“ Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s a good football team that came in here and our guys played really well.“

Justin Forsett ran for 95 yards on 23 carries and Bernard Pierce plunged into the end zone from a yard out to give the Ravens their third straight win at home.

Baltimore is aiming to open a season 6-2 for the fourth time under Harbaugh, doing so each season between 2010-12 while making the playoffs each year.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The outcome of this game could depend on if Green is able to go. He has put together a few big outings against the Ravens, with Week 1 being no exception.

Green made a 77-yard catch in the fourth quarter of that victory to erase a one-point deficit, juggling and hauling in a pass that was actually tipped by a Ravens defender.

The dynamic wide out has 27 catches for 465 yards in six career games against the Ravens with 50-plus yard touchdown catches in each of the last three meetings.

“You have to assume that any player on any team that might have a chance to play, you have to prepare for him, because he could be out there,“ said Harbaugh. “But you always look and see in the injury report and see whether they practiced or not.“

Green did not, in fact, practice on Wednesday, but has not been ruled out. Lewis noted on Monday that Green had made a lot of progress and the receiver was able to some running on the rehab field Wednesday, but the club can’t afford to rush him back early just because it is struggling.

“It’s up to when he’s physically ready to go,“ said Lewis. “That decision is not in my hands. When he is significantly healed he’ll be ready to play. He’ll know it, I’ll know it, and then he’ll be ready to move forward.“

Without Green last weekend, the Bengals went 1-for-13 on third downs and Kevin Huber came out to punt 11 times.

Baltimore’s defense will try to get into the face of Dalton and mirror its effort from the last two games. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil has been at the charge of the attack, logging five sacks in his last four games with two against the Falcons.

Dumervil also recovered a fumble caused by one of outside linebacker Pernell McPhee’s two sacks on the day.

“The first couple weeks have been more a hit and kind of getting to the guy, and then obviously, sacks come in bunches,“ said Dumervil. “True sack artists know that. So, we just have to continue to be disruptive. And obviously, the guys in the back end helping us with coverage is definitely huge.“

The Ravens did not sack Dalton in Week 1 as the Bengals quarterback threw for 301 yards on 25-of-38 passing.

“I wouldn’t say they’re a whole lot different,“ Dalton said of Baltimore’s defense from Week 1 to now. “They’re really sound, they’re smart, they play well. We’ve got to be ready for everything just like we were the first week of the season. They’ve won a lot of games so far, so we’ve got to do what we can to slow them down, and do what we can to win this one.“

Baltimore hasn’t been as lucky at the linebacker spot. Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict has been plagued by injury, the latest a cervical strain caused while making a tackle last weekend.

Fellow linebackers Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder) also are battling injuries, forcing the likes of Jayson DiManche and Vincent Rey into extended playing time.

Baltimore is in line to get a pair of left-sided offensive lineman back from knee ailments in tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele as both practiced on Wednesday. Monroe has missed the last four games following surgery, while Osemele has been out the last two games.

That could further improve an offense that is up to seventh in the NFL with 387.1 yards per game and sixth in scoring at 27.6 points per game.

The Ravens will have a new long snapper this Sunday after Morgan Cox torn his right ACL in the fourth quarter last Sunday. Baltimore signed Kevin McDermott, who played in 19 games, including the playoffs, for the San Francisco 49ers a season ago as an undrafted rookie.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It’s still early, but if the Bengals are to turn it around, this will need to be the week. They are in danger of canceling out their fast start and can’t afford to stumble on a generous stretch of three in a row at home.

“Regardless of where we’re playing, we know how important this game is,“ said Lewis. “Baltimore is playing very well right now. They’re doing a good job both running the ball and throwing the ball, and obviously they’re playing good on defense; being very explosive.“

Cincinnati has now added in offensive struggles to a defense that is allowing 416.7 yards per game, ranked 31st in the NFL.

Baltimore, meanwhile, has gotten things together since some early struggles, mixing in a well-round offense. Assuming Green is less than 100% at best, the secondary should have more time to allow the pass rush to get to Dalton, unlike Week 1.

Flacco, meanwhile, should have no trouble finding Steve Smith and Daniels across the middle, taking advantage of the Bengals’ injury issues at linebacker.

Predicted outcome: Ravens 24, Bengals 16


►  Vikings take on an old friend in Frazier

It’s a blast from the past for the Minnesota Vikings this week as the Norsemen will travel to Central Florida to take on their old NFC Central division rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Vikes will also be matching up with their former head coach Leslie Frazier, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Bucs. Frazier mentored the Vikings from 2007-2013, including serving as Minnesota’s head coach from 2011-13. He compiled an underwhelming 21-32-1 mark and was jettisoned after a 5-10-1 record in 2013.

“It will be interesting,“ Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Obviously I’ve been with the guy for a long time and I have a lot of respect for him as a man and as a coach. It will be fun to play against, to compete against him.“

Frazier might be feeling good about getting out when he did, as new Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer has had to deal with some serious issues, including the child abuse allegations that have banished star running back Adrian Peterson and a season-ending foot injury to starting quarterback Matt Cassel. Heck, Zimmer himself has even been dealing with kidney stone issues over the past few weeks.

The pain of those stones was likely nothing compared to the heartache of a last-second loss at Buffalo last weekend, though.

Kyle Orton found Sammy Watkins for a 2- yard touchdown with one second left to lift the Bills to a 17-16 win over the visiting Vikings.

The prospect of the Bills winning appeared dim when Orton was sacked at the Buffalo 40 on third down inside the two-minute warning. However, the veteran quarterback converted a 4th-and-20 with a 24-yard pass to Scott Chandler.

Orton later hit Chris Hogan near the sideline at the 2 for 28 yards before spiking the ball to stop the clock with five seconds remaining. Orton then connected to Watkins in the front left corner of the end zone, and Dan Carpenter made the decisive extra point.

The Bills overcame four turnovers and the loss of running backs Fred Jackson (groin) and C.J. Spiller (collarbone).

Minnesota rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, making his first road start, was 15-of-26 for just 157 yards. He threw his first touchdown pass, but was also picked off twice by Leodis McKelvin in the Vikings’ third straight loss.

Zimmer said his team “didn’t get the job done” and that they “have to continue to learn when we get in these situations.“

A bright spot for the Vikings was Jerick McKinnon. The rookie rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries against a Buffalo defense that entered Week 7 leading the NFL in allowing 67.5 yards per game on the ground.

The Bucs, meanwhile, are coming off their bye week and likely needed the extra time to forget what Joe Flacco did to them in Week 6.

The Ravens’ QB threw for a career-high five touchdowns in a near-flawless performance that propelled Baltimore to a 48-17 rout over Tampa Bay. Flacco ended each of Baltimore’s first five possessions with scoring strikes as the Ravens roared out to a 38-0 halftime lead.

Mike Glennon put up a personal-best 314 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-44 passing for the Buccaneers, though most of the damage came with the outcome already decided in the second half. The second-year quarterback was intercepted once and sacked five times while under heavy pressure for much of the game.

“The bottom line, the Ravens played better than us,“ said Glennon. “There’s nothing else really to say. They out-executed us, they outplayed us and obviously the score showed it.“

Louis Murphy had seven catches totaling 72 yards and a touchdown in the lopsided defeat, with Mike Evans recording four receptions for 55 yards and garnering Glennon’s other TD pass.

The Vikings and Buccaneers, who played in the same division from 1977 through 2001, have played 53 times overall with Minnesota holding a 31-22-0 series record. Tampa Bay, however, has won six straight and Minnesota has never won in Raymond James Stadium.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

In Bridgewater’s first career start, the Vikings totaled 558 yards of offense versus Atlanta, the third most in the NFL in 2014 and the fourth most in team history.

Things have hit the skids since as the Louisville product has struggled behind an offensive line that was perceived as a strength before the season started. Left tackle Matt Kalil has been the key culprit, regressing rapidly from his Pro Bowl form of 2012.

Injuries have also been a concern as right guard Brandon Fusco was lost for the season to a torn pectoral muscle and center John Sullivan (concussion) and guard Vladimir Ducasse (knee)—Fusco’s replacement—went down against Buffalo.

The Vikings expect Sullivan back in Tampa and Ducasse may be able to go but no matter who lines up in front of Bridgewater, they have to do a better job because the rookie’s confidence is eroding rapidly as he gets punished further each and every week.

“I think they should both be fine,“ Zimmer said. “(Sullivan) has passed his first protocol test or whatever, so I would assume that he would be fine.“

The continued development of McKinnon and the running game is also necessary. McKinnon had his second career 100-yard game against the NFL’s top rushing defense at Buffalo and is third in the NFL, averaging 5.2 yards per rush.

Overall Minnesota is mustering just 309.1 yards per offense but the Bucs defense have struggled mightily while trying to implement the cover-2 defense favored by Lovie Smith and Frazier. Tampa Bay is surrendering an ugly 422.8 ypg so if the Vikings can’t get it going against the Bucs, it’s time to start worrying.

Conversely the Minnesota stop unit has been much-improved under Zimmer as expected, allowing 337.9 ypg. It’s still a work in progress, though, as evidenced by the late-game implosion against the Bills and the trouble getting off the field at times, something that reminds Vikings fans of the struggles in the Frazier regime.

Certain individuals have performed well. Defensive end Everson Griffen is tied for second in the NFL with seven sacks after matching a career-high with three against the Bills, while safety Harrison Smith is third in the NFL with three interceptions.

The Bucs offense has been even worse than Minnesota’s, amassing 306.8 ypg and their biggest attribute may be the element of surprise as veteran QB Josh McCown practiced for the first time since injuring his right thumb in Week 3.

Smith has been coy to this point about who will go against the Vikings although Glennon certainly has outplayed McCown this season.

“We’ll see how the week goes,“ Smith said. “As soon as we feel like (McCown’s) fully ready to play, he’ll have a role with us. I don’t see it that way (having a quarterback controversy) at all. We have two quarterbacks. You might say that. ... I don’t say that at all. Guys know where they stand (with) the rotation that we have.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Vikings haven’t won in Tampa since the days of the Big Sombrero (Tampa Stadium) and seem to invent ways to lose on a weekly basis. Fourth-and-20?

Furthermore, it’s hard to pick a rookie QB to win on the road until you have actually seen him do it.

Predicted outcome: Buccaneers 23, Vikings 16


►  Percy’s place: Jets entertain Bills

When your best 60-minute effort of the season results in a two-point gut kick of a loss to your most heated rival in a primetime TV game, it’s hard to re-scale the emotional wall.

And when that loss drops you to 1-6 and probably spells the end for both your playoff chances and your coach, it gets even more difficult.

Welcome to the New York Jets in Week 8, as they prepare for a Sunday home date with Buffalo.

Rex Ryan and Co. nearly pulled off an unlikely bounce-back in Week 7 at New England, taking a New York team that had been held to 151 yards in a 31-0 loss at San Diego and humbled by Peyton Manning in a 14-point home defeat to Denver, and transforming it into a wrecking machine that battered the Patriots for 218 rushing yards and 423 yards of total offense.

Still, when Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal try was blocked in the final seconds, it wasn’t enough, which left the increasingly hot-seated Ryan to reflect on reality.

“We can’t deny where we are at, we’re 1-6,“ Ryan said. “The job is every day to get better and I believe our football team is getting better, it just hasn’t been good enough to win yet.“

Chris Ivory contributed 107 of the 218 ground yards against the Patriots, adding a TD on his 21 carries, and he’ll try to better the intermittent success he had while churning out 98 yards against the Bills when the teams most recently met last November in Buffalo - a game the Bills won, 37-14.

Quarterback Geno Smith completed eight of 23 passes in that Week 11 loss, but played perhaps his best game of the season last week at Foxborough, where he connected on 20-of-34 throws for 226 yards, had a touchdown pass and was not picked off for the first time this season.

He also averaged better than 5.2 yards on seven rushing attempts.

His challenge this week comes from an aggressive Buffalo defense that’s fourth in the league against the run - allowing 80.4 yards per game - has 19 sacks in seven games and has created 12 turnovers, good for fifth in the NFL.

Smith does get a new toy to play with in the form of former first-round pick Percy Harvin, who was acquired from Seattle in a sudden trade for a conditional draft pick. Harvin scored a touchdown on a kickoff return in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win over the Broncos in February, but fell out of favor after catching 22 passes and rushing for 92 yards in five games this season.

Several stories this week have heralded disputes with teammates and other off- field issues that may have prompted Seattle to give up on him after it had acquired him from Minnesota for first-, third- and seventh-round draft picks prior to the 2013 season.

“I’m learning from those lessons,“ Harvin said. “I’m happy to be here right now and looking to make the most out of it.“

As for the Bills, they’re a surprising 4-3 through seven games after winning just six times in 16 tries last year, but the powerful tandem responsible for their lofty status among ground-gaining teams in 2013 - Buffalo was second in the league with 144.2 yards per game - is out of commission this week.

Starters C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were lost in the first half of a one- point home win over Minnesota last week. Spiller is on injured reserve, but could return later in the season, with a collarbone injury; while Jackson is probably gone for at least four weeks with a groin problem.

Thus, backups Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon step into the spotlight against the Jets, and the Bills signed Phillip Tanner this week to add some backfield depth.

Brown hasn’t appeared in a game this season, while Dixon has gotten 27 carries for 137 yards and caught three balls for 15 yards. Tanner played in all 16 games for Dallas last season, but carried only nine times for 12 yards and caught four passes for 33.

“I’m going to go out there and play for them,“ Brown said. “I’ll do my very best. I don’t want to let those guys down.“

The Bills are above .500 after seven games for the first time in three years, but they haven’t finished above break-even since going 9-7 in 2004. The run game has averaged 103.4 yards per week in 2014, a 40-plus yard dip from last season thanks in part to the arrival of two rookies on the offensive line.

The Jets are eighth in the league at stopping the run - allowing 88 yards per game - but they were gashed for 300 against San Diego and Denver before holding the Patriots to 63 in the Week 7 loss.

Buffalo quarterback Kyle Orton drove the team 80 yards in 15 plays and hit rookie Sammy Watkins with a scoring pass with one second left to defeat the Vikings, and he faces a New York secondary this week that’s been riddled by injury and ineffectiveness and allowed two TD passes to Tom Brady last week.

Watkins was the fourth overall pick in April’s draft and has panned out with 35 catches for 433 yards and four touchdowns. The win against Minnesota was his best game of the season with nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

“We just have to get better,“ Orton said. “Everybody did a better job this week of getting right to work, being focused, being ready to go on Wednesday. Any time you have a young team and a young offense, you’re going to have some growing pains, and we’re going to continue to get better and continue to win games.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Welcome to the Big Apple

Normally, the acquisition of a proven NFL player like Harvin would create ripples of optimism, but it’s hard for a team to reach that level when it’s already 1-6, and the arriving player comes with baggage.

Still, regardless of how limited his knowledge of the playbook might be, Harvin will provide a downfield threat and could find himself on the receiving end of a play-action pass or two in his debut.

Sling it to Sammy

As mentioned earlier, the Jets are no longer the secondary they were in the days of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Their first-round selection of Dee Milliner in 2013 has been mildly impactful at best, and a handful of other players are being shuffled through various roles. That doesn’t bode well in a meeting with a high-octane rookie like Watkins, who’s already shown an ability to carry his team.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

There are a lot of reasons to like the Jets. They’re home. They’re coming off their best performance. And they’re playing a team that’s a mild surprise thus far, but not exactly on the level of the last three foes.

Still, the main question revolves around just how much the loss at New England, with its consequences, will mean in the follow-up. It could be a New York rout, but it’s more likely an aggravating, close loss.

Predicted outcome: Bills 21, Jets 20


►  Steelers seek consistency against red-hot Luck, Colts

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been here before.

The team won its first game in Week 1 at home against Cleveland, then quickly plummeted with a 20-point loss at Baltimore in Week 2. It beat Carolina convincingly in Week 3, then lost to a previously winless Tampa Bay team seven days later.

And that was just in September. The season’s second month has already included more of the same, with a win at Jacksonville followed by a 21-point loss to the Browns and then by last week, a primetime defeat of the Houston Texans in which the Steelers rallied from 13-0 down to win, 30-23.

They’re hoping the roller coaster stops this week, when they host Indianapolis.

“We don’t want to be satisfied with the way we played,“ running back Le’Veon Bell said. “It was good but there are definitely things we can do better.“

Bell is second in the league with a weekly average of 134 yards from scrimmage and he churned out 145 against the Texans, against whom Pittsburgh scored three touchdowns and a field goal during a torrid stretch that covered less than three minutes in the second quarter and erased the double-digit deficit.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit 23-of-33 passes for 265 yards and two scores and was not intercepted against Houston, a nice recovery from the 21- of-42, 228 yards, one TD and one INT stat line he produced in the debacle in Cleveland.

On defense, the Steelers forced two turnovers in the second quarter outburst and recovered another fumble in the fourth quarter. It was at least a mini- revelation for a team that’s posted just 64 takeaways since the outset of the 2011 season - last in the NFL. Incidentally, the Colts have turned the ball over 13 times already this season, the fourth-highest total in the league.

“It’s not anything mystical,“ Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “When we are doing what it is that we are supposed to do and playing with energy, it happens.“

And it’ll have to continue to blunt the momentum of an Indianapolis team that’s won five straight.

The Colts became the first team to post two games with 500 or more total yards in 2014 after reaching 506 in their dominant 27-0 beating of Cincinnati in Week 7. And while their five-game win streak pales when compared to the 23 in a row they reeled off in regular season play in 2008-09, it’s still the longest they’ve managed since then-QB Peyton Manning left and the Andrew Luck Era began.

Luck completed 27-of-42 passes for 344 yards and two scores against Cincinnati. He leads the league with 2,331 passing yards through seven games and is tied with, of all people, Manning, for the league lead in touchdowns with 19.

His five straight 300-yard games have also equaled Manning’s franchise record.

The run game chipped in with 171 yards - its best output of the season - against the Bengals, and the average of 134.8 yards on the ground since Week 2 is fifth-highest among 32 teams.

But if the defense continues to play as it did while pitching its first shutout since 2008, it’ll be moot.

“You don’t feel like you have to do too much when you’re playing with a defense like that,“ Luck said. “They do and have done a heck of a job all year.“

Only one of five opponents during the win streak has managed more than 17 points and the Colts have allowed 271.8 yards per week during the stretch, which is best in the league. The paltry 135 yards the Bengals managed was the lowest number for any team this season.

Indianapolis was No. 20 in the league last year, allowing 357.1 per week. This season, it’s the only team in the league in the top five among both offenses and defenses.

“The whole defense is feeding off of each other right now,“ coach Chuck Pagano said. “The energy that they’re playing with, the effort that they’re playing with right now. Anytime you have success like they’re having, the confidence level is at an all-time high.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Aerial Circus-Like Atmosphere

If you’re a fan of big-play receivers - and who among us is not? - then this is the game for you. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown is tops in the league with 719 receiving yards and the Colts’ T.Y. Hilton is close behind at No. 3 with 711 yards. Hilton has been targeted 68 times in seven games and that number could rise if Reggie Wayne is unavailable with the elbow injury that’s labeled him doubtful.

Keeping Up With the Lucks

Speaking of big-play players, the Steelers are going to need top-end production from both Brown and Bell if the game turns into a shootout rather than a defensive slugfest. Pittsburgh is in the league’s top 10 in both rushing and receiving - averaging 128.6 and 258.1 yards, respectively - thanks to the pair, and Brown is also a force on punt returns in addition to his league leads in receptions and yardage.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Colts - after reaching 30 points three times in victories and hitting for 24 and 27 in their two losses - have pretty much proven they’ll score on anyone.

So the challenge for Pittsburgh becomes trying to match that output with its own offense. Brown and Bell will get their chances and Roethlisberger clearly knows how to win big games, but this Indianapolis team seems destined for higher achievement.

Predicted outcome: Colts 28, Steelers 24


►  Dolphins’ stingy D takes aim at Bortles, Jags

See, Jacksonville fans. It’s a simple game after all.

Responding to an internal call to dial-down the complexity of things, the Jaguars responded with an old-fashioned defensive throttling of the Cleveland Browns last week for their first win of the season - and they’ll try to maintain the momentum when their in-state rivals from Miami arrive on Sunday.

Jacksonville held the Browns to 266 total yards and has surrendered an average of 278 over the past two games, after allowing a weekly clip of 435.4 through the first five games.

It also registered six sacks against Cleveland to push the season total to 22.

“We really got back down to the fundamentals,“ linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “We just got off to a tough start and we were trying to do too much and that got us out of whack a little bit. It took a couple games of getting beat up pretty bad to realize we have to calm down, stick to the basics, take care of our job, handle the fundamentals and collectively we’ll play great as a whole. That’s what we’re starting to do now.“

The defense’s forward progress will have to be maintained without the veteran, though, after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. He’d led the team with 69 tackles in seven games, and figures to be replaced by J.T. Thomas, who’d move from the outside to the middle.

Some of the improvement could be rationed for the offensive side of the ball as well.

The Jaguars are 31st in a 32-team league in total yards per week, but they ground out 185 rush yards against a leaky Cleveland defense and have racked up 715 total yards in their last two games against the Browns and Tennessee Titans.

Former University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was drafted as a wide receiver in 2013, but may have finally found his NFL niche as a running back. He carried 22 times against the Browns for a career-best 127 yards and could help lighten the load for rookie passer Blake Bortles, who’s QB rating is 68.2 - alongside three TD passes and eight interceptions - since he replaced Chad Henne.

Bortles was solid statistically in the two-point loss to the Titans, completing 32-of-46 passes for 336 yards, but plummeted against the Browns while connecting on 17 of 31 throws for 159 yards and having three passes intercepted.

“I’ve got to improve,“ he said.

It won’t get any easier against a Dolphins defense that’s among the league’s best.

And now that quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the offense are beginning to perform alongside their ball-stopping mates, things are beginning to get interesting at the state’s southern end.

“There are signs we are getting better,“ coach Joe Philbin said. “One thing that is encouraging to me is I think we are practicing a little better. We are getting our work done and getting off the field.“

Miami’s defense allows an average of 313.7 yards per week (fourth-best in the league) and has kept opposition quarterbacks to a pedestrian 86.3 rating. The Dolphins buckled down on Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears in a 27-14 road win last week, keeping the hosts to 224 total yards while picking Cutler off once and pushing his rating to an even emptier 74.4 level.

The stinginess helps the progression of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who heard benching calls for the first three games but has since responded with 799 yards, six touchdowns and a 72.3 completion%age in his last three. He’s also run for 132 yards in 14 carries during the rebound stretch.

In games one, two and three, Tannehill completed just 56.5% of his passes and had a 74.1 rating.

Tannehill’s uptick has helped Miami boost its per-week yardage output to 392.3 over the last three games, and he’s connected 10 times for 121 yards and a touchdown in the last two starts made by rookie receiver Jarvis Landry.

“There are some specific signs of (Tannehill) getting better,“ offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “And there were some specific signs of him not taking maybe the next step or, ‘OK, where do we go from here?‘ But I saw anticipation improve. I saw some good pocket presence. I think the guy is getting better. I’m excited about where he can go.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Rookie Progression

The Jaguars have seen both ends of the rookie spectrum in the last two weeks with Bortles. He had his best game of the season in the narrow loss to the Titans, then laid an egg in the 18-point defeat of the Browns as his accuracy evaporated.

Trying to find himself amid the pressure applied by a top-five defense won’t be easy this week, so early success for the run game will be at a premium.

Back in the Fold

The Dolphins had understandably high hopes for Dion Jordan when they made him the third overall pick out of LSU in 2013, but the youngster failed to crack the starting lineup last year and has been absent this year thanks to a second run-in with the league’s substance-abuse policy. He returns from another suspension this week and could add yet another athletic and punishing migraine for Bortles.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Jaguars may indeed continue their emotional uptick and have some moments against the Dolphins, but unless Bortles is able to show something early on, it’ll be difficult. The Jaguars simply haven’t scored enough to win games thus far - the 24 against the Browns was their high watermark for 2014 - and Miami doesn’t figure to permit all that much either. Unless there’s a sea change, this is Miami’s to lose.

Predicted outcome: Dolphins 28, Jaguars 10



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Two minute warning - Week 8

It’s the stretch run to the playoffs and fantasy owners need to make all the right decision from here on out if they want to be holding the championship trophy over their head.

The weather will be mainly a non-factor in Week 8. It appears that showers in New England for the Patriots-Bears game is the only place where it could be an issue.

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 game-time.

Quarterbacks -

Jake Locker, Tennessee - The Titans aren’t going anywhere and know what Locker can do when he’s healthy, which isn’t often, so despite likely returning from a thumb injury, Zach Mettenberger gets the start.

Josh McCown, Tampa Bay - McCown is in a similar situation to Locker. He may come back, but as the backup to Mike Glennon, not the starter.

Robert Griffin III, Washington - Coach Jay Gruden hasn’t ruled him out, but he’s not going to pay this week, that’s just coach-speak for I hope the DC wastes time game planning. RGIII shouldn’t return until after Washington’s Week 10 bye.

Running Backs -

Reggie Bush, Detroit - Bush (ankle) says he’s going to play, but he hasn’t practiced and with his injury history it seems unlikely. Even if he plays he probably won’t be effective. Fantasy owners of Joique Bell hope he sits another week. Latest update: Bush is inactive.

Fred Jackson, Buffalo - He’s out a month which all fantasy owners already know. The question of the day is what will be the division of the workload between Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown? I think Brown gets the larger piece of the pie, but Dixon gets the goal line work.

Trent Richardson, Indianapolis - He’s missed every practice due to a bad hamstring and shouldn’t be expected to play. That makes Ahmad Bradshaw a top value this weekend.

Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville - Gerhart (foot) has been bypassed by Denard Robinson in running situations and Jordan Todman in the passing game. That doesn’t leave him a lot of opportunities to play or produce.

Shane Vereen, New England - Vereen has been dealing with an illness, but we’d be surprised if he doesn’t play and get the majority of the work and be a solid fantasy value.

Shonn Greene, Tennessee - Greene (hamstring) was apparently arrested for failing to obey a traffic officer. That can’t help his situation. He’s already fallen behind Bishop Sankey. We’d recommend staying away.

Andre Ellington, Arizona - Ellington was dealing with a rib injury as well as a sore foot, but neither should prevent him from playing Sunday in a big NFC matchup against the Eagles. He’s a must start simply because he gets more than 20 touches a game.

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina - He’s starting to get closer to the playing field, but won’t play in Week 8. It’s Jonathan Stewart’s time to shine, or at least get all the work.

Khiry Robinson, New Orleans - He joins Pierre Thomas on the sidelines which is bad news for his fantasy owners but great news for Mark Ingram owners and even Travaris Cadet owners (are there any?).

Darren Sproles, Philadelphia - Sproles is expected to be in uniform, but he won’t be completely healthy. Unless your league gives you points for returns, he’s probably not ready to help your starting lineup.

Wide Receivers -

Calvin Johnson, Detroit - Johnson should not be expected to play Sunday morning. Lions coach Jim Caldwell knows the team is 5-2 and can afford to gamble on getting him completely healthy for the stretch run and hopefully a playoff run. Sorry I don’t have better news for his fantasy owners. Golden Tate owners have to be happy. Latest update: Johnson is inactive.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati - Green is another guy who missed the entire week of practice. Turf toe is a tough thing to get offer for a player who needs to make quick, decisive cuts.

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis - Wayne will not play in Week 8. Besides No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton, this should be great news for tight end Dwayne Allen owners. He’s the next best pass-catcher on the team after Hilton.

Eric Decker, New York Jets - He’s finally healthy and should be a decent RB2. If you want more than that from him, let him return to catching passes from Peyton Manning.

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay - He was a limited participant in practice this week de to sore ribs, but is expected to play.

Tight Ends -

Owen Daniels, Baltimore - Daniels will not play in Week 8, leaving the spot for rookie Crockett Gillmore. With three career receptions, it will take a lot more than getting a start to convince me to type Gillmore’s name into my fantasy lineup.

Eric Ebron, Detroit - Ebron is one of a trio of Lions tight ends (also Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria) who are injured and a question mark to play Sunday morning. Add in likely no Calvin Johnson or Reggie Bush and will there be anyone for Matthew Stafford to throw a pass to? Latest update: Ebron, Fauria and Pettigrew are all inactive.

Martellus Bennett, Chicago - Bennett seems over his hamstring issues and should be ready to go against the Patriots.

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans - Graham is still dealing with a shoulder issue and was limited all week in practice. He’ll likely be on a limited snap count, but he’s still good enough to produce even if he’s only out there for 30 plays.

Others -

Jadeveon Clowney, Houston - Clowney should get back on the field Sunday against Tennessee, though on a snap count. Poor Mettenberger having to face J.J. Watt on one side and Clowney on the other.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nothin’ but Net: Awards season

In our society, it’s never too early to think about awards.

You can easily access information on this season’s Oscar frontrunners, despite the fact the show is not for another almost four months.

I have no special powers to see into the future. (No one does.) But here’s a heavily-educated, mildly-expert man’s best stabs at the 2014-15 NBA individual award winners.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - JABARI PARKER, MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Last season, it was the worst rookie class in history and everyone was rubbing two sticks together just to come up with multiple realistic candidates for this award.

This season, it’s the opposite. There are a few great nominees, but Parker is the best fit. Parker was the most-polished prospect in the draft. He’s an NBA- ready scorer who can contribute on the interior, outside and by slashing to the basket. He’s capable of playing both forward positions and should lead all rookies in scoring and be high on the list in rebounding.

Parker will also have a lot of opportunity in Milwaukee. The team is bad and will be built around Parker offensively. Playing time is a significant factor in this particular award and Parker should get plenty of it. He’s the face of the Bucks and head coach Jason Kidd will give him a long leash in the early stage of the season.

Andrew Wiggins was the first pick in the draft and is destined for greatness. He’s a legit two-way star waiting to happen in the NBA, but his rookie season might be too early. The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t going to be good, however, they have pieces ahead of Wiggins in the rotation. Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin. Either could be moved to give Wiggins more of a chance, but until then, Parker is ahead.

Marcus Smart is an interesting horse in this race. With Rajon Rondo injured from a banana peel incident, or shower, or whatever it was, Smart will get plenty of run for the Boston Celtics. He’s a great two-way prospect, who, if he develops a consistent jump shot, could be a star.

The dark horse in the race is Orlando’s Elfrid Payton. The Magic have enough faith in Payton they released incumbent point guard Jameer Nelson. Payton is a ball hawk defender (noticing a theme among rookies?), and the offensive game will come. Playing time shouldn’t be an issue for Payton.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - SERGE IBAKA, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Ibaka has made the All-Defensive First Team the last three seasons. Clearly, he’s a staple in voters’ minds and big men have taken this trophy the last 10 seasons.

Ibaka has finished in the top three in blocked shots per game the last four campaigns. He posted the most total blocks in the league every season since 2010-11. He’s the anchor for the Thunder’s defense and it’s not just about rim protection. Ibaka is such a remarkable athlete, he can go out and defend people on the perimeter. Few bigs can do that.

Joakim Noah can do that. He did it so well that he won this honor last season. Noah will be a candidate again, but Ibaka is going to shine loftier in the spotlight than Noah. Kevin Durant will be shelved until December with a broken foot and Ibaka will be the second-biggest star in the OKC lineup. Noah’s Bulls will all be about Derrick Rose.

If voters wanted to reward a wing defender, LeBron James comes to mind. He will have a hard time winning this award because he will get most of his votes in the MVP race. Other than James, perimeter players with a shot could be Jimmy Butler of the Bulls or Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR - TAJ GIBSON, CHICAGO BULLS

Gibson could easily start for most teams in the league, including the Bulls. He got the bulk of fourth-quarter minutes in seasons past, but that was because Carlos Boozer was the one in his way.

Pau Gasol is now the starting power forward. Defensively, Gasol’s not up to head coach Tom Thibodeau’s standards. Does that mean Gibson will still play in pivotal moments ahead of Gasol? Probably not, but Gibson could be the late-in- game small forward. Gibson has a decent and improving midrange game and is tougher than bad steak.

Gibson has been reportedly upset about not starting and this might be the reward from voters. He’s extremely important to Chicago’s success, especially defensively. The Bulls are going to be very good this season and Gibson will be a huge part of it.

Phoenix’s Isaiah Thomas may score the most points for a second-unit player in the NBA. He averaged 20.0 ppg as a starter for the Sacramento Kings and he won’t see enough playing time to reach that plateau. The Suns are going up- tempo, so Thomas should fit right into that scheme.

Jamal Crawford won the award last season and should be a contender again. The Los Angeles Clippers are thin at the small-forward spot, so Crawford might get the run there in the fourth quarter.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - JONAS VALANCIUNAS, TORONTO RAPTORS

Valanciunas’ career has trended upward in his two seasons. Last season, he averaged 11.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg, which were both up from his rookie campaign. The near double-double production leapt the Raptors into an Atlantic Division title.

Toronto should be very good once again, and this choice is somewhat risky considering the Raps are dominated by the elite backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

Valanciunas’ touches should go up even more this season. He’s proven his worth as a valuable low-post scorer, his shooting touch isn’t hideous and the Raptors have had him working hard on his conditioning through camp.

Valanciunas has all the makings of an elite big man. He’s young, it’s taken him a little while to find his groove and this season, he will.

The other name that occupied this here brain canal was Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks. He’s a freak and not just because that’s his nickname. Antetokounmpo grew two inches this summer and now stands 6-foot-11. He got time at the point guard during the summer league and preseason. Antetokounmpo will have a bigger role alongside Parker for Kidd and he’ll see a bump in playing time which has historically helped players in this category.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Hornets intrigued me. Reports say, MKG worked this summer on his shooting form, which badly needed help. With Lance Stephenson in town, Kidd-Gilchrist needs to improve or potentially fall out of the rotation. If the shooting has truly gotten better, and Charlotte consistently wins, the former No. 2 overall pick makes sense.

COACH OF THE YEAR - DAVID BLATT, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

This honor is bestowed on a coach who either guides his team to a substantial turnaround in record, or leads one of the best teams in the whole association.

Blatt has a chance at both.

The Cavaliers won 33 games last season and that number should go up considerably in 2014-15. You may not have heard, but LeBron James returned to Cleveland. Kevin Love was traded to the Cavs. Kyrie Irving is still a member of the roster.

The Cavs will be very good. In fact, they should finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference, something close to 60 wins. That would fulfill both criteria normally needed for this award.

Blatt will have skeptics who might say he doesn’t deserve the praise since he has James, Love and Irving. Coaching stars, coupled with the expectations as humongous as they are in Cleveland, won’t be easy.

Blatt is going to infuse a ball-movement system in Cleveland. He’s regarded as smart and funny. Blatt is respected from his years coaching overseas. Blatt is the man.

Thibodeau will always be a factor in this race. Same goes for reigning champion, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks will guide a team that should improve and be a real factor in the crazy Western Conference. Denver’s Brian Shaw might actually coach the team with one of the biggest win differentials. Blatt is still the one to beat.

(Side note: Kevin McHale is my choice for first coach fired. The Houston Rockets are going to struggle this season and McHale will take the fall. He hasn’t seemed totally comfortable on the bench with this roster, plus the team got worse in the offseason.)

MVP - DUH

LeBron James has won four of the last six MVP awards, so even if he didn’t put the league and Ohio on his back, he’d be favored to win.

James is the face of the NBA. He is the NBA. He lost last season’s award to Kevin Durant, so voters who were tired and frustrated of writing James’ name can do so once again with a clear conscience.

LBJ is so clearly ahead of everyone on the court. He will be the MVP not just because of his on-court prowess, but the Cavs’ success and bringing basketball back to Cleveland.

James has this MVP in the bag.


►  Stretching the Field: Age catches up with Nash

The end is near for point guard Steve Nash.

Wait, who am I kidding? The end is HERE for point guard Steve Nash.

The nearly crippled Los Angeles Lakers star just announced he will sit out the entire 2014-15 season with a nagging back issue that has prevented him from earning any sense of worth in his big Hollywood contract.

Chalk another one up for Father Time because he has caught up to arguably the top Canadian basketball player in the history of the sport. Father Time is undefeated in these types of cases.

You can add luggage to the reason why Nash will be a spectator after he injured his fragile back carrying bags this week.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame Samsonite, Traveler’s Choice or whatever brand of baggage Nash was handling, but he has been unwanted baggage for the Lakers. Last season, the 40-year-old appeared in 15 games (10 starts) for the Lakers in his 18th NBA campaign and was rendered useless. This isn’t hockey or baseball where someone of that age can have an impact, albeit a small one.

Nash averaged 6.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.1 blocks in 20.9 minutes. That’s not two-time NBA MVP-type numbers. But health means so much more than talent. How can you expect Nash to perform at the level he used to when he’s knocking on the doors of retirement and the trainer’s room?

He played 50 games in his first season with Los Angeles in 2012-13, posting an average of 12.7 points and 6.7 assists, and cost the Lakers several draft picks in a deal with the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers mortgaged part of their future when they acquired Nash in hopes of bringing another title to Tinseltown. At one point the Lakers had Nash, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. That spells an NBA Finals run. It wasn’t in the cards.

Honestly, the Lakers weren’t going to compete with a healthy Nash and Bryant this season and it comes as a surprise to nobody. The Lakers are going to struggle on the court anyway much like they are in the accounting department. We all know Bryant is being paid more than most actors and it’s killing the team. Nash is still on the books for almost $10 million this season and won’t even set foot on the hardwood.

“Being on the court this season has been my top priority and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now,“ Nash said. “I work very hard to stay healthy and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult. I will continue to support my team during this period of rest, and will focus on my long-term health.“

Jeremy Lin is a top candidate to run Byron Scott’s scheme this season.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said it’s disappointing for the team, fans and Nash, and he greatly appreciates the future Hall of Famer’s efforts. It’s too bad the efforts Nash put into recovering from nerve damage in his back never translated on the floor. It has to be difficult for any executive or head coach to deal with the uncertainty of having a guy in the lineup on a nightly basis. That won’t be an albatross with Nash officially done.

The eight-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA First Team selection built himself a splendid resume and was hoping to play beyond this upcoming season if his body permitted it.

Let’s face it, Nash is all about just scoring and dishing because defense, besides maybe a steal here and there, went out the window after his team made a basket. Nash played with some of the greatest in the sport and his Phoenix days were some of the best ever. Mike D’Antoni drained the most out of Nash, who unfortunately has no titles to show for it.

A former Santa Clara standout, the skinny and barely 6-foot Nash was traded to the Dallas Mavericks and teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki. Nash and Nowitzki lost in the 2003 Western Conference Finals, and Nowitzki later won a title with point guard Jason Kidd in 2011. Nash made a return to Phoenix from 2004-2012, when the Suns were a regular in the playoffs and made it to the West Finals, only to lose to Nowitzki in 2006.

Nash led the Suns back to the conference finals in 2009-10, but Bryant and the Lakers ruined those plans en route to another Larry O’Brien trophy.

The only time Nash will get near a championship trophy or ring is when a friend shows him. And that’s hard to say for one of the more talented little men to ever play. Nash is third on the NBA’s all-time assists list behind Hall of Famer John Stockton and Kidd, and is known for consistency from the free throw line. Nash, who has handed out 10,335 assists, has made 90.4% at the foul line.

Every player, guards especially, turns the ball over and Nash is doing it at a 2.9 per game clip in his career. He averages 14.3 ppg and is the only player in NBA history to shoot at least 50% from the field, 40% from 3- point range and 90% from the free-throw line in four different seasons.

There’s no argument his numbers are first ballot worthy of enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. While he hasn’t officially announced his retirement, the writing is on the wall and it could have been a few years ago. The past two seasons in LA may have altered Nash’s career numbers, but it will never erase what he’s meant to the league and fans.

Nash is a perfect role model for young minds and would be a perfect coach at any level. If his back disagrees, give him an orthopedic chair Phil Jackson used to have in the final days of his brilliant career on the sidelines.

It’s time to hang ‘em up, Steve.

Enjoy retirement, your children and personal endeavors. You earned it.


►  Nets pick up options for Plumlee, Karasev

The Brooklyn Nets have picked up the third- year options on the contracts of forward/center Mason Plumlee and swingman Sergey Karasev.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed Friday, but the options will keep the two second-year players under contract through the 2015-16 season.

Plumlee was a first team All-Rookie selection last season after averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 18.2 minutes over 74 games, 22 of which were starts.

The Duke product was selected by the Nets with the 22nd overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. He was also a member of this summer’s USA men’s national basketball team that won a gold medal at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Karasev joined the Nets on July 10 from Cleveland as part of a three-team trade. He was the 19th overall pick of the 2013 draft and last season averaged 1.7 points in 22 games with the Cavaliers.


►  Oladipo sidelined due to facial fracture

It’s been a rough month for Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo.

The second-year pro has not played in the preseason because of a sprained left MCL and on Thursday suffered a facial fracture in practice that will keep him sidelined indefinitely.

Oladipo was hurt after taking an inadvertent elbow during a practice drill. He will undergo a corrective surgical procedure on Saturday.

The Indiana product was a First Team All-Rookie selection last season after averaging 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 80 games. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting, behind Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams.

Orlando opens its 2014-15 season on Tuesday at New Orleans.


►  Lakers’ Nash won’t play this season

Recurring nerve damage in his back will keep Steve Nash from playing in his 19th NBA season.

The Los Angeles Lakers announced Thursday that after consulting with the team’s medical staff, both Nash and the organization believe it is in the best interest of the future Hall of Famer to not take the court this season.

“As disappointed as we are for ourselves and our fans, we’re even more disappointed for Steve,“ Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “We know how hard he’s worked the last two years to try to get his body right for the rigors of the NBA, and how badly he wants to play.“

Nash has battled numerous injuries since joining the Lakers in July of 2012, appearing in just 65 of a possible 164 regular season games. He was limited to 15 games and 10 starts last season due to nerve damage from a leg injury he suffered the season before.

Following last season, Nash announced that the 2014-15 campaign would be his last. The 40-year-old has made no formal retirement announcement at this time.

“I work very hard to stay healthy and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult,“ Nash said. “I will continue to support my team during this period of rest, and will focus on my long-term health.“

Nash, a two-time MVP, ranks third in NBA history with 10,335 assists. His 90.4% free throw%age is the best of all time.


►  Nets waive Ware

The Brooklyn Nets have waived guard Casper Ware.

The Nets acquired Ware on Friday in a trade with Philadelphia. He appeared in nine games for the 76ers last season and averaged 5.3 points with 1.1 assists.

Brooklyn sent guard Marquis Teague and a 2019 second-round pick to the Sixers in exchange for Ware.


►  Raptors cut Hamilton

The Toronto Raptors have waived swingman Jordan Hamilton and guard Will Cherry.

Hamilton was signed in August and averaged 9.5 points with 3.0 rebounds in six preseason games. He averaged 6.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in 60 games, including 12 starts, last season with Denver and Houston.

The 24-year-old Texas product, who was chosen 26th overall by Dallas in 2011 and shipped to Denver on draft night, owns career averages of 5.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 126 games over three seasons.

Cherry averaged 3.4 points in five preseason games.


►  Cavs exercise option on Waiters’ contract

The Cleveland Cavaliers announced Saturday that the club has exercised the fourth-year option on the contract of guard Dion Waiters.

The 22-year-old Philadelphia native and Syracuse product finished last season with averages of 15.9 points, 3.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds over 70 appearances for the Cavs. Waiters was taken by Cleveland with the fourth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft.

In 131 career contests for Cleveland, Waiters has averaged 15.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.6 boards per game.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  And the pendulum swings back toward San Francisco

How many times can the pendulum swing in one World Series?

Kansas City entered the Fall Classic with more momentum than any team in the history of baseball. Then Madison Bumgarner happened.

The Royals then put that behind them and showed exactly why they were in this spot, as they won Games 2 and 3 with the same timely hitting, outstanding defense and, of course, incredible bullpen work that allowed them to win the first eight games of this postseason.

But the Giants gave the Royals a bit of their own medicine on Saturday, rallying from a three-run deficit and getting some timely hits of their own, while their own bullpen outperformed Kansas City’s for at least one night in an 11-4 win that evened this best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

Things may have looked bleak in San Francisco after Friday’s loss, but the Giants again have all the momentum.

It appeared as it this was going to be two series for the Giants. There was the game that Bumgarner pitched, then there was everything else. Like Kansas City needing just one win in San Fran to get the series back to Kauffman Stadium, the Giants’ goal in coming back to San Fran was to get another win in the either of the first two games not started by Bumgarner.

Well, mission accomplished.

San Francisco now stands a good chance at going back to Kansas City with the series lead, as it will hand the ball to the best postseason pitcher in baseball on Sunday.

And he will be on full rest.

San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy may have given a thought to starting Bumgarner in Game 4, but he made the right move in staying with Ryan Vogelsong, even though he managed to give the Giants just eight outs on Saturday.

Like the Giants lineup when Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland enter the game, the Royals lineup could be just as intimidated with Bumgarner on the hill.

The 25-year-old left-hander may not win an NL Cy Young Award this season, but he has established himself as the best money pitcher in the sport right now.

Bumgarner gave up one run over seven innings to beat the Royals in Game 1. His only mistake was a two-out home run to Royals catcher Salvador Perez in the seventh inning, which ended his MLB-record scoreless innings streak on the road at 33 2/3 frames.

It was also the first run he had surrendered in three World Series starts, spanning 21 innings, dating back to 2012.

Bumgarner’s 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA in five starts this postseason and he’s also won all three of his World Series starts with an 0.41 ERA. His six straight postseason starts of seven-plus innings with seven or fewer baserunners is also an MLB record.

His only loss this postseason, though, came at AT&T Park.

Oh and in case anyone was wondering, even though the Giants scored 11 runs it only counts as one win. By the way, none of those runs scored against the Kansas City bullpen came against guys with the last name of Herrera, Davis or Holland.

After all this the season comes down to a best-of-three.

Buckle in ... I have a feeling this one is going seven.


►  Single-happy Giants beat Royals to tie Series

The San Francisco Giants delivered plenty of big hits to tie the World Series.

Big blows? Didn’t see many of those, but these Giants are used to winning any way they can.

Pablo Sandoval knocked in the go-ahead runs with a single in the sixth inning on Saturday night and the Giants scored seven unanswered runs in an 11-4 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 4.

The Giants tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2 going into Sunday, when they will send Madison Bumgarner to the mound in a rematch of Game 1, when their ace threw seven innings in a 7-1 win over the Royals and their ace, James Shields.

The Giants, seeking their third World Series title in five years, had 16 hits, including 13 singles. Joe Panik hit two of their three doubles, driving in two runs. Hunter Pence also doubled and finished with three hits and three RBI and Gregor Blanco singled twice and scored three times.

Even reliever Yusmeiro Petit (1-0), who threw three scoreless innings for the win, contributed to the total, becoming the first relief pitcher in 23 years with a hit in the World Series.

“Everybody did something to contribute,“ said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

Omar Infante had a two-run single in a four-run third inning for the Royals, who won the previous two games, including a 3-2 victory in San Francisco on Friday.

The Giants took the lead with—what else?—a bunch of singles, including two in a row from Joaquin Arias and Gregor Blanco off Brandon Finnegan (0-1) to start the sixth.

Sandoval later delivered his bases-loaded hit to knock in the go-ahead runs, and Brandon Belt added an RBI single to make it 7-4.

They were the fourth and fifth two-out hits in the game for the Giants, who didn’t allow the Royals to get to their vaunted late-inning bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

In the seventh, Brandon Crawford’s leadoff single sparked a four-run rally to put the game out of reach. Blanco’s RBI stroke gave the Giants 13 singles in their first 14 hits before doubles broke it open. Panik’s second double made it to the left-center field gap, scoring two, and Pence doubled down the line to give the Giants their 11-4 lead.

“We got our tails whipped today, but, you know, it’s Game 4 of the World Series, we’re tied 2-2. How much more fun can that be?“ said Royals manager Ned Yost.

“There’s nothing better in the world. I’ve never felt so good about getting my tail whipped.“

The Giants delivered enough singles to make Pete Rose blush, but scored their first run when Pence beat out a throw to first base in the first inning to break up what would have been a double play.

The Royals, too, scratched out runs, beating out two throws at first base during a two-out, four-run rally in the third inning. The inning could have been over with only a run on the board, but Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong had trouble covering first base after trying to field Eric Hosmer’s grounder.

Hosmer was safe, and Infante delivered a two-run single up the middle to give the Royals the lead. Salvador Perez followed with an RBI hit to make it 4-1 and chase Vogelsong from the game after just 2 2/3 innings.

Bochy appeared upset in the dugout when Vogelsong didn’t reach first in time to get Hosmer, but said later he “just felt for” his starter.

“The guy was making great pitches and we couldn’t get that last out,“ said Bochy. “I think if he gets out of that inning he has a nice game for us.“

Buster Posey’s RBI single in the bottom of the third drew the Giants within 4-2 and Panik knocked Royals starter Jason Vargas out of the game with a leadoff double in the fifth.

Pence hit an RBI single off Jason Frasor and later scored on Juan Perez’s bases-loaded liner to center field. Jarrod Dyson made a diving catch on the play, preventing any more runs from scoring and keeping the game tied at 4-4.

Vogelsong didn’t get a win, but the Giants remained unbeaten in his six career postseason starts, including Game 3 of the 2012 World Series against Detroit.

The Royals lost for the first time in Vargas’ three starts this postseason. The left-hander won Game 4 against the Orioles in the AL Championship Series to help the Royals make the World Series for the first time since 1985.

Game Notes

Posey’s RBI single in the third inning gave him 21 postseason RBI, tying Barry Bonds for most in franchise history ... Petit became the first relief pitcher with a hit in the World Series since Toronto’s Al Leiter in 1993 and the first to do it for the Giants since Slick Castleman in 1936 ... Little League World Series star Mo’Ne Davis threw out the first pitch, tossing a strike from atop the mound ... Guitar great Carlos Santana played “The Star- Spangled Banner” alongside his son, keyboardist Salvador ... Bryan Stow, the lifelong Giants fan who suffered brain damage when he was beaten by two men outside Dodger Stadium, declared “Play ball!“ from his wheelchair before the game. In a statement, his mother said it would be the first World Series game her son would remember since the 2011 attack ... The Royals claimed outfielder Moises Sierra off waivers from the Chicago White Sox and designated right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks for assignment.


►  World Series Game Summary

The San Francisco Giants delivered plenty of big hits to tie the World Series. Big blows? Didn’t see many of those, but these Giants are used to winning any way they can. Pablo Sandoval knocked in the go-ahead runs with a single in the sixth inning on Saturday night and the Giants scored seven unanswered runs in an 11-4 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 4. The Giants tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2 going into Sunday, when they will send Madison Bumgarner to the mound in a rematch of Game 1, when their ace threw seven innings in a 7-1 win over the Royals and their ace, James Shields. The Giants, seeking their third World Series title in five years, had 16 hits, including 13 singles. Joe Panik hit two of their three doubles, driving in two runs. Hunter Pence also doubled and finished with three hits and three RBI and Gregor Blanco singled twice and scored three times. Even reliever Yusmeiro Petit (1-0), who threw three scoreless innings for the win, contributed to the total, becoming the first relief pitcher in 23 years with a hit in the World Series. Omar Infante had a two-run single in a four-run third inning for the Royals, who won the previous two games, including a 3-2 victory in San Francisco on Friday.

The Gilmer Free Press


SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2014


National Football League
Detroit vs. Atlanta (London, England), 9:30 AM - FOX
Houston at Tennessee, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (705)
St. Louis at Kansas City, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (706)
Chicago at New England, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (707)
Minnesota at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (708)
Seattle at Carolina, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (709)
Baltimore at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (710)
Miami at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (711)
Buffalo at NY Jets, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (712)
Philadelphia at Arizona, 4:05 PM - FOX, DSS (713)
Oakland at Cleveland, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (714)
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (715)
Green Bay at New Orleans, 8:30 PM - NBC


Major League Baseball - World Series
Kansas City at San Francisco, 8:07 PM - FOX


National Hockey League
Colorado at Winnipeg, 3:00 PM - Altitude, TSN3, DSS
Columbus at Los Angeles, 4:00 PM - FS-Ohio, West, DSS
Ottawa at Chicago, 7:00 PM - TVA, WGN, CITY, NHL Network, DSS
San Jose at Anaheim, 8:00 PM - CSN-California, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS
Washington at Vancouver, 9:30 PM - CSN-DC, SNET-Vancouver, DSS


Major League Soccer
Philadelphia at Columbus, 4:00 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, Time Warner-OH, UniMas
San Jose at Chivas USA, 4:30 PM - CSN-California, KDOC, DSS
Red Bull New York at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 PM - ESPN 2, TSN2


International Soccer
Burnley vs. Everton, 9:30 AM - NBCSN
Juventus FC vs. US Citta di Palermo, 9:55 AM - beIN Sport
Manchester United vs. Chelsea, 12:00 PM - NBC
SSC Napoli vs. Hellas Verona FC, 12:55 PM - beIN Sport
CONCACAF Third-Place Game (Women’s), 3:00 PM - FS1
AC Milan vs. ACF Fiorentina, 3:40 PM - beIN Sport
CONCACAF Final (Women’s), 6:00 PM - FS1


Golf
PGA - McGladrey Classic, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel
CHAMPIONS - AT&T Championship, 5:00 PM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
SPRINT CUP - Goody’s Headache Relief 500, 1:30 PM - ESPN


Tennis
WTA Championships, 7:00 AM - ESPN 2

Sports News - 10.25.14

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 9 High School Game Results in the Area

Class A

Gilmer County (3-5)  13   at   #5 Notre Dame (6-2)  34

Calhoun County (2-7)  7   at   Wirt County (1-7)  10

#5 Doddridge County (7-1)  27  at   #15 Valley - Wetzel (5-3)  7

#1 St. Marys (8-0)  42  at   South Harrison (4-4)  7

#8 Tyler Consolidated (5-3)  0   at   Magnolia (3-5)  34

Parkersburg Catholic (2-6)  6   at   #11 Williamstown (6-2)  42


Class AA

Webster County (2-6)  12   at   Braxton County (3-6)  13

Ritchie County (3-5)      BYE WEEK

Herbert Hoover (5-3)  42  at   Roane County (3-5)  31

#9 Ravenswood (7-1)  64  at   Clay County (4-4)  32

#11 Robert C. Byrd (6-2)  56  at   North Marion (0-8)  21

#1 Bridgeport (7-1)      BYE WEEK

Sissonville (5-3)  26  at   #15 Liberty - Harrison (5-4)  7

Lincoln (2-7)  49   at   Grafton (4-4)  50

#6 Nicholas County (7-1)  27  at   Midland Trail - A (0-8)  0

Philip Barbour (1-7)      BYE WEEK


Class AAA

#12 Lewis County (7-2)  42  at   Elkins (3-5)  0

#13 Fairmont Sr. - AA (6-2)  35  at   #14 Buckhannon-Upshur (5-3)  27

#10 Parkersburg South (6-2)  59  at   Greenbrier East (4-5)  34

Parkersburg (4-4)  27  at   George Washington (4-4)  24



The Gilmer Free Press

There was quite a bit of hitting on the field at Milan Puskar Stadium last weekend, but almost as much action took place in the streets just outside in the hours following West Virginia’s upset of visiting Baylor.

The Mountaineers, absent from the AP Top-25 for close to two years, are now settled in at No. 22 this week, after stunning the fourth-ranked Bears by a score of 41-27 last Saturday afternoon. But the game was far from pretty, requiring close to four hours to complete, as referee Alan Eck nearly became the host of his own reality show.

In addition to there being nearly 900 yards of total offense registered by a pair of defensively inept programs, at least on this particular day, the number of penalties was simply unfathomable. The squads ran a collective 164 plays and on almost one-fifth of them there was an infraction of some kind that needed to be addressed. One series after another was brought to a screeching halt as Eck and his associates gathered and consulted, referred to video replay and consulted again.

The Bears really only had themselves to blame for their awful performance. Sure, the visitors managed to scrounge up 27 points in front of a spirited crowd, but that was barely half of the team’s average heading into the meeting, leading the nation at more than 52 ppg. When you factor in a Big 12- record 18 penalties for a loss of 215 yards, Baylor appeared more suited for the Canadian Football League than the AP’s top-10.

Personal fouls for unnecessary roughness came raining down on the Bears time and time again, aiding WVU in one of the biggest upsets in program history. At one point, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman was assessed a penalty for a vicious hit he delivered on WVU’s Terrell Chestnut, ejected even for his efforts as Chestnut lay still on the turf while the Bears scored on a 67-yard touchdown pass play in the second quarter.

However, even with the naked eye from Section 122, Row 39, Seat 121 in the lower bowl along the goal line (yes, I was in attendance) the hit, while violent, was still perfectly legal. After one of many teleconferences with replay officials, the call was reversed, Coleman allowed to rejoin his teammates, the touchdown counted and the fans confounded.

Eck also pleaded with fans not to throw anything onto the field during the contest. Again, one of just many instances where the men with the yellow flags and the whistles may have over-reached in trying to keep the meeting civil.

With still minutes to play, fans were reminded to stay off the field in the event that the home team held on for the win. Instead of a melee on Mountaineer Field, guests were treated to a sing-along of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as if that would have satisfied everyone’s enthusiasm for celebration.

Outside of the stadium, you would have thought the Mountaineers had won the national championship the way the crowd was behaving after the victory. Fans were high-fiving strangers at a record rate and using their other hand to firmly grasp a 24-pack of their favorite beverage, the same way a running back ensures three points of contact with the football.

Tailgates were operating at peak capacity both before and after the game, not just in designated parking lots, but also along the main drag in front of supermarkets and all denominations of churches. Today was the day to worship at the altar of college football, the one common denominator in a state that has no professional sports, at least not at the major league level.

It was perfect weather for a game of cornhole, even a game of catch with a football, tossing it high in the air and timing it just right so it soared over the tracks of the PRT without causing much of a commotion to unsuspecting riders.

Most people reveled responsibly, even those that awkwardly swayed to a spoof on an old Talking Heads classic, this one called, “Burning Down the Couch.“ Setting a sofa/love seat ablaze after a monumental win is nothing new for inhabitants of Morgantown, but there were quite a few people who took the celebrating a bit too far.

Couches and Ottomans should have been on high alert once that final gun sounded however.

In the aftermath of a sensational effort on the field, some simply could not keep their excitement to themselves. Reports indicate that their were at least eight arrests and 24 people were cited as a result of disturbances following the victory.

Public drunkenness, underage drinking and disorderly conduct led the police stat sheet, the latter being the charge for 20-year-old Elijah Wellman, who was a fullback/tight end on the WVU football team.

While no one was charged with a felony, there were two people picked up for assault on a law enforcement officer, and another was cited for malicious burning. Of the 39 fires reported to police, 32 were street fires and seven were found to be in dumpsters.

Unlike Eck who had only a whistle and yellow laundry to control the effort on the field, police used pepper spray and tear gas for folks who found it necessary to hurl bottles in the streets for no good reason.

Unlike the old days in the hills when individuals may have gotten away with this sort of lawless behavior, now everyone is a member of the media as video of rowdy activity is readily available anywhere and everywhere, so there is nowhere left to hide.

The president of WVU, E. Gordon Gee, addressed the actions of the few who brought national attention to Morgantown for all the wrong reasons. In a letter on Monday evening, Gee made it clear that he was “extremely disappointed, frustrated and angry at a minority of students.“

“Let me be clear: This is criminal behavior and individuals involved in setting fires, overturning trash bins or throwing objects at first responders WILL be held accountable. There is zero tolerance for this type of criminal and unruly behavior. Our Student Code of Conduct is clear on these matters and so is the law. We currently are reviewing the arrest records, as well as the videos and social media posts, to identify students involved. For those identified as participating in criminal activities, we will take swift and immediate disciplinary action - and for many, that will result in expulsion from this institution.“

Head’s up Morgantown, you have nationally-ranked TCU coming to town the first of November. Win or lose, please try to act responsibly.  ~~  Gregg Xenakes ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Expect points galore when Marshall hosts FAU

Marshall’s offense started slowly last Saturday, scoring just 14 points in the first half at Florida International. However, come the final whistle, the Thundering Herd had topped 40 points for the sixth consecutive time.

The Herd wound up with 45 total points in the 45-13 stomping of the Golden Panthers. It was their sixth win in a row this season and the fifth straight cover. Moreover, they have been favored by 23.5 points or less in every game during the ATS winning streak.

This week, Marshall is favored by 28 points versus Florida Atlantic. The two teams met for the first time in 2013 and the Herd escaped FAU Stadium with a one-point victory (24-23) on a last-second 41-yard field goal.

This year marks a turning point for both squads. In 2013, Marshall averaged just 34.5 points per game against FBS competition heading into that game. This season, the Herd are averaging 47 points per game - good for second-best in the country.

Florida Atlantic had allowed an average of 26 points per game prior to squaring off against Marshall last season. In fact, the Owls wound up 26th nationally in scoring defense in 2013. This season has been quite the opposite. They are ranked 109th nationally in that category, allowing 36 points per game.

I would be shocked if Marshall scores fewer than 50 points in this matchup, especially because the Herd racked up 45 against the Golden Panthers, who scored 38 points against FAU earlier this month.

The key question in this contest is how many points Florida Atlantic will put on the board. The answer is just enough for the game to go over the total. Outside the first two contests against Alabama and Nebraska (when quarterback Jaquez Johnson played just over one quarter combined), the Owls are averaging 33 points per game.

Don’t expect them to score in the 30s against Marshall’s defense, but even if they reach the 20s, it will still be good enough to get this game over the number.

Take over 68.5 in the first of three three-star plays.

In the second contest, Oregon travels to California to take on the Golden Bears.

The Ducks have gotten their act together the last two weeks, blowing out Washington by 25 last Saturday and winning by 12 at UCLA the week before. It was the first time since early October of last year they won and covered back- to-back games.

If the Ducks can score in the 40s against the Huskies and Bruins, one can only imagine how many points they’ll score versus California.

Last year, Mark Helfrich’s crew hit the 55-point mark against Cal, winning 55-16. Two years ago, at Berkeley, Oregon beat the Golden Bears, 59-17.

This year’s game is being played in Santa Clara, which actually is much closer to Stanford than it is to Berkeley. In fact, Santa Clara is about an hour away from Cal’s campus, and that will take away a large proportion of the home-field advantage.

The Golden Bears were geared up to play UCLA last week - an extremely winnable game as they have won the prior seven home meetings. Unfortunately, they will not be as primed for this matchup against a much tougher opponent.

Take Oregon minus 18 points.

The final three-star choice comes from the Atlantic Coast Conference, where Pittsburgh hosts Georgia Tech. The Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 21-16 win over Virginia Tech last Thursday. They have had some extra days to prepare for the Georgia Tech option offense, one without injured running back Zach Laskey.

The Yellow Jackets won their first five games, but have lost two in a row, allowing a combined 79 points in those two contests. They are giving up close to 190 rushing yards per game on over five yards per carry. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is 18th nationally against the run, allowing 112 yards per game.

The Panthers’ rushing attack and run defense will be the difference in the double-digit victory over Georgia Tech.

Take Pittsburgh minus three points.

TWO-STAR SELECTIONS

Take Michigan State -17 (Michigan) and Nevada -2.5 (Hawaii).

ONE-STAR PLAYS

Take Maryland +11 (Wisconsin), North Carolina +7 (Virginia), Kent State +7 (Miami-Ohio), UNLV +17 (Utah State) and Temple +7 (UCF).

THIS YEAR’S RECORD

My overall record stands at 65-58-3 after a 5-10-1 mark in Week 8. The five- star selections went 1-2, so they move to 5-5. The three-star plays went 1-1 and are 10-5 overall. The two-star choices went 2-3 for an eight-week total of 23-25. The one-star plays went 1-4-1 for a 27-23-3 mark.

THIS WEEK’S JEFF FRANK DIRTY DOZEN

1) Ole Miss, 104.5; 2) Alabama, 102.5; 3-T) Georgia and Ohio State, 101.5; 5- T) Florida State, Oregon, Michigan State and Auburn, 100; 9-T) Mississippi State and TCU, 99; 11) Baylor, 97; 12-T) LSU and Nebraska, 96

(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

►  Watt, Texans shift focus toward Mettenberger

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is expected to make his first career start for the Tennessee Titans on Sunday as his club takes on the Houston Texans at LP Field.

Jake Locker has missed the Titans’ past two games due to a right thumb injury, with Charlie Whitehurst having started in his place under center. Whitehurst helped lead Tennessee to a 16-14 win over Jacksonville on October 12, but did not throw a touchdown pass, and then was held to 160 yards passing in last weekend’s 19-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.

Whitehurst was intercepted once and threw two touchdown passes, his 38-yard strike to Derek Hagan putting the Titans up with 7:41 to play. But Tennessee couldn’t eat up enough clock down the stretch and Washington won it on Kai Forbath’s 22-yard field goal as time expired.

“We didn’t make enough plays at the end, unfortunately. We shouldn’t have come to that position. Offensively, we had the ball back and we had run more time off the clock. We made a mistake and we made enough mistakes all day,“ said Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt. “It’s hard to pin it on that last drive or on anything. We didn’t do the job today and that’s disappointing.“

Each of the Titans’ past three games have been decided by two points or fewer, with the winning score coming with no more than 1:07 left in regulation each time.

In a bit of a surprise move, Whisenhunt announced on Thursday that Mettenberger will start versus the Texans, with Locker expected to serve as the backup.

After trading up, the Titans took Mettenberger in the sixth round of the 2014 draft and the Louisiana State product threw for 659 yards and two touchdowns with a pair of interceptions in the preseason, posting a 97.6 passer rating.

The 23-year-old saw some brief regular-season action in Week 4 at Indianapolis, completing two of his five pass attempts for 40 yards with an interception.

“We feel like it’s an opportunity to see what Zach can do just like a number of our younger players that have already started to contribute, and we’re looking forward to seeing where we go from here,“ said Whisenhunt.

Whisenhunt doesn’t have much to lose seeing as his club has lost five of six since beginning the season with a win over Kansas City.

The Texans also are struggling, having dropped three in a row and four of five since starting 2-0. They appeared to be in good shape going into halftime last weekend against Pittsburgh, but mistakes allow the Steelers to rip off 24 straight points in the final 3:08 of the first half en route to a 30-23 setback.

Arian Foster gained 102 yards on 20 carries and caught a late TD pass for the Texans, but also lost a fumble at his own 3-yard line that helped the Steelers rally.

After a Pittsburgh touchdown, Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted, allowing Pittsburgh to again find the end zone with 14 seconds left until halftime.

“It was a terrible second quarter and we couldn’t come back from it,“ Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “The whole thing is frustrating.“

Fitzpatrick threw for 262 yards with two TDs and an interception, wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson combined for 11 catches and nearly 200 yards, while linebacker Whitney Mercilus had two sacks.

The Titans lead the all-time series 15-9.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Few will blame Whisenhunt for giving Mettenberger a shot. He did, after all, lead the NFL with 659 preseason passing yards and his 47 completions ranked third.

At two-year starter at LSU, Mettenberger threw for 3,082 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a senior.

“We are going to go with Zach at QB this week,“ said Whisenhunt. “We were still waiting to see where Jake’s hand was going to be as far as whether he was going to be the backup or not depending on if he could do that. We feel good after two good days of practice with Jake that he can do that. So that’s the order in which we’re going to go from this point.

One has to wonder what kind of leash Mettenberger will be on given that Locker is able to serve as the backup, but it appears as though the Titans are ready to get a look at their young quarterback.

Mettenberger will join a number of young players already seeing action in rookie running back Bishop Sankey and wide receivers Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright.

Sankey has gotten the bulk of the work in each of the past two weeks due to Shonn Greene’s hamstring injury and figures to be the feature back going forward. He has 267 yards and a score on 66 carries, while Wright is leading the club with 32 receptions and four touchdowns.

Of course, Whisenhunt is doing Mettenberger no favors by putting him in against a Texans defense led by the dangerous J.J. Watt.

Watt leads the NFL with 22 quarterback hits to go along with five sacks, three fumble recoveries, six passes defensed and three total touchdowns. He recovered the ninth fumble of his career in last week’s loss, setting a new all-time franchise record.

“He’s a good football player. I think we all know that,“ Whisenhunt said of Watt. “He’s everywhere. He’s going to line up in all different positions. It’s not like you can target one spot that he’s going to be in. You’re going to be matched up against him at some point, but that’s part of the challenge that’s this league. You’ve got to be able to face those guys.“

It’s also a neat coincidence that Mettenberger will make his first start opposite Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played in 11 games with nine starts for the Titans last season as Locker battled injury.

Fitzpatrick threw for 2,454 yards and 14 touchdowns with the Titans a season ago, but doesn’t expect to have any kind of advantage this weekend.

“I think they know me as well as I know them, so I’m not sure that it gives anybody a leg up,“ he said. “I think it’s kind of a wash. It’s definitely a different scheme. The one I’m running here is different from what we did there last year.“

One thing Fitzpatrick would like to do in this game is get the ball to Johnson, who moved past Hall-of-Famer Steve Largent (13,089) for 14th place on the NFL’s all-time receiving list.

Johnson has 109 catches, 1,381 yards and nine touchdowns in 20 career games versus the Titans.

“My job is to get the ball to our playmakers. I didn’t get it to Andre nearly enough early (last week),“ said Fitzpatrick. “It’s just one of those deals. I have got to continue, as I progress, to continue to get better and continue to throw the ball to the right guy and making sure that everybody is on the same page with that.“

Sunday also could mark the return of rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney to the Texans’ lineup.

Clowney, the top overall pick of the recent draft, has not played since suffering a knee injury in the first half of Houston’s Week 1 win over Washington. However, he was limited in practice on Wednesday and O’Brien said he would be a game-time decision.

O’Brien, though, did say earlier in the week that if Clowney were to play, he would be worked back into the mix alongside Mercilus.

Mercilus’ two sacks were his first of the season and he also forced a fumble. he has 24 tackles and 15 career sacks.

“When JD (Jadeveon Clowney) comes back, he’ll have to work back into the mix. That’s not just something that’s going to be handed to him, that’s for sure,“ O’Brien had said. “Whitney’s played well enough to deserve playing time, that’s for sure, and that’ll be a competition.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The appearance of Mettenberger and possibly Clowney give some much-needed juice to a matchup between teams struggling to get wins.

Things are a bit more urgent for the Texans, who are looking to get to .500 and at least keep pace with the AFC South-leading Colts (5-2).

“We’ve got to get back on track here in terms of winning some games,“ declared Fitzpatrick. “You look at every game and all of a sudden it comes down to 3-4 plays, mistakes by us, great plays by them, whatever it is that’s the NFL for you. We’ve been on the bad end of it for the last few weeks here and we’ve got to turn that around.“

The Titans would love to do the same ahead of their bye week.

“It’s a good bonus, I think,“ Whisenhunt said of getting a victory before the weekend off. “It’s really more about getting a win than it is getting a win going into a bye week. Do we want it? Sure. Does it make the bye week a lot better? Yes, it does. We’re focused on getting a win, period, right now. That’s what’s important to us.“

Mettenberger certainly becomes a nice x-factor for the Titans, but the rookie will be going up against a tough defense and will be able to force him into making some key mistakes.

Predicted outcome: Texans 20, Titans 13


►  Eagles and Cards jockey for position at top of NFC

Sitting atop their perch in the NFC West, the Arizona Cardinals will take their swings at the visiting Philadelphia Eagles Sunday.

The Cardinals and Eagles are two of the four remaining one-loss teams.

Many believed either the defending champion Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers would be the current NFC West leaders at this juncture.

But au contraire.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has his team at 5-1, with the 49ers 4-3 and the disappointing Seahawks 3-3. The Cardinals have won back-to-back games since Denver destroyed them back on October 5, posting wins over Washington and Oakland. In Sunday’s 24-13 victory at the lowly Raiders, the Cardinals held the hosts to 220 yards and Carson Palmer threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns with an interception against his former team.

Arizona, which is 5-1 for the first time since 1976 and 12-3 dating back to last season, is first in rushing yards allowed (72.5) and limited Oakland to 56 yards on the ground. Arizona is the only team in the NFL that has yet to allow an opponent to rush for 100 yards in a game this season. It has allowed 20 points or fewer in five of six games this season.

“Every Sunday gets bigger and bigger,“ Cardinals tackle Jared Veldheer said. “It’s nothing but a good start. We need to keep the mindset of ‘We need to win every week.‘“

The Cardinals are 3-0 at home this season and 7-1 in the past eight as the host dating back to 2013. They are 9-2 at home with Arians as head coach and 7-0 in the desert against non-division opponents.

After hosting the Eagles, the Cardinals have another challenge with a trip to Dallas on the schedule. Arizona will face last year’s NFL rushing leader in LeSean McCoy, but he’s been bottled up most of the season with defenses stacking the box and forcing teams to throw. McCoy, though, ran for a season- high 149 yards on 22 carries in a win over the rival New York Giants.

McCoy (5,895) trails former Eagle Brian Westbrook (5,995) by 100 yards for second on the franchise’s all-time rushing list. He could get that Sunday.

Perhaps the stingy run defense is why the Cardinals are third in interceptions with eight and rated 31st in defending the pass. They are allowing almost 300 yards (284.8) per game through the air and the Eagles look to expose that with their No. 7 pass attack (262.3 ypg).

The Eagles are also 5-1 and enter University of Phoenix Stadium fresh off the bye week. They welcomed some familiar faces back at practice in injured offensive linemen Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis, along with all-purpose running back Darren Sproles. Neither is expected to play Sunday, but Sproles said his MCL sprain felt good after practice this week.

“If I feel the way I did today, then yeah, but that decision is up to the coach,“ Sproles said of the possibility of playing Sunday.

Quarterback Nick Foles will be under center and hopes to light up Arizona’s secondary. Foles entered the bye with an average showing in a 27-0 beatdown of the Giants on October 12, as he threw for 248 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Foles has four TD passes and five interceptions in his last three games. In his last 10 road games (8 starts), Foles has thrown for 2,774 yards with 24 TD passes and four INTs.

The Eagles, who are trying to remain steady with the 6-1 Cowboys in the NFC East, are averaging an NFC-best 30.5 points this season (3rd in NFL) and are ninth overall in total yards with 378.3. They are only one of three teams in the NFL to average at least 260 yards passing per game and 115 yards rushing.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly can only hope his players remain focused after having a week off.

“You hope it doesn’t (affect the team),“ Kelly said of the bye. “You obviously had some time off, but I think ... you would hope they’d have a little bit of bounce in their step because they’ve had some time off, so we’ll see.

“There were a lot of guys in here (Monday) on their day off, getting treatment, checking film out on their own, so I don’t anticipate these guys not being ready to go. It’s a pretty good group that way.“

The Eagles defeated the Cardinals last December 1 in a 24-21 victory at Lincoln Financial Field and almost blew a 24-7 lead. Foles passed for 237 yards with three TDs, McCoy ran for 79 yards on 19 carries and Palmer had 302 passing yards with three scores and two picks.

Cardinals wide receivers Michael Floyd (99 yards) and Larry Fitzgerald (72 yards) both reached the end zone. Fitzgerald is tied with Don Maynard for 12th on the all-time touchdown receptions list with 88 and has owned the Eagles in his career, catching 40 passes for 642 yards and 10 TDs in six games, including the 2008 NFC Championship.

Fitzgerald has more TDs against the Eagles in the regular season than he does against any team outside the NFC West. It will be a long afternoon for Eagles corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher if Fitz has his way.

The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Eagles, 57-55-5, and have won the last three matchups as the host. Arizona is 12-3 against teams outside the NFC West under Arians.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

While the Eagles offense racked up 448 yards of offense against the Giants, the defense harassed Eli Manning all night and held New York to 254 yards. The Eagles racked up eight sacks, three by linebacker Connor Barwin and two by lineman Vinny Curry.

Palmer was sacked just once against the Raiders and the Eagles will try to get to him more often before he gets comfortable in the pocket. Palmer has the aforementioned receiving threats in Fitzgerald and Floyd, and running back Andre Ellington is coming off Sunday’s performance in which he ran for 88 yards on 24 carries and caught six passes for 72 yards.

Stepfan Taylor had a rushing score and a receiving TD in Oakland.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons and they do a lot of different things on the offensive side of the ball to spread the ball around to all of those guys,“ Kelly said of the Cardinals.

The Eagles have allowed only two rushing touchdowns this season.

The Cardinals have thrown a league-best one interception. Palmer is 3-0 this season and 10-2 in his last 12 starts. He has thrown a touchdown pass in each of his previous 16 games.

Arizona poses a huge threat to the Eagles with its run defense. It could get even tougher for Philadelphia if defensive end Calais Campbell returns after missing two games with a knee injury. Campbell hopes to get in at least one practice before Sunday’s game.

Still, the Cardinals’ front line and linebackers are a stingy bunch under coordinator Todd Bowles.

“It’s the personnel they have,“ Kelly said of the Cardinals’ success stopping the run. “Obviously, Todd does a really great job with their scheme. Their scheme is somewhat unique in getting in a lot of fronts; they run a lot of looks on the defensive side of the ball, so they can confuse you a little bit.“

Kelly’s offensive scheme will be faced with a bunch of different looks Sunday.

As for the Eagles’ defense, the stop unit has scored an NFL-best three touchdowns this season and safety Malcolm Jenkins leads the team with all three INTs. He returned one for a score against San Francisco.

The Eagles also lead the NFL with seven return touchdowns, four of which via special teams. Sproles is a big part of that, but may rest another week with his MCL sprain. Running back Chris Polk has a kickoff return for a touchdown and is hoping to shake a hamstring issue so he can play in Arizona.

“I didn’t really try to open up and try to sprint, so I can’t gauge where I am, but it feels really good,“ Polk said after practice.

Philly hopes linebacker Mychal Kendricks can return from a calf injury sustained in a Week 2 win over Indianapolis. Kendricks was back at practice this week and is talented on coverage. Emmanuel Acho and Casey Matthews have been filling in admirably for Kendricks alongside veteran DeMeco Ryans.

Acho will face his brother, Sam, on Sunday.

“I started playing (football) when I was eight years old,“ Emmanuel said. “Sam didn’t play until maybe he was 13. So I started playing in fourth grade, and he didn’t start playing until sixth grade.“

In other news for Sunday’s game, Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro has made all 15 of his field goal attempts and 11 PATs. The streak of 15 consecutive field goals made without a miss to start a season is tied for the longest in NFL history by a rookie (St. Louis, Greg Zuerlein, 2012)

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Cardinals have the top rushing defense. The Eagles have struggled to run it consistently. The Cardinals are one of the worst at defending the pass. The Eagles are one of the best at airing it out.

Something has to budge Sunday.

When an unstoppable force meets and immoveable object, worlds can collide. One of the irresistible forces has to break down. McCoy and the Eagles had plenty of time to prepare for this showdown of 5-1 teams and the shifty back will make his presence felt in an Eagles win. It could get a lot worse if Sproles is healthy enough to return.

“He’s a very strong-willed individual,“ Polk said of Sproles.

Predicted outcome: Eagles 33, Cardinals 24


►  Rams and Chiefs meet for Show Me State bragging rights

The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t played at Arrowhead Stadium in almost a month and hope to give their fans something to cheer about when the St. Louis Rams come to town Sunday.

The Chiefs sandwiched two road games between their bye week and survived a visit to the San Diego Chargers with last weekend’s 23-20 victory. The Chargers had won five in a row and quarterback Philip Rivers was cooled off to the tune of 205 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Cairo Santos nailed a 48-yard field goal with 21 seconds remaining in the game for the Chiefs, who have won three of their last four games to get back to the .500 mark at 3-3.

“For a rookie to step up…with the game on his back, that’s a tribute to him,“ Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of his kicker.

Santos made three field goals on the afternoon and safety Kurt Coleman sealed the win with an interception of Rivers, who had thrown at least three TD passes in each of his previous three games.

Reid improved to 14-2 after the bye in his career as an NFL head coach. Now the longtime Philadelphia Eagles head coach is preparing for the Rams.

“The great part about this is we still have a ton of room to improve as coaches and players to make ourselves a better football team,“ Reid said. “We’ve got a heck of football team coming in here this week. Jeff’s (Fisher) done a nice job with the Rams. They are playing at a very high level, they’re fast, they’re aggressive. We’ve got to make sure that we get ourselves ready.“

Kansas City, which is playing at home for the first time since a 41-14 rout of New England on September 29, hopes running back Jamaal Charles can continue his recent surge on the ground. Charles ran for a season-high 95 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers, and passed Priest Holmes’ mark of 6,070 career rushing yards.

Charles has 6,113 rushing yards and is the third player in team lore to record 6,000 or more rushing yards. He is averaging 89.0 rushing yards per game in the last three after running for a total of 23 in his first two games. The Chiefs are third in rushing this season with 140.3 yards per game and will face a St. Louis defense that is 28th against the rush (145.0).

During a radio inter view, Charles said he got hit pretty hard at one point and experienced a little discomfort. Charles didn’t believe he suffered a concussion and avoided the league’s protocol on those types of scenarios.

Meanwhile, the Rams will play their next three games on the road against Kansas City, San Francisco and Arizona, and are 1-4 in last five away from the Gateway City.

St. Louis ended a three-game slide with Sunday’s 28-26 triumph over the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and needed some tricks up its sleeve to pull off the upset. The Rams had a misdirected punt return in the second quarter, and the other special teams play was a fake punt late in the fourth quarter on 4th-and-3 from their own 18-yard line.

Seattle thought the ball was kicked to one side of the field, but Rams players drew the opposition away from Stedman Bailey, who returned the punt 90 yards for a touchdown. The Seahawks held on and pulled within two points on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, but St. Louis never relinquished the lead and improved to 2-4.

“We say from time to time, it’s hard to win in the National Football League,“ Fisher said after the game. “And I’m just really grateful for the effort ... the entire team effort, coaching staff’s effort ... this week, coming out on a short week.“

The Rams dropped a 31-17 decision to the 49ers the previous Monday.

The Chiefs have a five-game winning streak going against the Rams and haven’t lost in this series since a 16-0 defeat on September 25, 1994. Kansas City posted a 27-13 win in the last meeting on December 19, 2010, as Charles ran for 126 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Kansas City is 6-4 all-time against the Rams and is averaging 37.8 points per game during the current five-game win streak. The Chiefs are 10-2 against the NFC West since 2002 and swept the division in 2006 and 2010.

The Rams last visited Arrowhead Stadium in 2002, a 49-10 KC triumph.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith isn’t the flashiest of NFL quarterbacks, but is known for his efficiency. Smith has thrown for 813 yards with eight touchdowns passes to just one interception in his last four games.

Because of Charles and the running game, the Chiefs really don’t have to rely on Smith as evidenced by a 30th-ranked pass attack that produces 199.7 yards per game. Still, Smith (1,270 yards, (9 TD, 4 INT) can get the job done and will try to continue his recent success against the Rams. In past three games against them, the former 49er has 559 yards and four TDs with no INTs.

Smith has connected with 14 different receivers this season, including Dwayne Bowe, who had a season-high 84 yards on five catches against the Chargers. In five games Bowe is still searching for his first touchdown reception. Smith’s favorite target is tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce leads the team in catches (24), yards (307) and touchdowns (3).

Kelce has 15 receptions for first downs and a TD in three of the last four games for the Chiefs, who have scored 14 touchdowns in 20 trips inside the 20- yard line. Look for Smith and Kelce to connect again versus a St. Louis defense rated 14th against the pass, allowing 234.0 yards per game. Smith is 33-12-1 as a starter since 2011.

Charles can play a big role in the pass game, but has just 11 receptions for 55 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Charles has 2,030 career receiving yards on 233 catches. Holmes ended his career with 251 and Kimble Anders has the most by a running back in team annals with 369.

On the other side of the ball, Kansas City will go after Rams young QB Austin Davis with two defensive stars in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Both defenders know how to get after the quarterback and have helped the Chiefs compile 17.0 sacks this season.

“We have another good one coming up this week,“ Reid said of Davis. “This young kid who’s playing for the Rams is playing well.“

Houston has five sacks in the last four games (7 total), while Hali has recorded a sack in four of his past five (4 total).

Davis has thrown for 1,517 yards, nine TDs and four INTs in his rookie campaign, and was not sacked in the win over Seattle. He was sacked nine times in the previous two games, however.

Davis had his highest rating of 128.6 versus the defending champs and completed 18-of-21 passes for 152 yards and two scores. The passer rating was the highest by a Rams QB since Marc Bulger’s 133.3 on November 20, 2005. Davis did not throw an interception for the third time this season.

“You have to tip your hat to Seattle,“ Davis said. “They’re a really, really good football team. It took a pretty flawless game in terms of turnovers and penalties, and we knew that coming in.“

Rookie running back Tre Mason ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and filled in for injured starter Zac Stacey (ankle). Stacey leads the Rams with 240 rushing yards on 61 touches and his status for Sunday is unknown. He only had 17 yards on eight carries against San Francisco on October 13.

The Chiefs are one of just two teams (Buffalo) to not give up a rushing touchdown this season.

St. Louis’ defense will have a tough time Sunday in all phases. The unit is allowing almost 30 points a game (29.3) and has just four sacks on the season. Defensive end Robert Quinn recorded his first sack of the season on Sunday after notching 19.0 last year.

Aaron Donald leads the Rams with two sacks on the season.

The Rams have scored 28 points or more

OVERALL ANALYSIS

All wins are important in the NFL, but this is the time of year teams begin to separate from the rest of the pack. With the last weekend of football in October upon us, the Chiefs must take it to another level and stay in the AFC playoff race because winning a division is not likely.

The Chiefs have the ground game, defense and enough talent at quarterback to avoid an upset versus the Rams at Arrowhead Stadium.

“That’s the game of football,“ Smith said. “You have to trust the guy next to you. We talk about it all the time ... offensively, defensively, the guy next to you in the huddle ... you have to trust all those guys to do their job. And you have to trust that you’re going to do yours.“

KC’s beloved Royals are in the World Series and the Chiefs will keep the city’s spirits alive.

Predicted outcome: Chiefs 26, Rams 16


►  Lions bring stingy defense to London, aim to ground Falcons

The NFL is up to its marketing ways again and will send the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons to London for a showdown Sunday on the hallowed grounds of Wembley Stadium.

The league is hoping to build a strong following overseas and has two reputable franchises representing the sport on foreign soil.

Detroit enters the United Kingdom tied for first place in the NFC North with a 5-2 record, while the Green Bay Packers boast an identical mark. The Lions have put a major emphasis on defense this season and were able to squeeze out a 24-23 win over the visiting New Orleans Saints last weekend.

Down 23-10 with minutes left in the game, the Lions rallied for 14 points on a pair of touchdown passes from Matthew Stafford, including a 73-yard connection with Golden Tate. Stafford’s five-yard touchdown pass to Corey Fuller put Detroit ahead for good with 1:48 remaining. The touchdown was set up by Glover Quin’s interception of Saints QB Drew Brees and some help on fourth down.

Facing a 4th-and-5, Stafford attempted a pass to Reggie Bush and it fell incomplete, but a pass interference call on New Orleans, its 12th penalty of the game, gave Detroit new life. Stafford then connected with a leaping Fuller to give the Lions their fourth win in five weeks.

“When we needed plays at the end of the game we got them,“ Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said. “It was one of those games where you keep preaching to the guys to hang in there and keep fighting.“

It was the second straight game, and win, the Lions played without star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson has been bothered by a high ankle sprain and is in London with his teammates. Johnson’s status for Sunday’s game in unknown and the one who goes by the moniker “Megatron” has 348 yards and two touchdowns on 22 receptions.

“I’m working to get a feel each and every week, working every day,“ Johnson said. “If I’m good enough to play, I’m going to play. So I’m gonna leave it at that.“

Johnson was limited in practice Wednesday.

The loss of Johnson hasn’t been much of a strain on the Lions, whose defensive unit is one of the best in the league. The Lions are first in yards allowed (290.3), second in both rushing yards (73.4) and points allowed (15.0), and third in sacks (21.0) and interceptions (8). Quin has three interceptions, one in each of the last two games, and George Johnson leads with four sacks.

Ezekiel Ansah has recorded 3 1/2 sacks and Ndamukong Suh owns three.

Detroit, which is the only team in the NFL allowing less than 300 yards per game, will enter its bye week following its UK excursion.

The Falcons will also have their bye after Sunday’s game and have lost six straight outside the Georgia Dome. Even though they are the designated home team at Wembley Stadium, the Falcons will still be away from the comfortable confines of home.

“We’re our own enemy. Being on the road is not an easy environment to be in, so we’ve got to continue to acclimate ourselves,“ Falcons defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi said. “There are only a few more games left in the season; we need to continue to fight and get better.“

Atlanta is still in the hunt in the NFC South at 2-5 and suffered its fourth straight loss Sunday in a 29-7 setback in Baltimore. The defense has given up no less than 27 points in each of the past four losses and is arguably the main reason why Atlanta is three games under .500.

The Falcons are 27th against the run (137.7), 29th in pass defense (274.4) and 30th in both yards allowed (412.1) and points allowed (28.4). They are one of three teams in the NFL permitting 400 or more yards on defense.

“We have nine games left and I know every man in that room and every coach in that room will work their (butts) off this week to get prepared to play the Detroit Lions,“ Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. “I have no doubt what the makeup of these football players and coaches and the organization we have in Atlanta.“

Smith’s team was 2-1 at one point following a 56-14 beatdown of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 18. A meeting with the Lions may solve Atlanta’s woes, as the Falcons are riding a three-game winning streak in this series and are 23-12 overall. The Falcons posted a 31-18 win on December 22, 2012 and were led by Matt Ryan’s four TD passes and no interceptions.

Ryan is 3-0 in his career against Detroit.

Falcons wide receiver Roddy White hauled in eight catches for 153 yards and two scores. Stafford threw for 443 yards with no TDs and Johnson caught 11 passes for 225 yards. Stafford needs one more touchdown pass to break Bobby Layne’s team record of 118.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Both the Lions and Falcons have struggled running the football, and Caldwell gave his take on why.

“We just haven’t been as consistent as we’d like,“ Caldwell said. “We haven’t blocked consistently well enough, we haven’t run it consistently well enough with the ball in our hands. There’s a number of different things. The blocking includes not only lineman, not only tight ends, the lead back or whomever it might be but then also on the flanks as well, the receiving corps.

“So, all of it, we’re constantly in an evaluation mode with that trying to find out what suits us best in terms of what we do best. That’s been the struggle, so we just have to stay after it.“

The Lions average 82.4 rushing yards per game and Joique Bell leads the team with 274 yards and three touchdowns on 84 carries. Bush has 171 yards and a score on 49 totes this season and five TDs in last five games against the Falcons. Look for the Lions to try and get that ground attack going against a weak Atlanta defense.

“It’s really close,“ Bell said of the ground attack. “If you look at it on film, it’s just one glitch that keeps us from having that explosive run, which is going to lead to more. We’re right there, we just need to get over that hump.“

But as Caldwell said, the Lions should do what they do best and that’s play defense and throw the football.

Golden Tate blew up for 154 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions versus the Saints and has taken over for an injured Johnson. Tate leads Detroit with 649 yards and 38 receptions, and is confident in his abilities.

“I don’t think anyone has more confidence in themselves than I do,“ Tate said. “There’s not many things I think I can’t do on a football field.

“I expected to come here and be a compliment to Calvin. Obviously, didn’t expect Calvin to be out for a few weeks, but that’s the game of football. I’ve taken it personal to step up and try to take on his role and help this team win.“

So far, so good for Tate.

The Falcons can chuck it up, too. Ryan has two dynamic receivers in White and Julio Jones. Jones leads the team with 676 yards, 49 catches and is one of three players with three receiving scores, joining White and Antone Smith. Jones has been slowed a bit the last few weeks, compiling 68 yards in a loss to Chicago on October 12, then posting 56 yards last week against the Ravens.

Jones hasn’t reached the end zone since that blowout win over Tampa Bay. White recorded his franchise-best 58th career touchdown reception Sunday to break a tie with Terance Mathis. Michael Turner holds the record with 61 total TDs.

As for their running game, the Falcons have an aging Steven Jackson (285 yards, 2 TD) and Smith (136 yards, 2 TD). They are 23rd in rushing (98.1).

Atlanta has to do a better job protecting Ryan, who was sacked five times in Baltimore and four times versus the Bears. Ryan has been sacked 15 times this season, while his counterpart Stafford has been taken down an NFL-high 24 times. Ryan will have another new center this week in undrafted rookie James Stone. Stone takes over for Peter Konz, who landed on IR this week with a knee injury suffered at Baltimore.

Center Joe Hawley is also on injured reserve.

“I thought James Stone did a great job of coming in and filling in for Peter,“ Ryan said. “It’s been one of the things that, this year, guys have had to step up and come in and play, especially on the offensive line, through some injuries.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Each team has to get acclimated with the time difference, field conditions, facilities, awful food and so on in London. By the time the game starts, though, the players and coaches should be adjusted and ready to go.

“Our business is to go over there and get ready to play certainly a hungry Atlanta team in a game that means a lot to us,“ Caldwell said with first place in the NFC North on the line. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.“

The Falcons and their offensive line have their work cut out as well facing Detroit’s menacing defensive front with Suh, Ansah, Johnson, Nick Fairley and Jason Jones. DeAndre Levy is a stud linebacker on the outside and the team’s leading tackler. The secondary could be challenged with Jones and White.

Detroit will keep pace with Green Bay in the division with a close win over Atlanta and may even take over the top spot because the Packers play Brees and the Saints in the Big Easy Sunday night.

Predicted outcome: Lions 24, Falcons 20


►  No time to relax for Saints as Rodgers comes calling

Something has to give in New Orleans on Sunday night and the struggling Saints are hoping it’s not their dwindling playoff hopes.

Most observers considered New Orleans a legitimate Super Bowl contender at the beginning of this season but an all too familiar pattern has emerged—the Saints simply can’t win on the road.

The good news is that the NFC South as a whole has been poor this season and despite a 2-4 record—including an 0-4 mark away from the Bayou—New Orleans is just one game behind division-leading Carolina in the loss column pending a Week 8 matchup with Aaron Rodgers and the 5-2 Green Bay Packers.

The Saints are banking on a return to the Superdome to get them back on track. New Orleans is 2-0 at home this season and has won 10 straight overall as the hosts but the triumphs in 2014 were against less than stellar opposition—Minnesota and Tampa Bay—and the Saints needed overtime before disposing of the 1-5 Bucs back on October 5

“They are better than that,“ Rodgers said when discussing NOLA’s record. “They are 2-0 at home I believe. They are better at home. They have lost some close games. (They have a) very talented offense, a very talented defense and (are) very well coached.“

The Packers, meanwhile, have won four straight after a rocky start behind Rodgers, a legitimate MVP candidate who has 13 TD passes with no interceptions along with a a stunning 137.9 passer rating during Green Bay’s current winning streak.

A-Rod also generally excels indoors, having started 23 games under a roof in his career with 56 TD passes versus only eight interceptions in those games.

Rodgers extended another historic streak last week as the Packers continued their dominance in the month of October with a 38-17 shellacking of the Panthers.

Rodgers completed 19-of-22 passes for 255 yards and three scores, joining Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with four straight games of three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Rodgers, who hasn’t been intercepted since Week 1 in Seattle, also extended a personal-best streak to 192 pass attempts without a pick.

Randall Cobb caught six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, and Jordy Nelson made four catches for 80 yards and a score against Carolina.

The Packers have now won 10 straight games in October and 16 of their last 17.

“I thought the quarterback play was outstanding and I thought, really, offensively, we did exactly what we wanted to do,“ Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said.

Conversely the Saints are coming off their latest road implosion when Corey Fuller’s touchdown catch inside of two minutes to play capped a late Detroit comeback to give the Lions a 24-23 win over the New Orleans.

Matthew Stafford struggled for much of the game, but led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives for Detroit and finished 27-of-40 for 299 yards with two scoring passes and two interceptions.

Drew Brees went 28-for-45 for 342 yards with two touchdowns and a key interception late in the game for the Saints, while Marques Colston had six catches for 111 yards and Kenny Stills added five receptions for 103 yards and a score in the loss.

“We had opportunities down the stretch to win the game and we didn’t do it,“ said New Orleans head coach Sean Payton.“

Brees played particularly poorly in the fourth quarter, completing just 2- of-13 passes.

“Obviously we had a little bit more pressure, some man-to-man (coverage),“ Payton said. “A few of those throw always that were smart plays and yet we had a couple of opportunities in there maybe to fit in there a throw. Those percentages they include that last drive where all of a sudden you’re hoping to make a few plays but for two thirds of the game we were operating with the rhythm and efficiency we wanted. We’ll get better at that.“

The Packers have won two straight over the Saints and lead the all-time series by a 16-7 margin.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Saints have actually been as explosive as ever offensively and are tops in the NFC with 437.0 yards per game, far ahead of Green Bay (325.4 YPG), a team which is also generally regarded as one of the best offensive units around.

Brees in second in the conference with 1,916 passing yards but the issue has been ball security and New Orleans has a minus-eight turnover ratio, a stark contrast to the Packers’ NFL-best plus-10 mark.

“It’s been a staple of how we play around the here the past couple of years, taking care of the football and being in the positive,“ Rodgers said. “Mike (McCarthy) always talks about getting to double-digit turnover margin and we just there this week with plus-10. When you are taking care of the football like that than you give your football team a chance to win. Offensively we know that if we take care of it and we turn our defense’s turnovers into points we are going to have a chance to win.“

For New Orleans, Brees has been pressing at times and trying to force the issue, a troubling turn for a veteran quarterback who should know better.

“I don’t (think he’s pressing),“ Payton said. “Obviously people want to have the one interception back (against the Lions) but I felt like his decision- making and rhythm, I felt like his week of preparation and how he played all during the practice week was outstanding and he’s going to be just fine. He’s the least of our worries.“

Rodgers, who is tops in the NFC in both TD passes (18) and passer rating (117.3), hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 1 and is approaching 200 attempts without a pick. He’s particularly adept at extending plays and getting the ball down field to Nelson, who leads the conference with 712 receiving yards.

Furthermore, Rodgers has been doing all of that without the benefit of a consistent running game as second-year back Eddie Lacy has been in a bit of a sophomore slump, save for one effort against Minnesota.

The real story in this game, however, should be the defenses which are very identical statistically. Green Bay is allowing 362.7 ypg and the Saints have been 11 yards worse. Each team hasn’t been able to develop a consistent pass rush, though, despite having big name players on the edge.

Veteran Julius Peppers along with Nick Perry lead the Packers’ stop unit with three sacks apiece but veteran All-Pro rusher Clay Matthews has just 1 1/2.

Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan thought he could count on a dual threat in Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan but only Galette has produced at times with four sacks.

“I have a lot of respect for them and their defense,“ Rodgers said. “Talented group, they play really well at home, they put up a lot of points. You have to be expecting Drew (Brees) and those guys to be scoring points so we need to score touchdowns in the red zone and score some points ourselves.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Each defense will come in with a similar game plan, trying to get the QB off his spots and away from a comfort level. When they are clean and secure in the knowledge that the pass protection is going to hold up, both Brees and Rodgers can pick any defense apart, especially on a fast track indoors.

“It is a fast surface. They obviously play faster at home,“ Rodgers said when talking about the Superdome. “It is a really, really loud environment. Obviously Drew has had a lot of success there, (and) put up a lot of points there. Their offense has very high scoring potential. Defensively, every time you have a crowd that can back you with some noise it makes it a lot more difficult for the offense.“

The difference in what figures to be a shootout should be desperation and that points toward the Saints.

Predicted outcome: Saints 37, Packers 33


►  Raiders search for first win, visit Browns

It’s hard to find good things to say about the Oakland Raiders.

The Silver and Black have gone 0-for-6 in their quest for a win so far in 2014, have dropped 12 in a row since a Week 11 win last season and have won just two games in 18 tries on the road since 2012.

But if that’s supposed to impact the optimism of interim coach Tony Sparano as the team heads into Cleveland for a Week 8 matchup with the inconsistent Browns, it hasn’t.

Oakland enters the weekend after its latest missed opportunity for a streak- ender, a 24-13 home loss to Arizona in which it was outgained by 145 yards and saw rookie quarterback Derek Carr held to less than 200 for the third time in six games.

“Nobody is handed the trophy at the end of six weeks,“ Sparano said. “We have 10 games to go right now. I’ve seen teams get into this tournament with eight wins, with nine wins, whatever the case is. That isn’t really our concern right now. Our concern is getting one win and winning the next game. That really has to be our focus, because if we look at the picture down the road right now, the parade might pass us by.“

Carr is 29th among NFL quarterbacks with an 80.9 passer rating, and the team as a whole joins him at or near the bottom of the barrel in statistics like points scored (92, 32nd), yards per game (282.7, 32nd), red-zone drives (10, 32nd), first downs (94, 32nd), time of possession (25:01, 32nd) and average points allowed (26.3, 25th).

The Raiders are also last in the league in rushing yards per week (69.3), but that may be a wash against a Cleveland team that’s surrendering 155.5 on the ground, worst in the league.

The intermittent signs of progress prompted Oakland defensive end Benson Mayowa to deliver something of a guarantee for victory, though it fell a bit short of Namath-level aplomb.

“We’re building,“ he said. “Every week we come in and we’re building. We’re getting close. We just have to get a W, and that’s what we’re going to do.“

As for the Browns, a little prosperity didn’t do them much good.

Cleveland’s unlikely 3-2 start put it center stage on the Sunday morning pre- game shows last week, but the team responded with a 24-6 loss to a Jacksonville team that hadn’t won since December 5, 2013.

“We got our butts kicked,“ quarterback Brian Hoyer said. “They handed it to us.“

In fact, the degree to which it was handed - along with Hoyer’s inglorious stat line of 16-for-41, 215 yards and two turnovers - prompted some Cleveland fans to begin calling for coach Mike Pettine to pull the plug on Hoyer in favor of preseason media sensation Johnny Manziel.

Hoyer had posted a 99.5 passer rating prior to last week’s nosedive, and it was the effort through the first five weeks that caused Pettine to stand his ground and announce Hoyer as the starter for this week, though he conceded a moment of two of indecision had existed.

“Nothing’s changed,“ Pettine said. “Each week when the offensive staff gets together, and I’ll jump in with them, too, they put the (game) plan together. It’s what gives us the best chance to win. So if the situation this week maybe calls for (Manziel) to play some then that will be the case. But we’re not going to hit the panic button after one loss. While we know that the quarterback position needed to be more productive, it was more symptomatic of the entire offense.“

Indeed, it wasn’t just Hoyer alone.

The Browns took the field for the first time without injured Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and saw the running game plunge to just 69 yards on 30 carries. Additionally, Cleveland converted just four of 17 third downs and didn’t score in the second half of a game that was 7-6 at intermission.

“This one is going in a box and getting buried in the backyard,“ Pettine said after the loss. “We need to move on from it quickly. At the same time, we’re not going to ignore it. It’s not going to be one of those where we gloss over it and move on quickly because of the disappointment. There’s a lot to learn from it and it’s critical for us to leave here today knowing what went wrong, knowing how to fix it and moving forward to the next one.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Something’s Gotta Give

The presence of familiar names like Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield hasn’t translated to any success for the Raiders in the run game. McFadden has averaged 13 carries per week in the last three games, while Jones-Drew has just 18 attempts in the four games he’s played.

Either Oakland will find its run stride, or the Browns will leap out of the league’s run defense cellar.

A New Wrinkle

The Raiders are 12th in the league in pass defense, but the Cardinals were successful against them by going against the norm and using screen passes to attack the linebackers rather than the defensive secondary.

Cleveland’s top three runners - Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell - have just nine catches between them, but it might not hurt Pettine and Co. to incorporate that approach.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

These teams are probably a little bit closer than the three-game disparity in their records might indicate.

The Browns took a step backward last week, while the Raiders have been good enough to compete - albeit not win - in more than half of their defeats. It’ll be incumbent on Pettine and his staff to get Cleveland back to the emotional high it found after Week 6, and it figures to happen at home.

Predicted outcome: Browns 24, Raiders 17



►  Dysfunctional Bears try to solve streaking Pats

Perception meets reality in Foxboro on Sunday.

The Chicago Bears think they’re good and the New England Patriots, who will be shooting for their 13th straight regular-season home win, know it.

Brandon Marshall’s emotional outburst after last Sunday’s ugly 27-14 home loss to the Miami Dolphins has placed the focus in Chicago on whether the enigmatic receiver’s relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler is strained.

What should probably be spotlighted is that the Bears are 3-4 and looking up at both Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.

Those searching for drama, though, put a lot of emphasis on the fact Marshall was heard ranting about all the “talent” Chicago has on the offensive side of the football without mentioning Cutler before adding that the “same mistakes” regarding protecting the football are holding the team back, perceived as a direct salvo across Cutler’s bow.

The mouthy Marshall has tried to back off in the ensuing days.

“Listen, I have a really nice condo. And guess what? Jay Cutler built that condo,“ Marshall said on Showtime’s “Inside The NFL” on Tuesday. “We’re great, we’re great. But you know, we’re like brothers. I think coach (Marc) Trestman said it the best, you know, but if I have a problem with Jay Cutler, I’m gonna go to Jay Cutler. If Jay Cutler has a problem with me, he’s going to come to me. We have that type of relationship.“

Marshall has also been trying to have his cake and eat it, too, claiming he doesn’t regret a word he said to his teammates, but wished that the doors were closed and the media assembled didn’t here his version of a reality check.

“Oh, absolutely my voice was heard,“ the star receiver said. “The only thing I regret is that the door wasn’t closed, you know, but I wouldn’t change any of my reaction because it came from my heart, and that’s how I felt, that’s how I still feel.

“I think that we have all the coaches we need, I think we have all the players that we need to get that job done. And 3-4 is unacceptable, but we have everything that we need to turn this ship right now.“

Unless Cutler plays defense, though, that really can’t explain how Miami’s Ryan Tannehill was nearly perfect during the first half in Week 7.

Tannehill completed his first 14 passes and misfired only once in the opening 30 minutes as the Dolphins built a 14-0 lead. He finished the contest 25-of-32 for 277 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions, adding 48 yards on six carries.

Cutler completed 21-of-34 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception in defeat. Matt Forte totaled 109 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown catch and a rushing score for the Bears, while Marshall caught six passes for 48 yards against his former team.

“That’s a very sick locker room right now,“ said Bears head coach Marc Trestman.

New England, meanwhile, has won ugly at times this season but is in its customary spot atop the AFC East with a 5-2 mark.

In a Week 7 win over the New York Jets, the Patriots possessed the ball for less than 20 minutes but it was still enough time for Tom Brady to make it work.

Brady tossed three touchdown passes and Chris Jones blocked Nick Folk’s 58- yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game to help New England hang on for a 27-25 win over the Jets.

Brady, who has now thrown nine touchdown passes without an interception during a three-game winning streak, was 20-of-37 for 261 yards for the Pats. He also moved to 7-0 in his career on Thursdays, tossing 16 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions in those contests.

“They were 1-5 and they gave us everything we could handle,“ he said. “They played good. Played good on offense and played good on defense when they needed to. We didn’t play as well as we can and need to get back to work.“

Shane Vereen, filling in for the injured Stevan Ridley, caught five passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns and added 43 yards rushing on 11 carries. Rob Gronkowski had five receptions for 68 yards in the triumph.

The Patriots have won three consecutive games over Chicago and are 8-3 all- time versus the Bears.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Part of the Bears’ issues is a weird sense of entitlement coming from a team which really hasn’t performed all that well on a consistent basis.

“We have too much talent on this team for one, to have the record that we have, and two, to not be producing the way we should,“ Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs said on his weekly Comcast SportsNet show. “For me, it’s hard to fathom.“

Should it be?

The Bears were 10-6 in Lovie Smith’s last season as coach in 2012 and fell back to 8-8 in Trestman’s first try a season ago. In the five seasons before that, there was one playoff appearance. They rarely beat Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay and now the Lions have certainly lapped Chicago in the talent department.

Just maybe the Bears are what they have looked like under Trestman, a mediocre team which is 11-12 during the coach’s watch.

A major part of that pedestrian reality is Cutler. In a position that almost demands leadership by its very nature, the 31-year- old veteran has always been a pass-the-buck guy whose on-field antics and sideline pouting sessions when things are going bad are always front-page news in the Second City.

Cutler, has won nine of his past 12 starts against AFC foes, is definitely a guy with prodigious talent, most notably the arm strength to keep the football dry when throwing it through a car wash, and the athleticism to surprise even the most athletic of front-seven defenders in this league.

Those positives, however, are often diluted by a shoddy attention to detail, especially when it comes to the fundamentals and mechanics of playing the position.

The Patriots, on the other hand, don’t have the horses they once had but remain relevant because of the stewardship at the top, namely head coach Bill Belichick and Brady.

The high-octane explosiveness isn’t there any longer with the New England offense but Brady’s ability to protect the football has helped generate a plus-nine turnover ratio, a strong contrast from Chicago’s minus-one.

“We’re 5-0 this year when we haven’t turned it over,“ Brady said. “We’ve got to continue to do a good job of taking care of the ball. And that’s throwing it, not forcing it into coverage. It’s also taking care of it in the pocket. It’s also when we hand it to the backs, those guys do a great job of protecting it, receivers in their routes doing a great job of protecting the ball from the defenders. It’s really a team effort.“

The Pats have improved offensively over the pass three weeks, however, due to the reemergence of their tight ends. New England got only 188 total yards from Gronkowski and Co. during their 2-2 start and 391 in three games since.

There was one on-field issue with the Pats this week as star cornerback Darrelle Revis overslept on Tuesday and was told to stay home by Belichick. No further discipline is expected, however, and Revis is expected to play with Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey looming.

Finally, New England acquired linebacker Akeem Ayers from the Tennessee Titans this week to help fill the void created when Jerod Mayo was lost for the season with a knee injury.

Ayers started 44 of the 50 games he played for the Titans, who selected him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has compiled 254 total tackles with nine sacks and two interceptions.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

This is an opportunity for the Bears to put up or shut up against a New England team which wins with guile, experience and coaching more than anything else.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but we’re excited for it,“ Brady said. “Hopefully we can go out and try to get to 6-2.“

Chicago is 3-1 on the road this season so getting away from the Windy City is probably not a bad thing. Another loss, however, and Trestman might be on the verge of losing a locker room he may have never really had.

Predicted outcome: Patriots 23, Bears 20


►  Redskins set to turn to McCoy against streaking Cowboys

Things have been coming up Cowboys in the 2014 NFL season.

The surprising ‘Boys entered Week 8 with the league’s best record at 6-1 and long-time rival Washington looming on “Monday Night Football.“ And the Redskins are expected to start their third different quarterback in just eight games.

Washington first-year head coach Jay Gruden sort of named Colt McCoy as the team’s new starter while Robert Griffin III continues to rehabilitate a dislocated ankle suffered in Week 2 against Jacksonville.

Gruden, however, is also paying lip service to a potential RG3 return but that’s likely an attempt to game a competitive advantage.

“We’re preparing for Colt to be the starter,“ Gruden said. “But we’re trying to get Robert some reps, get him ready, but right now it looks like odds are Colt will be the starter, but we’re trying to work Robert into the lineup and trying to get him reps to get him ready to go.“

If it is McCoy under center, it will be the University of Texas product’s first start since December 8, 2011 when he piloted the Cleveland Browns against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I just want to go out there and be who I am—that is who I am every day in here—be confident and play the best football I can play,“ McCoy said.

McCoy replaced an ineffective Kirk Cousins at halftime during last Sunday’s 19-17 win against Tennessee and led the Redskins on a 10-play, 76-yard game- winning drive, culminated by a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal as time expired.

“We needed a win bad,“ said Forbath. “Colt stepped in, put me in a great position. I couldn’t ask for better field position to kick the game-winner, so hats off to our offense for getting us there.“

McCoy, who was 6-15 in his career as a starter in Cleveland, finished 11-of-12 for 128 yards and a touchdown to Pierre Garcon in the second half against the Titans as Washington halted a four-game skid.

“He’s had to learn like all back-up quarterbacks have had to do. But he’s very, very smart,“ Gruden said when discussing McCoy. “He’s been in this system before—a West Coast-type system—so he’s familiar with a lot of the pass concepts. We figured if his number was called, he’d be ready to go.“

Cousins was 10-of-16 for 139 yards with an interception over the first 30 minutes. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in six games—five starts—as RG3’s original replacement.

The Cowboys earned their sixth straight victory with a 31-21 home win over the New York Giants in Week 7.

DeMarco Murray went over the century mark in rushing yards for the seventh straight week and Tony Romo threw three touchdown passes in the NFC East clash.

Murray gained 128 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, becoming the first running back in NFL history to open the season with seven straight weeks of 100-plus yards in the process. Last week, Murray matched Jim Brown’s NFL record of six straight weeks with a 115-yard performance in Dallas’ win in Seattle.

“I think we did this as a group, so it’s hard for me to accept this individually,“ Murray said when addressing his record-breaking streak. “The offensive line is a huge part of this—the tight ends, the receivers, the entire coaching staff. But I definitely give a lot of credit to those guys. But there’s a lot of hard work that (still) needs to be done. It’s a long season.“

The surging Cowboys haven’t lost since a Week 1 setback to San Francisco in which Romo threw three interceptions. The veteran QB has tossed 13 touchdown passes against just three picks since that game, including a 17-for-23 effort with 279 yards and his fifth straight multi-touchdown game against the Giants.

Two of his three touchdowns went to tight end Gavin Escobar, who made three catches for 65 yards in the first multi-score game of his career. Dez Bryant led all receivers with nine catches and 151 yards.

This game marks the 16th meeting between the Cowboys and Redskins on “Monday Night Football,“ the second-most frequent matchup in the 45-year history of the series (Raiders-Broncos, 17 times).

Dallas leads the all-time series with a 64-40-2 advantage and has won five of the past seven meetings, including both matchups in 2013. The ‘Boys are 43-32 on “Monday Night Football.“ while the ‘Skins are under water at 27-36 on the national showcase.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Cowboys have morphed from a pass-first bunch to a team predicated on the running game under offensive play caller Scott Linehan.

Murray leads the NFL with 913 rushing yards and has more yardage on the ground by himself than 28 NFL teams. He’s also run it 187 times and that’s on pace for an NFL record 427 carries which could be an issue down the line for a player who has a significant injury history dating back to his years at Oklahoma.

It will be tough for Linehan to ease up the workload right now, though, because it’s tough to move away from the hot hand.

A big part of Murray’s success has been his dominant offensive line, highlighted by three former first-round picks, left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and rookie right guard Zack Martin.

Murray gave each of his starting linemen $1,300 iMac computers this week after breaking Brown’s record.

“That just shows how much respect he has for us, how much he appreciates us, so it’s a great gift,“ left guard Ronald Leary told the The Fort Worth Star- Telegram.

The dominant running game sets up the play-action pass and Romo has plenty of weapons, starting with Bryant and tight end Jason Witten as well as emerging stars Terrance Williams and Escobar.

Washington’s strength has been on the defensive side of the ball where Gruden’s club ranks sixth overall and third in the NFC, allowing 321.9 yards per game. The Redskins are farther down the list against the run, however, although still a respectable 12th, surrendering 103.3 ypg.

The unit took a major hit against the Titans when linebacker Brian Orakpo went down with a season-ending pectoral injury, the second straight year a torn pec ended Orakpo’s season prematurely.

Offensively the Redskins are also impressive on paper, third in the conference with 389.4 ypg but the issue has been turnovers and a minus-nine ratio is what sent Cousins to the bench.

Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has been getting it done with few stars and his group is also helped by the time of possession edge the Cowboys’ running game usually produces.

Adding a QB to the mix in McCoy who hasn’t started in 1,054 days also won’t hurt.

“I am really just trying to get a grasp of what they do, how they play,“ McCoy said of the Cowboys. “They have beaten a lot of good teams, a lot of good quarterbacks. So, we obviously know that this is a huge task for us as an offense.“

Gruden also wants to at least keep Griffin in the Cowboys’ thoughts.

“He’s been cleared to do just about everything,“ the coach said of RG3. “It’s just a matter of now that’s he’s doing everything, continuing his rehab, how’s he feeling? How’s it holding up? All that good stuff.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Cowboys have too many weapons on offense to lose anything other than a shootout and Washington loses the ability to push the football down the field when they make the move from Cousins to McCoy.

So, even if Colt can clean up the turnover issues, this is not the type of matchup where that will make a discernable difference.

Predicted outcome: Cowboys 33, Redskins 16


►  Lions list WR Johnson as questionable

Calvin Johnson’s status for Sunday’s game in London remains up in the air as the star Detroit Lions wide receiver continues to battle a high ankle sprain.

The Lions listed Johnson as questionable on Friday’s injury report and view him as a game-time decision to play against Atlanta, according to the team’s official website.

Johnson has missed the last two games because of the injury and was limited in practice all week.

The Lions have ruled out tight ends Eric Ebron (hamstring) and Joseph Fauria (ankle) and listed running back Reggie Bush (ankle) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (foot) as doubtful against the Falcons.

Bush sat out the last two practices and all three tight ends missed practice every day this week.

Tackle LaAdrian Waddle (concussion) returned to practice on Friday but is questionable to play. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (toe) and running back Theo Riddick (hamstring) are likely to play.

The 5-2 Lions will take on the 2-5 Falcons at Wembley Stadium in a game that’s scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM ET.


►  Extra Points: Manning is all business

Peyton Manning is revered by millions of NFL fans but those same enthusiasts who worship at the altar of perhaps the greatest quarterback in league history probably wouldn’t want to invite him to their next party.

Believe it or not, part of Peyton’s greatness stems from the fact that he is no fun.

Eli’s big brother is all football, all the time and we saw evidence of that yet again in his latest impressive performance, a three-touchdown effort during the Broncos’ 35-21 drubbing of AFC West rival San Diego on Thursday night.

Manning, the reigning and five-time NFL MVP who broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdown passes last Sunday against San Francisco, was back it just four days later against Philip Rivers and the Chargers, completing 25- of-35 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns to bring his career TD total to 513.

Emmanuel Sanders was Manning’s favorite target this week, snaring nine passes for 120 yards and all three TDs for the 6-1 Broncos, who matched Dallas for the NFL’s best record, pending the Cowboys Monday night matchup against Washington.

“Every week we don’t know where the ball is going to go,“ Sanders admitted. “The defense really dictates that and what Peyton is seeing. And tonight was just my night.“

Next week it may be back to Demaryius Thomas or Julius Thomas or Wes Welker or anyone else suiting up at a skill position for Denver.

By this point the numbers Manning piles up on a weekly basis are almost mind- numbing and quickly forgotten in an offensively-driven league where records have to be written in pencil with the intent on erasing them sooner rather than later.

Manning’s real greatness is only defined by those who truly watch him. He was at the height of his skills early in the third quarter against the Chargers with the ball at the San Diego 19-yard line, just inside the red zone.

Manning used one of his famous hard counts in an effort to either get the Chargers D to jump offsides or declare its intention on the play. San Diego showed enough discipline to avoid a penalty but foreshadowed an overload blitz on Manning’s front side.

The veteran quarterback calmly checked to a quick pass to Ronnie Hillman in the flat, on the opposite side of the oncoming pass rushers and the running back beat a defender in space before waltzing into the end zone for what looked like a 19-yard score.

Replays showed Hillman actually stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line and the play ended up as a footnote to one of Sanders’ TD catches, in which the ex-Steeler was the third progression on the play by the way.

Few quarterbacks in this era or any other for that matter can step to the line of scrimmage, survey the defense and almost always get his team into the right play. That ability, more than all the passing yards and TD passes, truly defines Manning.

And that skill isn’t about arm strength or athleticism, it’s about work ethic and preparation.

Manning is all business all the time and you saw his mentality in the fourth quarter when the video board operator in Denver morphed into party DJ, imploring the crowd to have some fun during the Broncos’ latest blowout.

The Rockies’ version of Samantha Ronson flashed alternating images of Rivers and Manning, causing the crowd to ping-pong between hearty boos and wild cheers.

Even Rivers was amused.

“I really don’t know how to respond to that,“ the Chargers Pro-Bowl QB said. “Other than if you had told me when I was 10 years old they would show me in front of 75,000 and get booed, and Peyton Manning in the same clip and get cheered, I’d say that’s pretty awesome.“

Manning had a different take.

“I have no problem with our fans. Our fans are great. I’ve got a problem with our scoreboard operator,“ Manning opined. “I’m gonna have a little talk with him. I’m not sure what he’s doing.

“He was playing music, showing people—showing players dancing, getting the crowd fired up while we had the ball. I don’t think we should be doing that. I don’t think we should be showing their quarterback on the sideline. I thought that was kind of disrespectful. Our fans are great, our fans are loud, so the scoreboard operators ... it wasn’t his best night.“

And that more than anything else explains Peyton—when you’re celebrating the win, he’s already thinking about the next one.

►  Colts rule out Wayne vs. Steelers

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne will miss Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh because of an elbow injury.

The 14-year veteran missed practice all week and was ruled out Friday by the Colts.

Wayne had 38 catches for 434 yards and a touchdown through the team’s first seven games.

Running back Trent Richardson also missed practice all week but was listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. He has 101 carries for 358 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.

Tight end Jack Doyle (knee) is also questionable while everyone else on the Colts’ injury report is likely to play.


►  Bills WR Goodwin doubtful vs. Jets

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was listed as doubtful to play in Sunday’s road game against the New York Jets because of a hamstring injury.

Goodwin sat out practice all week for the injury-plagued Bills, who were already missing running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Cornerback Ron Brooks was added to the team’s injury report Friday with a groin injury but is expected to play.

Wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee) and safety Aaron Williams (neck) were limited in practice all week and are questionable to play in the AFC East clash and linebacker Ty Powell (ankle) has been ruled out.

Defensive end Mario Williams (thumb), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin) are all expected to play.


►  Eagles’ Sproles, Kendricks questionable to play

Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles and linebacker Mychal Kendricks were listed as questionable for Sunday’s road game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Both were full participants in practice on Friday after being limited the previous two days.

Sproles is recovering from a knee sprain that he suffered against the New York Giants in the Eagles’ last game on October 12. Kendricks hasn’t played since Week 2 because of a calf injury.

Center Jason Kelce, who returned to practice this week for the first time since sports hernia surgery, was also listed as questionable.

Running back Chris Polk (hamstring), linebacker DeMeco Ryans (groin) and cornerback Jaylen Watkins (wrist) are probable to play in the showdown between 5-1 teams.

Wide receiver Brad Smith (groin) has been ruled out.


►  Bears LB Briggs doubtful vs. Patriots

Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is unlikely to play in Sunday’s game against New England because of a lingering rib injury.

Briggs, who has missed the last two games, was listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report after being limited in practice all week.

Fellow linebacker Jonathan Bostic is also likely to miss a third straight game with a back injury after practicing only on a limited basis this week. He was listed as doubtful for the road game, which comes ahead of Chicago’s bye week.

Safety Danny McCray (knee) has been ruled out and tackle Jordan Mills (foot) is questionable to play.

Everyone else on Chicago’s injury report is probable.


►  Falcons WR Douglas questionable

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in London against the Detroit Lions.

Douglas has been out since suffering a foot injury in Atlanta’s Week 3 victory over Tampa Bay, missing four games.

The Louisville product, who has 12 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown in three games this season, was limited in practice the past two days after sitting out Wednesday’s session.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (foot) is questionable after missing practice all week, while wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle), guard Justin Blalock (back) and linebacker Prince Shembo (knee) are all probable.


►  Ravens TE Daniels has knee procedure, out for Sunday

Baltimore Ravens tight end Owen Daniels will miss Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals after having a knee procedure on Friday.

Daniels had sat out practice on Wednesday and Thursday in the hopes of healing the ailing knee.

The injury is not expected to be a long-term problem, and he might be available for next week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With tight end Dennis Pitta out for the season due to a hip injury, rookie Crockett Gilmore is expected to start for the first time. The third-round pick has three catches for 29 yards this season.

Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (knee), guard Kelechi Osemele (knee), linebacker Daryl Smith (not injury related) and wide receiver Steve Smith (not injury related) are all listed as probable.

Monroe hasn’t played since Week 3 after undergoing an arthroscopic surgery on his knee, while Osemele missed the past two games after bruising and hyperextending his right knee.

Defensive end Chris Canty will miss his fourth straight game as he is recovering from wrist surgery.


►  Bengals’ Green questionable for Sunday

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the visiting Baltimore Ravens because of a toe injury.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection missed the last two games and didn’t practice for a second consecutive week.

Green initially sustained the injury in the season opener at Baltimore. He has 17 receptions for 314 yards and two touchdowns in four games this season.

Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (knee) is also questionable, while running back Giovani Bernard (ribs) and linebacker Vontaze Burfict (neck) are among 10 players listed as probable.


►  Pats’ Vereen questionable due to illness

New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen was listed as questionable for Sunday’s home game against the Chicago Bears.

Vereen was added to the injury report after missing Friday’s practice because of an illness.

As expected, the Patriots ruled out defensive end Chandler Jones (hip). Offensive linemen Dan Connolly (concussion), Cameron Fleming (finger) and Bryan Stork (concussion), defensive lineman Dominique Easley (shoulder/knee), defensive back Nate Ebner (finger) and special teams standout Matthew Slater (shoulder) are also questionable.


►  Texans’ Clowney questionable vs. Tennessee

Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney is questionable for Sunday’s game at Tennessee.

Clowney is looking to take the field for the first time since the opening week as he had to have surgery to repair a torn left meniscus.

The top overall pick of the 2014 draft was limited in practice all week.

“I think he’s got a good shot to play on Sunday,“ Houston head coach Bill O’Brien said about Clowney.

Linebackers Brian Cushing (knee), Brooks Reed (groin) and John Simon (ankle) are also questionable.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  World Series Game Result

Final Score: Kansas City 3, San Francisco 2

A solid bullpen and strong defense have the Royals within two victories of a World Series championship. Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Finnegan, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined to throw four no-hit innings of relief, as Kansas City edged the San Francisco Giants, 3-2, in Game 3 of the Fall Classic. Run-scoring hits from Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer in the sixth inning provided the visitors with a 3-0 lead, and the Royals held on after the Giants broke through with two runs against Jeremy Guthrie in the home sixth. Holland closed the door by retiring the side in order to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. It was Holland’s seventh save of this year’s playoffs, tying a single-season mark that is shared by John Wetteland (1996), Troy Percival (2002, Angels), Robb Nen (2002, Giants), Brad Lidge (2008, Phillies) and Koji Uehara (2013, Red Sox). Game 4 is Saturday, again at AT&T Park. Jason Vargas starts for the Royals, and Ryan Vogelsong toes the rubber for the Giants.

The Gilmer Free Press


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25TH


Major League Baseball - World Series
Kansas City at San Francisco, 8:07 PM - FOX


National Hockey League
Buffalo at San Jose, 4:00 PM - MSG-Buffalo, CSN-California, DSS
New Jersey at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - MSG+2, SNET-1, DSS
Boston at Toronto, 7:00 PM - NESN, CBC, NHL Network, DSS
Dallas at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest, MSG+, DSS
NY Rangers at Montreal, 7:00 PM - MSG, TVA Sports, CITY TV, DSS
Detroit at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Chicago at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - WGN (America), FS-Midwest, FX-CA, DSS
Pittsburgh at Nashville, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, FS-Tennessee, DSS
Tampa Bay at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - SunSports, FS-North, DSS
Florida at Arizona, 9:00 PM - FS-Florida, Arizona, DSS
Washington at Calgary, 10:00 PM - CSN-DC, CBC, TVA Sports, DSS


Canadian Football League
Hamilton at Toronto, 4:00 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com
British Columbia at Winnipeg, 7:00 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com


College Football
North Texas at Rice, 12:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-FL, Ohio, Detroit, MSG, ROOT
Minnesota at Illinois, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Memphis at SMU, 12:00 PM - ESPNews
Maryland at Wisconsin, 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
UAB at Arkansas, 12:00 PM - SEC Network
Rutgers at Nebraska, 12:00 PM - ESPN 2
Texas at Kansas State, 12:00 PM - ESPN
Mercer at Chattanooga, 12:00 PM - American Sports Network
Maine at Rhode Island, 12:00 PM - ASN, Altitude, NESN, MASN
North Carolina at Virginia, 12:30 PM - ACC Network, DSS
Delaware at William & Mary, 12:30 PM - CSN-Baltimore, Bay, New England, SNY
Fordham at Lehigh, 12:30 PM - Patriot League Network, SE2
Northern Ill at Eastern Mich, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
San Jose St at Navy, 1:00 PM - CBSSN
Harvard at Princeton, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
St. Francis (PA) at Sacred Heart, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Samford at Furman, 1:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Penn at Yale, 1:30 PM - NBCSN
Akron at Ball State, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Ohio U at Western Mich, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Massachusetts at Toledo, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com, ESPN Game Plan
Ga Southern at Georgia State, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
UCLA at Colorado, 2:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Northern Iowa at Western Illinois, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com, DSS
Tennessee State at Eastern Illinois, 2:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Kent State at Miami-Ohio, 2:30 PM - ESPN3.com
North Dakota State at South Dakota, 3:00 PM - Midco, NBC ND
Youngstown State at South Dakota State, 3:00 PM - MV TV, ESPN3.com
Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh, 3:30 PM - ESPN U
Texas Tech at TCU, 3:30 PM - FOX
West Virginia at Oklahoma State, 3:30 PM - ESPN
Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss, 3:30 PM - CSN-Bay, Chicago, ASN
Michigan at Michigan State, 3:30 PM - ABC
Fla Atlantic at Marshall, 3:30 PM - FS1
Oregon State at Stanford, 3:30 PM - ESPN 2
Miss State at Kentucky, 3:30 PM - CBS
Boston Coll at Wake Forest, 3:30 PM - CSN-Bal, FS-S, FL, MW, YES, ROOT, DSS
Central Mich at Buffalo, 3:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State, 3:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Colgate at Albany, 3:30 PM - Time Warner SportsChannel
Charleston Southern at Coastal Carolina, 3:30 PM - American Sports Net, MASN
Holy Cross at Lafayette, 3:30 PM - Patriot League Network
Gardner-Webb at Liberty, 3:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Eastern Washington at Northern Arizona, 3:35 PM - ROOT-Northwest, Rocky Mtn
UNLV at Utah State, 4:00 PM - ESPNews
Vanderbilt at Missouri, 4:00 PM - SEC Network
Old Dominion at Western Ky, 4:00 PM - CUSA Digital
SE Louisiana at Stephen F. Austin, 4:00 PM - Southland TV, ESPN3.com
Temple at UCF, 5:00 PM - CBSSN
Arizona at Washington St, 6:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Wyoming at Colorado State, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Syracuse at Clemson, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Texas State at ULM, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Texas-El Paso at TX-San Antonio, 7:00 PM - Sinclair, ASN, CSN-Bay
McNeese State at Incarnate Word, 7:00 PM - FCS
Indiana State at Southern Illinois, 7:00 PM - Missouri Valley TV, ESPN3.com
Ole Miss at LSU, 7:15 PM - ESPN
Alabama at Tennessee, 7:30 PM - ESPN 2
So Carolina at Auburn, 7:30 PM - SEC Network
Ohio State at Penn State, 8:00 PM - ABC
Nicholls at Houston Baptist, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Montana at Cal Poly, 9:05 PM - Cowles Montana Media
USC at Utah, 10:00 PM - FS1
Arizona State at Washington, 10:45 PM - ESPN
Nevada at Hawaii, 11:59 PM - Oceanic Pay-per-view


College Hockey
Colorado College at New Hampshire, 7:00 PM - FCS
Niagara at Notre Dame, 7:05 PM - NBCSN
Bemidji State at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-North+


Major League Soccer
Los Angeles at Seattle, 2:30 PM - NBC, TSN2
D.C. at Montreal, 4:00 PM - TVA Sports, DSS
Toronto FC at New England, 7:30 PM - TSN, CSN-New England, DSS
Portland at FC Dallas, 8:30 PM - ROOT-Northwest, Time Warner, DSS
Colorado at Vancouver FC, 10:00 PM - Altitude, TSN, DSS


International Soccer
Millwall FC vs. Cardiff City FC, 7:10 AM - beIN Sport
West Ham vs. Manchester City, 7:45 AM - NBCSN
Sunderland vs. Arsenal, 10:00 AM - NBCSN
Real Madrid CF vs. FC Barcelona, 11:55 AM - beIN Sport
Swansea vs. Leicester, 12:30 PM - NBC
UC Sampdoria vs. AS Roma, 2:40 PM - beIN Sport


Golf
PGA - McGladrey Classic, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel
CHAMPIONS - AT&T Championship, 5:00 PM - Golf Channel
LPGA - Blue Bay LPGA, 11:30 PM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
SPRINT CUP - Goody’s Headache Relief 500 practice, 9:00 AM - FS1
CAMPING WORLD - Kroger 200 qualifying, 10:00 AM - FS1
CAMPING WORLD - Kroger 200, 1:30 PM - FS1

Sports News - 10.24.14

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Glenville State vs. Notre Dame College

The Pioneers went on the road and took care of business as they defeated UVa-Wise 35-9 this past Saturday. This week GSC returns home as Norte Dame College travels to Glenville with kickoff at 1:00pm.

Rahmann Lee rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown and Sean Steele threw for four touchdowns to lead Glenville State past UVa-Wise, 35-9, at Carl Smith Stadium.

Glenville State, winners of three of its last four, improved to 3-4 overall and 3-4 in the MEC. UVa-Wise dropped to 0-7 overall and 0-6 inside the league.

Lee carried the ball 22 times and averaged 7.1 yards per carry for the Pioneers. Steele was 14-of-28 for 244 yards and hit four different receivers for his touchdown passes.

Gary Henderson led the Glenville State defense with 10 tackles, including a pair of sacks. Jordan Kesson added eight solo stops and a tackle for a loss.

Jeremy Eubank was 17-of-27 for 102 yards for the Cavs. Von Purvis had 70 yards rushing on 17 carries and a touchdown. UVa-Wise struggled on third downs converting on just 5-of-19 attempts. Zack Blair led UVa-Wise with nine tackles, including a game-high three for a loss.

Rahmann Lee is also just 378 yards from becoming GSC All-Time Leading Rusher.

Notre Dame comes into the match-up after defeating #8 Shepherd this past Saturday, 35-34.

Notre Dame (5-2, 5-1) was led by quarterback Ray Russ who threw for 459 yards on 22-of-44 passing with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Falcons rushed for just 34 yards in the game.

Last year’s match-up between the Pioneers and Falcons was a good one. GSC walked away with a 20-16 road win. Lee rushed for 88 yards in the win and had two touchdowns while Notre Dame QB Ray Russ threw for 155 yards and a touchdown.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 9 High School Games in the Area

Class A

Gilmer County (3-4)  at   #5 Notre Dame (5-2)

Calhoun County (2-6)  at   Wirt County (0-7)

#5 Doddridge County (6-1)  at   #15 Valley - Wetzel (5-2)

#1 St. Marys (7-0)  at   South Harrison (4-3)

#8 Tyler Consolidated (5-2)  at   Magnolia (2-5)

Parkersburg Catholic (2-5)  at   #11 Williamstown (5-2)


Class AA

Webster County (2-5)  at   Braxton County (2-6)

Ritchie County (3-5)      BYE WEEK

Herbert Hoover (4-3   at   Roane County (3-4)

#9 Ravenswood (6-1)  at   Clay County (4-3)

#11 Robert C. Byrd (5-2)  at   North Marion (0-7)

#1 Bridgeport (7-1)      BYE WEEK

Sissonville (4-3)  at   #15 Liberty - Harrison (5-3)

Lincoln (2-6)  at   Grafton (3-4)

#6 Nicholas County (6-1)  at   Midland Trail - A (0-7)

Philip Barbour (1-7)      BYE WEEK


Class AAA

#12 Lewis County (6-2)  at   Elkins (3-4)

#13 Fairmont Sr. - AA (5-2)  at   #14 Buckhannon-Upshur (5-2)

#10 Parkersburg South (5-2)  at   Greenbrier East (4-4)

Parkersburg (3-4)  at   George Washington (4-3)


►  Gilmer County (3-4) at Notre Dame (5-2)

Gilmer County is coming off a bye week. Last time out, the Titans lost 29-28 on the road at Doddridge County back on October 10.

Three of the Titans four losses have come on the road.

It is an extremely young Gilmer County team with just four seniors among the 21 players listed on the roster.

The Irish ran their winning streak to five with a 49-21 win over Madonna last week.

“After that 0-2 start we had a heart to heart talk with all of our seniors,” said Notre Dame coach Sam Alvaro. “We had a week off as well which was at the perfect time. After that, our seniors decided to play and everyone just followed right along and we’ve played very well since then.”

Notre Dame started the season with five consecutive road games. Alvaro made a plea to his team going into a week three game against Bishop Donhue.

“I told them this was the most important game of our season,” Alvaro recounted. “It was huge. 0-3 would have pinned our backs against the wall. The players raised up and played very well.”

The Irish haven’t lost since.

Notre Dame and Gilmer County are meeting for the first time since 2009.

The teams split the last two meetings in ’08 and ’09.


►  Lewis County (6-2) at Elkins (3-4)

The Lewis County defense continued to play well as the unit allowed just one touchdown in a 16-7 loss at University last week. The Minutemen finished that game without a couple of key players as linebacker/wingback Isaac Kemper and cornerback/receiver Ryan Watson were both injured in the UHS contest. Lewis County will try and lock down a playoff spot as it plays its final two games on the road at Elkins and Shady Spring.

Elkins has won two in a row following a four game losing streak. Mo Kelly had 239 yards rushing and four touchdowns during a 34-14 road win at Oak Hill last week. Kelly has nearly 13-hundred yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. Elkins has a deep offensive backfield as seven different backs say action in that game last week.


►  Doddridge County (6-1) at Valley (5-2)

Both teams head down the stretch harboring playoff hopes.

Doddridge County has won five in a row and it played well on both sides of the ball in a 20-0 win over Philip Barbour last week. The Bulldogs got a combined 277 yards rushing from Wyatt Ford and Brandon Stewart. The defense came up with three interceptions while holding the Colts to 35 yards of total offense.

The path for Valley figures to be a little more difficult as the Lumberjacks last three opponents have a combined record of 14-7. Valley, has, however, surpassed its win total for the past two years combined.


►  Herbert Hoover (4-3) at Roane County (3-4)

In a game they really needed to have, the Roane County Raiders fell one point short in a 7-6 loss to Tolsia on Friday. With a week one forfeit factored in, the Raiders are now 3-4 with games against Wirt County and Williamstown after this week’s meeting with the Huskies. Making the playoff isn’t an impossible task, but it would’ve been an easier one with a win against Tolsia.

So the Raiders go back to the drawing board this week to see what they can do against Herbert Hoover. After back-to-back losses, Herbert Hoover finds themselves needing to pile up as many wins as possible in an effort to reach the postseason themselves. Perhaps most impressively, Herbert Hoover stayed within 14 points of Wayne last week in a 28-14 loss to the Pioneers.

This game is another that could serve as an elimination game for the team that falls short this week. Homefield advantage may push the Raiders over the top in this one, but it won’t be easy.


►  Parkersburg South (5-2) at Greenbrier East (4-4)

After scoring 14 points total in their last two games – with one of them being a win – Parkersburg South’s offense had quite the breakout in a 45-13 win last Friday against Brooke. The Patriots racked up 536 total yards with quarterback Garrett Gilkeson throwing for 331 of those – just five yards fewer than the number of total yards Brooke finished with all night.

Gilkeson fired four touchdown passes – two each to Cole Day and Brendan Schwendeman. Schwendeman added a rushing touchdown as well. To be fair, Parkersburg South’s last two games came against Point Pleasant’s stifling defense and John Marshall, a team jockeying for position themselves.

Even so, head coach Mike Eddy and staff have to be pleased with the effort. This week, the Patriots make their longest trip of the season – and their only remaining game to be played outside Wood County – when they visit Greenbrier East.

The Spartans come in off a 42-19 win against Logan last week. It was the first time in over a month that Greenbrier East eclipsed the 40-point mark and just the second time all season. After a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Spartans have back-to-back wins and are making a late-season surge.

If Greenbrier East wants any chance to make the postseason, Friday’s matchup with Parkersburg South is a must-win. Their biggest challenge will be to stop the Patriots’ passing attack, and if last week was any indication, that’s a passing attack that’s operating like a well-oiled machine at exactly the right time of the year to do so.

Parkersburg South has wins in four of their last five games and if they can survive the long road trip, they stand a good chance to pick up another.


►  Parkersburg (3-4) at George Washington (4-3)

Parkersburg fell behind 27-0 before reaching the end zone in an eventual 41-6 loss to the Huntington Highlanders. The Big Reds piled up rather anemic offensive numbers in the loss with just five first downs and 85 total yards of offense. Defensively, the Big Reds surrendered more than 400 yards. 257 of those came on 50 carries, showing that the Highlanders had no trouble with the idea of running the Parkersburg into submission.

For Parkersburg, if a winning season or a playoff berth is a possibility, answers must come quickly. So maybe this isn’t such a horrible time to pay George Washington a visit. The Patriots have dropped back-to-back contests and at 4-3, George Washington needs a win to stay in the postseason hunt with Capital looming in Week 11.

Last week, the Patriots fell 49-7 to a Cabell Midland squad that’s piled up some prolific offensive numbers this year. The Big Reds will need to bring one of their best defensive efforts of the season, because there’s no margin for error this week. George Washington must control the pace of game and find the same weaknesses in the Parkersburg defense that others have exploited this season.

This is a winnable game for both sides and it may be decided by the kick or punt return teams from one of these schools. Either way, it could serve as an elimination game for whichever school finds themselves on the short end of the stick.


►  Ravenswood (6-1) at Clay County (4-3)

Ravenswood played tough against one of the best Class AAA teams in the state before succumbing in the second half in a 37-20 loss to Point Pleasant. The Red Devils actually grabbed a lead in the middle of the second quarter on Rhys Jelich’s second touchdown run of the night. However, Point Pleasant’s Jon Peterson ran the ensuing kickoff to the house from 78 yards out to stem the tide of the visitors from Jackson County.

A two-point conversion tied things at 14 and Ravenswood would draw no closer. Point Pleasant outgained Ravenswood 447 to 254, but the 20 points Ravenswood scored are the most anyone has scored in a single game against the Big Blacks all year.

So with that as slight consolation, the Red Devils turn their focus to Clay County – a team with playoff hopes teetering on the brink after a 27-20 loss to Sissonville last week. The Panthers have struggled with consistency all season. With a Week One win coming as a result of a forfeit, Clay County has spent the rest of the year alternating wins and losses.

And those wins have come by the narrowest of margins in some cases. They include two shutouts by scores of 8-0 and 14-0 and a one-point victory against Fayetteville two weeks ago. Defensively, Clay County has slipped in the last three weeks, allowing 82 total points in a 1-2 stretch.

Ravenswood is a team that can score points aplenty and expect the Red Devils to do so as they get things readjusted heading down the stretch.


►  St. Marys (7-0) at South Harrison (4-3)

Addison O’Brien helped spark a St. Marys team that trailed at halftime for the first time all year in a win against Magnolia on Friday. O’Brien hauled in a pass that led to a 60-yard touchdown play to tie things early in the third quarter. Then, O’Brien’s 55-yard punt return on the final play of the third quarter gave St. Marys a lead they wouldn’t lose in a 27-7 win against the Blue Eagles – a win that all but sank Magnolia’s playoff hopes.

Corey Stewart would add a pair of fourth quarter rushing touchdowns to put things out of reach for the Blue Devils. It was a grind it out effort last week for St. Marys, picking up 184 rushing yards on 42 carries. But a win is what St. Marys needed in their toughest road test of the year, aside from Williamstown. And with that, the Blue Devils play what they hope is their final road game in a very long time, if not the rest of the season, with a trip to Lost Creek to face the South Harrison Hawks.

Brad Jett’s Hawks have won three of their last four and moved above .500 on the season with a 28-0 win over Webster County last Friday. Three of South Harrison’s four wins this year have been shutouts and two of their three losses have come by six points or fewer. So while this is an improved team from where things were a year ago, it’s still a South Harrison team on the cusp of so much more.

They’ll face what is without question their toughest test of the year this week. And for a team known for racking up some big numbers in the run game, St. Marys will be looking to top their 184 rushing yards from last week. And against a Blue Devil defense that’s allowed just 58 points through seven games, they’ll need a big night offensively and to slow the game to a crawl to get past St. Marys.

Expect St. Marys to take their peerless record back home for what will be a HUGE showdown on Halloween Night against the Ravenswood Red Devils.


►  Tyler Consolidated (5-2) at Magnolia (2-5)

In the middle of their second year under head coach Ryan Walton, the Tyler Consolidated Silver Knights are 10-7 since Walton became head coach of the Silver Knights. Off to their best start in years, there will be no greater measuring stick for this program than Friday’s game at Magnolia.

Though the Blue Eagles have five losses, the losses have been close – with the exception of last week’s 20-point setback to St. Marys – and they’ve come against very good teams. Tyler Consolidated had last week off after a 6-0 win against South Harrison and is poised to prove that they’ve arrived as a program on the Class A scene in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Playoff fever is in the air around Tyler County. If Tyler Consolidated’s two-headed offensive monster of Jordan Baker and Jace Reed can get things going against the Blue Eagles’ defense, then the Silver Knights could pull away with a victory. But remember, Magnolia held the dominant St. Marys running game scoreless in the first half last week.

The Blue Eagles stand a very solid chance to get a victory in a game that would only be a big upset on paper if Magnolia can pull off the win. If Tyler Consolidated plays like it’s record indicates they’re capable of, then the Silver Knights will show they’ve arrived – at least in some measure – as a legitimate contender in the area.


►  Parkersburg Catholic (2-5) at Williamstown (5-2)

It’s almost like Dakota Watson decided to make up for the offensive output he didn’t put forth during a bye week in Williamstown’s 72-8 win over Wirt County. After having the previous week off, Watson made up for lost time with a five-touchdown performance against the Tigers. He ran for two scores, threw for two more and even returned an interception 69 yards for a score late in the first quarter.

Mason Adkins ran for three second-half touchdowns for the Yellowjackets as well. All told, it was a Williamstown offensive effort that tallied 438 yards of total offense and spurred the Yellowjackets to a 50-0 halftime lead. With two losses coming before that bye week, Williamstown needed a big effort to drive a late-season push. That’s exactly what they got.

This week, the Yellowjackets face a talented, but overmatched Parkersburg Catholic squad in a battle of Wood County’s two Class A teams. The Crusaders are talented, but lack depth. On Saturday, they dropped a 33-14 decision to a Belpre, Ohio team that boasts one of the area’s best running games.

It’ll be a matchup of Williamstown’s defense versus the speed of Parkersburg Catholic on the perimeter. And when you factor in the lack of depth that Parkersburg Catholic has, that’ll swing the pendulum in favor of the Yellowjackets in what has always been an intensely-fought game.


►  Fairmont Senior (5-2) at Buckhannon-Upshur (5-2)

The Polar Bears came off a bye week to beat Braxton County 35-15 last week.  Joseph Toothman scored three touchdowns including one on a return of a blocked punt.

Buckhannon led Lincoln County 12-7 at the end of one quarter last week despite not running a single offensive play from scrimmage in the first quarter. Brandon Mallett had a 78 yard interception return for a touchdown and an 71-yard kickoff return for a score in that first quarter. Mallett finished with four touchdowns on five touches of the ball in the Bucs 46-21 victory. Defensive leader Marcus Lofton intercepted his sixth pass of the season in the win.

The Fairmont/Buckhannon series was resumed last year following a one year hiatus. Fairmont Senior won the game 49-7 at Buckhannon. The Polar Bears have won seven in a row in the series with Buckhannon’s last victory coming back in 2005.


►  Robert C. Byrd (5-2) at North Marion (0-7)

RCB has outscored its last three opponents 155-7 following a September 19 loss to Bridgeport. The Eagles defense has posted back to back shutouts. RCB rolled up seven sacks as it held Lincoln to under 100 yards of total offense last week.

The Huskies have three opportunities remaining to try and get that first win. This one will be a tough matchup as the Huskies offense has struggled. North Marion has scored seven points or fewer in five of their seven games so far.


►  MSAC commissioner: “The blame goes on me. I messed up.“

Mountain State Athletic Conference Commissioner Fred Aldridge took responsibility on Wednesday’s MetroNews High School Sportsline for the unscheduled officials last week in Beckley for Woodrow Wilson-Capital, a game that has since been cancelled.

“The buck stops with me, I messed up. I missed the game. I did not assign the officials,” Aldridge said. “It bothers me deeply that the situation occurred because there were so many people involved. Apologies need to go out to Capital High School and to Woodrow Wilson, the student athletes, the bands and what have you.”

Ultimately, a system of checks and balances fell through after Aldridge initially failed to schedule the game back in the winter.

“When I meet with the principals and athletic directors, I always give them the schedule and assignments, I ask them to check all the games on the list so I can make the adjustments so we don’t have a situation like we had this weekend,” he said. “But it would have never happened and this game would have been played if I would have scheduled (the officials) back in February when I do those things.”

Aldridge said his office worked to reschedule the game on either Saturday afternoon, Saturday night or on Monday night with the MSAC covering the expenses. Saturday was thrown out because both schools had athletes visiting colleges.

“For some reason, it couldn’t be worked out,” Aldridge said. “No reasons were given to me (for playing the game on Monday). I said that we must play this game, but the two principals talked with their coaches and decided to cancel the game completely. I did not want the game to be cancelled and I still don’t understand why the game was cancelled.

“But again, the person at fault and the person to blame is me, because when I was assigning officials, I missed that game,” he continued. “It slipped through our check and balances. A lot of people were affected. Woodrow Wilson lost that gate and it was homecoming. I did everything in my power to still get that game to be played.”

Capital was No. 1 in the Class AAA WVSSAC rankings released this week and the missed game likely won’t have an impact on the Cougars’ seeding if they win out. A loss for Woodrow Wilson, however, would have put the Flying Eagles in a difficult spot to make the playoffs.

Beckley is at No. 18 this week with a 3-3 record and games remaining against Princeton, Oak Hill and Hedgesville. The Flying Eagles would likely make it into the playoff field if they win out – something that could have an impact on several other teams vying for the final few playoff slots.

One of those teams is Musselman. The Applemen enter this week at No. 16 in Class AAA with a 5-3 record and have games remaining against Washington and then at Martinsburg.

“It’s kind of frustrating in a way,” Musselman coach Brian Thomas said. “I put myself in those shoes and I know if something happened with us and Martinsburg like that, I’m doing everything in my power to play on a Saturday. If we can’t play on a Saturday, I’m going to play on a Monday. We’ll try to play wherever we can.

“I would try to play a game at all costs,” he continued. “I would think at the same time that our kids would want to know why we weren’t playing. I just know if I was in that situation, I would do everything under my power to play a game and anything to help our kids out.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Holgorsen insists ‘We’re not satisfied’

Dana Holgorsen sees value in his team returning to the top 25 rankings for the first time in 23 months. He just doesn’t want players accepting the additional exposure as a milestone.

West Virginia entered the AP poll at No. 22 this week, buoyed by a 41-27 win over then-No. 4 Baylor. In the coaches poll, the Mountaineers debuted at No. 25.

“It’s positive for the program, it’s good for national recognition. All that is good, and I’m not going to deny that,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “It probably gets us talked about more … but it doesn’t adjust anything that we do.

“We’re not satisfied with where we’re at. We’re not interested with people telling us that we’re good or any of that. We’ve got to just keep doing our job.”

The job, and West Virginia’s road to a potential Big 12 championship, remains thorny starting with Saturday’s trip to Stillwater, where Boone Pickens Stadium now encompasses one of the nation’s biggest home-field advantages. Oklahoma State has gone 22-2 there during the past four seasons, with both losses decided in the final 27 seconds.

Holgorsen has lived the Stillwater experience from both sides. He made four trips there as a Texas Tech assistant before serving one year as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator—a stint he leveraged into the West Virginia job in 2010.

During the 2012 season, Holgorsen led West Virginia back into Boone Pickens and lost 55-34, dropping his record as a visiting coach to 1-4.

This time around the Cowboys and Mountaineers own identical 5-2 overall records and 3-1 conference marks, but OSU is trying to rebound from a spotty two-game stretch that sent it tumbling out of the top 25. First came a 27-20 scare at Kansas before last weekend’s 42-9 humiliation at TCU.

Having watched Mike Gundy average nearly 10 wins during the past six seasons, Holgorsen expects a strong bounce-back effort from Oklahoma State.

“They’re going to be ready to play,” he said. “It’s homecoming. It’s going to be sold-out. It’s going to be loud.”

After beating a top-five opponent for the first time since 2003, West Virginia could be hardpressed to match last week’s enthusiasm. Holgorsen understands the psychological pitfall and senses his team is equipped to guard against it.

“I think if we had a very young and immature team, then that would be a huge challenge,” he said. “But we have a very experienced, older team that likes each other, plays hard for each other and understands what we’re trying to accomplish. Really, what we’re trying to accomplish is to win the next game.

“I basically asked the guys if they were satisfied with the (Baylor) win, and it was a unanimous ‘not satisfied.’”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Marshall ready for athletic Owls

Doc Holliday has long had the reputation of plucking athletes from Florida and building around them, see Rakeem Cato, Tommy Shuler and about two dozen other players on Marshall’s roster. He better understands how deep the talent pool in Florida is than most and that’s the reason he expecting a very athletic FAU football team in Huntington on Saturday.

“They have athletes everywhere,” said Holliday. “They won six games a year ago and were bowl-eligible and most of those guys are back.  I have said many times, anytime you’re located in Boca or Miami and all the players around them, they are going to have really good players. They are athletic and can run. We are going to have our hands full.”

Marshall pulled out a 24-23 win over the Owls last year in Boca Raton. Justin Haig booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to keep Marshall in contention for the C-USA East Division title.

“I was on the sideline with my head backward and not looking,” recalled center Chris Jasperse.

Marshall produced a season-low 355 yards of total offense and Rakeem Cato was limited to 216 yards passing, 70 of which came on the final game winning drive. FAU held on to the ball for 35:11and outgained Marshall 395-355.

“That was a great game and something that we weren’t expecting to go down to the wire like that,” admitted tight end Eric Frohnapfel. “We made the plays when we needed to. It was a rollercoaster of emotions type game.”

And while the FAU program has gone through numerous changes, including a new head coach, since last year’s game, many of the same players are back with a year of development under their belt. That includes quarterback Jaquez Johnson who is the first FAU quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000. Johnson rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Herd last year.

“Their quarterback, Jaquez Johnson, he is a pain in the neck. He can run it, he can throw it,” said Holliday. “Not only can he run it but he does a good job at keeping his eyes down the field on the open receivers. We have to make sure our guys do a great job of, number one, containing him and, number two, when you tackle him you better wrap him up. He is bigger now than he was a year ago, to be honest. He ran through us a year ago when we were trying to get him on the ground. I’ve seen him running through people this year. He hasn’t changed.”

Johnson accounted for 420 yards of total offense in a comeback win last week against Western Kentucky. Johnson threw for 325 yards and ran for 95 more.

Johnson’s top target is senior receiver Lucky Whitehead. He leads Conference USA in receptions per game and all-purpose yards. He’s also No. 1 in the country in combined return yards.

“They make an effort to get the ball in his hands and, after seeing him play, I can see why,” said Holliday.  “They just try to find ways to make sure that he gets touches throughout the game. They do a good job of giving him the ball. We have to make sure we do a great job of getting him on the ground when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Much like FIU last week, FAU has speed and talented athletes but matching up play for play with Marshall is another story.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Manning leads Broncos past Chargers

Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to savor his latest NFL record for career touchdown passes, but he added to that record on Thursday night.

Manning threw three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders in the Denver Broncos’ 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers.

The reigning and five-time NFL MVP broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdown passes in a 42-17 rout of the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. On Thursday, Manning completed 25-of-35 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns to bring his career TD total to 513.

Manning was not happy with the scoreboard operator late in the fourth quarter.

“I have no problem with our fans. Our fans are great. I’ve got a problem with our scoreboard operator,“ Manning said. “I’m gonna have a little talk with him. I’m not sure what he’s doing.

“He was playing music, showing people—showing players dancing, getting the crowd fired up while we had the ball. I don’t think we should be doing that. I don’t think we should be showing their quarterback on the sideline. I thought that was kind of disrespectful. Our fans are great, our fans are loud, so the scoreboard operators ... it wasn’t his best night.“

Sanders caught nine passes for 120 yards for the Broncos (6-1), who have won four in a row. Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 105 yards.

“Every week we don’t know where the ball is going to go,“ Sanders said. “The defense really dictates that and what Peyton is seeing. And tonight was just my night.“

Ronnie Hillman carried the ball 20 times for 109 yards and Juwan Thompson rushed for 24 yards and two scores on seven carries.

Philip Rivers connected on 30-of-41 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Chargers (5-3), who have lost two straight since a five-game winning streak.

Keenan Allen caught nine passes for 73 yards and a score for San Diego. Antonio Gates became the franchise’s all-time leader in receiving yards after catching five passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns.

Last season in week 15, San Diego came away with a 27-20 win in Denver. However, the Broncos eliminated the Chargers from the playoffs a month later.

After each team punted twice to start the game, the Broncos started from their own 31-yard line. Sanders and Thomas caught passes of 38 and 16 yards to move the ball to the San Diego 2-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal, Manning rolled to his right and found Sanders in the back of the end zone with 13:35 remaining in the second quarter.

The Chargers answered with a touchdown of their own following a punt from each team. A defensive pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-6 allowed San Diego to pick up a first down. Allen caught two passes to account for 23 yards before Eddie Royal made a 15-yard catch. Gates moved the chains with a 31-yard grab on 3rd-and-20, and Allen capped the 13-play series with a 2-yard TD catch.

San Diego almost got the ball right back when Andre Caldwell lost control of the football on the ensuing kickoff. Replay showed Caldwell’s elbow hit the ground first and the initial call of a fumble was reversed. Denver found the end zone eight plays later, as Manning hooked up with Sanders for a 31-yard score.

Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. picked off Rivers on the opening possession of the second half. The Broncos quickly moved the ball to the San Diego 30- yard line thanks to linebacker Donald Butler being called for unnecessary roughness. Hillman’s 16-yard catch ended with him stepping out at the 3-yard line. Sanders followed with his third touchdown catch of the game to make it 21-7 with 10:53 left in the third stanza.

“We can’t give a good football team like the Denver Broncos the opportunities we gave them,“ Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “That span there of a big touchdown at the end of the half, turnover to start the second half and then points for them. Once we settled down we got back in rhythm a little bit. But that’s a good football team and we gave them too many opportunities.“

The home team scored another touchdown on its next possession to essentially seal the game. After Hillman had a 33-yard TD run called back due to offensive holding, the Chargers were called for defensive pass interference. Thompson rumbled into the end zone from two yards out with 7:34 to go in the third.

San Diego responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that Gates capped with a 4- yard score. After a defensive holding call nullified Eric Weddle’s interception of Manning, Thompson scored from one yard out to make it 35-14 with 13:29 to play.

Gates kept the Chargers alive with a 10-yard TD catch. After Denver kicker Brandon McManus missed a 53-yard field goal, Rahim Moore picked off Rivers to secure the victory for the Broncos.

Game Notes

Denver leads the all-time series by a 59-49-1 margin ... Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers (concussion) missed the game ... Broncos linebacker Von Miller extended his NFL-best sack streak to six games ... Branden Oliver carried the ball 13 times for 36 yards for San Diego, with 23 yards coming on the final play of the game.


►  NFL Game Result - Week 8

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23

Final Score: Denver 35, San Diego 21

Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to savor his latest NFL record for career touchdown passes, but he added to that record on Thursday night. Manning threw three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders in the Denver Broncos’ 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers. The reigning and five-time NFL MVP broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdown passes in a 42-17 rout of the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. On Thursday, Manning completed 25-of-35 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns to bring his career TD total to 513. Sanders caught nine passes for 120 yards for the Broncos (6-1), who have won four in a row. Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 105 yards. Ronnie Hillman carried the ball 20 times for 109 yards and Juwan Thompson rushed for 24 yards and two scores on seven carries. Philip Rivers connected on 30-of-41 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Chargers (5-3), who have lost two straight since a five-game winning streak.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nothin’ but Net: Season Preview Part II

On Tuesday, I documented the 14 teams destined to miss the postseason (http://tinyurl.com/ca6jmnp), although I believe three teams - Pelicans, Nuggets and Rockets - are better than some Eastern Conference playoff-bound squads.

Part II - it’ll be as good as “Back to the Future II,“ but not quite “The Godfather: Part II.“

16. BROOKLYN NETS

One season ago, I bought big time on the Nets. My bad.

The team actually advanced to the second round of the playoffs as Jason Kidd improved as a coach. Then, he lost his mind, tried to outflank general manager Billy King, ended up as head man of the Milwaukee Bucks. That move, like his failed coup de tat in Brooklyn, was shady and duplicitous because Larry Drew was already the coach.

The Nets shed themselves of a potential headache in the form of Kidd. However, Paul Pierce also bolted Brooklyn for a better deal with the Washington Wizards.

That doesn’t leave the cupboard bare for the Nets. Brook Lopez is back after his second major foot surgery in a few years, but, stop traffic, he already sprained his foot in the preseason. Lopez was playing at an All-Star level until the injury and he’ll be needed.

Speaking of lower appendages, Deron Williams’ ankles are apparently in working shape. Joe Johnson is still wildly overpaid, but still contributes. It’s very hard for shooting guards to stop someone as strong as Johnson.

Then there’s Kevin Garnett. Most (me, actually) assumed he’d retire when Pierce left town, but he’s still around. There’s actually a strong group of veterans in Brooklyn.

And I like Lionel Hollins a lot. He left Memphis after guiding the Grizz to the Western Conference Finals mostly because of his dispute with management over analytics. He’s a strong coach with great defensive principles.

Problem in Brooklyn is this group hasn’t fit well in one season. Lopez should be the man here, but Williams and Johnson make obscene money and have the ball in their hands. It should be better with a second camp under their collective belt and a better leader in Hollins, but this group makes the postseason because a.) eight do in the East, and b.) there’s enough offensive talent.

15. ATLANTA HAWKS

If people forgot about Lopez, Al Horford is like that wonderful ‘80s song you hear during a random trip to the grocery store.

Horford missed 53 games last season and 55 three seasons ago, both because of torn pectoral muscles. What you forgot is that a healthy Horford is a wonderful two-way big man. He can score inside, has a decent mid-range game, plus he’s a strong interior defender and decent rim protector. Getting him back is a gigantic improvement.

And Atlanta could use some good news. The Hawks’ summer was dominated by racism from the owner (“too many blacks on the kiss cam”) and general manager Danny Ferry, who inexplicably read a scouting report of Luol Deng which claimed he had some “African in him.“ Ferry is still away from the team, so there’s disarray.

On the court, the Hawks have been mired in the eternal purgatory known as a subpar, but good enough to make the playoffs, Eastern Conference team. That’s never good.

The Hawks have Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll in the starting lineup. There bench consists of solid pieces like Thabo Sefalosha, Elton Brand, Pero Antic and Mike Scott, a personal favorite of mine. I loved Adreian Payne, their first-round pick.

Horford will help, but the Hawks are still stuck in no man’s land out East. They are postseason-worthy, but have little chance of advancement unless they get a fifth or sixth seed, which seems high.

14. PHOENIX SUNS

Last season, I ranked them 29th, ahead of only the 76ers. What a doofus.

The Suns narrowly missed a playoff berth in the loaded Western Conference, but they will get over that hump this season. Isaiah Thomas was their big free- agent move, which made sense to hedge their bet if Eric Bledsoe didn’t return. He did, so Phoenix has the best backcourt depth in the league.

They also ooze athleticism, but in a good way. They ranked in the top 10 in scoring, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Offensively, the Suns are very good.

Defensively, Phoenix was 21st in opponents’ scoring, but 14th in opponents’ field-goal percentage and second in opponents’ 3-point percentage. That’s sort of a weird balance.

So, the Suns can play defense. What makes them different than say a Mike D’Antoni team that would run up and down the floor is, this Suns squad does it because no one can match up with their athletes.

Thomas, Goran Dragic, Bledsoe, the Morris twins, P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green, Zoran Dragic, T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis, even Miles Plumlee is a decent enough athlete. This team is put together to compete and run and defend.

Their style will win some ball games, but isn’t built to compete in the postseason. Jeff Hornacek was great last season at maximizing his roster’s talents and it should be more of the same. They have some interesting pieces to possibly move if a star became available because that’s the only thing separating Phoenix from being a fringe contender.

This team may not lead the league in opponents’ scoring, but they’ll lead in the league in most times getting an opponent to vomit on the bench due to sheer exhaustion.

13. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

They have a gritty defensive team, anchored offensively by a great low-post scorer, a throwback in a sense, named Al Jefferson. They feature a woefully underrated point guard in Kemba Walker, then some other pieces.

Until Lance Stephenson came to town.

Stephenson is a stat sheet marvel, who is also a defensive presence and a big- game performer. He played on winning teams with the Indiana Pacers and can teach these Hornets how to take a step forward.

Also, worth mentioning, he is, as Liz Lemon from “30 Rock” once said, “staunchly in favor of Coco-Puffs.“

That on-going internal battle for Stephenson’s mind and soul determines the Hornets’ fate this season. Good crazy is fine. That’s intensity and passion. Bad crazy is not. Stephenson has been bad crazy at times, including last season’s East Finals against the Miami Heat. Remember when he blew on LeBron’s face? You do. But you don’t remember his pressure defense that turned games in Indiana’s favor.

Stephenson can be the next piece in the Hornets’ puzzle. A nucleus of Jefferson/Stephenson/Walker/Gerald Henderson/Noah Vonleh/Cody Zeller/Michael Kidd-Gilchrist/Marvin Williams/Gary Neal/P.J. Hairston is very good. It’s not a championship contender, but it’s good enough to contend for a home playoff series.

There are a few things that need to happen for Charlotte.

Stephenson has to be smart about his craziness. Kidd-Gilchrist needs to develop a jump shot, or possibly lose rotation minutes. Jefferson needs to stay healthy. Same for Walker. The bench needs to produce. Zeller and Vonleh, who will miss time at the start of the season and could be in danger of never getting his spot back, need to help out.

Enough should happen to make Charlotte a tough team every night.

12. MIAMI HEAT

Losing LeBron James is like getting punched in the solar plexus by an elephant. Then it’s like getting stomped in the nether region by same elephant.

But Pat Riley did a nice job in rebuilding the roster with James gone.

Luol Deng is LeBron-lite. He scores in a variety of ways, rebounds and defends. He just doesn’t do them at the same level James does, nor is a quarter of the playmaker James is.

Josh McRoberts has a niche and can shoot.

After that, Riley brought most of the same players back.

Chris Bosh is overpaid. We can all agree on that, although I defend him more than most because I think he completely changed his game to benefit the Heat. Do I think Bosh wants to bang on the blocks with bigger guys every night? Heck no. Do I think he can still be a No. 1 scorer on a good team? Yes, a good team, not a great one.

And that’s what Miami is now in the absence of LeBron. They’ll be good. They’ll make the playoffs and I see a little of the Boston Celtics when the Big Three was dying in this Heat incarnation. They’ll be the team no one really wants to face in the postseason with their experience and pedigree.

It all hinges on Dwyane Wade.

He missed 28 games during the regular season in 2013-14 and still didn’t look great in the postseason with all of that down time. Wade can’t miss that kind of time this go-around or Miami will sink. James isn’t there to bail the franchise out and, without any knowledge, I believe that wore on James. If I could inject James with truth serum, or Jagermeister, I think he’d say that not only playing every game, but having to carry the entire load, was enough.

Wade won’t play a full season, so if he misses 12-15 games, the Heat should be fine.

11. TORONTO RAPTORS

The Toronto Raptors are a very good team. They play defense, score in various ways and have a top three backcourt in the league with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. They have underrated parts like Amir Johnson and Lou Williams.

They are good and could advance in the postseason. Also, they have a lot of expiring contracts at their disposal, so they could be players at the deadline.

It’s a star league. DeRozan was an All-Star last season and is blossoming into a bona fide leader and star. Lowry should’ve made the All-Star team, but didn’t. He stayed on a reasonable contract, however, the old Lowry could have reverted back into a mild headache once he became happy.

Jonas Valanciunas is the biggest key to Toronto’s improvement. He can score on the low post and is a very underrated athlete and strong man. His defense will need to improve, but his career arc is trending upward. Valanciunas will become the third star and that’s a necessary component for serious success.

The Atlantic Division is the weakest in basketball. Toronto should cruise to a second consecutive title, but the Raptors need to guard against that feeling that the division will be their’s no matter what. They aren’t quite that good.

10. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Bradley Beal’s wrist injury hurts this team early. When healthy and complete, the Wizards could be really strong.

Beal made the claim he and Wall are the best backcourt in the league. It’s debatable and I for one don’t agree. Golden State and Toronto have a better claim, but this pair of guards are dynamic. Wall is the fastest player in the league and Beal might become the best shooter in the NBA.

The rest of the roster is built for the long haul.

Paul Pierce was a magnificent signing. He can still score, especially in crunch time and he can teach this group a thing or 12 about winning. That’s his main role.

Nene and Marcin Gortat are fantastic big men with swagger and skill. The bench has been bolstered with the signing of Kris Humphries (who is hurt) and the acquisition of DeJuan Blair. Couple those two with Martell Webster and Andre Miller and that’s a very solid bench.

Washington is going to have a very good season. Randy Wittman isn’t exactly John Wooden, but this roster is built for a season-long trek. It’s a very good team, but not one that’s better than the Cleveland Cavaliers or Chicago Bulls.

9. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

I admit, I can’t be objective about the Grizzlies. I love them.

I love Marc Gasol. He changes games defensively, is one of the two best passing big men in the sport and his basketball IQ is astronomical. To me, Gasol is the best center in the league when healthy. His game is complete.

I love Zach Randolph. He can score inside and out, rebounds ferociously and has come to grips, to an extent, with things he can’t control.

I love Mike Conley. He’s a top defensive point guard, good facilitator, improved long-range shooter, a wonderful gamer and emerging big-stage performer.

I love Vince Carter. He’s been robbed in NBA Sixth Man Award voting in recent seasons as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, but he can still score and shoot from deep.

I love Tony Allen. Who couldn’t love the best defensive wing player in the league?

I love Quincy Pondexter. He got hurt early last season right when he was on the precipice of breaking out a bit. He’s a shooter. Memphis needs them.

I semi-love Dave Joerger. His public dustup with the organization, then public flirting with the Minnesota Timberwolves job, was unnecessary, but he stayed. He won 50 games his first season with the Grizz and that came with Gasol missing a huge chunk of the schedule. In the Western Conference, that’s impressive.

It’s not all glorious in Memphis. Courtney Lee needs to prove he’s a starting shooting guard in the league and Tayshaun Prince is done. All in all, this is once again a strong group built on reliable means to win games.

8. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

This was a last-second audible. Originally, my crush, the Grizzlies were ahead of the Warriors. Talent is key and Golden State is loaded with talent.

Steph Curry is elite. He’s the league’s best shooter and his assist number rocketed up to 8.5 per game last season, a full 1.5 per game higher than his previous best season.

Klay Thompson is the key. The Warriors wouldn’t part with him in a prospective deal for Kevin Love. That’s high praise and it may bit them in the fanny. Love and Curry running pick and pops would be diabolical.

But Thompson, along with Denver’s Kenneth Faried, really emerged as pleasant surprises on the grand scale of this summer’s World Cup. Thompson was largely regarded as a shooter with decent playmaking skills. His defense is top-notch and that should be used by new head coach Steve Kerr.

He, too, is something of a wild card. Kerr has no previous head coaching experience. He did play significant periods of his career under Phil Jackson, who he jilted very publicly when he turned down his offer to coach the New York Knicks, and Gregg Popovich, who he probably didn’t jilt at all.

Kerr inherited a strong, but incomplete roster. The first five - Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and David Lee - is talented. Thompson, Iguodala and Bogut are great defenders and the Warriors were one of the league’s best defensive squads. Lee and Curry can score easily.

Depth is a little bit of an issue, but the Shaun Livingston signing was smart. He can provide much-needed relief at either backcourt spot. Livingston is tough and with Draymond Green (a top-five agitator in the league), Marreese Speights (a top-five chucker in the league) and Festus Ezeli, the group is not horrid.

The other big bench piece is Harrison Barnes. Former coach Mark Jackson dropped him from the starting lineup when the team signed Iguodala before last season. Kerr needs to keep Barnes engaged.

If Kerr is great immediately, the Warriors will be tough. They still seem to miss something come playoff time. It might be intensity or toughness, but Golden State is still loaded and its sneaky-good defense, assuming Kerr emphasizes it, should be enough to flirt with a top-four seed out west.

7. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

The Blazers seemingly came out of nowhere last season. They advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs and have two big-time studs, a great start for any team.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are both All-Stars. They’re also not afraid of the stage. A contending team can be built around this pair.

Wesley Matthews is very good. Niclas Batum might be better than very good and Robin Lopez is a serviceable big.

Problem for Portland is, this starting unit is excellent, but the bench stinks. Aldridge, Lillard and Batum finished in the top 20 in minutes played last season. The Blazers’ bench finished dead last in points per game and minutes per game.

Add here’s why Portland can’t be ranked any higher - the Blazers didn’t significantly improve the unit. Chris Kaman and Steve Blake are pros, but not enough of an upgrade to matter.

At some point, the Blazers’ second unit is going to kill them, or one of the starting five will collapse from exhaustion.

6. DALLAS MAVERICKS

This team had the best offseason short of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Acquiring Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons will help this team tremendously in different ways.

Chandler will be the defensive anchor, like he was on the Dallas title team of 2011. He still can protect the rim and run the defense from inside the lane.

Parsons will get a lot of looks from the perimeter. He was a underrated playmaker in Houston and he’ll get a chance to be great under a great coach like Rick Carlisle.

Dirk Nowitzki is still a stud. Last season, he averaged 21.7 points per game, and he’s indicated he was working on quickening his release, which is terrifying considering he’s a 7-footer who shoots the ball from so high up already.

Carlisle is a genius. He got so much more out of Monta Ellis last season than other coaches ever did. Can Carlisle get as much out of Jameer Nelson, who looked decent last season in Orlando? Tough call, but Raymond Felton is also with the Mavericks and Devin Harris can still play some point. He might be the one who’s out there in the fourth quarter.

Depth might be an issue for Dallas. Harris, Brandan Wright, Felton, Jae Crowder and Al-Farouq Aminu is not exactly the best second unit in the sport, but in Dirk and Rick we trust.

5. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Kevin Durant’s injury is potentially crippling in several ways.

Long story short, if the Thunder struggle badly in Durant’s absence, they could slip to sixth or seventh in the Western Conference. Yeah, the conference is that good.

That’s not to say OKC can’t win in that slot in the postseason, but it’ll be much harder.

I’m firmly in the camp that believes Oklahoma City will be in trouble without Durant. If you can get past the obvious nature of that statement, I’ll elaborate.

Russell Westbrook will be the primary scorer, a role he’ll have no qualms about embracing. He’s going to shoot the ball a lot. A whole lot. That’s going to be tough to get out of his system once Durant returns.

Once Durant does come back, OKC should be just fine. The Thunder will win a lot of games because Durant is just that good. He’s not as complete as James, but he’s the league’s best scorer and his overall game improved during his MVP campaign of last season.

The real problem for the Thunder this season might be that they didn’t improve much from last season. Oklahoma City lost out on the Pau Gasol sweepstakes and their big move in the offseason was the signing of Anthony Morrow. He’s most likely the starting shooting guard because Sefolosha left for Atlanta.

Reggie Jackson is still going to be the primary two when a game matters, but Kendrick Perkins is on the decline. He’s still the starting center. Andre Roberson, Perry Jones or Lance Thomas will replace Durant in the starting lineup.

The Thunder weren’t good enough last season and didn’t improve. Durant’s injury makes them slightly worse this season.

4. CHICAGO BULLS

A healthy Derrick Rose makes the Bulls a title contender. The Derrick Rose of the last two seasons makes the Bulls the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

He looks good on the court. If that is the case, the Bulls are going to be tough every night. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is the best defensive mind in the sport, so you’re always going to get a tough draw against Chicago.

There’s a reason why I like the Bulls more this season, again, assuming Rose is healthy. They improved.

The Bulls were a mess offensively, especially late in games. Rose will help that, but Chicago also desperately needed more skill on that side of the court and, if a shooter came along, that would be great.

Enter Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

Gasol will replace Carlos Boozer and that’s a win for the Bulls. Gasol may be oldish, but he put up some decent numbers last season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Plus, he’s probably over the moon to not have to deal with D’Antoni’s system which did not maximize his talents a little bit.

McDermott was acquired in a draft-night trade. He has incredible range. Will he play a lot in the rotation? That remains to be seen, but I hope he does. Great shooters should have a role no matter how bad he is defensively.

Mirotic came from overseas and is a highly skilled big man with handle. Again, does Thibs trust him out of the gate? Hopefully, because if both these men play, the Bulls are legit 10 deep.

Joakim Noah is one of the best defensive players in the league, an incredibly gifted passer and the possessor of the worst-looking jump shot outside my two- year-old.

The Bulls have the correct mix for a championship run. Again, if Rose stays healthy.

3. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

The Clippers have to be excited about this upcoming season. Not only are they loaded, they don’t have the burden of the Donald Sterling nonsense to deal with DURING THE PLAYOFFS, like last season.

Steve Ballmer is the owner and he’d get me excited to eat sushi. The team loves him and, most of all, the fan base is going to love him. They’re also going to love this team, but the roster is packed to the gills with talent.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are MVP candidates in a LeBron-less world. They might cancel each other out in voting, but both are deserving.

Paul is the best point guard in the world, an underrated defensive force and angry about how the postseason ended (his mistake).

Griffin is a freak tornado that comes through town. He’s improved his range, which was long my problem with his game, and vows to handle things better when other teams push him around to get a rise out of him.

The other biggest problem the Clippers faced last season was a lack of depth behind Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who is in a contract year. Spencer Hawes was signed and he’s going to be really effective. He’s a great passer and shooter for a big man and he’ll back up both players and see a lot of playing time.

Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis, Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Jordan Farmar round out the roster. They’re a little thin at small forward, but Crawford will play at the end of games.

Doc Rivers is a top-two coach in the league and now that everything is good in Clipper-ville, this team has a very real chance of winning the NBA title.

2. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

LeBron James decided to put the city of Cleveland on his shoulders. He indicated it would take longer than in Miami to win a title, but that was before Kevin Love came to town.

James, Love and Kyrie Irving make the best trio in the league. Defending this team will be a nightmare. Any combination of the three in a pick-and-pop scenario will be impossible to stop.

Imagine Love throwing those amazing outlet passes to a streaking LeBron. Oof.

The Cavs aren’t perfect. Love and Irving have never been in the spotlight, nor have they ever been in the playoffs. Those are both reasonable concerns. Thank goodness LeBron is there to lead them.

Also, depth is an issue in Cleveland. Anderson Varejao is the starting center, but hasn’t played near a full season since 2009-10. Dion Waiters has been a combustible element for his whole career. Mike Miller is so-so.

I loved the Shawn Marion signing and maybe he could play in a small lineup with Love and James.

There’s also the fact that David Blatt has never been a head coach in the NBA. His first gig is with the traveling circus and expectations are staggering in Cleveland.

But the Cavs have earned the preseason adulation. They are extremely potent on offense. They will have issues on defense because James, Marion and maybe Tristan Thompson are good defensively.

It all won’t matter since James is so clearly at the top of his game. No matter what team he signed with would have become a contender, except for Philadelphia. The team bolstered the roster with the Love trade and should be the best team in the East.

For a team with so many mild question marks, having James as the leader means the world. He makes everything better. He’s handled everything in his career, from mild adversity, inexperienced head coach and suffocating expectations.

1. SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Take the defending champions, who embarrassed the Big Three in stunning fashion, add very little, take away nothing, and you have the best team in the sport.

The Spurs’ biggest summer move was Tim Duncan staying active. Tony Parker signed a contract extension. Manu Ginobili skipped the World Cup to heal a stress fracture in his leg.

Kawhi Leonard is fresh off a Finals MVP and ready for a max deal. Boris Diaw, the revelation of the Finals with his passing skills, re-upped.

The only bad thing is that Patty Mills, the electrifying guard off the bench, will miss a few months with a shoulder injury. Other than that, nothing hideous happened to the defending champs.

Admittedly, motivation might be hard for a group that won five titles in 16 years. The spark for last season’s title came from the heart-wrenching loss in the previous Finals.

The motivation comes from Gregg Popovich - the master and commander.

Pop is the best in the world. He’s the best professional coach in sports. He tweaked the starting lineup in the Finals and pummeled the Heat. He gave Leonard a pep talk and he won MVP. If motivating this self-starting group was ever to be an issue, Pop would make sure it wasn’t.

When you don’t mess with greatness, you stay great. The Spurs are greatness.  ~~  Jim Brighters ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Rounding Third: Royals follow familiar script to even series

The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants are in the World Series because of their bullpens.

In Game 2 on Wednesday one of those units delivered, the other did not and now the best-of-seven set will head to the Bay Area tied at a game apiece.

Kansas City’s bullpen was once again phenomenal, while San Francisco’s relief corps imploded, as the Royals scored five times in a wild sixth inning en route to a 7-2 win.

Ladies and gentlemen ... we have a series.

The Royals’ historic triumvirate of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland came into this matchup having pitched to a 0.61 ERA this postseason. It was more of the same in Game 2 for the group some are saying might be the best of all-time.

They certainly looked the part on Wednesday, tossing 3 2/3 more masterful innings, recording six of the 11 outs via strikeout.

With the score tied at 2-2, Herrera came on in relief of young Yordano Ventura with one out and two on in the sixth. He quickly got out of the jam and had to work out of another one in the seventh, as he walked a pair of batters. But Davis struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth and Holland closed it out by striking out three in the ninth.

As good as Kansas City’s bullpen was, San Francisco’s was just as bad, particularly flamethrower Hunter Strickland, who served up a postseason record-tying fifth home run. He then embarrassed himself even further by yelling at Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who had scored on Omar Infante’s two-run homer.

San Francisco tied a World Series record by using five pitchers in the sixth.

Statistically, the Giants’ pen entered the Series with better numbers than the Royals’ group. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, though, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d argue they were the better unit.

Maybe the bigger story was the fact that the Royals were able to find some offense after managing just five runs in their previous three games and looking absolutely lost against Madison Bumgarner in Game 1.

On Wednesday, though, they stuck to the script that got them here. They got timely hits, Lorenzo Cain was involved, they used their speed to their advantage, and, of course, hit a home run.

They even flashed a little leather.

It was the type of win we’ve become accustomed to this postseason from the Royals.

As much momentum as the Giants had after Bumgarner’s marvelous effort, you almost get the feeling that they might not win again until the next time he takes the hill.

By that time they could be facing elimination.

STARTERS STRUGGLE

The bullpens played such a big role in Game 2 because neither starter was able to get out of the sixth inning.

Ventura gave up a leadoff home run to Gregor Blanco, but settled down until that sixth frame. He came into the series with questions surrounding his shoulder, but he hit 100 mph on the radar gun in the first inning.

Something worth noting going forward, the 23-year-old rookie has now thrown over 200 innings this season.

As for San Francisco starter Jake Peavy, well, he looked as if he wouldn’t last two innings, but the former NL Cy Young winner managed to gut his way through five-plus innings and was charged with four runs and six hits

Peavy’s numbers in eight postseason starts: 29 ER, 47 hits, 37 innings, 7.05 ERA.

You have to wonder if he gets another shot in this series.

GAME 2 WINNERS

This marks the 57th time that the Fall Classic has been knotted at one game apiece.

Of the previous 56 times it has happened, the winner of Game 2 has gone on to capture the Series on 29 occasions. However, that has been the case on just two of nine occasions since 1993, those being Anaheim in 2002 and the New York Yankees in 2009. The 1993 Phillies, 1997 Indians, 2003 Yankees, 2006 Tigers, 2008 Rays, 2011 Rangers and 2013 Cardinals all won Game 2 to square the Fall Classic but went on to lose the Series.

The team winning Game 3 in a 1-1 series, though, has gone on to win the title in four of the last five and 11 of the last 13 instances.

PANDA CONTINUES TO ADD TO POSTSEASON LEGACY

With his double in the fourth inning, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval has now reached base safely in a franchise-record 25 consecutive playoff games dating back to Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS.

The only players with longer postseason on-base streaks are Miguel Cabrera (31) and Chase Utley (27).



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Diagnosing the need for a blockbuster trade

To decide whether or not to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade might be one of the hardest decisions in fantasy football.

As great as some waiver wire acquisitions are, they often only help keep the status quo. Making a splash with the right trade will give many teams that missing championship piece.

Before even thinking about trades, owners have to do heavy analysis of their team. There are four major ways I evaluate my teams: overall record, points scored, the median score, and position-by-position.

No explanation is needed for the importance of record, but it often does not tell the whole story.

Points is probably the best indication of how well a team is really performing. Even if a team is sitting at 4-3 or 3-4 going into Week 8, there is no need to worry if that team is ranked in the top half of the league in scoring. As long as the team can maintain that pace for points scored, the record should begin to reflect the points.

Points, though, also does not tell the whole story. Some teams may be 5-2, have the second most points scored, thus giving that team also the second best mean average. But perhaps two monster point totals the first two weeks of the season is keeping that average high.

That’s why the median score is also important. The median average, or three middle scores out of seven, will give owners an even better idea of their team’s expected production every week.

But when it comes down to it, when diagnosing trades, an owner has to go with his gut. Even though there are no locker rooms in fantasy football, an owner needs to have the pulse of his team and react on instinct.

My instinct told me my 4-3 team, even ranked second in points and not far behind in median score, needed a lift.

I have a plethora of running back depth with Le’Veon Bell, Andre Ellington, Branden Oliver, Ben Tate, Joique Bell and Ronnie Hillman. Before you send compliments my way, it’s an eight-team league. Philip Rivers has been my everyday quarterback, but with Tony Romo joining the squad this week, I expect to run the classic Jim Leyland platoon at quarterback.

Demaryius Thomas, Kelvin Benjamin, Michael Floyd, Keenan Allen, and Kendall Wright are my wideouts. Dwayne Allen is my replacement at tight end until Jimmy Graham is healthy again.

The depth of this team is its strength, but my instincts told me it needed something to put it over the top. Trading for Arian Foster took me to the summit in 2010, and acquiring Antonio Brown did the same last season. Sitting at 4-3 but with the second most points scored, I felt like my team needed a jolt.

Dez Bryant is the type of player that will give your team a jolt.

I had to give up some depth in Oliver and Floyd, and normally I like to wait a few more weeks to make sure my team is not hit with the injury bug before shedding depth. Running Thomas and Bryant out on the fantasy field as my two wide receivers, however, was too tough to pass up.

There is one other form of evaluation I mentioned above: position-by-position. WR2 has been the weakness position on my team.

Bryant averages 11.9 points per game and has an even higher median. My WR2 in seven games, a combination of Cordarrelle Patterson, who has since been dropped, Allen, and Benjamin, averaged 5.01 points. Bryant’s lowest score of the year is higher than that.

Two of my three losses this season were by eight or fewer points. Bryant would have likely won me those games.

As great as the Chargers offense has been, the move also allows my team to not be so San Diego centric. It is hard for me to part ways with Oliver. He has averaged 18.8 points in the last three games, which is excellent production for a FLEX, but he is not going to win me a championship.

Ryan Mathews plans to return Week 11, so Oliver may see a reduction in carries. Even if Oliver maintains his production, our league’s playoffs are Weeks 15 and 16. San Diego takes on Denver and San Francisco those Sundays. With a championship on the line, I want no part of those running defenses.

As for Floyd, he is a viable WR2 option even in a eight-team league, but with his quarterback issues this year, he hasn’t been able to crack my starting lineup. Meanwhile, Bryant gives me the best wide receiver tandem in the league.

Final analysis, Bryant is a huge upgrade at WR2 while Bell and Tate should fill in sufficiently at the FLEX and provide enough depth in case of injury. With a championship or bust mind set, it is the best move.

After careful evaluation of the statistics and pulse of my team, my football intellect and gut told me to go for the big splash trade.


►  Week 8 player fantasy rankings - quarterbacks

It doesn’t take a lot of inside information or studying to select Peyton Manning as your top quarterback most weekends.

It’s even easier when he’s playing as well as he has been over the past year and a half. Add in that his opponent, San Diego, is likely missing two pieces of their secondary (Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett) and you can’t select anyone other than Manning as the top choice in Week 8.

Manning and his Broncos will start the week off on Thursday night hosting the Chargers.

The Green Bay Packers will face off in New Orleans on Sunday for a battle between two elite quarterbacks and fantasy owners need to be involved in this one.

Smart fantasy owners will have one of the two quarterbacks in their lineup, or failing that, a top receiver as this game figures to light up the scoreboard (O/U is 56) and fill up the box score.

Aaron Rodgers has thrown 17 touchdown passes in his last six games without a single interception. He’s thrown for at least three scores in his last four contests. The only thing fantasy owners can complain about is that Rodgers has earned the 300-yard passing bonus just two times this season. He’s our No. 2 choice in Week 8.

On the other sideline from Rodgers will be Drew Brees, who has thrown for 340 yards or more in three consecutive games. He’s also thrown two touchdowns passes in five straight games. In five career games versus the Packers, Brees is averaging 380.8 ypg with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’ll come in at No. 4.

Andrew Luck has been the best fantasy quarterback in the league over the first seven weeks, cracking the 300-yard mark in six of seven games. With the Pittsburgh Steelers defense not up to it’s usual standards and a short work week off the Monday night game in Week 7, Luck should continue to roll.

This might not be the week to start Jay Cutler. The Bears locker room doesn’t appear to be a happy place after a Brandon Marshall blowup following a 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 7. Rumors have angry words between Marshall and his favorite quarterback. Marshall will in all likelihood be lined up against Darrelle Revis and after his tongue lashing, Cutler figures to try harder than usual to get him the ball. Challenging Revis is rarely a good idea. That’s why Cutler is ranked all the way down at No. 13 this weekend.

Top-25 Quarterback Rankings

—————————————-

1) Peyton Manning, Denver

2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

3) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

4) Drew Brees, New Orleans

5) Tom Brady, New England

6) Tony Romo, Dallas

7) Russell Wilson, Seattle

8) Nick Foles, Philadelphia

9) Philip Rivers, San Diego

10) Joe Flacco, Baltimore

11) Matt Ryan, Atlanta

12) Matt Stafford, Detroit

13) Jay Cutler, Chicago

14) Cam Newton, Carolina

15) Ryan Tannehill, Miami

16) Carson Palmer, Arizona

17) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

18) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

19) Brian Hoyer, Cleveland

20) Alex Smith, Kansas City

21) Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay

22) Colt McCoy, Washington

23) Derek Carr, Oakland

24) Austin Davis, St. Louis

25) Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota


►  Week 8 player fantasy rankings - wide receivers

Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is the hottest player in fantasy football. Not the hottest receiver. The hottest of anyone, anywhere, including his well-publicized, record-setting quarterback.

Thomas has put together three monster games in a row, beginning with a 226- yard, two-touchdown performance against Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals. He then caught 10 balls for 124 yards and a score in New York against the Jets. Finally, last Sunday night he toasted the 49ers secondary for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

That’s a total of 521 yards and five touchdown in three games worth 105.1 fantasy points (35 ppg).

He’ll be facing a San Diego secondary minus two pieces, Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett and on a short work week, which makes them particularly vulnerable to a Peyton Manning air assault.

Green Bay’s top receiver this season is Jordy Nelson and the Packers’ receiver should put up big number down in New Orleans Sunday night. His quarterback, Aaron Rodgers has been spectacular of late with four consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes. Nelson has caught at least one of those scores and cracked the 100-yard mark in every “even-numbered week.“ In what should be the highest scoring game of Week 8, Nelson should be it’s top receiver.

What can’t Antonio Brown do. So far this season he’s proven to the best fantasy receiver, he’s also a top punt returner and last Monday night he threw a touchdown pass to Lance Moore. Sunday his Steelers with have to put up a big point total if they want to stay with the Indianapolis Colts and their fantasy star Andrew Luck.

The Week 8 ranking does not include Calvin Johnson, who is in London with his Detroit Lions teammates, but still questionable and likely a game-time decision. At least the good news is that you will know whether he is playing or sitting before any other Sunday game due to the 9:30 AM ET start and can adjust your lineup accordingly. As of Thursday, we do not expect him to start as Detroit (5-2 and leading the NFC North) has a bye in Week 9 and can afford to wait until he is completely healed when the Lions return to the field for a Week 10 matchup against Miami.

With Johnson expected to sit again, Golden Tate will continue to be a top-10 fantasy wideout. He has posted three 100-yard plus receiving totals in the last four games.

Two guys who were expected to produce in a big way in 2014, Keenan Allen and Percy Harvin, continue their downward slide.

Allen was a pleasant surprise last season as a rookie, posting 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, defenses have adapted to him by using press coverage and he’s struggled over the first seven games. He probably won’t come out of it Thursday either, as the Broncos huge pass rush is likely to force Philip Rivers into a short-passing game.

The Jets’ newly-acquired Harvin will play his first game for his third team in two seasons. He has as much talent as anyone, but hasn’t been able to turn that into points for fantasy owners on a consistent basis. Given the short time to learn the Jets offense, he’ll likely be limited to just a few plays this weekend. You will find Harvin at No. 44 for Week 8.

Top-50 Wide Receiver Rankings

——————————————-

1) Demaryius Thomas, Denver

2) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

3) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

4) Julio Jones, Atlanta

5) Brandon Marshall, Chicago

6) Dez Bryant, Dallas

7) Randall Cobb, Green Bay

8) T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

9) Golden Tate, Detroit

10) A.J.Green, Cincinnati

11) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia

12) Mike Wallace, Miami

13) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

14) Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore

15) Emmanuel Sanders, Denver

16) Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

17) Michael Floyd, Arizona

18) Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

19) Doug Baldwin, Seattle

20) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

21) Pierre Garcon, Washington

22) Julian Edelman, New England

23) Andre Johnson, Houston

24) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

25) Terrance Williams, Dallas

26) DeSean Jackson, Washington

27) Roddy White, Atlanta

28) Wes Welker, Denver

29) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

30) Marques Colston, New Orleans

31) Keenan Allen, San Diego

32) Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati

33) Eric Decker, New York Jets

34) Malcolm Floyd, San Diego

35) Kendall Wright, Tennessee

36) Brandin Cooks, New Orleans

37) Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland

38) Andre Holmes, Oakland

39) Torrey Smith, Baltimore

40) Brian Quick, St. Louis

41) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay

42) Davante Adams, Green Bay

43) Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville

44) Percy Harvin, New York Jets

45) Justin Hunter, Tennessee

46) Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota

47) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City

48) James Jones, Oakland

49) Eddie Royal, San Diego

50) Miles Austin, Cleveland


►  Week 8 player fantasy rankings - running backs

It really is not a tough decision in deciding who our No. 1 running back for Week 8 is, yet again.

After rushing for at least 100 yards in each game, through the first seven weeks of the NFL season, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray finds himself not only in the league MVP chatter, but also atop our running back rankings.

Owners do need to be aware that Dallas’ opponent, the Washington Redskins are fifth best in points against running backs (12.68 fantasy points per game), according to Yahoo. However, with the way the Cowboys’ offensive line is playing, we have confidence that Murray will be able to put up another big total.

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte continues to be as steady as they come, and as a result, he comes in as our second-ranked tailback of the week. Believe it or not, Forte has rushed for over 100 yards just once this season, yet he still has compiled the second-most fantasy points amongst halfbacks, with 116.4, behind only Murray.

The reason why Forte is able to produce at such a high level is because he excels in the passing game, having compiled 52 receptions for 436 yards and two scores. That ranks 21st in the NFL in receiving yards, among all players, while no other running back is in the top-45.

Boy, oh boy, do we love Marshawn Lynch heading into Week 8. He has a juicy matchup against the Carolina Panthers, who give up the second-most fantasy points to running backs (24 points per game), and with the Seahawks on a two- game losing streak, we feel it is time for the team to get back to what has made them so successful over the past few years. That’s pounding the ball on the ground with Lynch. He has not rushed for a 100 yards since Week 1, and owners should expect that trend to come to an end this week in Carolina.

There are a few high-risk, high-reward players ranked in the area from No 10 through No. 20 in our rankings this week.

The first guy to take note of is Denver running back Ronnie Hillman. He has started the past two games for the Broncos, and has produced admirably, with a total of 174 rushing yards and two touchdowns. To go along with his success on the ground, Hillman has also contributed in the passing game, catching seven balls for 45 yards, during that span. As long as he is able to hang onto the football, he’s had fumbling problems in the past, we feel that Hillman will continue to climb up the chart, while Montee Ball is sidelined. And even when Ball returns, we are not convinced that he will regain the starting job. As a result, owners should continue to start Hillman with confidence.

The New England Patriots continue to frustrate fantasy owners. Coming into Week 7, almost everybody felt that Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen would be the benefactors of the unfortunate injury to Stevan Ridley.

While Vereen produced his best game of the season with 23.4 fantasy points, Bolden barely even saw the field. Rookie Jonas Gray took on the role that Bolden was expected the receive, but nevertheless the Patriots’ backfield continues to be a mystery, as Gray still only saw three total carries. So, even after a breakout performance by Vereen, and while we feel he will continue to put up numbers for the duration of the season, we cannot put him in our top-15 until we see more of what New England’s plan of attack is. Coach Bill Belichick is as unpredictable as they come, making it necessary for owners to keep one eye on New England’s rushing strategy every Sunday.

Top-50 Running Back Rankings

——————————————

1) DeMarco Murray, Dallas

2) Matt Forte, Chicago

3) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

4) Arian Foster, Houston

5) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

6) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

7) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

8) Andre Ellington, Arizona

9) Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

10) Ben Tate, Cleveland

11) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

12) Lamar Miller, Miami

13) Branden Oliver, San Diego

14) Ronnie Hillman, Denver

15) Alfred Morris, Washington

16) Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota

17) Shane Vereen, New England

18) Justin Forsett, Baltimore

19) Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis

20) Joique Bell, Detroit

21) Denard Robinson, Jacksonville

22) Reggie Bush, Detroit

23) Trent Richardson, Indianapolis

24) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

25) Darren McFadden, Oakland

26) Chris Ivory, New York Jets

27) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee

28) Mark Ingram, New Orleans

29) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

30) Bryce Brown, Buffalo

31) Khiry Robinson, New Orleans

32) Tre Mason, St. Louis

33) Jonas Gray, New England

34) Antone Smith, Atlanta

35) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

36) Steven Jackson, Atlanta

37) Anthony Dixon, Buffalo

38) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

39) Benny Cunningham, St. Louis

40) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

41) Chris Johnson, New York Jets

42) Bernard Pierce, Baltimore

43) Zac Stacy, St. Louis

44) James Starks, Green Bay

45) LeGarrette Blount, Pittsburgh

46) Matt Asiata, Minnesota

47) Storm Johnson, Jacksonville

48) Alfred Blue, Houston

49) Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay

50) Darrin Reaves, Carolina


►  Week 8 player fantasy rankings - tight ends

It is hard not to like any member of the Denver Broncos’ offense, and the guy who starts at tight end for this team, is no exception.

Julius Thomas comes in as our top-ranked tight end, which should come as no surprise, since he leads the NFL with nine touchdown receptions. He is clearly one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone, and with how dynamic the offense really is, Thomas continues to see favorable matchups throughout each game. Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers should be no different, as we expect Thomas to find the end zone at least one more time.

Greg Olsen has quietly put together an impressive season, thus far, and according to Yahoo, he is second in fantasy points among tight ends, with 79.3 points, trailing only Thomas (84.4). He leads all tight ends with 493 receiving yards on 41 receptions (tied with Martellus Bennett), and combined with scoring five touchdowns, Olsen is an easy choice for us to rank in our top-two. With Carolina facing off against Seattle at home, Olsen has an enticing matchup, as the Seahawks have given up the third most fantasy points, to opposing tight ends, allowing 12.68 points per game. Owners have no reason to keep Olsen out of their lineups, not only for Week 8, but also for the rest of the season.

One of the only sure things on the New England Patriots’ offense, is Rob Gronkowski. While he is not on pace for a 20-touchdown season, Gronkowski has been solid in 2014. He is fifth among tight ends with 64.9 fantasy points, and is fourth in receiving yards (409). Owners would like to see Gronk’s touchdown total go up, as he has only four. However, we feel that those numbers could be coming at any moment because he seems to be fully healthy, and with Tom Brady finding his groove, New England’s quarterback trusts nobody more in the red zone, than Gronkowski.

One player that is trending down is Titans’ tight end Delanie Walker. He has not scored a touchdown since Week 4, and has also failed to produce more than 5.7 fantasy points in a game since that week as well. With the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position in Tennessee, all of the playmakers have been clearly affected, and Walker is simply part of the crew. The Titans face off against the Houston Texans, who let up only 6.52 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and while we still have Walker ranked in our top-10, if owners have other options, it may be time to consider them.

A guy who could be a potential sleeper this week is Miami tight end Charles Clay. He is coming off his best game of the season, as he had four receptions for 58 yards and his first touchdown. While those numbers are nothing to write home about, Clay is coming off a 2013 season where he had a solid 69 catches for 759 yards and six scores. Those numbers prove Clay can produce in the NFL and with a plus matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who give up the fourth most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (12.12 points per game), we feel that Clay is clearly on the rise.

Top-25 Tight End Rankings

————————————-

1) Julius Thomas, Denver

2) Greg Olsen, Carolina

3) Rob Gronkowski, New England

4) Martellus Bennett, Chicago

5) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

6) Jordan Reed, Washington

7) Antonio Gates, San Diego

8) Jordan Cameron, Cleveland

9) Delanie Walker, Tennessee

10) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans

11) Jason Witten, Dallas

12) Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis

13) Owen Daniels, Baltimore

14) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh

15) Coby Fleener, Indianapolis

16) Charles Clay, Miami

17) Travis Kelce, Kansas City

18) Jared Cook, St. Louis

19) Clay Harbor, Jacksonville

20) Jace Amaro, New York Jets

21) Ben Watson, New Orleans

22) Andrew Quarless, Green Bay

23) Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati

24) Eric Ebron, Detroit

25) Tim Wright, New England


►  Week 8 player fantasy rankings - kickers

Round up all the usual suspects at place-kicker for Week 8.

Stephen Gostkowski, Dan Bailey, Adam Vinatieri, Caleb Sturgis and Blair Walsh all face teams that rank in the top 10 most fantasy points allowed to kickers. Each one should have big weeks.

Cody Parkey, Chandler Catanzaro and Justin Tucker also find themselves in the top 10 this week due to recent hot streaks. Parkey had a bye last week, but had back-to-back double-digit fantasy totals in Weeks 5 and 6.

Tucker has posted at least nine fantasy points the last three weeks and Catanzaro, the Cardinals rookie, has not scored lower than seven fantasy points in any game this season.

Catanzaro is 15-for-15 kicking field goals with a long of 51 yards to start his career.

Nick Folk lands just outside the top 10 for Week 8 only because of his team. The New York Jets offense averages just 17.3 points per game, which is tied for fifth lowest in the league.

If there are owners that believe Folk can continue to have fantasy success, like he did in New England, despite the Jets offense, Folk is definitely a top-10 kicker. We, however, do not have faith in Geno Smith.

Folk was 4-for-5 with an extra point against the Patriots in Week 7. His only miss was blocked on a 58-yard desperation try in the final seconds to win the game.

Brandon McManus, Nick Novak and Matt Bryant all average seven fantasy points per game, but they each have tough matchups this Sunday. It would be wise to stay away from them in standard 12-team leagues.

Top-25 Kicker Rankings

———————————

1) Stephen Gostkowski, New England

2) Dan Bailey, Dallas

3) Cody Parkey, Philadelphia

4) Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis

5) Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona

6) Justin Tucker, Baltimore

7) Steven Hauschka, Seattle

8) Caleb Sturgis, Miami

9) Mason Crosby, Green Bay

10) Blair Walsh, Minnesota

11) Matt Prater, Detroit

12) Billy Cundiff, Cleveland

13) Nick Folk, New York Jets

14) Shayne Graham, New Orleans

15) Brandon McManus, Denver

16) Nick Novak, San Diego

17) Matt Bryant, Atlanta

18) Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis

19) Randy Bullock, Houston

20) Cairo Santos, Kansas City

21) Graham Gano, Carolina

22) Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh

23) Dan Carpenter, Buffalo

24) Robbie Gould, Chicago

25) Mike Nugent, Cincinnati


►  Week 8 player fantasy rankings - defense

The top defense for Week 8 is only owned in about half of all Yahoo leagues and that is after a 37 percent increase on Tuesday.

The Miami Dolphins will head up I-95 to visit Jacksonville on Sunday. Even in the Jaguars victory last week, Jacksonville allowed eight fantasy points against Cleveland. In the previous six games, all losses, Jacksonville allowed double-digit points.

Miami had double-digit points on the road versus the Bears last Sunday, so stick with the Dolphins another week.

Detroit has been the second-best fantasy defense this season. Keep in mind, the Lions are playing in London in an unprecedented 9:30 AM ET start, but that should not prevent Detroit from putting pressure on Matt Ryan. The Falcons will be starting an undrafted rookie center, a beat up left tackle, a veteran left guard coming off a back injury and a struggling right tackle.

Actual real-life Lions at The London Zoo do not have easier feeding times.

Seattle falls out of the top-10 even against the average Carolina offense due to the lack of big plays for the Seattle defense this season. The Seahawks have just five turnovers this season and are in the bottom 10 in fantasy points. They haven’t scored double-digit points since Week 1 and have two games with negative points.

The Buccaneers, Jets and Redskins defenses all have favorable matchups, but we would still rather start the Cardinals, Broncos and Chargers defenses in bad matchups. Don’t overanalyze the matchup, start the better defense.

Top-25 Defense/Special Teams Rankings

——————————————————-

1) Miami Dolphins

2) Detroit Lions

3) Houston Texans

4) Buffalo Bills

5) New England Patriots

6) Philadelphia Eagles

7) Indianapolis Colts

8) Dallas Cowboys

9) Kansas City Chiefs

10) Green Bay Packers

11) Cleveland Browns

12) Seattle Seahawks

13) Baltimore Ravens

14) Minnesota Vikings

15) Tennessee Titans

16) Arizona Cardinals

17) San Diego Chargers

18) Denver Broncos

19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

20) New York Jets

21) Washington Redskins

22) Jacksonville Jaguars

23) Cincinnati Bengals

24) Atlanta Falcons

25) Pittsburgh Steelers

The Gilmer Free Press


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24TH


WVSSAC Football
 
Class A
Gilmer County (3-4)  at   #5 Notre Dame (5-2)
Calhoun County (2-6)  at   Wirt County (0-7)
#5 Doddridge County (6-1)  at   #15 Valley - Wetzel (5-2)
#1 St. Marys (7-0)  at   South Harrison (4-3)
#8 Tyler Consolidated (5-2)  at   Magnolia (2-5)
Parkersburg Catholic (2-5)  at   #11 Williamstown (5-2)
 
Class AA
Webster County (2-5)  at   Braxton County (2-6)
Ritchie County (3-5)      BYE WEEK
Herbert Hoover (4-3   at   Roane County (3-4)
#9 Ravenswood (6-1)  at   Clay County (4-3)
#11 Robert C. Byrd (5-2)  at   North Marion (0-7)
#1 Bridgeport (7-1)      BYE WEEK
Sissonville (4-3)  at   #15 Liberty - Harrison (5-3)
Lincoln (2-6)  at   Grafton (3-4)
#6 Nicholas County (6-1)  at   Midland Trail - A (0-7)
Philip Barbour (1-7)      BYE WEEK
 
Class AAA
#12 Lewis County (6-2)  at   Elkins (3-4)
#13 Fairmont Sr. - AA (5-2)  at   #14 Buckhannon-Upshur (5-2)
#10 Parkersburg South (5-2)  at   Greenbrier East (4-4)


Major League Baseball - World Series
Kansas City at San Francisco, 8:07 PM - FOX


National Basketball Association - Preseason
New York at Toronto, 7:30 PM - MSG, TSN2
Minnesota at Chicago, 8:00 PM - CSN-Chicago
San Antonio at Houston, 8:00 PM - CSN-Houston, NBA TV
Miami at Memphis, 8:00 PM - SunSports
Sacramento at LA Lakers, 10:00 PM - Time Warner Cable
Portland at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, NBA TV


National Hockey League
Dallas at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest, MSG+, DSS
Tampa Bay at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - SunSports, TSN3, DSS
Vancouver at Colorado, 9:00 PM - SNET, Altitude, DSS
Carolina at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - SportSouth, SNET-West, DSS
Columbus at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - FS-Ohio, Prime Ticket, DSS


Canadian Football League
Montreal at Ottawa, 6:30 PM - TSN, RDS, ESPN3.com
Saskatchewan at Calgary, 9:30 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com


College Football
So Florida at Cincinnati, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Troy at South Alabama, 7:30 PM - ESPN U
BYU at Boise State, 9:00 PM - ESPN
Oregon at California, 10:00 PM - FS1


College Hockey
Michigan at Massachusetts-Lowell, 7:15 PM - NESN
Bemidji State at Minnesota, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network


Major League Soccer
Houston at Chicago, 8:00 PM - NBCSN


International Soccer
Fulham FC vs. Charlton Athletic FC, 2:40 PM - beIN Sport
CONCACAF Semifinal (Women’s), 7:30 PM - FS1


Golf
PGA - McGladrey Classic, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel
CHAMPIONS - AT&T Championship, 5:00 PM - Golf Channel
LPGA - Blue Bay LPGA, 11:30 PM - Golf Channel


Auto Racing
SPRINT CUP - Goody’s Headache Relief 500 practice, 12:00 PM - FS1
CAMPING WORLD - Kroger 200 practice, 1:30 PM - FS1
CAMPING WORLD - Kroger 200 practice, 3:00 PM - FS1
SPRINT CUP - Goody’s Headache Relief 500 qualifying, 4:30 PM - FS1

Sports News - 10.23.14

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Week 8 Football Preview


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23



West Virginia Wesleyan (3-4, 3-4) at West Liberty (4-3, 4-2), 7.00 
PM

Video | Live Stats


Last Year: West Virginia Wesleyan won 38-21

Notes: The Bobcats will travel to West Liberty to play under the lights at the West Family Stadium ... MEC home teams are 1-1 on Thursday night games this year ... last year’s game was tied 14-14 at the half, and WLU led 21-17 midway through the third quarter ... WVWC QB Jeremy Musselman threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s game ... the ‘Toppers did sack Musselman four times ... the Bobcats are second in the MEC in red zone scoring, while the Hilltoppers are second in the league in red zone defense ... both teams have losses to Concord and Shepherd this year ... WVWC is giving up 38.6 points per game, while WLU is averaging 42.5 in its last two outings.



SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25



Notre Dame (5-2, 5-1) at Glenville State (3-4, 3-4), 1.00  PM

Audio | Video | Live Stats


Last Year: Glenville State won, 20-16

Notes: Notre Dame College, coming off the program’s largest victory, travels to take on a resurgent Glenville State team ... NDC out-gained the Pioneers 350-191 in last year’s game ... GSC was +2 in turnovers last year ... the game features two of the top offensive players in the MEC in Notre Dame quarterback Ray Russ and Glenville State running back Rahmann Lee ... Russ leads the league in passing and Lee leads the conference in rushing ... the Falcons pulled off the upset against Shepherd last week without needing to run the ball, rushing for just 34 yards, but threw for 459 yards ... opponents threw for over 300 yards in four of Glenville State’s five games, but the Pioneers have held their last two opponents to under 200 yards passing.



UVa-Wise (0-7, 0-6) at West Virginia State (2-5, 1-5), 2.00  PM

Live Stats

Last Year
: UVa-Wise won 18-10

Notes: The Cavs used a safety and a defensive touchdown to get past WVSU last year ... UVa-Wise is looking for its first road MEC win, and WVSU is in search of its first conference victory at home ... points will be at a premium as the Yellow Jackets are averaging 14.9 points per game and UVa-Wise is registering 9.7 per game.



Charleston (5-2, 4-2) at #17/19 Concord (7-0, 6-0), 1.00  PM

Video | Live Stats

Last Year
: Concord won 9-3, in OT

Notes: Concord puts the league’s only unbeaten record on the line against Charleston ... the Mountain Lions stuffed the Golden Eagles at the goal line in overtime to preserve the victory ... CU attempted just three passes the entire game ... the Mountain Lions bring the nation’s top scoring offense against the league’s second-best scoring defense ... UC’s Marvin Elam has been held to under 100 yards rushing in each of the last three games ... Jermaine Kelly’s 167 yards passing last week were the most by a Golden Eagle this season.



Urbana (1-6, 1-6) at Fairmont State (2-4, 2-4), 2.00  PM

Audio | Video | Live Stats

Last Year
: Urbana won 41-5

Notes: The Urbana defense held Fairmont State without a touchdown in last year’s meeting ... D’Gary Wallace had 14 total tackles, including 3.5 TFL ... the two teams rank fifth and sixth in the MEC in total offense ... Urbana is third in the league in first downs, but last in turnover margin at -11 ... the Fighting Falcons have the league’s third-best passing attack at 274.5 ypg.

Team News & Notes





The Golden Eagles snapped their two-game losing streak last Thursday with a win over rival West Virginia State ... Torie Wagner is one of just three players to return two punts for touchdowns this season ... he also ranks 19th nationally in interceptions per game with 0.6 ... Jermaine Kelly’s 171 yards passing last week vs. WVSU were the most by a UC quarterback this season ... UC is second in the MEC in total defense allowing 332.4 yards per game ... RB Marvin Elam is averaging 56.7 yards per game in the last three.





Mountain Lions are ranked 17th by d2football.com and 19th by the AFCA ... it’s the third-straight week they’ve been ranked in both polls ... RB Calvinaugh Jones is the only player in the MEC to have 100 yards in every single game this season ... Jones needs just 126 to reach 1,000 for this year ... he is averaging 7.1 yards per carry ... CU leads the country in points per game with 51.9 ... the Mountain Lions have scored 40 points or more in all but one game this season ... Mike Carey and Derrick Johnson lead the team with four interceptions apiece ... nearly half of Ryan Stewart’s catches this year have been for touchdowns (10 of his 21 catches) ... QB Brian Novak has thrown for 500 more yards and 12 more touchdowns than he did a season ago.



FAIRMONT STATE  

The Fighting Falcons were idle last week ... QB Cooper Hibbs is just the seventh player in school history to throw for over 3,000 yards ... the sophomore also ranks seventh in school history ... RB Daniel Monroe ranks seventh in school history in career rushing yards with 2,329 ... WR Fabian Guerra has more receptions (43) than the four next closest players combined (40) ... the Falcons have just eight sacks in six games.



GLENVILLE STATE  

After an 0-3 start, the Pioneers have won three of their last four ... RB Rahmann Lee needs just 73 yards to go over 1,000 for the season ... he is also the team’s second-leading receiver with 28 catches for 347 yards ... he is ninth in the country in all-purpose yards per game with 183.29 ... he leads the league in scoring with 10.9 points per game ... Gary Henderson is tied for the MEC lead with 7.5 sacks ... GSC has 11 passing touchdowns in the red zone this year compared to six on the ground.



NOTRE DAME  

The Falcons became the first MEC team to register a win over a ranked opponent with its victory over No.8 Shepherd ... QB Ray Russ has thrown for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns in his last two games. ... he’s the first MEC quarterback to have back-to-back passing games of 400 yards or more ... Russ has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game this season and has 24 on the year ... he ranks fourth in the nation in that category ... WR Mitchel Shegos has over 100 yards receiving in each of his last four games and has a league-best five this season ... NDC is 0-2 in games it commits more turnovers than its opponent ... the Falcons have given up 607 yards on the ground in the last two games ... NDC leads the MEC in sacks with 26 in seven games—six more than the next closest team.



SHEPHERD  

The Rams are dropped to 19th in the AFCA poll and 20th in the D2Football.com poll ... last week’s loss was the first ever for Shepherd in the MEC ... SU rushed for 300 yards in the loss, but were -2 in turnovers ... the average scoring play for Notre Dame against the Rams defense was 46.4 yards ... Shepherd is the only team in the country to not throw an interception this season (164 pass attempts) ... the Rams still lead the country in first downs allowed, rushing defense and total defense ... RB Allen Cross’ 132 yards last week were a season-high ... DE Shaneil Jenkins is tied for the league lead with 7.5 sacks.



URBANA  

The Blue Knights are in the midst of a six-game losing streak ... UU is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry ... the team is fourth in the league in passing, though, averaging 273.1 yards per game ... Kelly Carter leads the league in kick return average with 29.0 yards per return ... D’Gary Wallace is averaging an MEC-best 10.4 tackles per game ... Kevin Chapple is second in the league with 1.71 tackles for a loss per game.



UVa-WISE  

LB Zack Blair continues to lead the league in tackles for a loss with 18 (2.57 per game) ... he has had three or more TFLs in each of the last three games ... RB Von Purvis had a season-high 70 yards rushing and a touchdown last week vs.Glenville State ... the Cavs have not managed more than 15 points in a game this season.



WEST LIBERTY  

The Hilltoppers have had an offensive resurgence with 83 points in its last two games ... WLU is +9 in turnover margin in the last two games, leading to a 32-0 advantage in points off of turnovers in those games ... QB Dakota Conwell has thrown for 484 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception in the last two games ... WLU is averaging 37.0 points in its four wins and 16.6 in its three losses ... S Alec Wood has forced three fumbles on the year ... he also leads the team with 6.0 tackles for a loss.



WEST VIRGINIA STATE  

WR Quinton Gray is fifth in the league with 4.57 catches per game ... the Yellow Jackets are fourth in the league in scoring defense at 28.1 points per game, and is giving up just 22.5 points in its last three games ... the Yellow Jackets have converted just 14-of-24 attempts in the red zone (58.3 percent) ... after 51 carries two weeks ago, Tevin Brown had just three carries last week vs. UC ... WVSU is out-scoring opponents 33-30 in the fourth quarter of games this year.



WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN  

After starting just 1-3, WVWC has won two of its last three games ... the Bobcats have been without starting QB Jeremy Musselman the last two games ... last week vs. Concord, WVWC had just 98 yards passing ... the Bobcats have had a lead in all seven games they’ve played this year ... WVWC is 3-0 in games it does not turn the ball over.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Trickett Named Co-Quarterback of the Week

West Virginia’s Clint Trickett and Notre Dame’s Everett Golson will share Davey O’Brien Quarterback of the Week honors for week eight of the college football season, the Davey O’Brien Foundation announced. It is the second time this season that Trickett has earned the award, while Golson is a first-time winner in 2014.


Trickett, who previously shared the honor on September 16, led the Mountaineers to a 41-27 victory over then top-5 ranked Baylor on Saturday. The senior was 23 of 35 for 322 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his scores came in the fourth quarter, turning a 27-27 tie into a two-touchdown win.


On the year, Trickett is 197-for-289 (68.2 percent) for 2,525 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. He ranks third in the nation in passing yards, sixth in total offense (352.7), 11th in completion percentage and 17th in passing efficiency (155.2).


Meanwhile, Golson threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns against No. 2 Florida State, nearly leading the Irish past the Seminoles on the road in the weekend’s premier matchup. The senior was 31-for-52 and also rushed for 33 yards.


Golson finds himself among the country’s leaders in several statistical categories. He is sixth in points responsible for (140), seventh in passing touchdowns (19), 14th in passing yards (1,996) and 16th in total offense (319.3).


All 128 FBS quarterbacks are eligible for the weekly honor, which is determined by a subset of the Davey O’Brien National Selection Committee. The final weekly award will be issued on October 27 prior to the paring down to 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award on November 03.


Week 8 Honorable Mention:

Mike Bercovici (Arizona State) – 23-for-33 for 245 yards and a TD in win over top-25 Stanford

Trevone Boykin (TCU) – 26-for-39 for 410 yards and 3 TDs in 42-9 rout of No. 15 Oklahoma State

Cody Kessler (USC) – School-record 7 TD passes on 19 of 26 throwing for 319 yards vs. Colorado

Marcus Mariota (Oregon) – 336 yards passing and 2 TDs (24-for-33) in victory over Washington

Blake Sims (Alabama) – 268 pass yards, 3 TDs and 54 rush yards, 1 TD in 59-0 blanking of No. 21 Texas A&M

Jake Waters (Kansas State) – 3 total TDs (1 rush) and 278 yards (51 rush) in road win at No. 11 Oklahoma

Marquise Williams (North Carolina) – School-record 38 completions (390 yards, 4 TDs) & 73 rush yards (1 TD)

Jameis Winston (Florida State) – 23-for-31 for 273 yards and 2 scores in win over No. 5 Notre Dame


2014 Week-by-Week Winners:
September 09 – Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
September 16 – Shane Carden (East Carolina) & Clint Trickett (West Virginia)
September 23 – Dak Prescott (Mississippi State)
September 30 – Deshaun Watson (Clemson)
October 07 – Dak Prescott (Mississippi State)
October 14 – Bryce Petty (Baylor)
October 21 – Everett Golson (Notre Dame) & Clint Trickett (West Virginia)


About the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award® & Fan Vote

The Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award is presented annually to the nation’s best college quarterback and is the oldest and most prestigious national quarterback award. The Davey O’Brien Award honors candidates who exemplify Davey O’Brien’s enduring character while exhibiting teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership in both academics and athletics. The award is overseen by the Davey O’Brien Foundation, which is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, and has given away more than $900,000 in scholarships and university grants to help high school and college athletes transform leadership on the field into leadership in life. For more information, visit www.DaveyOBrien.org.


Fans are invited to cast their vote for the nation’s best college quarterback as often as once daily at www.VoteOBrien.org. The Fan Vote counts as five percent during each round of the voting process, and is combined with the results from the Davey O’Brien National Selection Committee, which is comprised of journalists, broadcasters, commentators and former winners. The 2014 Davey O’Brien winner will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards airing December 11 on ESPN, and will be honored at the 38th Annual Davey O’Brien Awards Dinner on February 16, 2015, in Fort Worth.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Dad’s heart attack flipped Trickett’s postgame emotions

The euphoria from West Virginia’s victory over Baylor was minutes old Saturday afternoon when Clint Trickett’s mom revealed the news she had been suppressing all day.

“That first time you hear that your dad had a heart attack, you’re like ‘What?’” Trickett said. “That’s tough.”

Rick Trickett, the former WVU offensive line coach now in his eighth season at Florida State, was admitted to a Tallahassee hospital Saturday morning. Because his condition quickly stabilized, the family decided to let Clint play with a clear head in what turned out to be the Mountaineers’ first win over a top-five team in 11 seasons.

The senior quarterback, already weakened and dehydrated by a 24-hour pregame illness, played much of the second half with a swollen right hand after hitting a blitzer’s face mask on a follow-through. Trickett still passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-27 upset that springboarded West Virginia into contention for the Big 12 title.

He wasn’t sure how the game would have transpired had he known of his dad’s situation.

“When you first hear it, it’s an emotional event,” Trickett said. “It opens your eyes. That’s the first time I’ve had that happen with a parent.”

Trickett bypassed postgame interviews to call his dad, who sounded most disappointed about having to miss Florida State’s prime-time game against Notre Dame.

“When he was upset about not coaching, I was like, ‘Just retire. Come watch me play in Canada next year,’” Trickett said. “I love my dad. I want him to live forever.”

The scare made Trickett even more grateful for the three seasons he spent at FSU. Despite appearing in only a handful of games, the quarterback appreciated the chance to share memories and bond with his father, whose demanding schedule rarely allowed him to see Trickett play in high school.

“I wouldn’t trade that time for anything,” Clint said.

Late Saturday night, as the Seminoles staved off Notre Dame in one of the season’s most controversial finishes, Rick Trickett reportedly gave his heart quite a test by watching, yelling and cheering from his hospital room. On Sunday, he was released.

“Back to his old normal self,” said Clint, who returned to his life as a student-athlete amid an outpouring of get-well wishers. “I’ve received so much support from everyone—teammates, coaches, fans, even fake Twitters of me.”

Notre Dame penalty? As a former FSU player, Clint Trickett saluted the offensive pass interference flag that cost Notre Dame the upset. As a quarterback, he was less enthused.

“That call never gets made, but (Notre Dame’s inside receiver) tackled the guy, so you have to call it,” Trickett said.

“If just keeps his feet moving and doesn’t put his hands on him, it’s a touchdown and the end of the game. But the guy went in there and sumo wrestled him.”    ~~ Alan Taylor ~~


►  Wellman among dozens cited in riots

West Virginia University fullback Elijah Wellman was among the more than 24 people cited in connection with Saturday’s late-night riots that followed the Mountaineers’ upset of Baylor, according to Morgantown police.

A redshirt freshman from Huntington, the 20-year-old Wellman received a citation for disorderly conduct.

Morgantown police said West Virginia fullback Elijah Wellman (28) was among the people cited during Saturday’s late-night riots.

In addition to those cited, eight people were arrested after crowds set more than 30 fires across the the city, pushed down lightposts on High Street and hurled rocks, beer bottles and other objects at public safety personnel and their vehicles. Police said several construction sites were breached after the crowds destroyed fencing.

The arrest list could get longer.

On Wednesday morning, Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston said 20 others had been identified through social media posts and tips from the public as possibly being involved in criminal activities.

“We’re not just going to charge somebody just because somebody said it happened. We’ve still got to be able to prove it,” Preston said. “That’s the process that we’re going through right now is being able to prove those charges.”

Those arrested during the fracas:
• Sean Flynn, 18: Underage Consumption, Littering, Throwing Missiles and Assault on a Police Officer
• David Levendakes, 21: Malicious Burning, Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication
• Dylan Delury, 19: Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication
• Dustin Johnson, 21: Destruction of Property, Possession of Marijuana and Obstructing/Fleeing
• Casey Knox, 26: Public Intoxication, Disorderly Conduct and Obstructing
• Jae Parks, 20: Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer (Deputy), Obstructing, Underage Consumption, Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication
• Peter Davey, 19: Obstructing, Underage Possession/Consumption, Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication
• Jason Thomas, 18: Underage Consumption, Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct

In a statement Tuesday, WVU president Gordon Gee said administrators were examining arrest records, surveillance videos and social media posts to identify students involved.

“For those identified as participating in criminal activities, we will take swift and immediate disciplinary action—and for many, that will result in expulsion from this institution,” Gee said.

Citations were issued to the following people among others:
• Alexander Gamm, 18: Malicious Burning
• Thomas Stankevicz, 18: Underage Consumption
• Brian Quinn, 18: Possession of a Controlled Substance
• Robin Markonsky, 20: Underage Consumption
• Daniel Kennedy, 20: Underage Consumption
• Caroline Foreback, 18: Underage Consumption
• Brigid Suckel, 20: Underage Consumption and Possession of a False Identification
• Carly Kane, 19: Underage Consumption
• Chirara Pulice, 19: Underage Consumption
• Elijah Wellman, 20: Disorderly Conduct

West Virginia University officials confirmed Wednesday that 14 of the 18 people the Morgantown Police Department have identified for arrests or citations are WVU students.

According to emergency records, some 114 emergency 911 calls were reported at the Monongalia County emergency management agency along with 135 non-emergency calls and 126 incidents requiring public safety responses.

The list of damages included three Morgantown police cruisers, two Morgantown fire marshal vehicles and one fire engine, and three WVU patrol cars, one Monongalia County patrol car and one Westover police patrol car.

“Folks are fed up,” Chief Preston said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“Students are fed up, faculty is fed up, the residents of Morgantown and residents of Monongalia County are fed up, the citizens of West Virginia are fed up. They’re tired of this recurring problem and they demand that people be held responsible for their actions.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Mountaineers head west to tangle with Cowboys

A pair of Big 12 Conference teams riding different emotional waves square off on Saturday afternoon, as the 22nd-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers come calling on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

West Virginia is fresh off its biggest win of the season, as coach Dana Holgorsen’s squad took down the high-octane Baylor Bears last weekend in Morgantown, 41-27. It was the third straight win for the Mountaineers, who are making their first appearance of the season in the AP Top-25 this week. Following this contest, WVU also has tough tests against TCU, Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State on the docket.

At the other end of the spectrum, Oklahoma State was embarrassed last week at TCU, losing to the powerful Horned Frogs in a 42-9 final. The Cowboys got all their scoring thanks to three Ben Grogan field goals, failing to score a touchdown for the first time since a 27-0 loss to Oklahoma in the 2009 regular-season finale. The loss also put an end to the Cowboys’ five-game win streak, and it was also their most lopsided setback since losing to Texas Tech, 56-20, back in 2008.

West Virginia leads the all-time series with Oklahoma State, 3-2, and the teams are 1-1 since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12. WVU came out on top in last year’s clash at home, 30-21.

Clint Trickett has been a man possessed for West Virginia this season, as the former Florida State Seminole leads the Big 12 in passing with 2,525 yards. He is completing a league-best 68.2 percent of his throws, and has 15 TDs against only five INTs. Last week against Baylor, the senior signal caller hit the mark on 25-of-35 pass attempts for 322 yards and three scores, while his counterpart, BU’s Bryce Petty, went just 16-of-36 for 223 yards and two TDs. Kevin White, who leads the league with 9.86 receptions per contest, caught eight balls for 132 yards and two scores for the Mountaineers, who also got at least 60 yards rushing from both Wendell Smallwood and Dreamius Smith, the latter also scoring once.

The WVU defense stood tall in the face of serious adversity last week, as it faced a Baylor offense that is among the best in the nation. The Bears generated just 318 yards on 79 plays (4.0 ypp), as the Mountaineers rallied around each other in the wake of both starting cornerbacks (Daryl Worley, Terrell Chestnut) being out of action due to injury. Also aiding in the effort was four sacks, three being credited to Shaq Riddick, and the fact that Baylor was penalized a Big 12-record 18 times for a loss of 215 yards. WVU, which was flagged 14 times for a loss of 138 yards, held the Bears to only 95 net rushing yards.

West Virginia ranks first in the Big 12 in passing offense (361.7 ypg), second in total offense (538.4 ypg), and fifth in scoring offense (37.3 ppg). On the other side of the ball, the Mountaineers are tied for sixth in scoring defense (27.1 ppg), while checking in third against the pass (215.0 ypg). Nick Kwiatkoski paces the defense with 55 tackles, which includes nine TFL, while Riddick leads the way with five sacks. WVU is among the worst teams in the country when it comes to forcing turnovers, having done so only four times (all interceptions).

Rightfully so, Holgorsen praised his team for the outstanding effort it put forth against a formidable Baylor squad.

“I’m proud of our mentality. Our guys were ready to play. I can’t say enough about how they went out there and played hard. We’ve been in the situation with some pretty good teams and haven’t been able to finish.“

Oklahoma State failed to establish any kind of offensive rhythm in last week’s blowout loss at TCU, tallying a mere 258 yards compared to a whopping 676 for the Horned Frogs. Daxx Garman completed only 10-of-25 passes for 132 yards, and he threw two INTs while being sacked twice. Desmond Roland accounted for 84 yards on 23 carries, but the Pokes were stymied at nearly every turn.

Coach Mike Gundy’s defense was battered and bruised in yielding 261 yards on the ground and 415 through the air. Ryan Simmons led the Pokes with 11 tackles, nine of which were solo efforts, while Emmanuel Ogbah took down the opposing quarterback behind the line twice to maintain his place atop the Big 12 sacks list (7.0).

Last week’s outing certainly skewed the team’s season averages a bit, with the Cowboys now scoring 33.1 ppg while permitting 27.1 ppg. As evidenced against the Frogs, the squad has had difficulty all season long defending the pass, as it ranks last in the league with 288.4 ypg and 13 TDs allowed.

Garman is hitting the mark on only 55.4 percent of his pass attempts for just shy of 250 ypg with 10 TDs and seven INTs. David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd are both over 300 yards receiving, but they only have a combined three TDs. Roland is running for 79.2 ypg, and he has found the end zone seven times, the team tallying a dozen rushing scores on the year.

With his troops still reeling a bit, Gundy knows they need to put the TCU game behind them as they prepare for another tough test this week.

“We’re facing another team that’s playing well right now. They have a quarterback who has matured and is playing with confidence. He’s considerably better than what he was eight or 10 games ago in my opinion. They’ve got a great receiver who is going to play the game for a long time in my opinion. Defense is playing with an attitude and a lot of confidence. We’ll have our hands full.“


►  Wildcats set to pounce on visiting Longhorns

The only team without a Big 12 Conference loss takes center stage on Saturday, as the 11th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats entertain the Texas Longhorns.

Charlie Strong’s inaugural season at Texas hasn’t gone quite the way he had hoped, as the Longhorns are 3-4 overall and 2-2 in conference. The team did manage to put the brakes on a two-game slide by posting a 48-45 win versus visiting Iowa State last weekend. That victory came on the heels of a near- upset of Oklahoma the week prior, as the ‘Horns fell just short in their annual clash with the Sooners, 31-26.

Save for a narrow home loss to Auburn (20-14) in mid-September, Kansas State would be perfect on the year. As it is, the Wildcats come in to this contest at 5-1, 3-0 in conference, and are in the driver’s seat with regard to winning the Big 12 title. Coach Bill Snyder’s club still has several tough games, including this week, and against Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia and Baylor.

Kansas State owns an 8-6 lead in the all-time series with Texas, but the Longhorns snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats with last year’s 31-21 triumph in Austin.

Last week’s 48-point, 512-yard outburst aside, the Texas offense hasn’t been the force many had hoped when Strong was handed the reins. The Longhorns rank near the bottom of the Big 12 in scoring offense (23.7 ppg), rushing offense (144.4 ypg), passing offense (225.6 ypg) and total offense (370.0 ypg), and getting consistent quarterback play needs to be a priority if the team is going to wind up on the plus-side of the ledger at season’s end.

Tyrone Swoopes has completed 61 percent of his passes for nearly 1,400 yards, but he has thrown only eight scoring strikes while being intercepted five times. John Harris has been the most productive wideout, hauling in 40 balls for 607 and six TDs, while Jaxon Shipley leads the way with 44 grabs for 452 yards and no TDs. Malcolm Brown spearheads the UT rushing attack with 396 yards and four scores, while Johnathan Gray has rumbled his way for 345 yards and a pair of TDs. Swoopes has scored three times on the ground.

Swoopes threw for 321 yards and a TD last week, hitting Harris nine times for 147 yards and Shipley six times for 97 yards. The athletic signal caller was also the team’s top ground gainer, accounting for 95 yards and a TD on 14 carries, while Brown finished with 72 yards and two scores on 19 totes.

The Texas defense has had some issues this season, particularly when it comes to stopping the enemy on the ground (182.4 ypg). Where the ‘Horns have excelled however, is against the pass. Foes are averaging just 163.9 ypg through the air, which is the lowest yield of any team in the Big 12, and as a result Strong’s crew ranks second in the league in total defense (346.3 ypg). While the secondary gets a ton of credit for the effort in the passing game, the front seven has been superb in logging a league-leading 24 sacks—actually tied with Baylor.

Jordan Hicks is almost at 100 tackles for the season (98), Malcolm Brown has 10 TFL and 4.5 sacks, and Duke Thomas three of the team’s 11 interceptions.

While it’s true the Longhorns have performed well against the pass, they had trouble with Iowa State’s aerial attack last week, allowing 345 yards and three TDs. They did manage to come up with a pair of picks and sacked ISU quarterback Sam B. Richardson three times, but they permitted nearly six yards per offensive play and were unsuccessful in stopping the Cyclones on any one of their six trips to the red zone. Hicks was all over the field for UT, logging 18 tackles, while three others also finished in double figures. Dylan Haines scored on a 74-yard interception return near the end of the first half.

While happy to come away with a win, Strong took both some positives and negatives from the Iowa State game.

“Wow, I didn’t know it would end like that, wow. You look at our offense, and you watch ‘em grow up, and you watch Tyrone [Swoopes] get better and better every game.“

He then turned his attention to the other side of the ball.

“Not very pleased with our defense, thought we could have played better than we did, but it’s always a good test when you can wake guys up.“

Kansas State has one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Big 12 in Jake Waters. A 65.1 percent passer who has thrown for 1,431 yards, nine TDs and only three INTs, Waters does just enough to keep his team on course as it navigates its way to the top of the conference standings. Waters also does his best to keep defenses honest by using his legs, as he is the Wildcats’ leading rusher with 371 yards, scoring seven TDs along the way. Charles Jones has found the end zone eight times, logging 339 yards on 69 totes, while DeMarcus Robinson has tallied 274 yards and three scores.

Collectively, K-State is averaging 39.2 points and 434.2 yards per contest, and the ‘Cats lead the Big 12 in third-down conversions (.500), as well as with the fewest penalties (22) and in time of possession (32:12). They also possess one of the best special teams units in the league, leading the way in punt return average, as well as kickoff coverage.

KSU is among the top defensive teams in the conference as well, yielding just 22.5 ppg. The ‘Cats are especially stout against the run, permitting a league- low 100.8 ypg. The pass (251.2 ypg) is another story, but that’s due in large part to the fact that most opponents have had to abandon the run in an attempt to battle from behind. K-State ranks No. 1 in the conference in red zone defense (.778).

Jonathan Truman continues to pace the defense with his 60 tackles, while Morgan Burns has three of the unit’s eight INTs. A lack of impact plays has been an issue though, as the unit has only been credited with nine total takeaways and a league-low seven sacks.

Oklahoma appeared to be on the way to tying the game last week when it scored a touchdown less than five minutes into the fourth quarter, but the extra point was blocked and that proved to be the margin of victory for Kansas State as it held on in the 31-30 decision. The Wildcats were badly outgained, 533-385, but got 225 yards and two TDs passing and another 51 yards and a score on the ground from Waters. Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett were the primary targets for Waters in the aerial game, combining for 14 catches, 163 yards and a score.

Truman was a man possessed for the ‘Cats, logging 17 tackles, and Dante Barnett tacked on 11. A pair of INTs helped the Wildcats’ cause, as did the fact that the Sooners only scored on half of their six trips to the red zone.

Costly mistakes played an important role in last week’s game, and Snyder is happy that his team made fewer of them.

“Turnovers, those are significant. In all reality, that is the difference in the ball game. We get a turnover and get seven points out of it and we don’t turn the ball over.“


►  Red Raiders hoping to shoot down 10th-ranked Horned Frogs

Hoping to keep pace in the race for the Big 12 Conference crown, the 10th-ranked TCU Horned Frogs will play a home game this Saturday against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Texas Tech opened the season with a pair of victories, but then went on to lose four in a row, including its first three conference games. The Red Raiders were able to stop the bleeding last week as they topped visiting Kansas, 34-21. Kliff Kingsbury’s club needs three more wins to become bowl eligible, but the road is difficult as bouts with TCU, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor remain.

TCU also kicked off the campaign with favorable results, claiming victory in each of first four games. A wild 61-58 loss to Baylor put the team at 1-1 in conference, but it bounced back to rout visiting Oklahoma State last weekend, 42-9. Coach Gary Patterson has his squad poised to make a run at the Big 12 title, but tough tilts with West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas are still to come.

Texas Tech leads the all-time series with TCU, 30-23-3, and the Red Raiders have won the last two meetings.

Texas Tech leading receiver Jakeem Grant (50 receptions, 629 yards, five TDs) was injured in an apparent shooting in Lubbock last Sunday morning, but his injuries weren’t deemed overly serious and he could even play in this game. Grant caught six passes in last week’s win over Kansas, helping the Red Raiders roll up more than 500 yards of total offense, compared to only 363 for the Jayhawks.

Davis Webb went 28-of-44 for 288 yards, three TDs and one INT, hitting three different receivers (Grant, Brad Marquez and Ian Sadler) for at least 68 yards. DeAndre Washington was highly productive in rushing for a career-best 164 yards on 23 carries.

Defensively, the Red Raiders surrendered 235 yards and a pair of scores through the air, but got solid individual performances from Pete Robertson and Austin Stewart with nine tackles apiece. Robertson was credited with two of the team’s four sacks.

For the season, Texas Tech scores 30.9 ppg, doing so behind 488.3 ypg. Webb ranks second in the conference in averaging 319.9 ypg, and he has thrown a league-best 22 TD passes, but has been picked off a league-high 12 times. Grant is second in the Big 12 with 7.14 receptions per game, and Marquez sits seventh with 5.86. Washington ranks third with 88.9 rushing ypg, but he has found the end zone only once.

Texas Tech ranks last in the league in scoring defense (36.9 ppg), and foes have hammered the Red Raiders on the ground, leading to 239.0 ypg—also placing the club last. The Red Raiders have only come up with three INTs and a mere eight takeaways in all. Robertson paces the unit with 54 tackles, which includes seven of the team’s 13 sacks.

Kingsbury tries to keep an even keel, even as his team fought to put an end to its four-game skid.

“Yeah, wins are hard to come by in college football, so anytime you get one you have to be pleased with it. I try to stay pretty level.“

TCU is one of the most productive offensive teams in the country, as it puts up 45.2 ppg behind typical outputs of 197.5 ypg rushing and 340.2 ypg passing. Trevone Boykin has been effective in both modes of attack, throwing for nearly 1,900 yards with 14 TDs and only three INTs, while running for 346 yards and three scores. B.J. Catalon leads the way on the ground with 370 yards and eight TDs, while Josh Dotson (31 rec., 497 yards, five TDs) heads a list of six players with double-digit receptions.

When the opposition has the ball, the Horned Frogs are equally proficient, as they allow a league-low 20.7 ppg. They permit 222 ypg through the air, and foes have scored only eight aerial TDs, while tossing 11 picks—the latter tying TCU for the league lead. Paul Dawson paces the unit with 68 stops, and he is one of four players with multiple interceptions on the season. TCU is among the league leaders in sacks with 21, while being No. 1 in opponents’ third down conversion percentage (.267).

TCU dominated Oklahoma State last week in every aspect of the game, with Boykin throwing for a career-high 410 yards and three TDs. Dotson also put forth a monster effort in hauling down seven balls for 225 yards and two scores. Catalon generated 102 yards and two TDs on only 10 carries, helping the Frogs amass 261 yards on the ground.

Dawson more than doubled his closest teammate by logging 13 stops, and the Horned Frogs came up with a pair of INTs, two sacks and seven TFL, in holding the Cowboys to a paltry 258 yards of total offense (126 rushing, 132 passing).

Rather than think of what the future may hold with regard to competing for the Big 12 title, Patterson is trying to keep his team focused on the task at hand.

“I’m not even thinking about it. I didn’t think about it before. Two weeks ago I had Oklahoma, then I had Baylor, then Oklahoma State and now I have Texas Tech. My advice to anybody would be to try to win the game that you’re playing and not to worry about anything else.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Marshall puts streak on the line against FAU

The Marshall Thundering Herd moved up two spots in the AP Top-25 Poll to No. 23 in the nation, and will try to remain perfect this weekend as they play host to the FAU Owls in a Conference USA clash at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

FAU has won two of its last three games, including a 45-38 edging of Western Kentucky last weekend in Boca Raton. The Owls are 3-4 on the season, and haven’t had back-to-back wins all year long. This will be the third time this season the Owls have taken on a nationally ranked opponent.

Marshall trailed for the first time all season last weekend, when FIU quarterback Alex McGough kept the ball and carried it into the end zone for a 7-0 Panthers lead. That didn’t phase the Herd much, who came back to defeat FIU in the contest, 45-13. The team has scored at least 42 points in all seven games this season.

These two programs have only met once before on the field, which occurred last season. The Thundering Herd walked away with a 24-23 escape victory in mid- October.

FAU made a nice comeback effort against Western Kentucky last weekend when the Owls trailed the Hilltoppers, 31-14, at the half. FAU limited WKU to just one second-half touchdown while the Owls scored five times - four touchdowns and one field goal. Quarterback Jaquez Johnson was sensational for the Owls by completing 23-of-34 passing for 325 yards and three touchdowns. He added 95 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for a total of five scores in the win.

The Owls are averaging 24.6 ppg through their first seven contests, largely thanks to the efforts of Johnson under center. The quarterback has passed for 1,323 yards and 10 touchdowns against just one interception, and has rushed in a team-high five touchdowns on the ground. Johnson has found top wideout Lucky Whitehead44 times this season for a team-best 436 yards and four touchdowns, which includes Whitehead’s 125-yard, two-touchdown effort against WKU.

Take away Johnson from the running game, and the Owls have had some trouble. Jay Warren leads the team with 83 carries for 435 yards, but the starting running back has scored just one touchdown. In fact, Johnson is the only player for FAU that has scored multiple touchdowns on the ground. The team is rushing for 153.9 ypg, and has scored eight times all season via the ground attack.

There has been a struggle defensively for the Owls this season, as the team currently gives up 35.7 ppg and 465.7 offensive ypg to opponents. In five of the team’s seven games played, the Owls have surrendered at least 37 points to their challengers. That certainly doesn’t look good going up against one of the nation’s best and most potent offenses, especially on its home turf.

FAU has allowed teams to score 20 times on the ground this season, so stopping the Marshall run game will be the key (but don’t forget to stop Rakeem Cato). Damian Parms (58 tackles) will be extremely busy trying to slow Cato, the Herd’s dominant quarterback, while Andrae Kirk (52 tackles, four tackles for loss) will likely focus on the run game. The Owls will need to put constant pressure on the Marshall backfield if they want to be at all successful in this game.

Marshall started slowly against FIU, trailing for the first time all season and then going into the half with only a 14-7 lead. But the Thundering Herd turned it up in the second half, and Cato became a national record holder in the process. With a first-quarter touchdown pass, Cato broke the all-time NCAA record for most consecutive career games with a touchdown completion. The senior has completed one touchdown toss in 39 consecutive games, passing Russell Wilson’s old mark of 38 from 2009-11.

Later in the game, Cato moved passed Chad Pennington for first place in Marshall history with 120 career touchdowns responsible for, breaking Pennington’s record of 119. Cato now has 19 touchdown passes this season and 1,912 passing yards for an offense that averages 47.4 ppg (second in the FBS behind Baylor) and 574.9 offensive ypg (also second in the nation behind Baylor).

“The coaches don’t need to say a whole lot at this point. (The team) understands they want to be a great football team, understand what’s at stake,“ Marshall coach Doc Holliday said following the win against FIU. “The bottom line is seeing how your team responds to be able to overcome the adversity. There was no panic. I thought our kids came out, worked in the second half, and played like they have been playing.“

It’s not just Marshall’s passing game that is damaging. The run game averages 284.7 ypg, and has scored 23 touchdowns through seven games led by Devon Johnson’s 11 touchdowns and 931 rushing yards. Cato contributes to the cause too, having scored five rushing touchdowns himself.

Don’t forget the team’s stifling defense. Johnson and the Owls will find it extremely hard to reach the end zone considering the Herd are holding opponents to a 16.6 ppg clip. Only twice this season has Marshall surrendered more than 17 points to an opponent, and only 15 offensive touchdowns have been scored on the Herd in those seven games.

Linebacker Neville Hewitt leads the team with 44 tackles on the season, adding in a team-best seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. A.J. Leggett has three interceptions, while Taj Letman has recorded two. They’ll be looking to force Johnson, who has only one thrown interception this season, into making more mistakes. Hewitt and D.J. Hunter (5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) will try to collapse the pocket against Johnson to get him on the move. And to not let the Owls have much hope in the first half, like FIU did last weekend.

“Games like (that) - it was tough at first - that brings us together and it definitely will help us down the road,“ Hewitt said after the FIU game. “We haven’t had a game this close all season (in the first half), really, and so this is going to help us honestly see where we are as a team.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Rodgers highlights NFC Players of the Week

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers claimed the NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award for Week 7.

In a 38-17 victory over Carolina, Rodgers completed 19-of-22 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns for a 154.5 passer rating. Rodgers has recorded six consecutive games without an interception (minimum 15 attempts), tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr’s franchise record set in 1964, bringing his streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception to 192.

The game also marked Rodgers’ fourth straight with at least three TD passes and no interceptions, joining Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (2007) as the only players in league history to accomplish the feat.

Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson took home the defensive award after he recorded a career-high 14 tackles in the Redskins’ 19-17 win over Tennessee. In his first year as a starter, Robinson leads the team with 57 tackles.

St. Louis Rams punt returner Stedman Bailey won the special teams award after taking a punt 90 yards for a touchdown in the Rams’ 28-26 win over Seattle. The Seahawks chased Tavon Austin on the wrong side of the field while Bailey ran down the right side for the longest punt-return touchdown in the NFL this season.


►  Manning among AFC’s top players for Week 7

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning highlighted the AFC’s top players for Week 7 of the NFL season.

Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith and Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones also were honored for their efforts.

Manning was named the top offensive player after his record-setting performance in Sunday night’s 42-17 win over San Francisco. He surpassed Brett Favre’s record of 508 career touchdown passes and now has 510 after throwing for four scores while completing 22-of-26 throws for 318 yards.

In addition, he extended NFL career records with his 87th 300-yard game and 33rd four-TD effort. It was his 27th career weekly award, the most of any player since it was instituted in 1984.

Smith picked up the defensive award thanks to four tackles, an interception and a sack-fumble in Jacksonville’s first win of the season, a 24-6 triumph over the Cleveland Browns. His sack-fumble led to a field and goal and his first interception set up a touchdown.

Jones was given the special teams nod after his block of a 58-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game allowed the Patriots to complete a 27-25 win over the New York Jets.

Other offensive candidates included Jacksonville running back Denard Robinson, who ran for 127 yards with a touchdown in the win over the Browns; Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed his first 14 passes en route to a 25-of-32 performance for 277 yards with two scores in a 27-14 win over Chicago; and Buffalo receiver Sammy Watkins, who had nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-16 victory over Minnesota.

Defensive consideration went to Baltimore linebacker Daryl Smith, who had 13 tackles in a 29-7 win over Atlanta; and Denver’s DeMarcus Ware, who had four tackles and three sacks in the victory over San Francisco.

Kansas City kicker Cairo Santos was also nominated for the special teams award after connecting on all three of his field goal attempts, including a 48-yard kick with 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that lifted the Chiefs to a 23-20 win over San Diego.


►  Patriots acquire LB Ayers from Titans

The New England Patriots have acquired linebacker Akeem Ayers from the Tennessee Titans to help fill the void created when Jerod Mayo was lost for the season with a knee injury.

Compensation terms were not disclosed, but NFL.com has reported that the Patriots will also acquire a seventh-round draft pick from the Titans and will send Tennessee a sixth-round draft pick.

Ayers started 44 of the 50 games he played for the Titans, who selected him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has compiled 254 total tackles with nine sacks and two interceptions.

The 25-year-old UCLA product led all Tennessee linebackers with 88 tackles as a rookie in 2011 and led the Titans with 110 tackles in 2012. However, he struggled with knee injuries last year and this year had appeared in just two of Tennessee’s seven games.

New England also released linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, who joined the active roster from the practice squad on October 04.


►  Extra Points: Closing the door on Cutler

Many are missing the point when trying to analyze what’s going on with the Chicago Bears.

Brandon Marshall’s emotional outburst after last Sunday’s ugly 27-14 home loss to the Miami Dolphins has placed the focus on whether the enigmatic receiver’s relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler is strained.

What should be spotlighted is that the Bears are 3-4 and looking up at both Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.

Those searching for drama put a lot of emphasis on the fact Marshall was heard ranting about all the talent the team has on the offensive side of the football without mentioning Cutler before adding that the “same mistakes” regarding protecting the football are holding the team back, perceived as a direct salvo across Cutler’s bow.

The mouthy Marshall has tried to back off in the ensuing days.

“Listen, I have a really nice condo. And guess what? Jay Cutler built that condo,“ Marshall said on Showtime’s “Inside The NFL” on Tuesday. “We’re great, we’re great. But you know, we’re like brothers. I think coach (Marc) Trestman said it the best, you know, but if I have a problem with Jay Cutler, I’m gonna go to Jay Cutler. If Jay Cutler has a problem with me, he’s going to come to me. We have that type of relationship.“

Great, except when Marshall had a problem with Cutler, he didn’t go to the quarterback ... he aired his grievances in public like it was Festivus.

Marshall also has been trying to have his cake and eat it, too, claiming he doesn’t regret a word he said to his teammates, but wished that the doors were closed and the media assembled didn’t here his version of a reality check.

“Oh, absolutely my voice was heard,“ the star receiver said. “The only thing I regret is that the door wasn’t closed, you know, but I wouldn’t change any of my reaction because it came from my heart, and that’s how I felt, that’s how I still feel.

“I think that we have all the coaches we need, I think we have all the players that we need to get that job done. And 3-4 is unacceptable, but we have everything that we need to turn this ship right now.“

Part of all of this is that Marshall and a lot of the Bears think they are a lot better than they really are.

“We have too much talent on this team for one, to have the record that we have, and two, to not be producing the way we should,“ injured Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs said on his weekly Comcast SportsNet show. “For me, it’s hard to fathom.“

It shouldn’t be.

The Bears were 10-6 in Lovie Smith’s last season as coach and fell back to 8-8 in Trestman’s first try. In the five seasons before that, there was one playoff appearance. They never beat Aaron Rodgers and the Lions have certainly lapped Chicago in the talent department.

Just maybe the Bears are what they have looked like under Trestman, a mediocre team which is 11-12 during the coach’s watch.

And a major part of that pedestrian reality is Cutler.

In a position that almost demands leadership by its very nature, the 31-year- old veteran has always been a pass-the-buck guy whose on-field antics and sideline pouting sessions when things are going bad are always front-page news in the Second City.

Cutler is definitely a guy with prodigious talent, most notably the arm strength to keep the football dry when throwing it through a car wash, and the athleticism to surprise even the most athletic of front-seven defenders in this league.

Those positives, however, are often diluted by a shoddy attention to detail, especially when it comes to the fundamentals and mechanics of playing the position.

Yet everyone tip-toes around all of that.

Trestman was sure to point out that Marshall’s words were directed more generally, as if he had the ability to understand what a hot-head is thinking after the spigots have been turned on.

Briggs, meanwhile, actually admitted he left the locker room during the tirade.

“I just left because I could see where things were kinda going,“ he said. “And I knew that when you get emotional, there are moments when, you get in an argument and both people are emotional, you’re not going to get anywhere.“

And now Marshall himself is backpedaling with the skill of Deion Sanders in his prime.

“At the end I said Jay Cutler’s our leader, he’s our guy, he’s a gunslinger,“ Marshall said. “Jay Cutler makes this thing go. This guy, he’s the first one there, he puts in the work. What he knows and what he does for us is unbelievable.“

What you say when you’re at your most emotional may end up being right or wrong with the benefit of hindsight. What it unquestionably is, however, is what you believe.

And Marshall was pointing at his quarterback and calling him out for inconsistent play. Those who think anything differently can’t see the forest for the trees.

It’s not time to close on the door on those listening in Chicago, it’s time to start thinking about closing it on Cutler.

WEEK 8 (All Times Eastern)

San Diego (5-2) at Denver (5-1) (-7 1/2), Thursday, 8:30 PM - Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to savor his latest NFL record. The reigning and five- time NFL MVP, who broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdown passes against the San Francisco 49ers this past Sunday, and his Broncos will kick off Week 8 when they try to keep their penthouse view atop the AFC West against Philip Rivers and the Chargers.

Manning leads the league in passer rating with a 118.2 mark and Rivers is third at 113.0 Both QBs have generally excelled on short weeks. Manning will enter this matchup with a 9-2 record as a starter on Thursday, and is the all-time leader in passing yards (3,305) and touchdown passes (35) with less preparation time. Conversely Rivers, who is currently ranked second in the AFC with 1,961 passing yards and third with 17 TD passes, has compiled a 4-1 record on Thursday, including a 27-20 victory over Denver last season.

Broncos 31, Chargers 23

Detroit (5-2) (-3 1/2) vs. Atlanta (2-5) at London’s Wembley Stadium, Sunday, 9:30 AM - The Lions and Falcons will meet in Wembley in the first regular- season game outside of North America for both teams. Both are headed in opposite directions, though. Detroit has won four of five and is tied with Green Bay atop the NFC North, while Atlanta has dropped four straight games. Falcons QB Matt Ryan, though, has never lost a game to the Lions (3-0).

Lions 28, Falcons 17

Seattle (3-3) (-4 1/2) at Carolina (3-3-1), Sunday, 1 PM - Two teams coming off bad losses square off in the Queen City. The reigning Super Bowl champs were done in by the special teams’ prowess of the Rams in Week 7, while the Panthers were mauled by Aaron Rodgers. Seahawks signal caller Russell Wilson has won both of his career starts against Carolina, throwing for 320 yards with a 115.7 passer rating in the last meeting. His counterpart in this game, Cam Newton, has won nine of his past 10 home starts.

Seahawks 24, Panthers 20

Baltimore (5-2) at Cincinnati (3-2-1) (-1 1/2), Sunday, 1 PM - The Bengals have not won in over a calendar month after a 3-0 start but are 11-0-1 in their last 12 regular-season home games, the last of which was a 37-37 tie with Carolina in Week 6. The Ravens, on the other hand, have won two straight and five of six to seize control of the AFC North.

Bengals 27, Ravens 21

Miami (3-3) (-5 1/2) at Jacksonville (1-6), Sunday, 1 PM - Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill will try to build on a win in Chicago in which he became just the third player in NFL history with 275-plus passing yards (277), a 78-or-above completion percentage (78.1) and 45-or-more rushing yards (48). The Jags will try to keep their momentum after rookie QB Blake Bortles earned his first win as an NFL starter over Cleveland and running back Denard Robinson rushed for a career-high 127 yards.

Dolphins 21, Jaguars 13

St. Louis (2-4) at Kansas City (3-3) (-6 1/2), Sunday, 1 PM - Show Me State bragging rights are on the line in Kansas City. Both Missouri clubs come in off an upset with the Chiefs winning in San Diego behind Jamaal Charles’ 95 rushing yards, a number which gives him 6,113 for his career, besting Priest Holmes (6,070) for the franchise record. The Rams stunned the Super Bowl champion Seahawks thanks to their nifty special teams work and a riverboat mentality from embattled coach Jeff Fisher.

Chiefs 27, Rams 16

Chicago (3-4) at New England (5-2) (-6), Sunday, 1 PM - The Patriots will be shooting for their 13th consecutive win at home behind the red-hot Tom Brady, who has thrown for 914 yards with nine TDs and no interceptions in his last three games. Bears QB Jay Cutler has won nine of his past 12 starts against AFC foes.

Patriots 23, Bears 20

Buffalo (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6) (-3), Sunday, 1 PM - The Jets hope the newly acquired Percy Harvin can give their moribund offense a lift while Buffalo will try to build on a last-second win over Minnesota despite injuries to running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Jets 20, Bills 14

Minnesota (2-5) at Tampa Bay (1-5) (-3), Sunday, 1 PM - The Bucs will be searching for their seventh straight win over Minnesota, which has never won in Raymond James Stadium.

Buccaneers 23, Vikings 16

Houston (3-4) (-1) at Tennessee (2-5), Sunday, 1 PM - Houston starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick returns to Nashville, where he played in 11 games with nine starts for the Titans in 2013, passing for 2,454 yards and 14 TDs. Tennessee is hoping to get back oft-injured starter Jake Locker from a thumb sprain.

Titans 17, Texans 16

Philadelphia (5-1) at Arizona (5-1) (-2 1/2), Sunday, 4:05 PM - Two of the four remaining one-loss teams meet Sunday afternoon in the desert. The first- place Cardinals improved to 5-1 with a 24-13 win at Oakland last weekend, while the Eagles are fresh off their bye week, averaging an NFC-best 30.5 points per game. Arizona QB Carson Palmer has won 10 of his last 12 starts and Philadelphia is 12-3 over its last 15 contests.

Eagles 26, Cardinals 20

Oakland (0-6) at Cleveland (3-3) (-7), Sunday, 4:25 PM - The Raiders are the NFL’s only winless team as they continue to grow with rookie QB Derek Carr, who leads all first-year signal callers with 1,189 passing yards and eight TD passes. The Browns, meanwhile, gave previously winless Jacksonville its first win in Week 7.

Browns 21, Raiders 13

Indianapolis (5-2) (-3) at Pittsburgh (4-3), Sunday, 4:25 PM - The Steelers come in after their record 16th straight “Monday Night Football” home win, while Indy posted its largest shutout win since 1997 (a 27-0 whitewash of Cincinnati), the 500th total victory in franchise history. Colts QB Andrew Luck has passed for 300-or-more yards in five consecutive games, tied with Peyton Manning (2009) for the longest streak in team history.

Colts 27, Steelers 20

Green Bay (5-2) at New Orleans (2-4) (- 1 1/2), Sunday 8:30 PM - The struggling Saints are banking on a return to the Superdome to get them back on track. New Orleans is 2-0 at home this season and has won 10 straight overall but is 0-4 on the road. The Packers have won four straight after a rocky start behind MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers, who has 13 TD passes with no picks and a stunning 137.9 passer rating over that span. A-Rod also generally excels indoors, having started 23 games under a roof with 56 TD passes versus only eight interceptions in those games.

Saints 37, Packers 33

Washington (2-5) at Dallas (6-1) (-9), Monday, 8:30 PM - The Redskins will turn to their third starting QB this season as Colt McCoy replaces the struggling Kirk Cousins. In his first action of the season in Week 7, McCoy completed 11-of-12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, orchestrating a 10- play, 76-yard drive that culminated with Kai Forbath’s game-winning kick in a 19-17 win over Tennessee. The Cowboys improved to an NFL-best 6-1 with a 31-21 home win over the New York Giants in Week 7 behind MVP candidate DeMarco Murray (128 rushing yards, one touchdown), who has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the team’s seven games, surpassing Jim Brown (six games in 1958) for the longest such streak in NFL history to begin a season.

Cowboys 33, Redskins 16
~~  John McMullen ~~

►  First-place Broncos shift focus to Rivers, Chargers

Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to savor his latest NFL record.

The reigning and five-time NFL MVP and his Denver Broncos will kick off Week 8 of the NFL season when they try to keep their penthouse view atop the AFC West against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers on “Thursday Night Football.“

The contest comes just four days after Manning broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdown passes against the San Francisco 49ers and it will feature two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks going head to head.

Manning currently leads the league in passer rating with a 118.2 mark and Rivers is third at 113.0

The Broncos will take their home field searching for their fourth consecutive victory following a 42-17 drubbing over the Niners on Sunday Night in a game in which Manning accounted for 318 yards, four touchdowns and a nearly perfect 157.2 rating.

The veteran tossed for scores on three of his first four drives, connecting with DeMaryius Thomas for his third touchdown of the game at the 3:09 mark of the second quarter, the 509th TD pass of his brilliant career, surpassing Favre for the most in NFL history.

“It was a special night,“ Manning said. “It’s one I’ll always remember.“

Following the score, the Broncos receivers along with tight end Julius Thomas played a game of keepaway with Manning, not letting him have the ball before finally delivering it to the future Hall of Famer.

The Broncos then played a brief tribute on the big screen, which included messages from Favre, John Elway and several of Manning’s teammates.

Favre congratulated Manning on Twitter shortly thereafter.

“Well deserved Peyton, Congratulations on breaking my record. #Onto600,“ he wrote.

DeMaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns for the Broncos while Ronnie Hillman carried the ball 14 times for 74 yards and two scores, and added four receptions for 29 yards in the triumph.

“I’m very humbled and very honored,“ Manning said when discussing the record afterward. “I certainly think about how grateful I am for all the teammates and coaches that I’ve played with and played for throughout my career, not only here in Denver—in Indianapolis—and all the people that have helped me along the way. We have the Thursday night game this week, so there’s not much of a celebration right now.“

San Diego comes in aiming to rebound from a 23-20 home loss to Kansas City suffered when Chiefs rookie kicker Cairo Santos booted the game-winning 48- yard field goal, his third of the game, with just 21 seconds left.

Rivers, who came in with an NFL record five straight games with a passer rating above 120.0, cooled off a bit, finishing 17-of-31 for 205 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Chargers, who lost for the first time since dropping their opening game of the season at Arizona.

Rookie running back Branden Oliver carried it 15 times for 67 yards while Keenan Allen has six receptions for 58 yards.

“We didn’t make enough plays. No excuses at all,“ Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. “We have to do our job.“

The Broncos lead the all-time series by a 58-49-1 margin but things have been very tight over the previous five years. Denver and San Diego have met 10 times during the regular season since 2009, splitting the series with five wins apiece.

On Thursdays the Chargers are 7-6-1 while the Broncos are under water at 8-10.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Both Manning and Rivers have generally excelled on short weeks.

Manning will enter this matchup with a 9-2 record as a starter on Thursday, and is the all-time leader in passing yards (3,305) and touchdown passes (35) with less preparation time.

Conversely Rivers, who is currently ranked second in the AFC with 1,961 passing yards and third with 17 TD passes, has compiled a 4-1 record on Thursday, including a 27-20 victory over Denver last season.

Manning had been 3-0 against San Diego with the Broncos before that loss and has thrown at least one TD pass in all 11 career meetings he has had against the Chargers.

“We don’t live in the past,“ Broncos head coach John Fox said of the loss last season. “I’ve mentioned many times, you spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror, you crash, not looking ahead.“

Making things easier for Manning this time could be the potential absence of San Diego cornerback Brandon Flowers, who will likely sit out after suffering a concussion against hid old team, the Chiefs. Meanwhile, rookie corner Jason Verrett was a limited participant in practice on Tuesday after missing the loss against Kansas City with a shoulder injury.

“We’re playing a great team in the Chargers, a team we’re very familiar with, as they are with us,“ Manning said. “They beat us last year, so we got to get ready on this short week.“

For his career, Rivers is 10-6 as a starter against Denver, and is 20 games over .500 (35-15) when starting against AFC West competition. In fact, since 2006, Rivers has the second-most passing yards (12,251) and third-most touchdowns (81) of any player in the AFC against his own division.

“He’s a tremendous competitor,“ Fox said. “We go way back. When I was in the Carolinas, he played at N.C. State, so I had a chance to watch him perform. I know a lot about him as a competitor.“

One of the key components to beating Denver last season, running back Ryan Mathews, is sidelined with a sprained MCL, though. Mathews piled up 127 yards and a TD on 29 carries in the Thursday win last season, spearheading a rushing attack that outgained the Broncos on the ground by a significant 177-18 margin.

That would be hard to duplicate under any circumstance but with Oliver now leading the way in the backfield, it’s probably safe to assume that more of the responsibility with be placed on Rivers’ shoulders.

Oliver has been solid, however, amassing 316 yards—tops for all rookies—and two touchdowns in three games. However, he will be up against a much- improved Broncos defense which is third in the NFL, allowing only 74.3 rushing yards per game, nearly 30 yards better than last year’s unit.

Jack Del Rio’s defense is allowing 242.5 passing yards a game, though, good for just 18th in football.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

There are two things you can kind of count on when talking about Thursday games, sloppy play and the fact that the short week of preparation heavily favors the home team which at least doesn’t have to uproot its operation.

The one thing that can neutralize that advantage is the presence of a veteran quarterback but each team possesses one of them here so the trend remains in Denver’s favor.

“The big thing about all this is that it is a short week so we don’t have time to feel sorry about ourselves,“ said Charges pass rusher Dwight Freeney. “I know Denver doesn’t care about last week. We just have to focus on Denver this Thursday night.“

Predicted outcome: Broncos 31, Chargers 23


►  Chargers CB Flowers out vs. Broncos

San Diego Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers will miss Thursday night’s game against the Denver Broncos.

Flowers suffered a concussion in last Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was held out of practice this week.

The 28-year-old Flowers has 23 tackles and two interceptions in six games—all starts—this season.

Fellow cornerbacks Jason Verrett (shoulder) and Steve Williams (groin) are listed as questionable. If neither can go, the Chargers will be down to Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall and Chris Davis at the position.

Running backs Ryan Mathews (knee) and Donald Brown (concussion) and linebacker Manti Te’o (foot) have also been ruled out. Linebacker Jerry Attaochu is doubtful with a hamstring injury.


►  Polian, Wolf named Pro Football HOF finalists

Former NFL general managers Bill Polian and Ron Wolf have been selected as finalists for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class under the newly-created contributors category.

The two Super Bowl-winning executives will have their candidacies reviewed by the Hall of Fame’s Contributor Selection Committee on January 31. They will need to receive 80% of votes cast to receive enshrinement.

Polian was the architect of the AFC powerhouse Buffalo Bills teams of the early 1990s that went to four straight Super Bowls, then later helped the Indianapolis Colts to a pair of conference titles and a victory in Super Bowl XLI during a 15-year run as GM and team president from 1997-2011.

In between, he served as the first GM as the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1994 and quickly assembled a team that reached the NFC Championship Game in its second season of existence.

“It’s an incredible honor that I never envisioned ever happening,“ said Polian when he learned of becoming a finalist.

Wolf is best known for reestablishing the Green Bay Packers back to prominence in the 1990s, an era highlighted by back-to-back Super Bowl appearances during the 1997 and 1998 seasons that included a win over New England in Super Bowl XXXI. The Packers compiled a 92-52 record during Wolf’s nine-year term as GM from 1992-2000 and went to the playoffs six straight times during that period.

Prior to joining Green Bay, Wolf worked two stints in the Raiders’ front office beginning in 1963 and was a part of another Super Bowl title during the 1983 season.

“I realize that none of this would be possible without an awful lot of support from a lot of other people,“ said Wolf in a statement.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced in August it would be adding a contributor category that would be separate from the candidate list of ex- players and coaches. The decision was made to address the lack of Hall of Fame members that were former commissioners, owners and general managers.

Over the HOF’s last 49 years of voting, only nine people who fall under the contributor label have received induction.

The Hall of Fame announced a preliminary list of 113 nominees for its 2015 class in September, with that group to be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November before 15 finalists will be voted upon in January.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nothin’ but Net: 2014-15 Season Preview Part 1

We are just days away from the start of yet another NBA campaign.

In one week, everyone starts off equal. It won’t take long for the herd to be thinned and the Sixers and Spurs to veer off in opposite directions.

It is now time for tradition. Let’s rank the top 30 teams, starting with - spoiler alert - the 76ers, and work our way to No. 1 (hint: it may not be San Antonio).

To further the drama, we shall spread the league over two days. First up, the non-playoff teams, although these do not represent the 14 worst teams in the league.

The Eastern Conference is once again top-heavy, but a little stronger overall than last season. The Western Conference is a clown car with 11 legitimate playoff contenders.

And away we go ...

30. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

When general manager Sam Hinkie started the rebuild plan, people looked at this season as a turning point. Nerlens Noel would be back after missing the entire 2013-14 campaign. Plus, they’d have two first-round picks coming in to bolster the roster. That would basically amount to three lottery picks arriving at the same time. Philly fans could get on board with that.

Oops.

Joel Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick, will be sidelined most likely for the season with a broken foot. Dario Saric, acquired in a pretty shrewd draft- night trade, which also brought back the team’s first-round pick it gave away for Andrew Bynum, has two years at minimum left on a contract overseas.

So, to sum up, the Sixers will have nothing but second-round picks contributing this season with Noel and reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, who, did I forget to mention, had shoulder surgery in May and will miss the start of the season.

The starting lineup opening night could be: Noel, Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson, Luc Mbah a Mute and maybe Alexey Shved.

That’s right, this season’s Sixers will be worse than the one a season ago, a team so bad and embarrassing to the league the board of governors is going to change how the lottery works to avoid such obvious displays of tanking.

(I totally understand the board of governors going to these lengths. I also understand the Sixers being upset this change will occur in the middle of their rebuilding plan.)

At least last season’s Sixers featured three professionals in Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. All are gone, replaced by barely serviceable NBA players.

This Sixers team will finish with the worst record in the league. Is the 1973 team’s 9-73 mark, the worst single-season NBA record of all time, in jeopardy? Probably not, but it’s almost impossible seeing them top last season’s 19 wins.

29. UTAH JAZZ

The Jazz also are in a rebuilding situation, but they have infinitely more talent than the Sixers. Their foundation consists of decent youngsters like Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Trey Burke and Derrick Favors. Throw in a pair of strong first-round prospects like Dante Exum and Rodney Hood, and the Jazz have the preliminary ingredients of a solid stew.

But those ingredients need to slow-cook in the Crock-Pot. Serve it too early, and you’ll give everyone food poisoning. This is not to say the Jazz will make you throw up this season, but they aren’t ready for serious consumption.

Quin Snyder is the new coach, but Utah is a ways away from anything meaningful.

Exum will have the largest spotlight shone on him among this crew. Not many knew much about his game other than Youtube highlights. I’m a fan, but it might be rough riding for the Aussie early. Hood is a good shooter. They should compete for solid minutes this season and the five other above- mentioned talents are a good starting point. However, this team doesn’t have a can’t-miss guy unless Exum flourishes early. It’s possible, but slow and steady Jazz fans.

28. MILWAUKEE BUCKS

It’s easy to forget that through all of the tanking debate last season, the Bucks finished with the worst record. Forget the Sixers, the Bucks were the largest dumpster fire in the NBA last season, so things changed in Milwaukee.

Jason Kidd was hired to be the head coach and I should have saved the phrase “dumpster fire” to describe his departure from the Brooklyn Nets and hiring by the Bucks.

Kidd staged a power play for more control in personnel in Brooklyn. Mikhail Prokhorov said “do svidaniya,“ so Kidd is now in charge of the Bucks.

But Larry Drew was already the coach of the Bucks, so Kidd took a job with a team that already had a coach. That would be two no-no’s Kidd committed in terms of being an employee and a member of the coaching fraternity.

Kidd started as a joke leading the Nets, then got better at the job. The situation is astronomically different in Milwaukee. Prokhorov spent billions to make the Nets contenders. The Bucks, who sold for half a billion less than a year ago, are working their way to respectability. The pressure will be lighter on Kidd.

The Bucks nabbed Jabari Parker with the second overall pick and have the most NBA-ready prospect from the draft. The favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year should score plenty, but will he get any help?

Giannis Antetokounmpo grew two inches and was playing some point. Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova can’t be worse than last season. This group could be fun to watch at least. Parker and Giannis (I’m not re-typing Antetokounmpo every time, grammar be damned) are an extraordinarily versatile set of building blocks.

27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

One year ago at this time, I had the Wolves making the postseason. One year later, Kevin Love is a Cleveland Cavalier, Rick Adelman is retired and the Wolves are lottery-bound.

Minny made the correct move in flipping Love for Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two No. 1 overall picks. Love wasn’t staying in town, so Flip Saunders and Co. got a strong haul for him.

Jettisoning a top-seven player in the league will obviously set the team back. Wiggins and Bennett may not revitalize the Timberwolves immediately, but Wiggins will in time.

What makes the Wolves moderately interesting is that there is big-time scoring talent in the Land of Lakes (not the butter). Nikola Pekovic is an above- average center, Kevin Martin will score close to 20 points per game, Corey Brewer is still a capable wing and Ricky Rubio is ... flashy.

Wiggins’ development will take center stage, but this is a gigantic season for Rubio. He’s due a contract, wants a max one, should never get a max one, but probably will get a max one. Rubio took steps back last season and looked downright terrified to shoot the ball. He needs to display some more skills than solid defense and showy passes.

The Wolves have decent talent, but if they couldn’t make the postseason with Love, how will they without him in the loaded Western Conference? They won’t.

26. ORLANDO MAGIC

This group confuses me some.

There is a lot of quality young talent on this roster, some you know (Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo) and some you don’t (Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, Moe Harkless).

The ones you don’t know are capable scorers, but Payton is different. The Magic gave the first-round pick the team got in the Bynum trade back to Philly to get this guy. They love him and they should. He’s going to be a relentless defender in the NBA even if he doesn’t score a point until Christmas. Pairing him in the backcourt with another great, athletic guard in Oladipo could make for some nightmares for the opposition.

Vucevic is a double-double machine. Harris’ career has flourished since leaving Milwaukee. Gordon is going to put on some shows of athletic insanity and his shooting has looked good in the preseason. Everyone else can be competent bench players.

Problem is, no one is an alpha dog and NBA teams need one. Payton might be that. He’s a great dark horse NBA Rookie of the Year candidate. Gordon could grow into it, but neither feels to me like the type of reliable star a team needs to thrive.

There’s a lot to like with the Magic, but not enough to get really excited. They need that mega-watt star.

25. SACRAMENTO KINGS

Trivia question: What was the only team in the NBA last season that had three players average at least 20 points per game? Obviously, since the header for this portion reads SACRAMENTO KINGS, it would be those eternally lottery-bound Kings.

That stat does not help this group one bit considering one of those three is now the backup point guard for the Phoenix Suns - Isaiah Thomas.

Another was Rudy Gay, the poster boy of hatred for the analytic crew.

The third was DeMarcus Cousins. He’s still there and I’m advocating a push to make him the starting center for the Western Conference All-Star team. He puts up gigantic numbers and I truly believe his experience with Coach K and Team USA this summer at the FIBA World Cup will do him wonders. He’s going to mature.

However, when a team essentially swaps Thomas for Darren Collison, who is, under no circumstances a starting point guard in this league, things decline.

Sacramento, for that simple reason, took steps backward in the offseason and that’s terrible when the team was terrible last season. Ben McLemore underwhelmed in his rookie season. Nik Stauskas was brought in to possibly replace him already.

Head coach Mike Malone appeared exasperated one day into training camp last season. He constantly threw his players under the bus to the media and can’t get them to play defense. The Kings finished in the bottom-third in the league last season in both opponents’ scoring and opponents’ field-goal percentage.

Throw in the fact that Gay is still going to chuck, they massive downgraded the point guard position and there isn’t a ton of talent anywhere else, the Kings might actually be worse than last season.

24. BOSTON CELTICS

There are a lot of great pieces in Beantown. Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Evan Turner, Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller are decent NBA players.

There is even quality balance to the C’s roster. Sullinger, Olynyk, Bass and Zeller comprise a nice interior nucleus. Turner, Bradley, Green and Gerald Wallace make for a handy wing group.

The point guard position is where things get interesting.

Rajon Rondo will start the season in street clothes and a sling after falling in the shower. When he returns, is he going to stay in Boston? He’s a free agent at the end of the season and trade rumors never die with Rondo. He has a reasonable deal and it would just be a rental since he’s free this summer.

Do the Celtics want to keep Rondo long-term? He’ll be 29 in February, but has injury history. Boston wants a huge haul in return for Rondo, which might be tough to get since it would be a rental, but Rondo does have value to a contender. Problem is, most of the best teams in the NBA have stud point guards.

Further compounding the drama around Rondo is that the Celtics drafted Marcus Smart in the first round. He’s going to be sensational and a great two-way player. Smart and Bradley could be one of the best defensive backcourts in the league.

Danny Ainge has a lot of decisions on his plate when it comes to Rondo. He’s done well stashing some quality young bigs. Smart and even James Young were nice draft choices. It’ll come down to what to do with Rondo.

23. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Kobe Bryant will be back. He’s going to score a lot again because he’s going to have a chip on his shoulder bigger than the Hollywood sign. ESPN ranked him as the 40th-best player in the league. No one has faith in the Lakers. Kobe is angry and will be determined.

It won’t matter. The Lakers are bad, especially on defense. There isn’t one player currently on the Lakers’ roster whom you could even generously describe as adequate defensively.

Byron Scott was brought in as head coach. He’s done a decent job in various stops but hasn’t had significant success in a long time. Plus, he’s more old school than beta max, which may not translate well into today’s game.

Mike D’Antoni led this team to the lottery and L.A. lost Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls. The new additions were Carlos Boozer (amnestied by those same Bulls and at the end of the rope), Jeremy Lin (still a decent playmaker and shooter), Ed Davis (big fan, actually) and Julius Randle (also, a big fan).

The rest of the roster is populated by Steve Nash, who, if Boozer is at the end, Nash is so far past the end he can’t see the end, and a hodge podge of journeymen who all had career seasons playing for D’Antoni. His offensive system along with an indifference to defense means he could get 10 points per game out of a ketchup bottle.

The Lakers will get a handful of wins thanks to Kobe’s sheer force of will, but this will probably be Bryant’s worst Lakers’ team.

22. INDIANA PACERS

The 2014-15 Indiana Pacers - from the penthouse to the outhouse. Print that on the season tickets.

Paul George’s freak leg injury and Lance Stephenson’s free-agent departure means this Pacers team is going to miss the postseason. Losing both of your best players, and, the only true playmakers on a team that struggled badly offensively means it’s lottery city in May.

The Pacers plan to play hard and not “tank.“ That’s fine and with veterans like David West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill, a wonderful defensive-minded head coach in Frank Vogel and some interesting youngsters we haven’t seen much, so Indiana will show full commitment every game.

But the talent isn’t there to make any series noise. Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles were brought in to replace Stephenson collectively, now they have to replace both Stephenson and George. Not happening.

In fact, I’m a believer that this Pacers group as we know it is done being contenders. Therefore, I’m advocating trading West. He’s a proven winner and leader who is still effective at both ends of the floor. He should be mildly attractive to a contender.

If the Pacers can find fair value for Hibbert, they should explore that as well. Who knows who Hibbert is anymore. He looked great early in the regular season, but when the Pacers started to circle the drain in April, Hibbert’s game collapsed like a Jenga tower.

The offense, which was problematic under the best of circumstances last season, will now go through Hibbert and West, and that does nothing to soothe concerns.

Indy will be a team no one really wants to play with the defense and size, but talent is what wins and the Pacers have very little this season.

21. DETROIT PISTONS

This squad burned me badly in the past.

Two seasons ago, I named them the best bad team in basketball and last season, I picked them for the playoffs. The Pistons have not made the postseason in either of those instances, so I’m backing off the Detroit train.

The three-man big combo of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond stunk. They can’t play together and it’s so obvious new head coach and franchise grand poobah Stan Van Gundy is toying with bringing Monroe off the bench.

That’s just a sample of the problems the Pistons face this season.

Monroe signed about 25 minutes ago. He gambled on himself, signing a one-year contract that will send him into unrestricted free agency in the summer.

There were rumblings from Grantland’s Zach Lowe that Monroe doesn’t want to be with the Pistons if Smith is there. Monroe denied and good thing because Smith’s contract makes him virtually untradable unless the Kings lose their minds once again like they did with Gay.

Brandon Jennings is a shoot-first point guard, so there will be clashes with that. Jodie Meeks was signed as a free agent and his back is broken. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who could really emerge in his second season, is also hurt. There is almost depth up front if Van Gundy keeps that big-man trio together.

But there is some reason for optimism in Motown. Drummond is turning into one of the game’s elite centers and his time in Barcelona with Team USA will help. Like Cousins, Drummond should’ve learned something about winning and professionalism with the game’s best this summer.

Drummond is great on the interior, but Van Gundy needs to find the best lineup for this team to win some games. If that’s Smith at the power forward and Monroe on the bench, so be it.

Van Gundy is a great coach. He’s feather-ruffler so making the tough call on Monroe or Smith will be easy for him. (It also might be easy because Monroe seemingly has no, nor does he want, a future in Detroit.) The Pistons will be better, but not playoff better.

I learned.

20. NEW YORK KNICKS

Phil Jackson’s offseason was hard to describe.

There was good. Getting Carmelo Anthony locked into a long-term max contract before the salary cap explodes in two summers was good. Acquiring Jose Calderon was good. Drafting Cleanthony Early was good. Quincy Acy has been good.

There was bad. Jackson was publicly spurned by his first coaching choice, Steve Kerr. He settled on Derek Fisher, but at least the triangle is back en vogue (not the R&B female trio).

The Knicks should be in the mix for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but this team has some of the same flaws it exhibited in missing the postseason in 2013-14.

Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith are the primary big men in the rotation. That’s not great, but the best news about the 2014-15 Knicks is what lies ahead.

Cap space.

Assuming the team doesn’t bring back Stoudemire or Bargnani, that’s a ton of cash available this summer. Do any free agents want to sign long term in the summer of 2015 if the cap goes up to $80-$90 million in the summer of 2016? Maybe not, but the Knicks will be flush with cash. It’s still a desirable location. It’s New York City for goodness sake. The Zen Master is there. Melo, too.

If everything broke well, the Knicks could secure the eighth playoff spot in the East. If not, no biggie, there’s a lot to look forward to in Madison Square Garden.

19. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

Last season, the Pelicans made the moves to make the playoffs. Trades, signings, you name it, they tried.

Their best group - Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis - played a combined 259 games of a possible 410. That’s where the Pelicans’ season went down.

All are expected back. Holiday and Anderson missed the most time. Anderson was having a great season, averaging almost 20 points per game until he severely injured his back/neck.

Is that fivesome playoff-worthy? Probably not in the Western Conference, but definitely in the Eastern Conference. This all comes with the caveat that everyone must stay healthy.

The Pelicans had one more big move in them this summer - the acquisition of Omer Asik. Once Dwight Howard landed in Houston, the Rockets couldn’t make the two fit, so Asik will man the center spot, which moves Davis to the power forward. That will be better for the Unibrow in the long run, avoiding some of the battle scars of banging with bigger, stronger pivot men.

And this season will be a huge one for Davis. He was, at times, amazing in the World Cup. Most believe Davis will improve on last season when he made his first All-Star team and averaged 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per game, the latter which led the league.

Holiday is one season removed from an All-Star berth. Anderson was unconscious before getting hurt. Davis will probably get some MVP votes this season. That leaves it up to Gordon and Evans. That should scare Pelicans’ brass some. Also, there’s not a ton of depth in New Orleans, so any injury will derail the playoff push once again.

18. DENVER NUGGETS

Here is my pick for team with the biggest win improvement total from last season. In Brian Shaw’s first season at the helm, the Nuggets went 36-46. Shaw fought with Andre Miller, JaVale McGee got hurt early, same goes for Nate Robinson and the campaign hit the skids quick.

Also, Danilo Gallinari missed the entire season with a knee injury. During the 2012-13 season, where George Karl guided the team to a third seed in the West, Gallinari averaged 16.2 points per game, which was second on the team.

The team brought back Arron Afflalo after two seasons in Orlando. They only gave up Evan Fournier and got back an 18.2-point scorer last season with the Magic.

Then, there’s Kenneth Faried. He should’ve been the MVP of the World Cup for Team USA. He’s armed with a new contract and should be overflowing with confidence.

Denver even had a nice draft night getting

And we save the bombshell for last ...Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic. This roster is deep. If the two rookies get minutes, Shaw could go 12 deep. And, Shaw, like the ratings for “Cheers,“ will be better in season two.

The Nuggets would be a playoff team out East, but the West is just too strong.

17. HOUSTON ROCKETS

The Rockets won a lot of regular-season games last season, but never clicked. They got bounced quickly from the playoffs despite home-court advantage and things didn’t get better in Houston in the offseason.

Once LeBron James signed with the Cavaliers, most thought Chris Bosh would head to the Rockets to be the stretch four they desperately needed. He stayed with Miami for crazy money.

Then Chandler Parsons scooted across the state to the Dallas Mavericks. Hard to say the Rockets erred in not matching Parsons’ offer sheet from the Mavs, but either way, he’s gone.

The Rockets have two mega-stars in Dwight Howard and James Harden. Trevor Ariza was a nice replacement for Parsons. He actually plays defense. So, too, does Patrick Beverley, the starting point guard in Houston. Terrence Jones is the other starter.

That’s not a wonderful group surrounding the stars. I’m pro-Ariza in a big way, but the real issue in Houston is the lack of depth. They acquired Jason Terry, who hasn’t had a good season since 2011-12 and, at 37, improvement doesn’t always come with age.

And there seems to be a disconnect between Harden and Howard. It worked last season, but the scoring won’t be the same without Harden, Lin and Asik. Defense should improve in Houston, but I worry about this team.

Only eight squads a conference make the playoffs. There are 11 contenders in the West and for most of the offseason, I had the same eight that made it last season. I do feel like the Rockets will take a step backward and in the ultra-competitve Western Conference, that means missing the playoffs. Kevin McHale is on the hottest seat in the league.

The Rockets don’t work for me.

Until Wednesday, when the 16 playoff teams are ranked. Again, it’s not the best 16 teams in the NBA, but it’s who is going to the postseason.  ~~  Jim Brighters ~~


►  Bulls G Butler has sprained thumb

Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler has a sprained thumb and will miss Friday’s preseason finale against Minnesota, the team said Tuesday.

Butler suffered the left thumb injury on Sunday against Charlotte and sat out Monday’s game against Cleveland.

The 2011 first-round pick will be re-evaluated after Friday’s game.

The Bulls open the regular season on October 29 in New York.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Royals beat Giants in Game 2, tying Series

The Kansas City Royals needed a big inning and got it.

A day after beginning their first World Series in 29 years with a whimper, the American League champions produced a bang.

Omar Infante’s two-run homer punctuated a five-run sixth inning that propelled the Royals to a 7-2 win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 on Wednesday.

The Royals rebounded in a big way from Tuesday’s 7-1 bummer, when they were so starved for hits against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner that a 3-0 first-inning deficit looked positively insurmountable.

They trailed early in this one, too, after Gregor Blanco hit the first Giants leadoff homer in World Series history. And they faced another San Francisco pitcher who hit a groove, the veteran Jake Peavy, who had retired 10 in a row before Lorenzo Cain led off the sixth inning with a single.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy brought in Jean Machi after Peavy (0-1) walked Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler lined a 2-0 pitch into left-center for an RBI single that snapped a 2-2 tie.

Javier Lopez came in to retire Alex Gordon on a fly ball for the first out but the Royals rally continued against rookie Hunter Strickland, who surrendered a two-run double to Salvador Perez and then Infante’s homer over the left-field wall to make it 7-2.

Strickland and Perez exchanged words after the Royals catcher trotted down the third-base line and crossed home plate, leading to some brief drama as several Royals players gathered near the on-deck circle, but nothing more.

“I think it was just frustration on his part,“ Bochy said of his pitcher. “I mean, it’s intense out there. He’s an intense kid, and it probably got away from him a little bit. But I’ll talk to him once we’re done here. He gave up a double and then a home run. He’s a competitor, and it just got away from him, I think.“

Strickland said he “wasn’t too excited about me not doing my job.“

“It was frustrating,“ he said. “My emotions got the best of me. There was some miscommunication between us, so no hard feelings.“

It was a fitting scene for the Royals, as the drama so prevalent in a playoff run that began with eight straight wins, showed up once again and not a moment too soon.

Game 3 is Friday in San Francisco. Barring three straight wins by the Giants out there, the series will come back to Kansas City next week.

“Our fans were just rabid,“ said Royals manager Ned Yost. “They were into the game from the first pitch. You look up there, and I think there’s half the crowd that doesn’t sit down for the entire game. I don’t know how they keep their energy going, but they sure do.

“It’s a fun atmosphere. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere in San Francisco, too, because they’ve got some great fans down there, too.“

The Giants, trying to win a third title in five years, knocked around James Shields in Game 1 to quiet a Kauffman Stadium crowd that hadn’t seen the Royals in a World Series game since their Game 7 clincher over St. Louis in 1985. The loss snapped Kansas City’s 11-game postseason winning streak dating back to that series.

Several of the Giants’ own eye-popping World Series streaks ended Wednesday.

They had been 9-1 in their last 10 Fall Classic games, including a seven-game winning streak since losing to Texas in 2010’s Game 3. They were 5-0 in this postseason when scoring first.

“It’s great to get a win here,“ Bochy said. “I mean, this is a great club. We had a tough time here in August, and for us to leave here with a split, you’d like to get greedy, but we know it’s going to be a tough series.“

Royals rookie Yordano Ventura started Blanco off with eight fastballs in the mid-90s and he lined the last one over the right-field wall for an early lead.

The Royals tied it on Butler’s RBI single in the bottom of the first, which highlighted a rally that included three hits, beginning with a leadoff single by Alcides Escobar, who was thrown out trying to steal second base by Buster Posey before Cain doubled.

Infante doubled with one out in the second inning and scored on Escobar’s double into the right-field corner to give the Royals a lead that lasted one inning.

The Giants tied it in the fourth, when Pablo Sandoval led off with a double to stretch his franchise record to 25 consecutive playoff games reaching base and scored on Brandon Belt’s double to right.

Belt was later tagged out sliding back into second base after threatening to run to third on an errant throw from the outfield.

Singles by Posey and Hunter Pence in the sixth forced Yost to turn to Kelvin Herrera (1-0), who got two straight outs to escape the jam for Ventura.

Herrera stayed in, pitching out of a jam in the seventh and Wade Davis threw a perfect eighth. Greg Holland then worked around a single in the ninth to close the win.

Game Notes

Sixteen-year veteran Tim Hudson will start Game 3 for San Francisco in his first-ever World Series appearance. Fellow right-hander Jeremy Guthrie is scheduled to pitch for the Royals ... Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched for the first time since Sept. 28, throwing 1 2/3 innings for the Giants before leaving the game with lower back tightness .... Sandoval tied Baltimore’s Boog Powell (1966-71) for the third-longest streak in major-league history. Only Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (31, 2011-13) and Philadelphia’s Chase Utley (27, 2007-09) have longer postseason on-base streaks ... Pence has reached base safely in 15 consecutive postseason games.


►  World Series Game Result

Final Score: Kansas City 7, San Francisco 2

The Kansas City Royals needed a big inning and got it. A day after beginning their first World Series in 29 years with a whimper, the American League champions produced a bang. Omar Infante’s two-run homer punctuated a five-run sixth inning that propelled the Royals to a 7-2 win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 on Wednesday. The Royals rebounded in a big way from Tuesday’s 7-1 bummer, when they were so starved for hits against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner that a 3-0 first-inning deficit looked positively insurmountable. They trailed early in this one, too, after Gregor Blanco hit the first Giants leadoff homer in World Series history. And they faced another San Francisco pitcher who hit a groove, the veteran Jake Peavy, who had retired 10 in a row before Lorenzo Cain led off the sixth inning with a single. Giants manager Bruce Bochy brought in Jean Machi after Peavy walked Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler lined a 2-0 pitch into left-center for an RBI single that snapped a 2-2 tie. Javier Lopez came in to retire Alex Gordon on a fly ball for the first out but the Royals rally continued against rookie Hunter Strickland, who surrendered a two-run double to Salvador Perez and then Infante’s homer over the left-field wall to make it 7-2. Strickland and Perez exchanged words after the Royals catcher trotted down the third-base line and crossed home plate, leading to some brief drama as several Royals players gathered near the on-deck circle, but nothing more. Still, it painted a fitting picture, as the drama so prevalent for the Royals in a playoff run that began with eight straight wins, showed up once again and not a moment too soon. Game 3 is Friday in San Francisco.

The Gilmer Free Press


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2014


National Football League
San Diego at Denver, 8:25 PM - CBS, NFL Network


Major League Baseball - World Series
No games scheduled


National Hockey League
NY Islanders at Boston, 7:00 PM - MSG+, NESN, DSS
Pittsburgh at Detroit, 7:30 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, FS-Detroit, DSS
Arizona at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-Arizona, North, DSS
Vancouver at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - SN-Vancouver, FS-Midwest, NHL Network, DSS
Chicago at Nashville, 8:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, FS-Tennessee, DSS
Carolina at Calgary, 9:00 PM - SportSouth, SNET-Flames, DSS
Columbus at San Jose, 10:30 PM - FS-Ohio, CSN-California, DSS
Buffalo at Los Angeles, 10:30 PM - MSG-Buffalo, FS-West, DSS


College Football
Connecticut at East Carolina, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Miami-Florida at Virginia Tech, 8:00 PM - ESPN


International Soccer
Lille vs. Everton, 1:00 PM - FS1
Tottenham vs. Asteras Tripolis, 3:00 PM - FS1


Golf
PGA - McGladrey Classic, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel
AMATEUR - Asia-Pacific Amateur, 11:30 PM - ESPN 2
LPGA - Blue Bay LPGA, 11:30 PM - Golf Channel

Sports News

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  West Virginia’s Shell, Worley, Chestnut day-to-day

Three injured starters haven’t been ruled out for No. 22 West Virginia’s next game at Oklahoma State.

Coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday that cornerbacks Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut and running back Rushel Shell are day-to-day. They were hurt in the first half of West Virginia’s 41-27 win over Baylor on Saturday.

Worley injured his ribs after fumbling a second-quarter punt. Later in the period, Chestnut sustained a head injury after a hard block from Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman.

Shell hurt his right ankle after a first-quarter run.

All three did not return.

“We knew it was going to be a physical game. We wanted to play that way,“ Holgorsen said. “I thought we were nasty. We played the type of game that I felt like we needed to in order to win.“

The Mountaineers overcame the injuries with their depth.

Backup cornerback Ricky Rumph made six tackles, while Ishmael Banks had a tackle and broke up a pass. The Mountaineers limited Baylor to season lows for points and total yards.

In Shell’s absence, three other running backs combined for 150 yards on 42 carries. Baylor had entered the game allowing an average of 108 yards on the ground.

Dreamius Smith, the Mountaineers’ fourth-leading rusher, gained 39 yards on a second-quarter drive that he capped with a 9-yard scoring run. Wendell Smallwood, who had a season-high 123 rushing yards a week earlier at Texas Tech, led West Virginia against Baylor with 66 yards on 20 carries.

“Having guys go in to play at a high level when guys go down is what you have to do if you want to win games in the Big 12,“ Holgorsen said.

Worley’s fumble was the latest in a season filled with problems on punts for the Mountaineers. Their average of 3.6 yards per return is among the worst in the nation. Jordan Thompson also has had fumble problems and deciding when to catch punts. Twice on Saturday, West Virginia lined up with all 11 players rushing the punter and no one back to field it.

West Virginia (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) plays at Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Marshall Sports ran 2013 deficit, WVU netted $4.2M

A state legislative report says Marshall University athletics ran a $749,800 deficit in 2013, using $7.9 million from sources like state money and tuition.

The subsidized money comprised almost 29% of Marshall Athletics revenue in the 2013 budget year.

On Tuesday, a financial report on NCAA athletics in West Virginia was released to a legislative panel. Legislative Post Audit Division Director Denny Rhodes wrote it.

The report says West Virginia University, which netted $4.2 million, only used $31,500 in subsidized money in 2013. That’s about 0.04 % of its revenue.

WVU brought in $77.7 million outside of direct institutional support, like Big 12 conference distributions, donations and ticket sales. Marshall yielded about $19.7 million in that category.

WVU lost $816,000 on men’s basketball, while netting $10.9 million from football.


►  Marshall Brief

Marshall’s most recent trip to Miami nearly mirrored the 2013 journey to Florida International University. After a slow start, the Herd asserted its dominance and rolled to a 45-13 win.

It is understandable that several players, including quarterback Rakeem Cato, were amped up and even pressing during the first half. For so many players who hail from Florida, this game is the only chance for family and friends to see them play. For Cato, the added excitement of playing at home was compounded by anticipation of breaking Russell Wilson’s record of 38 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

The Herd trailed for the first time all season when FIU took a 7-0 lead. Marshall led by just seven points at halftime and it still won by 32 points. The bottom line is when a team “struggles” and still wins by 32 points, it’s a pretty good football team.

You know you’ve arrived when…
You’re not big time unless you have parody Twitter account or one of your body parts has its own Twitter. Meet @47sStiffArm or “RockHeads Stiff Arm.”

“Still shocked,” said Johnson. “I was like, ‘what in the world?’ I never thought my arm would be on Twitter. It doesn’t bother me at all, I thought it was funny. Hopefully he doesn’t put anything stupid on there.”

Looking ahead
It’s never too early to peek towards the future. I’ve mentioned before some of the younger players such as Angelo Jean-Louis and Tommell One give Herd fans reason to be very optimistic about the future. Add Ryan Yuracheck to that list. The true freshman has eight catches for 74 yards this season, including Rakeem Cato’s record breaking touchdown pass. Now, with Deon-Tay McManus playing outside receiver he’s the undisputed No.2 tight end. It will be interesting to watch him develop over the next three years.

Keep calm and play on
Maybe it is just our nature in West Virginia to hope for the best but expect the worst. That may be why I’m already receiving messages from concerned fans who fear Marshall could have one of its best teams ever and still might be left out of a New Year’s bowl.

My advice?

Let the season play out and see what happens. As I said last week, if members of the playoff selection committee take the time to watch Marshall they will see the schedule is not the reason this team is having the success it is. We will get a good idea where the Herd stands next Tuesday when the committee releases its initial top 25 ranking.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Upsets Leave Big 12’s College Playoff Chances In Peril

The Big 12 has been as entertaining as any league in the country. All that fun might come with a price.

Upsets like West Virginia beating Baylor and Kansas State surprising Oklahoma have again made the conference impossible to ignore during the regular season. But they could also leave the league out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Mountaineers QB Clint Trickett threw two of his three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, while Kevin White had a pair of TD catches and West Virginia surprised sloppy No. 4 Baylor 41-27 Saturday.

The Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) surpassed their win total of last season and beat a top five opponent for the first time since defeating No. 3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2007 season.

Also on Saturday – No. 11 Oklahoma, trailing by a point in the fourth quarter, had finally had seized momentum after playing catch-up for much of the game. The Sooners (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) drove to the Kansas State 1-yard line, but couldn’t punch the ball in.

Oklahoma kicker Hunnicutt missed a chip-shot field goal that would have put the Sooners ahead with 3:53 remaining. A stunned home crowd gasped and groaned, and No. 14 Kansas State (5-1, 3-0) took possession and ran out the clock, defeating Oklahoma 31-30.

Kansas State, TCU and Baylor are the only one-loss teams left, and each has plenty of challenges ahead.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bills put Spiller on short-term IR

The Buffalo Bills placed running back C.J. Spiller on injured reserve/designated for return Tuesday.

In a corresponding move, the team signed running back Phillip Tanner.

Spiller underwent surgery Monday to repair a broken clavicle.

He got hurt in the second quarter of Sunday’s 17-16 win over Minnesota. Spiller came down hard on his left shoulder at the end of a 53-yard run, his lone carry of the game.

Fellow running back Fred Jackson could miss up to four weeks with a groin injury.

Tanner spent the past three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, compiling just 56 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns.


►  Jets sign Kerley to four-year extension

The New York Jets have signed wide receiver Jeremy Kerley to a four-year extension.

According to multiple reports, the deal is worth $16 million ($5.4 million guaranteed).

A four-year veteran, Kerley has 22 catches for 201 yards with one touchdown this season for the 1-6 Jets.

Over his career, Kerley, a 2011 fifth-round pick out of TCU, has 150 receptions for 1,865 yards with seven touchdowns.


►  Cowboys waive Sam from practice squad

The Dallas Cowboys waived defensive end Michael Sam from the practice squad on Tuesday to make room for a linebacker who recently worked out for the team.

Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, was signed on September 3 after being waived by the St. Louis Rams, who drafted him in the seventh round.

The former SEC Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri spent the first seven weeks of the season on the Cowboys’ 10-man practice squad without making the 53-man roster.

The move opened a spot for Troy Davis, who appeared in four games for the New York Jets as a rookie last season and who worked out for the Cowboys on Monday.

Before he was waived by St. Louis, Sam had 11 tackles and three sacks in four preseason games, including a team-high six stops in the finale against Miami.

Sam publicly declared his homosexuality prior to February’s scouting combine.


►  Bucs DE Bowers suspended two games

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Da’Quan Bowers has been suspended two games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, the league announced Tuesday.

Bowers will be forced to miss upcoming games with Minnesota and Cleveland before being eligible to return for Tampa Bay’s home tilt against Atlanta on November 09.

The 2011 second-round pick started a pair of games earlier this season and has recorded six tackles and one sack over five overall contests in 2014.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  2014-15 Miami Heat Preview

Changes are coming to the Miami Heat.

Of course, the reigning four-time Eastern Conference champions lost the best player in the world, LeBron James.

The man who led the Heat to two championships and four NBA Finals appearances allowed his heart to take him home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is gone and the Heat have to put the pieces back together.

“It was a big change this summer,“ said head coach Erik Spoelstra. “The chapter on that team was going to close. We’re looking forward to this challenge. It’s been a different process than we had the last four summers.

“I’m looking at this as a blank canvas.“

There is no way on Earth anyone can replace James. He is the best player in the universe for a reason - his total package of basketball skills on both sides of the ball.

“Rebuilding” is not the correct word to describe what is going on in South Beach in a post-LeBron world. The other two members of the Big Three - Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - both elected to stay with the Heat. That’s two top-20 players in the league, but in trying to adequately replace James, Pat Riley and the Heat brass did admirably.

First, before James decided to leave, the Heat brought in Josh McRoberts from the Charlotte Hornets. He will move into the starting power forward spot and brings solid shooting and passing.

But, the primary replacement for James will be Luol Deng, formerly of the Chicago Bulls and Cavaliers of all places.

“Everybody’s going to talk about him being gone and me being here,“ Deng said. “But I’m not trying to be LeBron James.“

He’s right, no one can step into the lofty sneakers of James, but Deng does some similar things as the four-time MVP.

Deng is a two-time All-Star and former member of the All-Defensive team. He can do a little bit of everything offensively, just none of it as well as James.

That’s fine. The Heat are very well aware of the fact that one man isn’t going to make everyone in Miami forget about James. It will be a few players with expanded roles that have to account for his production.

Wade is first on that list.

At 32, with bad knees and a lot of late postseason runs on those legs, Wade played only 54 games during the 2013-14 campaign. He did, however, average almost 20 ppg and that was with the bad legs and plenty of rest.

“My role is going to change a little bit,“ Wade told NBA TV. “I’m excited.“

Bosh may be the one to assume more of the scoring role. He indicated that he no longer wanted to bang around in the post like his Toronto Raptors days, but he might have to maximize Miami’s best opportunities. And how will he do that?

“Digging up what I had before and that’s as far as aggressiveness, volume of shots, minutes, rebounds, leadership this team is going to require from me in the absence of LeBron,“ Bosh explained. “It’s a different challenge.“

The reality in Miami is that title aspirations are pie in the sky. James is too big a hurdle to overcome, but the Heat did very well to get the pieces they did.

Miami would have had a difficult offseason if James had decided to stay. The Heat were embarrassed by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. San Antonio showed what team basketball was all about and Miami’s remaining big-time producers, Wade and Bosh, did not.

Spoelstra will have an entire season to work out rotations and figure out how to get the best production possible. If everything works accordingly, the Heat could be a tough out in the postseason.

A lot of Miami’s hopes rest on Wade and his health. That’s a gigantic question as is can Bosh reclaim his past success. Can Deng fit in and produce after a few injury-plagued seasons? Can McRoberts continue to flourish?

There are a lot of potential problems in Miami, but there is still talent and pedigree. One thing there is not in Miami is James.

2013-14 Results: 54-28, 1st in Southeast; Lost NBA Finals to San Antonio

ADDITIONS: F Josh McRoberts, F Luol Deng, F Danny Granger, G Shabazz Napier, G Shannon Brown, G Reggie Williams, F Shawne Williams, F James Ennis

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- Mario Chalmers SG- Dwyane Wade SF- Luol Deng PF- Josh McRoberts C- Chris Bosh

KEY RESERVES: F Udonis Haslem, C Chris Andersen, F Danny Granger, G Norris Cole, G Shabazz Napier, G Shannon Brown, F Shawne Williams, F James Ennis

FRONTCOURT: Bosh averaged 16.2 ppg and in his four seasons with the Heat, his scoring production has declined. Same goes for his rebounding, assists and overall presence as an interior force.

Bosh expanded his range out to 3-point range and shot an admirable 34 percent from beyond the arc. Now, the expectation is that Bosh will return to the low post, yet still remain productive from the 3-point line.

In his five final seasons with the Raptors, Bosh never averaged fewer than 22 ppg. He had three seasons during that span with 10-plus rebounds per night. Of course, those years came in his early 20s, but Bosh is only 30, so he might be able to handle a heavy load.

Deng has career averages of 16.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 2.5 apg. Those aren’t near LeBron levels, especially in the play-making department.

But Deng is versatile offensively, not to mention great defensively. He can shoot the three respectably (33 percent for his career), is a great slasher and decent ball-handler.

“He’s a very underrated, multi-skilled offensive player,“ Spoelstra said of Deng. “The type of person he is, qualities he embodies are similar to the type of player we want here.“

The type of person Deng is came into question a bit this offseason. Deng was the player mentioned by Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry in his now infamous reading of a scouting report that questioned Deng’s character in some way because he is of African descent.

Deng took the high road publicly and it’s hard to imagine it bothers him terribly. He didn’t sign with the Hawks and it looks like Deng is keeping expectations relatively small in terms of replacing James.

McRoberts was signed early in the offseason and he does a little of everything, all decently, none great. He averaged 8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 4.3 apg with the Hornets last season and shot 36 percent from deep. He’s a solid NBA professional.

BACKCOURT: Wade’s 2013-14 season was odd. He missed 28 regular-season games due to injury or rest, but produced at a big level - 19.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 spg and 55 percent shooting.

Come the postseason, those numbers all dove. In the Finals, Wade looked bad. He averaged 15.2 ppg and only managed 10 and 11 in Games 4 and 5, respectively. Wade looked tired and worn down.

That happened the year before as well, but James overcame it. During the 2013-14 regular season, James had to do almost all of the heavy lifting with Wade in and out of the lineup. James just couldn’t overcome the Spurs this time.

What does Spoelstra do with Wade this season? His plan always seemed to be to get Wade as much rest as possible to keep him fresh for the playoffs, but can that really be the plan in 2014-15? The Heat aren’t a title team, and with James in Cleveland, can Spoelstra afford to rest Wade as much as the last two seasons? What would be the point? The Heat will need as many regular-season victories as possible to make the playoffs.

Wade needs to play well when out there to give the Heat any chance. Can he still do that 70-75 nights a year? That’s a lot to ask of him.

Chalmers was retained via free agency and if Wade looked bad in the Finals, Chalmers was even worse. Chalmers managed 4.4 ppg and played just a shade under 15 minutes in San Antonio’s clinching Game 5 win.

When Chalmers is playing decently, he’s a solid floor general who can shoot and defend a little. He might thrive a little without James constantly hounding him. Or, Norris Cole could finally unseat him, or maybe even rookie Shabazz Napier.

BENCH: Cole is a great change of pace guy off the bench. He’s got stones and isn’t afraid to take shots. His minutes jumped in his third season and could see the bulk of the action at the point.

Andersen is a fantastic backup big man. I think the Heat don’t use him enough, but in the Finals, when Gregg Popovich inserted Boris Diaw into the starting lineup, Spoelstra had to stay smallish and keep Bosh on the floor. Andersen is a good defender, underrated offensive guy and master agitator.

Haslem reminds me of the Traveling Willburys’ song - “End of the Line.“

Granger is far from his prime, but still might have something left. He hasn’t played a lot in the last two seasons due to injury, but he’s the kind of veteran Miami has gotten a lot out of in recent history.

Brown has impressed in training camp, and, as Wade’s primary backup, he could be needed quite a bit.

James loved Napier and tweeted about him several times during Connecticut’s surprising run to an NCAA title. Napier may not see a ton of minutes early on, but he’s a great floor leader.

Ennis spent last year in Australia, but has really wowed Spoelstra in practice. The coach said he expects Ennis to get time at both wing positions.

Williams had a decent year on the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Lakers last season.

Overall, this group is thin and that’s not great considering Wade’s playing time in recent seasons.

COACHING: Spoelstra is a very good coach who got nothing out of his guys in the Finals. Every move he made, Pop countered and when Pop made the first move, Spoelstra didn’t have the answers.

Still, Spoelstra has two rings. He’s one of the best in the sport.

Spoelstra said the Heat got over LeBron leaving in “less than 10 minutes,“ but filling that void will be a massive undertaking. He wants the Heat to be a strong defensive team, but it’s not a strength of Bosh or Wade.

And how he handles those two men, now in major alpha positions, will go a long way to define the Heat’s season.

OUTLOOK: There is a lot of talent still in Miami, so much so, the Heat should comfortably make the playoffs. They may even win the Southeast Division if they can hold off the Washington Wizards and Hornets.

It would be easy to dismiss the Heat with James gone, but Miami has an outside chance at hosting a first-round series, even if the Heat don’t win the division. Problem is, with the three division winners, Miami would need the next-best record in the Eastern Conference and the Heat aren’t as good as either the Cavs or Chicago Bulls.

Something in the five-seven range is probably a more realistic expectation for the Heat this season. That being said, no one will want to play them in the postseason, not with that pedigree and talent.


►  2014-15 Washington Wizards Preview

The Washington Wizards enter the 2014-15 season with expectations unseen in the nation’s capital for quite some time.

They are the favorites to win the Southeast Division.

After winning a round in the postseason, improving with veteran leadership and getting an assist when LeBron James bolted the Miami Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wiz have earned the preseason distinction as one of the Eastern Conference’s three best teams.

“Our time is coming now,“ said John Wall, who made his first All-Star game last season. “We’ve just got to keep it going.“

The Wizards team that finished last season with a second-round playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers in six games would not be strong enough to be mentioned in a group that could win the Eastern Conference.

Enter Paul Pierce.

The future Hall of Famer has something left in the tank and signed with the Wiz as a free agent. This team belongs to the backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal, but Pierce will provide leadership as well as timely scoring.

“He’s a vocal guy, a proven leader,“ Beal said of Pierce. “He’s going to push us to be the very best we can be. It’s always great to have a guy who’s going to push you to be the best you can be.“

Pierce’s numbers declined in his one season with Brooklyn, but that was to be expected. At 37, and with a talented Nets roster, Pierce’s scoring was bound to go down. He still produced in the playoffs and he is in Washington to make the Wizards a consistent winner.

He was not the only newcomer at Wizards camp.

Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair were brought in to improve the depth up front. Both are competent big men, hard workers and solid pros. Blair has a winning pedigree in his days with the San Antonio Spurs. Humphries may miss time at the start of the season with a hand injury.

Washington is loaded with veterans. Nene and Marcin Gortat will start with Pierce and an electric backcourt. They are an underrated big-man combo who both hit the glass.

Joining Blair and Humphries on the bench are Andre Miller and Martell Webster. Otto Porter, Jr., the third pick in the 2013 draft, might even see some action this season.

But, the lifeblood of the Wizards is pumped by the guards.

Wall is probably the fastest player in the league and emerged as an All-Star. Confidence is high for Wall and he mentioned championships in some interviews.

No one stirred more of a controversy with his words at the start of camp than Beal. He said him and Wall were the best backcourt in the league and it may be hard to argue. (Although, Cleveland’s Dion Waiters disputed the claim on behalf of himself and Kyrie Irving.)

That’s a big statement for a pair of young men, neither of whom can legally rent a car in the U.S. That’s why the veteran influence is so important on this Wizards team.

Wall and Beal aren’t just spouting youthful boasting. This team is balanced, smart and skilled. How they handle being a preseason favorite for a division title remains to be seen. With this much professionalism, it’s hard to imagine the Wizards falling into a trap.

And just when everything looks promising, Beal hurts his wrist and will be sidelined close to six weeks. That’s a huge blow, coupled with injuries to Humphries and Webster, and could make Washington vulnerable early in the campaign.

Just when everything was starting to look up for the Wizards ...

2013-14 Results: 44-38, 2nd in Southeast; Lost in East semifinals to Indiana

ADDITIONS: F Paul Pierce, F/C Kris Humphries, F/C DeJuan Blair

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- John Wall SG- Bradley Beal SF- Paul Pierce PF- Nene C- Marcin Gortat

KEY RESERVES: F/G Martell Webster, F/C Kris Humphries, F/C DeJuan Blair, G Andre Miller, G Garrett Temple, F Drew Gooden, F Otto Porter, Jr., F/C Kevin Seraphin, F/G Glen Rice Jr.

FRONTCOURT: In Brooklyn last season, Pierce put up measly numbers of 13.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 2.4 apg. All were career-lows, but it’s justified by the fact Pierce averaged under 30 minutes per game for the first time in his career.

But, Pierce still contributes solid defense and great clutch production. He can still be the guy the Wiz count on for fourth-quarter buckets. He wants to be in Washington and lead these guys. Pierce is a proven winner and might just be the missing component that will put Washington in the next echelon.

Where things will take a step back for Washington is defensively at the small forward spot. Pierce is strong and can cover some guys, but Trevor Ariza was an elite defender. Pierce is definitely not that.

Nene hasn’t played close to a full season since 2010-11. Age won’t help, but when Nene is out there, he’s productive. Nene averaged 14.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg, which isn’t a high number, but his toughness is unmatched. With the veteran help brought in, Nene can take some nights off to be ready for the postseason.

Gortat was downright unstoppable at times during the playoffs. He enjoyed a strong regular season with 13.2 ppg and 9.5 rpg. He shot 54 percent from the field and was handsomely rewarded in the offseason with a five-year, $60 million contract.

What Nene and Gortat lack in statistical numbers, they make up for with toughness. Pound-for-pound, they might be the toughest big-man combo in the NBA outside of Memphis.

BACKCOURT: Wall played all 82 games last season and logged the fifth-most minutes behind Kevin Durant, Monta Ellis, DeMar DeRozan and Carmelo Anthony.

He averaged 19.3 ppg, 8.8 apg (tied for second in the league) and 4.1 rpg. His 3-point shooting improved to 35 percent. Wall is a solid defender, but the biggest improvement heading into this offseason came in the form of leadership.

“Night and day from last year, he’s been our most vocal guy and has been most energized guy out there,“ head coach Randy Wittman said of Wall.

There was no sophomore slump for Beal. He improved his numbers across the board going up to 17.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.3 apg while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3-point range.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Beal’s second season was the jumps in numbers he made from the regular season to the postseason - 19.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.5 apg and 42 percent from the floor and 41 percent from beyond the arc.

Whether these two represent the best backcourt in the game is up for some debate. But they are certainly on the short list, but that’s not the issue. They believe in themselves.

BENCH: Humphries had two straight seasons averaging a double-double, but since he was regulated to the bench, the production has slid accordingly. He’s a solid banger whose biggest transgression in the sport was marrying a Kardashian. Humphries hasn’t always handled bad news great, but in this situation, with a clearly defined role, he should produce.

Blair was solid and reliable in San Antonio, then was the same his one season in Dallas. He’s a high-percentage shooter, good defender and tough guy. He fits in perfectly behind Nene.

Miller keeps on ticking. His experience under Brian Shaw with the Denver Nuggets was hideous, but he came to Washington and played decently. Miller won’t play as much as seasons past (under 15 minutes per game in 28 with the Wiz last season), but he can still facilitate. Miller is also a master of using his body, be it in the lane, or on the post.

Webster was good during the regular season, but had trouble finding time in the playoffs. He played 10 less minutes in the postseason, but he’s a good 3-point shooter. Webster won’t be crying for playing time behind Pierce.

Porter was a non-factor last season. The only reason that makes you think he’ll be more of one this season is that Pierce in front of him is older.

Gooden was great in the playoffs. Any expectations from him in the regular season are misguided. But, he’s yet another veteran presence in that locker room.

Seraphin saw a substantial dip in playing time last season and with the acquisitions of Blair and Humphries, it’s hard to see that shifting back.

COACH: Wittman had an awful record as head coach until last season. He was rewarded with a new contract and is the man to lead this team, hopefully into a contender.

Wittman has so many veterans to coach that policing them shouldn’t be an issue. Pierce, Nene and company will hold everyone accountable. Wittman may have to talk to Wall and Beal about talking to the media and tempering expectations, but having a dynamic young backcourt is not exactly a headache.

Wittman is tough on his players publicly, but he produced results as the players grew into their roles.

OUTLOOK: The Southeast title is not just realistic, but expected. That will get the Wiz a top-four playoff seed and homecourt advantage in round one. They are good enough to win the division and should.

Long-term is a little scary. They could see the Miami Heat in round one, or even Charlotte, so advancing is no guarantee.

But, the Wizards are a top four team in the Eastern Conference. That backcourt is probably the best in the league and both can get even better. Wittman didn’t always trust his bench last season as the reserves played the 26th most minutes and scored the second-fewest points. But, that has been remedied substantially.

Washington has a lot of talent, and a lot of strong leaders. The Wizards should be a top-tier team, challenging for anything as high as the second or third seed in the East.

But, they have to guard against over-inflated worth. Everyone has anointed them as something special this season, including themselves.

The Wizards should be fine and very good.



►  2014-15 Utah Jazz Preview

The young and semi-talented Utah Jazz enter the 2014-15 season with a high ceiling and hopes of winning more than just 25 games.

The Jazz were the worst team in the Western Conference last season with a 25-57 record and missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. This isn’t your Jerry Sloan Jazz team from years past, but Utah is hoping it can get back there in a few years.

Not much is expected from the Jazz once again and there’s a new head coach in Salt Lake City. Quin Snyder will be drawing up plays for the Jazz and was named head coach back in June. Tyrone Corbin was not offered a new contract and Snyder gets his shot at becoming a head coach in the NBA.

“The opportunity to join the Utah Jazz and to be part of such a highly respected franchise with an incredibly bright future is a great honor,“ Snyder said. “I approach this opportunity with gratitude and humility and am committed to doing everything I can to help the Jazz become a championship- caliber team.“

Snyder has some talent to work with in Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke and Enes Kanter. It appears the Jazz are committed to building around Hayward, who established career-best averages of 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. The Charlotte Hornets offered Hayward a four-year deal worth $63 million and Utah matched it.

“As we have said since the start of last season, we have always seen Gordon Hayward as a significant part of the future of the Utah Jazz,“ Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “Gordon is a young, multi-faceted player and a high-character individual who we are pleased will remain a member of the Jazz for many years to come.“

Snyder said he is excited for the opportunity to coach Hayward and is looking forward to seeing him develop as a player.

The same holds true for point guard Burke. Burke missed the start of last season with a broken hand and the 2013 first-round pick has tremendous upside. So does this year’s first-round draft pick Dante Exum. Exum was the fifth pick of this summer’s NBA Draft and brings speed and ball handling skills to Utah.

Rodney Hood was the Jazz’s other first-round draft pick and went 23rd. Hood sculpted his skills at Duke and has an impressive basketball IQ.

It will be difficult at first for Snyder to get his philosophy across to his players and perhaps another last-place finish in the West is in store. But at least there’s some optimism in the air.

2013-14 Results: 25-57, 5th in Northwest; Missed playoffs

ADDITIONS: HC Quin Snyder, G Dante Exum, G/F Carrick Felix, F Trevor Booker, F Rodney Hood, F Steve Novak

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- Trey Burke SG- Alec Burks SF- Gordon Hayward PF- Derrick Favors C - Enes Kanter

KEY RESERVES: G Ian Clark, G Dante Exum, G/F Carrick Felix, F Trevor Booker, F Rodney Hood, C Jeremy Evans. F Steve Novak, C Rudy Gobert

FRONTCOURT: Hayward is the star of the show and has to prove he’s worth a new contract. The offense will go through Hayward and he needs to improve his inside game instead of relying on the deeper shot. Hayward not only led the Jazz in scoring last season, he was tops in minutes played with 36.4. In 19 of Utah’s last 26 games of 2013-14, Hayward shot at least 40 percent. He averaged 17.0 ppg in that time and hopes it carries over into the new year.

Hayward also became the second Jazz player to average 16-plus points, five- plus rebounds and five or more assists in a season, joining Pete Maravich.

Derrick Favors is Utah’s top big man, but still needs work to become an All- Star. Favors averaged 13.3 points and a team-best 8.7 rebounds last season. Favors, who also led the Jazz in field goal percentage at .522, plays well with his back against the opposition and is obviously a strong rebounder. He posted 25 double-doubles last season and ranked in the top-25 for blocked shots, rebounds and offensive rebounds. Favors needs to improve his jump shot.

Enes Kanter is at center for Snyder and posted 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in 2013-14. Kanter will be pushed by Evans and Gobert. Kanter did step up his game after the All-Star break and needs to be a better shot blocker and rim protector. Snyder will preach defense and it starts inside. Kanter and Favors will try to make the fans forget about departed big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as well as forwards Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams.

BACKCOURT: Burke is the next star in the making in Salt Lake City. Entering his second season with the Jazz, Burke was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month twice (December and January) and scored a career-high 32 points in the last game of the season. Burke posted an average of 12.8 points and 5.7 assists last season and enters the campaign with a clean bill of health. Burke made just 38 percent of his shots and played just over 32 minutes a night. He did show great poise on the floor as a rookie.

Snyder is fortunate to have Burke in his backcourt alongside Alec Burks. Burks posted a career-high 14.0 ppg and 3.3 rebounds to go along with 2.7 assists last season and was Utah’s second leading scorer. The former Colorado star scored in double figures in 28 of the team’s last 29 games and made 45.7 percent from the field.

BENCH: The Jazz will get to see what both Exum and Hood bring to the table when their name is called off the bench. Hood has more upside for competing with the Blue Devils and against other great schools. Exum, though, proved he can score overseas, but will face his stiffest challenge in the NBA. He hopes he doesn’t get shipped to the NBADL to get his feet wet.

Gobert is hoping to get a solid amount of minutes inside and make a case to crack the starting lineup, while Evans has the same idea. The Jazz have some depth in sharpshooter Novak, Booker, Clark and Felix. Novak will replace the 3-point prowess of Jefferson. Utah’s bench averaged 15.8 ppg in the last five games and needs to be more consistent. Hopefully a new coach and fresh faces will alter that.

COACHING: Snyder is a basketball genius and learned from his former coach, Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski. Snyder has achieved success at every level of coaching and is counting on that reputation to continue with the Jazz, who hope he can get the most out of this lineup. Look for a defensive-minded Snyder to mix in some old-school technique with a sprinkle of new era hoops to Utah. There’s no secret Snyder has his work cut out with this young roster.

OUTLOOK: There will be excitement and a new-found energy with Snyder running the Jazz and he’s still fairly young. He’s not as young as some of his core players, who are aiming to take their game to the next level. The Jazz are still a few years away from being relevant again in the NBA and maybe will exceed last season’s win total of 25.

Better shooting (44 percent), tighter defense and player development are key areas for Utah in 2014-15, and also better play around the basket by Favors and Kanter. Hayward will carry the scoring load and needs more help from Burke in his second year. Snyder will try everything to make that happen for a Jazz team projected to win 30 games.


►  Wizards sign John Lucas III

The Washington Wizards signed guard John Lucas III on Tuesday.

Lucas averaged 3.8 points and 1.0 assists in 42 games with Utah last season.

The 31-year-old has averaged 4.8 points and 1.4 assists in 216 career games (eight starts) with Houston, Chicago, Toronto and Utah.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Rounding Third: Big Game Bumgarner delivers in Game 1

One pitcher came into the World Series with a reputation for pitching well in big games.

The other was James Shields.

San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner continued to cement his status as the best postseason pitcher in baseball on Tuesday, as he gave up one run over seven innings and the Giants rolled past Kansas City, 7-1, in Game 1 of the World Series.

Bumgarner’s only mistake was a two-out home run to Royals catcher Salvador Perez in the seventh inning, which ended his MLB-record scoreless innings streak on the road at 32 2/3 frames.

It was also the first run he had surrendered in three World Series starts, spanning 21 innings, dating back to 2012.

Of all those innings, though, none may have been more impressive than the third against the Royals, who put runners on second and third with no outs. After Bumgarner struck out Alcides Escobar and Norichika Aoki, he walked Lorenzo Cain to load the bases for Eric Hosmer, who promptly grounded out to second to end the threat.

“Bum has great poise out there, and he showed it tonight,“ San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “He doesn’t get flustered, and he keeps coming at you.“

Bumgarner then retired the next 11 batters he faced before the Perez homer.

By then, though, it was too little, too late for the Royals, whose postseason winning streak came to an end at 11 games, as they lost for the first time in nine playoff games this year.

When Los Angeles Dodgers righty Josh Beckett announced his retirement at the end of the season, gone was the best postseason pitcher of his generation. While it’s still a little too early in the process, Bumgarner is certainly on his way to staking his claim to the throne.

Bumgarner’s 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA in five starts this postseason. He’s also won all three of his World Series starts with an 0.41 ERA and is an amazing 5-0 with a 0.72 ERA in five road starts in the playoffs for his career.

His six straight postseason starts of seven-plus innings with seven or fewer baserunners is also an MLB record.

Clayton Kershaw is probably going to win the NL Cy Young Award, but if the Giants win three more games you won’t hear one complaint from Bumgarner.

FAMILIAR SCRIPT FOR THE GIANTS

Strong starting pitching? Yes that too, but the Giants essentially put this game away with three first inning runs and have now scored first in seven straight World Series games dating back to 2010 Game 4, and 13 of their past 17 since 2002.

By the way, how good has the Giants pitching been? Well, dating back to the start of Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, the San Francisco pitching staff has compiled a 1.13 ERA, permitting just eight earned runs over 64 innings.

As for opposing pitchers, well, let’s just say they haven’t been as impressive, especially in Game 1. In fact, Game 1 starters against the Giants in 10 games going back to 2010 are 0-8 with a 7.25 ERA.

Shields was just the latest big name to get hammered by San Francisco in a Game 1 of the World Series. Shields, Cliff Lee (2010) and Justin Verlander (2012) have now surrendered 21 hits and 17 runs over 11 2/3 innings in World Series Game 1s against the Giants.

Speaking of Shields ...

MORE LIKE “NOT SO BIG GAME” JAMES, RIGHT?

Is there a worse nickname in sports right now than “Big Game James” Shields?

Shields, who was starting on 10 days rest, continued to struggle in these playoffs, as he gave up five runs and was able to record just three outs in three-plus innings of work.

His ERA in four starts this postseason now stands at a putrid 7.11.

Before Shields there were 35 pitchers to make a World Series start on 10 or more days of rest in the wild card era. Those pitchers were 10-14 with a 4.09 ERA, and they’re 4-12 with a 4.13 ERA in the past 10 postseasons.

Still, Royals manager Ned Yost stated that he would start him in Game 5, if necessary.

RIGHT WHERE THEY WANT THEM?

As bleak as it looked on Tuesday, all is not lost for the Royals, who will face pitchers who had a losing record in each of the next three games.

Plus, the last time the Royals were in the World Series back in 1985 they lost their first two home games to the St. Louis Cardinals and eventually rallied to win the series in seven games.

Oh, and another little nugget from MLB’s PR team. The last five road teams to win Game 1 have lost Game 2.

But ...

GAME ONE WINNERS

The winner of Game 1 of the World Series has gone on to win the Fall Classic 68 times.

That has been the case in 10 of the last 11 and 15 of the last 17 World Series beginning 1997, with 2002 (San Francisco defeating Anaheim) and 2009 (Philadelphia defeating New York) the lone exceptions.

It has also occurred in 17 of the last 20 and 22 of the last 26 Series. In addition to San Francisco and Philadelphia, the only other exceptions in the last 26 Fall Classic were both by Atlanta, first game winners versus Toronto in 1992 and New York in 1996, but losers of each Series in six games.

LOOKING AHEAD TO GAME 2

San Francisco will try to take a commanding lead back to the bay area behind veteran Jake Peavy on Wednesday in Game 2.

It’s been a tale of two seasons for Peavy, who was just 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA and 20 home runs allowed in 20 starts for Boston before he was traded to the Giants.

Since he’s been in San Francisco, though, Peavy has resembled the pitcher who won an NL Cy Young Award for Bochy with the San Diego Padres in 2007.

Peavy pitched to a 2.17 ERA and won six of his 12 starts with the Giants after the late-July deal. He’s also carried that into the postseason, surrendering just two earned runs in 9 2/3 innings in two starts.

The Royals, meanwhile, will turn to 23-year-old rookie Yordano Ventura, who has been battling some shoulder issues. He left his ALCS start versus the Orioles with tightness in his right shoulder after allowing four runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

After pitching to a 3.20 ERA during the season, Ventura has allowed seven runs in 13 innings this postseason.

Of course, Ventura almost ended the Royals’ postseason chances when he served up a three-run home run in relief of Shields in Kansas City’s wild card game. He bounced back with a marvelous ALDS effort against the Los Angeles Angels, though, before being roughed up by the O’s.


►  Giants take WS opener behind Bumgarner’s gem

Madison Bumgarner added to his already extensive postseason resume with another masterful performance in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.

The ace left-hander threw seven innings of one-run ball and got plenty of run support as the San Francisco Giants cooled off the streaking Kansas City Royals, 7-1, to take an early series lead in the Fall Classic.

The only blemish in another otherwise flawless performance by Bumgarner (1-0) came on Salvador Perez’s two-out homer in the seventh, which ended his postseason road scoreless streak at 32 2/3 innings.

The 25-year-old was nevertheless impressive, allowing just three hits and one walk against a club that averaged 5.25 runs during an unprecedented 8-0 start to these playoffs.

“He was on top of his game,“ Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Bumgarner. “He has great poise and he should that tonight.“

Hunter Pence reached base four times and hit a two-run homer while Pablo Sandoval drove in a pair for San Francisco, which knocked James Shields (0-1) around for seven hits and five runs over the first three-plus innings.

The Royals lost for the first time since Sept. 27 and will look to bounce back Wednesday when rookie Yordano Ventura toes the rubber opposite Jake Peavy.

Kansas City had won 11 straight postseason games dating back to the club’s only World Series title in 1985, but what would have been a record-tying 12th quickly slipped through the AL champions’ fingers.

“We knew this series was going to be a battle,“ Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We didn’t expect to come in here and sweep.“

Shields, who passed a kidney stone during a 10-day layover since his previous outing, had no answer for a tested Giants team seeking its third title in five years.

Gregor Blanco led off the 110th edition of the World Series with a blooper in front of Lorenzo Cain in center, and Buster Posey followed with a base hit two batters later.

Sandoval, the 2012 World Series MVP, lined a two-hopper off the wall in right to plate the game’s first run, though Posey was thrown out trying to score from first.

Fans at Kauffman Stadium thought Shields caught the corner on a 2-2 pitch to Pence, but home plate umpire Jerry Meals called it outside. After a foul ball, Shields threw one right down the middle and Pence crushed it to straightaway center for a 3-0 cushion.

Pence had been 0-for-11 in his career against Shields.

Bumgarner escaped the only jam he faced with a pair of strikeouts and a weak groundout in the third. The Royals had runners on second and third with no outs before Alcides Escobar and Norichika Aoki both went down swinging. Cain, the ALCS MVP, worked a walk to load the bases, but Bumgarner handcuffed Eric Hosmer into a harmless groundout to second.

“(Bumgarner) didn’t make many mistakes today, and the balls we did hit they made great plays on,“ Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said.

Pence began the fourth with a double and came around on Michael Morse’s base hit, which signaled the end of Shields’ night.

Danny Duffy came out of the bullpen and walked Brandon Crawford and Blanco in succession to force in another run, but the starter-turned-reliever retired the next eight hitters to keep the Royals within striking distance.

Yost left Duffy on the mound a little too long, however, as he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh and gave up a triple to Joe Panik. The usually sure- handed Aoki slipped going after Panik’s gapper in right, and Blanco easily scored.

Sandoval added an RBI single off Tim Collins, and Javier Lopez and Hunter Strickland each threw an inning of relief behind Bumgarner to finish off the rout.

Game Notes

Bumgarner’s six postseason wins are the most in franchise history, and his six straight postseason starts of seven-plus innings with seven or fewer baserunners is an MLB record ... Sandoval has reached base in 24 consecutive playoff games ... Shields’ ERA rose to 7.10 over four starts this postseason ... The Giants have won their last eight postseason road openers ... This is just the second time wild card teams are meeting in the World Series and is the first Fall Classic sporting teams that failed to notch 90 victories in a 162-game regular season ... Fifteen of the past 17 winners of Game 1 have gone on to take the series.


►  World Series Game 1 Result

Final Score: San Francisco 7, Kansas City 1

Madison Bumgarner added to his already extensive postseason resume with another masterful performance in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. The ace left-hander threw seven innings of one- run ball and got plenty of run support as the San Francisco Giants cooled off the streaking Kansas City Royals, 7-1, to take an early series lead in the Fall Classic. The only blemish in another otherwise flawless performance by Bumgarner (1-0) came on Salvador Perez’s two-out homer in the seventh, which ended his postseason road scoreless streak at 33 1/3 innings. He was nevertheless impressive, especially considering he silenced a club that averaged 5.25 runs during an unprecedented 8-0 start to these playoffs. Hunter Pence reached base four times and hit a two-run homer while Pablo Sandoval drove in a pair for San Francisco, which knocked James Shields (0-1) around for seven hits and five runs over the first three-plus innings. The Royals lost for the first time since Sept. 27 and will look to bounce back Wednesday when rookie Yordano Ventura toes the rubber opposite Jake Peavy.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  The Inside Line: NASCAR’s elite eight move on

The Eliminator Round in the new Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, with the playoff field now trimmed to eight drivers.

NASCAR revised the playoff format for its premier series this year by including a number of elimination rounds to determine its champion. The Chase began with 16 drivers in the field, and then it was cut to 12 following the last race in the Challenger Round, held last month at Dover International Speedway.

While Brad Keselowski remained alive in the Chase by winning this past Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway—the final event in the Contender Round—Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson, the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, and Kasey Kahne, as well as Kyle Busch from Joe Gibbs Racing have been eliminated from the playoffs.

Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Keselowski and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick each won a race during the Contender Round to automatically advance into the Eliminator Round, which includes the events at Martinsville (Sunday), Texas Motor Speedway (November 2) and Phoenix International Raceway (November 09).

JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman from Richard Childress Racing, Carl Edwards, in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing, and Jeff Gordon, a Hendrick driver and four-time series champion, accumulated enough points during the Contender Round to move on in the Chase.

Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, was in a must-win situation at Talladega in order to advance. After finishing 36th at Kansas Speedway and then 16th at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he entered the Contender Round elimination race at Talladega ranked 10th in the Chase standings, 19 points behind the coveted eighth-place spot then held by Kahne. Keselowski also had been fined $50,000 and placed on a probation period of four weeks for his post-race incidents with Hamlin, Kenseth and Tony Stewart at Charlotte.

Each of the first six races in the Chase has been won by a championship- eligible driver, with Logano and Keselowski scoring two victories apiece and one for Harvick and Gordon.

The elite eight in the Chase begin the Eliminator Round with 4,000 points each. If any one of those drivers wins at either Martinsville, Texas or Phoenix, that person will clinch a spot in the final four for the November 16 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The highest finisher among the four remaining Chase-eligible drivers at Homestead will win the series title.

“I think we’re in a really good spot for these next four races, but we’ve got to still execute,“ Keselowski said. “It would be nice to go to Martinsville and win, get a grandfather clock (trophy for the race winner there) and have three weeks to really think about Homestead. That’s my mentality moving forward. But if that doesn’t happen, we still have any one of these four tracks, which I think are good tracks for us.“

Keselowski leads the series with six victories this season, but he has yet to win a race at either Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix or Homestead during his Sprint Cup career.

Logano held the lead in Chase points when the Contender Round had concluded. He had finished no worse than fourth in the first five postseason races before placing 11th at Talladega.

“I thought we did a great job - a win (Kansas), a fourth (Charlotte) and an 11th unfortunately at Talladega, but we’re doing what we have to do to win this championship,“ Logano said. “Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix are obviously gonna be very important, and we have to do what we’ve been doing.“

Logano won this year’s spring race at Texas. He also finished fourth at both Martinsville and Phoenix earlier this season.

Harvick has one victory at Martinsville, which is the only short track race on the Chase schedule. He won there in the spring of 2011. Harvick placed seventh at Martinsville in March.

“Martinsville can be as crazy as Talladega if things start getting out of hand,“ Harvick said. “I feel like we should run well there. It’s just a matter of, like every other weekend, you’ve just got to put it all together.“

Phoenix has been Harvick’s best track in Sprint Cup competition. He won there for a record fifth time earlier this year.

Hamlin has won at Martinsville four times but not since the fall of 2010. He also has two victories at Texas (season sweep there in ‘10) and one at Phoenix. Hamlin won last year’s race at Homestead as well.

“I have said all year that if we made it to the final eight, to this Eliminator Round, that we suddenly had a good shot at this championship,“ Hamlin said. “This round has three tracks that our team has had a lot of success at over the years, obviously starting with Martinsville. We didn’t have a great race there in the spring, but we have made some gains on our short track program. I’m confident we can go there and compete for the win this weekend.“

Kenseth led the series with seven victories in 2013 but has yet to win a race this year. He has been consistent throughout the season, though. Kenseth finished 13th at Kansas and 19th at Charlotte but squeaked into the Eliminator Round with his second-place run at Talladega.

“I feel like my team is more than capable, but our performance hasn’t been as good as the top three or four guys,“ Kenseth said. “It’s nice to have our points back, and, hopefully, we can go and run the way we know we’re capable of.“

Newman, in his first season with RCR, has not won a race this year as well. He has won at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix in the past.

“I think winning in one of the next three races is the most important win that you could have, just to give yourself the best shot at Homestead,“ Newman said.

Newman concluded the Contender Round third in the rankings, just four points behind leader Logano. He finished fifth (Talladega), sixth (Kansas) and seventh (Charlotte) during that round.

Edwards has won at Texas three times and Phoenix and Homestead twice, but he has yet to make it into victory lane at Martinsville.

“Martinsville is a place where we feel like we can go and do some good,“ Edwards said. “We’ve run really well there lately. We had a test at Texas, and Phoenix is a place where we know we can win.“

While his teammates—Johnson, Earnhardt and Kahne—are out of the Chase, Gordon is the only driver from Hendrick to advance into the Eliminator Round, despite his 26th-place finish at Talladega.

“These are three guys that could be major factors in this championship,“ Gordon said. “They are great teams, great drivers and friends of mine. I hate to see them not in there. But we’re going to try to make Hendrick Motorsports proud and go out there and get ourselves to Homestead.“

Gordon has 92 career wins in the series, including four this season. He has eight victories at Martinsville as well as two wins at Phoenix and one each at Texas and Homestead.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Golf Course Review - Princeville Golf Club (Prince Course)

FACTS AND STATAS: Course Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr. (1987, 1990), Renovation by Jones Jr. (January 2011-March 2012). Year Opened: November 1987 and August 1990. Location: Kauai, Hawaii. Slope: 140. Rating: 76.2. Par: 72. Yardage: 7,378.

Hole-by-Hole:

1 - Par 4 448 Yds 10 - Par 5 588 Yds

2 - Par 5 597 Yds 11 - Par 3 187 Yds

3 - Par 3 192 Yds 12 - Par 4 390 Yds

4 - Par 5 554 Yds 13 - Par 4 432 Yds

5 - Par 4 471 Yds 14 - Par 3 211 Yds

6 - Par 4 428 Yds 15 - Par 5 576 Yds

7 - Par 3 207 Yds 16 - Par 4 375 Yds

8 - Par 4 460 Yds 17 - Par 4 443 Yds

9 - Par 4 363 Yds 18 - Par 4 455 Yds

Par 36 3,721 Yds Par 36 3,657 Yds

Awards Won: Rated #22 - Golf Digest - America’s 100 greatest public (2013-14), #2 by Golf.com - Best Public Courses in Hawaii (2014), #4 by Golf Digest - Best Courses in Hawaii (2013-14), Gold Medal winner - Golf Magazine - Premier Golf Resort (2012), #2 by GolfWeek - Best Courses you can play in Hawaii (2008-12), #20 by GolfWeek - America’s Best 100 Resort Courses (2012), America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses - Golf Digest (2009-12), Five Star rating - Golf Digest - Best Places to Play, Ranked #1 by Golf Digest - Hawaii’s Best Courses (2005-06).

Website: princeville.com.

HISTORY: Although the golf course only dates back to 1987, the historical significance of the Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is paramount to Hawaii. You see, the course is named after Prince Albert Kamehameha, the only son of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, dating back to the 19th century.

Born in 1858, Prince Albert was considered the last line of the family dynasty and his birth was celebrated throughout the Hawaiian Islands. He was the first son to be born to a reigning monarch of Hawaii in 20 years, but, unfortunately, he would be the last.

Named after the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert died just three months after his fourth birthday. An excerpt from a Honolulu newspaper, circa 1862, read, “Born on the 20th of May, 1858, his Royal Highness had attained 4 years, 3 months and 7 days at his death. Lovely in his appearance, with delicately formed features and bright, intelligent, meditative eyes, he early developed those amiable qualities of the mind which made him the idolized love of his parents, the hope of the nation.“ The King and Queen were devastated, so much so that just one year following his son’s passing, the King died.

The relevance of the history of the land is that the Prince Course is royalty in the Hawaiian Islands. This is a venue that many will strive to achieve and few, if any, will attain.

Robert Trent Jones Jr., the son of famed course architect Robert Trent Jones, was the mastermind behind the design of this magnificent layout.

Jones II has crafted over 270 courses around the world in more than 40 countries on six continents, but it was his work on the island of Kauai where he put his name on the map.

After several years of honing his craft with his father, Bobby left his dad’s firm and founded Robert Trent Jones II golf course architects. Known as the father of environmental golf course design, Jones II has designed some of the world’s finest layouts, including the site of the 2015 U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay in Washington.

Jones constructed his first solo effort just next door to The Prince, the 27 holes of the Makai Golf Club. In fact, of the nine courses on the island, Jones has designed four, but it’s his work on the Prince that sets this course apart from the rest.

The Prince Course is an exotic ride through 350 acres of rolling terrain, featuring enormous elevation changes and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the nearby Hihimanu mountain peak. You’ll be awestruck with the many signature holes on the Prince.

As the years went by, the course had grown quite difficult, not to mention thick with vegetation. It’s not called the “Garden Isle” for nothing.

In any event, the closing of the golf course in the beginning of 2011 was crucial to the success and revitalization of the Prince Course.

“Our firm implemented a wide-ranging refreshment of The Prince,“ said Jones, “that will return the golf course to its original pristine condition and its stature as the best course in Hawaii - essentially, we’ve given The Prince the royal treatment that it deserves.“

Jones could have easily rested on his laurels at The Prince, but that would have been the easy way. From top to bottom, changes were made, starting with the complete reconstruction of the putting greens with SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum turf and sub-surface material to better serve the Hawaiian climate.

In addition, bunkers were added and remodeled. “We have carefully redrafted the bunkers to improve drainage, playability and strategic value while introducing some new tees for added shot strategy and variety,“ Jones added.

To stay up-to-date with modern technology, Jones added new tees on three, five and 13, but the biggest adjustment might have been tree removal and clearing, as this was accomplished on nearly every hole throughout the property. The project also included some fairway adjustments. “Fairway mowing patterns have been widened dramatically to promote a more enjoyable experience for players of all skill levels,“ Jones said.

“This revitalization makes the course more flexible for a wider range of players while still providing championship-caliber challenges for more seasoned golfers,“ Jones continued. “We’ve completed some reshaping that will help canny players use the slopes and ground features to their advantage, as we intended in our original design.“

When the course reopened in March 2012 after the multi-million dollar refreshment, the positive reviews poured in. Jones was particularly pleased with his handiwork. “We are very excited about the improvements at the course that will further elevate the Prince’s continual position in America’s Top 100 golf courses.“

“It’s such a great layout, very much a timeless layout and extremely unique,“ added PGA general manager T.J. Baggett of the Prince Course. “It’s really one of the most unique golf courses you’ll ever play.“

REVIEW: Most courses open play with a relatively benign opening hole, but the Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is not most courses. This downhill par-4 stretches to 448 yards from the elevated tee and features thick brush down the right side and trees flanking the left. The fairway angles to the right, so you can play down that avenue, but do not miss right, otherwise you’re taking a drop. Your approach, most likely with a mid-iron, now must cross a creek and marsh toward the green, which runs slightly from back to front. The putting surface is quite long but narrow with run-offs on both sides. Now that’s a starting hole.

Following a hole without sand, the second features plenty of the fluffy stuff, not to mention it’s the longest hole on the course, a whopping 597 yards. Here, the key is the tee shot, as you must play short of the crossing ravine and the two bunkers down the right, roughly 300 yards from the tee. Hardly reachable in two, your second shot is played uphill toward a fairly wide landing area. However, the closer you climb toward the green is where the sand on either side of the fairway comes into play. The putting surface, which sits well above the fairway, runs hard from back to front with a tier toward the back quadrant. Bail out to the right if you must, as a deep greenside bunker left is treacherous.

The difficult trend continues with the par-3 third, a slightly uphill one- shotter that reaches just under 200 yards in length. Three bunkers protect the putting surface, which features plenty of slope. Miss short of the green, and a false-front will repel your approach down the fairway. It’s hard to believe that this hole is rated the easiest on the course ... certainly not on my scorecard!

Number 4 is a visually stunning par-5 that wraps around a lake to the right toward the ocean. With Cook pines framing the hole, the beauty can be reached in two, but not without risk. Depending upon which tees you play, you’ll need to avoid the water down the right and sand on the left, but with a successful tee ball, you never know. Your approach is next, and that can be tricky, as a large fairway bunker down the left tightens the landing area and with the water on the right, you need to be spot on. Finally, the difficulty of the putting surface might be the hardest aspect of the hole, as the two-tiered green is 38 paces in length. Let’s not forget that missing this green to the right might propel your ball down the slope and into the lake. Bailing out left is the other option, but two traps will deter that thought process.

You’ve played four holes and only the first ranked in the top 10 of the most difficult on the course. That changes dramatically when you reach the fifth tee. At 471 yards long, the fifth is the longest par-4 on the course, as it doglegs hard to the right. Although the fairway was softened after the recent renovation, this hole requires two solid plays to reach the green. Playing slightly downhill off the tee, bunkers on either side of the rolling landing area will keep you honest. In addition, a marshy area down the right, just past the trap must be avoided. Your approach to the very long green is a smidge uphill, so check pin placement and take the correct stick. At 43 paces, the putting surface is hard to gauge and the deep pot bunker, both short and left, will give you plenty of angst. Good luck!

The sixth plays downhill, not only toward the green but to the mighty Pacific Ocean. The view is sensational, but one must focus on this straightforward par-4. The key here is the tee ball, as the fairway features two deep bunkers down the right and thick rough left, and the corridor narrows the further down you take it. The smart play is to lay back short of the trouble. Yes, it will leave a longer second, but with the slope of the hole, you’ll be able to compensate for the sensible choice. The green is fairly long and narrow with deep traps on either side. Rising from front to back, try to keep the ball below the hole for your best shot at birdie. A bogey is not the worst thing in the world, especially with the waves crashing below.

As good as the first six holes were, the seventh is stupendous. A massive par-3 of over 200 yards, this gem is all carry over a thick vegetation ravine with the ocean roaring to your left. Another massive putting surface, rectangular in shape is 41 paces in length, so club selection is critical. Four strategically placed bunkers guard this dynamic green. A bail out to the right is quite common. According to RTJ II’s website, “The seventh hole has been described as a Hawaiian version of No. 16 at Cypress Point: It plays 205 yards dead into the wind, with crashing ocean surf stretching beyond Anini Beach along the entire left side.“

The most difficult hole on the opening nine is the long, par-4 eighth. Climbing from tee to green, the fairway has been widened to the left of the fairway bunkers, giving the appearance of a massive landing area. Yes and no, as the two bunkers gain plenty of attention as you survey your options. The right side is the best play because this will open up your approach to the green, just from a longer position. With the Hihimanu Ridge in the rear, you’ll need a long iron or fairway metal to reach the putting surface in regulation. A miss right will find sand, while left of the two-tiered green is the best miss. Either way, you’ll be under plenty of pressure to make par.

Number 9 is a chance to get a shot back from earlier struggles in the round. Just 364 yards from the tips, this par-4 can be attacked easily with a fairway metal off the tee. This will set up a short wedge to a fairly long and narrow green. Avoiding the quartet of bunkers in the landing area is of utmost importance. A slight draw off the right is the play, as the fairway slants to the left. The tiered green can be tricky to putt, especially with a back-left pin location, which will bring in the deep horseshoe-shaped bunker.

The 10th is a wonderful, risk-reward par-5, although from the back tees the chances of getting home in two are slim at 588 yards. Having said that, it’s a great hole, as it doglegs sharply to the left. Your tee shot plays slightly uphill to a generous, rolling fairway, with sand left and right. Now the fun begins, as the hole swings to the left and a big decision comes into play. Cut the dogleg and cross over the ravine or play out to the right over trees to a fairway that sits well below the fairway. The carry over the ravine is well over 200 yards, depending upon how close you drove down the left. That’s all carry to the green. The smart play is toward the right, where the fairway opens up, leaving just a small wedge to the very accessible green. Bunkers do tighten the landing area, but you should be able to negotiate the shot. The putting surface is wide and only 26 paces in depth, slightly elevated and features many undulating sections. The good news, when you look back, you see the Pacific Ocean. There has to be some solace in that!

The shortest par-3 on the course, No. 11 is only 187 yards from the black markers. That, however, only tells part of the story, as the shot is uphill the entire way to the very long and undulating green. A ravine flanks the entire left side of the hole, so any play just off the mark will be lost. The putting surface is two-tiered and runs from middle to back and front. A back-left pin is diabolical, but nothing a sweeping draw can’t handle. With no trees, the wind will play havoc with your approach.

Another signature hole on the Prince Course is the dynamic 12th, a short par-4 of only 390 yards. In fact, it plays significantly shorter, as the tee box stands some 100 feet above the green. Carved into a ravine, the fairway is quite narrow with trees guarding both sides of the landing area. If you thought the tee shot was difficult, your approach to the green must be spot-on, as the green falls off on the left and has a watery jungle to the right and rear. The putting surface is not tricky, so you’ll have a shot at birdie, that is, if you hit the green in two!

The stout 13th, which was carved into the hillside, is a picturesque par-4 which bends sharply to the right. The key to survive is the tee shot, which must find the narrow fairway. To the left, the landing area drops off sharply, while right is thick vegetation. By the way, driver off the tee is not needed, as a creek crosses the fairway at the nearest point in the dogleg. Playing slightly uphill to the green, you’re faced with a difficult approach to a very deep green that boasts sand left and a creek right. Take an extra stick and try not to get caught up with the natural waterfall and soothing garden grotto behind the green.

The final par-3 on the course is the longest of the quartet at 211 yards from the back tees. Playing downhill to the green, club selection is crucial, as dense trees and vegetation flank the left and a deep, massive bunkers protects the right. The putting surface is long and narrow at 44 paces, reminiscent of your left foot without the toes. Avoid the back-left pin, otherwise you might stink this one up.

Talk about a roller-coaster ride, the 15th is all that and then some. This winding par-5 can be stretched to 576 yards from the black markers, but it plays considerably shorter, as it’s downhill from tee to green. Split into two quadrants, the first portion of the fairway requires placement off the tee, not brawn, as the landing area, which slopes hard from right to left and down, runs out at 245 yards to the green. Be careful not to roll through the fairway, otherwise a deep ravine, thick with vegetation, will swallow your ball. Your second shot will be a choice of two options. Going for the green is a distinct possibility because the greens sits 40-to-50 feet below or consider laying up to the left to the very accommodating fairway. Attacking this hole is risky, especially with the deep falloff right, but why not, especially if you can make an eagle three.

At first look, No. 16 seems quite benign at 375 yards, but don’t be fooled. This hole, which doglegs sharply from right to left, plays uphill from tee to green. The fairway is user-friendly, as long as you avoid the right fairway bunker. Make sure you take an extra club or two with your approach, otherwise your shot might roll back down the fairway. Miss left and you’ll find a deep collection area, while the right side features a pair of bunkers. The putting surface is only 31 paces in depth and can be quite tricky, especially if you’re above the hole. Might be the longest 375 yard hole you’ll ever play.

Only 12 yards separate the 17th and 18th holes in distance; however, the penultimate hole is rated as the second-easiest on the course. Bending from left to right, No. 17 requires an accurate tee shot, as bunkers pinch the landing area. Most of the trouble is well to the right, so even if you land in sand, you shouldn’t fear the consequences. The fairway has plenty of slope, so be prepared for an uneven approach to the fairly small green, just 23 paces in depth. In addition, the putting surface is guarded appropriately by sand and slope, so even getting on in regulation will not guarantee a par.

The closing hole on the Prince Course is another dogleg right par-4, reaching 455 yards in length. The fairway feeds from left to right, with several landing area bunkers to protect the short grass. Thick underbrush lines the entire right, so avoid at all costs. A long iron or fairway metal is needed to get home, as your approach plays uphill to the elevated green. In addition, the putting surface is quite long and narrow with a bunker on either side for good measure. Picturesque with the clubhouse and Mt. Namolokama in full view, but difficult, nonetheless.

FINAL WORD: Stunning, to say the least.

The Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is spectacular, difficult, beautiful, demanding, challenging and, yes ... stunning!

When Robert Trent Jones Jr. crafted this layout, he threw away all he learned from his legendary father and created something so unique that you’ll never see another course in the world that parallels the Prince.

Yes, it’s difficult with its 76.2 rating, but it’s also user-friendly enough with its minimum of five sets of tees on each and every hole. The course ranges from 5,400 yards to almost 7,400, so there’s a spot for everyone.

Carved through some of the most beautiful terrain that Kauai has to offer, the Prince Course requires some quality golf shots, avoiding thick vegetation and navigating slopes and canyons throughout the property.

There is no letup on this course. You need to go all out, not to mention think around the layout. Driver is not always the play and don’t forget the elements. The wind will blow and Kauai is known as one of the wettest spots on the planet. That, however, will not dampen your golf experience, as most of the wet stuff happens in the mountains and, guess what, that means rainbows, rainbows and rainbows.

Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle,“ and the Prince Course is as lush and tropical as it gets. The gorgeous vegetation and the conditioning of the course is as good as you’ll find anywhere.

The overall facility is world-class, with its massive 66,000-square foot clubhouse, 13-acre practice facility and the Prince Golf Shop, all 5,500 square feet of glory and goodies.

The practice facility is worth talking about in detail, as it features three different teeing locations, each one adjusted to different wind conditions. It also includes a 1,200-square-foot putting green and a 1,200-square-foot chipping green, so if it’s honing your game while away from home, this is the spot. Just make sure your spouse is happy at the Spa.

The $5 million renovation of the golf course for 13 months in 2011-12 was critical to the Prince Course in an effort to maintain its stature as the top golf course in Hawaii. “The Prince Course has been known as a very difficult golf course,“ Baggett said. “Improving playability was the big goal. Our goal coming in was to reopen the Prince and really raise the bar of what the experience is and the condition of the golf course as the No. 1 golf course in Hawaii.“

Do you want to play this course over and over again while on vacation? Well, there are plenty of great courses on the island, but none better than The Prince. Just make sure you play the correct tees and enjoy.

Did they accomplish their goals? Asked and answered ... YES!



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Fantasy Player of the Week - Week 7

Once again, the passing game won out over the rushing game. Of the top 15 fantasy performances in Week 7, just three came from running backs and in all three cases, the running back supplemented his game by catching at least one touchdown.

The following players were the best at their position in Week 7.

Quarterbacks -

Russell Wilson, Seattle - Wilson earned not one, but two bonuses, this weekend. He threw for 313 yards to get the ordinary passing bonus for quarterbacks, but added 106 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Although his Seahawks lost, it’s hard to imagine Wilson’s fantasy owners’ going down to defeat after getting a 40-point contribution from their quarterback.

Peyton Manning, Denver - Manning added another record to his already impressive resume, passing Brett Favre as the all-time leader in touchdown passes. His 318 yards and four touchdowns were pretty valuable to fantasy owners, but then we’ve come to expect this quality of performance on a weekly basis haven’t we?

Running Backs -

Shane Vereen, New England - Only five running backs cracked the 100-yard mark which allowed Vereen to steal top honors while only rushing for 43 yards. Vereen’s forte is catching the football and his did that five times for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns to produce a position-leading 27 fantasy points.

Matt Forte, Chicago - Forte, like Vereen, used his pass-receiving skills to add significant value to his Week 7 performance. The league’s most versatile back rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown and caught six balls for 60 yards and another score.

Wide Receivers -

Demaryius Thomas, Denver - There is no hotter player in the fantasy world than Thomas. A virtual ghost for the first three games, Thomas has racked up 521 yards and five touchdowns over the past three contests, including eight receptions for 171 yards and two scores on Sunday night versus the 49ers.

Golden Tate, Detroit - Once again Tate took advantage of Calvin Johnson’s absence to become a WR1. His 10-catch, 154-yard, one-touchdown afternoon against New Orleans was his third big fantasy total in the last four Lions games. His continued production at this level is tied to Megatron’s health.

Tight Ends -

Gavin Escobar, Dallas - It’s likely his efforts were cursed by fantasy owners of other Dallas Cowboys. Escobar’s career-best three-catch, 65-yard, two- touchdown day was mostly a waste as he’s owned in less than one percent of all Yahoo fantasy leagues and probably started by only a small fraction of those owners ... if any.

Greg Olsen. Carolina - Olsen is a consistent point-scorer for fantasy owners at a position that rarely shows off that characteristic. He’s posted at least 62 yards in six of seven games and scored in four of them. Sunday he earned the 100-yard bonus for the first time this season for 16 fantasy points.

Kickers -

Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh - Suisham was a perfect 3-of-3 on field goals and extra points at a stadium known to be tough on kickers with swirling winds, inconsistent turf and bad weather.

Defense/Special Teams -

Jacksonville Jaguars - The position was led by the most unlikely of players, the Jaguars, who until this effort had not posted more than seven fantasy points in any week and produced minus totals three times this season. On Sunday they held the Browns to just two field goals, while producing three turnovers and two sacks worth a position-leading 18 points.

And the winner of the TSN Fantasy Player of the Week for Week 7 is ... Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson doesn’t have the consistency of Manning, but when he gets his running game going, to add to his arm he can be a very valuable fantasy asset. Sunday was one of those days.


►  Head-scratcher in Minnesota

Whenever an offense turns for the worst, there always seems to be 65,000-plus offense coordinator wannabes in the crowd that believe they can call a better game.

I am not naive enough to believe my “expert Madden play-calling ability” would translate to an NFL field. Besides, my bread-and-butter was I-formation, which I’m pretty sure is illegal in today’s NFL.

Even still, there is one offensive coordinator in particular that causes me to scratch my head every Monday morning.

Norv Turner has surely not been dealt the greatest hand. A vast majority of his offseason game planning for the 2014 season involved All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Peterson will likely not play again this year, and Rudolph will probably miss at least half the season by the time he returns.

On top of that in a three-week span, the Vikings started three different quarterbacks under center. No wonder there is no consistency or flow in the offense.

Turner still baffles and angers fantasy owners, however, who want to see production from wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and running back Jerick McKinnon.

Patterson had an awesome Week 1 with six touches, 128 yards and a touchdown. He earned the 100-yard rushing bonus as 102 of his yards came on the ground.

However, Patterson has not even come close to that total again. After Week 1, Patterson did not score again until this past Sunday against the Bills. Plus, he has not had more than five touches in any game since the first week and never has led the team in targets. Instead, Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright each have more receptions and receiving yards than Patterson.

Patterson has 22 catches for 273 yards and one touchdown on the season. Since Week 1, he has negative running yards.

Turner is also frustrating fantasy owners in how he is using the backfield without Peterson. Rookie Jerick McKinnon has clearly proven he is the more talented back, but Matt Asiata leads the team with 70 carries.

At least Turner has featured McKinnon more as of late. In the last two games, McKinnon has out-touched Asiata 30-8. Still, it should not have taken this long for McKinnon to become the featured back, and the frustration still mounts with Patterson.

As fantasy owners, we want to have the most talented players on our rosters. Actually, an offensive coordinator likely wants the same thing. The lack of consistency at quarterback is obviously hurting the Vikings, but in that situation, shouldn’t an offensive coordinator simplify things and just get the rock to the team’s top weapons?

Turner is a great offensive coordinator. He was the architect of the great Dallas offense in the early 1990s. But it is still worth asking: why won’t he get his most talented players in Minnesota the ball?

Turner has told the press repeatedly he wants to get them involved and that he plans to. Actions speak louder than words, Mr. Turner. Get Patterson and McKinnon the ball.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Curry, Paul, or Westbrook?: Who ya Got?

Over the past few seasons, the point guard position has become increasingly more valuable.

While there have been skilled point guards in the NBA for many years, the overall talent at the position has clearly become much stronger. It is hard to pinpoint exactly why teams have seemed to put more of an onus on having more versatile point guards on their rosters, but nevertheless it seems to be somewhat of an epidemic.

The point guard has always been the floor general, but has not always necessarily been the most skilled player on the floor.

The Philadelphia 76ers went to the 2000-01 NBA Championship Series with Eric Snow as their point guard. The Los Angeles Lakers have won titles with Derek Fisher running the show. These were solid professional players, but in no way would I draft those guys over point guards like John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, or even Kemba Walker.

Now with teams running out more versatile point guards, it has directly impacted the game of fantasy basketball. According to Yahoo, there are seven notable point guards that should be drafted within the first 25 picks. All of these guys are well-rounded athletes, who can score, pass, shoot from deep, and defend. However, there can be only one that gets drafted first, so as a result, let’s take a look at which player should be the first point guard taken off draft boards.

Stephen Curry, Golden State

This guy is a joy to watch, and is coming off a season where he produced career-highs in arguably the two most important categories as a point guard (24.0 ppg and 8.5 apg). To go along with that, Curry shot a solid 47 percent from the field, while making 8.4 field goals per game (also a career-high). Combined with a career 44 percent three-point field goal percentage, he heads into the 2014-15 season as the top rated point guard.

The biggest knock on the Warriors superstar, is the amount of times he turns the ball over. Curry averaged a career-high 3.8 turnovers per game last season, and owners should not expect that number to go down, as his career- average is 3.2. However, with that being said, there are far too many positives in Curry’s game for owners to shy away from him. He produces in essentially every fantasy category, with the exception of blocked shots (0.2 bpg career-average), with career-averages of 4.1 rpg, 1.6 spg, and shoots a remarkable 90 percent from the free throw line. Curry’s biggest weapon continues to be his long distance shooting, and as a result, he made an average of 3.3 three-pointers per game in 2013-14. His average draft position (ADP) is third overall, and in no way is it a reach to consider him there.

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Paul is as steady as they come, and at 29-years-old, is still clearly in the prime of his career. He is a pass-first, point guard, and saying he fills a stat sheet, is simply an understatement. Paul ranked first in the NBA with 10.7 apg and 2.5 steals. On top of that he averaged 4.3 rpg, shot a respectable 47 perfect from the field, made 1.3 three-pointers per game, and shot a remarkable 86 percent from the free throw stripe, last season. If that isn’t filling a stat sheet, I don’t know what is.

One thing that sets Paul apart from Curry and Westbrook, is that he averaged 1.5 less turnovers per game (2.3) than the other two, in 2013-14. If owners value the turnover category, this is definitely something to consider, as Paul has a career-average of only 2.4 turnovers per game.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City

There may not be more pressure on any NBA player entering this season, than the Thunder’s starting point guard. He is coming off a season where he played a career-low 46 games, and also had somewhat of a down season from a statistical standpoint. With Kevin Durant sidelined possibly for the first two months, Oklahoma City not only needs Westbrook to be their go-to guy, but will also need him to be one of the best players in the league, if the team wants to stay afloat. This should be music to fantasy owners’ ears.

Even playing barely half the season, while dealing with multiple injuries, Westbrook still managed to produce better or equal to his career-averages in every major statistical category. He averaged 21.8 ppg (20.1 career), 6.9 apg (6.9 career) , 5.7 rpg (4.9 career), 1.9 spg (1.6 career), while shooting 44 percent from the field (43 percent career), 32 percent from three-point land (31 percent career), and 83 percent from the line (82 percent career). However, just like Curry, Westbrook turned he ball over 3.8 time per game last season, and with the ball constantly in his hands, that number is likely to be similar or even a little higher in 2014-15.

The Pick:

If all three of these players are on the board for owners on the clock, and if those owners want to draft a point guard; it is not a ridiculous idea to put the three names in a hat and pick the guy that is drawn. That is how close and comparable these three guards are. However, for me, as much as I love both Curry and Paul, the pick is Westbrook.

I am a believer in strong starts lasting for a full season, and I believe Westbrook will get off to a scorching start. With Durant battling his foot injury, it still has to be assumed that he will be back at 100 percent by season’s end, but there is no guaranteed timetable or that he’ll produce “normal” Kevin Durant numbers. As a result, Westbrook should expect to see increased numbers across the board, making him a potential MVP candidate in the NBA for 2014-15. If that happens, then he will prove to be the best of the three guards and the guy fantasy owners should choose.

The Gilmer Free Press


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2014


Major League Baseball - World Series
San Francisco at Kansas City, 8:07 PM - FOX


National Basketball Association - Preseason
Houston at Orlando, 7:00 PM - CSN-Houston
Brooklyn at Boston, 7:30 PM - CSN-New England
Washington at New York, 7:30 PM - MSG
Cleveland at Memphis, 8:00 PM - FS-Ohio, ESPN
Minnesota at Wisconsin, 8:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin
Phoenix at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - ESPN
Portland at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - Time Warner


National Hockey League
Toronto at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - TVA Sports, SNET, DSS
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, 8:00 PM - TVA Sports2, NBCSN
Washington at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - CSN-DC, SNET1, DSS
Buffalo at Anaheim, 10:30 PM - MSG-Buffalo, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS


Major League Soccer
Chivas USA at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 PM - KWKU, CW30, DSS


International Soccer
Liverpool vs. Real Madrid, 2:30 PM - FS1
Montreal at New York (CCL), 8:00 PM - FOX Soccer Plus, FS2
Pachuca at Real Espana (CCL), 10:00 PM - UDN


Golf
LPGA - Blue Bay LPGA, 11:30 PM - Golf Channel

Click Below for More Sports...

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