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The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, February 28)

#1 Parkersburg South 81     Lewis County 59

#5 Robert C. Byrd 63     #3 Fairmont Senior 52

#8 Notre Dame 68     #9 Tucker County 66


►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Sectional Game Results

(Saturday, February 28)

Calhoun County 61     Doddridge County 49

Grafton 72     Philip Barbour 55

Harman 55     South Harrison 41

#6 Lincoln 66     Liberty 33

Grafton 72     Philip Barbour 55

Valley Wetzel 56     Tyler Consolidated 46


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Sectional Game Results

(Saturday, February 28)

St. Marys 79     #10 Trinity 74 (OT)



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, February 28)


No. 4 West Liberty 95, Wheeling Jesuit 92 | Final Stats

Indiana Faithfull hit a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds left to snap a 92-92 deadlock and lift No. 4 West Liberty to a 94-92 revenge win against Wheeling Jesuit in a mutual regular-season finaleon Saturdayat the McDonough Center.
The hosts shot nearly 60 percent from the floor in the first half with Ben Siefert draining a pair of 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the half to send WJU into the locker room with a 57-42 halftime lead. WJU remained in front, 87-78, with four minutes to go, but would not hit another shot from the field. This allowed the Hilltoppers to rally and eventually Faithfull’s game-winning free throws.

Seger Bonifant scored 20 of his game-high 25 points in the second half – including a 3-for-3 showing from the 3-point arc to lead WLU (25-2, 20-2). Devin Hoehn added 18 points, C.J. Hester weighed in with 14 points and seven rebounds while Joe Lococo tossed in 11 points.

JustinFritts paced Wheeling Jesuit (19-9, 14-8) with 21 points – 18 of them in the first half – and Moseh finished with 19 points. Haywood Highsmith had 14 points and 11 rebounds while Kyle Ritz and Eric Siefert each scored 13 points.


Fairmont State 64, Shepherd 60 | Final Stats

Nick Harney scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Fairmont State to a 64-60 win over Shepherd on Saturday at the Butcher Center.

Fairmont State improves to 19-9, 16-6, whileShepherd falls to 14-14, 9-13 in MEC play.

Caleb Davis added 13 points for the Falcons, while Jamel Morris tossed in 12.

Ryan McTavish led the Rams with 14 points, while guard Austin Cunningham had 13 points and four assists.Morgan McDonald and Naim Muhammad each had nine points.


Glenville State 75, West Virginia Wesleyan 49 | Final Stats

Glenville State raced past West Virginia Wesleyan, 75-49, on Saturday afternoon at the Waco Center.

Reggie Williams led the Pioneers (18-10, 14-8) with 14 points, and Donte Morales chipped in 13 and Sedric Nady finished with 10.

The Bobcats (11-17, 9-13) were paced by 12 points and seven rebounds from Tanner McGrew. Austin Shell added 11 points and seven rebounds.


Charleston 87, West Virginia State 71 | Final Stats

The University of Charleston picked up an 87-71 win over West Virginia State in the final game of the Eddie King Gymnasium.

The Golden Eagles (19-9, 14-8) also earned a first-round bye in next week’s MEC Tournament. WVSU dropped to 6-24 and 6-16 in the league.

Octavius Green led the way for UC with 19 points, and Vincent Dillard and Tino DiTrapano each netted 12.

WVSU was led by 19 points from Damion Harris and 17 from Markee Mazyck.


Notre Dame 109, Urbana 98 | Final Stats

Notre Dame’s Oliver Megins hit a three-pointer as time expired to force overtime and help the Falcons to a 109-98 win over Urbana on Saturday afternoon at Murphy Gymnasium.

NDC (15-13, 11) outscored the Blue Knights (6-22, 3-19) by a 17-6 margin in the extra session to earn the victory.

Tyree Gaiter scored 27 points to go with 11 assists to lead Notre Dame. Will Vorhees added 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Lawrence DeArmond finished with 20.

Urbana’s Myles Busby led all scorers with 31 points to go with 12 rebounds, and Carlas Jackson scored 27 points.


Concord 74, UVa-Wise 50 | Final Stats

Concord had four players finish in double figures on Saturday to defeat UVa-Wise 74-59 in the Prior Center.

The Mountain Lions (20-8, 15-7) were led by Mike Boyd who finished with a team-high 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Aaron Miller added 16 points and six rebounds, Rob Reed finished with 14 points and Jametrius Wade added 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Matt Dayled the way for the Cavaliers (2-23, 1-21) finishing with a game-high 22 points and six rebounds.Philip Owens IIadded with 19 points and five assists.


►  MEC Women’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, February 28)


Shepherd 82, Fairmont State 75 | Final Stats

Shepherd erased a 14-point second half deficit with a 25-7 run over nine minutes to help it to an 82-75 win over Fairmont State and a share of the Mountain East Conference championship.

The Rams (20-8, 17-5)were led by seniors Gabby Flinchum who scored a team-high 21 points and Rachel Johnson who contributed 17.Morgan Arden tossed in 12 points and added four assists. Briana Vaden had 11 points, while Cara Mason added 10 points, six rebounds, and a game-high five assists.

The win gave Shepherd just their fourth 20-win season in program history after registering just four a season ago. The Rams are the No. 2 seed in next week’s MEC Tournament.

Fairmont State (21-7, 15-7) was led by Emily Lohr had a game-high 24 points to lead the Falcons. Hailey Garrett added 21 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.


West Liberty 60, Wheeling Jesuit 48 | Final Stats

West Liberty clinched a share of the Mountain East title with a 60-48 win over rival Wheeling Jesuit on Saturday.

With the win, the Hilltoppers (20-8, 17-5) earn the top seed in next week’s MEC Tournament by virtue of tiebreakers. Wheeling Jesuit (18-8, 15-7) saw its eight-game winning streak snapped.

Kailee Howe led WLU with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists. Kierra Simpson had 12 points to go with 13 rebounds, and Hillary Southworth had 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.

WJU was led by 12 points from Jaila Bryant and 10 more off the bench from Jaana Motton.


Charleston 71, West Virginia State 60 | Final Stats

Charleston earned a piece of the Mountain East Conference title with a 71-60 win over West Virginia State on Saturday afternoon at Eddie King Gymnasium.

UC (22-6, 17-5) had to rally from a six-point halftime deficit to claim the victory. The Golden Eagles were led by 20 points from Nichole Perry, and Kiara Johnson had 20 rebounds and 17 points in the win. Monet Saunders chipped in 15 points.

WVSU (8-19, 6-16) was paced by Deyahnna Styles who scored 21 points, pulled down six rebounds and handed out eight assists. Alexus Hobbs contributed 13 points for the Yellow Jackets.


Notre Dame 88, Urbana 77 | Final Stats

Martha Nagbe and Kelsey Miller each scored 20 points to help Notre Dame pull away from Urbana, 88-77, on Saturday afternoon at Murphy Gymnasium.

Lexi Hassing scored 11 and Molly Ritz finished with 10 in the victory for NDC (17-11, 13-9).

Kennedy Boggs scored 15, Stefanie Davis scored 14 and Brittany Atkinson added 12 for the Blue Knights (1-27, 1-21).


Glenville State 104, West Virginia Wesleyan 55 | Final Stats

Glenville State forced 27 turnovers to help it to 104-55 win over West Virginia Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon at the Waco Center.

Five players reached double figures for the Pioneers (14-12, 12-10), led by 25 from Kayla Tibbs. Keyanna Tate scored 16 points, Briana Smythe had 14, Julie Bishop netted 12 and Tayana Stewart finished with 10. GSC shot 52 percent from the floor in the win.

Alexa Mortenson paced WVWC (4-22, 3-19) with 17 points and Mari Steward added 11.


Concord 65, UVa-Wise 48 | Final Stats

Concord used an 11-0 run to break a 34-34 tie mid-way through the second half to post a 65-48 win over UVa-Wise at the Prior Center Saturday.The win secured the eighth seed in next week’s Mountain East Conference Tournament for the Mountain Lions and secured a season-series sweep of the Cavaliers.

With the win, Concord improved to 8-19 overall and 8-14 in the league. UVa-Wise fell to 9-19 overall and 8-14 in conference play.

Concord’s Kylie Molisee finished the game 6-of-9 from the floor and grabbed 10 rebounds as she tied teammate Melea Smith for game-high point honors with 14. Jacqueline Kestner also registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Danielle Catron added 10 points and seven boards off the bench.

Taylor Sandidgewas the only Cavalier to finish in double figures as she went 5-6 from the free throw line to score 10 points.SeniorKatie Jo Dockeryposted nine points, seven rebounds, and three assists in her final home game.


►  Men’s Basketball Tournament Field Set

The seedings and pairings for the Mountain East Conference men’s basketball tournament have been set after the final day of regular season play today.

Regular season champion West Liberty, along with Fairmont State, Concord and Glenville State earn the top-four seeds, respectively, and a first-round bye. Glenville State (fifth), Wheeling Jesuit (sixth), Notre Dame (seventh) and Shepherd (eighth) will have a first round home game on Tuesday evening. West Virginia Wesleyan is seeded ninth, West Virginia State is 10th, Urbana is 11th and UVa-Wise is 12th.

MEC Tournament Seeds
1. West Liberty (25-2, 20-2)
2. Fairmont State (19-9, 16-6)
3. Concord (20-8, 15-7)
4. Charleston (19-9, 14-8)
5. Glenville State (18-10, 14-8)
6. Wheeling Jesuit (19-9, 14-8)
7. Notre Dame (15-13, 11-11)
8. Shepherd (14-14, 9-13)
9. West Virginia Wesleyan (11-17, 9-13)
10. West Virginia State (6-24, 6-16)
11. Urbana (6-22, 3-19)
12. UVa-Wise (2-25, 1-21)

First Round Games (Tuesday, March 03)
#12 UVa-Wise at #5 Glenville State, 7:30 PM
#11 Urbana at #6 Wheeling Jesuit, 7 PM
#10 West Virginia State at Notre Dame, 7:30 PM
#9 West Virginia Wesleyan at Shepherd, 7 PM


►  Women’s Basketball Tournament Field Set

The seedings and pairings for the 2015 Mountain East Conference Tournament have been finalized after the conclusion of today’s action.

Three teams split the regular season championship with West Liberty, Shepherd and Charleston tying atop the standings with identical 17-5 records. The Hilltoppers earned the top seed via tiebreakers, with Shepherd seeded second and Charleston seeded third. Wheeling Jesuit earned the fourth and final first-round by earning the tiebreaker over Fairmont State.

After FSU in fifth, Notre Dame finished sixth, Glenville State was seventh and Concord earned the right to the the final first-round home game by claiming the No. 8 seed. UVa-Wise is seeded ninth, West Virginia State is 10th, West Virginia Wesleyan is 11th and Urbana is 12th.

The first round games will be played on Tuesday, March 03.

MEC Tournament Seeds
1. West Liberty (20-8, 17-5)
2. Shepherd (20-8, 17-5)
3. Charleston (22-6, 17-5)
4. Wheeling Jesuit (18-8, 15-7)
5. Fairmont State (21-7, 15-7)
6. Notre Dame (17-11, 13-9)
7. Glenville State (14-12, 12-10)
8. Concord (8-19, 8-14)
9. UVa-Wise (9-19, 8-14)
10. West Virginia State (8-19, 6-16)
11. West Virginia Wesleyan (4-22, 3-19)
12. Urbana (1-27, 2-21)

MEC First Round Games
#12 Urbana at #5 Fairmont State, 5 PM
#11 West Virginia Wesleyan at #6 Notre Dame, 5:30 PM
#10 West Virginia State at #7 Glenville State, 5:30 PM
#9 UVa-Wise at #8 Concord, 7 PM



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Baylor cruises past West Virginia in top-20 matchup

Taurean Prince scored 20 points off the bench and Rico Gathers recorded a double-double as Baylor won handily, 78-66, and never trailed in a top-20 matchup against injury-depleted West Virginia.

The 19th-ranked Bears (22-7, 10-6 Big 12) have won four in a row, including consecutive wins over ranked opponents for the first time in school history. They were in control from start to finish Saturday and only committed eight turnovers—nearly 13 less than West Virginia’s opponents coming in.

Gathers totaled 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Royce O’Neale chipped in with 18 points and seven assists in the convincing victory.

West Virginia was without leading scorer Juwan Staten due to a knee injury and lost starting guard Gary Browne three minutes into the game when his ankle was rolled up on during a loose ball scrum.

Jevon Carter led the 20th-ranked Mountaineers (22-7, 10-6) with 25 points.

Both teams trail Big-12 leading Kansas by 1 1/2 games with two left in the regular season. West Virginia plays at Kansas on Tuesday.

The Bears shot a blistering 65.4% from the field in a lopsided first half. They scored nine of the game’s first 11 points, led by as many as 19 and brought a 45-29 cushion into the break.

West Virginia committed nine turnovers in the first half, the last leading to Gathers’ rim-rattling windmill dunk that ignited the home crowd.

The Mountaineers cleaned up their mistakes in the second half, and Baylor cooled off considerably. Still, the deficit never dipped below nine, and Baylor pulled away for good with an 11-3 run. Prince and O’Neale both hit 3- pointers during the string, and the lead grew to 20 down the stretch.

Game Notes

Baylor upended No. 12 Iowa State on Wednesday ... Carter was making his first career start ... The Mountaineers have beaten Baylor just once in seven meetings, including an 87-69 loss in Morgantown earlier this month ... Baylor outscored West Virginia at the foul line 22-8 ... Baylor shot 33% from the field in the second half ... West Virginia shot 40.3% overall.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, February 28)


Final Score: (1) Kentucky 84, (18) Arkansas 67

Andrew Harrison and Trey Lyles each scored 18 points and No. 1 Kentucky stayed unbeaten with a 84-67 dismantling of 18th- ranked Arkansas. Lyles shot 8-for-10 from the floor, while Harrison converted all eight of his free throws tries for Kentucky (29-0, 16-0 SEC), which is three wins shy of matching the longest win streak in program history. The Wildcats won 32 straight from 1953 to 1955. Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker contributed 14 and 10 points, respectively off the bench, and Willie Cauley- Stein finished with seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Arkansas (23-6, 12-4) got 17 points and nine rebounds from Michael Qualls and 15 points from Bobby Portis, but lost its three-game win streak in this series.


Final Score: (2) Virginia 69, Virginia Tech 57

Malcolm Brogdon had 19 points and eight rebounds as No. 2 Virginia defeated Virginia Tech 69-57 on Saturday afternoon. Darion Atkins posted 16 points and six rebounds, while Anthony Gill added 16 points and five boards for the Cavaliers (27-1, 15-1 ACC), who have won eight straight and are a win away from clinching their first ever back-to- back outright ACC titles. Point guard London Perrantes, who tallied 11 points and six assists, returned from a brief one-game absence for Virginia following a scary collision with Brogdon against Florida State on Sunday. Adam Smith netted 19 points to lead the Hokies (10-19, 2-14).


Final Score: BYU 73, (3) Gonzaga 70

Kyle Collinsworth finished with 20 points and eight rebounds as BYU pulled off a memorable upset over third-ranked Gonzaga for a 73-70 win on Saturday. Gonzaga suffered just its second loss of the season and had three lengthy winning streaks come to an end. The Bulldogs entered the game with a school-record 22 straight wins, the nation’s longest home winning streak at 41 games in a row and 22 consecutive conference victories. Skyler Halford scored 14 points, while Chase Fischer and Tyler Haws netted 13 and 10 points, respectively, for the Cougars (23-8, 13-5 WCC), who won their first game over a team ranked third or higher since a win over No. 2 UCLA on Nov. 27, 1981. Byron Wesley paced Gonzaga (29-2. 17-1) with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Domantas Sabonis scored 12 with eight boards in the loss.


Final Score: (4) Duke 73, Syracuse 54

Justise Winslow and Duke kept on rolling, with the freshman forward pouring in a season-best 23 points to lead the fourth-ranked Blue Devils to a 73-54 triumph over Syracuse. Duke (26-3, 13-3 ACC) also turned in a strong effort on defense in posting its ninth consecutive win and keeping its ACC regular-season title hopes alive. The Blue Devils held the Orange to 30.6 percent shooting, including a 3-of-20 performance from 3-point range, and forced 15 turnovers. Winslow has averaged 16.6 points and 8.9 rebounds over Duke’s run. Syracuse (18-11, 9-7) failed to build on the momentum gained from Tuesday’s 65-60 win over No. 9 Notre Dame, largely due to its offensive woes and inability to contain Winslow or Jahlil Okafor, who contributed 13 points and 14 rebounds to the rout. Quinn Cook added 17 points for Duke. Tyler Roberson’s 16 points and nine boards paced the Orange, with Trevor Cooney and Duke transfer Michael Gbinije finishing with 13 and 12 points, respectively.


Final Score: (6) Villanova 78, Xavier 66

Dylan Ennis posted 16 points, five rebounds and five assists and No. 6 Villanova went into Cintas Center and knocked off Xavier 78-66 to win its 10th straight game. Ryan Arcidiacono had 15 points and Kris Jenkins went 4-for-7 from distance for 14 for Villanova (27-2, 14-2 Big East), which wrapped up the Big East regular- season crown with Saturday’s win. The Wildcats had already earned a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, which will take place from March 11-14. Jalen Reynolds made all six of his shots to lead Xavier with 15 points, and Trevon Bluiett netted 12. Dee Davis tallied seven points, nine assists and six rebounds in the setback. Xavier (18-12, 8-9) had won nine of its last 11 games at home against ranked opponents.


Final Score: (7) Arizona 63, (13) Utah 57

Kaleb Tarczewski had 13 points and six rebounds to lead No. 7 Arizona to a 63-57 victory over 13th-ranked Utah on Saturday. Stanley Johnson posted 12 points and 11 rebounds and Gabe York added 12 points for the Wildcats (26-3, 14-2 Pac-12), who claimed a share of the Pac-12 title with the victory. Delon Wright scored 17 points with five rebounds and Jordan Loveridge added 10 points and six boards for the Utes (22-6, 12-4), who have lost two of their last three games.


Final Score: (8) Kansas 69, Texas 64

Perry Ellis boosted his claim for Big 12 Player of the Year with another dominant performance, as No. 8 Kansas held off Texas 69-64 to remain unbeaten at home. Ellis tallied 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Jayhawks (23-6, 12-4 Big 12), who improved to 14-0 at Allen Fieldhouse this season. It was Ellis’ third straight 20-point game. Kelly Oubre Jr. finished with 15 points and nine rebounds and sealed the win with a pair of late free throws. Frank Mason III added 12 points. The Longhorns (17-12, 6-10) were projected to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title, but uneven offensive performances have contributed to them dropping four straight games and eight of 11.


Final Score: (11) Wichita State 74, (10) Northern Iowa 60

Ron Baker had 17 points, Fred VanVleet scored 13 and Wichita State won a showdown with Northern Iowa on Saturday to capture the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title for the second year in a row. Darius Carter, Tekele Cotton and Evan Wessel added 11 points each the No. 11 Shockers led by as much as 18 in a 74-60 win over the 10th- ranked Panthers to extended their home winning streak to 32 games. Wichita State will again be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which starts Thursday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. It was the first time in 50 years that the Shockers won back-to-back Missouri Valley Conference regular-season titles.


Final Score: Kansas State 70, (12) Iowa State 69

Wesley Iwundu scored four of his 11 points in the final 43 seconds, including a dunk off a stolen inbounds pass that gave Kansas State a dramatic 70-69 win over No. 12 Iowa State on Saturday. Down 12 with under 10 minutes remaining, Kansas State took the lead with a 20-6 run that was punctuated by Iwundu’s block on Georges Niang, which led to a layup at the other end for the sophomore forward. Later, Iwundu jumped Georges Niang’s pass on the Kansas State side of the court and broke to the basket to dunk with 16 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats the lead. After a foul stopped play at the other end, Naz Long airballed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Iowa State.

Final Score: (14) Maryland 66, Michigan 56

College Park, MD (SportsNetwork.com) - Melo Trimble posted 19 points and five assists as 14th-ranked Maryland beat Michigan 66-56 on Saturday afternoon. Dez Wells chipped in 13 points and six rebounds on Senior Day, helping the Terrapins complete a perfect home record in conference play for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Jake Layman scored 10 points for Maryland (24-5, 12-4 Big Ten), while former Wolverine Evan Smotrycz grabbed nine rebounds. The Terrapins notched their fifth straight win and closed to within 1 1/2 games of first-place Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings with two to play. Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin each had 15 points for the Wolverines (14-14, 7-9), who have dropped six of their last seven games.


Final Score: (15) North Carolina 73, Miami-Florida 64

Brice Johnson had 22 points and 11 rebounds as No. 15 North Carolina pulled away late to defeat Miami-Florida 73-64 on Saturday afternoon. Marcus Paige netted 15 points, while J.P. Tokoto added 10 points and 10 boards for the Tar Heels (20-9, 10-6 ACC), who had dropped five of their last seven games coming in. Sheldon McClellan and Ivan Cruz Uceda poured in 11 points apiece for Miami (18-11, 8-8), which had won three of its last four games prior to Saturday.


Final Score: (16) Oklahoma 67, TCU 60

Buddy Hield scored 21 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds to help No. 16 Oklahoma come back to beat TCU 67-60 on Saturday. TaShawn Thomas scored six of his 15 points in a crucial 8-1 surge that gave the Sooners (20-8, 11-5 Big 12) the lead for good. Oklahoma got 10 points apiece from Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins. The Horned Frogs (17-12, 4-12) scored just nine points in the final 10 minutes as Oklahoma pulled ahead. Kyan Anderson and Trey Zeigler each scored 16 to lead TCU.


Final Score: (17) Louisville 81, Florida State 59

Wayne Blackshear scored 18 points and No. 17 Louisville rolled to an 81-59 win over Florida State on Saturday to cap a tumultous week. Montrezl Harrell added 16 points and Anton Gill scored 14 for the Cardinals (23-6, 11-5 ACC), who have won three in a row, the last two while dealing with the situation surrounding Chris Jones. Jones, the talented senior guard who was dismissed from the team last Sunday, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges of felony rape and sodomy in a case involving the alleged assault of two women last weekend. The Cardinals shot over 48 percent in the first half to lead by 10 at the break and went up by as much as 26 points in the second half. Quentin Snider added 11 points in the win and Terry Rozier scored 10. Montay Brandon scored 13 points to lead Florida State (15-15, 7-10), which has lost three in a row. The Seminoles got 12 points each from Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Devon Bookert and 11 from Boris Bojanovsky. It was the first meeting between the teams since Florida State beat Louisville 76-69 in the Metro Conference title game on March 9, 1992. The teams were both members of the Metro Conference from 1976-91. Louisville joined the ACC this season.


Final Score: (19) Baylor 78, (20) West Virginia 66

Taurean Prince scored 20 points off the bench and Rico Gathers recorded a double-double as Baylor won handily, 78-66, and never trailed in a top-20 matchup against injury-depleted West Virginia. The 19th-ranked Bears (22-7, 10-6 Big 12) have won four in a row, including consecutive wins over ranked opponents for the first time in school history. They were in control from start to finish Saturday and only committed eight turnovers—nearly 13 less than West Virginia’s opponents coming in. Gathers totaled 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Royce O’Neale chipped in with 18 points and seven assists in the convincing victory. West Virginia was without leading scorer Juwan Staten due to a knee injury and lost starting guard Gary Browne three minutes into the game when his ankle was rolled up on during a loose ball scrum. Jevon Carter led the 20th-ranked Mountaineers (22-7, 10-6) with 25 points.


Final Score: Dayton 59, (22) VCU 55

Dayton received 19 points from Jordan Sibert and held on down the stretch to earn a 59-55 victory over 22nd-ranked VCU in an Atlantic 10 clash with major ramifications. The win, the Flyers’ fifth in six games, enabled Dayton (22-6, 12-4 A-10) to keep a share of first place in the tight conference race with two to go in the regular season. The Flyers entered Saturday’s matchup in a four-way tie with VCU, Davidson and Rhode Island for the A-10’s top spot. Dayton will host Rhode Island, which downed La Salle earlier in the day, on Tuesday. VCU (21-8, 11-5), meanwhile, continued its recent downward spiral. The Rams owned a comfortable lead atop the A-10 in late January after getting off to a 7-0 start, but have since gone 4-5 in league play. Kendall Pollard added 16 points and six rebounds for the Flyers, but fouled out with under five minutes remaining and the Rams began to draw closer after trailing 51-45 at the time of the disqualification.


Final Score: (23) Butler 67, DePaul 53

Kellen Dunham scored 24 points and No. 23 Butler continued its push for the second seed in the Big East tournament with a 67-53 victory over reeling DePaul. Roosevelt Jones had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Bulldogs (21-8, 11-5 Big East), who hold a one-game lead over Georgetown for the conference’s No. 2 seed. Kameron Woods posted 14 points and six rebounds for a Butler team that pulled away in the second half with a 26-3 run. Jamee Crockett was the lone player to reach double figures in scoring for DePaul, finishing with 20 points. The Blue Demons (12-18, 6-11) suffered a season high-tying sixth consecutive defeat.


Final Score: Boise State 56, (24) San Diego State 46

Derrick Marks had 18 points and five rebounds as Boise State took a 56-46 win over No. 24 San Diego State in a critical Mountain West Conference matchup. James Webb III scored 16 points with 12 rebounds for the Broncos (22-7, 12-4), who have won four straight to move into a tie with San Diego State for first place in the conference. Winston Shepard had 16 points while J.J. O’Brien added eight points for the Aztecs (22-7, 12-4), who had a school-record 29-game home winning streak snapped.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Saturday, February 28)


Final Score: Washington 99, Detroit 95

John Wall had 22 points and six assists as the Washington Wizards snapped their six-game losing streak following a 99-95 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Nene posted 21 points and seven rebounds, while Marcin Gortat added 16 points and 17 boards for the Wizards, who led by as many as 21 in the third quarter before holding the Pistons off down the stretch. Greg Monroe tallied 21 points and 10 rebounds and Spencer Dinwiddie supplied 20 points and eight helpers for Detroit, which has lost three in a row.


Final Score: Atlanta 93, Miami 91

Paul Millsap scored 22 points, Dennis Schroder added 16 with 10 assists and the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks downed the Miami Heat 93-91 on Saturday night. The Hawks, who are already on the brink of clinching a postseason berth, nearly squandered an 18- point lead but pulled away for their fourth straight victory. Though they committed 20 turnovers, they forced 23 and limited Miami to 39.5 percent shooting. Kent Bazemore and John Jenkins tallied 15 and 12 points, respectively, for an Atlanta squad playing without regulars Al Horford (personal), Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic—the last three all getting the night off on the second of a back-to-back. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside pulled down 24 rebounds and scored 14 points in the club’s second straight loss.


Final Score: New York 103, Toronto 98

Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half, Andrea Bargnani had 19 and the New York Knicks beat the Toronto Raptors 103-98 on Saturday. Alexey Shved tallied 15 points with five assists off the bench for New York, winners in two straight following an eight-game slide. Louis Williams scored 22 points to lead the Raptors, who have lost a season-high five straight games. Jonas Valanciunas added 16 and eight rebounds in defeat. Toronto was without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who was given the night off to rest. He is considered day- to-day.


Final Score: Memphis 101, Minnesota 97

Marc Gasol had 27 points and 11 rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 101-97 on Saturday night. Mike Conley netted 17 points, Jeff Green added 13 and Zach Randolph pulled down 11 boards for the Grizzlies, who blew a 15-point third quarter lead, but Conley bailed them out with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 30.3 seconds left. Andrew Wiggins poured in 25 points for Minnesota, which has dropped three of its last four games.


Final Score: Brooklyn 104, Dallas 94

Deron Williams scored 12 of his 25 points in the third quarter to lead the Brooklyn Nets past the Dallas Mavericks, 104-94, on Saturday. Williams went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and pulled down six rebounds for the Nets, who have won four straight in Dallas. Thaddeus Young tallied 16 points and eight rebounds. Joe Johnson contributed 15 points and eight boards for Brooklyn, which went 3-5 on its eight-game road trip. Mason Plumlee and Jarrett Jack each scored 14 points, with Plumlee also pulling down 10 boards. Dirk Nowitzki ended with 20 points and six rebounds for the Mavericks, who have lost two in a row. Devin Harris added 14 points and Al- Farouq Aminu and Monta Ellis had 12 points apiece.


Final Score: San Antonio 101, Phoenix 74

The Phoenix Suns, not the San Antonio Spurs, looked like they were the ones finishing up a nine-game road trip on Saturday. Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as the Spurs took the listless Suns to the woodshed in a lopsided 101-74 victory. The Suns set a franchise low for scoring in a half (24) and were on pace for record lows in points and shooting percentage before San Antonio took its foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. They shot 29.8 percent overall. The Spurs led by 34 after three, and their regulars were given well-deserved rest in closing out an otherwise disappointing 4-5 road trip in winning fashion. Marcus Morris scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for the Suns, who failed to build off an emotional overtime victory over the Thunder on Thursday.


Final Score: Utah 82, Milwaukee 75

Trey Burke had 23 points and six assists as the Utah Jazz beat the Milwaukee Bucks by an 82-75 margin on Saturday. Burke went 5-of-10 from beyond the arc for the Jazz, who have won 13 in a row against Milwaukee in Salt Lake City. Derrick Favors added 16 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Khris Middleton ended with 18 points and six rebounds for the Bucks, who have lost four of five. Michael Carter-Williams contributed 16 points and four steals.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  White Sox ace Sale out with broken foot

Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale is expected to miss three weeks with a broken foot that could affect his availability for Opening Day.

Sale suffered an avulsion fracture on the lateral side of his right foot in an accident at home on Friday, the White Sox announced Saturday.

The left-hander underwent X-rays Saturday morning at Banner Estrella hospital near the team’s spring training facility in Glendale.

His status for Opening Day will be clearer once the swelling in his foot goes down and further tests are performed, the White Sox said.

They begin the season April 6 in Kansas City.

Sale, 25, had a 2.17 ERA in 26 starts last season with a 12-4 record and 208 strikeouts in 174 innings. He ranked fifth in the majors with a 0.97 WHIP and finished third in voting for the AL Cy Young Award.

He went on the disabled list for the first time in his career on April 22 with a flexor muscle strain in his left arm, missing a month.

Sale is 44-29 with a 2.76 ERA in 165 career games for the White Sox, including 85 starts. He has been a starter for the past three seasons after pitching out of the bullpen from 2010-11.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Saturday, February 28)


Final Score: Florida 5, Buffalo 3

Jaromir Jagr got all the headlines prior to his Panthers debut, but it was Brandon Pirri starring for Florida on Saturday after missing the previous nine games with an upper-body injury. In just 83 seconds, Pirri scored a pair of power play goals to get Florida on track to a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Florida also received goals from Nick Bjugstad, Scottie Upshall and Derek MacKenzie while Jagr was scoreless with three shots on goal. Roberto Luongo was not busy and made 11 saves to help the Panthers improve to 1-1-0 on their seven-game homestand. The Sabres lost their first two-game winning streak in 2015 despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead with first-period goals from Cody Hodgson and Andrej Meszaros. Torrey Mitchell also lit the lamp for Buffalo. Michal Neuvirth allowed four Panthers goals but made 42 saves in the setback.


Final Score: Detroit 4, Nashville 3

Tomas Tatar and Alexey Marchenko each scored third-period goals to rally the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-3 win over Nashville and deal the Predators their first home losing streak of the season. Drew Miller added a goal and an assist and Jonas Gustavsson came up with 37 saves to help the Red Wings prevail against a Nashville team that owns the NHL’s best home record at 26-5-1. The Predators were coming off a 4-2 setback to Minnesota Thursday at Bridgestone Arena, however, and Saturday’s result marked the first time this season the Western Conference leaders have dropped back-to-back games in regulation. Pekka Rinne stopped just 21-of-25 shots in this one, failing to protect a 3-2 lead he was given on consecutive second-period goals from Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher and Shea Weber.


Final Score: Carolina 5, NY Islanders 3

A four-goal second period boosted the Carolina Hurricanes in their 5-3 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Jay McClement scored two goals for his first multi-goal game since a 2010 hat trick, Brad Malone tallied a goal and an assist, and Justin Faulk and Michal Jordan also scored in Carolina’s third straight win. Cam Ward made 21 saves in the victory. The Islanders lost a two-game winning streak after Chad Johnson allowed all five Carolina goals on 41 shots. Michael Grabner, Nikolay Kulemin and John Tavares scored New York’s goals.


Final Score: New Jersey 2, Columbus 0

Cory Schneider made 33 saves and Andy Greene netted the deciding goal in the New Jersey Devils’ 2-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Schneider backstopped the Devils to their fifth win in seven games by posting his second shutout in six days, having turned aside 38 chances in Monday’s 3-0 triumph over Arizona. Travis Zajac added an empty-net score in the final minute that sealed the Blue Jackets’ fifth loss in a row. Curtis McElhinney stopped 17-of-18 shots for Columbus.


Final Score: Boston 4, Arizona 1

Tuukka Rask stopped 31 shots to lead the Boston Bruins in a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand all scored for the Bruins, who have won three of four following a six-game losing streak. Martin Erat had the only goal of the game for the Coyotes, who have lost nine in a row. Mike Smith was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 20 shots, while Louis Domingue turned aside all 14 shots he faced.


Final Score: Montreal 4, Toronto 0

Carey Price turned in another solid performance between the pipes as he posted his sixth shutout of the season in the Montreal Canadiens’ 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Price made 30 saves and improved to 10-0-1 over his last 11 starts, last losing in regulation on Feb. 3 against Buffalo. He leads the NHL with 36 wins. David Desharnais scored twice, while Manny Malhotra and Tomas Plekanec and also lit the lamp in Montreal’s fourth straight win. Jonathan Bernier allowed three goals on 22 shots for the Maple Leafs, who had their two-game winning streak came to an end.


Final Score: Philadelphia 4, NY Rangers 2

In his first start since Feb. 8, Steve Mason made 34 saves to lead the Flyers to a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday. Mason made 16 of those saves in the third period to end Philadelphia’s two-game losing streak and stay firmly in the playoff race. Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds scored goals for the Flyers, and the winner came early in the third period when Michael Del Zotto scored short- handed. The Rangers lost their 10-game point streak despite goals from J.T. Miller and John Moore. Cam Talbot made 30 saves in the loss.


Final Score: Minnesota 3, Colorado 1

Devan Dubnyk stopped 33 shots to lead the Minnesota Wild in a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. Justin Fontaine and Erik Haula had a goal and an assist, while Jason Pominville also scored for the Wild, who have won five of their last six. Maxime Talbot had the only goal of the game for the Avalanche, who had won three of four coming into the game. Semyon Varlamov allowed all three goals on 32 shots in defeat.


Final Score: St. Louis 2, Edmonton 1

Paul Stastny scored the game-winning goal with 5:40 left in regulation to lift the St. Louis Blues to a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Stastny also assisted on Dmitrij Jaskin’s marker and Brian Elliott made 21 saves for the Blues, who were coming off a 2-1 shootout win over Winnipeg on Thursday. Justin Schultz supplied Edmonton’s lone goal and Ben Scrivens allowed both goals on 27 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Ottawa 4, San Jose 2

Mike Hoffman scored two goals in the third period to lift the Ottawa Senators over the San Jose Sharks, 4-2, on Saturday. Mark Stone also lit the lamp in the final stanza for the Senators, who have won a season-high five straight games. Erik Karlsson also scored. Andrew Hammond made 28 saves and has now won the first five starts of his NHL career. He entered Saturday’s contest on a two-game shutout streak. Tommy Wingels and Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks, who have lost eight in a row at home. Antti Niemi stopped 27-of-30 shots.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nishikori, Ferrer to meet in Acapulco final

Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer will meet in the final of the $1.4 million Mexican Open on Saturday.

Both players won their Friday semifinal matches in three sets, as the top- seeded Nishikori outlasted fourth-seeded Kevin Anderson, and the second-seeded Ferrer pummeled qualifier Ryan Harrison after falling behind early.

Nishikori broke Anderson’s serve twice in the final set en route to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory, moving him into uncharted territory in the ATP rankings. As it stands, the Japanese star will enter next week ranked no less than No. 4 in the world.

Anderson was last year’s runner-up in this event to Grigor Dimitrov.

Harrison, who has never reached an ATP final, won a lengthy first set but wound up dropping the final 12 games as Ferrer went on to win 4-6, 6-0, 6-0 on the hardcourts at the Fairmont Acapulco Princess.

Nishikori has won seven of the 10 all-time meetings against Ferrer, including a straight-set triumph in the round-of-16 at the Australian Open last month.

Ferrer captured three straight Acapulco titles from 2010-12 and was the runner-up to fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal in 2013.

This year’s champion will earn $343,000.


►  Federer beats Djokovic in Dubai final

Roger Federer posted a 6-3, 7-5 victory over top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the final of the Dubai Championships on Saturday.

The second-seeded Swiss star won the tournament for the second straight year and seventh time overall.

After fighting off two set points to level the second set at 5-5, Federer broke Djokovic’s serve in the next game and then saved a break point to capture his 84th career title and second of 2015. He also won the season- opening event in Brisbane.

“I think the first set belonged to me; whereas the second set belonged to him more,“ Federer said. “He created many more opportunities. I struggled to get into his service games more frequently. It seemed like the moment I wasn’t serving great he created chances for himself and put a lot of pressure on me.“

The 33-year-old Federer swatted 12 aces and saved all seven break points he faced while improving to 20-17 lifetime against Djokovic.

Djokovic, 27, lost for the first time in five Dubai finals.

“I thought it was a good match,“ Djokovic said. “I thought there wasn’t much difference, a few points decided a winner.“

Federer or Djokovic have won the Dubai title 11 of the last 13 years.


►  Nadal to meet Monaco in Buenos Aires final

Rafael Nadal is a step closer to another clay court title after beating Carlos Berlocq in the semifinals of the Argentina Open on Saturday.

The top-seeded Nadal battled to a 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 win over the local favorite Berlocq and will try to win his 46th career clay court title Sunday at Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Nadal, who has 64 titles overall, will face another Argentine favorite, past Buenos Aires winner Juan Monaco.

Monaco defeated 2011 champion Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4 in two hours and 27 minutes and is chasing his ninth career title. He captured the Buenos Aires crown in 2007.

Nadal is 5-1 all-time against Monaco, with the only loss coming at the 2007 ATP Masters tournament in Cincinnati when he retired during the second set because of knee and wrist injuries.

Sunday’s winner will collect $91,050.


►  Safarova wins Qatar Open

Czech Lucie Safarova beat two-time champion Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-3 to win the Qatar Open on Saturday.

Safarova broke the Belarusian to begin the match and again for a 5-4 lead. She then saved a break point before serving out the opening set.

The 28-year-old Safarova offered Azarenka four break point opportunities in the second set and saved all of them. She won the first three points in the ninth game and converted on her third match point.

Safarova captured her sixth career title and first since winning the Bell Challenge in Quebec City in September 2013.

Saturday’s win marked her first in seven head-to-head meetings with Azarenka, who won this tournament in 2012 and 2013.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Harrington leads by 1 at halted Honda Classic

Padraig Harrington finished up his second round and took a 1-shot lead on Saturday before third-round play was suspended due to inclement weather.

The second round was concluded earlier Saturday morning and only a few groups were able to tee off for the third round before rain and heavy winds halted play at 12:51 PM After a lengthy delay, play was called for the day. Players are scheduled to get back out on the course at 10 AM Sunday.

Harrington, who will have to wait until Sunday to start his third round along with most of the 71 players who made the cut, fired a second-round 4-under 66 to take the outright lead at 7-under 133 through 36 holes on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa.

“I feel like I’ll have to play better or at least up to the way I played maybe my first 27 holes,“ Harrington said about what he has to do in the final two rounds. “You keep your head on, you get it up and down when you need to. It will be a tough weekend no matter what.“

The three-time major champion has five career wins on the PGA Tour, but he has not won since the 2008 PGA Championship. Harrington also won the British Open the same year.

Patrick Reed, who finished his second round on Friday, is alone in second at 6-under 134 following two straight 67s. Ian Poulter (64) and Brendan Steele (69) are tied for third at 5-under 135 through two rounds, while Luke Donald (67) sits one shot further back in fifth at minus-4.

First-round leader Jim Herman carded a 2-over 72, dropping him into a tie for sixth with Russell Knox (68). Defending champion Russell Henley (70), who had just teed off to start his third round before play was called, is tied for 38th at 3-over 143 after narrowly making the cut.

Harrington, starting his second round on the back nine, began with a pair of pars on 10 and 11 before rolling in his first birdie of the day on the par-4 12th.

Following three more pars from 13, Harrington surged as he made the turn, making three birdies in a four-hole stretch on 16, 17 and one.

Harrington tripped to his first bogey on No. 3, but he rebounded in a big way by draining three straight birdies from No. 4, vaulting him to a 3-shot lead.

That advantage quickly shrunk to just one, however, as Harrington finished bogey-bogey on eight and nine. Despite the poor finish to his round, Harrington still held the outright lead through 36 holes.

“Certainly for the first 27 holes I was really feeling very positive about my game,“ said Harrington after his second round. “I struggled coming home. That was disappointing ... Disappointed as I said about my finish, but I’m in a good place going through to the weekend.“

Steele held a 2-shot lead through four holes of his second round before play was suspended due to darkness on Friday. The 31-year-old was on fire when he finally started his round on Friday, draining four straight birdies from No. 1 to grab the lead.

When he got back underway Saturday morning, Steele began to struggle right away as he made a bogey on five. He rebounded with a birdie on six, but he then tripped to a pair of bogeys on seven and eight.

Steele made the turn with a birdie on nine, but that was his last gain of the day. Steele made eight pars on the back nine to go along with a double-bogey on 16 and he finished the day tied for third.

Poulter got off to a roaring start in his second round, making birdies on three and five. He also holed out from 116 yards for eagle on the par-4 fourth.

Poulter got to 5-under for his round with another gain on eight. Following five straight pars from nine, Poulter traded a birdie on 14 for a bogey on 15. He finished up with pars on 16 and 18 to go along with a gain on 17.

NOTES: A total of 24 players had completed at least one hole of their third rounds ... In eight events this season, Harrington has five missed cuts and he missed one secondary cut. Harrington’s best finish was a tie for 56th at last week’s Northern Trust Open ... World No. 1 Rory McIlroy missed the cut after finishing 36 holes at 7-over 147 ... The cut fell at 4-over 144. Other big names who missed the cut were Justin Rose, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Billy Horschel and Dustin Johnson.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Harvick wins another Xfinity Series race at Atlanta

Kevin Harvick won a Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the third year in a row after holding off his fellow Sprint Cup Series competitor and reigning Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano in the closing laps of Saturday’s Hisense 250.

Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion, led 101 of 163 laps, driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. He claimed his 45th career victory in the Xfinity Series. Harvick now holds the record for most Xfinity wins at this 1.54-mile racetrack with four.

Logano started on the pole and led the first 49 laps before Harvick took over the top spot during a round of green-flag pit stops. Logano, though, pulled ahead of Harvick and reclaimed the lead on lap 127.

The third and final caution for fluid on the track late in the race set up the last round of pit stops. Harvick edged Logano out of the pits to retain the lead and then held it for the final 27 laps.

“That (final) pit stop is what won this race,“ Harvick said. “Joey probably had a little bit better of a car the second half of a run, so it really played out for us there at the end as we were able to have that short run and take off.“

On Friday, Logano and Harvick placed 1-2 in qualifying for Sunday’s 500-mile Sprint Cup race at Atlanta. But Harvick will have to start from the rear of the field in that event due to an engine change. He blew the motor in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet during Saturday’s final practice.

Logano started gaining on Harvick in the closing laps of the Xfinity race but experienced a bad vibration on his No. 22 Team Penske Ford due to a loose wheel. He wound up finishing 1.2 seconds behind Harvick.

“That was as close as anyone’s been to beating Kevin here in a long time,“ said Logano, who led a total of 59 laps. “I was starting to catch him, and then I had this huge vibration. I think the left-rear (tire) was loose. At that point, I was just trying to survive and hope the left-rear didn’t pass me. Overall, we had a fast race car, but we just came up a little bit short.“

Ty Dillon finished third, followed by Chris Buescher and Chase Elliott, the defending Xfinity champion.

Paul Menard, Brian Scott, Matt Kenseth, Regan Smith and Kyle Larson completed the top-10.

Erik Jones, substituting for the injured Kyle Busch in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, placed 13th. Busch suffered a compound fracture of his right lower leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot during an accident in last Saturday’s Xfinity season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. He underwent surgery on his right leg in Daytona Beach, Florida and then had an operation on his left foot in North Carolina. Busch was hospitalized six days before his release on Friday. His return to racing is not known at this time.

Ryan Reed, who claimed his first career Xfinity win at Daytona, finished 16th.

Buescher and Dillon share the lead in the point standings, while Reed is eight points behind them.


►  Crafton dominant in Truck Series race at Atlanta

Two-time defending Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton won at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time with a dominating performance in Saturday’s Hyundai Construction Equipment 300.

The 200-mile truck race capped off a NASCAR doubleheader at this 1.54-mile racetrack. Earlier in the day, Kevin won the 250-mile Xfinity Series event here.

Crafton, who started 15th, led 85 of 130 laps in his No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota. Erik Jones, running a full-schedule in the series for Kyle Busch Motorsports this season, led 37 of the first 44 laps before Crafton passed him and took command from there.

Crafton crossed the finish line nearly nine seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Ty Dillon, for his sixth win in his 340th consecutive and career truck start. His first win at Atlanta came in his 14th attempt. The series did not compete here the previous two seasons.

Last year, Crafton became the first driver to win back-to-back championships in the 20-year history of the Truck Series.

Dillon won the last truck race at Atlanta in August 2012. He is now a regular in Xfinity.

Ben Kennedy, the pole sitter, finished third, followed by Daniel Suarez and Tyler Reddick, who won the February 20 truck season-opener at Daytona.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Frampton keeps IBF belt with TKO of Avalos

Carl Frampton stopped challenger Chris Avalos in the fifth round to retain his IBF Super Bantamweight title in his hometown.

Frampton hit Avalos with a flurry of combinations to prompt referee Howard John Foster to halt the scheduled 12-round bout at 1:33 of the fifth.

The title defense was the first for Frampton (20-0, 14 KO) of the belt he won from Kiko Martinez with a unanimous decision in September.

Avalos (25-3) entered the fight with six straight victories, the last three by knockout, and was the IBF’s top-ranked contender.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Rooney’s brace powers United past Sunderland

Wayne Rooney scored a pair of second-half goals on Saturday as Manchester United cruised to a 2-0 victory over 10-man Sunderland at Old Trafford.

With fellow striker Robin van Persie picking up an injury in last week’s loss against Swansea City, United manager Louis van Gaal deployed Radamel Falcao in the No. 9 role with captain Rooney playing in an attacking midfield spot.

Rooney found the back of the net in the 66th and 85th minutes to lift United into third place in the Premier League on 50 points, two ahead of Arsenal and five behind rivals Manchester City, both of which play on Sunday.

The Sunderland defense held firm and kept United off the score sheet in the first half, but the Red Devils broke the deadlock in the 66th minute when Falcao broke free into the penalty area and was hacked down by Sunderland defender Wes Brown, resulting in a penalty for United and a straight red card to Brown.

Rooney entered the match in a bit of a slump as he had gone eight straight contests without a goal, but confidently headed to the spot and blasted his penalty low into the left corner with pace, leaving Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon with no chance to make a save.

Rooney completed his double five minutes from time when he was in the correct spot in front of goal to smash home a rebound effort to seal an important three points for Van Gaal’s side.

For Sunderland, the defeat keeps the Black Cats in 16th place in the Premier League with 25 points, just three clear of the bottom three.

Elsewhere in the Premier League on Saturday, Crystal Palace maintained its unbeaten away record under manager Alan Pardew on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over West Ham United at Upton Park.

The Eagles opened the scoring through Glen Murray in the 41st minute and Scott Dann doubled the advantage early in the second half, while Murray added a second goal in the 63rd minute.

The Hammers pulled one back in the 76th minute through Enner Valencia after Murray was sent off for a second yellow-card offense, but the hosts were unable to salvage anything as the club’s dream of a top-four finish slipped further out of reach.

Swansea City claimed its second consecutive win in league play on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Burnley thanks to an own goal by Burnley defender Kieran Trippier.

Newcastle United rebounded from a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City last week with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa at St. James’ Park. Papiss Cisse collected the only goal of the match in the 37th minute.

Peter Crouch’s tally 18 minutes from time held up as the winner to give Stoke City a 1-0 result over Hull City, while Saturday’s final fixture saw West Bromwich Albion knock off Southampton, 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second minute of play from Saido Berahino.


►  Motherwell snaps skid with win over Inverness

Motherwell put an end to a lengthy winless run in league play on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Inverness at Fir Park.

Motherwell started the day at the foot of the table in the Scottish Premier League, and while the victory keeps them in that position, some confidence from the win could allow the club to put together a run of positive form.

After a scoreless opening half, Louis Laing gave the home side the lead in the 48th minute. Edward Ofere collected an equalizer in the 76th minute, but Lionel Ainsworth netted the winner five minutes from time to give Motherwell its first win since a 1-0 result over Partick Thistle on December 27.

Also in the Scottish Premier League on Saturday, Partick Thistle claimed a 2-0 victory over Dundee United on the strength of goals from Stephen O’Donnel and a Jaroslaw Fojut own goal, while Jamie Reckord’s 67th-minute tally handed Ross County a 1-0 victory over Dundee.

Steven Thompson struck just past the hour mark to lift St. Mirren to a 1-0 win over Hamilton, while St. Johnstone and Kilmarnock played to a scoreless draw.


►  Dortmund downs Schalke in Revierderby

Borussia Dortmund’s ascent up the Bundesliga table continued on Saturday with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Schalke at Signal Iduna Park in the latest edition of the Revierderby.

It’s been a massive struggle for Jurgen Klopp’s team in league play for most of the campaign as the club has been rooted to the bottom of the table for a significant chunk of time.

But it seems Dortmund is rounding into form just in time as Saturday’s win is the club’s fourth straight to move to 10th place.

It was a tight affair until the final quarter-hour and the home side finally broke the deadlock with 12 minutes to play as Pierre Emerick Aubameyang fired it past Schalke goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther.

The hosts doubled the lead in the 79th minute through a goal from Henrik Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus wrapped up all three points with a goal four minutes from time.

With the win, Dortmund moves to within eight points of fourth-place Bayer Leverkusen for a Champions League qualification place.

Also in the Bundesliga on Saturday, Simon Rolfes’ 33rd-minute tally handed Leverkusen a 1-0 win over Freiburg at the BayArena, while Christian Gentner and Lars Stindl traded goals as Hannover and Stuttgart played to a 1-1 draw at the AWD Arena.

Salomon Kalou scored two minutes from time to lift Hertha Berlin to a 1-0 victory against Augsburg, while Kevin Volland and Eugen Polanski scored second-half goals to power Hoffenheim to a 2-0 win against Mainz.

In Saturday’s final Bundesliga fixture, Alexander Meier netted a pair of goals to lift Eintracht to a 2-1 win over Hamburg.


►  Lyon stumbles against Lille

Lyon wasted an opportunity to widen their lead atop the Ligue 1 table on Saturday as the club stumbled to a 2-1 defeat against Lille at the Grand Stade Lille Metropole.

Lyon entered the contest holding a two-point lead over second-place Paris Saint-Germain, but Saturday’s result opens the door for the two-time league champions to claim the top spot if they defeat Monaco on Sunday.

Things got off to a flying start for Lyon as Corentin Tolisso found the back of the net after just three minutes and took the lead into the intermission, but Lille seized control in the second half.

Idrissa Gana Gueye connected for the equalizer in the 57th minute and Marcos Lopes scored the winning tally just three minutes later.

Lyon pushed numbers forward looking to get a least a point out of the match, but an equalizer never came as Lille held on for an important three points.

The victory moves Lille into eighth place in Ligue 1 on 35 points.

Also in the French top flight on Saturday, Abdoulaye Doucoure’s 36th-minute tally held up as the winner to give Rennes a 1-0 victory over Lens, while Francois Bellugou and Gianni Bruno lifted Lorient to a 2-0 win over Bastia.

Gilles Sunu buried the winning strike in the 73rd minute to help Evian to a 2-1 result against Metz, while Max-Alain Gradel and Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro traded goals as Toulouse and Saint Etienne played to a 1-1 draw.

In Saturday’s final match, Isaac Kiese Thelin and Gaetan Charbonnier swapped goals as Bordeaux and Reims finished level at 1-1.


►  Messi, Suarez lead Barca over Granada

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez found the back of the net in the second half on Saturday as Barcelona ran out 3-1 winners over Granada at Los Carmenes.

The Catalan club suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against Malaga last week in La Liga play, but rebounded from that setback a few days later as Suarez netted a pair of goals to help Barcelona claim a 2-1 win over Manchester City in the Champions League.

Saturday’s affair against strugglers Granada caused Barcelona little trouble as Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring in the 25th minute and Suarez, the former Liverpool man, doubled the lead four minutes into the second half.

Granada pulled one back in the 53rd minute when Fran Rico dispatched a penalty kick, but Messi scored with 20 minutes to play to ensure all three points went the way of Barcelona.

The result pulls the Catalan club to within one point of rivals Real Madrid for the top spot in La Liga, while Granada remains in the relegation zone with 19 points from 25 matches played.

Also in La Liga on Saturday, Alberto Bueno powered home an impressive four goals in a span of 15 first-half minutes at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas as Rayo Vallecano rolled to a 4-2 win over Levante, while Almeria and Deportivo played to a scoreless draw.

In Saturday’s final fixture, Sergi Darder, Juanmi and Ricardo Horta all found the back of the net to lead Malaga to a 3-2 win over Getafe.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


SUNDAY, MARCH 01, 2015
National Basketball Association
LA Clippers at Chicago, 1:00 PM - ABC
Cleveland at Houston, 3:30 PM - ABC
Portland at Sacramento, 6:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, California, DSS
Philadelphia at Indiana, 6:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Indiana, DSS
Golden State at Boston, 6:00 PM - CSN-Bay, New England, DSS
Charlotte at Orlando, 6:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Florida, DSS
Oklahoma City at LA Lakers, 6:30 PM - ESPN
New Orleans at Denver, 8:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, Altitude, DSS
National Hockey League
Los Angeles at Winnipeg, 4:00 PM - FS-West, TSN3, DSS
Columbus at Pittsburgh, 5:00 PM - FS-Ohio, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Tampa Bay at Florida, 5:00 PM - SunSports, FS-Florida, DSS
Toronto at Washington, 7:00 PM - CITY, CSN-DC, DSS
Anaheim at Dallas, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
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The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Expect Sherman on Sunday

When it comes to Richard Sherman and playing in the Super Bowl there is no right or wrong answer unless you are talking about the math itself.

“You’ve gotta time your conception a little better, I would say,“ Jets wide receiver Eric Decker quipped Friday on WFAN Radio.

Sherman’s girlfriend, Ashley Moss, is pregnant and due to give Seattle’s All- Pro cornerback a son in the coming days but if the baby decides to make a break for it early on Sunday, Sherman will be forced to choose between his teammates and his duty as a father.

“I think he’s going to be a disciplined young man and stay in there until after the game,“ Sherman joked on Thursday. “He’s going to do his father his first favor and stay in there for another week or two.“

Sherman’s current quandary signals a sharp generational shift.

Years ago there would have been no discussion—you play if it’s a Week 4 game never mind the Super Bowl but things have changed in today’s society and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made sure to give his star a wide berth.

“Whenever our players have a personal family issue that comes up, it’s always about the family first,“ Carroll said on Friday morning.

Moss told one television station that Sherman will be suiting up on Sunday no matter what.

“He’s very locked in; football comes first,“ Moss told Seattle’s KING 5.

Sherman has hedged far more, though.

“I’ve thought about the possibility of his coming during the game or coming before the game,“ Sherman said earlier this week. “We have things in place in case that happens. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“I would not like to miss the birth of my first kid,“ he added. “Hopefully, and God willing, we won’t have to cross that bridge.“

Others don’t think it should be a choice.

“I couldn’t miss (the birth of a child),“ Decker said. “That’s the Super Bowl of my life.“

Decker’s wife, country singer Jessie James Decker, gave birth to their first child last March.

Pro golfer Hunter Mahan famously passed on a chance for a huge pay day when he left the 2013 Canadian Open while leading after his wife went into labor before the final round.

Phil Mickelson was also prepared to leave the 1999 U.S. Open early despite being in the hunt for what would have been his first major tourney win.

Golfers, though, are independent contractors and their decisions aren’t going to impact 52 other men who have fought and clawed through 18 games to play on football’s biggest stage.

“This opportunity is rare in itself and unique in itself,“ Carroll said of playing in the Super Bowl.

And that’s why the easiest prop bet on Super Bowl Sunday is Sherman suiting up for the Seahawks despite a hyperextended elbow and the potential stork visit.

“I guess we’ll have a Super Bowl baby,“ Moss said when asked what will happen if she goes into labor, “and if you see Richard heading for the locker room right after it hits zero in the fourth quarter, don’t be surprised.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 31)


#5 Gilmer County 80     Wirt County 40

#2 Bridgeport 64     #5 Robert C. Byrd 57

#6 Lincoln 74     Frankfort 65

North Marion 65     Webster County 58 (OT)

Tygarts Valley 63     Greenbrier West 48

Weirton Madonna 63     Clay-Battelle 54

St. Marys 59     Meadow Bridge 42


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 31)


#7 Charleston Catholic 43     #8 Notre Dame 30

#5 Logan 79     #10 Buckhannon-Upshur 46

Parkersburg South 84     Parkersburg 79

St. Marys 62     Clay-Battelle 52


►  Big Atlantic Classic

Friday’s Results

Game 13 — Wyoming East 72, Oak Hill 42 (girls co-consolation)

Game 14 — Parkersburg South 83, Princeton 76 (boys AAA)

Game 15 — Martinsburg 57, Shady Spring 49 (boys AAA)

Game 16 — Greenbrier East 80, Hampshire 64 (boys AAA)

Game 17 — Woodrow Wilson 56, Washington 36 (boys AAA)


Saturday’s Results


Game 18 — Huntington 95, Oak Hill 19 (girls co-consolation)


Game 19 — Princeton 69, Shady Spring 61, 2 OT (boys AAA co-consolation)


Game 20 — Washington 46, Hampshire 40 (boys AAA co-consolation)


Game 21 — Westside 63, Scott 50 (boys AA championship)


Game 22 — Morgantown 56, Greenbrier East 42 (girls co-championship)


Game 23 — Parkersburg South 53, Martinsburg 52 (boys AAA co-championship)


Game 24 — St. Albans 65, George Washington 44 (girls co-championship)


Game 25 — Greenbrier East 65, Woodrow Wilson 64 (boys AAA co-championship)


►  Shootout at the Big House - At Charleston Civic Center

Monday, February 09

10:00 AM — Man vs. Paden City (boys)

11:30 AM — Liberty Raleigh vs. St. Marys (boys)

1:00 PM — Webster County vs. Petersburg (boys)

2:30 PM — Parkersburg vs. Oak Hill (boys)

4:00 PM — George Washington vs. Hurricane (girls)

5:30 PM — South Charleston vs. Logan (girls)

7:00 PM — Magnolia vs. Valley Fayette (boys)

8:30 PM — Woodrow Wilson vs. Wesley Christian, Ky. (boys)


Tuesday, February 10

10:00 AM — Lincoln County vs. Chapmanville (girls)

11:30 AM — Lincoln County vs. Clay County (boys)

1:00 PM — Chapmanville vs. Williamstown (boys)

2:30 PM — Ravenswood vs. Point Pleasant (boys)

4:00 PM — Nitro vs. Charleston Catholic (boys)

5:30 PM — Parkersburg South vs. Logan (girls)

7:00 PM — Parkersburg South vs. Logan (boys)

8:30 PM — George Washington vs. Perry Central, KY (boys)

10:00 PM — Huntington Prep vs. team TBA (boys)


Wednesday, February 11

10:00 AM — Greater Beckley Christian vs. St. Joseph (girls)

11:30 PM — Greater Beckley Christian vs. St. Joseph (boys)

1:00 PM — Ripley vs. Westside (boys)

2:30 PM — Frankfort vs. East Fairmont (boys)

4:00 PM — Scott vs. Buffalo (boys)

5:30 PM — Wyoming East vs. Robert C. Byrd (boys)

7:00 PM — South Charleston vs. Elkins (boys)

8:30 PM — Parkersburg vs. Spring Valley (girls)



The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 31)


Glenville State 82, Shepherd 76 | Final Stats

Glenville State got past Shepherd, 82-72, on Saturday at the Butcher Center.

With the game tied at 70-70 with 2:30 to go, the Pioneers (16-4, 12-2) scored the next six points, capped by a Sedric Nady three-pointer that helped GSC pick up the victory. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, and Glenville State hit 12 threes while Shepherd made 11.

GSC’s Dontre Morales scored 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds. Nady finished with 20 and Brett Morris scored 12.

Ryan McTavish scored 26 points to lead Shepherd (11-9, 6-8). Austin Cunningham had 18 and Morgan McDonald scored 10 points and had six rebounds.


Wheeling Jesuit 93, West Virginia State 89 | Final Stats

Wheeling Jesuit withstood a late charge from West Virginia State to pick up a 93-89 win over West Virginia State.

The Cardinals (11-7, 7-6) were led by 26 points from Justin Fritts. Eric Seifert scored 18 and Kyle Ritz tallied a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds as WJU won its fifth-straight.

Markee Mazyck scored a game-high 27 points, 26 of which came in the second half, before fouling out. Damion Harris had 18 points and Dominic Phillips scored 12 as West Virginia State dropped to 3-18 overall and 3-10 in conference play.


Fairmont State 86, West Virginia Wesleyan 76 (OT) | Final Stats

Fairmont State needed overtime to pick up its league-best sixth-straight win, 86-76, over West Virginia Wesleyan at Joe Retton Arena.

After trailing by 14 early in the second half, WVWC battled all the way back to take a 66-63 lead with 1:07 to go after a Garrett Grantham layup. FSU forced overtime as Nick Harney laid it in with seven seconds left.

In the overtime session, Fairmont State hit 10-of-12 free throws and forced WVWC to go just 2-for-10 from the field to secure the victory.

FSU (14-6, 11-3) was led by 25 points and eight rebounds from Harney and 24 points from Jamel Morris. Shammgod Wells had 17 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Tanner McGrew scored 26 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for WVWC (8-12, 6-8). Grantham finished with 19 points and seven assists and Anthony Richards contributed 11.


#10 West Liberty 83, Charleston 65 | Final Stats

C.J. Hester scored 26 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to lead No. 10 West Liberty to an 83-65 win over Charleston on Saturday at Eddie King Gymnasium.

Seger Bonifant scored 17 and Devin Hoehn added 12 as West Liberty improved to 17-2 overall and 12-2 in league play.

Octavius Green came off the bench and scored 19 points to lead UC (14-6, 9-5). Jevonte Hughes contributed 14 points and Chris Evans tallied 11 points and five assists.


Concord 85, Notre Dame 72 | Final Stats

Concord broke a halftime tie by opening the second half on a 27-10 run to claim an 85-72 win over Notre Dame on Saturday at the Carter Center.

Aaron Miller scored 23 points, including 18 in the second half, to lead Concord (13-6, 9-5). Terry Hopewell scored 17 points and pulled down 16 rebounds, and Rob Reed added 17 points. Mike Boyd dished out eight assists to go with eight points.

Notre Dame (10-10, 6-8) was paced by 24 points from Tyree Gaiter. Lawrence DeArmond had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Will Vorhees scored 16.


Urbana 76, UVa-Wise 64 | Final Stats

Urbana snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 76-64 win over UVa-Wise on Saturday at the Prior Center.

Urbana (5-15, 2-12) shot 48% from the field, committed just 10 turnovers and out-rebounded UVa-Wise, 41-34. Rodney Clark Jr. led a balanced attack for the Blue Knights with 14 points, and Carlas Jackson scored 12. Doug Hilson and Myles Busby each contributed 10 points.

Philip Owens led UVa-Wise (1-18, 0-14) with 21 points. Matt Day registered a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.


►  MEC Women’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 31)


West Virginia State 77, Wheeling Jesuit 74 | Final Stats

A 10-0 run midway through the second half sparked West Virginia State to a 77-74 win over Wheeling Jesuit.

The Yellow Jackets (6-12, 4-9) were led by 23 points and 11 rebounds from Shealyn Shafer. Alexus Hobbs added 16 points and seven rebounds and Aurreshae Hines added 10 points off the bench. WVSU shot 50% from the field and had just 13 turnovers in the game. 

Wheeling Jesuit (11-6, 8-5) had 22 points and five assists from Jaila Bryant in the losing effort. Jaana Motton had 10 points to go with nine rebounds, and Breanna Butler tallied 15.


West Liberty 90, Charleston 83 | Final Stats

West Liberty held off Charleston, 90-83, on Saturday afternoon at Eddie King Gymnasium

The Hilltoppers (13-7, 10-4) had a 10-point advantage at halftime and increased it to 16 points with 15:52 left, but Charleston (15-5, 10-4) fought its way back into the game, eventually drawing even at 72-72 with 5:27 left. WLU regained control of the game by scoring 13 of the game’s next 17 points to take the win.

West Liberty’s Liz Flowers poured in 27 points, and Kailee Howe scored 24 and dished out 11 assists. Hillary Southworth added 17 points for the ‘Toppers.

Kiara Johnson registered a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. LeAnne Ross finished with 18 points, and Nichole Perry scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half to help spark the comeback.


Glenville State 77, Shepherd 66 | Final Stats

An 11-0 run midway through the second half broke a close game open as Glenville State picked up its fourth-straight win, 77-66, on the road at Shepherd.

Kayla Tibbs led all scorers with 19 points for Glenville State (10-8, 8-6). Keyanna Tate had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Brittany Jackson contributed 11 points.

Shepherd (13-7, 10-4) was paced by 15 points from Cara Mason. Briana Vaden had 13 points and seven rebounds, and Gabby Flinchum came off the bench to score 12.


Fairmont State 62, West Virginia Wesleyan 53 | Final Stats

Holding a narrow 52-51 with under three minutes left, Hailey Garrett scored eight of Fairmont State’s 10 points in a 10-0 run as the Falcons came away with a 62-53 win over West Virginia Wesleyan.

Garrett finished with 24 points and eight rebounds to lead FSU (16-4, 10-4). Hallie Gunnoe and Emily Lohr each added 14 in the victory.

Mari Stewart scored 21 and Adrian Cunningham finished with 10 points for the Bobcats (2-15, 2-12).


UVa-Wise 75, Urbana 58 | Final Stats

Blair Harding scored 29 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead UVa-Wise to a 75-58 win over Urbana on Saturday at the Prior Center.

The Cavs (7-13, 6-8) forced 23 turnovers in the game and out-rebounded the Blue Knights 44-39. Taylor Sandidge scored 15 points and Kayla Carey added 12 for UVa-Wise in the win.

Urbana (1-19, 1-13) was led by 15 points apiece from Kennedy Boggs and Tori Purk. Kate Francisco had 13 points to go with five rebounds and four assists.


Notre Dame 76, Concord 62 | Final Stats

Notre Dame shot 50% from the field and Martha Nagbe went for 26 points to lead the Falcons to a 76-62 win over Concord.

In addition to 26 points, Nagbe had seven rebounds and four assists for NDC (13-7, 9-5). Kelsey Miller had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and Lexi Hassing chipped in 10 points.

Kylie Molisee had 20 points and Jacqueline Kestner had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Concord (5-13, 5-9).



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Credit the Mountaineers with another 26 turnovers

Coach Tubby Smith hoped Texas Tech might better handle No. 17 West Virginia’s press the second time around.

Instead, the Red Raiders committed 26 turnovers, including 10 during a 6 1/2-minute span of the second half when the Mountaineers seized control on their way to a 77-58 romp Saturday.

“Awful. Just awful,” Smith said. “It was like we never saw it before.”

In fairness to Texas Tech’s flustered ballhandlers, West Virginia (18-3, 6-2 Big 12) has made numerous opponents look awful. The national leaders in steals grabbed 10 more and enjoyed a 33-9 edge in points off turnovers thanks to their tenacious press.

“It’s uncomfortable to play against,” said Bob Huggins. “If you were walking down the street and somebody just got in your face about 3 inches away for a few blocks, would that bother you? No one wants to play against that.”

Devin Williams scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half when West Virginia turned a six-point lead into a blowout. He also grabbed eight rebounds, sharing the team-high with Jonathan Holton.

Daxter Miles added 12 points and point guard Juwan Staten contributed 11 points and five assists as the Mountaineers surpassed last season’s win total before the end of January.

West Virginia opened the second half on a 16-2 run lined with transition layups and dunks fed by a flurry of turnovers. During one sequence Texas Tech coughed up the ball on five of seven possessions.

“We got inside their heads,” Miles said. “I heard them telling other players to come get the ball.”

Added Staten: “At halftime we talked about if you have a team down, you’ve got to put them away.”

Pressing company: Riddled by 22 turnovers earlier this month during a loss to West Virginia in Lubbock, Texas Tech (11-11, 1-8) aimed to be stronger and smarter with the basketball in the rematch. But the mistakes simply repeated themselves, with six Red Raiders committing at least three turnovers.

“We were overwhelmed by West Virginia’s pressure,” Smith said. “They stay after you. It reminds me of a team Billy Donovan had at Florida and some of the teams Rick Pitino coached at Louisville. They’re always attacking.”

From hot hand to forgotten man: Texas Tech guard Robert Turner scored 18 first-half points, keeping the deficit to 37-31, but was shut out during the final 20 minutes, smothered by the defense of WVU’s Gary Browne.

“We put Gary on him and said don’t let him catch it,” Huggins said.

After nearly matching his season-high of 19 points during the first half, Turner was 0-of-2 shooting after that in an additional 10 minutes.

Forward Aaron Ross scored 13 and Isaiah Manderson added 10 for Texas Tech, which was held to 16 fewer shot attempts overall and trailed by 21 points in the second half.

Browne finished with 10 for West Virginia, which led wire-to-wire and shot an atypical 51% in the second half.

Scuffling: After West Virginia ran off 12 unanswered to build a 30-14 lead, Turner was sent sprawling on a breakaway layup by Mountaineers forward Brandon Watkins. That led to a scuffle after which Texas Tech center Norense Odiase was ejected.

Along with Odiase’s technical, Ross was assessed a flagrant technical for swinging an elbow on a rebound, one of Texas Tech’s 15 first-half fouls.

The 31 first-half points must have felt like an avalanche after the Red Raiders managed only 36 in their previous loss at Oklahoma, setting a record for scoring futility in a Big 12 game.

Next up: West Virginia encounters the meat of its Big 12 schedule during the final regular-season 10 games, facing opponents with an average RPI of 26. That stretch starts Tuesday at Oklahoma.


►  Huggins: Team leaders rebuilt culture of commitment

West Virginia has won three straight games and six out of eight in the Big 12, which according to RPI calculations, is the deepest league in college basketball.

An NCAA tourney berth seems all but assured, after a two-year absence, and if grander dreams are your thing, the Mountaineers might—I say might—make a charge at Kansas for the conference championship.

Bob Huggins has fixed things, it appears, and he credits players being more committed and more immersed in the sport. After whipping Texas Tech 77-58 on Saturday, leadership commendations went to point guard Juwan Staten and forward Devin Williams, an inside-out duo who rebuilt the program from inside out.

“Leadership is not doing as I say, it’s doing as I do,” Huggins said. “Those are two guys who spend an enormous amount of time in the gym. So then you can get on somebody else about not improving and not working hard.

“That’s the culture we had here … and then we lost it.”

Blame Deniz Kilicli’s electric guitar. The Turkish forward enjoyed the Final Four as a freshman, a 13-19 sendoff as a senior and passion for music that spanned both. He was a multi-dimensional guy, but to hear Huggins tell it, basketball and rock-n-roll don’t mix.

“We had some guys who would rather go play in a band than they would play basketball,” the coach said. “When they’re your leaders and they can’t wait to sprint out of here to pick up a guitar … it creates the wrong culture.”

To be clear, this was Huggins appraising Kilicli, not bashing him, because the coach developed a somewhat paternal affinity for the big kid with the hook shot. “I love him to death and he’s one of my favorite people of all-time,” said Huggins, who just wished that Kilicli and others on the past two teams loved basketball more.

“I’ve had guys where that was their self-being, and when they didn’t play well they were miserable. Just miserable,” Huggins said. “But they did something about it.”

Things aren’t so miserable now. Starting 18-3 with a top-20 RPI makes all signs point up. The roster was recalibrated with players who are more single-minded. None of them have taken the stage at 123 Pleasant; their stage of preference arrives in March.

Huggins wants hobbies on hold. And as this West Virginia outfit transforms devotion into development, winning is the music they appreciate most.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 31)


Final Score: (1) Kentucky 70, Alabama 55

Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns each scored 12 points in the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats’ 70-55 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Wildcats (21-0, 8-0 SEC), who are off their best start since beginning 23-0 in 1965-66, became the lone unbeaten team left in the country after No. 2 Virginia lost to fourth-ranked Duke on Saturday. Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Kentucky, which shot 58.5% from the field.


Final Score: (4) Duke 69, (2) Virginia 63

No. 4 Duke missed 10 of its first 11 looks from behind the arc and trailed by nine points late in the second half. Then the shots started falling. Quinn Cook made three 3-pointers in the final 4:38, Tyus Jones put the game away with a deep 3 with 10 seconds left and the Blue Devils went into Charlottesville and rallied late to stun No. 2 Virginia, 69-63, handing the Cavaliers their first loss of the season. Jones finished with 17 points while Cook and Justise Winslow netted 15 apiece for the Blue Devils (18-3, 5-3 ACC), who were primed to fall three games back in the ACC standings before closing the game on an 11-0 run. Malcolm Brogdon paced Virginia (19-1, 7-1) with 17 points, and Justin Anderson added 11.


Final Score: (3) Gonzaga 82, Memphis 64

Przemek Karnowski scored 17 points with six rebounds as No. 3 Gonzaga extended a pair of winning streaks with an 82-64 win over Memphis on Saturday. The Bulldogs (22-1) have won their last 15 games since their lone blemish on the season, a 66-63 overtime loss to Arizona on December 6, and are undefeated in their last 38 games at home, the longest current streak of its kind in the nation. Kyle Wiltjer had 15 points and seven boards, Domantas Sabonis netted 13 points with 11 rebounds and Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the win. Nick King paced the Tigers (13-8) with 13 points and four steals and Austin Nichols provided 12 points in defeat.


Final Score: (5) Wisconsin 74, Iowa 63

Frank Kaminsky scored 24 points and Nigel Hayes added 14, leading fifth-ranked Wisconsin to a 74-63 victory over Iowa on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker each chipped in 11 for the Badgers (19-2, 7-1 Big Ten), who have won four straight since a stunning loss at Rutgers on January 11. Kaminsky, who missed the game against the Scarlet Knights because of a concussion, also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds on Saturday while making half of his field goal attempts and 8-of-9 from the free throw line. Wisconsin has won 12 of its last 13, including a season sweep of Iowa. The Badgers rolled to an 82-50 rout of the Hawkeyes just 11 days ago in Madison and have won five straight in the series. Aaron White scored 15 to lead Iowa (13-8, 4-4), which has lost three in a row. White had played just seven minutes in last week’s loss to Purdue because of a stinger.


Final Score: (7) Villanova 68, DePaul 55

Ryan Arcidiacono scored all of his 18 points in the second half to lead No. 7 Villanova to a 68-55 win over DePaul on Saturday. JayVaughn Pinkston went 10-for-10 from the free throw line on his way to 14 points, Darrun Hilliard added 11 points and Daniel Ochefu posted seven points with 12 rebounds in the win. The Wildcats (19-2, 6-2 Big East) have won six of their last seven contests. Billy Garrett Jr. netted 14 points and was the only double-figure scoring effort for the Blue Demons (11-12, 5-5), who have lost three straight.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 76, (8) Notre Dame 72

Robinson made a tough go-ahead runner in the lane with 12 seconds remaining as Pittsburgh took down No. 8 Notre Dame 76-72 in a wild finish on Saturday afternoon. The Fighting Irish nearly pulled off an improbable comeback when Jerian Grant shook off a slow start and went on a personal 9-0 run inside the final three minutes. Grant’s two free throws with 31.2 seconds left gave Notre Dame a 72-71 lead, but Robinson drove right, gained some space with a spin move and scored over Pat Connaughton for what proved to be the deciding bucket. Grant passed up a shot at the other end with Steve Vasturia open in the corner, and Vasturia’s shot was off the mark. Jamel Artis grabbed the rebound, made two free throws, and Pitt stole the ensuing inbounds pass to end its three-game losing streak. Artis finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, and Robinson added 15 points with 10 assists for the Panthers (14-8, 4-5 ACC), who shot 68% from the field in the second half and 59% overall. Demetrius Jackson led Notre Dame with 15 points, Grant chipped in with 14, and Vasturia and Zach Auguste each netted 12 in a losing cause. Notre Dame (20-3, 8-2) had won five in a row—four in comeback fashion—and was fresh off a signature victory over No. 4 Duke.


Final Score: (9) Kansas 68, Kansas State 57

Ellis had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks’ 68-57 win over the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday. Wayne Selden Jr. added 14 points and four blocks for the Jayhawks (18-3, 7-1 Big 12), who have won four in a row and sit atop the Big 12 standings. Brannen Greene tallied 11 points off the bench. Thomas Gipson and Marcus Foster each scored 19 points for the Wildcats (12-10, 5-4), who have lost three of four.


Final Score: (10) Louisville 78, (13) North Carolina 68 (OT)

Montrezl Harrell had 22 points and 15 rebounds and No. 10 Louisville rallied from 18 down in the second half to beat No. 13 North Carolina 78-68 on Saturday. Louisville outscored the North Carolina 53-25 over the last 22 1/2 minutes of the game to snap a six-game Tar Heels winning streak that began with a one-point victory over the Cardinals in Chapel Hill on January 10. Terry Rozier added 22 points and 10 rebounds, scoring eight in overtime to help Louisville (18-3, 6-2 ACC) pick up its third consecutive win since a loss to Duke two weeks ago. Chris Jones scored seven of his 17 points in overtime for the Cardinals. Marcus Paige had 15 points to lead North Carolina (17-5, 7-2) and J.P. Tokoto added 11 with 11 rebounds. Brice Johnson had two points and 10 rebounds before fouling out. The Tar Heels shot 43.3% from the field, down from a 50.8% mark during their winning streak. They are 0-3 all-time against the Cardinals in Louisville, also losing games in 1929 and 1999.


Final Score: (18) Northern Iowa 70, (12) Wichita State 54

Northern Iowa and Wichita State played the first Missouri Valley game between ranked opponents in 33 years. And it was the 18th-ranked Panthers who picked up a solid home win to snap No. 12 Wichita State’s 27-game regular-season winning streak in conference. Seth Tuttle scored a career-high 29 points with seven rebounds as Northern Iowa defeated Wichita State, 70-54, on Saturday. The Panthers (20-2, 9-1 MVC) made 60% of their field goals and converted 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc in their ninth straight win. Fred VanVleet led the Shockers (19-3, 9-1) with 18 points and Ron Baker chipped in with 12 points on just 2-of-10 shooting from 3-point range.


Final Score: Richmond 64, (14) VCU 55

Kendall Anthony scored 22 points, and the Richmond Spiders upset cross-town rival No. 14 VCU, 64-55, on Saturday. The Spiders (12-9, 5-3 Atlantic 10) handled the Rams’ Havoc defense in a 42-point second half. The Rams shot just 40.7% overall and made just 3-of-20 attempts from 3-point range. Terry Allen added 15 points and seven rebounds for Richmond. VCU (17-4, 7-1) saw its 12-game winning streak come to an end. Treveon Graham paced the Rams with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting and seven boards. Briante Weber chipped in 11 before leaving late in the game with a knee injury.


Final Score: (15) Iowa State 83, TCU 66

Georges Niang poured in 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, leading 15th-ranked Iowa State to an 83-66 victory over TCU on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. Monte Morris contributed 16 points and six assists for the Cyclones (16-4, 6-2 Big 12), who were coming off a three- point win on Monday against Texas and extended their home winning streak to 19 consecutive games. Iowa State owns the 10th-longest home winning streak in the country. Bryce Dejean-Jones also scored 16 points and Dustin Hogue added 12 in the victory. Each of the Cyclones’ first seven conference games had been decided by single digits, but Iowa State used a couple of second- half runs to make it a laugher after leading by only two at halftime. Trey Zeigler scored 14 points for TCU (14-7, 1-7), which has lost four in a row. The Horned Frogs were 13-0 before conference play began in January.


Final Score: (17) West Virginia 77, Texas Tech 58

Devin Williams contributed 18 points with eight rebounds in 17th-ranked West Virginia’s 77-58 win over Texas Tech on Saturday. Daxter Miles Jr. chipped in with 12 points and Juwan Staten scored 11 with five assists for the Mountaineers (18-3, 6-2 Big 12), who have won three straight and four of their last five. Robert Turner supplied 18 points for the Red Raiders (11-11, 1-8), while Aaron Ross and Isaiah Manderson went for 13 and 10, respectively, off the bench in the loss.


Final Score: (20) Baylor 83, (19) Texas 60

Kenny Chery totaled 23 points thanks to a 5- of-7 performance from long range, and Royce O’Neale added 20 with eight rebounds as No. 20 Baylor topped 19th-ranked Texas, 83-60, at the Ferrell Center. Taurean Price and Johnathan Motley each contributed 13 points for the Bears (16-5, 4-4 Big 12), while Rico Gathers clocked in with eight points and 15 boards as the Bears won for the third time in their last four. Jonathan Holmes had 17 points for the Longhorns (14-7, 3-5), who received 16 points and 10 assists from Isaiah Taylor in a losing effort.


Final Score: (21) Georgetown 67, Creighton 40

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick nearly outscored Creighton by themselves, combining for 39 points as No. 21 Georgetown cruised to a 67-40 victory over the cold-shooting Bluejays. Smith- Rivera totaled 24 points, Trawick added 15 and the Hoyas (15-6, 7-3 Big East) emphatically rebounded from Tuesday’s home loss to Xavier with a stout defensive showing. Creighton (10-13, 1-9) followed up its first Big East win with its worst shooting performance of the season. The Bluejays shot an embarrassing 21% (11-for-53) from the floor and did not have a single player score in double figures. Avery Dingman led the way with eight points.


Final Score: (22) Indiana 72, Rutgers 64

James Blackmon Jr. scored 20 points with five rebounds to help No. 22 Indiana in a 72-64 win over Rutgers on Saturday. Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams each netted 14 points for the Hoosiers (16-6, 6-3 Big Ten), with Williams adding 11 rebounds in the win. Indiana snapped its two-game losing streak. Myles Mack did all he could for the Scarlet Knights (10-13, 2-8), scoring 24 points and handing out eight assists.


Final Score: (24) Oklahoma 64, Oklahoma State 56

Jordan Woodard led four Oklahoma players in double digits with 17 points as the No. 24 Sooners rebounded from a big early deficit and downed rival Oklahoma State, 64-56, at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Buddy Hield picked up 15 points, Ryan Spangler 13 with nine rebounds and six assists while TaShawn Thomas poured in 12 for the Sooners (14-7, 5-4 Big 12). Phil Forte recorded 15 points for the Cowboys (14-7, 4-5). Le’Bryan Nash had 12 and Anthony Hickey added 10 points for the hosts.


Final Score: (25) Butler 72, Marquette 68 (OT)

Andrew Chrabascz had 30 points and seven rebounds to lead No. 25 Butler to a 72-68 victory over Marquette on Saturday. Kellen Dunham posted 17 points, Alex Barlow scored 15 with five rebounds and five assists, and Kameron Woods had 18 rebounds for the Bulldogs (16-6, 6-3 Big East), who have won three straight. Matt Carlino and Duane Wilson each scored 18 points, Luke Fischer added 12 points and six rebounds and Juan Anderson had 10 and eight for the Golden Eagles (10-11, 2-7), who have lost their past five.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Saturday, January 31)


Final Score: Sacramento 99, Indiana 94

Rudy Gay scored 31 points, DeMarcus Cousins had another double-double and the Sacramento Kings snapped an eight- game losing skid with a 99-94 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. Darren Collison scored 23 points with five rebounds and five assists, and Cousins overcame his worst shooting night of the season to post 20 points and 19 rebounds. The trio of Gay, Collison and Cousins combined for nearly 75% of Sacramento’s points. Cousins shot 6-for-24 from the floor and turned the ball over four times before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. C.J. Miles and David West had 17 points apiece to lead Indiana, while George Hill gave 14, six boards and four assists in limited minutes off the bench.


Final Score: Dallas 108, Orlando 93

In the absence of Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis scored 25 points and handed out 13 assists to help the Dallas Mavericks top the Orlando Magic, 108-93, on Saturday. Just 1 1/2 minutes into the game, Rondo went down with a head injury and would not return. Leading by as much as 27, the Mavericks’ edge was cut to as little as five in the fourth quarter before they pulled away again. Tyson Chandler added 20 points and nine rebounds for Dallas in its second straight win, and Dirk Nowitzki netted 11 points. Orlando lost its eighth straight game despite a 17-point, 16-rebound effort from Nikola Vucevic. Evan Fournier and Willie Green each scored 15 points.


Final Score: Toronto 120, Washington 116 (OT)

Kyle Lowry scored seven of his 23 points in overtime and the Toronto Raptors escaped with a 120-116 win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night. The Wizards rallied from 21 points down with 14 minutes left in the game, tying the score on Paul Pierce’s 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining in regulation. Washington’s only lead in the game came 56 seconds into overtime on a free throw by Pierce. But Lowry scored four points during a quick 6-0 run that put the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors ahead for good on the way to a sixth consecutive win—their third winning streak of that length this season. It came a day after Toronto led Brooklyn by 17 points in the third quarter but needed overtime to knock off the Nets 127-122 Friday night. Lou Williams added 19 points in this one for Toronto, Amir Johnson scored 17, Patrick Patterson had 16 and DeMar DeRozan netted 15 with 10 rebounds. Greivis Vasquez added 12 points to finish off six Raptors players in double figures. John Wall flirted with a triple-double, scoring 28 points with 12 assists and eight rebounds for the Wizards, who have dropped two in a row and four of the last six. Bradley Beal added 26 points in the loss, Pierce scored 19 and Nene had 16 points. Kris Humphries added 10 points and 14 rebounds off the bench.


Final Score: Atlanta 91, Philadelphia 85

Al Horford had 23 points and 11 rebounds and the Atlanta Hawks held on to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 91-85 on Saturday night for their 19th consecutive win. The NBA-leading Hawks wrapped up a perfect 17-0 January, but it came harder than expected. They had to battle to stay ahead down the stretch despite leading by 21 points in the second quarter and 15 in the third. Michael Carter-Williams, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jerami Grant scored 13 points apiece for the Sixers, who were attempting to win three consecutive games for the first time this season.


Final Score: Detroit 114, Houston 101

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and D.J. Augustin each scored 28 points as the Detroit Pistons beat the Houston Rockets 114-101 on Saturday night. Augustin added 12 assists for one of three double- doubles by the Pistons. Greg Monroe had 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Andre Drummond finished with 11 points and 16 boards. Kyle Singler scored 14 points and Anthony Tolliver supplied 12 for Detroit, which snapped a four-game losing streak and ended a seven-game skid against Houston. James Harden left the game late in the second quarter with a bruised left knee, but returned for the Rockets at the start of the second half and went on to score 26 points with nine assists and seven rebounds. Donatas Motiejunas had 21 points and Trevor Ariza added 15 for the Rockets, who had won four games in a row. Josh Smith missed eight shots while scoring just seven points in his first game against the Pistons since they waived him in December.


Final Score: Memphis 85, Oklahoma City 74

Durant was not effective in his return after a two-game absence, and the Memphis Grizzlies’ tough defense shut down the Oklahoma City Thunder, 85-74, on Saturday. Durant and Russell Westbrook each shot 5-of-16 for Oklahoma City, losers in four of its last five. The Grizzlies were led by their frontcourt duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Randolph paced the game with 21 points and 18 rebounds, and Gasol added 15 points, 12 boards and five assists. In his own return from a two-game absence, Mike Conley scored 10 points for Memphis, which has won six in a row.


Final Score: Cleveland 106, Minnesota 90

In his first game in Minnesota since being traded, Cavaliers forward Kevin Love got the boos he expected when he was introduced before the game. Love, who was booed every time he touched the ball, had 14 points and 17 rebounds in Cleveland’s 106-90 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. After playing his first six NBA seasons for the Timberwolves, Love was dealt to Cleveland as part of a three-team deal in the offseason. Minnesota acquired Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two No. 1 overall picks in the draft. Wiggins himself a career night in a losing cause, scoring 33 points on 14- of-25 shooting. The 19-year-old matched the franchise record for most points by a teenager. All storylines aside, it was LeBron James who stole the show in the fourth quarter. James scored 16 of his 36 points in the final frame for the Cavaliers, who have won 10 in a row. Thaddeus Young ended with 19 points for the Timberwolves, who fell to 8-39 on the season. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin had 14 points apiece, with Pekovic also pulling down 12 rebounds.


Final Score: Milwaukee 95, Portland 88

Jared Dudley scored 18 points with six rebounds to power the Milwaukee Bucks in a 95-88 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. O.J. Mayo finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, John Henson supplied 14 points, eight boards and four blocks while Brandon Knight and Jerryd Bayless each netted 11 in the Bucks’ third straight win. Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard each scored 19 points apiece for Portland, which has lost three in a row.


Final Score: Charlotte 104, Denver 86

Cody Zeller had 21 points and the Charlotte Hornets rolled to a 104-86 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 17 points and 13 rebounds and Al Jefferson and Jason Maxiell each scored 14 for the Hornets, who missed all 11 of their 3- point attempts but led by as many as 36. Danilo Gallinari had 15 points to lead the Nuggets, who have lost nine of their last 10.


Final Score: LA Clippers 105, San Antonio 85

Blake Griffin posted 31 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and the Los Angeles Clippers got back on track with a 105-85 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Chris Paul had 20 points and six assists and DeAndre Jordan led a dominant effort on the glass with 19 rebounds. The Clippers, who improved to 2-1 on their season-long eight game road trip, outrebounded the Spurs 56-36. They were coming off a 108-103 loss to the Pelicans on Friday. San Antonio, which took the first two games in the season series, stumbled out of the gate and never recovered as its three-game win streak was snapped.


Final Score: Golden State 106, Phoenix 87

Steph Curry tallied 25 points and seven assists as the Golden State Warriors snapped a two-game slide with a convincing 106-87 win over the Phoenix Suns. Klay Thompson netted 22 points and Leandro Barbosa added 14 in his second straight strong bench effort for Golden State, which endured its third two-game losing streak of the season but has still not dropped three straight games. Draymond Green added 11 rebounds and four assists while Harrison Barnes and Andre Igoudala gave 13 and 12 points, respectively. Markieff Morris posted his second straight double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix, which hadn’t been away from home since an overtime loss to Memphis on January 11. The Suns have dropped three of five overall and lost three straight road games.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Saturday, January 31)


Final Score: Montreal 1, Washington 0 (OT)

Max Pacioretty scored the game’s only goal with 1:52 remaining in overtime to lift the Montreal Canadiens past the Washington Capitals 1-0 on Saturday afternoon. Pacioretty’s goal, coupled with Carey Price’s second consecutive shutout, ended Washington’s seven- game winning streak in Montreal and sent the Canadiens to a fifth straight victory. Price followed up his whitewash of the Rangers on Thursday with 36 saves. He improved to 10-1-1 since December 20, thanks in part to Pacioretty chipping in Tomas Plekanec’s centering feed in OT. Plekanec was skating down the right boards when he sent a backhand on net that a lunging Pacioretty got enough of to send over Braden Holtby’s left shoulder. Holtby, who was coming off his own shutout of the Penguins, made 29 saves in an otherwise stellar performance.


Final Score: Detroit 4, NY Islanders 1

Petr Mrazek stopped 22 shots and the Detroit Red Wings grabbed a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Ericsson each lit the lamp for the Red Wings, who rebounded from a loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday to win for a seventh time in their past eight games. Lubomir Visnovsky had the only goal of the game for the Islanders, who have dropped their past two contests. Chad Johnson allowed all four goals on just 19 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Ottawa 7, Arizona 2

Robin Lehner made 35 saves, and the Ottawa Senators scored four goals in a 5 1/2 minute span in their 7-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon. Milan Michalek and Mark Stone each scored in the closing minutes of the second period, and Bobby Ryan and Jean- Gabriel Pageau added goals very early in the third period. Ottawa also got goals from Mike Hoffman, Erik Karlsson and Mika Zibanejad to win for the second time in three games. Marc Methot tallied a career-high three assists. Mike Smith allowed five Senators goals on 20 shots against him before getting the hook in the third period. Zbynek Michalek and Sam Gagner scored Arizona’s goals as the Coyotes fell to 1-3-2 on their ongoing eight- game road trip.


Final Score: Boston 3, Los Angeles 1

Brad Marchand scored two goals to lift the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. Chris Kelly tallied the game-winning goal late in the third and Tuukka Rask made 30 saves for the Bruins, who were coming off a 5-2 win over the Islanders on Thursday. Jordan Nolan lit the lamp and Jonathan Quick stopped 30-of-32 shots for the Kings, who have dropped five of their last six games.


Final Score: New Jersey 3, Florida 1

Keith Kinkaid made 26 saves to backstop the New Jersey Devils to a 3-1 win over visiting the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. Kinkaid was bidding for his first NHL shutout, but allowed a goal to Brandon Pirri with 1:29 remaining. Steve Bernier had scored an empty-net goal a minute earlier to seal the Devils’ third win in four games. Jaromir Jagr and Mike Cammalleri had first-period goals for New Jersey, which registered just one shot in the second and two in the third. Roberto Luongo stopped 11 shots as the Panthers suffered their sixth loss in seven games.


Final Score: NY Rangers 4, Carolina 1

Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots to lead the New York Rangers in a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Chris Kreider, Dan Boyle, Dominic Moore and Rick Nash all lit the lamp for the Rangers, who snapped a two-game slide. Brad Malone had the only goal of the game for the Hurricanes, who have dropped their last two games. Cam Ward allowed all four goals on 37 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Philadelphia 1, Toronto 0

Michael Del Zotto recorded the game’s lone goal and Steve Mason stopped 30 shots as Philadelphia claimed a 1-0 decision over Toronto on Saturday. Mason made his 100th career appearance for the club a memorable one, recording his second shutout of the season and 25th career whitewash for the Flyers, who have won a season-high four straight games. James Reimer made 17 saves for the Maple Leafs, whose losing skid reached nine consecutive outings.


Final Score: Dallas 5, Winnipeg 2

Klingberg had two goals and two assists in the Dallas Stars’ 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. Shawn Horcoff, Patrick Eaves and Jason Spezza also lit the lamp for the Stars, who have won two in a row since a two-game skid. Kari Lehtonen made 38 saves. Dallas went 4-for-8 on the power play, while Winnipeg went 0-for-2. Andrew Ladd and Toby Enstrom scored for the Jets, who have lost three straight for the first time since a season-high four-game slide from October 11-19. Michael Hutchinson gave up all five goals on 32 shots.


Final Score: Tampa Bay 3, Columbus 1

Ben Bishop turned aside 34 shots to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Cedric Paquette, Brett Connolly and Valtteri Filppula each lit the lamp for the Lightning, who have won five of their last six games. Ryan Johansen had the only marker for the Blue Jackets, who have lost three of their last four. Curtis McElhinney allowed all three goals on 34 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Calgary 4, Edmonton 2

Lance Bouma scored twice in a four-goal third period which lifted Calgary over Edmonton, 4-2, at the Saddledome. Paul Byron and Sean Monahan also tallied while Mikael Backlund and David Jones chipped in two assists each for the Flames, who had lost two of three coming in and have now taken six of eight overall. Jonas Hiller stopped 17-of-19 shots for the victory. Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot scored for the Oilers, who have dropped five of their last eight. Ben Scrivens made 29 saves in the setback.


Final Score: San Jose 2, Chicago 0

Antti Niemi stopped 31 shots as the San Jose Sharks blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 on Saturday night. Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson each had a goal and one assist for the Sharks, who have won three straight and improved to 5-1-1 in their last seven games. Antti Raanta made 18 saves for Chicago, which dropped two of three games in California. The Blackhawks were coming off Friday’s 4-1 win over Anaheim after beginning the stretch with Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to Los Angeles.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Serena wins another Aussie crown

Serena Williams is again the Australian Open champion.

The top-seeded American earned her sixth Aussie Open title and 19th career Grand Slam championship with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) triumph over Maria Sharapova on Saturday at Rod Laver Arena.

Williams won in Melbourne for the first time since 2010, finishing the match with an ace in the second-set tiebreaker on her third championship point. She now owns the second-most women’s Grand Slam titles in the Open Era, surpassing legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Only Steffi Graf has more with 22.

“Standing here with 19 majors is something I never thought would happen,“ said Williams during the trophy ceremony.

Sharapova was trying for a second Australian Open title. She fell to 2-17 lifetime against Williams and has lost the last 16 meetings.

“I haven’t beaten her in a really long time, but I love playing her because you want to play the best,“ said Sharapova. “And she’s the best.“

The 33-year-old Williams notched her 65th career title and has captured the last two Grand Slam events, taking the U.S. Open crown last September.

Williams had a break point opportunity in the opening game of the match when Sharapova fired a backhand wide. A double fault quickly gave Williams the early advantage.

The players were locked at 30-30 in the sixth game when rain forced the closing of the roof.

Williams, who was bothered by a cold and a cough, hardly seemed affected by the wait, following an ace with a strong forehand winner to complete the hold for a 4-2 lead. She actually threw up during the delay.

“I guess there’s a first time for anything,“ said Williams about vomiting. “I think in a way that just helped me—I felt better after that. My chest was really stuck at that point.“

A double fault gave Williams three break points in the next game, but she only needed one as Sharapova fired a backhand long. Sharapova broke back, but Williams responded to the poor service game with a break at love to take the first set.

Williams continued her strong play into the second set with a hold at love, then had two more break points in the next game. Sharapova, though, regrouped and managed to save both before holding.

Each player had a break chance midway through the second set, but Williams failed to convert her opportunity with a wide backhand in the sixth game and Sharapova sent a forehand wide in the seventh game.

Another Sharapova forehand error gave Williams her first championship point in the 10th game, but the Russian came up with a big serve that Williams barely returned. Sharapova followed with a blistering forehand that drew applause from the American.

“The match definitely got tough in the second set,“ said Williams. “Maria started playing a lot better. She started being a little more aggressive. I think I got a little more passive. Was just trying to get the ball back in play. But I also started serving better in the second set because I knew if I wasn’t having my groundstrokes where I wanted them to be, I knew I could serve it out.“

After Williams held with an ace, Sharapova held at love to force the tiebreak.

Sharapova won the first point of the tiebreak with a forehand return winner, but Williams won the next four to take control. At 6-4, Sharapova came up with a forehand that Williams could not return to save a second championship point.

Williams then blasted what appeared to be an ace to win the title, but it was ruled a let. She dropped her racket in disbelief, then followed with the same serve. This one did not tip the tape and she dropped her racket again, but in exultation.

“I thought after the let, ‘Man, I am not meant to win this tournament.‘ I had a couple of match points. She played great on those match points,“ said Williams, who excitedly jumped around the court after winning.

Sharapova fell to 5-5 all-time in Grand Slam finals, including 1-3 against Williams. The only victory came in the 2004 Wimbledon title match. Williams also beat Sharapova for the 2007 Australian Open crown and for the 2013 French Open title.

“It’s always tough getting to a final stage of an event where it’s down to two players and you end up the one that’s going home with the smaller trophy, there’s no doubt about it,“ Sharapova lamented. “No matter how you played, well or not, whatever the score line is, it’s always tough. But it will be all right.“

The 27-year-old Sharapova’s lone Australian Open championship came in 2008 against Ana Ivanovic. She also lost the 2012 final against Victoria Azarenka.


►  Bolelli and Fognini capture Australian Open men’s doubles

Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini won the men’s doubles title on Saturday at the Australian Open.

The Italian duo came away with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over the French tandem of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the final. They became the first Italian pairing to win a Grand Slam doubles crown since Nicola Pietrangeli and Orlando Sirola captured the French Open title in 1959.

It’s the third overall doubles title for Bolelli and Fognini, who teamed for trophies at Umag in 2011 and Buenos Aires in 2013.

Herbert and Mahut were trying to give France its first men’s doubles title in Melbourne since Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro claimed the 2004 crown.


►  Australian Open Men’s Doubles Tennis Update – January 31

Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Total Prize Money: $2,600,000

SATURDAY’S FINAL MATCH

S.Bolelli/F.Fognini defeated P.Herbert/N.Mahut, 6-4, 6-4


►  Australian Open Women’s Tennis Update – January 31

Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Total Prize Money: $14,000,000

FINAL MATCH

Serena Williams (1) defeated Maria Sharapova (2), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
SEMIFINAL MATCHES

Serena Williams (1) defeated Madison Keys, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2
Maria Sharapova (2) defeated Ekaterina Makarova (10), 6-3, 6-2
QUARTERFINAL MATCHES

Serena Williams (1) defeated Dominika Cibulkova (11), 6-2, 6-2
Maria Sharapova (2) defeated Eugenie Bouchard (7), 6-3, 6-2
Ekaterina Makarova (10) defeated Simona Halep (3), 6-4, 6-0
Madison Keys defeated Venus Williams (18), 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
FOURTH ROUND MATCHES

Serena Williams (1) defeated Garbine Muguruza (24), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
Maria Sharapova (2) defeated Peng Shuai (21), 6-3, 6-0
Simona Halep (3) defeated Yanina Wickmayer, 6-4, 6-2
Venus Williams (18) defeated Agnieszka Radwanska (6), 6-3, 2-6, 6-1
Eugenie Bouchard (7) defeated Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2
Ekaterina Makarova (10) defeated Julia Goerges, 6-3, 6-2
Dominika Cibulkova (11) defeated Victoria Azarenka, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
Madison Keys defeated Madison Brengle, 6-2, 6-4
THIRD ROUND MATCHES

Serena Williams (1) defeated Elina Svitolina (26), 4-6, 6-2, 6-0
Maria Sharapova (2) defeated Zarina Diyas (31), 6-1, 6-1
Simona Halep (3) defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-4, 7-5
Madison Keys defeated Petra Kvitova (4), 6-4, 7-5
Agnieszka Radwanska (6) defeated Varvara Lepchenko (30), 6-0, 7-5
Eugenie Bouchard (7) defeated Caroline Garcia, 7-5, 6-0
Ekaterina Makarova (10) defeated Karolina Pliskova (22), 6-4, 6-4
Dominika Cibulkova (11) defeated Alize Cornet (19), 7-5, 6-2
Yanina Wickmayer defeated Sara Errani (14), 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Venus Williams (18) defeated Camila Giorgi, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1
Peng Shuai (21) defeated Yaroslava Shvedova, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (24) defeated Timea Bacsinszky, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0
Victoria Azarenka defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (25), 6-4, 6-4
Julia Goerges defeated Lucie Hradecka, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5
Madison Brengle defeated Coco Vandeweghe, 6-3, 6-2
Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Carina Witthoeft, 6-4, 6-4
SECOND ROUND MATCHES

Serena Williams (1) defeated Vera Zvonareva, 7-5, 6-0
Maria Sharapova (2) defeated Alexandra Panova, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5
Simona Halep (3) defeated Jarmila Gajdosova, 6-2, 6-2
Petra Kvitova (4) defeated Mona Barthel, 6-2, 6-4
Agnieszka Radwanska (6) defeated Johanna Larsson, 6-0, 6-1
Eugenie Bouchard (7) defeated Kiki Bertens, 6-0, 6-3
Victoria Azarenka defeated Caroline Wozniacki (8), 6-4, 6-2
Ekaterina Makarova (10) defeated Roberta Vinci, 6-2, 6-4
Dominika Cibulkova (11) defeated Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-2, 6-0
Sara Errani (14) defeated Silvia Soler-Espinosa, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3
Venus Williams (18) defeated Lauren Davis, 6-2, 6-3
Alize Cornet (19) defeated Denisa Allertova, 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2
Coco Vandeweghe defeated Samantha Stosur (20), 6-4, 6-4
Peng Shuai (21) defeated Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-1, 6-1
Karolina Pliskova (22) defeated Oceane Dodin, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4
Garbine Muguruza (24) defeated Daniela Hantuchova, 6-1, 1-6, 6-0
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (25) defeated Kai-Chen Chang, 6-1, 7-5
Elina Svitolina (26) defeated Nicole Gibbs, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6)
Madison Keys defeated Casey Dellacqua (29), 2-6, 6-1, 6-1
Varvara Lepchenko (30) defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-1, 7-6 (7-1)
Zarina Diyas (31) defeated Anna Schmiedlova, 3-6, 6-2, 8-6
Yanina Wickmayer defeated Lara Arruabarrena, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Kristina Mladenovic, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6)
Caroline Garcia defeated Stefanie Voegele, 6-3, 6-4
Carina Witthoeft defeated Christina McHale, 6-3, 6-0
Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Katerina Siniakova, 7-5, 6-4
Yaroslava Shvedova defeated Monica Puig, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6)
Madison Brengle defeated Irina Falconi, 6-1, 6-3
Camila Giorgi defeated Tereza Smitkova, 6-1, 6-4
Lucie Hradecka defeated Polona Hercog, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Julia Goerges defeated Klara Koukalova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2
Timea Bacsinszky defeated Anna Tatishvili, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-2
FIRST ROUND MATCHES

Serena Williams (1) defeated Alison Van Uytvanck, 6-0, 6-4
Maria Sharapova (2) defeated Petra Martic, 6-4, 6-1
Simona Halep (3) defeated Karin Knapp, 6-3, 6-2
Petra Kvitova (4) defeated Richel Hogenkamp, 6-1, 6-4
Lucie Hradecka defeated Ana Ivanovic (5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-2
Agnieszka Radwanska (6) defeated Kurumi Nara, 6-3, 6-0
Eugenie Bouchard (7) defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-2, 6-4
Caroline Wozniacki (8) defeated Taylor Townsend, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2
Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Angelique Kerber (9), 6-4, 0-6, 6-1
Ekaterina Makarova (10) defeated An-Sophie Mestach, 6-2, 6-2
Dominika Cibulkova (11) defeated Kirsten Flipkens, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1
Camila Giorgi defeated Flavia Pennetta (12), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
Madison Brengle defeated Andrea Petkovic (13), 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
Sara Errani (14) defeated Grace Min, 6-1, 6-0
Timea Bacsinszky defeated Jelena Jankovic (15), 6-1, 6-4
Yaroslava Shvedova defeated Lucie Safarova (16), 6-4, 2-6, 8-6
Carina Witthoeft defeated Carla Suarez Navarro (17), 6-3, 6-1
Venus Williams (18) defeated Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, 6-2, 6-2
Alize Cornet (19) defeated Zhang Shuai, 6-3, 6-2
Samantha Stosur (20) defeated Monica Niculescu, 6-4, 6-1
Peng Shuai (21) defeated Tatjana Maria, 6-4, 7-5
Karolina Pliskova (22) defeated Evgeniya Rodina, 7-5, 6-1
Yanina Wickmayer defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (23), 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (24) defeated Marina Erakovic, 7-5, 6-0
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (25) defeated Timea Babos, 6-4, 6-4
Elina Svitolina (26) defeated Jana Cepelova, 6-3, 7-5
Caroline Garcia defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova (27), 6-4, 6-2
Kristina Mladenovic defeated Sabine Lisicki (28), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
Casey Dellacqua (29) defeated Yvonne Meusburger, 6-4, 6-0
Varvara Lepchenko (30) defeated Vitalia Diatchenko, 6-3, 6-3
Zarina Diyas (31) defeated Urszula Radwanska, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
Julia Goerges defeated Belinda Bencic (32), 6-2, 6-1
Oceane Dodin defeated Alison Riske, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-3
Roberta Vinci defeated Bojana Jovanovski, 7-5, 6-1
Monica Puig defeated Arina Rodionova, 6-0, 6-3
Magdalena Rybarikova defeated Ana Konjuh, 6-4, 6-4
Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Duan Ying-Ying, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Jarmila Gajdosova defeated Alexandra Dulgheru, 6-3, 6-4
Kiki Bertens defeated Daria Gavrilova, 7-6 (10-8), 5-7, 6-2
Stefanie Voegele defeated Pauline Parmentier, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2
Anna Schmiedlova defeated Chanelle Scheepers, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
Alexandra Panova defeated Sorana Cirstea, 7-5, 6-0
Christina McHale defeated Stephanie Foretz Gacon, 6-4, 1-6, 12-10
Katerina Siniakova defeated Elena Vesnina, 6-2, 7-5
Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Shelby Rogers, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0
Johanna Larsson defeated Alla Kudryavtseva, 6-4, 6-3
Coco Vandeweghe defeated Francesca Schiavone, 6-2, 6-2
Irina Falconi defeated Kaia Kanepi, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5
Tereza Smitkova defeated Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, 6-1, 6-1
Lauren Davis defeated Aleksandra Krunic, 6-1, 7-5
Silvia Soler-Espinosa defeated Annika Beck, 7-5, 6-4
Lara Arruabarrena defeated Renata Voracova, 6-1, 6-2
Polona Hercog defeated Wang Qiang, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
Klara Koukalova defeated Storm Sanders, 7-5, 6-4
Mona Barthel defeated Donna Vekic, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
Madison Keys defeated Lesia Tsurenko, 6-3, 7-5
Kai-Chen Chang defeated Zheng Jie, 6-1, 6-2
Victoria Azarenka defeated Sloane Stephens, 6-3, 6-2
Tsvetana Pironkova defeated Heather Watson, 6-4, 6-0
Denisa Allertova defeated Romina Oprandi, 6-0, 6-2
Daniela Hantuchova defeated Zheng Saisai, 6-4, 6-4
Anna Tatishvili defeated Kimiko Date-Krumm, 7-5, 6-4
Vera Zvonareva defeated Ons Jabeur, 6-2, 6-3
Nicole Gibbs defeated Olivia Rogowska, 6-4, 6-1



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Texas Red is favored for season debut San Vicente Stakes

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red is the 9-5 morning line favorite for Sunday’s $200,000 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Park as he begins his 3-year-old season

Texas Red, trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by the trainer’s brother Kent, will start the seven-furlong race from post 4 in the eight-horse field.

Co-owned by his trainer, Texas Red won the Juvenile on November 01 by 6 1/2 lengths as a 13-1 longshot, just his second win in five starts. The son of Afleet Alex has earned $1,192,300.

Keith Desormeaux has plans to bring the colt along quickly leading to the Kentucky Derby on May 02.

“I’m thinking about wheeling him back pretty quickly in the Risen Star on (February 21) and then we’ll have a little gap between the Risen Star and the $1,000,000 Santa Anita Derby (on April 04),“ the trainer said.

“It’s still on schedule. It’s always been kind of a tentative schedule, like with all things concerning racehorses,“ Desormeaux continued. “It seems like the best plan for me at this point. It’s kind of quick, but I like the way it feels. If I can get him (to Fair Grounds) a week early, that would be perfect. I’ll be at the mercy of whoever is going to fly us and their schedule.

“For him to overcome the fact that he’s not really built to be an early horse - that’s what makes him great and that’s also what makes us so excited about this year. If he can do what he did as a juvenile, what can he accomplish as a 3-year-old?“

The 2-1 second choice is Lord Nelson owned by Peachtree Stable and trained by Bob Baffert. The chestnut colt will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano from the rail post.

Lord Nelson has two wins from four starts and has earnings of $129,571. He was fourth in the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita last September 27 but came back on October 13 with a win in the track’s Speakeasy Stakes. He was the 7-5 favorite for Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes but finished fifth to El Kabeir.

Trainer Peter Miller’s Serbian Syclone is the 3-1 third pick for the San Vicente. The colt, owned by Rockingham Ranch, will be ridden by regular rider Elvis Trujillo from post 2.

Serbian Syclone was eighth first time out but has won his last two races going gate to wire by a combined 8 1/2 lengths. He tries stakes company for the first time in the seven-furlong event.

Here is the field for the San Vicente in post position order: Lord Nelson, Rafael Bejarano, 2-1; Serbian Syclone, Elvis Trujillo, 3-1; Jazzy Josh, Flavien Prat, 15-1; Texas Red, Kent Desormeaux, 9-5; Punctuate, Martin Garcia, 9-2; Magic Taste, Omar Santos, 50-1; Bench Warrant, Tyler Baze, 12-1 and Sir Samson, Joe Talamo, 15-1.

Post time for the 74th San Vicente is approximately 4:30 PM ET.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  McIlroy moves 4 clear at Dubai Desert Classic

Rory McIlroy recorded his second straight bogey-free round on Saturday and his 6-under 66 on day three has moved him four shots clear heading into the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy finished his third round at 20-under-par 196, which is four strokes better than Morten Orum MadSenator McIlroy has nine career wins on the European Tour, with four of them coming last season. The five-time major champion earned his first professional victory at this event back in 2009.

“To be bogey-free again today was important to me, especially when you’re going out with the lead,“ said McIlroy. “I’m very happy. I feel like I could be a little bit more but I’m not going to complain. I’m four ahead going into the final day, so I’ve put myself in a great position to win tomorrow.“

After shooting a 63 on Friday, Madsen matched McIlroy with a 66 of his own on day three and moved into sole possession of second place at 16-under 200. Two shots further back is 23-time tour winner Lee Westwood (69) at 14-under 202.

Two-time defending champion Stephen Gallacher, first-round leader Bernd Wiesberger, Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett all fired matching, 2-under 70s and are tied for fourth at 13-under 203.

McIlroy, last year’s British Open and PGA Championship winner, started the day with a 1-shot lead and quickly widened the gap. The 25-year-old Ulsterman jumped out to a fast start when he drained birdies on one, three and five to go along with pars on two, four and six.

Following the par on No. 6, McIlroy poured in back-to-back gains on seven and eight before finishing his front nine with a par on nine.

Making the turn with a 4-shot lead, it seemed as if McIlroy would extend his advantage even more on the back nine, but he slowed down a bit down the stretch. McIlroy made eight straight pars from No. 9 and saw his lead whittled down to three when Madsen birdied the last.

McIlroy broke the par streak when he drained a birdie putt from about 15 feet on the par-4 17th, moving his advantage back to four.

Now on the par-5 18th, a hole he had birdied in 14 of his last 18 rounds prior to Saturday, McIlroy found the water with his second shot and was in danger of making bogey. McIlroy remained calm, however, as his fourth shot landed about 10 feet from the hole and he knocked that in for par to make it 36 straight holes without a bogey.

“Not to make any mistakes makes it that much harder for anyone else,“ McIlroy said. “Just to get that up-and-down on the last was big for momentum going into tomorrow ... I just have to go and try and play similar golf to the way I have the first three days.“

Madsen, who holds the week’s low round with his 63 Friday, also went bogey- free and may stand the best chance of catching McIlroy on Sunday. Madsen started with a pair of pars on one and two before making his first birdie on No. 3. He then wrapped four more pars on four, five, seven and eight around a gain on No. 6.

The 26-year-old from Denmark made the turn in style with back-to-back birdies on nine and 10. Following his fifth gain of the day on 13, Madsen rattled off four straight pars from 14 before closing with a birdie at the last to pull within three of McIlroy at the time.

Three shots behind McIlroy to start the day, Westwood had a strong start to his round before struggling a bit in the middle. Westwood made a pair of birdies on two and three, but he made a mess of No. 9 and settled for double- bogey as the Englishman made the turn at even par.

A birdie on 10 got Westwood back into red figures and he traded a bogey on 12 for a birdie on 13. Westwood finished well to give himself an outside shot going into Sunday as three pars from 14 preceded back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18, putting him six strokes behind McIlroy.

NOTES: McIlroy’s last bogey came on the par-4 ninth hole, his last, in the first round ... McIlroy finished his third round just one shot off of Gallacher’s 54-hole record of 195. Gallacher also tied the tournament record of 266 that year in his first of two consecutive victories here ... McIlroy has finished runner-up in each of the last four events he has played in ... Madsen is seeking his second victory on tour, with his lone win coming at the South African Open Championship last season ... Westwood’s last win was at the Maybank Malaysian Open last year.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Elliott, Scott among those inducted into NASCAR HofF

Bill Elliott, a former Sprint Cup Series champion, and Wendell Scott, the first African-American to win a race in NASCAR’s premier racing circuit, were among the sixth five-member class inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night.

Joe Weatherly, a two-time Cup champion, Fred Lorenzen, who won 26 races in the sport’s top series, including the Daytona 500 and the World 600 (Charlotte) in 1965, and Rex White, a former premier series champion as well, were also inducted during the two-hour ceremony, which was held at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Known as “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville (Georgia),“ Elliott had an illustrious 37-year career as a driver in NASCAR. His 44 wins rank him 16th all-time and his 55 poles rank eighth. He won the Cup Series championship in 1988 and scored victories in the Daytona 500 in ‘85 and ‘87. In addition, Elliott won NASCAR’s “Most Popular Driver” Award a record 16 times.

Elliott was introduced by driver Kasey Kahne and inducted by his former car owner Ray Evernham.

“It’s just an honor to be here,“ Elliott said. “At a young age, I dreamed of doing this, and I knew as time went on, my dad was so involved in racing, he had such a love for the sport. I’ve always said he was such a Ford fanatic, if you cut him, he bled Ford blue. That’s just the way the man was. He was just so involved.“

Elliott’s induction occurred one day after his 19-year-old son, Chase, the reigning Xfinity Series champion, was named as the replacement driver for Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after Gordon departs from the team following the conclusion of the 2015 season.

Scott was the first African-American to race full-time in NASCAR’s top series. His only win in the series came in December 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Scott recorded 147 top-10 finishes in 495 starts during his 13-year on the premier circuit. Prior to that, he had won more than 100 races at local tracks, including 22 races at Southside Speedway in Richmond, Virginia, in 1959, en route to capturing both the Sportsman Division and NASCAR Virginia Sportsman championships. He died in 1990.

Members of Scott’s family attended the induction ceremony. His sons, Wendell Jr. and Franklin, honored him, while Gordon, a four-time Sprint Cup champion, introduced Scott.

“Wendell Scott fulfilled his destiny, and now we can proudly say that he is the first African-American inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame,“ Franklin Scott said. “We must carry his legacy to even greater heights with the same selflessness, honor, integrity, humility and perseverance that were his trademark.“

Weatherly’s titles in the Cup Series came in 1962 and ‘63. He also won 25 races during his career in the series. A decade earlier in 1952-53, Weatherly won 101 events in the NASCAR Modified division, claiming that title in ‘53. He competed in NASCAR’s short-lived Convertible Division from 1956-59, winning 12 times. Weatherly died in 1964 as a result of a racing accident at Riverside, California.

“Uncle Joe was a very competitive driver,“ said Joy Barbee, who is Weatherly’s youngest niece. “He was one of NASCAR’s first big stars, as his 25 wins and back-to-back championships in 1962 and 1963 will attest.

“In those days, the races were not televised in our home, and my mother would listen to them on the radio, but she sure got to know the local sportswriter at the newspaper. She knew exactly what time the races were over, and she would call the newspaper, and she would ask who won, and when she hung up the phone and she was crying and she was jumping with excitement, we knew that there was a ‘W’.“

Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup titleholder, introduced Weatherly, while Bud Moore, who was inducted into the second class in the NASCAR HofF in 2011, inducted him.

Lorenzen got his start in NASCAR as a mechanic with the famed Holman-Moody team in 1960, but he was elevated to lead driver by the end of the year. He won three races in only 15 starts the following season. Lorenzen’s best overall season came in 1963, posting six wins, 21 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s in 29 starts. Despite missing 26 races that season, he finished third in the standings.

Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart introduced Lorenzen. Amanda Gardstrom, who is Lorenzen’s daughter, inducted him.

“Our dad’s story began as a childhood dream,“ said Lorenzen’s son, Chris, who accepted the induction on behalf of his father. “All dad could think about was that he had to find a way to become a race car driver. He proceeded to live his life doing everything possible to make that dream come true. He always believed that anything is possible if you work hard enough and you put your mind to it, no matter what.“

Competing in the Cup Series during the 1950’s and 60’s, White was a short- track specialist in an era in which those tracks dominated the schedule. Of his 28 career wins in the series, only two came on tracks longer than one mile in length. White finished among the top-five in nearly a half of his 233 races and outside the top-10 only 30% of the time. He won six times during his 1960 championship season.

Reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick introduced White.

“Words can’t express how honored I am to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame along with the other Hall of Fame members, especially the 2015 fellow inductees,“ White said. “No driver wins a championship by himself. Nobody enters the Hall of Fame alone. I am a symbol of a team effort, my first race in 1953 until now. This effort spans 62 years.“

The Gilmer Free Press


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


SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 01, 2015
National Football League - Playoffs
Super Bowl Pregame, 1:00 PM - NBC
New England vs. Seattle (Super Bowl XLIX), 6:30 PM - NBC
National Basketball Association
Miami at Boston, 1:00 PM - SunSports, CSN-New England, DSS
LA Lakers at New York, 2:00 PM - Time Warner, MSG, ESPN
National Hockey League
Arizona at Montreal, 1:00 PM - CITY, RDS, DSS
St. Louis at Washington, 1:00 PM - NBCSN
Nashville at Pittsburgh, 2:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Minnesota at Vancouver, 3:30 PM - FS-North, SNET-Pacific, DSS
College Basketball
Miami-Florida at Florida State, 12:30 PM - ESPN U
Oakland at Youngstown State, 12:30 PM - MASN, ESPN3.com
Cincinnati at East Carolina, 1:00 PM - CBSSN
Michigan at Michigan State, 1:00 PM - CBS
Marist at Canisius, 2:00 PM - Time Warner Sports
Fordham at Dayton, 2:00 PM - FS-Ohio
Manhattan at Monmouth, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Utahat USC, 2:30 PM - ESPN U
Connecticut at Houston, 3:00 PM - CBSSN
California at Washington, 3:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Women’s College Basketball
Penn State at Rutgers, 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Wake Forest at Notre Dame, 1:00 PM - FS-South, Florida, Detroit+, San Diego
Texas at TCU, 1:00 PM - FS-Southwest+
Arizona at Colorado, 1:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Miami-Florida at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Georgia at Kentucky, 1:00 PM - SEC Network
Boston College at North Carolina, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Kansas at Baylor, 2:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Detroit, Midwest, Southwest
Connecticut at Temple, 2:00 PM - ESPN 2
Arkansas at Alabama, 2:00 PM - SEC Network+
Virginia at Clemson, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Michigan at Nebraska, 3:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Wisconsin at Illinois, 3:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Auburn at Texas A&M, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Miss State at Tennessee, 3:00 PM - SEC Network
Florida at Vanderbilt, 4:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Florida, Detroit, Southwest
Iowa at Maryland, 4:00 PM - ESPN 2
Minnesota at Northwestern, 4:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
South Carolina at Ole Miss, 4:30 PM - ESPN U
International Soccer
Arsenal vs. Aston Villa, 8:30 AM - NBCSN
Udinese Calcio vs. Juventus FC, 8:55 AM - beIN Sports
CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations, Quarter-Finals, 10:55 AM - beIN Sports
Southampton vs. Swansea City, 11:00 AM - NBCSN
Sevilla FC vs. RCD Espanyol, 12:55 PM - beIN Sports
FC Barcelona vs. Villarreal CF, 2:55 PM - beIN Sports
Golf
EUROPEAN - Dubai Desert Classic, 4:00 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Phoenix Open, 3:00 PM - CBS
Tennis
Australian Open (Men’s Final), 3:00 AM - ESPN

Sports News   150103

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Friday, January 02)


Final Score: Houston 35, Pittsburgh 34

Greg Ward Jr.‘s third touchdown pass of the fourth quarter, a 25-yard strike to Deontay Greenberry with 59 seconds remaining, completed an unbelievable comeback that lifted Houston to a 35-34 victory over Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Bowl. Greenberry was also on the other end of Ward’s successful 2-point conversion try that brought the Cougars all the way back from a 34-13 deficit with under four minutes left. Houston (8-5), which trailed 31-6 with 11 minutes to play, scored 29 fourth- quarter points and recovered a pair of onside kicks, the last leading to Greenberry’s second touchdown catch of the day. Ward finished 15-of-24 for 274 yards and added 92 on the ground. Greenberry finished with 85 yards on four receptions, while Kenneth Farrow put up 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to help the Cougars prevail in this matchup of interim coaches. Houston fired Tony Levine on Dec. 8, with defensive coordinator David Gibbs leading the team for the bowl game. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph directed Pittsburgh (6-7), which had head coach Paul Chryst depart for the same position at alma mater Wisconsin.


Final Score: Tennessee 45, Iowa 28

Joshua Dobbs accounted for 205 yards and the Tennessee Volunteers cruised past the Iowa Hawkeyes, 45-28, in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Friday. Dobbs threw for 129 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while rushing for 76 yards with two scores for the Vols (7-6), who won four of their last five to end the season. Jalen Hurd had a strong performance with 122 yards on the ground and added two touchdowns in the win. Jordan Canzeri paced the Hawkeyes (7-6) with 120 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Mark Weisman had two rushing touchdowns. Iowa used a pair of quarterbacks in C.J. Beathard and Jake Rudock throughout the day. Beathard finished with 145 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception to go along with 82 rushing yards. Rudock threw for 32 yards and rushed for 22 in the loss.


Final Score: (14) UCLA 40, (11) Kansas State 35

Brett Hundley began to jump up and down with his arms raised in victory before Paul Perkins crossed midfield. Perkins ran for 194 yards and two touchdowns, including a backbreaking 67-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter to seal No. 14 UCLA’s 40-35 victory over No. 11 Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl on Friday. Kansas State fought back from a 31-6 halftime deficit, cutting the margin to 34-28 after Jake Waters plunged in from a yard out with 4:54 remaining. UCLA (10-3), though, had an answer. Faced with a 2nd-and-13 at its own 33 following a false start penalty, Perkins burst through a huge hole off the left side of the line untouched and strolled the rest of the way for the score. The ensuing two-point conversion was unsuccessful. Waters hit Tyler Lockett for a 29-yard touchdown to claw Kansas State (9-4) within 40-35, but an onside kick was recovered by the Bruins. UCLA had a 331-31 advantage in rushing yards. Hundley, in what most likely was his last collegiate game, completed 12-of-24 passes for 136 yards with a touchdown and added 96 yards and two scores on the ground for the Bruins, who have won consecutive bowl games for the first time since winning eight in a row from 1983-1991.


Final Score: Oklahoma State 30, Washington 22

Mason Rudolph passed for 299 yards and two touchdowns in his third career start and Oklahoma State upended Washington 30-22 to win the Cactus Bowl. Rudolph took over at quarterback for Daxx Garman following a 28-7 loss against Texas on Nov. 15, OSU’s fourth loss during a five-game slide. Rudolph helped the Cowboys top rival Oklahoma in the last week of the regular season to become bowl eligible. The true freshman completed 17-of-26 passes, Desmond Roland gained 123 yards on 32 carries and Oklahoma State (7-6) improved to 6-3 in bowl games under coach Mike Gundy.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Steelers’ Bell sits out practice

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell sat out Thursday’s practice as he recovers from a right knee injury.

Bell hyperextended the knee in Sunday’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals and has yet to participate in practice this week as the team prepares to host the Baltimore Ravens in a wild-card game Saturday night.

Finishing the season as the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,361 yards, Bell suffered the injury in the third quarter after taking a helmet to the knee from Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson.

The Steelers brought in running back Ben Tate on Tuesday for insurance. Tate spent time with both Cleveland and Minnesota this season.

Linebacker James Harrison sat out practice with an illness, while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and tight end Heath Miller returned to practice after getting Wednesday off.


►  Lions DT Fairley returns to practice

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley returned to practice on Thursday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late October.

Fairley suffered a MCL and PCL injury in his right knee in a Week 8 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in London.

He took part in limited fashion Thursday, participating in individual drills, and has still not been cleared for game action.

Earlier in the week, Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said it would be a “miracle” if Fairley were able to play in Sunday’s wild-card game at Dallas.

Guard Larry Warford sat out practice yet again on Thursday with a right knee injury he sustained against the Packers this past Sunday.

He hasn’t been ruled out, but if he is rookie Travis Swanson will get the start. Swanson made the first start of his career Sunday in place of veteran Dominic Raiola, who was suspended for the game due to a stomping incident in Week 16 against the Bears.


►  ‘Game of Thrones,‘ Philadelphia style

Chip Kelly is very sure of himself.

So when the Eagles coach turns up the smug-meter and starts running a little pompous and egotistical, it’s just par for the course.

That said, something caught my ear at Kelly’s season-ending press conference, a veiled shot at his general manager Howie Roseman.

Kelly said Roseman was good at handling the salary cap, on the surface a compliment to anyone who doesn’t understand the inner-workings of the Eagles.

To those who do, however, it was a clear shot at Roseman, a glorified money man who has risen through the ranks of the organization and now fashions himself as a football guy despite no prior experience as a player, coach or scout.

“For me to stand there and say, ‘I think paragraph five of his contract should mean this, instead of this.‘ That’s not my forte, not my strength,“ Kelly said when queried about his relationship with Roseman. “I’m not going to delve into that and say, ‘I think his signing bonus should be this, but let’s retroactive that and only make it for injury in the third and fourth year.‘ That’s not my strength. I understand it, but that’s really what (Roseman) does an outstanding job of that.

“I think since I’ve been here one of the attractive things about this job, there are not cap issues. You don’t look at it and go, ‘Oh, my God. We’re going to have to cut 12 players because we’re going to be $40 million over the cap.‘ (Roseman) does an outstanding job of that. That’s his training.“

To anyone who knows Roseman and what makes him tick, that’s as passive aggressive as it gets.

Kelly further aggravated his insecure GM when he called now-ousted vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble “an outstanding football man.“

Two different sources who know Roseman well said he was seething after Kelly’s statements, which marginalized him in the personnel aspect of the business.

Kelly is a lot like Jim Harbaugh, though. It’s football 24-7 for Chip and the ex-49ers coach and both underestimated the political savvy of their respective general managers.

Harbaugh is now at the University of Michigan because of his miscalculations with Trent Baalke and this dust-up in Philadelphia could signal the beginning of the end for Kelly with the Eagles.

Roseman is a shark that probably missed his calling in life, a take-no- prisoners operative in the mold of Rahm Emanuel. At 39, he’s the youngest GM in football but don’t let his boyish looks fool you, the list of executives who have lost power struggles with him is stunning: Joe Banner, Tom Heckert, Jason Licht, Ryan Grigson, Louis Riddick, and now Gamble.

When Kelly made his move, Roseman had his people quickly leak the fact that the New York Jets were looking to talk to him about their vacant general manager position, conveniently leaving out the fact that the Jets did indeed want to talk to Roseman but it was about Eagles pro personnel director Rick Meuller.

That little nugget certainly got to Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie, who already considered Roseman his indispensable right-hand man on the football side of things, something that could have been “validated” by the feigned Jets’ interest.

Gamble, meanwhile, was Kelly’s most trusted advisor on the football side, a man with nearly 30 years of NFL experience who paid the price for the coach’s insolence by being fired on New Year’s Eve.

Described as a “mutual parting of the ways,“ Gamble was actually escorted from the NovaCare complex by security, a high-profile pawn in a game of inside baseball between Roseman and Kelly.

A game which Roseman won.

It was Gamble who had Kelly’s ear when it came to talent and the coach was given final say on the 53-man roster when he was hired in 2013, meaning Gamble had more say over who was playing for the Eagles this season than Roseman. And that wasn’t about to change because Kelly has little respect for Roseman when it comes to player evaluation.

Others have speculated that Roseman was also concerned that Kelly was so popular in the city that he could eventually flex his muscles to oust him and elevate Gamble to GM.

A December swoon and a poorly perceived 2014 draft hurt Kelly’s reputation a bit and Roseman pounced, using that, along with the coach’s own hubris, to fortify a power base that will only grow from here.


►  Panthers’ DeCoud doubtful for Wild Card game vs. Cardinals

Carolina Panthers safety Thomas DeCoud is listed as doubtful for Saturday’s NFC Wild Card game against the Arizona Cardinals.

DeCoud was held out of practice the past two days after hurting his hamstring on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old DeCoud had 50 tackles and one interception in 15 games (11 starts) this season.

Linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) is questionable.


►  Rodgers, Watt headline All-Pro team

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been named the first-team quarterback on the 2014 Associated Press All-Pro squad, while Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt earned recognition at two different positions in balloting released Friday.

Watt, favored to win his second NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in the last three seasons, received 45 of a possible 50 votes to earn first team honors at defensive end. He also garnered five votes at defensive tackle to make the second team at that position.

Watt and New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski were the only unanimous selections.

Rodgers was tabbed as the top quarterback on the All-Pro team for the second time in his career, with the first coming during his MVP season of 2011. The Packers’ star was named atop 44 ballots, with Dallas’ Tony Romo taking in three votes to earn second-team distinction.

The Cowboys had a league-high four first team All-Pros in running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant, rookie guard Zach Martin and offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

Murray was joined by Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell in the first team backfield, with fellow Steeler Antonio Brown alongside Bryant at wide receiver. Brown was a near-unanimous choice, collecting 49 votes.

Co-headlining Watt on the first team defense was Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, who finished just shy of an NFL record with 22 sacks this season. The unit also included three members of the Seattle Seahawks in cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas and inside linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Sherman and Thomas were repeat selections, as were Watt, Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Carolina inside linebacker Luke Kuechly and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas.

Thomas received the fifth first team All-Pro nod of his career, while New England cornerback Darrelle Revis was chosen for the first time.

The remainder of the first team offense consists of Packers fullback John Kuhn, Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda, Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey, Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri and Cincinnati’s Adam Jones, who was named as the top kick returner.

A pair of Buffalo Bills, Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus, comprised the defensive line along with Watt and Suh. Baltimore outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, San Diego safety Eric Weddle and Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee rounded out the first team defense.


►  Steelers’ Bell ruled out of playoff game vs. Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without running back Le’Veon Bell for Saturday night’s AFC Wild Card game against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Steelers officially ruled out their team MVP on Friday.

Bell hyperextended his right knee in last week’s AFC North-clinching victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Although Bell suffered no ligament damage, he was unable to practice this week.

The 22-year-old Bell was the second-leading rusher in the NFL this season, running for 1,361 yards and eight touchdowns. The Michigan State product also caught 83 passes for 854 yards and three scores.

The Steelers will try to replace Bell’s production with rookies Josh Harris and Dri Archer. Pittsburgh also signed veteran Ben Tate earlier this week.


►  Bengals term Green doubtful for WC game

The Cincinnati Bengals have listed A.J. Green as doubtful for Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game against Indianapolis as the star wide receiver continues to remain in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Green sat out Friday’s practice while still awaiting medical clearance for his head injury, which occurred during the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 27-17 loss at Pittsburgh.

The Bengals’ official site did report that Green does have a meeting with a neurologist scheduled for Saturday, with the hope the four-time Pro Bowl selection will receive the go-ahead to participate in Sunday’s matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Green led Cincinnati with 69 receptions, 1,041 receiving yards and six touchdown catches during the regular season. He also missed the Bengals’ meeting with the Colts back in Week 7 due to a toe injury, with Cincinnati being dealt a 27-0 defeat without its top wideout available.

Tight end Jermaine Gresham is considered questionable for Sunday’s game with a back issue, but did participate in Friday’s practice after missing the previous two days’ sessions.


►  Ravens rule out Monroe, Jernigan; activate Ngata

The Baltimore Ravens ruled out left offensive tackle Eugene Monroe and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan for Saturday night’s AFC Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens also placed reserve linebacker Arthur Brown on season-ending injured reserve and activated defensive lineman Haloti Ngata from the reserve/suspension list.

Jernigan (foot/ankle) will be replaced in the starting lineup by Ngata, who missed the final four games of the regular season for testing positive for Adderall.

Monroe is dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of last week’s game against the Browns. James Hurst will start in his place for the second consecutive game.

Defensive end Chris Canty (thigh/ankle) is probable after missing the regular- season finale.


►  Cowboys’ Free doubtful against Lions

Dallas Cowboys right tackle Doug Free is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s Wild Card game against the Detroit Lions.

Free is still bothered by an ankle injury he sustained in the Cowboys’ December 14 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has not practiced at all since the injury, and veteran Jermey Parnell is expected to start in his absence.

Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford did not practice Friday with an illness, and he’s questionable for the postseason tilt.

Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens sprained his ankle in the season finale at Washington last week, and he is also listed as questionable after not participating in practice all week.


►  Lions G Warford out for Sunday

Detroit Lions guard Larry Warford has been ruled out for Sunday’s NFC Wild Card Playoff in Dallas.

Warford missed practice all week with a right knee injury he suffered last Sunday in Green Bay. Rookie Travis Swanson will start in his place.

Swanson made his first career start at center last week in place of veteran Dominic Raiola, who was suspended for the game due to a stomping incident in Week 16 against the Bears.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley is listed as doubtful after taking limited participation on Thursday and Friday. It was the first time he was on the practice field since suffering a MCL and PCL injury in his right knee in a Week 8 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in London.

listed as probable for Detroit are defensive ends Ziggy Ansah (toe) and Darryl Tapp (not injury related) and wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle).


►  Eagles owner Lurie announces new roles for Roseman, Kelly

Philadelphia Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie announced changes in titles for Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly on Friday.

Roseman, the Eagles’ general manager since 2010, has been elevated to the role of executive vice president of football operations. He will continue to direct contract negotiations, salary cap management and NFL strategic matters.

Kelly, who has led the Eagles to 10 wins in each of his first two seasons, will now oversee the player personnel department in addition to his coaching duties and will lead efforts to hire a new personnel executive. The team parted ways with vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble on Wednesday.

“We are a good football team and we believe these steps will help make us a great team,“ Lurie said in a statement. “That step - from good to great - is the most difficult one for any organization to make. To do that, sometimes you have to step back and really look hard at where you are today and what you want to become.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Wild Card Weekend fantasy options

The NFL regular season is over and with it, most of the fantasy leagues, but not all of them.

For those that want to continue for a few more weekends, there is fantasy football still available.

For the most part there are two kinds of playoff fantasy football. One is to redraft every weekend and the other is a one-time draft that lasts through the Super Bowl.

We’re going to concentrate on the weekly format and give you our selections for Wild Card Weekend. That means you won’t see any names from the four bye teams - New England, Denver, Seattle or Green Bay.

That takes away a lot of players from the talent pool, but that’s how they got to where they are, getting a week to rest and heal their banged up bodies.

So here we go with our thoughts for each position.


Quarterback -

There are eight starting quarterbacks this weekend, and you can probably win with seven of the eight. Now that Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton has been ruled out, Ryan Lindley will start for Arizona on the road in Carolina. That’s not a situation for fantasy owners.

The top-two quarterbacks this week should be Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger.

Romo has been nearly perfect for the past four games, throwing 12 touchdown passes against just one interception. He helped his Cowboys average 41.2 ppg over that span. Despite the Lions defense being ranked top-three in points (17.6 ppg), they are stronger against the run than the pass.

Roethlisberger is going to have to throw early and often as he will more than likely be without his top rushing weapon - Le’Veon Bell. Unfortunately, Bell is also very good as a receiver, so expect Big Ben to target Health Miller more often. Miller is a clutch guy and should come up big along with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Remember, the last time Roethlisberger faced this defense he toasted them for six touchdowns and 340 yards.


Running Back

If Bell (hyperextended knee) is in a Steelers uniform, he’s a top pick. Unfortunately, we don’t think that’s going to happen.

So our top choice is Cincinnati rookie Jeremy Hill. He gets the nod over DeMarco Murray who faces the No. 1 rush defense - Detroit.

Hill has rushed for 395 yards and three touchdowns over the past three weekends and earned the 100-yard bonus on all three occasions.

Don’t forget Baltimore running back Justin Forsett. The Ravens will want to control the ball and time of possession and he rushed for 1,266 yards along with eight touchdowns this season despite not being the starter for every game.

Want someone to stay away from? It’s Jonathan Stewart. Although he was good down the stretch, DeAngelo Williams is expected to return, the coaches like Mike Tolbert near the goal line and quarterback Cam Newton is as likely as any running back on the Panthers roster to run it in from close range.


Wide Receiver

There are a lot of high-quality receivers available this weekend, but none better than Mr. Consistency, Antonio Brown. He led the league in receptions (129), yards (1,698) and his 13 touchdown receptions were second only to Dez Bryant. Almost as impressive is the fact he’s caught at least five passes in every game for the past two seasons. He caught a touchdown pass in nine of 16 games and tossed a touchdown pass in a 10th contest. He’s going to produce a solid fantasy total.

Dez Bryant is the obvious No. 2 choice (88-1,320, 16 TDs), but don’t forget T.Y. Hilton. Hilton has been injured the past few games, but should be ready and will be Andrew Luck’s favorite target.

He’s a great player, but we’re ready to let someone else take the risk from Bengals receiver A.J. Green. He’s missed practice this week due to a concussion and still has the biceps issue from a couple of weeks ago. Since his big game against Pittsburgh in Week 14, he’s done very little.


Tight Ends

There are five tight ends worthy of consideration this weekend. Greg Olsen, Jason Witten, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener have all flashed their talents at various times this season. None are Rob Gronkowski, but they all get you consistent points.

However, I’m leaning toward Miller of Pittsburgh as the surprise top choice, if and only if, Bell doesn’t play. And you should be able to get him very cheaply off a mediocre season.


Kicker

In the cold and possibly bad weather that comes with the first weekend of January, it’s always best to go with a kicker playing in perfect climate- controlled conditions.

That puts Dallas’ Dan Bailey and Adam Vinatieri at the top of our list.

Bailey gets the top spot because his coach doesn’t shy away from sending him out there over 50 yards. He’s 5-of-7 from that range. He’ll be at home against Detroit.

Vinatieri made 80-of-81 kicks this season. He went 50-of-50 on extra points and 30-of-31 on field goal attempts. He’s also indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium.

We would avoid Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Yes, he was 29-of-33 this season, but he’s a rookie and has never been in this type of pressure situation. He also doesn’t figure to get a lot of opportunities with Lindley under center for Arizona.


Defense/Special Teams

Carolina defense abused Matt Ryan and the Falcons last weekend to get into the playoffs and has another chance to be good against Lindley and the Cardinals. The Panthers are our top choice.

Based on past history, going against Andy Dalton in the playoffs is a pretty good idea too. The Bengals quarterback is 0-3 in the playoffs with one touchdown pass versus six interceptions and a 56.2 quarterback rating.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Friday, January 02)

Shady Spring 53     Lewis County 46

Williamstown 77     Tyler Consolidated 39

#2 Notre Dame 97     #6 Clay-Battelle 42

Wahama 56     Doddridge County 53

Poca 79     Nicholas County 32


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Friday, January 02)

#9 Gilmer County 75     South Harrison 21

Roane County 50     Braxton County 42

#2 St. Marys 67     Tygarts Valley 46

Buckhannon-Upshur 45     Spring Mills 42

Nicholas County 57     Westside 37

Parkersburg South 72     Parkersburg 40

St. Marys 67     Tygarts Valley 46

Williamstown 69     Parkersburg Catholic 57



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Friday, January 02)


Final Score: (10) Utah 79, USC 55

Jordan Loveridge scored 14 points with six rebounds as No. 10 Utah thumped USC, 79-55, in the Pac-12 opener for both schools. Delon Wright had 11 points and 10 assists and Brandon Taylor gave 11 points and five boards for the Utes (11-2, 1-0 Pac-12), who have won four straight. Nikola Jovanovic and Malik Martin each scored 14 points with six rebounds for the Trojans (8-5, 0-1), who had a two-game winning streak snapped.


Final Score: California 81, (21) Washington 75

Jordan Mathews’ career-high 31 points helped California overcome the worst shooting game of the season from Tyrone Wallace to top No. 21 Washington 81-75 in the Pac-12 opener for both teams. Mathews only needed 14 shots to net his 31, finishing 5-for-8 from behind the arc and 10-for-12 from the foul line. Wallace, California’s undisputed leader and one of the nation’s most complete players during non-conference play, had eight rebounds, four assists and four steals but only shot 4-for-20 from the floor. He finished with 19 points thanks in large part to free throws down the stretch. David Kravish added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Cal (11-3, 1-0 Pac-12), which had lost two straight games heading into conference play. Nigel Williams-Goss stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for Washington (11-2, 0-1), losers in two in a row following an 11-0 start to the season. Robert Upshaw’s bid for Pac-12 sixth man of the year continued with another impressive performance, albeit in the loss. The 7-foot transfer from Fresno State had 16 points, eight boards and five blocked shots.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Friday, January 02)


Final Score: Cleveland 91, Charlotte 87

Kevin Love scored 27 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 91-87 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. Love and Kyrie Irving, who supplied 23 points, carried the bulk of the scoring load after the Cavaliers announced Thursday that LeBron James will miss the next two weeks with a left knee strain and a lower back strain. Cleveland snapped its three-game losing streak. Dion Waiters had 17 points off the bench and Tristan Thompson deposited 14 points with 14 rebounds in the win. Gerald Henderson paced the Hornets with 14 points, Michael Kidd-Glichrist tallied 12 points with 10 rebounds and Gary Neal added 11 off the bench. Charlotte has dropped five straight.


Final Score: Brooklyn 100, Orlando 98

Late in the third quarter, the Brooklyn Nets led by as many as 26, but they had to survive a furious fourth-quarter comeback in their 100-98 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday. Orlando outscored Brooklyn 37-14 in the final period and cut its deficit down to one possession, but it could not hit a tying or go-ahead shot in the game’s final minute. Mason Plumlee led the Nets with 18 points and nine rebounds, and it was his reverse layup with 2:21 remaining that ended Orlando’s 16-0 run to get back in the game. Brooklyn also got 16 points each from Brook Lopez and Deron Williams off the bench in its sixth win in seven games. Joe Johnson added 14 points, including two clutch free throws in the closing seconds. Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 17 points despite not taking a shot in the final quarter. Elfrid Payton scored 16 points, handed out 10 assists and pulled down nine boards.


Final Score: Dallas 119, Boston 101

Rajon Rondo didn’t have to wait long to go up against his former team. Two weeks after making his Dallas Mavericks debut, Rondo put up a season-high 29 points to help his new to team in a 119-101 win over the Boston Celtics. Rondo cemented his legacy as one of the great point guards in Celtics history during his nine-plus seasons there. He played a key role in Boston’s NBA Championship in 2008 and finished fourth in franchise history in assists and third in steals after being dealt to Dallas in a four-player swap on Dec. 18. In between the first and second quarters, a montage shown on the video board at TD Garden was followed by a prolonged standing ovation that nearly brought the four-time All-Star to tears.


Final Score: Detroit 97, New York 81

Brandon Jennings had 16 of his 29 points in the third quarter and the Detroit Pistons routed the New York Knicks 97-81 on Friday night. Andre Drummond ripped down 20 rebounds, Greg Monroe posted 12 points and 10 boards and Jodie Meeks netted 15 points off the bench for the Pistons, who have won four in a row on the heels of a four-game losing streak. J.R. Smith tallied 22 points, while Cole Aldrich added 11 points and 14 rebounds for New York, which has dropped 10 consecutive games and 20 of its last 21.


Final Score: New Orleans 111, Houston 83

The New Orleans Pelicans led wire-to- wire in a 111-83 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday. The Pelicans got points from 11 players, led by Ryan Anderson’s 22 off the bench. Tyreke Evans contributed 21 points, five assists and four rebounds, and Omer Asik scored nine and pulled in a game-high 11 rebounds in New Orleans’ second win in its last three games. Dwight Howard and Corey Brewer led the Rockets with 12 points each in their third loss in four games. NBA scoring leader James Harden had just 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Houston led the league in 3-pointers made coming into the game but shot just 6-of-29 from long distance.


Final Score: Oklahoma City 109, Washington 102

Kevin Durant posted 34 points with eight rebounds and the Oklahoma City Thunder claimed a hard-fought 109-102 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday. Russell Westbrook checked in with 22 points and six assists, while Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison added 13 and 10 points, respectively. Oklahoma City has won two straight and four of five overall. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds and John Wall registered 14 points with 12 assists in the setback, Washington’s second straight defeat on the heels of a three-game winning streak.


Final Score: Indiana 94, Milwaukee 91

C.J. Miles buried six 3-pointers for 22 points off the bench and the Indiana Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 94-91 on Friday night. Roy Hibbert added 18 points and Luis Scola scored 14 for the Pacers, who have won two in a row and five of their last seven. Brandon Knight had 20 points for the Bucks, who had a two-game winning streak stopped. Zaza Pachulia contributed 12 points and 14 rebounds in the loss and John Henson scored 14 with 10 boards. The Bucks snapped a six-game losing streak in the series with an 87-81 win in Indianapolis on November 04.


Final Score: Phoenix 112, Philadelphia 96

Markieff Morris and Gerald Green both scored 21 points and the Phoenix Suns overcame a halftime deficit to rally past the Philadelphia 76ers, 112-96, on Friday. Eric Bledsoe tallied 17 points and eight assists and Goran Dragic had 10 points and a season-high 10 boards for Phoenix, which returned home following a four-game road trip that ended with a 137-134 overtime loss in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Eve. The Suns have swept the season series with Philly each of the past two seasons, winning the four games by a combined 67 points. Tony Wroten fell three points shy of his career high with 28 off the bench for Philadelphia, losers in four straight following a pair of wins to kick off a seven-game road trip. Michael Carter-Williams posted 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists.


Final Score: Atlanta 98, Utah 92

Jeff Teague finished with a game-high 26 points and eight assists as the Atlanta Hawks held off the Utah Jazz, 98-92, on Friday. Paul Millsap had 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Al Horford and DeMarre Carroll chipped in 13 and 10 points, respectively, for the Hawks, who have won three straight and 17 of their last 19 games. Gordon Hayward paced the Jazz with 18 points, Dante Exum netted a career-high 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting and Rudy Gobert supplied 11 points, seven boards and four blocks in the loss. The Hawks have won eight straight games against Utah.


Final Score: Golden State 126, Toronto 105

Stephen Curry had 32 points and 12 assists as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Toronto Raptors 126-105 on Friday night. Toronto trailed by as many as 23 in the second half, but pulled within 110-101 after Lou Williams knocked down a pair of jumpers with five minutes remaining. Golden State, though, answered with 14 straight points to put the game away. Curry, who had 10 points during the surge, capped it with consecutive 3-pointers for a 124-101 advantage with 1:38 to go. Draymond Green posted his first career triple-double with 16 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, Marreese Speights tallied 26 points and eight rebounds and Klay Thompson netted 20 points for Golden State, which has won three in a row. Greivis Vasquez supplied 25 points, seven assists and five boards off the bench, Kyle Lowry provided 22 points, eight assists and five rebounds and Amir Johnson recorded 12 points and 10 boards for the Raptors, who have dropped three of their last five games.


Final Score: Memphis 109, LA Lakers 106

Mike Conley scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half and the Memphis Grizzlies held on down the stretch for a 109-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. Kobe Bryant scored his only points of the fourth quarter on a 3 that got the Lakers within 106-105 with 24.2 seconds left. He then nearly sent the game to overtime after getting off an on-target 3 from the left sideline with just 0.6 ticks remaining, but the ball hit off the far side of the rim as time expired. Marc Gasol added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who have won three in a row on the heels of a season-long four-game losing streak. Beno Udrih scored 16 off the bench and Conley had nine as



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Friday, January 02)


Final Score: Florida 2, Buffalo 0

Roberto Luongo continued his dominance of the Buffalo Sabres with his second shutout of the season, lifting the Florida Panthers to a 2-0 victory on Friday. Luongo turned aside all 30 shots fired his way to improve to 5-0-0 with four shutouts against the Sabres over the past two seasons. The veteran netminder also moved into sole possession of the 13th place all-time with 68 shutouts, surpassing Roy Worters. Brad Boyes and Nick Bjugstad each scored for Florida, which improved to 3-0-1 against Buffalo this season. Michal Neuvirth gave up both goals on 33 shots for the Sabres, who have dropped three straight and seven of eight.


Final Score: Montreal 4, New Jersey 2

Carey Price made 22 saves and picked up his 200th win in his 400th NHL game as the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 at Prudential Center. Michael Bournival scored his first two goals of the season and Max Pacioretty added a power-play goal for the Canadiens, who have won five straight and eight of their last nine games. Michael Ryder and Mike Cammalleri had third-period goals for New Jersey, which nearly erased a 3-0 deficit. Keith Kinkaid stopped 22 shots in the Devils’ fifth loss in six games.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 6, Tampa Bay 3

Sidney Crosby had four assists and the Pittsburgh Penguins extended their home winning streak over the Tampa Bay Lightning to nine games with a 6-3 victory on Friday night. Steve Downie returned to score twice for Pittsburgh after missing the last five games because of the mumps and Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Andrew Ebbett and Christian Ehrhoff also found the net in the team’s second consecutive win after four straight losses. Thomas Greiss also played for the first time since contracting the mumps last month and made 32 saves. Brian Boyle, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn scored for Tampa Bay, which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Pittsburgh moved ahead of Tampa Bay for first place in the Eastern Conference with 53 points. Montreal tied the Lightning for first place in the Atlantic with a win over New Jersey on Friday.


Final Score: Carolina 2, Philadelphia 1

Cam Ward made 23 saves to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday. Brad Malone and Eric Staal each scored a goal for the Hurricanes, who snapped a three-game slide. The Flyers lost their fourth straight game on this eight-game road trip, and have appeared to survive a scare after captain Claude Giroux went down with a left leg injury. Early in the third period, Giroux was chasing a puck down in the right corner of the Carolina end and got tangled up with Justin Faulk. As Faulk was putting hit left leg down, his skate caught the back of Giroux’s left ankle, and it appeared that Giroux was bleeding through his equipment. Giroux was tended to on the ice by a trainer and eventually taken into the locker room. After the game, though, the team announced that the cut wasn’t bad, and Giroux is probable for Saturday’s game in New Jersey.


Final Score: Minnesota 3, Toronto 1

Jared Spurgeon and Mikko Koivu scored 1:55 apart in the third period to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kyle Brodziak had a second-period goal and Darcy Kuemper made 34 saves for the Wild, who snapped a four-game losing streak at home and picked up just their second win in their last eight games overall. Jonathan Bernier stopped 26 shots for Toronto, which fell to 2-4-0 on its seven-game trip.


Final Score: Colorado 2, Edmonton 1 (SO)

Matt Duchene and Alex Tanguay scored in the shootout as the Colorado Avalanche edged the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Friday night. Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves before stopping both Edmonton attempts in the shootout, helping Colorado win its second straight game. Duchene used a deke and scored on his forehand to open the second round of the tiebreaker. Ben Scrivens then bit on a deke by Tanguay, who hung on to the puck before firing it over the Oilers netminder. Scrivens finished with 27 saves in Edmonton’s 12th consecutive road loss.


Final Score: NY Islanders 2, Calgary 1

Jaroslav Halak turned aside 22 shots to lead the New York Islanders in a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Friday. John Tavares scored both goals with Kyle Okposo providing two assists for the Islanders, who have won their last three games. Johnny Gaudreau scored the only goal of the game for the Flames, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Jonas Hiller allowed both goals on 24 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Anaheim 4, St. Louis 3

Matt Beleskey scored the game-winning goal with 9:05 remaining to lift the Anaheim Ducks to a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Friday. Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf and Kyle Palmieri each scored and Sami Vatanen tallied two assists for the Ducks, who bounced back from a 3-0 loss to San Jose on Wednesday. Frederik Andersen made 39 saves in the win. Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk both finished with a goal and an assist. T.J. Oshie also lit the lamp and Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots for the Blues, who are 0-4-1 in their past five road games. St. Louis has now lost nine straight games to the Ducks at Honda Center, a streak which began on January 07, 2010.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


SATURDAY, JANUARY 03, 2015
National Football League - Playoffs
Arizona at Carolina, 4:35 PM - ESPN
Baltimore at Pittsburgh, 8:15 PM - NBC
National Basketball Association
Charlotte at Orlando, 7:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Florida, DSS
Boston at Chicago, 8:00 PM - CSN-New England, WGN, DSS
Miami at Houston, 8:00 PM - SunSports, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Utah at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, FS-North+, DSS
Washington at San Antonio, 8:30 PM - CSN-DC, FS-Southwest, DSS
Memphis at Denver, 9:00 PM - SportSouth, Altitude, DSS
Atlanta at Portland, 10:00 PM - SportSouth, CSN-Northwest, DSS
Philadelphia at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS
National Hockey League
Ottawa at Boston, 1:00 PM - RDS, TSN5, NESN, DSS
Nashville at Los Angeles, 4:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-West, DSS
Toronto at Winnipeg, 7:00 PM - CBC, NHL Network, DSS
Philadelphia at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, MSG+, NHL Network, DSS
Montreal at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - TVA, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Buffalo at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - MSG-Buffalo, MSG, DSS
Minnesota at Dallas, 8:00 PM - FS-North, Southwest, DSS
Columbus at Arizona, 8:00 PM - FS-Ohio, Arizona, DSS
Detroit at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - FS-Detroit, CBC, DSS
St. Louis at San Jose, 10:30 PM - FS-Midwest, CSN-California, DSS
College Basketball
SMU at Cincinnati, 11:00 AM - ESPN 2
Villanova at Seton Hall, 12:00 PM - FS1
Syracuse at Virginia Tech, 12:00 PM - RSN, MSG, FS-South, SunSports, San Diego
Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Minnesota at Maryland, 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Pittsburgh at NC State, 12:00 PM - ACC Network, ESPN3.com
Holy Cross at American Univ, 1:00 PM - Patriot League Network
North Alabama at Auburn, 1:00 PM - SEC Network
Florida A&M at Stetson, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Lehigh at Boston Univ, 1:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Duquesne at Dayton, 1:00 PM - NBCSN
Utah State at Boise State, 2:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Bucknell at Colgate, 2:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Army at Loyola-Maryland, 2:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Coll of Charleston at William & Mary, 2:00 PM - CSN-Mid-Atlantic, New England
Yale at Vanderbilt, 2:00 PM - SEC Network+
Austin Peay at Ole Miss, 2:00 PM - SEC Network+
Connecticut at Florida, 2:00 PM - CBS
Gardner-Webb at UNC-Asheville, 2:00 PM - Big South Network
Providence at Marquette, 2:00 PM - FS-Wisc, Southwest, Fla, Ohio, MASN2, MSG
Xavier at DePaul, 2:00 PM - FS1
George Washington at Saint Josephs, 2:00 PM - CBSSN
Texas at Texas Tech, 2:00 PM - ESPN U
Thomas (GA) at Kennesaw St, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Norfolk State at Georgia, 2:00 PM - FS-South, SunSports, ESPN3.com
Navy at Lafayette, 2:00 PM - RCN-TV
Michigan at Purdue, 2:15 PM - Big Ten Network
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, 2:30 PM - ACC Network, ESPN3.com
Cornell at Buffalo, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
UMKC at Miami-Ohio, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Rhode Island at Saint Louis, 3:00 PM - NBCSN
Wofford at Samford, 3:00 PM - American Sports Network
Illinois at Ohio State, 3:30 PM - ESPN 2
Drake at Missouri State, 4:00 PM - FS-Midwest, ESPN3.com
Hampton at USC Upstate, 4:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Toledo at Northern Kentucky, 4:00 PM - ESPN3.com
St Marys-CA at Loyola Marymount, 4:00 PM - Time Warner
Boston College at Duke, 4:00 PM - NESN, RSN, MSG, FS-South, SunSports
Butler at St Johns, 4:00 PM - CBSSN
Baylor at Oklahoma, 4:00 PM - ESPN U
West Virginia at TCU, 4:00 PM - FS-Southwest, MSG+, SportSouth
St Bonaventure at Massachusetts, 4:00 PM - MASN, American Sports Net, Altitude
Creighton at Georgetown, 4:30 PM - FS1
Lipscomb at Missouri, 5:00 PM - SEC Network
Hartford at Texas A&M, 5:00 PM - SEC Network+
Radford at Longwood, 5:00 PM - Big South Network
Richmond at Davidson, 5:00 PM - NBCSN
Virginia at Miami-Florida, 5:30 PM - ESPN 2
Tulane at Memphis, 6:00 PM - ESPN U
South Carolina at Iowa State, 6:00 PM - CBSSN
East Carolina at South Florida, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Presbyterian at Liberty, 7:00 PM - MASN, ESPN3.com
Savannah State at LSU, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
Penn State at Rutgers, 7:30 PM - ESPN 2
Tenn Tech at SIU Edwardsville, 7:30 PM - FS-Midwest
Oregon State at Oregon, 8:00 PM - ESPN U
Colorado State at New Mexico, 8:00 PM - CBSSN
Southern Ill at Bradley, 8:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, ESPN3.com
North Carolina at Clemson, 8:15 PM - ESPN
UC Irvine at New Mexico State, 9:00 PM - FS-Arizona+
Gonzaga at Portland, 9:30 PM - ESPN 2
San Diego at Santa Clara, 10:00 PM - ESPN U
BYU at San Francisco, 11:00 PM - CSN-Bay
Women’s College Basketball
Oklahoma State at Baylor, 12:00 PM - FS-Florida, Ohio, Southwest, SportSouth
Albany at Maine, 12:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Wright State at Northern Kentucky, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Norfolk State at USC Upstate, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Ohio at Buffalo, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Temple at Cincinnati, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Davenport at Green Bay, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Eastern Michigan at Northern Illinois, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Washington State at Arizona, 2:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Stetson at Valparaiso, 2:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Houston at SMU, 3:00 PM - American Sports Network
Washington at Arizona State, 3:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Maryland at Nebraska, 4:00 PM - CBS
High Point at Liberty, 4:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Oregon at USC, 6:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Utah at California, 6:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Kansas at Texas, 8:00 PM - Longhorn Network
Oregon State at UCLA, 8:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Colorado at Stanford, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
College Football
East Carolina vs. Florida (Birmingham Bowl), 12:00 PM - ESPN
College Hockey
Union at Boston University, 7:00 PM - NBCSN
Colorado College at Providence, 7:00 PM - OSN
Michigan Tech at Wisconsin, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network
NBDL
Iowa at Westchester, 1:00 PM - MSG+
National Lacrosse League
Edmonton at Buffalo, 7:30 PM - TSN.ca, NLL Live
Toronto at Rochester, 7:30 PM - TSN.ca, NLL Live
Colorado at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - TSN.ca, UniversalSports.com
Vancouver at Calgary, 9:00 PM - ESPN3.com, TSN1
International Soccer
Club Atletico de Madrid vs. Levante UD, 9:55 AM - beIN Sport
Tranmere vs. Swansea, 10:00 AM - FS1
Sevilla FC vs. Celta Vigo, 11:55 AM - beIN Sport
Elche CF vs. Villarreal CF, 1:55 PM - beIN Sport
Deportivo La Coruna vs. Athletic Club, 3:55 PM - beIN Sport

Sports News   150102

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Thursday, January 01)


Final Score: (5) Ohio State 42, (1) Alabama 35

Ezekiel Elliott’s career game helped Ohio State continue its dream season and earn a spot in the national title game. Elliott ran for a career-high and Sugar Bowl-record 230 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ thrilling 42-35 semifinal win over top-ranked Alabama at the Superdome on Thursday night. Ohio State, ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll, faced doubts about its worthiness after being picked fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings ahead of TCU and Baylor. It silenced the critics on Thursday night. The Buckeyes (13-1) will now face Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks in the first College Football Playoff final on Jan. 12. Ohio State’s run to the title game came after Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller was lost to a shoulder injury in the preseason. It picked up steam after backup quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered a fractured ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan. In stepped third-stringer Cardale Jones, who led a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, then took down the vaunted Crimson Tide (12-2). Jones threw for 243 yards with one touchdown and an interception, while also rushing for 43 yards in the win.


Final Score: (3) Oregon 59, (2) Florida State 20

Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks will play for the national championship. Mariota combined for 400 yards and three touchdowns and the Ducks scored 34 points off five Florida State turnovers in the second half on the way to a 59-20 win in Thursday’s Rose Bowl. The Ducks, seeded No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, will take on the winner of Thursday’s Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Ohio State in the national championship game on Jan. 12. Mariota was named the offensive MVP in the first national semifinal game in college football history after passing for 338 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 62 yards and another score in a little over three quarters.


Final Score: (7) Michigan State 42, (4) Baylor 41

Trailing 41-21 entering the fourth quarter, No. 7 Michigan State scored three consecutive touchdowns to complete an improbable comeback and beat No. 4 Baylor, 42-41, in the 2015 Cotton Bowl. Despite throwing two interceptions, including a crucial one in the final quarter, Connor Cook led Michigan State’s comeback with 314 yards and two touchdown passes, both in the fourth quarter, on 24-of-42 passing. Trailing 41-35 with just over a minute remaining in the game, the Spartans (11-2) blocked a field goal to give their offense one more shot. Cook connected with Tony Lippett on a 17-yard pass to convert a fourth down with the game on the line, and his 3rd-and-goal pass was caught for the winning touchdown by Keith Mumphery, who led MSU with 87 receiving yards. Michigan State ran the ball very effectively, getting 162 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries from Jeremy Langford. The two teams combined for Cotton Bowl records in points scored and total yards with 1,135. Bryce Petty set a Cotton Bowl record with 550 yards passing for the Bears (11-2). He completed 36-of-51 passes for three touchdowns and an interception as the clock ran down to end the game. Baylor was unable to run the ball which made it difficult to wear down the clock. The Bears finished with minus-20 rushing yards as a team, and Shock Linwood only totaled 26 yards on 11 carries. KD Cannon grabbed eight passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, and Corey Coleman added 150 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.


Final Score: (16) Missouri 33, Minnesota 17

Maty Mauk rebounded from two early interceptions to lead the 16th-ranked Missouri Tigers over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 33-17, in the Citrus Bowl. Mauk completed 12-of-19 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers (11-3), who recorded 11 wins for the fourth time in program history. He also carried the ball 11 times for 38 yards and a score. Marcus Murphy carried the ball 12 times for 157 yards for Missouri, which has won its last three bowl games. Russell Hansbrough rushed for 114 yards and a score on 15 carries. Bud Sasser caught seven passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. Mitch Leidner completed 21-of-31 passes for 258 yards and one touchdown for the Gophers (8-5), who have dropped their last seven bowl games. Maxx Williams caught seven passes for 98 yards and a score for Minnesota, which played in a New Year’s Day bowl for the first time since 1962. David Cobb rushed for 81 yards on 21 carries.


Final Score: (17) Wisconsin 34, (19) Auburn 31 (OT)

Rafael Gaglianone made a 29-yard field goal to tie the game with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter, then won the Outback Bowl for Wisconsin with a 25-yarder in overtime. Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon led the way once again for the 17th-ranked Badgers, rushing for 251 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries in a 34-31 victory over the 19th-ranked Auburn Tigers. Corey Clement carried the ball 15 times for 105 yards and also caught a touchdown pass for the Badgers (11-3), who set an Outback Bowl record with 400 yards on the ground.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Cardinals sign OT Bradfield to future contract

The Arizona Cardinals have signed offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield to a future contract for 2015.

Bradfield, a four-year NFL veteran, spent 2014 with Jacksonville and Atlanta. He was released by the Jaguars after two games and signed with the Falcons in late September, but did not appear in a game for Atlanta before being released in late November.

The Grand Valley State product started 27 of the 41 games he played for the Jaguars. He made 12 starts in 2012 and started 11 games in 2013.


►  Lions and Cowboys finish off Wild Card Weekend

Playoff football is back in Big D.

The Dallas Cowboys knew it would happen before the season began by boldly sending out postseason packages to their season-ticket holders last summer.

It’s unknown if Nostradamus had something to do with Dallas’ audacious prediction to reach the postseason, but the Cowboys know they will have their hands full with the Detroit Lions Sunday in an NFC Wild Card Game.

Dallas captured the NFC East title and the third seed in the conference with a 12-4 record and are in the playoffs for the first time since winning the division in 2009. Cowboys quarterback and MVP candidate Tony Romo has only one playoff victory under his belt and looks to build on that.

“I’m playing at a level I’m proud of and hope to get better,“ said Romo, who passed for 299 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in a 44-17 drubbing of Washington in the season finale. “I’m just excited about the progression of improvement and want to keep this going in our next game.“

Romo passed for 3,705 yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He is 1-3 as a starter in the playoffs, completing 80-of-1,235 passes for 832 yards, four TDs and two INTs. Now that the running game has hit full stride, Romo won’t have to carry the offensive load. In four starts against the Lions, Romo is 1-3 with 1,160 yards, 10 TDs and four picks.

In seven home games this season, Romo passed for 1,772 yards, 14 touchdowns and was picked off seven times. He dealt with a lingering back issue all season, but has received treatment prior to the last few games to deaden the pain. Romo has built a strong rapport with leading receiver Dez Bryant, who led the team with 88 catches for 1,320 yards and a franchise-best 16 TDs.

Bryant had six touchdown receptions over the last three games for the Cowboys, who ripped off four straight wins after an embarrassing loss at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. Bryant is the only player in the NFL with 12 or more receiving touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, and has five touchdown catches in three meetings with Detroit.

“Dez is really a remarkable player,“ Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “As a teammate, as a leader, as a veteran guy, you take a lot of pride in seeing the growth of Dez and (running back) DeMarco (Murray) mature as players. Dez is a unbelievable player, he’s a dynamic player, and it’s great to see his growth.“

The Lions are in the playoffs for only the second time in the past 15 years and ended a two-year drought with an 11-5 record in the first year of head coach Jim Caldwell. The Lions just missed out on an NFC North title and the Green Bay Packers claimed it with a 12-4 mark.

Detroit was hoping to close the regular season with five straight wins, but dropped a 30-20 decision to the Packers Sunday at Lambeau Field. Matthew Stafford passed for 217 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for the Lions, whose 11 wins are the most since a 12-4 record back in 1991.

Stafford threw for 4,257 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and has eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark for a fourth straight season. He is 2-0 in his career versus Dallas and lost his only playoff appearance to New Orleans in 2011, throwing for 380 yards, three TDs and two INTs in a 45-28 setback in the Big Easy.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is Stafford’s main target and he had 211 yards and two scores on 12 receptions against the Saints.

Stafford is focused on winning his first playoff game.

“I think, obviously, you watch every game and find ways that you can get better, win, lose or draw,“ Stafford said. “We’re a battle-tested team and have won 11 football games this year. We found ways to win a lot of them and we’ll continue to do that. We just have to move forward.“

Golden Tate, not Johnson, led Detroit with 99 receptions for 1,331 yards in his first year with the team, while Megatron grabbed a team-high eight touchdown receptions. Johnson missed three games because of injury.

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh almost missed this playoff game against the Cowboys after he stepped on the legs of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers while he was down on the grass. Suh was originally suspended for the game for violating playing rules prohibiting unnecessary roughness, but the penalty was reduced on appeal to a $70,000 fine.

Suh paced the Lions with 8 1/2 sacks and is a vital piece to the stout run defense, which finished first in rushing yards allowed (69.3). The Lions were second in total defense and held opponents to 100 rushing yards or fewer in 14 of 16 games, including five games with 50 rushing yards or fewer.

Murray led the NFL in rushing with a team-record 1,845 yards and 12 100-yard games. Murray was tied for the league lead in rushing scores with 13 and opened the season with eight straight 100-yard games for Dallas, which was second overall with 147.1 rushing yards per game.

“Controlling the line of scrimmage is important,“ Caldwell said. “Our defense has been really strong in that area throughout the year.“

The Lions defeated the Cowboys, 31-30, on October 27, 2013 and were aided by Stafford’s 488 passing yards. Johnson caught 14 passes for a franchise-record 329 yards and a score in that one for Detroit, which has won two in a row in this series after losing five of the previous six encounters.

Detroit and Dallas have split two playoff matchups, while the Cowboys lead the overall series by a 13-12 margin.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Sunday’s game features two great quarterbacks and two outstanding wide receivers. The Romo-to-Bryant connection has been on point the last few weeks and cannot afford to have a Thanksgiving flop. Romo threw for 199 yards and two interceptions, and was sacked twice in that Big D debacle

Bryant had 73 yards on six catches with no TDs. He has made great strides since that loss, however.

“We’re just getting started and we’re excited about the opportunity in front of us,“ Romo said about the postseason.

Romo led the NFL with a club-record 113.2 passer rating. He has to be aware of Detroit defenders Suh, Ezekiel Ansah, George Johnson and DeAndre Levy. Levy led the Lions with 151 tackles, while Glover Quin snatched an NFL-best seven interceptions.

Detroit had 20 INTs this season, second most in NFC. It will try to produce a few more turnovers and contain the likes of Bryant and Witten.

The Lions hope right guard Larry Warford will be available after he was carted off the field Sunday with a knee injury. Warford is day-to-day and hopes to be ready for the Cowboys.

“They haven’t really told me what to say,“ Warford said. “Can’t say anything about the injury right now, but hopefully I’ll be back soon.“

Lions rookie center Travis Swanson made his first start in Green Bay and replaced suspended veteran Dominic Raiola.

Dallas had four players with 70 or tackles in Barry Church (97), Rolando McClain (81), Anthony Hitchens (75) and J.J. Wilcox (74). Bruce Carter recorded five interceptions and Wilcox had three.

Church and Wilcox will have to help over the top with corners Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick lining up against Johnson and Tate.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Lions have it tough facing the Packers two times a season and were able to split the NFC North series with each team winning at home. The Cowboys are just as talented, and the Lions will have to enter Dallas’ den in hopes of keeping the season alive.

The Cowboys were a perfect 8-0 on the road in the regular season and 4-4 at AT&T Stadium. The house that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built will be electric this weekend, and getting Murray going early is priority No. 1. As difficult as that will be for Detroit to stop, there’s Romo and Bryant to worry about.

“We have a great defense, they’ve held us in games a lot of times,“ Johnson said of Detroit’s stop unit. “Like they say, ‘defense wins championships’, so if we just step our game up on offense we’ll be alright.“

Detroit is facing a fine collection of talent and will need a complete effort to pull off the victory. It won’t happen this year, unfortunately, as Romo and the ‘Boys ride off into the NFC divisional round of the playoffs.


►  Bengals seek to end lengthy playoff drought, visit Colts

It’s been nearly a quarter century since the Cincinnati Bengals last won a playoff game and they will be back for a fourth straight year to try again, this time in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The legendary comedian W.C. Fields once said “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,“ before deadpanning: “Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.“

Whether they admit it or not Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and his quarterback Andy Dalton have probably thought about that.

Lewis has been the head man in Cincinnati since the 2003 season and has won 100 career games but he’s 0-5 in the postseason, losing to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season, as well as the New York Jets (‘09), Houston Texans (‘11 and ‘12) and San Diego (‘13). Dalton has been there for the last three of those setbacks since taking over the team in ‘11 as a second-round pick out of TCU.

The franchise itself hasn’t won in January since 1991.

“We have to wait until Sunday to answer it again,“ Lewis said of the criticism surrounding him and his team.

“Regardless of what’s gone on in the past, this is a new team,“ Dalton added. “We’re here again. We were able to earn our way back here. We’ve got to take advantage of that. We understand that.“

A glass-is-half-full person might point to the fact that this is a franchise- record fourth straight postseason appearance for the Bengals while a glass-is- half-empty type wants results when they get there.

And those results will need to come against an emerging superstar in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

The Bengals finished the regular season at 10-5-1, winning five of their last seven games but they came up short in the winner-take-all battle for the AFC North in Pittsburgh last Sunday night when Antonio Brown scored two touchdowns—one on a punt return and one the conventional way—as the Steelers captured their first division crown since 2010 with a 27-17 victory over Cincinnati.

Dalton completed 27-of-38 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the setback. Jeremy Hill carried the ball 23 times for 100 yards.

On the other side winning AFC South titles has been a way of life for the Colts over the last decade plus as Indianapolis has taken nine of the past 12 division crowns and will now be looking to build a deep playoff run off of that.

“It’s one-and-done now,“ said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. “We all know the stakes get higher and it’s single elimination. Whatever we have to do to win a game, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do whatever it takes.“

Indianapolis warmed up for this in Week 17 when Luck threw a pair of touchdown passes in only one half of action, leading the Colts to a 27-10 win over the moribund Tennessee Titans.

Luck finished 10-of-16 for 160 yards and set the franchise single-season passing yardage mark with 4,761 yards, surpassing Peyton Manning’s previous mark of 4,700 in 2010. Matt Hasselbeck also threw a touchdown pass in the second half for the Colts, who finished 11-5.

Indianapolis bounced back from a dreadful performance at Dallas in Week 16 and completed a sweep of the AFC South for a second straight year. The Colts, who managed only 229 yards against the Cowboys in a 42-7 loss, totaled 378 on Sunday en route to their 13th straight divisional win.

“We needed to come out and win,“ said Luck. “To get a victory after last week was huge.“

Indianapolis leads its all-time series with the Bengals by a 17-10 margin and won the only prior postseason matchup. a 17-0 whitewash in a divisional playoff back in 1970.

Back in Week 7, Luck, who led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes this season, threw two scores as the Colts handed Cincinnati its worst loss of the year, a 27-0 shutout, the Bengals’ first in five years.

Indy limited Cincinnati to 135 total yards in that one and sacked Dalton three times while forcing Kevin Huber to punt it a franchise record-tying 11 times.

“Man, there were a lot of problems,“ Bengals safety Reggie Nelson admitted when talking about that game. “We got beat and they got the best of us, so it’s always good going back to a stadium, back to the scene of the crime.“

In the postseason the Colts are 20-22 all-time while the Bengals are only 5-12.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The offenses here are polar opposites with the Colts having nary a running game while placing everything on the shoulders of Luck, and Cincinnati becoming more of a run-based, play-action club with the emergence of Hill, who led all NFL rookies in rushing yards (1,124) and rushing TDs (nine).

In his past nine games, Hill has been dominant at times, averaging 103.2 yards on the ground per contest and becoming just the third NFL rookie with four 140-plus yard games.

Hill’s presence forces the opposing linebackers to honor the run fake and that creates better throwing lanes for Dalton, who, despite all the criticism, is 40-23-1 as the Bengals’ starter, the highest winning percentage in franchise history.

“Winning in general is how quarterbacks are judged,“ Dalton said. “If you win a lot in the regular season but you haven’t won a lot in the postseason, then they’re going to say that you couldn’t do something.“

On the outside A.J. Green is currently dealing with a concussion but is always a threat as evidenced by his 1,041 receiving yards, his fourth straight year over 1k. Green’s running mate, Mohamed Sanu recorded career-highs in catches (56), receiving yards (790) and TD catches (five) but struggles with drops at times.

“A.J. is doing fine,“ Lewis said on Wednesday. “He’s doing the concussion protocol.“

The Colts defense, meanwhile, has lacked consistency, especially on the pass rush where they the club has missed Robert Mathis, who sat the entire season, first on a suspension and then with an Achilles’ injury.

Veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is the leader of the group in his first season since coming over from Cleveland, pacing the AFC with 140 total tackles. Jackson has rubbed well on rookie LB Jonathan Newsome, who comes in off a two-sack game last week.

The defensive backfield is highlighted by Vontae Davis, one of football’s best man-to-man coverage corners as well as veteran safety Mike Adams, who led the team with a career-high five INTs this season.

The Indy offense remains the team’s strength, though, and finished third in the NFL with 406.6 ypg but was No. 1 overall in passing with 305.9 of those yards coming through the air thanks to Luck, who is just the eighth QB in NFL history to toss 40 TD in a season. The Stanford product has 12,957 passing yards since entering the league in 2012, the most of any player in their first three seasons.

Luck has got a plethora of weapons starting with the speedy T.Y. Hilton, who amassed a career-high 1,345 receiving yards with 1,159 of them coming after the first month. Meanwhile tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener each had eight TD receptions.

“Suppressing Andrew Luck is going to be kind of hard,“ Nelson admitted. “He always starts off kind of slow and the scary thing is, he can always get his team going.“

What Luck doesn’t have, though, is a running game although the disappointing Trent Richardson has always played pretty well against the Bengals, averaging 101.3 scrimmage yards per game in four career meeting against Cincinnati.

Defensively the Bengals will need a big day from their top pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, who lead the team with eight sacks. Luck will also take chances at times so when the opportunities are there to make a play, a talented defensive backfield has to pounce. Nelson led Cincinnati with four picks.

“We have a lot of respect for what they do,“ Luck said. “They do a lot and they do it well. These guys do everything and do it with confidence and competence. It’s a fun team to play.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Geico Insurance has introduced a new generation of NFL fans to Ickey Woods and his famed “Ickey Shuffle” with a cute little marketing campaign showing Ickey celebrating getting some cold cuts with the shuffle.

Fans in Cincinnati, however, understand the Bengals haven’t won in the postseason since Boomer Esiason was handing it to Ickey. In their minds it’s time to celebrate something far more important than cold cuts.

“At the end of the day, there are only so many teams that get this opportunity,“ said Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth. “It doesn’t matter what your record is anymore. It doesn’t matter where you’re seeded. All that matters is if you win.“

And winning here is going to take some “Luck.“

“Do we want to take the next step? Yes,“ Pagano said. “Do we want to reach the Super Bowl that’s going to be played in Arizona? Yes. We’re glad to be in (the playoffs), but (we’re) never satisfied until we hoist (the Lombardi Trophy).“


►  Ravens, Steelers rivalry takes a new twist

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have always made a name for themselves through dominating defenses, but this season it was record-breaking offensive showings that helped get the rivals to the playoffs.

Quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco will again lead the charge on Saturday night when the Ravens visit Heinz Field looking for their first postseason victory over the Steelers.

Joe Greene, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are just a few names that come to mind when discussions about the Steelers and Ravens take place, but both teams set franchise records this season in points and yards.

Behind an excellent effort from Roethlisberger, which included him becoming the first player in NFL history to throw six touchdown passes in back-to-back weeks, the Steelers set new marks in 2014 with 436 points and 6,577 yards. They ranked second in the league with 411.1 yards per game and seventh with 27.3 points per game.

The Ravens were right behind with 25.6 points per game and ranked 12th with 364.9 yards per game. In all, Baltimore set new club records with 409 points and 5,838 yards.

Baltimore won three of its final four games of the regular season to earn a wild card spot, yielding 13 points or fewer in each victory to finish at 10-6. The Ravens were fourth against the run and eighth in total defense while allowing 18.9 points per game to rank sixth in the NFL.

Still, the Ravens needed a little help to make the postseason for the sixth time in seven seasons as they needed to couple last Sunday’s 20-10 win over Cleveland with Kansas City’s 19-7 triumph over San Diego. That put Baltimore back in the playoffs after sitting out in 2013.

“It feels good. I remember sitting at home last year, a week from now, and it didn’t feel very good,“ said Flacco. “So, that at least won’t be happening this year, and it feels very good. It’s a great locker room right now, and we’ve just got to do all we can to go get ready, have fun this week and get ready for another challenge.“

It’s a big challenge for the Ravens, who are 0-3 versus the Steelers in the playoffs. All three setbacks have come in Pittsburgh.

“It is just going to be another one of those great moments in the Ravens- Steelers rivalry that we are looking forward to,“ said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “It’s another playoff game there. We’d like to win one of those one of these days in their place, and we’re going to do our darndest to try to pull that off Saturday night.“

Baltimore has split 14 meetings with Pittsburgh in the regular season since Harbaugh took over as coach in 2008 and 10 of the those meetings have been decided by three points or fewer.

That was not the case when the Ravens last visited the Steelers, a 43-23 win for Pittsburgh in which Roethlisberger threw six touchdown passes and 340 yards without getting picked for a 136.6 passer rating.

Pittsburgh comes into this meeting having captured the AFC North for the first time since 2010, doing so thanks to a 27-17 win over second-place Cincinnati last weekend.

Pittsburgh went 11-5 and brings a four-game winning streak into its first playoff meeting with Baltimore since a 31-24 victory in the 2010 divisional playoffs.

“It’s typical AFC North ball. We take a lot of pride in being from the North. I look forward to it. It’s going to be typical Steelers-Ravens.“ said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who has guided Pittsburgh to a pair of wins over Baltimore in the playoffs.“

Pittsburgh is back in the postseason for the first time in three years following a pair of 8-8 seasons and won the AFC North for the fourth time in Tomlin’s eight seasons as coach.

The Steelers have won nine of their last 12 postseason games, but could be without running back Le’Veon Bell for this game after he suffered a right knee injury in the third quarter against the Bengals.

That could be a major loss for the Steelers as Bell amassed over 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season while accounting for 11 total touchdowns.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Injuries always play a key part in postseason football and the Steelers face a big one with the potential loss of Bell, who led the AFC with a club-record 2,215 yards from scrimmage. He ran for 1,361 yards and his 564 receiving yards were the most by a Pittsburgh running back in team annals.

In fact, Bell joined Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk as the only players in NFL history with at least 1,300 yards rushing and 850 yards receiving.

If Bell can’t go, Roethlisberger may be forced to air it out even more without his top safety target as Bell was second on the club with 83 receptions.

“It’s the playoffs. You always have to take more. There’s a sense of urgency from all of us. We’re not going to rule anybody out yet. I’m not a doctor but we’ll see what happens,“ said Roethlisberger, who is 10-4 all-time as a starting quarterback in the playoffs.

Roethlisberger had an excellent season, setting new club records with 408 completions, 4,952 passing yards and a 67.1 completion percentage. His passing yards tied Drew Brees of New Orleans for the NFL lead and Roethlisberger matched his own club record with 32 touchdown passes set in 2007.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown played a big part in Roethlisberger’s season, leading the NFL with 129 catches and 1,698 receiving yards. Both of those also set club records as did Brown’s 13 touchdown receptions.

Consistency is a big part of Brown’s game as he has at least five catches and 50 receiving yards in an NFL-record 32 straight games. He had a late 63-yard TD reception from Roethlisberger last weekend and also added a 71-yard punt return for a score.

“Antonio Brown is gifted. He runs all the routes; he’s not just a deep threat, he’s a route runner; reverses; as a punt returner, as we saw in the Cincinnati game last week. He’s a multi-dimensional guy that can score at any point in time,“ noted Harbaugh.

The Ravens may be able to zero in closer on the QB-WR duo should Bell be unable to play. That would likely leave the bulk of the carries for undrafted rookie Josh Harris. Dri Archer could also see touches and the Steelers this week signed Ben Tate, but Tomlin admitted it may take more than one guy to help fill Bell’s production.

“Le’Veon contributes in a lot of ways. When you’re talking about replacing an impact guy like him it’s not a one-man job. It never is. It’s a multiple-man job and it might be a multiple-man job across positions,“ said Tomlin.

The Ravens were excellent against the run this season, but lost Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson to injury among others and allowed 248.7 yards per game through the air. That ranked 24th in the NFL, but Baltimore also tied for second with 49 sacks.

No NFL duo had more quarterback takedowns this season than Ravens linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. Dumervil produced a club-record 17 sacks and Suggs finished with 12.

Suggs has 12 career playoff sacks, tied with Hall of Famer Reggie White for third all-time.

Baltimore rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan has his status for the game in doubt due to a foot injury, but the Ravens do catch a break as talented defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is eligible to return from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy.

The 30-year-old had 31 tackles in 12 games with two sacks and a pair of interceptions.

“I just feel like I owe these guys,“ said Ngata of his teammates. “So, I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team, and I’m definitely just ready to get back out there again.“

Said Roethlisberger of Ngata, “He’s tough. He can the run. He can rush the passer. You don’t usually get that from an interior guy. Usually that’s the outside guys. Just the physical presence that he is, is what makes him so good.“

As Baltimore yielded just 19 sacks on the season, Flacco was able to set career highs with 3,987 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes. Wide receiver Torrey Smith was on the receiving end of 11 of those, ranking second in team history behind Michael Jackson’s 14 in 1996, while first-year Raven Steve Smith led the team with 79 receptions and 1,065 yards.

Running back Justin Forsett had a career-high 1,266 rushing yards for the Ravens and his 5.4 average yard per carry led the NFL. However, he had been held to just 67 yards rushing the previous two games before ripping off 119 versus the Browns.

“We have to be a good running team, because that’s who we think we are,“ declared Harbaugh.

Like the Ravens, the Steelers were solid against the run (100.3 YPG to rank sixth in the NFL) but yielded 253.1 passing yards per game and 23.0 points per contest.

Still, linebacker Lawrence Timmons is coming off a Pro Bowl season with a club-high 132 tackles, defensive end Cam Heyward tied for the team lead with a career-best 7 1/2 sacks and cornerback William Gay returned all three of his interceptions for touchdowns.

Pittsburgh has a pair of solid veteran defenders it can lean on in Harrison and Polamalu. Harrison has 6 1/2 sacks in 13 career playoff games along with a 100-yard pick six versus Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII, while Polamalu has three career postseason interceptions. Among those is a 40-yard pick-six versus Baltimore on January 18, 2009.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The only thing better than playoff football is playoff football between division rivals and the Steelers and Ravens should put forth an epic battle regardless of whatever struggles they had this season.

“It’s a great challenge,“ said Harbaugh. We love this rivalry. We love being a part of it. We’ve said that many times before, and I believe they feel the same way about it.“

“This is probably what the NFL wanted more than anything to see these two AFC North teams go at it. I like to think we’re different. I like to think we’re still moving up but I’m sure they’ll say the same thing about themselves,“ said Roethlisberger.

This game becomes a little less cut-and-dry with the potential absence of Bell, but home-field advantage should be huge for the Steelers. After all, there is a reason that the Ravens are 0-3 in the Steel City during the postseason.

The Steelers have won four straight home playoff games at Heinz Field, going 7-3 all-time there in the postseason since it opened in 2001. Given Pittsburgh is the more consistent offensive threat, it should be able to improve on that record this Saturday.


►  Panthers are ready to prove they belong

The Carolina Panthers didn’t win a football game for over eight weeks at one point this season and now they are set to host a wild- card playoff game as the favorite.

Such is life in the war of attrition that is the NFL.

The NFC South champions will open up the NFL postseason on Saturday against an 11-win Arizona team that will likely be relying on its third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley.

Despite ping-ponging from Carson Palmer to Drew Stanton back to Palmer and back to Stanton before Lindley due to injuries the Cardinals tied a franchise record with the 11 victories and have won 21 total games in their first two seasons under the likely NFL Coach of the Year, Bruce Arians.

Arizona has also won four of its past six postseason games, including a 33-13 win at Carolina on January 10, 2009 in the divisional round, the only prior matchup between these teams in the playoffs.

“It’s a whole new season now,“ Arians said. “We’re all 0-0 and we’re in the tournament. We’re going to get ready for this playoff game. We’re not planning on being one-and-done.“

Few ever plan to be one-and-done but the Cardinals have an uphill battle in trying to avoid that fate.

Arizona comes in having lost two in a row, including a 20-17 Week 17 loss at the 49ers in what turned out to be Jim Harbaugh’s final game as San Francisco’s head coach.

Lindley did throw his first two career touchdown passes to Michael Floyd in the setback and completed 23-of-39 passes for a career-high 316 yards but he also was picked off three times. Floyd, meanwhile, made eight catches for 153 yards and Kerwynn Williams ran it 17 times for 67 yards.

“It’s a loss and no one wants to lose in the NFL, but I think we gained some confidence,“ said Lindley. “We ran the ball a lot better this week. We did a great job of pass protection ... Floyd had a great day.“

Despite their less-than-stellar record, the Panthers enter the tournament red hot, having won four straight while outscoring opponents 111-43 over that span.

Under head coach Ron Rivera, Carolina became the first team to win back-to- back NFC South division titles after a dominating 34-3 winner-take-all road win at Atlanta last weekend.

In the month of December, the Panthers formula for turning things around was running the football coupled with stingy defense, ranking second in the NFL in both rushing offense (199.3 yards per game) and points allowed (10.8 points per game) during the month.

“We put ourselves in this position by playing the way we did in December,“ Rivera said. “We’ve won the NFC South two years in a row and that’s something to build on as we move forward as a football team.“

Against the Falcons, Carolina returned two Matt Ryan interceptions for touchdowns and scored a total of 21 points off three turnovers.

The Panthers’ defense harassed Ryan all day, piling up six sacks and hurrying the veteran QB into uncharacteristic mistakes, resulting in an overthrown pass that was returned 31 yards for a touchdown by Roman Harper in the second quarter. Later in the third quarter, an underthrown pass was picked by Tre Boston and returned 84 yards to put the game out of reach.

“They played the way you need to play in these types of situations,“ said Ryan. “They executed at a high level and we did not, across the board.“

Cam Newton didn’t have to do much against the Falcons, and finished with 114 yards passing and a touchdown while adding 51 yards on the ground, including a 4-yard touchdown scramble after an Atlanta fumble in the first half.

“This game meant so much to, not only myself, but my teammates,“ said Newton. “We were playing for so much. We did a lot that a lot of people didn’t expect us to do.“

Jonathan Stewart carried the ball 13 times for 49 yards while starting again in place of DeAngelo Williams, who sat for the fourth straight game with a broken hand.

Carolina leads its all-time series with the Cards by an 8-5 margin, including the prior postseason loss. In the playoffs as a whole the Panthers are 6-5 all-time while the Cardinals are under water at 6-7.

The winner this week will advance to face either top-seeded Seattle or No. 2 Green Bay in the divisional round. If Dallas beats Detroit on Sunday, the winner will play at the Seahawks. If Detroit wins, the winner travels to Green Bay.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

If you are wondering why Arians is the odds on favorite to win his second Coach of the Year award, consider this: Injuries have been an issue for Arizona dating all the way back to training camp when star defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was lost for the season to a knee injury. When you add it all up, the Cards have been without 21 different players at some point this season and that group has missed a collective 109 games. Add in suspended star linebacker Daryl Washington and those numbers jump to 22 and 125.

The health at the quarterback position has been particularly troubling. Palmer has missed 10 games, first with a nerve issue in his shoulder before a season-ending ACL tear. His backup, Stanton, then went down with a knee injury of his own, which has been complicated by an infection.

Palmer won all six of his starts this season and 13 of 15 dating back to 2013 so this is a completely different club with him under center, one that was on its way to earning the top seed in the conference.

Without Palmer or Stanton, Arizona’s big-play defense will have to carry the day if the team hopes to leave the Tar Heel State with a win. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is getting a lot of bites as a head-coaching candidate because he has cobbled together a solid unit despite the absence of stalwarts like Washington, Dockett and John Abraham (concussion issues.)

The group isn’t that great on paper, ranked 24th in the NFL by allowing 368.2 yards per game, but it does force the issue as evidenced by the team’s plus-8 turnover ratio, which is third in the NFC.

Talented cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie are prone to taking chances but can shift momentum at any time with their impressive man- to-man coverage skills. The Cardinals’ defense had 18 total interceptions in the regular season with four players snaring three-or-more, safety Rashad Johnson (four) and Cromartie, Peterson and fellow corner Jerraus Powers with three apiece.

The Panthers’ offense is the definition of mediocre, 16th in a 32-team league at 346.7 ypg but they have some real threats in rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin as well as star tight end Greg Olsen, who both finished with over 1,000 receiving yards.

Carolina could also get a boost in the backfield with the potential return of Williams from the broken hand. The veteran was actually probable last week but was deactivated because he was deemed a liability in pass protection. Stewart, meanwhile, has been solid in his absence, rushing for 486 yards since Williams was forced to the sideline.

“(Williams is a) part of why we are where we are today,“ Rivera said. “When he’s healthy and ready to go he’ll get his opportunities to get on the field.“

Arians, meanwhile, is very concerned with the dual threat Newton brings to the table, calling him tougher to defend than other QBs who have a similar skill set like Seattle’s Russell Wilson and the Niners’ Colin Kaepernick.

“He presents different problems than Colin and Russell,“ Arians said. “He’s more of a combination of both those guys. He can really throw the football extremely well from the pocket. It presents a multitude of problems for us.“

The Panthers won’t be having those same problems. There is no other way to say it than other than Arizona is behind the 8-ball on offense with Lindley, who simply isn’t a competent starter at this level.

Conversely the Panthers’ defense has been hitting its stride lately and finished the season 10th overall (339.8 ypg) after the strong December.

Without the exiled Greg Hardy, linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are the unquestioned difference makers. The All-Pro Kuechly led NFL with 153 tackles and also leads with 473 stops since entering the league in 2012. His running mate, Davis, is almost as productive, finishing second on the club in tackles with 100.

In Hardy’s absence. Charles Johnson has taken over as the unit’s best pass rusher with 8 1/2 sacks, his fifth consecutive season with eight-or-more QB takedowns. The consistent Johnson is the only NFC player with 50-or-more sacks (52 1/2) and 13-or-more forced fumbled (13) since 2010. The defensive backfield is headlined by Harper, who led the team with a career-high four interceptions, but really took off when rookies Boston, Harper’s running mate at safety, and cornerback Bene Benwikere entered the lineup.

“We were trying to find answers as a coaching staff, the right combination of guys—and we found it,“ Rivera said when discussing his rookies.

With all three levels hitting on all cylinders in December the group has limited opposing quarterbacks to a 64.6 passer rating—second only to the Seahawks’ dominant defense.

Lindley, meanwhile, is 1-5 as a starter as a professional and had thrown an NFL-record 229 pass attempts without a touchdown before finding Floyd on a gimmick flea-flicker play last week.

“It was good to get the monkey off my back a little bit,“ Lindley said.

The real hope, though, is that Stanton could make the miracle recovery and be under center by Saturday.

“He’s progressing and nothing’s really changed,“ Arians admitted when asked about Stanton. “We’ve got our fingers crossed that possibly he could go later in the week.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Since 1936, no team has scored fewer points than Arizona over the final six games and still made the playoffs.

The Cardinals have continually called Stanton’s knee injury a sprain. In reality, though, it was a partially torn ACL and a Grade 2 MCL sprain further exacerbated by an infection which had to be drained. He’s not walking through that door at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday to save Arizona.

Carolina, though, is bringing what has been the second best defense in football over the past month.

“It tells you that no matter what you do during the regular season, it just doesn’t matter,“ Stewart said of his team’s renewed optimism. “Things amp up to a whole different notch in the playoffs.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Can Andy Dalton produce in the postseason?

I think it is rather easy to predict Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton’s New Year’s resolution.

It would be to help get the Bengals a playoff victory.

Cincinnati has now made the postseason for the fourth-consecutive season, yet have zero wins to show for, and a big reason why is a result of the poor play of Dalton.

Fantasy owners who compete in playoff leagues most likely have the Bengals signal-caller off of their radar, and rightfully so. Through three-career playoff games, Dalton has averaged only 239.3 passing yards, while throwing a total of one touchdown and six interceptions.

On top of that, Dalton’s upcoming opponent, the Indianapolis Colts have played pretty well against opposing quarterbacks this season.

According to Yahoo, the Colts gave up just 16.6 points per game to quarterbacks. The Seattle Seahawks gave up the least amount of points to opposing signal-callers (12.0 ppg), showing that Indianapolis was not far off.

There are simply not many numbers to support Dalton for Wild-Card Weekend.

He threw for only 19 scores in 2014, and had 17 interceptions to go along with his low touchdown-total. Dalton also did not throw for more than three touchdowns in any game this season, and only was able to do that just once (Week 11 vs. New Orleans).

Dalton finished the season as the 18th-ranked fantasy quarterback, with 241.6 points. With the exception of Arizona Cardinals signal-caller Ryan Lindley, all of the other starting quarterbacks who will be playing this weekend, outscored Dalton by at least 19 points in 2014.

Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton was the closest, with 260.9 points, yet he missed two games due to injury.

Fantasy owners who are currently constructing their rosters for the opening round of the playoffs need to leave Dalton out. Yes, he could finally come through for the Bengals after three seasons of misery, however there just is not enough statistics to back up any potential “gut feelings.“

There are six quarterbacks that need to utilized before considering Dalton (Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton), and whatever type of league fantasy owners will be competing in this weekend, they should be able to have the opportunity to stay away from the Bengals’ signal-caller.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 01)


Final Score: Evansville 52, (23) Northern Iowa 49

D.J. Balentine scored 17 points to lead Evansville to a 52-49 win over No. 23 Northern Iowa on Thursday. Egidijus Mockevicius supplied 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Purple Aces (11-2, 1-0 MVC), who won their fourth straight game in their Missouri Valley Conference opener. Seth Tuttle had 18 points to lead the Panthers (11-2, 0-1) and Wes Washpun added 11 off the bench in the loss.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Thursday, January 01)


Final Score: Chicago 106, Denver 101

Jimmy Butler scored 26 points and the Chicago Bulls had a franchise-record 18 blocked shots in a 106-101 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night. Pau Gasol added 17 points, a career-high nine blocks and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who have won 11 of their last 13. Derrick Rose scored 17 points on 25 shots and Aaron Brooks had 12 points off the bench. Wilson Chandler had 22 points and Ty Lawson scored 20 to lead the Nuggets, who have lost three in a row and 12 of their last 16. Denver’s road losing streak reached seven games since a win against Utah on Dec. 1.


Final Score: Sacramento 110, Minnesota 107

Darren Collison and Rudy Gay each scored 21 points to lead the Sacramento Kings to a 110-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday. DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points with seven rebounds before fouling out, and Derrick Williams added 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the win. Sacramento snapped a six-game losing skid on the road. Andrew Wiggins tallied 27 points with nine rebounds for Minnesota, which dropped its 10th straight game. Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad each chipped in 15 points, with Dieng adding 10 rebounds.



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►  NHL Game Results

(Thursday, January 01)


Final Score: Washington 3, Chicago 2

Troy Brouwer scored the game-winning goal with just 12.9 seconds to play and the Washington Capitals nabbed a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic from Nationals Park. The game appeared headed to overtime, but a penalty to Jonathan Toews at 18:47 gave the Capitals a power play, and just under a minute later a mid-ice faceoff was won by the Capitals that saw Alex Ovechkin bring it into the Chicago end. Ovechkin had his stick broken at the left circle and lost control of the puck, but Brouwer was there for a turnaround shot that beat Corey Crawford for the lead. Braden Holtby then sealed the victory with a tough save on a Patrick Kane shot just before time expired to give the Capitals their second victory in the New Year’s Day event. Washington had won a 3-1 decision over the Penguins at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in 2011, and is now the first team to win two games at this annual event. Ovechkin finished the game with a goal and an assist, while Eric Fehr also lit the lamp for the Capitals, who had come into the game having lost two of their last three games. Holtby finished the game with 33 stops. Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad scored for the Blackhawks, who have lost both of their Winter Classic appearances as the team dropped a 6-4 decision to Detroit at Wrigley Field in 2009. Crawford made 32 saves.


Final Score: Los Angeles 3, Vancouver 2

The Los Angeles Kings peppered Ryan Miller with shot after shot. Eventually they started going in. Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll scored in a 53-second span late in the third period and the Kings rallied to top the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Thursday. The Canucks trailed 2-0 after two periods despite giving up just 10 shots but scored three unanswered goals to end a five-game road losing streak. Dwight King’s goal in the second period pulled them within 2-1 and Williams scored on a power play late in the third to tie it. Stoll netted the winner with 1:14 remaining. Jonathan Quick faced just 16 shots in net for the Kings, who won for just the fourth time in their last 10 (4-3-3). They had been 0-3-2 in their last five on the road after losing in Calgary and Edmonton this week. Alexandre Burrows and Radim Vrbata scored for Vancouver, which had a four-game point streak snapped (3-0-1). Miller made 37 saves.

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


FRIDAY, JANUARY 02, 2015
National Basketball Association
Cleveland at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - FS-Ohio, SportSouth, DSS
Brooklyn at Orlando, 7:00 PM - YES, FS-Florida, NBA TV, DSS
Dallas at Boston, 7:30 PM - FS-Southwest, CSN-New England, DSS
Detroit at New York, 7:30 PM - FS-Detroit, MSG, DSS
Houston at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Southwest, FS-New Orleans, DSS
Washington at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - CSN-DC, FS-Oklahoma, DSS
Indiana at Milwaukee, 8:30 PM - FS-Indiana, Wisconsin, DSS
Philadelphia at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, FS-Arizona, DSS
Atlanta at Utah, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Toronto at Golden State, 10:30 PM - SNET, CSN-Bay, DSS
Memphis at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - SportSouth, Time Warner, DSS
National Hockey League
Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - SunSports, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
Montreal at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - RDS, MSG+, DSS
Florida at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - FS-Florida, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Philadelphia at Carolina, 7:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Carolina, DSS
Toronto at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - SNET-Ontario, FS-North, DSS
Edmonton at Colorado, 9:00 PM - SNET-West, Altitude, DSS
NY Islanders at Calgary, 9:00 PM - MSG+2, SNET-1, DSS
St. Louis at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - FS-Midwest, Prime Ticket, DSS
College Basketball
Washington State at Stanford, 3:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Youngstown State at Ill-Chicago, 4:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Milwaukee at Cleveland State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Siena at Fairfield, 7:00 PM - SNY, ESPN3.com
Ave Maria at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
North Florida at Alabama, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Manhattan at Niagara, 7:00 PM - Time Warner
Valparaiso at Oakland, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Detroit at Wright State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Central Penn at Central Michigan, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Florida State at Miss State, 8:00 PM - ESPN U
Oral Roberts at North Dakota State, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
UTEP at North Texas, 8:00 PM - American Sports Network, MASN
UC Riverside at Northern Ill, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Washington at California, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
UCLA at Colorado, 10:00 PM - FS1
USC at Utah, 10:00 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
Robert Morris (IL) at Ill-Chicago, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Kentucky at Alabama, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Georgia at Miss State, 4:00 PM - SEC Network+
Seton Hall at St. John’s, 6:00 PM - CBSSN
Arkansas at Ole Miss, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Florida A&M at Kennesaw State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Georgia Tech at Louisville, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Auburn at South Carolina, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
LSU at Florida, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Marquette at Georgetown, 7:30 PM - FS1
Indiana State at Wichita State, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Vanderbilt at Texas A&M, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Missouri at Tennessee, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
College Football
Houston vs. Pittsburgh (Armed Forces Bowl), 12:00 PM - ESPN
Iowa vs. Tennessee (TaxSlayer Bowl), 3:20 PM - ESPN
Kansas State vs. UCLA (Alamo Bowl), 6:45 PM - ESPN
Washington vs. Oklahoma State (Cactus Bowl), 10:15 PM - ESPN
National Lacrosse League
Buffalo at New England, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com, TSN.ca

Sports News   150101

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The Gilmer Free Press

►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Wednesday, December 31)


Final Score: (6) TCU 42, (9) Ole Miss 3

Snubbed by the College Football Playoff committee, TCU made an emphatic statement against the nation’s stingiest defense on Wednesday. Trevone Boykin threw two of his three touchdown passes to Josh Doctson and the sixth-ranked Horned Frogs manhandled the No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels 42-3 in the Peach Bowl. TCU (12-1) felt it was worthy of playing for the national title, but fell from third to sixth in the final playoff rankings despite closing its regular season with a 55-3 rout of Iowa State to earn a share of the Big 12 championship. Boykin was 22-of-31 for 187 yards with three interceptions. Wide receiver Kolby Listenbee opened the scoring with a touchdown pass to Aaron Green and added a touchdown reception. Bo Wallace struggled mightily against a stout Horned Frogs defense. Wallace threw three first-half interceptions, one of which resulted in a TCU touchdown, and fumbled once while completing 10-of-23 passes for 109 yards. The Rebels (9-4), who were held to 129 total yards on offense, had their bowl win streak snapped a six games. Ole Miss entered the contest with the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, allowing just 13.8 points per game.


Final Score: (21) Boise State 38, (12) Arizona 30

Boise State once again had a party in the Fiesta Bowl, even if it couldn’t start celebrating until the very end. Jay Ajayi rushed for three first-half touchdowns, Thomas Sperbeck amassed a career-high 199 yards on 12 catches and the 21st-ranked Broncos stopped Arizona near the goal line on the final play to hold on for a thrilling 38-30 victory over the No. 12 Wildcats. Boise State built a 21-0 first-quarter lead and stayed in front the rest of the way, though Arizona got within eight yards of a potential game-tying touchdown before Anu Solomon was sacked by Kamalei Correa as time ran out. Ajayi finished with 134 yards on 22 carries in the Mountain West champion Broncos’ ninth straight win and third in the past nine Fiesta Bowls. Grant Hedrick threw for 309 yards with a touchdown and an interception while completing 24-of-34 passes for Boise State (12-2). Solomon had both a rushing and passing touchdown and put up 335 yards on a 28-of-49 completion rate, but the freshman also had a few rookie mistakes that hurt Arizona (10-4) in its first major bowl appearance since the 1994 Fiesta. He was intercepted twice, one of which was returned 16 yards for a critical touchdown by Donte Deayon late in the third quarter, and couldn’t throw the ball away on Correa’s game-ending tackle on third down with the Wildcats out of time outs.


Final Score: (10) Georgia Tech 49, (8) Mississippi State 34

Justin Thomas accounted for four touchdowns and No. 10 Georgia Tech gouged eighth-ranked Mississippi State for an Orange Bowl record 452 rushing yards in a 49-34 rout on Wednesday night. Thomas finished with 121 yards on the ground with three touchdowns and also threw for 125 yards with a score and an interception, earning Orange Bowl MVP honors. Synjyn Days rushed for 171 yards and three scores for the Yellow Jackets (11-3), who responded from a close loss to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game and broke down a solid SEC defense. Dak Prescott went 33-of-51 passing for 453 yards with three touchdowns and an interception for the Bulldogs (10-3), while also rushing for 47 yards and a touchdown. Josh Robinson, who declared for the NFL Draft prior to the game via his Instagram account, rushed for a team-high 75 yards in the setback. De’Runnya Wilson hauled in nine passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Colts’ Cherilus done for season

The Indianapolis Colts won’t have offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus for the upcoming AFC Playoffs after placing the starting lineman on injured reserve Wednesday.

Cherilus missed the Colts’ last two regular season games with a groin injury after starting 13 of the team’s first 14 contests.

Joe Reitz is expected to man right tackle when the AFC South champion Colts host Cincinnati in Sunday’s Wild Card Round, with offensive lineman David Arkin promoted from the practice squad to fill the available roster spot.

Cherilus, a former first-round pick of Detroit, is in the second season of a five-year contract he signed with the Colts in March of 2013.


►  Marrone opts out of his contract with Bills

Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone has opted out of his contract with the club, team owner Terry Pegula announced Wednesday.

“Doug Marrone informed me late today that he has decided to exercise the option clause in his contract and relinquish his responsibilities as our head coach,“ Pegula said in a statement.

“We are disappointed that Coach Marrone will no longer be an important part of our organization. We thank him for all of his hard work and leadership during his tenure and wish him and his family the best with the next chapter in their lives.

“We will now begin the important process of conducting a thorough search for a new head coach as we continue to strive to reach our goal of returning to the playoffs and bringing a championship to Buffalo for our fans.“

The recent ownership change triggered a three-day opt-out clause in Marrone’s contract. Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the franchise in October.

Marrone just finished his second season at the helm in Buffalo. The Bills finished with a 9-7 record in 2014, their first winning season in a decade, and were 15-17 overall in Marrone’s two seasons.

The 50-year-old Marrone reportedly asked for a contract extension from the new ownership. They declined, and he opted to leave. He will still get paid the $4 million he was due from the Bills in 2015.

Prior to joining the Bills, Marrone spent four seasons as the head coach at Syracuse.

He served as Sean Payton’s offensive coordinator in New Orleans from 2006-08 and was the New York Jets’ offensive line coach from 2002-05.


►  Eagles part ways with Tom Gamble

The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to part ways with vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble on Wednesday.

“We thank Tom for his service over the past two seasons and wish him and his family the best as they move forward,“ said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman in a statement. “I appreciate all Tom has done for our scouting department and our team.“

Gamble joined the Eagles in 2013 after spending the previous eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.


►  Beckham, Mosley named NFL’s top December rookies

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley have been chosen as the NFL’s Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Month for December.

Beckham led the league in receptions (43), receiving yards (606) and touchdown catches (seven). His receiving yards total is the most by a rookie in any calendar month in NFL history.

Mosley registered 27 tackles and two sacks while helping the Ravens clinch a playoff spot.


►  Romo among NFC’s best for December

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and Arizona Cardinals special teamer Justin Bethel have been named the NFC’s Players of the Month for December.

The Offensive Player of the Month, Romo led the Cowboys to a 4-0 record in December as the team won the NFC East. He completed 74.8% of his passes for 987 yards with 12 touchdowns and one interception for a 133.7 passer rating, the highest December passer rating in NFL history (minimum 100 attempts).

Romo is the first Cowboys quarterback to go 4-0 as a starter in December since Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman in 1993.

Wagner, the Defensive Player of the Month, had a team-best 36 tackles, including one sack, and a pass defensed as the Seahawks posted a 4-0 record in December, winning the NFC West and earning home-field advantage.

Bethel led the NFC with eight special teams tackles during the month and had a forced fumble in December as the Cardinals finished the season 11-5 and clinched a playoff berth.


►  Brown, Watt, Barth tabbed as top AFC players for December

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Denver kicker Connor Barth have been selected as the AFC’s top players for the month of December.

Brown, who was named the AFC’s top special teams player for Week 17, earned the offensive player of the month award. He notched 33 receptions for 440 yards with two touchdowns to help the Steelers to a 4-0 record that also pushed them to the AFC North crown.

The fifth-year veteran from Central Michigan had at least seven catches in all four games and had three 100-yard performances in that span. His 129 catches were the second-most in NFL history and he set a Steelers record with 1,698 receiving yards.

Watt, who could be in the running for the NFL MVP, picked up his second defensive monthly honor this season. He was previously selected in September and for the month of December led the NFL with nine sacks while adding 24 tackles with a forced fumble and a safety. He also won the award twice in 2012.

Barth grabbed the special teams award after connecting on 10-of-11 field goal tries and all 13 PATs for the Broncos during the month. He posted a pair of games with at least four made field goals, including a 5-for-5 effort in a 22-10 win over San Diego in Week 15.


►  Cottrell did his job

Better a thousand go free than one innocent man be punished.

That’s known as Blackstone’s formulation in criminal law and kind of explains why embattled Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be playing this Sunday in Detroit’s wild-card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.

While that’s not a popular outcome for many who find the notorious bad boy to be a blight on the game of football, hearing officer Ted Cottrell got it right by cutting the one-game penalty down to a $70,000 fine.

Suh, of course, was punished for twice stepping on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ left leg in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ NFC North-clinching 30-20 victory over the Lions last Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The video of the incident, though, was not nearly as damning as the one that cost Detroit center Dominic Raiola, another Lions player with a reputation that would make Conrad Dobler blush, the Week 17 contest against the Packers for his Randy Orton-like stomp of Ego Ferguson’s leg the week prior.

In the case of Suh, you could at least make the argument that he had no idea that Rodgers was lying prone on the ground before he laid the boots to the star quarterback.

And most who hate Cottrell’s judgment can at least understand that perspective but look at Suh’s litany of misdeeds in the past as evidence that the 6- foot-4, 305-pound All-Pro had ill intent toward a player who routinely dismembers the Lions’ defense.

This incident was the second time Suh was suspended for stepping on a player, following a two-game ban in 2011 for tap dancing on the arm of then-Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Meanwhile, he’s been fined on eight other occasions.

The NFL’s official statement on Suh’s suspension never mentioned his past acts for good reason, however ... it couldn’t.

According to league rules, a player who goes 32 games without a violation is removed from the repeat-offender list. Suh’s last infraction was in Week 1 of the 2013 season, when he was fined $100,000 for an illegal chop block on Vikings center John Sullivan, the biggest fine in NFL history for on-field conduct.

So NFL vice president of football operation Merton Hanks was forced to limit himself to Suh’s actions last Sunday.

“As Rodgers lay on the ground in a defenseless posture, you (Suh) backed up and stepped on his left leg with your right foot,“ Hanks claimed. “You then inexplicably stepped on Rodgers’ left leg again, this time with your left foot.

“The video then shows that you raised your right foot, applied pressure, and unnecessarily pushed off Rodgers’ unprotected leg with your left foot. Rodgers reacted to your actions by pushing you away with his right hand as he lay on the ground. You did not respond in the manner of someone who had lost his balance and accidentally contacted another player who was lying on the ground.“

Hanks and plenty of others certainly believe that spin but the last time I looked the former 49ers ballhawk isn’t Carnac the Magnificent and reasonable people could look at the same video and come to a far different conclusion.

Ed Reed, the Ex-Ravens All-Pro, had a far more compelling, albeit fruitless, argument on SHOWTIME’s “Inside the NFL”

“When you have stuff like this in the game, that shouldn’t be tolerated,“ Reed said. “He probably should have (been suspended more than one game) because of the things that he’s been doing up to this point—kicking guys and really disrespecting the game of football and the brotherhood that we have. Some things you just don’t do.“

Reed’s take is far more coercive than Hanks’ assumptions but like most of Suh’s detractors, Reed is basing his argument on the pattern, not Sunday ‘s actions.

Hanks didn’t have that luxury.

Think of it this way. The next time you are saddled with jury duty, you might get a burglary case with a career thief as the defendant. Any maybe that long- time criminal has a rap sheet longer than your right arm but for whatever reason judge rules that suspect’s past 10 arrests were inadmissible.

Guess what? You’re never going to hear about those past incidents and you are going to have to make your decision based on the evidence in front of you.

That’s exactly what Cottrell was facing and expecting the long-time defensive coordinator to ignore his role in order to play activist and flout the “law” because Suh is a “bad guy” is an ends-justifies-the-means mentality that we have seen fail time and time again on the personal-conduct front.

It’s fair to say Suh probably acted intentionally but all of our perspectives are clouded by his past, which was “inadmissible.“ Meanwhile, if Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones, C.J. Mosley or any other Lions defensive linemen did the same thing to Rodgers in Week 17, they wouldn’t have been punished.

At the bare minimum, that’s plausible deniability for a serial offender like Suh and enough to keep him on the field this weekend.

As for the $70K stipend? Call it a stupidity tax for Suh’s ludicrous numb-feet defense.


WILD-CARD WEEKEND (All Times Eastern)


Arizona (11-5) at Carolina (7-8-1) (-6), Saturday, 4:35 PM - The Panthers didn’t win a football game for over eight weeks at one point this season and now they are set to host a wild-card playoff game as the favorite. Such is life in the war of attrition that is the NFL.

The NFC South champions will open up the NFL postseason against an 11-win Arizona team that will likely be relying on its third-string quarterback in Ryan Lindley.

Despite ping-ponger from Carson Palmer to Drew Stanton back to Palmer and back to Stanton before Lindley due to injuries the Cardinals tied a franchise record with the 11 victories and have won 21 total games in their first two seasons under likely NFL Coach of the Year Bruce Arians. Arizona has also won four of its past six postseason games, including a 33-13 win at Carolina on January 10, 2009.

“It’s a whole new season now,“ Arians said. “We’re all 0-0 and we’re in the tournament. We’re going to get ready for this playoff game. We’re not planning on being one-and-done.“

Despite their less-than-stellar record, the Panthers enter the tournament red hot, having won four straight and outscoring opponents 111-43 over that span. Under head coach Ron Rivera, Carolina is the first team to win back-to-back division titles in the NFC South after taking a dominating 34-3 road win at Atlanta last weekend. In December, the Panthers are ranked second in the NFL in rushing offense (199.3 yards per game) and points allowed (10.8 points per game).

“We put ourselves in this position by playing the way we did in December,“ Rivera said. “We’ve won the NFC South two years in a row and that’s something to build on as we move forward as a football team.“

Panthers 21, Cardinals 17


Baltimore (10-6) at Pittsburgh (11-5) (-3), Saturday, 8:15 PM - One of football’s fiercest rivalries amps up with a primetime postseason matchup.

The AFC North combatants will meet after the Ravens qualified for the playoffs with a 20-10 win over Cleveland combined with a San Diego loss in Week 17, while the Steelers earned the division title with a 27-17 win over Cincinnati in the regular-season finale.

“Anything can happen when you get into the playoffs,“ said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who guided Baltimore to a Super Bowl title in 2012 as the No. 4 seed.

The Steelers used a perfect December to lock up the AFC North and boast an . offense featuring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (4,952 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 103.3 passer rating), running back Le’Veon Bell (1,361 rushing yards, 854 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns) and wide receiver Antonio Brown (129 receptions for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns).

Bell, though, is unlikely to play Saturday after hyperextending his knee against the Bengals.

“We’re going to make the right decision,“ said Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin. “We won’t be swayed by circumstance—the magnitude of the game and so forth. If he’s healthy and able to protect himself and can be a positive contributor to our efforts, we’ll play him. If we can’t answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions and then some, we won’t. It’s just that simple.“

The Steelers brought in veteran running back Ben Tate on Tuesday for insurance. Tate spent time with both Cleveland and Minnesota this season.

The Ravens (0-3) have never beaten Pittsburgh in the postseason.

Steelers 24, Ravens 21


Cincinnati (10-5-1) at Indianapolis (11-5) (-3 1/2), Sunday, 1:05 PM - It’s been nearly a quarter century since the Cincinnati Bengals last won a playoff game and they will be back for a fourth straight year to try again, this time in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The Bengals come in having won five of their past seven games.

“At the end of the day, there are only so many teams that get this opportunity,“ said Cincinnati left tackle Andrew Whitworth. “It doesn’t matter what your record is anymore. It doesn’t matter where you’re seeded. All that matters is if you win.“

Winning AFC South titles had been a way of life for the Colts over the years. Indianapolis has taken nine of the past 12 South division crowns and will be looking to build a deep playoff run off of that.

“It’s one-and-done now,“ said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. “We all know the stakes get higher and it’s single elimination. Whatever we have to do to win a game, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do whatever it takes.“

Back in Week 7, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes, threw two scores as Indianapolis whitewashed Cincinnati 27-0.

Colts 28, Bengals 23


Detroit (11-5) at Dallas (12-4) (-7), Sunday, 4:40 PM - Wild Card Weekend wraps up with a matchup showcasing strength against strength as the Lions’ stingy defense prepares to try to stop the Cowboys’ explosive offense.

Detroit led the NFL in rush defense (69.3 yards per game) and ranked second in total defense (300.9 yards per game), holding opponents to 100 rushing yards or fewer in 14 of the team’s 16 games, including five games with 50 rushing yards or fewer.

Conversely Dallas’ running game ranked second in the NFL (147.1 yards per game) behind the game’s best offensive line and Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray, who set a franchise-record with 1,845 rushing yards.

“Controlling the line of scrimmage is important,“ said Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell, who tied a franchise record with 11 wins in his first season with the club. “Our defense has been really strong in that area throughout the year.“

Both teams also have dynamic quarterback-to-wide receiver connections in the Lions’ Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson and the ‘Boys’ Tony Romo-to-Dez Bryant.

Johnson compiled a franchise-record 329 receiving yards in his last game against Dallas—the second-best single-game total in NFL history, and piled up 211 yards in his only postseason contest against the Cowboys. Romo, meanwhile, led the NFL with a club-record 113.2 passer rating and Bryant’s 16 receiving touchdowns were a team record and topped the league.

“We’re just getting started and we’re excited about the opportunity in front of us,“ Romo said.

Cowboys 30, Lions 20


►  Two Packers among NFC’s best for Week 17

Green Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and punt returner Micah Hyde made up two-thirds of the NFC’s top players for the final week of the regular season.

Rodgers played through a calf injury to help the Packers capture the NFC North title and a first-round bye with a 30-20 win over the Detroit Lions. Rodgers completed 17-of-22 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and ran for a score to earn the offensive award.

Hyde returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown to claim the special teams award.

Carolina Panthers safety Roman Harper registered six tackles and scored on a 31-yard interception return as the Panthers routed the Atlanta Falcons 34-3 to win the NFC South for the second straight season.

Others considered for the offensive award were Harper’s teammate, quarterback Cam Newton, and San Francisco running back Frank Gore. Newton threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score, while Gore rushed for 144 yards in the 49ers’ season-ending 20-17 win over Arizona.

Dallas linebacker Bruce Carter was nominated for the defensive award after registering 11 tackles and two interceptions in a 44-17 over Washington.

Philadelphia’s Trey Burton was up for the special teams award after returning a blocked punt for a touchdown in a 34-26 win over the New York Giants.


►  Anderson, Newsome, Brown pick up AFC weekly honors

Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jonathan Newsome and Pittsburgh kick returner Antonio Brown were named the top AFC players for the final week of the regular season.

Anderson ran for 87 yards with three touchdowns and added 20 receiving yards to help Denver wrap up the AFC’s No. 2 seed in the playoffs with a 47-14 win over Oakland. He became the fourth different Bronco to win the AFC’s top offensive player, joining tight end Julius Thomas, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and quarterback Peyton Manning.

Newsome notched six tackles with two sacks and a forced fumble in the Colts’ 27-10 win at Tennessee to earn defensive honors. His 6 1/2 sacks this season were the most among AFC rookies.

Brown helped Pittsburgh win the AFC North title on Sunday night with a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown in a 27-17 victory over Cincinnati to claim the special teams award. He also had a 63-yard touchdown reception among his seven catches for 128 yards.

Others considered for the offensive award were New York Jets teammates Geno Smith and Eric Decker. Smith completed 20-of-25 passes for a career-high 358 yards with three touchdowns in a 37-24 win over Miami. Decker caught half of Smith’s completions for 221 yards with a score.

Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston was nominated for the defensive award after notching five tackles with four sacks and a forced fumble in the Chiefs’ 19-7 win over San Diego. Houston’s J.J. Watt was also considered after he picked up six tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a safety in the Texans’ 23-17 win over Jacksonville.

Denver kicker Connor Barth was up for the special teams award after connecting on each of his four field goal tries and all five PATs.


►  Haslett won’t return as Redskins’ defensive coordinator

Jim Haslett won’t return as the defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.

The team and Haslett mutually agreed to part ways after five seasons.

Haslett spent his first four years with the Redskins under Mike Shanahan and this past season under first-year head coach Jay Gruden.

“Jay and I mutually agreed it’s time for the Redskins to have a new defensive coordinator,“ said Haslett in a statement Wednesday. “I want to thank (owner) Dan Snyder, (general manager) Bruce Allen, coach Gruden and all the players and fellow coaches for their efforts the last five years and I wish them nothing but the best.“

The Redskins were 4-12 this past season and ranked 20th in the NFL in yards allowed. Washington also yielded 438 points, fewer than only Chicago (442) and Oakland (452).

“Jim and I have had discussions over the last few days and have decided that it’s best for everyone that we have a new defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins,“ said Gruden. “I wish him nothing but the best in the future.“

Haslett joined the Redskins in January 2010 after a year as the head coach of the fledgling UFL’s Florida Tuskers. He was also the head coach of the New Orleans Saints from 2000-05, compiling a record of 45-51, and had stints as defensive coordinator with the Saints (1996), Pittsburgh Steelers (1997-99) and St. Louis Rams (2006-08). In 2008, he was also the interim head coach of the Rams for the final 12 games, posting a record of 2-10.

The 59-year-old Pittsburgh native was a linebacker for the Bills and Jets from 1979-87.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Happy New Year

It’s the time of year for New Year’s Resolutions.

Forget about working out everyday or eating healthier, the die hard owners need a list of fantasy football resolutions.

I played in four different leagues this year and missed the playoffs in one, so my resolutions apply mostly to that 10-team league.

Here are my list of improvements for the 2015 season.

Always target needs

The draft is an exception to this rule. My draft strategy has always been target and stock running backs and wide receivers early.

This “value” method works as I routinely compete for championships, but picking up players on the waiver wire is a different story, especially late in the season.

In one of my leagues, I made the mistake of claiming Jordan Matthews over C.J. Anderson. Even though my team need was running back, my thought process was Matthews had a connection with Mark Sanchez, and he could be a trade piece to acquire a running back.

In other words, Matthews provided more value than Anderson.

Granted, Matthews was a decent pickup as he caught 67 passes for 872 yards and eight touchdowns in his rookie season, but little did I know, Anderson was the exact running back the team needed as he rushed for seven touchdowns in the final four weeks.

Late in the season, always target a need for the playoff run rather than counting on a trade.

Handcuff No Matter What

Injuries were the reason running back was a team need, and the team didn’t have Giovani Bernard’s handcuff, Jeremy Hill.

After drafting Bernard in the third round, my initial plan was to take Hill late in the draft, but I waited way too long. In the 10th round, I picked Danny Woodhead because at the time, his projections ranked him higher than Hill.

Owners never want to reach in the draft, but at that point, Hill had more value to me than Woodhead did because of the handcuff value Hill offered for Bernard.

It’s alright to reach for a player if he is a handcuff for a running back you already have.

Exercise Patience with Rookies

This was actually a mistake I made with one of my teams that made the playoffs.

I took a look back at the draft recap, and it turns out I selected Mike Evans in the 10th round. Go me, right!

Well, as readers can probably guess, judging by the fact I forgot I drafted Evans, he wasn’t on my team very long. Whether it was for a bye week need or someone on the waiver wire appeared to be better, Evans did not last more than five weeks on the team.

Evans went on to catch 68 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns.

It is easy to be patient with the Kelvin Benjamin’s because they produce right away, but other rookies might take half a season to develop. Odell Beckham is another example.

Next year’s draft might not have another Evans or Beckham, but if I spend a draft pick on a rookie, he will stay on the roster through Week 10.

Don’t Judge too Quickly

There are probably several instances where my initially judgement on a player was correct, though, just a couple misses will have any owner reconsidering their evaluation process.

After the Ray Rice debacle, the Ravens backfield looked to be in disarray. It appeared Baltimore would still have success running, but neither Bernard Pierce nor Justin Forsett would carry the load on their own, especially the 5- foot-8 Forsett.

He went on to finished fifth in the league with 1,266 rushing yards and post an NFL best among running backs 5.4 yards per carry.

Although his success didn’t last the whole season, I overlooked Denard Robinson for mostly the same reason: too small. He had a stretch of four weeks where he either scored or rushed for 100 yards.

Even though Robinson’s injury suggests it wasn’t worth bothering to acquire him, Forsett definite proves in the right situation, a small back can succeed.

Take a Risk

For the most part, I do not take injury-prone or risky players unless they fall into my lap. This season, I stayed away from Doug Martin and Trent Richardson as if they had the plague. Running quarterbacks are a big no-no for me as well, and an aging player such as Andre Johnson is not a guy I target either.

However, I’m not sure taking a black-and-white approach to risky players is always the right decision because you miss out on guys like DeMarco Murray and Rob Gronkowski.

Murray rushed for over 100 yards in each of the first eight games, yet I kept saying, “He’s going to get hurt. He has never finished a full season. He will not last.“

I guess I was sort of right because Murray broke his hand, but he didn’t miss any time and blew every other running back away with 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

As for Gronkowski, despite a slow start, he really turned it on and led all tight ends with 82 catches, 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Calculated risks might not be such a bad idea.

Now, it’s your turn. The only way to get better is to learn from past mistakes. What are your fantasy football resolutions?



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Wednesday, December 31)


#4 Bridgeport 66     #7 Morgantown 57


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Wednesday, December 31)


#1 Fairmont Senior 61     Bridgeport 42

Robert C. Byrd 43     East Fairmont 25

Ravenswood 66     Tyler Consolidated 29

Scott 58     Nicholas County 56



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Wednesday, December 31)


Final Score: (2) Duke 84, Wofford 55

Jahlil Okafor totaled 24 points and eight rebounds as No. 2 Duke remained perfect with an 84-55 decision over Wofford at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Justise Winslow added 16 points and Quinn Cook picked up 15 for the Blue Devils (12-0), who will put their unblemished record on the line in their ACC opener on Saturday against Boston College. Karl Cochran posted 13 points and five rebounds for the Terriers (9-4), who also begin their conference slate three days from now.


Final Score: (4) Wisconsin 89, Penn State 72

Nigel Hayes led four players in double figures with 21 points, and No. 4 Wisconsin kept rolling with an 89-72 decision over Penn State in the conference opener for both programs. Frank Kaminsky picked up 18 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Badgers (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten), while Sam Dekker had 17 points and Traevon Jackson totaled 16. D.J. Newbill poured in a game-high 29 points for the Nittany Lions (12-2, 0-1). Geno Thorpe and Shep Garner both picked 11 points in defeat.


Final Score: (6) Villanova 67, Butler 55

With stingy defense and a balanced attack, the No. 6 Villanova Wildcats opened Big East play with a 67-55 win over the Butler Bulldogs. Ryan Arcidiacono led Villanova (13-0, 1-0 Big East) with 15 points and five assists. JayVaughn Pinkston netted 13 points and Daniel Ochefu chipped in 10 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. The Wildcats limited the Bulldogs to 35.5 percent shooting, including just 5-of-21 inside the arc in the second half. Butler (10-4, 0-1) was paced by Andrew Chrabascz’s and Alex Barlow’s 12 points each. Kellen Dunham netted 10 points, but Roosevelt Jones was limited to eight on 4-of-15 shooting.


Final Score: (9) Iowa State 83, Mississippi Valley State 33

Naz Long went 7-of-10 from 3-point range in a 24-point effort that highlighted No. 9 Iowa State’s 83-33 blowout win over Mississippi Valley State. Long added five assists in a game the heavily favored Cyclones were never threatened en route to their 500th victory at Hilton Coliseum. Matt Thomas chipped in 11 points and Jameel McKay had 10 along with six rebounds to help Iowa State (10-1) record its seventh consecutive triumph. Mississippi Valley State (1-12) shot just 24.1 percent from the field and went 1-of-17 from beyond the arc, with no Delta Devils player finishing with double-figure points. Isaac Williams and Jeffrey Simmons scored six each in defeat.


Final Score: Seton Hall 78, (15) St. John’s 67

Sterling Gibbs poured in 25 points to lead five Seton Hall players in double figures, as the Pirates opened Big East play with a 78-67 victory over 15th-ranked St. John’s on Wednesday at the Prudential Center. Jaren Sina matched a season high with 14 points and keyed an early second-half run with two of his four 3-pointers in the victory. Gibbs also sank five from beyond the arc, including one with the shot clock winding down late in the contest to help quell a St. John’s rally. Angel Delgado and Brandon Mobley each contributed 13 points for the Pirates (11-2, 1-0 Big East), whose lone losses have come on the road against Georgia and nationally ranked Wichita State. Seton Hall welcomes another ranked squad to the Rock on Saturday when No. 6 Villanova makes the trip up the New Jersey turnpike. D’Angelo Harrison scored 25 points and Phil Greene IV added 15 for the Red Storm (11-2, 0-1), who had a seven-game winning streak stopped and lost for the first time since a 73-66 setback to Gonzaga in late November.


Final Score: (16) Wichita State 66, Drake 58

Ron Baker scored 15 of No. 16 Wichita State’s final 18 points to help the Shockers fend off Drake, 66-58, Wednesday. Baker finished with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting for the Shockers (11-2, 1-0 MVC), who have now won 19 straight games against fellow Missouri Valley conference teams. Tekele Cotton chipped in 17 points and no other Shocker reached double figures. The Bulldogs (3-10, 0-1) were led by Jacob Enevold with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Gary Ricks Jr. added 11 points as Drake finished its four-game homestand with a 2-2 record.


Final Score: (18) Oklahoma 61, George Mason 43

Buddy Hield turned in a game-high 17 points as No. 18 Oklahoma claimed a 61-43 win over George Mason at Noble Center. Isaiah Cousins netted 11 with six rebounds for the Sooners (9-3), while Jordan Woodard added seven points and eight boards. Shevon Thompson totaled nine points and 11 rebounds for the Patriots (5-7). Isaiah Jackson picked up nine points while Jalen Jenkins had eight points and seven rebounds in a losing cause.


Final Score: (24) Colorado State 71, Boise State 65

John Gillon led all scorers with 23 points as No. 24 Colorado State opened conference play with a 71-65 victory over Boise State on Wednesday. Gillon made 6-of-11 shots from the field and was a perfect 4-of-4 from 3-point range. J.J. Avila scored 13 points and Daniel Bejarano supplied 11 points and eight rebound for the Rams (14-0, 1-0 MWC), who extended their franchise-best winning streak to open a season. Mikey Thompson paced the Broncos (10-4, 0-1) with 20 points in his team’s second straight loss.


Final Score: Xavier 70, (25) Georgetown 53

Jalen Reynolds finished with 17 points and four rebounds as Xavier opened Big East play with a 70-53 victory over No. 25 Georgetown on Wednesday. Remy Abell and Dee Davis each scored 12 points and James Farr chipped in nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for the Musketeers (10-3, 1-0 Big East), who improved to 8-0 at home this season. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had a game-high 18 points and Joshua Smith supplied 10 points and four boards for the Hoyas (8-4, 0-1), who had a three-game winning streak snapped.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Wednesday, December 31)


Final Score: Boston 106, Sacramento 84

Jared Sullinger had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the Boston Celtics’ 106-84 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. Kelly Olynyk added 15 points off the bench for the Celtics, who put the brakes on a four-game losing streak. Jae Crowder contributed 12 points and Evan Turner tallied 10 points and 11 assists. Darren Collison and Carl Landry each had 14 points for the Kings, who shot just 36.8 percent from the field as they lost for the fourth time in their last five games. Ben McLemore ended with 12 points and Ray McCallum and DeMarcus Cousins scored 11 points apiece. Prior to the game, Sacramento coach Tyrone Corbin said his interim tag has been lifted for the rest of the season. He replaced fired coach Michael Malone on Dec. 15.


Final Score: Indiana 106, Miami 95

C.J. Miles made five 3-pointers en route to 25 points and the Indiana Pacers used a strong second half to beat the Miami Heat, 106-95, on Wednesday. George Hill added 20 points for the Pacers, who also beat the Heat in South Beach on Nov. 12. C.J. Watson tallied 11 points and Roy Hibbert contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds. Indiana outscored Miami by a 64-44 margin in the second half. Dwyane Wade ended with 20 points, seven assists, three blocks and two steals for the Heat, who have lost three in a row. Chris Bosh had 18 points and eight boards.


Final Score: LA Clippers 99, New York 78

J.J. Redick made four 3-pointers en route to 20 points and the Los Angeles Clippers handled the New York Knicks, 99-78, on Wednesday. DeAndre Jordan added 14 points, 12 rebounds and two steals for the Clippers, who went 15-of-34 from beyond the arc. Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford each scored 13 points, with Griffin also dishing out 11 assists. Carmelo Anthony ended with 19 points for the Knicks, who have lost nine in a row. Andrea Bargnani had nine points on 4-for-11 shooting in his long-awaited season debut after missing 73 games dating back to Jan. 22 of last season with elbow, hamstring and calf injuries.


Final Score: Milwaukee 96, Cleveland 80

Brandon Knight scored 26 points with six rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks took down a depleted Cleveland Cavaliers team, 96-80, on Wednesday. O.J. Mayo supplied 15 points off the bench and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Bucks, who have won two straight and three of their last four. Milwaukee could attribute the win to a very impressive defensive third quarter, holding Cleveland to 3-of-19 shooting and taking a 71-54 lead into the fourth quarter.


Final Score: Houston 102, Charlotte 83

James Harden made a career-high eight 3- pointers and scored 36 points to help the Houston Rockets beat the Charlotte Hornets, 102-83, on Wednesday. Harden also had seven rebounds and six assists for the Rockets, who snapped a two-game skid. He has scored at least 28 points in his last five games. Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas added 14 and 12 points, respectively, for Houston, which went 17-of-43 from beyond the arc. Dwight Howard contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.


Final Score: San Antonio 95, New Orleans 93 (OT)

Manu Ginobili capped off a 26-point night with a go-ahead layup with 24 seconds left in overtime, with the basket giving the San Antonio Spurs a much-needed 95-93 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Ginobili’s big game, along with a fortunate bounce to close out regulation, helped the Spurs get back in the win column following a rough 2-7 stretch that included a loss to the Pelicans in New Orleans on Friday. New Orleans had taken an 84-82 edge on Anthony Davis’ second-chance slam with 0.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Hornets’ Omer Asik inadvertently tipped in Boris Diaw’s inbounds pass for Tim Duncan as the buzzer sounded to force extra time.


Final Score: Oklahoma City 137, Phoenix 134

Kevin Durant returned from a six-game absence to score a season-high 44 points with 10 rebounds and lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 137-134 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns. Durant sprained his right ankle after scoring 30 points in the first half at Golden State on Dec. 18, with the Thunder going 3-3 during his absence. Russell Westbrook was ejected late in the first half after making a contested layup, then walking over to the Suns bench and taunting them. He finished with 20 points for the Thunder.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Phillies trade Byrd to Reds

The Cincinnati Reds acquired veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Philadelphia Phillies Wednesday in exchange for pitching prospect Ben Lively.

The Phillies will also send the Reds an undisclosed amount of cash to cover a portion of Byrd’s remaining salary. The 37-year-old is set to make $8 million next season and has an $8 million option for 2016 that can vest based on plate appearances.

Byrd hit .264 with 25 homers and 85 RBI in 154 games with the Phillies last season. The 2010 All-Star is expected to be Cincinnati’s regular left fielder in 2015.

Over 13 major league seasons, Byrd owns a career .278 average with 131 homers and 618 RBI in 1,404 career games with the Nationals, Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox, Mets, Pirates and Phillies.

The 22-year-old Lively split last season between Class A-Advanced Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, putting together a combined 13-7 record and 3.04 ERA with 171 strikeouts in 151 innings over 26 starts. He was a fourth round pick of the Reds in 2013 out of the University of Central Florida.


►  Dodgers sign Brett Anderson

The Los Angeles Dodgers have signed pitcher Brett Anderson to a one-year contract.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Anderson made just eight starts last year in his lone season with the Colorado Rockies because of a broken left index finger and lower back surgery. He was 1-3 with a 2.91 ERA, permitting three or fewer earned runs in seven of his eight outings.

The 26-year-old lefty owns a career record of 27-32 with three saves and a 3.73 ERA in 92 games, including 81 starts, over six big league seasons with Oakland and Colorado.

Los Angeles opened a spot on the 40-man roster by designating infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena for assignment.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Wednesday, December 31)


Final Score: NY Islanders 5, Winnipeg 2

Frans Nielsen scored two goals and collected one assist as the New York Islanders kicked off a seven-game road trip with a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Ryan Strome finished with a goal and three assists for the Islanders, who got 21 saves from Jaroslav Halak. Anders Lee and Josh Bailey also scored for New York, which has won six of its last eight games. Andrew Ladd had two goals and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28-of-32 shots in the Jets’ second straight loss.


Final Score: Tampa Bay 5, Buffalo 1

Ondrej Palat posted a goal and three assists to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Nikita Kucherov had two goals and an assist, while Matthew Carle and Brett Connolly also scored for the Lightning, who have won their past four. Andrei Vasilevsky needed to make just 10 saves to secure the win. Tyler Ennis had the lone goal for the Sabres, who have dropped thier past two and six of seven. Jhonas Enroth allowed all five goals on 25 shots.


Final Score: NY Rangers 5, Florida 2

Martin St. Louis and Dominic Moore tallied in the third period as the New York Rangers closed out calendar year 2014 with a 5-2 win over Florida on Wednesday. Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard and Ryan McDonagh also lit the lamp for the Rangers, who recovered from a one-goal loss at Dallas on Monday and recorded their ninth win in 10. Derek Stepan contributed three assists while Henrik Lundqvist needed to make only 18 stops for the victory. Tomas Fleischmann and Jimmy Hayes scored once each for the Panthers, who fell to 5-3-2 in over their last 10 outings. Al Montoya surrendered all five markers on 34 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 2, Carolina 1

Brandon Sutter scored the winning goal late in the third period to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Chris Kunitz had the other goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game losing streak. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 shots in the win. Eric Staal scored the only goal of the game for the Hurricanes, who have dropped their past three games. Cam Ward allowed both goals on 39 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Toronto 4, Boston 3 (SO)

Nazem Kadri scored the deciding goal of the shootout as the Toronto Maple Leafs prevailed with a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins. Mike Santorelli, Toronto’s first shooter, made several quick moves before shooting the puck through the legs of Tuukka Rask for a good goal. Torey Krug tied the shootout with a quick wrister over the glove of Jonathan Bernier in the second round. Kadri opened the fifth round by shuffling a backhander off Rask’s pad and through his legs to put the Maple Leafs ahead, and David Krejci missed the net for Boston to end the game. Phil Kessel notched his 500th career point after finishing with a goal and an assist, while James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov also scored as the Maple Leafs ended a two-game skid. Bernier stopped 25 shots in the win. Carl Soderberg had a goal and an assist, Krejci and Krug also lit the lamp and Rask stopped 18 shots for the Bruins, who were coming off a 5-2 win over Detroit on Monday.


Final Score: Columbus 3, Minnesota 1

Sergei Bobrovsky made 28 saves to help the Columbus Blue Jackets top the Minnesota Wild, 3-1, on Wednesday. The Blue Jackets got goals from Kevin Connauton, David Savard and Ryan Johansen to wrap up an outstanding 10-1-1 month of December. Connauton also added an assist, and Brandon Dubinsky was credited with two helpers. Johansen’s empty- netter was his first goal since Nov. 29. The Wild got their only goal from Zach Parise in the first period as they lost for the sixth time in their last seven games. Darcy Kuemper faced 25 shots and made 23 saves in the loss.


Final Score: Detroit 3, New Jersey 1

Henrik Zetterberg scored the game-winning goal late in regulation to lift the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday. Darren Helm finished with two goals and Jimmy Howard made 12 saves for the Red Wings, who bounced back from a 5-2 loss to Boston on Monday to win their third game in their past four. Joe Whitney’s first NHL goal was New Jersey’s lone source of offense and Cory Schneider allowed all three goals on 28 shots in defeat.


Final Score: San Jose 3, Anaheim 0

Joe Pavelski’s two goals and a 28-save effort from Antti Niemi got the San Jose Sharks back on track with a 3-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. Logan Couture added a goal and an assist to help end an 0-2-1 stretch for the Sharks that began with an overtime loss to the Ducks in Anaheim on Dec. 22. The Ducks had a five- game home win streak halted as they failed to generate a consistent offensive attack despite the return of sniper Corey Perry from a knee injury that sidelined him for the team’s last 10 contests. Frederik Andersen stopped 24- of-26 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Dallas 6, Arizona 0

Dallas received goals from six different players and Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves in the Stars’ 6-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Lehtonen recorded his third shutout of the season as Dallas won for the seventh time in eight games. In his NHL debut, Brett Ritchie scored his first career goal at the 7:22 mark of the second period. Just 63 seconds later, Colton Sceviour followed him up with another goal and the rout was on. Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Garbutt added third period tallies for the Stars. Devan Dubnyk allowed all six goals on 31 shots faced as the Coyotes had their three-game winning streak come to an end.


Final Score: Colorado 4, Philadelphia 3 (OT)

Ryan O’Reilly scored with just 19.9 seconds left in overtime to give the Colorado Avalanche a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Tyson Barrie and O’Reilly worked the puck back-and- forth in the Flyers end before Barrie sent a pass from the left side to the right and O’Reilly snapped it in for the win. Nate Guenin, Jarome Iginla and Borna Rendulic all scored for the Avalanche, who snapped a two-game slide. Semyon Varlamov stopped 26 shots in the win. Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier and Jakub Voracek all scored for the Flyers, who have dropped three straight after opening their eight-game road trip with three consecutive wins. Steve Mason allowed four goals on 33 shots.


Final Score: Calgary 4, Edmonton 3 (OT)

Josh Jooris scored 1:08 into overtime to give the Calgary Flames a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Just coming out of the penalty box, Jooris skated down the right wing on a 2-on-1, took a feed from Jiri Hudler and wristed the puck over the glove of Ben Scrivens for the win. Joe Colborne had two goals and Lance Bouma scored the other for the Flames, who have won four in a row. Jonas Hiller turned away 17 shots in the win. Jordan Eberle, Andrew Ference and Matt Fraser all lit the lamp for the Oilers, who were coming off a win on Tuesday that had snapped a nine-game losing streak. Scrivens allowed four goals on 28 shots in the loss.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


THURSDAY, JANUARY 01, 2015 - HAPPY NEW YEAR
National Basketball Association
Denver at Chicago, 8:00 PM - Altitude, CSN-Chicago, DSS
Sacramento at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - CSN-California, FS-North, DSS
National Hockey League
Chicago at Washington, 1:00 PM - CBC, NBC
Los Angeles at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - FS-West, SNET, DSS
College Basketball
BYU at Santa Clara, 5:00 PM - BYUtv
Northern Iowa at Evansville, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Women’s College Basketball
Penn State at Michigan, 1:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Minnesota at Purdue, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Rutgers at Ohio State, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Wisconsin at Northwestern, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
College Football
Auburn vs. Wisconsin (Outback Bowl), 12:00 PM - ESPN 2
Michigan State vs. Baylor (Cotton Bowl), 12:30 PM - ESPN
Missouri vs. Minnesota (Citrus Bowl), 1:00 PM - ABC
Florida State vs. Oregon (Rose Bowl), 5:00 PM - ESPN
Ohio State vs. Alabama (Sugar Bowl), 8:30 PM - ESPN

Sports News   141231

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Marshall University has agreed in principle to new contracts with Doc Holliday and A.D. Mike Hamrick

Marshall University has locked up two of the most prominent figures in its athletic department, agreeing in principle to new contracts with athletics director Mike Hamrick and football coach Doc Holliday.

Hamrick and Holliday will receive six-year contracts that will include salary increases. The exact terms of the contracts are still being finalized.

Doc Holliday’s teams have won 19 of their last 20 games, including a C-USA Championship and bowl game.

“We are indeed pleased to have secured Mike Hamrick and Coach Holliday as our athletic director and head coach for the long term,” said Michael G. Sellards, chairman of the Marshall University Board of Governors. “They have both done outstanding work in their respective jobs and their commitment to Marshall University and the success of our student-athletes both on and off the field is truly commendable. We look forward to continued success in the coming years.”

News of a possible extension for Holliday began to trickle out while the Thundering Herd was in Boca Raton, Fla. preparing for its bowl game versus Northern Illinois.

Marshall defeated NIU 52-23 capping off a 13-1 season that included its first Conference USA Championship. The bowl victory was the third for Marshall in the last four seasons.

Holliday, who was named the 2014 Conference USA Coach of the Year, has led a resurgence of Marshall football program. Under Holliday, the Herd is 40-25 and has won 19 of its last 20 games. Holliday is also 3-0 in postseason bowl games at Marshall.

Marshall went just 24-37 with one bowl appearance in the five seasons prior to Holliday’s arrival on campus.

The Herd averaged 45.6 points a game this season, besting a school record set back in 1996 when Marshall averaged 43.9 points a game. Marshall has averaged 40 points per game in each of the last three seasons with Holliday as the head coach.

Mike Hamrick was hired as athletics director at Marshall in 2009. Since then Marshall athletics have seen unprecedented fundraising and growth. Mike Hamrick was hired as athletics director at Marshall in 2009. Since then Marshall athletics have seen unprecedented fundraising and growth.

Meanwhile, Hamrick has led an unprecedented fundraising effort at Marshall and has overseen major construction projects to upgrade athletic facilities. Marshall’s new Chris Cline Athletic Complex includes a new indoor facility with a 120-yard football field, 300-meter track, sports medicine institute, an academic center and an athletic hall of fame.

Since Hamrick was hired in 2009, a state-of-the-art soccer complex has been constructed a new softball facility.

Hamrick, a Clendenin native, has also secured home-and-home football contracts with Purdue, Louisville, North Carolina State and Pittsburgh.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Texas A&M student assistant dismissed from program after sideline punches

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin apologized to West Virginia Tuesday for the behavior of student assistant coach Michael Richardson who twice shoved WVU players on the Aggies sideline during Monday’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Sumlin said after watching clips of the incident, Richardson has been “permanently dismissed from our football program.”

Sumblin’s apology covered everyone who could have been bothered by the behavior. “On behalf of the Texas A&M football program, I want to apologize to Darryl Worley and to Andrew Buie as well as to Coach Holgorsen and the West Virginia family for the inexcusable actions of the student assistant,” Sumlin said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

The coach also extended his regrets to his own team’s fans.  “I also want to apologize to the Aggie faithful, as they deserve a program to be proud of, not only in our play, but in the integrity and respect we show on and off the field.”  Sumlin said Richardson’s actions “are not representative of our program.”

Richardson, a former linebacker with the Aggies, shoved Buie as he ran out of bounds. Then later, Richardson punched Worley in the back of the helmet when he ended up on the Aggie sideline after a play.

The ESPN TV announcers initially missed the incidents, but the Twittersphere quickly blew up with video and comments, and they drew attention to them in the second half.  Sumlin says he learned of the episodes at halftime and ordered Richardson to stay in the locker room for the second half.  He pursued the issue after the game.

“Upon returning to College Station last night, I had the opportunity to gather information and watch clips of one our student assistant coaches initiating physical contact on two separate occasions with a West Virginia player,” Sumlin said.  “I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed, as his behavior reflected poorly on the program.”

Here is the entire statement from Sumlin:

  “Upon returning to College Station last night, I had the opportunity to gather information and watch clips of one of our student assistant coaches initiating physical contact on two separate occasions with a West Virginia player.  I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed, as his behavior reflected poorly on our program.

  “On behalf of the Texas A&M football program, I want to apologize to Darryl Worley and to Andrew Buie as well as to Coach Holgorsen and the West Virginia family for the inexcusable actions of the student assistant.  I removed him from the sideline at halftime of yesterday’s game after being informed of the incidents and, after further review, have permanently dismissed him from our football program.

►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Tuesday, December 30)


Final Score: Notre Dame 31, (22) LSU 28

Malik Zaire and Everett Golson both saw time under center for Notre Dame, and both helped lead the Irish to a win in the Music City Bowl on Tuesday. Zaire and Golson each had a hand in Notre Dame’s final drive, a 14-play, 71-yard march, that Kyle Brindza capped with a 32-yard field goal as time expired for a 31-28 win over No. 22 LSU. Zaire, a redshirt freshman making his first career start, was named the starting quarterback for the game on Monday in favor of Golson, who picked up a pair of first downs through the air on the final drive before Zaire converted a first down on the ground to set up the winning kick. The duo combined for 186 yards passing with Zaire tossing a touchdown to William Fuller. Zaire also rushed for 96 yards on a team-high 22 carries with a score for Notre Dame (8-5). Leonard Fournette did all he could to help the Tigers (8-5) in this one, supplying 264 total yards with three touchdowns. Fournette set Music City Bowl records with a 100-yard kickoff return as well as an 89-yard rushing touchdown.


Final Score: (13) Georgia 37, (20) Louisville 14

Nick Chubb put Georgia on his back in the Belk Bowl, rushing for a career-best 266 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries to lead the 13th-ranked Bulldogs to a 37-14 victory over No. 20 Louisville. Chubb’s phenomenal performance, along with a defense that came up with three interceptions, enabled the Bulldogs (10-3) to overcome an injury to quarterback Hutson Mason and reach double-digit victories for the third time in four years. The standout freshman’s yardage total was the second-highest single-game effort in Georgia history, and it came against a Cardinals defense that came in ranked third in FBS against the run. Mason completed 10-of-15 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown to Chris Conley prior to exiting near the end of the half with an undisclosed injury. Conley finished with 80 yards on four catches. Kyle Bolin threw for 300 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-40 passing for Louisville (9-4), but was picked off twice. DeVante Parker amassed 120 yards on eight receptions in the loss, with Brandon Radcliff tallying 89 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts.


Final Score: Stanford 45, Maryland 21

Stanford got to play at Levi’s Stadium. It just wasn’t the trip to Santa Clara the Cardinal envisioned. Remound Wright ran for three touchdowns in the first half and the Cardinal routed Maryland 45-21 in the Foster Farms Bowl on Tuesday night. Stanford, which had made a BCS bowl in each of the previous four seasons, including consecutive Pac-12 titles, had hoped to play in the San Francisco 49ers’ new home for the conference title game on Dec. 5. An inconsistent 5-4 season in the league, however, prevented that. The Cardinal ripped off 35 straight points to seize control of the contest after it was tied 7-7 early in the second. Kevin Hogan completed 14-of-20 passes for 189 yards with both of his touchdowns going to Devon Cajuste, who caught four passes for 47 yards for Stanford (8-5), which won its last three games. Austin Hooper had five receptions for 71 yards, Wright carried the ball eight times for 49 yards and Christian McCaffrey added 57 yards on seven totes in the triumph. Stefon Diggs, who returned from a two-game absence due to a lacerated kidney, hauled in 10 passes for 138 yards for the Terrapins (7-6), who dropped their last three tilts. C.J. Brown was 15-of-27 for 205 yards with an interception in defeat.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Steelers sign Tate as contingency plan

Faced with the possibility of being without starting running back Le’Veon Bell for Saturday’s AFC wild card matchup with the Ravens, the Steelers added oft-traveled Ben Tate on Tuesday.

Tate has already been cut twice this season after being signed by the Browns in the offseason. Cleveland waived him in mid-November, and the RB-needy Vikings quickly picked him up. After playing sparingly in three games, Tate was let go prior to Minnesota’s season finale.

In 11 games this season, Tate rushed for 371 yards and four touchdowns on 119 carries.

To make room on the roster, the Steelers released wide receiver Justin Brown.


►  Cowboys put DT Melton on IR

The Dallas Cowboys have placed defensive tackle Henry Melton on injured reserve due to a bruised knee.

Melton, who suffered a right knee injury during the final regular season game, a win at Washington, will not be able to participate in the playoffs. The NFC East-champion Cowboys host Detroit Sunday in the wild card round.

Melton, a fourth-round draft choice of Chicago in 2009, sat out most of last season with the Bears due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He had five sacks in 16 games played, including three starts, this season.

The Cowboys also signed veteran linebacker James Anderson Tuesday. Anderson started 16 games for the Bears in 2013 and had four sacks. He began the 2014 campaign with New England, but was cut before the regular season began. He then played seven games for Tennessee and was then on Atlanta’s roster, but never played a game for the Falcons.


►  Suh wins appeal, will play Sunday

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh won his appeal with the league and will be eligible to play in Detroit’s playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Suh was suspended one game without pay for twice stepping on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ left leg in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ NFC North-clinching 30-20 victory over the Lions on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers had missed two Green Bay series in the game after aggravating a left calf injury.

It was the second time Suh was suspended for stepping on a player, following a two-game ban in 2011 for stomping on the arm of Packers lineman Evan Dietrich- Smith. Suh also drew a $30,000 fine for kicking Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in 2010.

Suh’s appeal was heard by league arbiter Ted Cottrell, who overturned the decision and ruled in his favor. The suspension was reduced to a $70,000 fine.

The Lions play Dallas at 4:40 ET on Sunday in one of two NFC wild card matchups.


►  Tomlin unsure of Bell’s status for Saturday

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he was unsure if running back Le’Veon Bell would be available for Saturday’s AFC wild card matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.

Bell suffered a right knee injury in the season-finale against Cincinnati. Tomlin, as he did on Sunday night, said the knee was hyperextended and added that there was no structural damage.

“There is pain and soreness and discomfort associated with it,“ said Tomlin on Tuesday. “We’re going to take it day-by-day. I met with him just moments ago, and he was in the training room on the stationary bike and riding like he was training for the Tour de France.“

Bell was hurt in the third quarter of the 27-17 victory over the Bengals after taking a helmet to the knee from Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson. He ran for just 20 yards on eight carries and caught six passes for 80 yards before exiting the contest.

“We’re going to make the right decision,“ Tomlin added Tuesday. “We won’t be swayed by circumstance—the magnitude of the game and so forth. If he’s healthy and able to protect himself and can be a positive contributor to our efforts, we’ll play him. If we can’t answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions and then some, we won’t. It’s just that simple.“

Bell finished the season as the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,361 yards.

“I don’t know whether or not he’s going to be available for the game,“ Tomlin continued. “We are going to make alternate plans if he doesn’t, but we’ll leave the light on for him.“

The Steelers brought in running back Ben Tate on Tuesday for insurance. Tate spent time with both Cleveland and Minnesota this season.


►  Jaguars fire offensive coordinator Fisch

The Jacksonville Jaguars have parted ways with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch after failing to improve in Fisch’s second year running the offense.

The Jaguars ranked dead last in the NFL in points and second-to-last in total yards each of the past two seasons under Fisch’s watch. They averaged 15.6 points this past season with rookie Blake Bortles under center, leading to a 3-13 record.

Fisch was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the University of Miami for two years before head coach Gus Bradley brought him back to the NFL ranks.

Before serving as quarterbacks coach for the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, Fisch also spent time with the Houston Texans (2001-03), Baltimore Ravens (2004-07) and Denver Broncos (2008).


►  Coughlin and Reese to return for Giants in 2015

New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch confirmed Tuesday that Tom Coughlin will return as coach for 2015 and general manager Jerry Reese will also be back for another season.

There was speculation about the job security for both late in a 2014 campaign that ended at 6-10—the club’s first double-digit loss season since Coughlin’s first year in 2004.

“None of us ever expects to be 6-10; our objective is always to play in the postseason,“ said Tisch in a statement on Tuesday. “Clearly, John and I believe in the leadership of Jerry and Tom to reach that objective. We appreciate their ability to work together and in the best interest of the organization. I am encouraged by the outstanding young players we have, combined with the team’s veteran leadership. Our players showed tremendous character by how they finished a difficult season.“

The Giants had a streaky 2014. They lost their first two, then won three in a row and dropped seven straight. A three-game win streak preceded the 34-26 season-ending loss to Philadelphia.

“As bad as things got during that seven-game losing streak, (the players) still played hard for (Coughlin),“ said Mara during a Tuesday news conference. “There was no lack of effort.“

Mara called the low point of the year a 25-24 loss to Jacksonville in Week 13, a game in which the Giants blew a 21-0 lead and finished their lengthy losing streak.

“When I was sitting on the bus after the loss…I wanted to fire everybody,“ said Mara. “I learned a long time ago not to make those judgements during the season. I was just happy no one approached me in the locker room after that game because that was the low point for me.“

Coughlin has a record of 96-80 during his 11-year run with the Giants, a tenure that has been highlighted by a pair of Super Bowl titles. They have not made the playoffs since winning their last Super Bowl championship in 2011 and have made just one postseason appearance in the past six years.

The Giants followed their last Super Bowl with a 9-7 record in 2012, but the 2013 squad opened the season with six straight losses and finished 7-9 before this year’s team again struggled.

“I’m sick about it, 6-10 is an embarrassment,“ Mara added. “That being said, I do think there is reason for optimism going forward. We had some young players develop that we’re excited about. I think we’ll be a much better team next season.“

Coughlin has the second-longest tenure in Giants coaching history, behind only Steve Owen’s 24-year stint from 1930-53. His 96 wins trail only Owen’s total of 153.

“I still believe we can win with him,“ said Mara about Coughlin.

In 19 years as an NFL head coach, including eight with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Coughlin has amassed a record of 164-140. He also has a postseason mark of 12-7.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Joe Flacco: postseason hero

Unfortunately the NFL regular season has come and gone. Yet that does not mean fantasy football is over.

With all the daily leagues out there, combined with the major websites hosting their own competitions, fantasy football does not officially end until after the Super Bowl.

Now, heading into Wild-Card Weekend owners need as much help as they can get in determining which players to roll with on Saturday and Sunday. So, this week I will focus heavily on discussing which players will likely be successful or unsuccessful during the opening round of the playoffs.

The Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco shocked the world two seasons ago, when they made an impressive playoff run, which resulted in them hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The biggest reason they were able to win that Super Bowl was a direct result of the strong the play of Flacco.

Through four playoff games in 2013, Flacco averaged 285 passing yards per game, threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions, while compiling a 117.2 passer-rating. On top of that, he has thrown a total of 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions during his past eight playoff games.

Flacco has now made the postseason in six of the past seven seasons, and throughout the previous five, he has won at least one game. While winning games does not always translate into success for quarterbacks, Flacco does have the statistics, as stated above, to prove he is a big-time performer.

The numbers in his favor do not stop there.

According to Yahoo, he was 160th-ranked player heading into the 2014 season, but finished as the 23rd-ranked player, with 274.4 fantasy points. Flacco also had nice success against his upcoming opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, this season.

In two games versus Pittsburgh in 2014, Flacco averaged 234.5 passing yards, threw four touchdowns and only one interception, and also had a 100.3 passer- rating. He clearly knows what it takes to play well against one of Baltimore’s biggest rival.

With Flacco having already shown the ability to perform at the highest level, along with him having a solid, under-the-radar season (3,986 yards, 27 TD, 12 INT), makes for him to have yet another impressive postseason performance.

Predicting which team will come out on top on Saturday night is no easy task, but I am definitely confident that Flacco will continue the trend of his hot postseason play.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, December 30)


#10 Gilmer County 72     Midland Trail 46

Lewis County 54     Spring Mills 46

Lincoln 92     Braxton County 45

#4 Bridgeport 79     University 60

Doddridge County 52     Buckhannon-Upshur 39

Trinity 56     Liberty 42

Lincoln County 61     Ritchie County 47

Parkersburg South 43     Parkersburg 42

Ravenswood 57     Parkersburg Catholic 53

Williamstown 86     Racine Southern, Ohio 50

Sissonville 55     Roane County 32


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, December 30)


Lincoln County 66     Doddridge County 40

#1 Fairmont Senior 71     Robert C. Byrd 34

Lincoln 55     #5 Tucker County 49

Ravenswood 66     Tyler Consolidated 29

Buckhannon-Upshur 54     Ritchie County 51

Bridgeport 57     East Fairmont 36

Notre Dame 57     Tygarts Valley 48

Parkersburg South 78     Brooke 38

Scott 58     Nicholas County 56

Williamstown 61     St. Marys 45



The Gilmer Free Press

►  The Mountaineers rolled to an 82-51 victory over Virginia Tech

No. 17 West Virginia wrapped up its nonconference schedule in dominant fashion, routing Virginia Tech 82-51 before a near-sellout crowd Tuesday afternoon.

Juwan Staten scored 18 points, Gary Browne added 12 and West Virginia forced 25 turnovers to the delight of the 13,330 fans who packed the WVU Coliseum and jeered former Marquette coach Buzz Williams.

The Mountaineers (12-1), who shot 50% and outrebounded Virginia Tech 36-22, will enter Big 12 play on Saturday at TCU off to their best start since the 2009-10 season.

Nathan Adrian and Devin Williams scored nine points each and Jaysean Paige added eight for West Virginia, which made 10-of-24 from 3-point range and outscored the Hokies (8-5) in the second half 49-21.

Staten sank 3-of-4 from long distance and Browne made both of his 3-point tries.

Satchel Pierce and Adam Smith scored 10 each for Virginia Tech, which is slated to become an annual opponent on the Mountaineers’ nonleague schedule.

Williams grabbed 11 boards and guard Daxter Miles pulled down six. Jevon Carter made five steals off the bench.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  No. 17 WVU breezes past Virginia Tech

Juwan Staten totaled 18 points as No. 17 West Virginia eased past Virginia Tech, 82-51, on Tuesday.

Gary Browne added 12 points for the Mountaineers (12-1), who received nine points and 11 rebounds from Devin Williams.

Adam Smith and Satchel Pierce notched 10 points apiece for the Hokies (8-5), whose four-game win streak came to a crashing halt.

Browne’s shot from long distance opened up a 48-34 edge for West Virginia less than five minutes into the second half, punctuating a 15-4 run out of intermission. Both Staten and Browne connected twice from beyond the arc in the surge.

Jaysean Paige later made a shot from long distance and the Mountaineers opened up a 57-39 lead with 11:35 to play.

A dunk from Devin Williams pushed the West Virginia advantage over 20 points for the first time, 62-41, with 8:23 remaining, and grew as high as 77-43 with 4:40 to play after Jonathan Holton converted a layup.

The hosts led 7-0 early on and then 14-5 after a Staten triple less than five minutes in.

Nathan Adrian’s layup maintained that lead at 20-11 a short time later, and though Devin Wilson’s two free throws pulled Tech within 23-20 to cap a 9-3 burst, Adrian’s bucket and a triple from Chase Connor moved that deficit up to eight.

Pierce’s slam shrunk the visitors’ gap to 31-30, but the hosts led by three at the break on a Staten jumper.

Game Notes

West Virginia has won three of its last four home dates with Virginia Tech ... Thanks to shooting better than 64% in the second half, the Mountaineers finished 30-of-59 from the field for the contest while converting 10-of-24 shots from beyond the arc ... WVU scored 37 points off 25 Tech turnovers.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Associated Press Top 25

1. Kentucky
2. Duke
3. Virginia
4. Wisconsin
5. Louisville
6. Villanova
7. Gonzaga
8. Arizona
9. Iowa State
10. Utah
11. Texas
12. Maryland
13. Kansas
14. Notre Dame
15. St. John’s
16. Wichita State
17. West Virginia
18. Oklahoma
19. North Carolina
20. Ohio State
21. Washington
22. Baylor
23. Northern Iowa
24. Colorado State
25. Georgetown


►  Coaches Poll

1. Kentucky
2. Duke
3. Virginia
4. Wisconsin
5. Villanova
6. Louisville
7. Arizona
8. Gonzaga
9. Iowa State
10. Texas
11. Maryland
12. Utah
13. Notre Dame
14. Kansas
15. West Virginia
16. Wichita State
17. St. John’s
18. Ohio State
19. Washington
20. North Carolina
21. Oklahoma
22. Baylor
23. Northern Iowa
24. Colorado State
25. San Diego State


►  Top 25 (and one)

1 Kentucky
2 Duke
3 Virginia
4 Wisconsin
5 Gonzaga
6 Louisville
7 Villanova
8 Utah
9 Arizona
10 St. John’s
11 Oklahoma
12 Kansas
13 Maryland
14 Iowa State
15 Texas
16 Wichita State
17 Georgetown
18 Notre Dame
19 North Carolina
20 Ohio State
21 Baylor
22 Colorado State
23 Minnesota
24 Virginia Commonwealth
25 Northern Iowa
26 West Virginia


►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, December 30)


Final Score: (3) Virginia 83, Davidson 72

Anthony Gill amassed career bests of 25 points and 13 rebounds, helping third-ranked Virginia survive a challenge from Davidson and come through with an 83-72 victory. Nineteen of Gill’s points came in the second half as the Cavaliers (12-0) overcame an early 12- point deficit to achieve their first 12-0 start since 1981-82. Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points and Darion Atkins had 13 along with 10 rebounds in a game in which Virginia trailed with under 11 1/2 minutes left before eventually pulling away. Davidson (9-2), averaging a Division-I best 87.7 points per game coming in, received 21 points from Jack Gibbs and a 20-point, seven-rebound effort from Tyler Kalinoski. The Wildcats had won seven straight since a 90-72 loss to North Carolina in Charlotte on Nov. 22.


Final Score: (5) Louisville 63, Long Beach State 48

Terry Rozier had 23 points and seven rebounds as No. 5 Louisville got back to its winning ways with a 63-48 decision over Long Beach State. Montrezl Harrell finished with 16 points to help the Cardinals bounce back from their lone loss of the season, Saturday’s 58-50 setback at home to top- ranked Kentucky. Louisville shot a season-worst 25.9 percent against the powerhouse Wildcats, but went 21-of-41 from the field (51 percent) and forced 19 Long Beach State turnovers in its final tuneup before making its ACC debut. Harrell hit on 7-of-11 attempts for Louisville (12-1), with Wayne Blackshear contributing 12 points and seven rebounds in the triumph. Branford Jones scored 13 points as the 49ers (5-10) closed out a winless six- game road stretch that contained four matchups against ranked opponents.


Final Score: (10) Utah 85, Carroll 49

Jordan Loveridge tallied 14 points in 16 minutes in his return from injury, and 10th-ranked Utah had no trouble with Carroll College in an 85-49 rout at the Huntsman Center. Brekkott Chapman added 11 points and six rebounds against the overmatched Fighting Saints, an NAIA program out of Montana. Chris Reyes finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting for Utah (10-2), with Delon Wright had seven assists in the easy victory. Loveridge, who had missed the Utes’ past seven games after undergoing knee surgery nearly a month ago, went 5-of-6 from the field and made three 3- pointers in four tries. Oliver Carr paced Carroll (10-4) with 10 points, while Zach Taylor and Nick Williams had nine each in the lopsided loss.


Final Score: (12) Maryland 68, Michigan State 66 (2-OT)

Dez Wells scored 16 points and No. 12 Maryland went into Breslin Center and stunned Michigan State 68-66 in a double overtime thriller in the Terrapins’ Big Ten debut. Wells, who forced OT with a 3-pointer late in regulation, also had seven rebounds and five assists for Maryland (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten), which moved from the ACC to the Big Ten this summer. Melo Trimble shot 12-of-14 from the foul line for 17 points for the Terps, winners in six straight games.


Final Score: (13) Kansas 78, Kent State 62

Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 20 points and 13th- ranked Kansas pulled away in the second half for a 78-62 victory over Kent State at Allen Fieldhouse. Perry Ellis tallied 15 points and eight rebounds and Frank Mason III scored 14 for the Jayhawks (10-2), who bounced back from a 77-52 loss to Temple in Philadelphia on Dec. 22. Kansas ran its home winning streak to 14 going back to last season. Jimmy Hall had 13 points with eight rebounds, Khaliq Spicer scored 11 and Kris Brewer had 10 points for the Golden Flashes (8-4), who fell to UTEP, 78-75, in the championship game of the Sun Bowl Invitational in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 22.


Final Score: (14) Notre Dame 87, Hartford 60

Demetrius Jackson scored 18 points and Pat Connaughton supplied 16 in 14th-ranked Notre Dame’s 87-60 win over Hartford on Tuesday. Jerian Grant and Zach Auguste each chipped in with 15 points for the Irish (13-1), who have won nine straight. Mark Nwakamma paced the Hawks (7-6) with 16 points to go along with six rebounds and Yolonzo Moore added 12 points in the loss.


Final Score: (17) West Virginia 82, Virginia Tech 51

Juwan Staten totaled 18 points as No. 17 West Virginia eased past Virginia Tech, 82-51, on Tuesday. Gary Browne added 12 points for the Mountaineers (12-1), who received nine points and 11 rebounds from Devin Williams. Adam Smith and Satchel Pierce notched 10 points apiece for the Hokies (8-5), whose four-game win streak came to a crashing halt.


Final Score: (19) North Carolina 86, William & Mary 64

J.P. Tokoto finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds to lift No. 19 North Carolina to an 86-64 victory over William & Mary on Tuesday. Marcus Paige supplied 14 points and six assists and Nate Britt netted 11 for the Tar Heels (10-3), who have won four straight games heading into their ACC opener at Clemson on Saturday. Daniel Dixon paced the Tribe (6-5) with 20 points, while Marcus Thornton scored 17 in the setback. North Carolina has now won eight straight games against William & Mary since the 1977-78 season.


Final Score: Iowa 71, (20) Ohio State 65

Jarrod Uthoff scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out five assists as Iowa built an early lead and held off No. 20 Ohio State, 71-65, in the Big Ten opener for both programs. Uthoff and Aaron White both scored 11 points in a first half that saw the Hawkeyes (10-4, 1-0 Big Ten) jump out to a 12-point lead they never relinquished. White finished with 18 points and nine rebounds for Iowa, which came into Columbus last January and snapped a seven-game skid at Value City Arena. Sam Thompson led Ohio State (11-3, 0-1) with 17 points, while leading scorer D’Angelo Russell shot just 4-of-16 from the field for 13 points in his Big Ten debut.


Final Score: (22) Baylor 92, Norfolk State 51

Royce O’Neale put on an impressive shooting display in the second half and finished with 23 points to lead 22nd-ranked Baylor to a 92-51 rout of Norfolk State on Tuesday. O’Neale was 7-of-9 from the floor and hit 5-of-6 shots from 3-point range, while Rico Gathers, Taurean Prince and Al Freeman all scored 13 points for the Bears (11-1), who have won six straight games. Jeff Short netted 23 points and D’Shon Taylor supplied 11 points and six rebounds for the Spartans (9-6), who had their three-game winning streak come to an end.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Patience still required in Cleveland

Seems like the NBA world is up in arms once again about the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It’s like beating one’s self in the head, but, let’s go through the exercise once more.

This present edition of the Cavaliers was not going to walk on to the floor and be dominant. There were too many variables going against that notion and it’s manifested itself on the court.

That’s why the latest rumblings, focused on an ESPN report that head coach David Blatt is having a hard time getting through to the team, have risen. That comes after a 23-home blowout at the hands of lowly Detroit Pistons.

Since the Cavs have lost two of three games and only rank fifth in the Eastern Conference, it’s time to bang on this drum. Heads need to roll for this disgraceful start.

What a surprise that coaching in the NBA, coaching LeBron James and two other superstars, proved to be a little more difficult than coaching in Israel. Gasp.

Remember, Blatt was hired prior to James’ signing. This is in no way implying that Blatt wouldn’t have taken the job, but he got something way different than what he expected.

And things aren’t perfect in Cleveland. The body language stinks. They perpetually look tired, although Blatt said on Monday that the team hasn’t practiced in nine days.

The have no rim protector. They didn’t in camp, haven’t had one all season. No surprise on that front.

Defensively, this team was going to struggle. James is a good defender, although no longer great, but no one else on the roster, save for 250-year-old Shawn Marion, is even remotely solid.

Cleveland ranks 14th in opponents’ scoring. Defense still remains primarily about effort, so maybe it’s Blatt’s fault that this mix of veterans and pups aren’t trying hard enough on that side of the ball.

Or, maybe a few veterans need to step up and do their jobs.

This nonsense about firing Blatt 30 games into the season really frosts my proverbial cookies. The worst thing the Cavaliers can do at a time like this, you know, a time where they’re playing .600 basketball, is fire a head coach.

Blatt was going to struggle this season no matter what. He’s an accomplished man, but he has zero head coaching experience in the NBA. Then, he has to manage the greatest player in the world, possibly the most famous human on this pebble called Earth. He has to turn two perennial All-Stars into winners when they’ve won nothing in this league, all while growing into the job on his own.

When Blatt thought he was getting a young, scattered Cavs’ team led by Kyrie Irving, he was still greener than Al Gore carrying a frog through Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day. Nothing changed with James in town. The job got more difficult. Thirty games is no barometer.

If James and the rest of the Cavs preach how this is a process (it is), how would it be considered fair to dismiss the head coach so early in said process? Business isn’t fair, but there has been nothing apparent other than an expected growing period and some underachieving that makes this Cavs team a failure punishable by termination.

Blatt is taking it somewhat in stride.

“When things go a little bit bad, naturally, some people want to pin those questions because they seem to be an easy thing to do. I think that’s unfair,“ he said after practice on Monday. “I don’t listen to things. I’m very confident in what I do and what we’re doing.“

Smart answer, but let’s be fair, there have been unforeseen issues in Cleveland.

This offense should be the Harlem Globetrotters. It hasn’t been. When the Cavs move the ball, they’re unstoppable. When the offense gets stagnant, it’s awful.

Kevin Love hasn’t found his way. When these mega-teams get together, someone always sacrifices his game, or, has it sacrificed for him. Love has been that guy. Wasn’t going to be LeBron, and Irving is the point guard with the ball in his hands, so Love was the guy.

The rotation has been clunky. Varejao’s injury hasn’t helped. Against the Miami Heat on Christmas Day, Blatt started Marion. Now, Tristan Thompson is the man, although there’s no true center. Brendon Haywood is the only true big man left on the roster and he’s played 37 minutes this season, which puts him about a minute and a half behind what 34-year-old Mike Miller played against the Orlando Magic on Friday.

The Cavs need to address the problem in the pivot. Dave McMenamin of ESPN, who covers the Cavaliers, said he’s heard they don’t want to look outside the NBA for a big like Jermaine O’Neal, Kenyon Martin or Emeka Okafor. (If healthy, I’d look at Okafor.)

But, as we all know, the straw stirring the drink, both on-court and off, is James.

He had every opportunity to offer effusive praise of coach Blatt and didn’t offer it. James was positive and pragmatic.

“My relationship with the coach continues to get better and better every day,“ said James. “This is two months of us being together. I don’t know him fully, he doesn’t know me fully ... He has our attention. We know what we want to do on the floor. We have to do a better job of going out and executing what they want us to do.“

Then, it sort of turned into something a little defensive.

“He’s our coach. What other coach do we have,“ asked James.

King James was asked, knowing how important an endorsement for coach Blatt would be coming from him, for one.

“I don’t pay no bills around here man. I play,“ said James. “I’m happy with who we have at our helm. He’s our coach. For it to make a feud between me and Blatt, or the team and Blatt, it’s just a sell. It’s just a sell and get people to read and put something on the bottom of the ticker, that’s all it is.“

That may be true, but James has a history with a new head coach to the league and there were no whispers back then about his relationship with Erik Spoelstra.

Compounding James’ tepid endorsement was a column written by Chris Haynes for cleveland.com, which included this:

“Given the massive scrutiny he would endure if he departed Cleveland a second time, if his hand is forced, I’m told he won’t hesitate to make the appropriate business decision if it means bolting.“

I can not conceive a scenario where James bolts Cleveland immediately. So, with all due respect, I don’t think we are the nuclear option yet in Cleveland.

Every day that goes by, the argument that Cleveland needs time to make this work loses luster. But, the reality is, if this is a long-term process with the Cavs, then 30 games is no real test.

It’s enough of questioning the Cavs this early. Expectations were entirely too high, so reality has set in. Reality is still pretty good with a possibility for improvement.

Nothing nuclear, Cavs. Stay the course.


►  NBA Game Results

(Tuesday, December 30)


Final Score: Detroit 109, Orlando 86

Jodie Meeks scored 20 of his 34 points in the second quarter and made a career-high nine 3-pointers to lead the Detroit Pistons to a 109-86 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. Andre Drummond contributed 17 points and 22 rebounds, and D.J. Augustin added 11 points and 10 assists off the bench. Detroit has won three straight games, all of which coming without forward Josh Smith, who was released and has since signed with the Houston Rockets. The Pistons set a franchise record with 17 triples in a win over Cleveland on Sunday, then registered 14 shots from beyond in this one, led by the 9-of-11 effort from Meeks. Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy returned to Orlando after spending five seasons leading the Magic, highlighted by a trip to the NBA Finals in 2008-09. He took the past two years off before accepting the position in Detroit. Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 16 points and Tobias Harris deposited 15, while Nikola Vucevic had 10 points and five rebounds.


Final Score: Atlanta 109, Cleveland 101

Paul Millsap’s 26 points and nine rebounds helped the Atlanta Hawks take down the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers, 109-101, on Tuesday. Jeff Teague gave 23 points and 11 assists and Kyle Korver made five 3- pointers en route to 19 points for the Hawks, winners in seven of their last eight games. Cleveland’s loss came despite 35 points and nine assists from Kyrie Irving, who had missed the previous two contests due to a bone bruise in his left knee. Tristan Thompson added 18 points and 13 boards for the Cavs, who were without LeBron James and lost Kevin Love to an injury. James celebrated his 30th birthday in street clothes. He was a late scratch with a sore left knee. Love, meanwhile, had seven points on 1-of-8 shooting before departing with back spasms.


Final Score: Brooklyn 96, Chicago 82

Brook Lopez had 29 points and the Brooklyn Nets routed the Bulls 96-82 to snap Chicago’s seven-game winning streak. Brooklyn outscored the Bulls 31-14 in the second quarter and never relinquished the advantage in the second half, leading by as many as 23 in the fourth. The Nets had dropped 12 of their last 14 games at the United Center coming in. Joe Johnson posted 20 points and 11 rebounds for Brooklyn, which has won five of its last six games on the heels of a three-game losing streak. Joakim Noah tallied 12 points and 12 boards, while Mike Dunleavy netted 23 points for the Bulls. Derrick Rose had just four points on 2-of-15 shooting in defeat.


Final Score: Memphis 95, San Antonio 87

Mike Conley filled the stat sheet with 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists to guide the Memphis Grizzlies to a 95-87 win over the short-handed San Antonio Spurs. Marc Gasol chipped in 17 points and nine boards for the Grizzlies, who exacted a bit of revenge on the Spurs. San Antonio snapped Memphis’ franchise-record 22-game home winning streak on Dec. 5. The teams then played a triple-overtime thriller won by the Grizzlies, 117-116, on Dec. 17. Tayshaun Prince totaled 12 points for the Grizzlies, who have won back-to-back contests following a four-game skid. The Spurs, who played without Kawhi Leonard (bruised right hand) and Tony Parker (strained left hamstring), lost for the seventh time in nine games. Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph each had 18 points for San Antonio. Tim Duncan chipped in nine points and 10 rebounds.


Final Score: New Orleans 110, Phoenix 106

Tyreke Evans scored 24 points with eight rebounds and was instrumental down the stretch to help the New Orleans Pelicans in a 110-106 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. Jrue Holiday had 21 points with six assists and Anthony Davis contributed 19 points and season- high 18 rebounds for the Pelicans, who have won two of their last three. Goran Dragic paced the Suns with 22 points, Eric Bledsoe tallied 21 points with eight assists and Gerald Green scored 17 off the bench. Markieff Morris added 13 points for Phoenix, which had its six-game winning streak snapped.


Final Score: Dallas 114, Washington 87

Monta Ellis led six Mavericks in double figures with 20 points and Dallas smoked the Washington Wizards 114-87 on Tuesday. Chandler Parsons, Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson all scored 14 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 13 for Dallas, which completed a 3-0 homestand. The Mavericks, who own the league’s best offense, have scored at least 102 points in five straight games. John Wall came back to Earth with 11 points and eight assists—a good game but average by his recent standards—as Washington’s three-game win streak came to a screeching halt. Wall finished December with 10 double-doubles in 16 games, and the Wizards end the month with a 12-4 record.


Final Score: LA Lakers 111, Denver 103

Kobe Bryant had a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Denver Nuggets 111-103 on Tuesday night. Carlos Boozer posted 19 points and nine rebounds, Ronnie Price netted 18 points and Wesley Johnson added 16 for the Lakers, who had dropped six of their last seven games coming in. Ty Lawson supplied 16 points and nine assists and Jusuf Nurkic provided 16 points and eight boards for Denver, which has dropped four of its last five contests.


Final Score: Utah 100, Minnesota 94

Gordon Hayward scored 11 of his 26 points in the final quarter, and the Utah Jazz rallied to upend the Timberwolves, 100-94, and send Minnesota to its ninth straight defeat. Trey Burke netted a season-best 26 points for Utah, which finished the game on a 16-2 run. Hayward had 11 of those points, as the Jazz won for the third time in four games. Derrick Favors scored 15, and Enes Kanter tallied 14 points and 12 rebounds in the win. Shabazz Muhammad scored a career-high 30 for Minnesota, which fell to 5-25. Andrew Wiggins totaled 21 points for the Timberwolves, whose only field goal over the final four minutes was a tip-in from Gorgui Dieng.


Final Score: Portland 102, Toronto 97 (OT)

Damian Lillard posted 26 points and nine assists, outdueling fellow star point guard Kyle Lowry and helping the Portland Trail Blazers rally past the Toronto Raptors, 102-97, in overtime. LeMarcus Aldridge added 23 points and 13 boards and Wesley Matthews scored 19 for Portland, which improved to 15-1 against the Eastern Conference. Kyle Lowry tallied 25 with seven rebounds and five assists for the Raptors, who still hold a half-game lead over Atlanta for the best record in the East.


Final Score: Golden State 126, Philadelphia 86

Another trip to Oakland ... another blowout loss for the 76ers. Marreese Speights led a balanced scoring attack with 23 points to pace the Golden State Warriors to a 126-86 rout of Philadelphia. Leandro Barbosa added 17 points and Draymond Green tallied 10 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three blocks for the NBA-best Warriors (25-5), who have won back-to-back contests since losing two straight games at Staples Center last week to the Lakers and Clippers. Stephen Curry had 13 points and nine assists, while Klay Thompson scored 14 in the win. Seven Warriors scored in double figures. Golden State won 123-80 at home against the Sixers Feb. 10, 2014, and this game produced a similar result. To say it was sloppy performance by the Sixers would be an understatement. They committed 28 turnovers, which led to 43 Golden State points. Henry Sims scored 19 for the Sixers, who have dropped three straight and eight of their last 10 contests to fall to an NBA-worst 4-26. Michael Carter-Williams was limited to four points on 1-of-7 shooting.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Padres send Smith to Mariners

The San Diego Padres announced Tuesday that outfielder Seth Smith has been shipped to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitcher Brandon Maurer.

Smith, who had agreed to a two-year contract extension in early July, finished his sole season in southern California by hitting .266 and totaling 12 home runs, 31 doubles and 48 RBI over 136 games.

The 32-year-old Mississippi native is a lifetime .265 hitter over 865 games with Colorado, Oakland and San Diego since 2007.

Maurer, 24, went 1-4 with a 4.65 earned run average in 38 appearances for the Mariners last season. He’s gone 6-12 with a 5.58 ERA over 60 contests in two years for the franchise.


►  Royals OF Gordon has surgery on wrist

Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon had wrist surgery on Tuesday, but should be ready by spring training.

The procedure repaired the extensor retinaculum in Gordon’s right wrist, which bothered the All-Star left fielder for most of the 2014 season.

“Alex reached out just prior to Christmas to report that he was experiencing some right wrist discomfort during his offseason workouts,“ said Royals trainer Nick Kenney in a statement released by the team Tuesday. “We asked him to come to Kansas City after the holiday for an evaluation and it was determined he needed to have this repaired now to avoid any further complications and any delay in his start to the upcoming season.“

Gordon helped the Royals win the AL pennant last season by hitting .266 with 19 home runs, 74 RBI and a .351 on-base percentage. He also picked up his fourth straight Gold Glove Award.

The two-time All-Star will turn 31 before the start of spring training.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Tuesday, December 30)


Final Score: Montreal 2, Florida 1 (SO)

P.A. Parenteau netted the lone marker in the shootout and Montreal overcame some late Florida heroics to post a 2-1 victory on Tuesday. Brendan Gallagher tallied in regulation for the Canadiens, who have won four in a row and tied idle Tampa Bay atop the Atlantic Division. Dustin Tokarski managed to stop 36 shots over the game’s first 65 minutes and all three chances in the breakaway rounds. Nick Bjugstad provided the lone offense for the Panthers, who dropped the second game in their last six. Roberto Luongo took the loss despite 33 stops.


Final Score: Nashville 3, St. Louis 2

Shea Weber scored twice, including the deciding goal midway through the third period, as Nashville skated away with a 3-2 win over St. Louis at Bridgestone Arena. Gabriel Bourque added a goal and one assist for the Predators, who retained their perfect record (12-0-0) following a loss. Pekka Rinne came up with 26 stops for the hosts. Brian Elliott returned from injured reserve and halted a season-high 44 shots for the Blues, losers in five of their last six. Chris Butler and T.J. Oshie netted second-period markers in defeat.


Final Score: Edmonton 3, Los Angeles 2 (SO)

David Perron scored the lone goal of the shootout as the Edmonton Oilers ended a nine-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Each team had a good chance to score in the shootout before Perron’s winner. Jordan Eberle, Edmonton’s second shooter, made several moves before Jonathan Quick’s glove stuffed his offering at the goal line. Tyler Toffoli followed for the Kings, but his shot rang off the right post. Perron ended the skills competition in the fourth round as he moved the puck from his forehand to his backhand and quickly lifted it over Quick’s pad for the game-winner. Matt Hendricks and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in regulation and Ben Scrivens made 37 saves in his 100th career game for the Oilers, who won their first game since a 2-1 win over San Jose on Dec. 7. Edmonton head coach Todd Nelson earned his first win as an NHL coach since taking over for Dallas Eakins on Dec. 15. Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin lit the lamp for Los Angeles, which has dropped three of its last four. Quick stopped 19 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Vancouver 3, San Jose 1

Ryan Miller made 31 saves as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the San Jose Sharks, 3-1, on Tuesday. Bo Horvat, Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata all scored for the Canucks, who have won three of their last four games. Miller has now won his last seven starts against the Sharks and has won 9-of-11 career games when facing them. San Jose’s lone goal came on Joe Thornton’s successful penalty shot and Alex Stalock allowed all three goals on 21 shots in his team’s third straight loss.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2014
National Basketball Association
Sacramento at Boston, 1:00 PM - CSN-California, New England, DSS
Miami at Indiana, 3:00 PM - SunSports, FS-Indiana, DSS
New York at LA Clippers, 6:00 PM - MSG, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS
Charlotte at Houston, 7:00 PM - SportSouth, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Milwaukee at Cleveland, 7:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin, Ohio, DSS
New Orleans at San Antonio, 7:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, Southwest, DSS
Phoenix at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - FS-Arizona, Oklahoma, DSS
National Hockey League
NY Islanders at Winnipeg, 5:00 PM - MSG+, TSN3, DSS
NY Rangers at Florida, 6:00 PM - MSG2, FS-Florida, DSS
Tampa Bay at Buffalo, 6:00 PM - SunSports, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Minnesota at Columbus, 7:00 PM - FS-North, Ohio, DSS
Toronto at Boston, 7:00 PM - SNET, NESN, DSS
Carolina at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - FS-Carolina, ROOT-Pittsburgh, DSS
New Jersey at Detroit, 7:30 PM - MSG+, MSG+2, FS-Detroit, DSS
San Jose at Anaheim, 8:00 PM - CSN-California, FS-West, DSS
Arizona at Dallas, 8:00 PM - FS-Arizona+, Southwest, DSS
Philadelphia at Colorado, 9:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, Altitude, DSS
Edmonton at Calgary, 9:30 PM - SNET, SNET1, DSS
College Basketball
Tulane at East Carolina, 12:00 PM - ESPNews
South Carolina State at Fordham, 12:00 PM - SNY
St. John’s at Seton Hall, 12:00 PM - FS1
Tulsa at UCF, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Temple at Connecticut, 1:00 PM - ESPN 2
Chicago State at Green Bay, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
East Tennessee State at Tennessee, 1:00 PM - SEC Network
Princeton at Wake Forest, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Penn State at Wisconsin, 1:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Colgate at Lehigh, 2:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Bradley at Illinois-Chicago, 2:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, ESPN3.com
Houston at Memphis, 2:00 PM - ESPN U
Vanderbilt at Saint Louis, 2:00 PM - FS-Midwest
American at Bucknell, 2:30 PM - Patriot League Network
Butler at Villanova, 2:30 PM - FS1
Lafayette at Army, 3:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Wofford at Duke, 3:00 PM - RSN, ESPN3.com
Minnesota at Purdue, 3:15 PM - Big Ten Network
Indiana State at Illinois State, 4:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, ESPN3.com
Georgia at Kansas State, 4:00 PM - ESPN U
Loyola-Maryland at Navy, 4:00 PM - Patriot League Network
UNC Asheville at Radford, 4:00 PM - Big South Network
Brown at Rhode Island, 4:00 PM - OCN
Marquette at DePaul, 5:00 PM - FS1
George Mason at Oklahoma, 5:00 PM - Sooner Sports TV
Air Force at San Diego State, 5:00 PM - ESPN3.com
South Florida at SMU, 5:00 PM - ESPN 2
Indiana at Nebraska, 5:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Cornell at Syracuse, 6:00 PM - ESPN U
Wichita State at Drake, 6:05 PM - MC22, ESPN3.com
Missouri State at Southern Illinois, 6:05 PM - WDKA-49, ESPN3.com
Fresno State at New Mexico, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Creighton at Providence, 7:30 PM - FS1
Boise State at Colorado State, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
San Jose State at Utah State, 9:00 PM - Mountain West Network
UNLV at Wyoming, 9:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Georgetown at Xavier, 10:00 PM - FS1
Women’s College Basketball
UNC Wilmington at Stetson, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Dayton at Central Michigan, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Connecticut at East Carolina, 2:30 PM - SNY, ESPN3.com
North Texas at Texas A&M, 5:00 PM - SEC Network+
Michigan State at Indiana, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
College Football
Ole Miss vs. TCU (Peach Bowl), 12:30 PM - ESPN
Boise State vs. Arizona (Fiesta Bowl), 4:00 PM - ESPN
Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech (Orange Bowl), 8:00 PM - ESPN

Sports News   141230

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Gibson on Texas A&M assistant’s antics: ‘That’s embarrassing’

Skyler Howard made “Money Manziel” fingers, and Kevin White got his point across by flashing only one finger. Texas A&M pile up personal fouls like spare ribs and one of its assistants nearly went Woody Hayes on a couple of Mountaineers players.

Between the elevated trash-talking and post-play shoving, the Liberty Bowl became a testy finale for two squads that had been whoofing at one another for several days.

“We knew it was going to be like that,” said Howard, the West Virginia sophomore who graduated from high school in Fort Worth the same year Johnny Football rose to Heisman prominence.

“We met at the hotel. We had a dinner together. We had parties together. There were some jabs being thrown all week. We knew it was going to be amped up like this. We wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s really fun when it’s like that.”

The fun got out of hand when Texas A&M student coach Michael Richardson twice shoved West Virginia players along the Aggies sideline. He slapped cornerback Daryl Worley in the back of the helmet and jostled with running back Andrew Buie—two clips that had gone viral by halftime.

Which meant Richardson was gone for the second half.

“I was made aware of the situation at halftime,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. “He did not return to the field, and he’s already been sent home. That’s nothing that we condone. There’s nothing about that whole situation that’s a part of who we are and what we believe in.”

Word of Richardson’s sideline antics reached the West Virginia staff.

“I hope it gets addressed,” said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “The guys in the press box were telling us, (because) I couldn’t see it from field level. There’s no need for that in any sport. That’s embarrassing.

“I told our kids don’t get caught up in the emotion. There were cheap shots thrown, and there were guys mouthing. We kept our cool on our side of the ball pretty well today.”

Texas A&M’s top tackler Howard Matthews was ejected for targeting in the first quarter, and West Virginia right tackle Marquis Lucas flirted with the same fate after taking two swings at Aggies nose guard Alonzo Williams. Officials threw off-setting flags for unsportsmanlike conduct before WVU coaches replaced Lucas with Michael Calicchio.


Best quote:

What was K.J. Dillon’s take on West Virginia’s defensive lapses? “I think we didn’t do too bad of a job of tackling, we just didn’t do enough of it.”


Best quote (runner-up):

What did Sumlin tell quarterback Kyle Allen after throwing a pick-six? “We said don’t do that again.”


Dawson on departing:

After coaching his final game before joining Kentucky’s staff, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson called WVU “an extremely hard place to leave.”

Dawson spent four seasons with the Mountaineers and was the last holdover from Dana Holgorsen’s original staff in 2011.

“I love that guy to death, and that’s never going to change,” Dawson said. “I can’t compliment Dana enough for the opportunity, and West Virginia fans have been amazing.

“There were some fond memories and there were some tough goodbyes in that locker room.”


►  WVU falls in the Liberty Bowl

Freshman quarterback Kyle Allen accounted for five touchdowns and Texas A&M held on for a 45-37 win over West Virginia in Monday’s Liberty Bowl.

Allen passed for 294 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for a score as the Aggies (8-5) won a fourth consecutive bowl game.

Skyler Howard threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns in his second career start for the Mountaineers (7-6).

Howard’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Wellman with 2:32 remaining pulled West Virginia within 45-37, but Allen hit Malcome Kennedy over the middle for a 21-yard completion on 3rd-and-3 to help Texas A&M run out the clock and clinch a 4-0 bowl record for Aggies seniors.

Allen’s lone interception was returned for a touchdown in a high-scoring first half. He threw two touchdown passes to Kennedy and one each to Josh Reynolds and Trey Williams, who also ran for a score.

The Aggies rushed for 235 yards in the win, with Tra Carson carrying the ball 25 times for 133.

Howard made his second career start for senior quarterback Clint Trickett, who announced on Friday that he was retiring from football after suffering five concussions in 14 months.

Senior Kevin White, a projected first-round draft pick, had seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown for the Mountaineers, who have dropped four of their last five bowl games.

Mario Alford and Elijah Wellman also had touchdown receptions in the loss.

It was the last game at West Virginia for offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson, who is leaving the Mountaineers to take the same jobs at Kentucky.

The teams combined for 532 yards of offense in the first half and nine of their 16 drives ended in points. Allen and Howard each threw for 195 yards, with Allen passing for three touchdowns and running for a 14-yard score in the final minute that gave Texas A&M a 28-27 lead going into the break.

Allen’s interception was returned 35 yards for a touchdown by safety K.J. Dillon to give the Mountaineers a 17-7 lead in the first quarter.

Howard had two touchdown passes in the half, including a 49-yard strike to White that had West Virginia ahead 27-21 before Texas A&M’s late score.

The Aggies scored the first 10 points in the second half, taking a 38-27 lead on Williams’ 18-yard touchdown run. Later, Kennedy’s 9-yard touchdown catch pushed their lead to 45-30 near the end of the third quarter.

Game Notes

Texas A&M said student assistant Michael Richardson, who was twice caught by TV cameras hitting West Virginia players on the sideline, was asked by coach Kevin Sumlin to remain in the locker room for the second half ... It was the first-ever meeting between the teams ... Texas A&M improved to 17-19 in bowl games, including 3-0 under Sumlin ... West Virginia is 14-19 in bowls and 1-2 under Dana Holgorsen.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Monday, December 29)


Final Score: (18) Clemson 40, Oklahoma 6

After scoring a touchdown on its first offensive play, the floodgates opened in No. 18 Clemson’s 40-6 win over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl. In relief of the injured star freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson, senior Cole Stoudt threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-36 passing with no interceptions to help the Tigers (10-3) complete their fourth season in a row with at least 10 wins. The Clemson defense dominated, forcing five turnovers and limiting the Oklahoma offense to 275 total yards. Artavis Scott caught eight passes for 114 yards, including his 65-yard touchdown on Clemson’s first play. Mike Williams added nine catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Samaje Perine totaled 134 yards on 23 carries, much of which came late in the game, for the Sooners (8-5). His fumble in the second quarter halted Oklahoma’s first drive in Clemson territory. Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight completed 17-of-37 passes for 103 yards and three interceptions with no touchdowns.


Final Score: Texas A&M 45, West Virginia 37

Freshman quarterback Kyle Allen accounted for five touchdowns and Texas A&M held on for a 45-37 win over West Virginia in Monday’s Liberty Bowl. Allen passed for 294 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for a score as the Aggies (8-5) won a fourth consecutive bowl game. Skyler Howard threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns in his second career start for the Mountaineers (7-6). Howard’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Wellman with 2:32 remaining pulled West Virginia within 45-37, but Allen hit Malcome Kennedy over the middle for a 21-yard completion on 3rd- and-3 to help Texas A&M run out the clock and clinch a 4-0 bowl record for Aggies seniors. Allen’s lone interception was returned for a touchdown in a high-scoring first half. He threw two touchdown passes to Kennedy and one each to Josh Reynolds and Trey Williams, who also ran for a score. The Aggies rushed for 235 yards in the win, with Tra Carson carrying the ball 25 times for 133. Howard made his second career start for senior quarterback Clint Trickett, who announced on Friday that he was retiring from football after suffering five concussions in 14 months. Senior Kevin White, a projected first-round draft pick, had seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown for the Mountaineers, who have dropped four of their last five bowl games. Mario Alford and Elijah Wellman also had touchdown receptions in the loss.


Final Score: Arkansas 31, Texas 7

Arkansas’ red-hot November defense transitioned into December. Brandon Allen tossed a pair of touchdown passes and the Razorbacks limited Texas to just 59 total yards en route to a 31-7 dismantling of the Longhorns in the Texas Bowl on Monday night. The Razorbacks raced out to a 24-7 halftime advantage and never looked back. Arkansas held Texas to just 13 yards in the second half. It limited the Longhorns to a minuscule 0.1 yards per carry, while racking up 191 yards on the ground. Arkansas allowed just 9.5 points per game and forced 12 turnovers in November. It gave up 25.6 points per game and forced just 10 giveaways during the months of August, September and October. Allen was 12-of-23 for 160 yards, Jonathan Williams carried the ball 23 times for 105 yards and a score and Demetrius Wilson and Keon Hatcher each caught a touchdown pass for the Razorbacks (7-6). Tyrone Swoopes completed 13-of-25 passes for 57 yards with an interception for Texas (6-7), which was was 3-5 going into November prior to ripping off three straight victories to become bowl eligible.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Harbaugh out as 49ers coach

Jim Harbaugh is out as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers after four seasons.

That much is certain.

The only question remaining is where he goes next, with all signs pointing to a return to college football.

The 49ers and Harbaugh officially parted ways after Sunday’s 20-17 win over Arizona, a move weeks in the making that the team called mutual.

The 49ers announced they have already begun a search for a new head coach and that Harbaugh is free to pursue other opportunities, which may include a return to his alma mater.

Multiple reports over the weekend indicated Harbaugh will be introduced on Tuesday as the new head coach at the University of Michigan, where he is expected to accept a reported six-year, $48 million offer to coach the Wolverines, who fired head coach Brady Hoke on December 2 after four seasons.

The 49ers said CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke will hold a press conference on Monday to address the team’s coaching situation.

“Jim and I have come to the conclusion that it is in our mutual best interest to move in different directions,“ York said in a statement. “We thank Jim for bringing a tremendous competitive nature and a great passion for the game to the 49ers. He and his staff restored a winning culture that has been the standard for our franchise throughout its history. Their commitment and hard work resulted in a period of success that should be looked back on proudly by our organization and our fans. We wish Jim and his family all the best.“

Harbaugh, age 51, led the 49ers to a 44-19-1 record in four seasons with three consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship game and one trip to the Super Bowl.

“It’s been the time of my life. There’s been a lot of memories, great moments,“ Harbaugh said after the game. “I feel like I’m going to be friends for life with anybody who wants to be. I truly love this team.“

With one year left on his contract, he guided the Niners to an 8-8 record this season amid swirling rumors over his job security.

Harbaugh coached at Stanford for four seasons before taking the 49ers job and at San Diego for three years before that. He led Stanford to an Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech in his final season at Stanford.

“For the last four seasons I have had the great privilege to coach one of the storied franchises in the history of football,“ Harbaugh said in a statement. “I will miss competing alongside this group of players and coaches; I have the utmost respect and admiration for their hard work and support. It has been my honor to share the sideline with these mighty men. I will always appreciate and remember fondly, the passion and support of our faithful fans, and want to express my particular thanks to them.“

Harbaugh played 177 games as a quarterback in the NFL, beginning his 15-year career with the Chicago Bears and also spending time with the Colts, Ravens, Chargers and Panthers. Before that, he was a standout QB at Michigan under legendary coach Bo Schembechler. He played for the Wolverines from 1983-86.


►  Jets fire Ryan, Idzik

The New York Jets cleaned house Monday, firing both head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik after a 4-12 season.

The Jets closed the 2014 campaign with a 37-24 win at Miami on Sunday. It was the worst mark in Ryan’s six seasons as head coach.

Idzik was on board for just two years, taking over for the fired Mike Tannenbaum in January 2013. He had served as the vice president of football administration with the Seattle Seahawks for six seasons before taking over the reins for New York.

“After extensive thought and reflection about the current state of our football team, this morning I informed Rex Ryan and John Idzik that they will not be returning for the 2015 season,“ Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson said in a statement. “Both Rex and John made significant contributions to the team, and they have my appreciation and gratitude for their efforts and commitment. Over the years, Rex brought the Jets a bold confidence and a couple of great postseason runs, which all of us will remember.“

Ryan compiled a record of 46-50 with the Jets. He took over for the 2009 season and promptly led New York to a pair of AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons.

New York was 9-7 in Ryan’s first year, losing to Indianapolis in the AFC title game, then went 11-5 the following season and fell to Pittsburgh in the championship tilt.

The Jets haven’t had a winning season since, finishing 8-8 in 2011 and 2013. Last year’s .500 finish came in what was expected to be a rebuilding year with rookie quarterback Geno Smith—selected as part of Idzik’s first draft class—at the helm.

That bought Ryan another season after rumors of his departure during the 2013 campaign. But after a win over Oakland to start this season, it was downhill from there.

The Jets lost eight in a row, the worst skid for the franchise since an eight- game slide to start the 1996 season.

Smith’s development or lack thereof, was a major reason for the Jets’ struggles this season. He was benched after a Week 8 loss to Buffalo, and then returned to the starter’s role a month later in a December 01 loss to Miami.

The Jets played well down the stretch this season, as three of their last four losses came by less than six points.


►  Geno Smith’s career day powers Jets past Miami

If the Jets had played this well all season, Rex Ryan’s job security would never have been an issue.

Geno Smith threw for a career-high 358 yards with three touchdowns, including a 74-yard scoring strike to Eric Decker that ignited a run of 23 unanswered points, as New York concluded a dismal year with a 37-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

Decker caught 10 passes for 221 yards for the Jets (4-12), who hadn’t scored more than 25 points in a game all year and gave Ryan a victory in what could be his final game as New York’s head coach after six seasons.

Ryan compiled a record of 46-50 and is expected to soon learn his fate, although indications are that he, and possibly general manager John Idzik, will be fired. Ryan took the Jets to the AFC Championship Game after each of his first two seasons, but New York hasn’t had a winning record since and this year’s finish was the worst for the franchise since a 4-12 mark in 2007.

“It was just great to see our guys go out and get one today,“ said Ryan. “I don’t want to take away from the effort of the players. It’s not about me. I don’t think it’s the appropriate time to talk about my situation.“

Miami coach Joe Philbin is set to return next year after owner Stephen Ross made the announcement following last Sunday’s victory over Minnesota. The Dolphins (8-8) finished Philbin’s third year with a second straight .500 campaign. Miami was 7-9 in Philbin’s first season and 8-8 last year, when a loss to the Jets on the final day of the season cost the Dolphins a playoff spot.

The Dolphins were already eliminated from postseason contention after last week’s results and needed a win to finish with a winning record for the first time since capturing the AFC East in 2008.

Miami opened a 24-14 lead early in the third quarter on Lamar Miller’s 97-yard touchdown run, the longest play from scrimmage in Dolphins history, but it was all Jets from there. Miller ran for 178 yards with a touchdown on 19 carries and Ryan Tannehill threw for 259 yards with a score in defeat.

“Offensively, we didn’t come out and execute,“ said Tannehill. “It doesn’t matter how many points the other team scores, we have to score more.“

The Jets trailed 17-14 at the intermission, but appeared in prime position to move back in front after Chris Owusu returned the opening kickoff of the second half 87 yards to the Miami 12. The Dolphins, though, tripped up Bilal Powell on 3rd-and-1 and stuffed Chris Ivory on fourth down to force a turnover on downs.

Miller then broke through the New York defensive line untouched on the first play and raced to the end zone to increase the Miami lead to 10.

It didn’t take long for the Jets to answer, as the Dolphins brought an all-out blitz on 3rd-and-6 and Smith burned them with the long touchdown pass to Decker. Smith flipped a pass just before the blitz arrived and Decker ran under it, easily beating Cortland Finnegan for the score.

The Dolphins couldn’t convert 4th-and-5 from the New York 36 and Smith again made a big play on third down. He eluded the Miami pressure and flung a pass down field on 3rd-and-9 for Decker, who outleaped Brent Grimes for a 50-yard pickup.

New York went for some trickery on third down from the Miami 8-yard line and a low pass from receiver Jeremy Kerley toward Smith was ruled incomplete, although the ball appeared to deflect off the quarterback’s foot into the hands Miami’s Jimmy Wilson for an interception that would have been returned for a touchdown. Instead, the incomplete pass led to a tying 26-yard Nick Folk field goal.

The Jets got the ball right back after a Miami punt and took the lead. Smith threw a 33-yard pass to Kerley on the first play and hit Decker for 12 yards on third down to set up a 23-yard Folk field goal in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

Caleb Sturgis missed a 53-yard field goal try wide right with 10:48 remaining on Miami’s ensuing possession and the Dolphins’ next series also ended in a punt.

Miami was poised to get the ball back, but Ryan elected a fake punt from the New York 39 and Ryan Quigley hit Zach Sudfeld with a pass for 38 yards to set up Smith’s clinching 23-yard TD pass to Jeff Cumberland with 3:22 to play.

After the Dolphins turned it over deep in their own territory, Folk added a 39-yard field goal to account for the final margin.

Folk hit the left upright with a 45-yard field goal try on the Jets’ first possession and Miami answered with a 37-yard Sturgis field goal for 3-0 lead.

Smith threw a 36-yard pass to Owusu on the first play after the kickoff, then converted 3rd-and-2 with a five-yard scramble before Owusu took a handoff 23 yards around the right side for a touchdown.

The Jets got the ball right back after a Miami punt, but Smith gave it back to the Dolphins with a fumble early in the second quarter. The Dolphins took over at the New York 21 and Daniel Thomas scored from the one a few plays later to give Miami a 10-7 lead.

Smith continued his strong passing start on the next New York drive, connecting on each of his three throws to put the Jets back in the end zone. A 40-yard strike down the left sideline to Decker set up a first down at the Miami 12 and Smith found Ivory all alone in the right flat for an 8-yard score two plays later.

After a trade of punts, the Dolphins marched 93 yards to regain the lead just before halftime. A 16-yard pass to Brian Hartline on 3rd-and-15 kept the chains moving and Tannehill finished the 11-play set with a 23-yard pass to Charles Clay with 43 seconds remaining for a 17-14 advantage.

Game Notes

Smith’s best previous passing day was 331 yards against Buffalo on September 22, 2013. He started 8-for-8 on Sunday, topping his best previous passing start of six straight completions ... The Jets’ previous best scoring output this year came in a 27-25 loss to New England in Week 7 ... Ivory notched his first career receiving touchdown ... Tannehill finished with 4,045 passing yards, becoming the first Dolphins quarterback to eclipse 4,000 yards passing since Dan Marino in 1994. He also broke Marino’s 1994 team record of 385 completions in a season ... Miami’s previous longest run was 77 yards, set in 1977 by Leroy Harris and matched by Keith Byars in 1993 ... Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson did not return in the second half because of a head injury.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Monday, December 29)


Doddridge County 53     Ritchie County 34

#5 Hedgesville 46     Lewis County 38

Roane County 71     Salem Baptist, NC 64

Buckhannon-Upshur 65     Lincoln County 60

#4 Bridgeport 88     Frankfort 78


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Monday, December 29)


Clay County 61     Calhoun County 10

Ritchie County 63     Doddridge County 47

Roane County 53     Salem Baptist, N.C. 36

Buckhannon-Upshur 51     Lincoln County 46

Bridgeport 55     Frankfort 34

Robert C. Byrd 50     Washington(PA) 39

#6 Keyser 68     Lincoln 58



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Monday, December 29)


Final Score: (2) Duke 86, Toledo 69

Jahlil Okafor scored a career-high 27 points with eight rebounds to lead the second-ranked Duke Blue Devils to an 86-69 win over the Toledo Rockets on Monday. Duke (11-0), which has won 39 straight games at home, took the floor for the first time since a 66-56 win over UConn on Dec. 18. Quinn Cook chipped in with 20 points for the Blue Devils, while Tyus Jones tallied 15 points with eight assists and Justise Winslow added nine points. Julius Brown had 19 points to lead the Rockets (7-5), who saw their five-game winning streak halted. Justin Drummond and J.D. Weatherspoon each had 14 in the loss.


Final Score: (7) Gonzaga 60, San Diego 48

Kyle Wiltjer had 15 points and six rebounds in the seventh-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs’ 60-48 victory over the San Diego Toreros on Monday night. Byron Wesley added 12 points, five boards and two blocks for the Bulldogs (13-1, 2-0 WCC), who have won six in a row. Kevin Pangos tallied 10 points and six rebounds. Johnny Dee ended with 20 points and eight boards for the Toreros (7-7, 0-2), who have dropped two straight since a three-game winning streak.


Final Score: (11) Texas 66, Rice 55

Myles Turner scored 16 points while Jonathan Holmes turned in 12 points and 10 rebounds as No. 11 Texas topped Rice by a 66-55 count at Erwin Center. Javan Felix contributed 10 points for the Longhorns (11-2), who recovered from a three-point overtime loss to Stanford last Tuesday. Seth Gearhart’s game-best 24 points weren’t nearly enough for the Owls (3-8), who have lost two straight since winning two in a row. Marcus Jackson totaled 10 points in a losing cause.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Monday, December 29)


Final Score: Milwaukee 104, Charlotte 94 (OT)

Brandon Knight had 18 points, four assists and four steals, Jared Dudley added 17 points and nine rebounds off the bench and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Charlotte Hornets 104-94 in overtime on Monday night. The Hornets overcame a 21-point first half deficit in regulation to force overtime, but the Bucks began the extra session on a 9-2 spurt to seize control. Giannis Antetokounmpo bookended the flurry with a jumper and a hook shot to stake Milwaukee to a 92-85 advantage. Charlotte never got within less than six the rest of the way. Antetokounmpo posted 16 points, eight boards and four assists, while Zaza Pachulia provided 15 points for the Bucks, who had dropped four of their last six games coming in. Kemba Walker netted 28 points, Gerald Henderson supplied 19 points and five helpers and Marvin Williams pulled down 14 boards for Charlotte, which has lost three straight on the heels of a four-game winning streak.


Final Score: Chicago 92, Indiana 90

Jimmy Butler tallied 27 points and nine rebounds and the Chicago Bulls overcame a sluggish fourth quarter and held off the Indiana Pacers, 92-90, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Pau Gasol scored 20 points for Chicago, which nearly squandered a 21-point lead. Mike Dunleavy, who had a game-high 10 rebounds, made it 75-54 with his three-point play late in the third quarter, but a prolonged scoring drought and impressive resilience from the hosts led to the near comeback.


Final Score: Brooklyn 107, Sacramento 99

Mason Plumlee had 22 points and the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Sacramento Kings 107-99 on Monday night. Joe Johnson posted 16 points and six assists, while Jarrett Jack added 16 points for the Nets, who have won four of their last five games on the heels of a three-game losing skid. DeMarcus Cousins tallied 24 points and 13 rebounds and Rudy Gay provided 25 points, nine boards and five assists for Sacramento, which has dropped eight of its last 10 games.


Final Score: Orlando 102, Miami 101

Victor Oladipo was solid down the stretch at both ends of the floor to help the Orlando Magic to a 102-101 win over the Miami Heat on Monday. Oladipo tied the game with under a minute left, then his free throw broke that tie in the closing seconds before he had to lock down on Dwyane Wade’s potential game-winner at the buzzer. Nikola Vucevic paced the Magic with 26 points and nine rebounds, while Oladipo netted 22 points. Orlando snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Heat, which included a six-game skid in Miami. Wade went for 25 points in the Heat’s third loss in four games. Danny Granger had 21 points off the bench and Chris Bosh returned from an eight-game absence with a calf injury to score 20 points with eight boards.


Final Score: Washington 104, Houston 103

Bradley Beal deposited a season-high 33 points and John Wall posted another double-double as the Washington Wizards went on the road and beat the Houston Rockets, 104-103. Beal made five of Washington’s eight 3-pointers and was a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line. Wall tallied 13 points and 12 assists, his tenth double- double in 15 December games. With the win, the Wizards improved to 7-1 over their last eight games against Western Conference foes. James Harden led five Rockets in double figures with 33 points. Josh Smith, in his third game with the club, had only three points with four turnovers on 1 of-6 from the field. Houston fell to 0-2 with Smith in the starting lineup.


Final Score: LA Clippers 101, Utah 97

Blake Griffin led five Clippers in double figures with 24 points and the LA Clippers got back on track with a 101-97 win over the Utah Jazz. Griffin stuffed the stat sheet, adding seven assists, six rebounds and three blocks for the Clippers, who had lost three of four. They fell 110-98 to Toronto on Saturday. Chris Paul scored 20 points with eight assists, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford scored 17 apiece and DeAndre Jordan pulled down 19 rebounds. Jordan has recorded at least eight boards in every game this month and has at least 11 in 19 of his last 20 games Gordon Hayward led Utah with 22 points and seven assists. Rudy Gobert had 11 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. The Jazz, who only shot 13-for-22 from the foul line, had won four of five.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Royals announce 2-year deal for Volquez

The Kansas City Royals on Monday announced they have signed pitcher Edinson Volquez to a two-year contract with a mutual option for 2017.

According to CBSSports.com and MLB.com on December 18, the deal is worth $20 million.

Volquez spent 2014 with Pittsburgh and had one of the best seasons of his 10- year career with a record of 13-7 and a 3.04 ERA in 32 games, all but one as a starter.

The 31-year-old right-hander was 9-12 with a 5.71 ERA for the Padres and Dodgers in 2013. He owns a career mark of 66-59 with a 4.44 ERA in 191 games, including 185 starts with Texas, Cincinnati, San Diego, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

Volquez had his best season with the Reds in 2008, posting a mark of 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA.

The American League-champion Royals had been in need of another starting pitcher with the loss of James Shields to free agency.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Royals designated infielder Ryan Jackson for assignment.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Monday, December 29)


Final Score: Boston 5, Detroit 2

Carl Soderberg posted a goal and an assist as the Boston Bruins topped the Detroit Red Wings, 5-2, on Monday. Reilly Smith, Gregory Campbell, Seth Griffith and Chris Kelly also scored for the Bruins, who bounced back from Saturday’s 6-2 loss to Columbus despite missing injured forwards Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. Tuukka Rask made 28 saves. Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Tatar each lit the lamp for the Red Wings, who had a two-game winning streak halted. Jimmy Howard stopped 40 shots in defeat.


Final Score: New Jersey 3, Pittsburgh 1

Travis Zajac had one goal and an assist in the New Jersey Devils’ 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. Jaromir Jagr and Adam Henrique also lit the lamp for the Devils, who snapped a three-game skid. Cory Schneider made 26 saves. It was the first victory for New Jersey’s new coaching trio of Lou Lamoriello, Scott Stevens and Adam Oates since they replaced Pete DeBoer. Sidney Crosby scored the lone goal for the Penguins, who have dropped four straight. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24-of-27 shots.


Final Score: NY Islanders 4, Washington 3 (OT)

Johnny Boychuk buried a slap shot 2:52 into overtime to lift the New York Islanders to a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Monday night. Boychuk’s goal came just seconds from the end of a four-minute power play the Islanders received after Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov was whistled for a high sticking double-minor late in the third period. It followed a furious comeback by the Capitals, who scored three consecutive goals to erase a 3-0 deficit in the third period, tying the game with 2:41 left in regulation on Alex Ovechkin’s wrist shot. Anders Lee, Lubomir Visnovsky and Calvin de Haan also scored for New York, which snapped a two-game losing streak. Jaroslav Halak made 23 saves to push his personal winning streak to five games. Eric Fehr and Nicklas Backstrom also scored the Capitals, who went 1-1-1 on a three-game road trip. Braden Holtby faced 39 shots in the loss, stopping 35.


Final Score: Montreal 3, Carolina 1

Lars Eller and Jiri Sekac both scored for the Montreal Canadiens in their 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. Carey Price made 28 saves and Max Pacioretty added an empty-netter to secure the win, the Canadiens’ third straight and sixth in their last seven games. Jordan Staal, in his first game of the season, was credited with an assist on his brother Eric’s power-play goal early in the third period, but that was all Carolina mustered. The Hurricanes have scored more than two goals just once in the past 14 games and are 3-10-1 during that stretch. Cam Ward only made 16 saves and suffered his 14th loss of the season.


Final Score: Ottawa 5, Buffalo 2

Bobby Ryan scored three goals for his fourth career hat trick and the Ottawa Senators snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. Ryan scored Ottawa’s first three goals and Clarke MacArthur and Colin Greening also found the net, ending the Senators’ 0-2-1 skid. Craig Anderson made 19 saves in the win, only facing two shots in the third period. Zemgus Girgensons and Mark Pysyk scored for the Sabres, who have dropped five of six. Jhonas Enroth gave up four goals on 35 shots.


Final Score: Tampa Bay 3, Toronto 2

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three unanswered goals to top the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, Monday. Steven Stamkos’ 20th goal of the season broke the 2-2 deadlock, and the Lightning, winners of three in a row, also got goals from Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula. Ben Bishop made 21 saves on 23 shots against him. The Maple Leafs, losers in five of their last six games, scored on their first two shots of the game but did not muster any more offense. Mike Santorelli and Joffrey Lupul tallied the goals. James Reimer stopped 38 of the 41 shots in the loss.


Final Score: St. Louis 3, Colorado 0

Martin Brodeur posted his first shutout as a member of the Blues in St. Louis’ 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. Brodeur, who spent his first 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, has tallied the most shutouts in NHL history over the course of his prolific career and made 16 saves to earn number 125. Dmitrij Jaskin, Chris Butler and Vladimir Tarasenko all scored for the Blues, who ended a four-game skid with a solid defensive effort. Semyon Varlamov allowed all three goals on 25 shots as Colorado’s three-game winning streak was snapped.


Final Score: Minnesota 3, Winnipeg 2

Ryan Carter, Justin Fontaine and Marco Scandella all scored in the second period as the Minnesota Wild snuck past the Winnipeg Jets, 3-2, to split a home-and-home series. Andrew Ladd’s fluke overtime goal sent the Wild to a fifth straight loss on Saturday, but Darcy Kuemper was back between the pipes Monday and stopped the skid with a 28-save performance. Michael Frolik and Mathieu Perreault each scored power-play goals for the Jets, who were 4-0-1 in their previous five games. Michael Hutchinson surrendered all three goals on 31 shots.


Final Score: Chicago 5, Nashville 4 (SO)

After coming back from a three-goal deficit, the Chicago Blackhawks needed another tying goal with less than two minutes left in regulation in their 5-4 shootout win over the Nashville Predators. Brad Richards, Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa all scored goals for Chicago in a span of seven minutes to erase Nashville’s 3-0 lead. Trailing 4-3 with the goalie out of the net, Bryan Bickell tied the game to send it to overtime. Jonathan Toews scored in the shootout, and Corey Crawford stopped all three Nashville attempts to help the Blackhawks win for the third time in their last four games. Crawford saved 36-of-40 shots against him in regulation and overtime. James Neal scored a pair of goals for Nashville, which had won four of its previous five games. Roman Josi and Craig Smith potted the other two Predators goals. Pekka Rinne allowed four goals on 42 shots but could not stop the only goal scored in the shootout.


Final Score: Dallas 3, NY Rangers 2

Antoine Roussel scored the go-ahead goal early in the second period and the Dallas Stars snapped the New York Rangers’ eight-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Monday night. John Klingberg and Ales Hemsky also lit the lamp for the Stars, who have won six of seven. Kari Lehtonen made 28 saves. J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes scored for the Rangers, who haven’t won nine straight contests since tying a franchise record with 10 consecutive wins from Jan. 19-Feb. 10, 1973. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 23-of-26 shots in New York’s first loss since Dec. 6 at Detroit.


Final Score: Calgary 2, Los Angeles 1

Markus Granlund scored the game-winning goal as the Calgary Flames used an early offensive flurry to defeat the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1, on Monday. Curtis Glencross also scored, Jiri Hudler supplied two assists and Jonas Hiller turned aside 26 shots for the Flames, who have won three straight games. Tyler Toffoli supplied the Kings’ lone marker and Jonathan Quick made 13 saves in defeat. Calgary was victorious over Los Angeles on home ice during regulation for the first time since Oct. 10, 2010.


Final Score: Arizona 4, Philadelphia 2

Antoine Vermette recorded his fourth career hat trick as the Arizona Coyotes downed the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, on Monday. Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored the eventual game-winning goal as Arizona matched its season high with a third straight victory. R.J. Umberger scored twice 3:02 apart late in the third period, but the Flyers nevertheless fell to 3-2 on their eight-game road trip. Steve Mason, in his first start since Dec. 18, surrendered three goals on 24 shots against.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2014
National Basketball Association
Detroit at Orlando, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, Florida, DSS
Cleveland at Atlanta, 7:30 PM - FS-Ohio, SportSouth, DSS
Brooklyn at Chicago, 8:00 PM - YES, CSN-Chicago, DSS
San Antonio at Memphis, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, SportSouth, DSS
Phoenix at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - FS-Arizona, New Orleans, DSS
Washington at Dallas, 8:30 PM - CSN-DC, FS-Southwest, DSS
LA Lakers at Denver, 9:00 PM - Time Warner, Altitude, DSS
Minnesota at Utah, 9:00 PM - FS-North, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Toronto at Portland, 10:00 PM - SNET-360, CSN-Northwest, DSS
Philadelphia at Golden State, 10:30 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, Bay, DSS
National Hockey League
Montreal at Florida, 7:30 PM - RDS, FS-Florida, DSS
St. Louis at Nashville, 8:00 PM - FS-Midwest, Tennessee, DSS
Los Angeles at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - FS-West, SNET-West, DSS
Vancouver at San Jose, 10:00 PM - SNET-Pacific, CSN-California, DSS
College Basketball
Northwestern at Rutgers, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Iowa at Ohio State, 1:00 PM - ESPN 2
Florida Tech at Stetson, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Virginia Tech at West Virginia, 2:00 PM - ESPN U
Illinois at Michigan, 3:00 PM - ESPN 2
Long Beach State at Louisville, 4:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Cincinnati at NC State, 4:00 PM - ESPN U
Maryland at Michigan State, 5:00 PM - ESPN 2
Davidson at Virginia, 6:00 PM - ESPN U
Robert Morris at Clemson, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Oral Roberts at Detroit, 7:00 PM - WADL, ESPN3.com
Florida at Florida State, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Charlotte at Georgia Tech, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
College of Charleston at Miami-Florida, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Albany at Niagara, 7:00 PM - Time Warner
William & Mary at North Carolina, 7:00 PM - ACC Network, FS-South, Det, Wisc
Hartford at Notre Dame, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
North Carolina A&T at South Carolina, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Montreat at USC Upstate, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
St. Catharine at Western Carolina, 7:00 PM - SoCon Digital Network
Florida Gulf Coast at Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Norfolk State at Baylor, 8:00 PM - FS-Arizona+, Detroit+
Ole Miss at Dayton, 8:00 PM - CBSSN
Harvard at Grand Canyon, 8:00 PM - MASN
Judson at Illinois-Chicago, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Kent State at Kansas, 8:00 PM - Jayhawk TV, ESPN3.com
McNeese State at Mississippi State, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Mercer at Texas A&M, 8:00 PM - SEC Network
Oklahoma State vs. Missouri, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
UC Santa Barbara at Oregon State, 9:30 PM - Pac-12 Network
Carroll at Utah, 9:30 PM - Pac-12 Network
Vermont at USC, 11:30 PM - Pac-12 Network
Women’s College Basketball
Missouri State at Missouri, 5:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Houston Baptist at Texas Tech, 8:00 PM - Texas Tech TV
Yale at Oklahoma, 8:00 PM - Sooner Sports TV, FS-Southwest
Rice at Texas, 8:00 PM - Longhorn Network
UCLA at USC, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
College Football
Notre Dame vs. LSU (Music City Bowl), 3:00 PM - ESPN
Georgia vs. Louisville (Belk Bowl), 6:45 PM - ESPN
Maryland vs. Stanford (Foster Farms Bowl), 10:00 PM - ESPN
International Soccer
Real Madrid vs. AC Milan, 10:55 AM - beIN Sport
Paris Saint Germain vs Inter Milan, 1:55 PM - beIN Sport

Sports News   141229

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Liberty Bowl

From the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game against Alabama to the Liberty Bowl matchup against Texas A&M, West Virginia’s 2014 season will be bookended by SEC foes.

While a 10-point loss to the Crimson Tide showed wherewithal, senior offensive guard Mark Glowinski wants WVU to finish the job against the Aggies and puncture some of the mystique surrounding college football’s most dominant conference.

“I just want to kick their ###, personally,” Glowinski said. “If we played better we should’ve beat Alabama. We were driving down the field, but internally, we just made mistakes.”

The Mountaineers are 1.5-point favorites against Texas A&M in a Midsouth faceoff of 7-5 teams that each appeared in the AP top 25 before enduring three-game losing skids. It’s a tossup as to who owns the motivational edge: West Virginia is excited to be back in bowl game after a deplorable 2013 campaign, and the Aggies seniors are attempting to become the school’s first class to post four straight bowl wins.

Then there’s inevitable urge to take down any team from the vaunted SEC.

“There’s no question that the SEC is everybody’s idea of the best league,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “So when our kids hear ‘SEC’ they’re excited to prove that we’re just as good.”

Since joining the SEC in 2012, Texas A&M’s recruiting classes have climbed from No. 15 to No. 11 to No. 6 in the Rivals rankings. And even before the conference swap, West Virginia assistant Joe DeForest recalled the Aggies trotting out impressive specimens during their Big 12 days.

“When they walk on the field, you’re going to go ‘Wow!’ Our kids are going to be surprised,” DeForest said.

Yet Glowinski recalls how West Virginia moved the ball against Alabama, which ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense.

“They’re definitely big and tall guys, but anything they’ve done, we’ve seen it,” he said. “We’ve seen the best, so I feel we’ll be prepared.”


WEST VIRGINIA (7-5) vs. TEXAS A&M (7-5)

Kickoff: 2 PM Eastern (ESPN)


Line: West Virginia favored by 1.5


Kevin White’s finale:

Despite the NFL draft looming, West Virginia’s Biletnikoff finalist was in no hurry to close out his college career.

“I just want to spend a little more time with my friends,” said White, who enjoyed the four-day stint in Memphis. “All the gear and getting catered to. You kind of get spoiled here.”

With 102 receptions, White stands 12 shy of matching Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey for the school’s single-season record.

“I didn’t know that actually, but it would be nice,” he said. “If I get 12 catches, that’s a good game.”

At 6-foot-3, White has enjoyed a size advantage on every cornerback this season. That won’t change at the Liberty Bowl, where Texas A&M’s top corner, Deshazor Everette is 6-foot and De’Vante Harris is 5-11.

“Going up against him, it’s an opportunity to get some publicity,” said Everette, who said he won’t always be able to follow White because of WVU running tempo. “I want to go out there and play as well as I can.”


Comparative scores:

The lone common opponent was Alabama, which beat West Virginia 33-23 in Atlanta on August 30 and obliterated Texas A&M 59-0 in Tuscaloosa on October 18.

“I don’t want to talk about that one,” said Aggies offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “We were in our eighth straight game with no bye week and they got after us. I was disappointed in how we played. I thought we get hit in the mouth and we kind of backed out of it.”

Dealing with the layoff: Like most teams trying to avoid practice injuries, West Virginia hasn’t gone full-contact since the final regular-season game. Invariably, that can lead to missed tackles.

“That’s the scary thing about a bowl game,” said Gibson. “You have a month off. You try to do enough tackling and good-on-good in practice, but it always shows up in bowls at some point in the game.”


Young quarterbacks:

Sophomore Skyler Howard makes his second start since WVU’s Clint Trickett suffered what has become a career-ending concussion. Though undersized, Howard is strong-armed and elusive, having completed 36-of-63 passes for 483 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. His 10 carries have netted 85 yards.

Freshman Kyle Allen started Texas A&M’s final four games, posting a 2-2 mark that included a four-touchdown performance in a 41-38 upset win at Auburn.

Gibson was an assistant at Arizona when Allen was a five-star prospect in Scottsdale.

“He was at our 7-on-7 passing camps, so I’m very familiar with the kid and the ability he has,” Gibson said. “He’s really good. You could tell he was going to be the real deal.

“That kid is going to be very special. Hopefully it’s one more game from now.”


►  Might Holgorsen promote OC from within? ‘Everything’s a possibility’

With Shannon Dawson leaving for Kentucky after the Liberty Bowl, will West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen elevate his next offensive coordinator from the current staff, as he did with Dawson two years ago?

“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Holgorsen said Sunday, adding that after the bowl game he’ll spend two weeks evaluating the entire staff.

Because Holgorsen handles the play-calling, he’s not in the market to land a high-profile coordinator from another power 5 program. (Dawson was earning $250,000 in Morgantown, relatively low for a major-college coordinator.) Holgorsen could look outside for a quarterbacks coach with the coordinator’s title attached, as was the case with Dawson, or he could accomplish the same by shuffling his staff, which includes two former quarterbacks, Lonnie Galloway and JaJuan Seider.

Galloway has been a receivers coach for five seasons during two stints at West Virginia, sandwiched around a two-year tenure as passing game coordinator at Wake Forest. In his 19th season of college coaching, he also currently holds the title of assistant head coach. Galloway was an All-Southern Conference quarterback at I-AA Western Carolina.

Seider began his career as a quarterback at WVU before putting up huge numbers as a transfer at Florida A&M. He spent seven seasons as a high school coach in south Florida before entering college coaching in 2008, where he has overseen running backs at WVU and Marshall.

FootballScoop.com reported Sunday afternoon that Seider has agreed to a two-year contract extension at a “considerable pay increase” from his previous salary of $200,000

“I may use the (NCAA coaches) convention for figuring out who the next coach is after I decide how I’m going to shuffle things around,” Holgorsen said. “I would venture to say everything’s a possibility at this point.”


Sumlin recommended Holgorsen to Luck:

The coaching ties between West Virginia and Texas A&M have been a layered storyline throughout the Liberty Bowl buildup.

Holgorsen publicly thanked Kevin Sumlin for being instrumental in his hiring at West Virginia. Sumlin, who was coach at the University of Houston when Oliver Luck was overseeing the Houston Dynamos of the MLS, leveraged the relationship when Luck became athletics director at WVU and sought to replace Bill Stewart.

“He talked to Oliver and called me and says ‘You owe me one.’ So I guess I still owe him one,” Holgorsen said.

While Holgorsen spent two seasons under Sumlin as UH’s offensive coordinator, he watched his boss provide adequate focus to various team units, along with overseeing recruiting and growing relationships with boosters.

“I learned a lot about being a head coach from working with him, especially from the CEO aspect of things,” Holgorsen said. “Kevin’s never going to spend a high percentage of the time on one side of the ball. He’s going to divvy it up.”


Happy in Memphis:

With West Virginia practicing at Memphis University School, a private campus mere blocks from the team hotel, Holgorsen lauded the week’s logistics. It’s an obvious improvement over the experience at the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, which featured New York City traffic snarls and a practice in a hotel ballroom.

“You can tell the Liberty Bowl has done this before—56 years. Any time a bowl has that much experience, you know you’re going to get things done the right way,” Holgorsen said. “Logistically, everything has been on par. Two years ago was pretty tough to get anything done.  ~~  Allan Taylor ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Game Results

(Sunday, December 28)


Final Score: Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 17

Antonio Brown scored two touchdowns and the Pittsburgh Steelers captured their first AFC North title since 2010 with a 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night. Brown opened the scoring with a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown, then put the game away late in the fourth quarter with a 63-yard TD catch. He ended with seven catches for 128 yards. The Steelers (11-5), who ended the regular season with four straight wins, secured the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 seed Baltimore next Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET. The Bengals (10-5-1) will play at the fourth-seeded and AFC South-champion Colts next Sunday at 1:05.


Final Score: Carolina 34, Atlanta 3

Cam Newton smiled. As time wound down in a winner-take-all game that turned into a no-care-in-the-world laugher, the Carolina Panthers quarterback waved his arms up and down and nodded. On the Atlanta Falcons sideline, Matt Ryan grimaced. Newton’s seven-win Panthers are headed to the NFL playoffs. Ryan’s six-win Falcons are not. Carolina returned two Ryan interceptions for touchdowns and scored 21 points off three turnovers in a 34-3 rout of the Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Leading since the game’s first possession, the Panthers (7-8-1) clinched the NFC South for the second year in a row with the lopsided victory. They harassed Ryan all day, piling up six sacks. But the Falcons quarterback hurt himself, too. His overthrown pass was returned 31 yards for a touchdown by Roman Harper in the second quarter to help the Panthers build a 24-3 lead at halftime. And in the third quarter, Tre Boston picked off an underthrown pass and took it back 84 yards to put the game out of reach. The Panthers became the first team to win consecutive NFC South titles and made the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time ever. They will host 11-5 Arizona in a wild-card game next week after winning four straight games to end the regular season. The Falcons (6-10) eliminated the Saints from the division race with a 30-14 win in New Orleans last week to keep their playoff hopes alive, but will miss the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since 2006-07.


Final Score: Baltimore 20, Cleveland 10

Joe Flacco tossed both of his touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and the Baltimore Ravens rallied past the Cleveland Browns 20-10 on Sunday afternoon to clinch a playoff berth. As time expired in Baltimore, the clock was also ticking down the final seconds in Kansas City, where a 19-7 Chiefs victory wrapped up a Ravens trip to the postseason for the sixth time in the last seven years. Baltimore failed to make the playoffs in 2013. The Browns led 10-3 heading into the fourth quarter before the Ravens ripped off 17 unanswered points to seize control. Flacco, who threw for 215 of his 312 yards in the second half, completed 22- of-36 passes for Baltimore (10-6), which won three of its last four games to close the regular season. Undrafted rookie Connor Shaw was 14-of-28 for 177 yards with an interception in his first NFL start for the Browns (7-9), who finished their campaign with five consecutive losses. Shaw got the nod after Johnny Manziel suffered a hamstring injury against Carolina last Sunday, while Brian Hoyer is dealing with shoulder and biceps injuries.


Final Score: Kansas City 19, San Diego 7

The Kansas City Chiefs sacked Philip Rivers seven times in a 19-7 win over San Diego on Sunday that eliminated the Chargers from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season. It came almost a year to the day that San Diego clinched a berth with an overtime win against Kansas City at home and some help from the rest of the league. It was simple this year: The Chargers (9-7) controlled their own fate after a comeback win over San Francisco last week. Needing only a win, they never even had a lead, their only points coming on Branden Oliver’s 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to get them within 10-7. Linebacker Justin Houston dropped Rivers four times by himself, breaking Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas’ single-season franchise record with 22 sacks, just a half-sack from Michael Strahan’s NFL mark. Rivers finished 20-of-34 for 291 yards with two interceptions and a fumble. The Chiefs (9-7) were in position to steal a playoff berth with a win before Baltimore and Houston both came back to win their games. The Ravens ended up with the AFC’s final wild-card berth by beating Cleveland. Chase Daniel made his second NFL start, completing 16-of-27 passes for 157 yards with Alex Smith sideline because of a lacerated spleen he suffered last week against Pittsburgh.


Final Score: Denver 47, Oakland 14

Denver scored on three of its first four drives, and C.J. Anderson finished with three touchdowns as the Broncos beat the Oakland Raiders 47-14 to clinch a first-round bye in the postseason. Anderson ran for 87 yards on 13 carries to help Denver (12-4) out-gain Oakland 451-199. Peyton Manning completed 21-of-37 passes for 273 yards but did not throw any touchdowns for just the second time in his Broncos career. Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 115 yards. The Raiders (4-12) only received one touchdown from their offense, a 1-yard pass from Derek Carr to Jamize Olawale. Their other score came on a fumble return by Keith McGill. Oakland secured its third consecutive losing season. Carr threw for 158 yards and an interception on 18-of-36 passing. He also lost a fumble in the setback. Latavius Murray led Oakland in rushing and receiving with 37 yards on the ground and 60 through the air on four catches.


Final Score: Green Bay 30, Detroit 20

Aaron Rodgers began to wince on a scramble and went down in pain following a touchdown pass, but everything was ok when his quarterback sneak put the Green Bay Packers comfortably in front. Rodgers tossed both of his touchdown passes to Randall Cobb and the Green Bay Packers won the NFC North for a fourth straight year following a 30-20 triumph over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Green Bay (12-4) earned a first-round bye with the win and will be the No. 2 seed in the NFC.


Final Score: San Francisco 20, Arizona 17

Colin Kaepernick threw two touchdown passes to lift San Francisco to a 20-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in what was Jim Harbaugh’s final game as the 49ers’ head coach. The 49ers announced they had parted ways with Harbaugh, who will reportedly replace Brady Hoke as the head coach of his alma mater, Michigan. Kaepernick completed 15-of-26 passes for 204 yards and rushed for 63 yards on seven carries. Anquan Boldin and Bruce Miller had a receiving touchdown and Frank Gore carried the ball 35 times for 144 yards for the 49ers (8-8), who ended a four-game skid. Ryan Lindley threw both of his first two career touchdown passes to Michael Floyd and completed 23-of-39 passes for 316 yards with three interceptions for the Cardinals (11-5). Floyd made eight catches for 153 yards Arizona will face the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers on the road in the first round of the playoffs.


Final Score: Seattle 20, St. Louis 6

The NFC playoffs will run through the Pacific Northwest for a second consecutive season. The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks used their patented defense, behind their rowdy crowd, to stifle the St. Louis Rams in a 20-6 win and wrap up the NFC West division in the process. The Seahawks (12-4), who ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak, clinched a first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by winning their seventh NFC West title in team history. Seattle has taken nine of its last 10 games overall since a loss at St. Louis (6-10) in Week 7, a game that the Rams returned a punt for a touchdown and also converted a gutsy fourth-down play in the closing minutes with punter Johnny Hekker. Russell Wilson threw for 239 yards with an interception and Marshawn Lynch rushed for a touchdown in the win. Rams quarterback Shaun Hill committed a costly interception on the first play of the fourth quarter in Seattle territory.


Final Score: Buffalo 17, New England 9

Kyle Orton threw a touchdown pass, Boobie Dixon ran for another score and the Buffalo Bills concluded their season with a 17-9 win over the New England Patriots. Orton was 16-of-23 for 176 yards as the Bills (9-7) finished a campaign with a winning record for the first time since 2004. Buffalo, which ended a 13-game losing streak at New England, will miss the playoffs for the 15th straight season, the longest active drought in the league. With home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs already locked up, New England quarterback Tom Brady played just the first half in a game in which wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski were inactive. Brady completed 8-of-16 passes for 80 yards over five series. Rookie Jimmy Garoppolo totaled 90 yards on 10-of-17 passing for New England (12-4), which had its regular-season home winning streak against AFC opponents snapped at 35 games.


Final Score: Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 10

Andrew Luck threw a pair of touchdown passes in only one half of action, leading the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts to a 27-10 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at LP Field. Luck finished 10-of-16 for 160 yards and set the Colts’ single-season passing yardage record with 4,761 yards, surpassing Peyton Manning’s previous mark of 4,700 in 2010. Matt Hasselbeck also threw a touchdown pass in the second half for the Colts (11-5), who will open the playoffs at home next weekend. Indianapolis bounced back from a dreadful performance at Dallas last week and completed a sweep of the AFC South for a second straight year. The Colts, who managed only 229 yards in last Sunday’s 42-7 loss, totaled 378 on Sunday en route to their 13th straight divisional win. Charlie Whitehurst threw a scoring pass in defeat for Tennessee (2-14), which closed the year with 10 straight losses in Ken Whisenhunt’s first season as head coach. The Titans managed just 192 total yards and nine first downs on Sunday, finishing their worst season since moving from Houston in 1997. The two wins were the franchise’s fewest since a 2-14 record in 1994.


Final Score: Dallas 44, Washington 17

Tony Romo had a pair of touchdown passes to Dez Bryant as the Dallas Cowboys pounded the Washington Redskins, 44-17, in the final game of the regular season. Dallas came into the game having already secured its first NFC East crown since 2009 and had the potential to sit as high as first overall, but will have the third seed and host the Detroit Lions next week.Romo finished the game 22-for-34 for 299 yards with an interception, and DeMarco Murray set a franchise record for rushing yards in a season for the Cowboys (12-4), who won their final four games of the season to post their best mark since a 13-3 finish in 2007. Murray, who totaled 100 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, finished the regular season with an NFL-best 1,845 yards to surpass Emmitt Smith’s single-season mark of 1,773 yards in 1995. Robert Griffin III finished off a lackluster season with 336 yards and a touchdown along with two interceptions on 27-of-41 attempts for the Redskins (4-12), who finished last in the division for a second straight year.


Final Score: New Orleans 23, Tampa Bay 20

Entering the fourth quarter with a 20-7 lead, Tampa Bay allowed 16 unanswered New Orleans points in a 23-20 loss to the Saints, and also clinched the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Drew Brees threw three interceptions for the Saints (7-9) but his 36-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston just before the two-minute warning put New Orleans ahead for the first time in the game. Brees threw for 281 yards on 24-of-38 passing. Mark Ingram led the Saints with 57 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, while Khiry Robinson also ran for score in the win. Kenny Stills was their leading receiver with 82 yards on five catches. The Buccaneers (2-14) totaled 183 yards on the ground, including 108 from Doug Martin. Charles Sims carried the ball 18 times for 69 yards and a touchdown.


Final Score: Houston 23, Jacksonville 17

Andre Johnson had 10 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown and J.J. Watt made NFL history as the Houston Texans defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-17 on Sunday. Watt finished with three sacks to become the first player to ever record 20- plus sacks in multiple seasons (2012, 2014) for the Texans (9-7), who despite doing their part in the win were unable to secure the playoff spot due to Baltimore’s win over Cleveland. Case Keenum completed 25-of-35 passes for 250 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception and Arian Foster made a 10-yard touchdown catch before exiting late in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Blake Bortles completed 14-of-33 passes for 117 yards and also rushed for 61 yards on three carries for the Jaguars (3-13), who finished the season with an 0-8 road record.


Final Score: Philadelphia 34, NY Giants 26

Mark Sanchez’s two touchdown passes and a key play from the Eagles’ special teams enabled Philadelphia to end a disappointing December on a high note with a 34-26 win over the New York Giants. Trey Burton’s 27-yard runback of a punt blocked by James Casey early in the third quarter helped the Eagles (10-6) halt a costly three-game skid that eliminated the club from playoff contention, while Sanchez put up 292 yards with an interception on a solid 23-of-36 completion rate in the former Jet’s return to MetLife Stadium. Jordan Matthews aided Philadelphia’s cause as well by coming up with 105 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, with LeSean McCoy contributing 99 rushing yards on 17 carries. New York (6-10) had a three-game win streak stopped despite 429 passing yards from Eli Manning and career days from Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle. The Giants ended their first 10-loss season since Manning’s rookie year of 2004. Beckham finished out a sensational rookie campaign by amassing 185 yards and a touchdown on 12 receptions, while Randle finished with a personal-best 158 yards on six grabs. Manning hit on 28-of-53 throws with one touchdown and an interception.


Final Score: Minnesota 13, Chicago 9

Teddy Bridgewater had a touchdown pass and Blair Walsh kicked a pair of field goals as the Minnesota Vikings closed out the season with a 13-9 victory over the Chicago Bears. Bridgewater was 17- of-25 for 209 yards with an interception for the Vikings (7-9), who snapped a two-game losing streak. Matt Asiata carried the ball 19 times for 91 yards. Jay Cutler, back under center after being benched for last week’s game, was 23-of-36 for 172 yards for the Bears (5-11), who dropped their final five games of the season to finish last in the NFC North. After missing the playoffs for a seventh time in the past eight years, Chicago might be looking to clean house as head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery are on the hot seat.


Final Score: NY Jets 37, Miami 24

If the Jets had played this well all season, Rex Ryan’s job security would never have been an issue. Geno Smith threw for a career-high 358 yards with three touchdowns, including a 74-yard scoring strike to Eric Decker that ignited a run of 23 unanswered points, as New York concluded a dismal year with a 37-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium. Decker caught 10 passes for 221 yards for the Jets (4-12), who hadn’t scored more than 25 points in a game all year and gave Ryan a victory in what could be his final game as New York’s head coach after six seasons. Ryan compiled a record of 46-50 and is expected to soon learn his fate, although indications are that he, and possibly general manager John Idzik, will be fired. Ryan took the Jets to the AFC Championship Game after each of his first two seasons, but New York hasn’t had a winning record since and this year’s finish was the worst for the franchise since a 4-12 mark in 2007. Miami coach Joe Philbin is set to return next year after owner Stephen Ross made the announcement following last Sunday’s victory over Minnesota. The Dolphins (8-8) finished Philbin’s third year with a second straight .500 campaign. Miami was 7-9 in Philbin’s first season and 8-8 last year, when a loss to the Jets on the final day of the season cost the Dolphins a playoff spot.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Things we learned on Sunday of Week 17

It was a mix of “old” and “new” that led the fantasy world in Week 17. And primarily they hailed from New York City.

The Giants’ Eli Manning led all passers with 429 yards, while young Geno Smith of the Jets had his best day as a passer with 358 yards and three touchdowns.

Veteran Jets receiver Eric Decker led the league in Week 17 with 221 yards receiving. But the best receiver in the game over the last half of the season, rookie Odell Beckham Jr., added another chapter to his growing story with 12 receptions for 185 yards and a touchdown.

Wideout Michael Floyd and running back C.J. Anderson were pretty good too.

Below are a few more things we observed:


Cleveland at Baltimore

Did someone forget to tell Baltimore that the playoffs were on the line this week?

The Ravens slept through the first three quarters, averaging 4.1 yards per play. If not for a huge fourth quarter, Baltimore would have been watching from the couch next week.

Baltimore gained 248 of its 419 yards in the fourth quarter as Flacco threw two touchdown passes in the final period. Torrey Smith and Kamar Aiken caught the touchdowns while Steve Smith Sr. led the team with eight catches and 90 yards. Torrey had four catches and 83 yards.

Justin Forsett also woke up in the fourth quarter, rushing for 32 yards on one play and finishing with 119 yards on 17 carries.

The Browns are probably still searching for their franchise quarterback. Connor Shaw was 14-of-28 for 177 yards and one interception. Cleveland scored three offensive touchdowns in their final four games and ended the season on a five-game losing streak.

Terrance West is something to look forward to for fantasy owners. He rushed for 94 yards on 18 carries and scored on Sunday.


San Diego at Kansas City

Almost is the key word of the day for Kansas City.

The Chiefs almost threw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver this week. Dwayne Bowe came within six inches of being the first Chiefs’ wide receiver to score this year, but he fumbled near the goal line. Luckily, tight end Travis Kelce recovered the fumble in the end zone for the score.

Great fortune for Kelce owners, but bad luck for any fantasy owner rolling the dice with Chase Daniel because he did not get credit for the touchdown.

Other than that, Kansas City continued to struggle in the red zone, settling for field goals on the three other red zone trips. Cairo Santos was 4-for-5, missing only a 50-yarder.

Daniel started well in his second career start, but he completed just three of his last 10 pass attempts. He finished 16-of-27 for 127 yards overall. .

The Chiefs had Philip Rivers under duress all day long, recording seven sacks. Justin Houston had four of them and broke Derrick Thomas’ franchise record for sacks in a single-season. Houston finished the year with 22 sacks, just a half sack away from the all-time single-season record.

Despite no Ryan Mathews, San Diego had its best rushing game as a team in several weeks. Branden Oliver gained 71 yards on 14 carries. Keenan Allen also didn’t play, so that gave a chance for Eddie Royal to lead the Chargers with four catches and 95 yards.

Antonio Gates did not have a target until late in the third quarter, but turned it on late to finish with four catches and 67 yards.


Jacksonville at Houston

In addition to a playoff berth, the sack title was on the line Sunday. J.J. Watt recorded three sacks in Week 17, but Houston still finished 1.5 sacks ahead of Watt for the title.

Watt’s last sack against the Jaguars resulted in a safety and secured a winning season for Houston. Watt is the only player in NFL history to record two 20-sack seasons.

DeAndre Hopkins must have picked on Case Keenum or did something to make fun of him last season because all the sudden, Andre Johnson is the go-to wide out again in Houston.

Johnson had 10 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown while Hopkins caught just two passes for five yards. Johnson received 15 targets versus Hopkins’ six. Keenum was 25-of-35 with 250 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Arian Foster left toward the end of the first quarter with an injury, so the running duties fell to Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes. Blue was unimpressive with 39 yards on 17 carries, but he did score. Grimes gained 45 yards with 11 rushing attempts.

Hopefully the Jaguars get some offensive weapons fantasy owners can use next season. Toby Gerhart rushed four times for eight yards before Jacksonville finally realized Jordan Todman was a better option. Todman gained 52 yards on seven carries.

Todman also led the Jaguars with five catches for 46 receiving yards and a touchdown. The throw, however, came from Cecil Shorts and not Blake Bortles. Sorry Bortles owners.

The Jaguars quarterback finished 12-of-28 for 94 yards. This isn’t Central Florida playing an American Athletic Conference schedule is it?


New York Jets at Miami

Who the heck was wearing No. 7 for the Jets on Sunday?

Geno Smith may have played his best game as a pro, completing 20-of-25 for 358 yards and three touchdowns. Is it enough to save his job? How about Rex Ryan’s job? Probably not.

As happy as Smith owners were, if there were any left, Eric Decker owners couldn’t have been more pleased. Decker had 10 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown, including a 74-yard touchdown in the third quarter. So that’s why the Jets signed him to a five-year, $36.25 million contract.

Neither Chris Ivory nor Chris Johnson did much, both averaging below 2.5 yards per carry. Chris Owusu scored the lone rushing touchdown. He is a wide receiver, in case you’ve never heard of him.

Lamar Miller ended the season on a high note with 19 carries for 178 yards and a touchdown. He could be a decent middle-round pick depending on whether Knowshon Moreno returns to form. Daniel Thomas vultured the other touchdown away. Thomas had one carry, one yard and one touchdown.

Brian Hartline, Jarvis Landry and Charles Clay each had five catches with Hartline leading the way with 94 yards, but Clay caught the touchdown. Fantasy owners hate balanced distribution.

Mike Wallace had one target and no catches, which was surprising based on his previous two weeks.


Chicago at Minnesota

Speaking of sleeping, congratulations to those who made it through this one without dozing off.

The Bears and Vikings combined to score one touchdown and Adam Thielen scored it. Prior to Sunday, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you whether he was on Chicago or Minnesota (hint: Teddy Bridgewater threw it to him).

Bridgewater was 17-of-25 for 209 yards with a touchdown and interception. Thielen led Minnesota with three catches for 68 yards. Four different receivers, Thielen, Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright and Rhett Ellison, all had three catches for the Vikings. Again, fantasy owners hate balanced distribution.

Matt Asiata led Minnesota with 19 carries and 91 yards.

Jay Cutler avoided any big mistakes and all big plays. He went 23-of-46 for 172 yards. Matt Forte had 25 touches for 74 yards, including eight catches for 23 yards. Forte reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark and his 102 catches set a new league record for a running back. In other words, he is a PPR monster.

Martellus Bennett also had eight catches for 59 yards. Alshon Jeffery received just five targets and caught two of them for 34 yards.


Buffalo at New England

Kyle Orton was solid against the first-string Patriots defense going 11-of-15 for 143 yards and a score in the first half. He did nothing in the second half, however, to disappoint fantasy owners.

Although Tom Brady’s uniform was out there in the first half, it couldn’t have really been him as the guy wearing the No. 12 was just 8-of-16 for 80 yards. I guess that’s what happens when your two best weapons, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman are inactive. Hopefully fantasy owners saw that coming and didn’t start Brady.

Jimmy Garoppolo saw a full half of action, but could get the Pats on the scoreboard. He’ll return to his spot on the bench after this short 30 minute exhibition.


Philadelphia at New York Giants

Typical Mark Sanchez, some good and some bad. He threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns, but also turned the ball over.

We had not seen Jordan Matthews be a big part of the Eagles offense since mid- season, but a 44-yard touchdown strike got him off to a huge start in the season finale and he finished the day with his 105 yards, his first triple- digit total since Week 11.

The Eagles D/ST did it again, blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown. It was their league-leading 11 score of the season.

Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. both posted 100-plus yards in two consecutive games.

With the Eagles paying close attention to Beckham Jr., as they rightfully should, Randle racked up five receptions for 134 yards by halftime. He finished with six receptions for 158.

Beckham Jr. was still targeted 21 times, catching 12 for 185 yards and a touchdown. Once again the rookie phenom makes all around him better.

Eli Manning threw for 429 yards and has 820 yards over the past two games.


New Orleans at Tampa Bay

Drew Brees’ attempt at throwing for 5,000 for a record-setting fifth time was derailed by an ugly 97-yard first half. he finished with 281 yards (48 yards short) and three interceptions. He did keep his consecutive games with a touchdown in tact, hitting old friend Marques Colston inside the final two minutes.

Doug Martin was a busy guy, racking up 92 yards rushing on 12 carries ... in the first half. He finished with 108 yards.

The Bucs spent most of the day with the lead, but in the end, won by losing. They clinched the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Tampa Bay, you are on the clock.


Indianapolis at Tennessee

After the “Debacle in Dallas,“ the Colts offense got untracked against the Titans. Luck threw two first-half touchdowns as the Colts opened up a 17-7 lead.

The Indy quarterback likes to throw to his tight ends in the red zone. Even without Dwayne Allen (inactive), Luck hit both Coby Fleener and Jack Doyle for scores.

Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Luck (10-of-16, 160 yards 2 TDs) only played the first 30 minutes.

Fleener caught a second touchdown, this one from Matt Hasselbeck and was a very good fantasy asset over the last six games.

Shonn Greene rushed for 94 yards on just 11 carries, overshadowing Bishop Sankey again. Sankey is not the answer. Neither is Greene.


Dallas at Washington

Another nearly perfect first half for Tony Romo. He went 16-of-20 for 225 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Dez Bryant. He did two things wrong in the second half. he threw an interception and he finished the day with 299 yards passing, one shy of the bonus.

Bryant continues to be a touchdown machine, this time taking a short pass and going 65-yards for a score. He added a 23-yard score near the end of the first quarter as the Cowboys racked up 27 points by halftime.

DeMarco Murray didn’t let his broken hand stop him from breaking Emmitt Smith’s single-season franchise rushing mark (1,773 in 1995). Murray finished with 1,845 after a 20-100-1 line. It was his 12th 100-yard game of the season.

DeSean Jackson is one of the most inconsistent receivers in the league, but he gets yards in bunches. His only catch of the first half was a 69-yard TD strike midway through the first quarter. He only caught one more the remainder of the afternoon.


Carolina at Atlanta

When Carolina needed him most, Cam Newton came up big. He totaled 138 yards in the first half with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run as the Panthers built an insurmountable 24-3 lead.

Of course, Jonathan Stewart owners hate the touchdown run, but they should be used to it by now. He rushed for just 49 yards on 13 carries and caught two balls for 20 yards. We have gotten used to much more in the past few games.

The Panthers defense gave up 37 or more points five times, but down the stretch they came up big, yielding 17 or less to New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Atlanta.

Not only that, Sunday the Carolina defense scored two touchdowns and had a third one called back by penalty.

Just a horrible effort from the Falcons offense and Matt Ryan in particular. Fantasy owners have been platooning Ryan by starting him in home games, but the trend failed in Week 17.

Courtesy of garbage-time, Roddy White managed to earn the 100-yard bonus, but star Julio Jones was a non-factor.


Oakland at Denver

C.J. Anderson continues to deliver. This time it was two first-half touchdown runs and three all told.

Of course Peyton Manning owners aren’t happy about Anderson’s development. Those short touchdowns used to be “money” for Manning owners. In 2013 he threw 25 touchdown passes of nine yards or less, but just 17 this season.

Week 17 was another disappointment for Manning fantasy owners as he threw for 273 yards and zero touchdowns.

Ho hum. Another 100-yard receiving day for Demaryius Thomas. That’s 10 of them in the last 13 games.

Latavius Murray couldn’t run much against the Broncos, but did catch four balls for 60 yards. He could be good in a Matt Forte/Le’Veon Bell type role.


Detroit at Green Bay

The Lions were nowhere until Aaron Rodgers re-injured his calf. They mounted their first scoring drive of the game right after the injury with Matthew Stafford hitting Calvin Johnson just before the second half ended. And tied it midway through the third quarter.

Rodgers returned to a tie game late in the third quarter and promptly led his team on a touchdown drive which finished with a strike to Randall Cobb. He also “ran” one in from the 1-yard line to clinch the game. This clutch performance just might push him past Luck for fantasy MVP.

Is it my imagination, or does Eddie Lacy do his best work on the opening drive each week? He finished the day right on the money with 100 yards rushing on 26 carries.

It’s hard enough to beat Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay in Lambeau. It’s tougher still when you give them a special teams touchdown.

Stafford did throw three touchdown passes, but he was just 20-of-41 for 217 yards.


Arizona at San Francisco

Ryan Lindley has been in the league three seasons, but Sunday he threw his first touchdown pass after 228 attempts. Facing the 49ers beat up defense is a lot easier than the Seahawks defense isn’t it?

It only took him about 20 more passes to double his career touchdown pass total, hitting Michael Floyd just before halftime. He finished with a career- high 316 yards passing, but three interceptions were his downfall.

Floyd caught two touchdown passes in the first half. They were his first scores since Week 11 and his first double-digit fantasy performance in close to two months.

A solid performance from Colin Kaepernick; 15-of-26 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and 63 yards rushing. If he had done that all season, his team might still be playing next weekend.

Gore rushed for 144 yards, giving him 302 yards over the past two games, Where was that over the previous nine games?

The 49ers need a deep threat at receiver to spread the secondary. Anquan Boldin, who did catch a 76-yard touchdown Sunday, is more of a possession receiver.


St. Louis at Seattle

Either the Rams defense is very good or the Seahawks didn’t really care if they had home field advantage throughout the playoffs. St. Louis held Russell Wilson & Co. scoreless over the first 30 minutes.

The Rams offense, however, totaled just 66 first half yards, yet somehow, they still led 6-0. If Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy this team needs to find a quarterback who can. They have enough weapons to help fantasy owners if they can just solve the issue under center.

Seattle finally got it together and took their first lead in the fourth quarter on the back of a Marshawn Lynch’s personal-record 13th touchdown run. He combined for 100 yards from scrimmage.

Wilson was very dull, throwing for 239 yards and rushing for just seven yards and no touchdowns. Fortunately, he wasn’t needed to carry them in Week 17.

A Seahawks “pick-six” by linebacker Bruce Irvin sealed home field advantage.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Sunday, December 28)


Final Score: (6) Wisconsin 68, Buffalo 56

Frank Kaminsky posted 25 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks and carried No. 6 Wisconsin to a 68-56 win over upset-minded Buffalo to conclude non-conference play. Sam Dekker added 13 points and Nigel Hayes scored nine—all over the final 20 minutes—for the Badgers (12-1), who overcame a sluggish first half to post their fifth straight win. Wisconsin hosts Penn State in their Big Ten opener on Wednesday. Only five Bulls found the scoring column, with four reaching double figures. Justin Moss led a balanced attack with 14 points and 12 rebounds as Buffalo (7-3) saw its three- game win streak come to an end.


Final Score: Stony Brook 62, (13) Washington 57

Jameel Warney made a go-ahead jumper with 30 seconds remaining, and the Stony Brook Seawolves erased a 16-point deficit in the second half to stun the 13th-ranked Washington Huskies, 62-57, on Sunday. Warney ended with 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks for the Seawolves (8-6), who beat a ranked team for the first time in school history. Kameron Mitchell added 12 points and Rayshaun McGrew tallied 10 points and 14 boards for Stony Brook, which has won three in a row. Nigel Williams-Goss and Robert Upshaw each had 10 points for the Huskies (11-1). Upshaw also pulled down 11 rebounds and blocked four shots.


Final Score: (17) St. John’s 82, Tulane 57

Sir’Dominic Pointer posted career highs of 24 points and seven steals to lead No. 17 St. John’s to an 82-57 rout of Tulane at Barclays Center. The Red Storm (11-1) built a 47-22 halftime lead and forced 17 turnovers in moving to 11-1, the program’s best 12-game start since the 1985-86 season. D’Angelo Harrison contributed 21 points and Rysheed Jordan had 12 in St. John’s seventh straight victory since a loss to No. 8 Gonzaga on Nov. 28. Jonathan Stark paced Tulane (9-3) with 15 points and Louis Dabney finished with 12 in the loss, the Green Wave’s second this week to a ranked opponent. Tulane was coming off a 66-57 setback at No. 13 Washington on Monday.


Final Score: (23) Northern Iowa 74, South Dakota State 63

Nate Buss had 14 points, Wes Washpun scored 12 and No. 23 Northern Iowa posted a 74-63 win over South Dakota State on Sunday. Seth Tuttle finished with 11 points and a career-high nine assists for the Panthers (11-1), who extended their home winning streak to nine games. George Marshall led South Dakota State (9-5) with 16 points, followed by Deondre Parks with 15.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Sunday, December 28)


Final Score: Detroit 103, Cleveland 80

Brandon Jennings scored 25 points and led a 3-point barrage that carried the Detroit Pistons to a stunning 103-80 victory over a cold-shooting Cleveland Cavaliers squad. The Pistons made good on a scorching 17-of-31 attempts from beyond the arc in collecting their second straight win following the team’s surprising release of forward Josh Smith. Jennings went 5-of-9 from long distance, Jodie Meeks was 3-of-4 in a 14-point effort off the bench and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished 3-of-7 while adding 13 points. Andre Drummond chipped in 16 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks for Detroit, which had been mired in a 2-17 stretch prior to defeating Indiana on Friday. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, shot a woeful 32.8 percent over the final three quarters to lose for just the second time in their last 11 home outings.


Final Score: San Antonio 110, Houston 106

In a game that featured 13 ties and 20 lead changes, the San Antonio Spurs came out on top, 110-106, against the rival Houston Rockets on Sunday. Danny Green led San Antonio with 24 points and added five steals to help the Spurs snap a two-game losing streak. Tim Duncan added 16 points and eight rebounds. Manu Ginobili chipped in 15 points off the bench and Cory Joseph scored 14 on 6-of-9 shooting. San Antonio hit 21-of-24 shots from the free throw line while the Rockets made just 18- of-31 as they lost their two-game winning streak. James Harden paced Houston with 28 points and Corey Brewer contributed 25 off the bench. Dwight Howard scored 24 points and grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds.


Final Score: Dallas 112, Oklahoma City 107

Dirk Nowitzki poured in season high-tying 30 points with five rebounds to lead the Dallas Mavericks in a 112-107 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. Chandler Parsons had 26 points, Monta Ellis contributed 18 and Rajon Rondo finished with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Mavs, who have won two in a row. Serge Ibaka paced the Thunder with a season-high 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Reggie Jackson deposited 21 points and Russell Westbrook added 18 despite shooting 6-of-23 from the floor. Oklahoma City, which had its two-game winning streak snapped, played without Kevin Durant for a sixth straight game due to a sprained ankle.


Final Score: Portland 101, New York 79

Wesley Matthews matched a season-high with 28 points to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 101-79 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday. Nicolas Batum checked in with 17 points, Chris Kaman had 13 and Joel Freeland deposited a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double for Portland. The Blazers, who played without forward LaMarcus Aldridge (upper respiratory illness) for a second straight game, improved to 14-1 against the Eastern Conference this season. Tim Hardaway Jr. paced the Knicks with 17 points, while Cole Aldrich finished with 12 points and career-highs of 19 rebounds and four steals for New York, which dropped its eighth straight game. The Knicks close out their three-game West Coast road trip with a meeting against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Carmelo Anthony finished with 13 points and five rebounds in just one half of action. He sat out the second half due to left knee soreness.


Final Score: Toronto 116, Denver 102

Kyle Lowry keeps playing at an All-Star level, and the Raptors keep winning. Lowry posted 30 points and 11 assists and Toronto took down the Denver Nuggets 116-102 on Sunday at Pepsi Center. Louis Williams chimed in with 31 points off the bench for the Raptors, winners in eight of their last nine games. The Eastern Conference leaders only committed six turnovers as a team. Ty Lawson paced Denver with 28 points and seven assists. Wilson Chandler tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds and Kenneth Faried had a big night, scoring 17 points to go along with 19 boards.


Final Score: Phoenix 116, LA LAkers 107

The Suns’ point guard trio combined for 61 points and Phoenix went into Staples Center and topped the Los Angeles Lakers, 116-107. Goran Dragic scored a game-high 24 points, Eric Bledsoe posted 22 with eight rebounds and eight assists and Isaiah Thomas had 15 off the bench for the suddenly red-hot Suns. Phoenix has won six games in a row on the heels of a six-game slide, although four of those wins have come against teams with a losing record. Nick Young and Jeremy Lin scored 21 and 19 points, respectively, off the bench, as LA fell to 4-11 at home this season.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Sunday, December 28)


Final Score: Florida 6, Toronto 4

The Florida Panthers finished with a flurry, erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 on Sunday. Brad Boyes redirected in Dmitry Kulikov’s wrister from the point on a power play for the go-ahead goal with 3:15 remaining. Kulikov, Willie Mitchell and Scottie Upshall also scored in the third for the Panthers, who got 13 saves from Roberto Luongo. Florida is 5-1-1 over its last seven games and extended its home win streak to four games. James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Richard Panik and Roman Polak had second-period goals for Toronto, which has dropped four of its last five games. James Reimer allowed five goals on 33 shots. Starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier missed the game with flu-like symptoms.


Final Score: Anaheim 2, Vancouver 1 (OT)

Cam Fowler scored 2:42 into overtime to give the Anaheim Ducks a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Francois Beauchemin tied the game at the 6:52 mark of the third period for the Ducks, who started an eight-game homestand on Sunday. Frederik Andersen made 13 saves. Yannick Weber scored the lone goal for the Canucks, who had a two-game winning streak snapped. Ryan Miller stopped 29-of-31 shots.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2014


National Basketball Association
Chicago at Indiana, 7:00 PM - WGN, FS-Indiana, DSS
Milwaukee at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - SportSouth, NBA TV, DSS
Sacramento at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - CSN-California, YES, DSS
Orlando at Miami, 7:30 PM - FS-Florida, SunSports, DSS
Washington at Houston, 8:00 PM - CSN-DC+, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Utah at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - ROOT-Northwest, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS


National Hockey League
Detroit at Boston, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, NESN, NBCSN
Montreal at Carolina, 7:00 PM - RDS, FS-Carolina, DSS
Washington at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC, MSG+2, DSS
Pittsburgh at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, MSG+, DSS
Buffalo at Ottawa, 7:30 PM - MSG-Buffalo, TSN5, DSS
Toronto at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - SNET-Ontario, SunSports, DSS
Colorado at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - Altitude, FS-Midwest, DSS
Minnesota at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - FS-North, TSN3, DSS
Nashville at Chicago, 8:30 PM - FS-Tennessee, CSN-Chicago, DSS
NY Rangers at Dallas, 8:30 PM - MSG, FS-Southwest, DSS
Los Angeles at Calgary, 9:00 PM - FS-West, SNET-West, DSS
Philadelphia at Arizona, 9:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Arizona, DSS


College Basketball
Rice at Texas, 1:00 PM - Longhorn Network
UMass Lowell at Boston College, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Wentworth at Boston Univ, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Toledo at Duke, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Southern Miss at LSU, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
Maine at Quinnipiac, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Cleveland State at VCU, 7:00 PM - CBS6
Mount St Mary’s at Old Dominion, 8:00 PM - MASN
Midwestern State at SMU, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
North Texas at Texas Tech, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest+, FCS Central
Alice Lloyd at Western Kentucky, 8:00 PM - HSSN
Middle Tennessee at Auburn, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
Portland at BYU, 9:00 PM - BYUtv
Pepperdine at Loyola Marymount, 9:00 PM - Time Warner Sports
San Francisco at St. Mary’s (CA), 9:00 PM - ESPN U
UC Irvine at Oregon, 11:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Gonzaga at San Diego, 11:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, Time Warner
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Stanford, 11:00 PM - Pac-12 Network


Women’s College Basketball
SE Louisiana at Ole Miss, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Grambling State at Arkansas, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Ohio State at Maryland, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Mississippi State, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
James Madison at Vanderbilt, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Samford at Kansas, 8:00 PM - Jayhawk TV
Texas A&M at Washington, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Duke at Connecticut, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
Old Dominion at California, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Nebraska at Minnesota, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network


College Football
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia (Liberty Bowl), 2:00 PM - ESPN
Oklahoma vs. Clemson (Russell Athletic Bowl), 5:30 PM - ESPN
Arkansas vs. Texas (Texas Bowl), 9:00 PM - ESPN


International Soccer
Italian Serie A Soccer, 2:30 PM - beIN Sport
Liverpool vs. Swansea, 2:55 PM - NBCSN

Sports News   141228

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Grad transfer Cullen Christian academically ineligible for Liberty Bowl

Two final-year West Virginia players were deemed academically ineligible for the Liberty Bowl game against Texas A&M.

Graduate transfer Cullen Christian, the backup to K.J. Dillon at Spur safety in 12 games this season, and seldom-used defensive lineman Brandon Jackson did not travel to Memphis.

“Their senior years ended one game earlier than we anticipated,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Christian made five tackles this season after transferring from Pitt. His absence elevates Dayron Wilson to the No. 2 spot behind Dillon.

Jackson was a redshirt junior who told coaches last month he would not return for his final year of eligibility.


►  Jacky Marcellus update

Holgorsen said the redshirt freshman receiver is “in a good place” after being grazed by a bullet in a Christmas Eve shooting in Immokalee, Fla.

Marcellus’ brother Jackinson was shot in the face, police said.

After redshirting in 2013, Marcellus was sidelined for all of 2014 when he tore knee ligaments in preseason camp.

“Hopefully he’ll be joining us in a day or two,” Holgorsen.


►  Backup quarterback

With sophomore Skyler Howard pegged as the starter for WVU at the Liberty Bowl, who is the backup quarterback? That depends on the situation.

Clearly, senior Paul Millard becomes the best-available option, but he didn’t appear in the regular season and hopes to redshirt for a return in 2015.

Then there’s senior Logan Moore, a former Division II standout at Fairmont State who has split time at receiver since walking on at West Virginia.

“If a helmet pops off we’re probably going to put Logan in there,” Holgorsen said. “But if something (worse) happens to Skyler, we’re probably going to go with Paul to put our best foot forward to win the game.”


►  Spavital’s WVU legacy lives on in recruits like Worley, White

Nearly two years after leaving for Texas A&M, assistant coach Jake Spavital remains close not only with his mentor Dana Holgorsen, but also with several West Virginia players he recruited.

During Friday afternoon’s Liberty Bowl interview session, Spavital ran into Mountaineers sophomore Daryl Worley in a hotel lobby. The guys have swapped texts throughout Worley’s two seasons at WVU, a program to which Spavital lured the overlooked cornerback.

“I was an Oklahoma kid driving around Philadelphia when I saw Daryl Worley,” Spavital said. “From the minute you saw him walk in, you knew he could be a player.”

Having bonded with Spavital during a time when few other major programs showed interest, Worley became disappointed upon enrolling in January 2013 only to see his lead recruiter leave for College Station days later.

“It kind of hurt me when he left, but we still talk a lot,” said Worley, who called his shot regarding a bowl game interception. “I’m waiting to pick it off, and I hope it’s on Jake’s sideline so I can say something to him.”

Spavital’s other big contributions to the 2013 recruiting class were Biletnikoff finalist Kevin White and Mike linebacker-in-waiting Al-Rasheed Benton.

At 29, Spavital shoulders a rare blend of youth and responsibility. His first season as a stand-alone offensive coordinator featured the rise-and-fall of Kenny Hill, a midseason shift to true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen, and a streakiness that saw the Aggies surge and dip to emotional extremes.

For Spavital, who first took over play-calling duties at last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, the last four months were humbling for an already-humble guy.

“We were ranked fifth in the country, and then we lose three straight and we’re the worst team in the country,” he said. “Then we beat Auburn and I’m back to guru status, but we lose the last two games so now we’re back to being an average team.”

Through the jumps and slumps, Spavital stayed connected with Holgorsen—so much so that the WVU coach let slip in late November that Clint Trickett’s latest concussion might be be season-ending. That information became more vital when the Liberty Bow pairing was announced December 7, though Holgorsen only revealed the official prognosis to reporters Friday.

Come game time, the overlap of offensive systems means both coaches must be cognizant of the other side recognizing signals. And cognizant of what Spavital jokingly described as “lots of side bets.”

In the six years since they were thrown together on a University of Houston staff and a UH apartment—Holgorsen as coordinator and Spavital as barely-paid grad assistant—they’ve been tethered.

“He took care of me and he treated me like a little brother,” Spavital said. “He always made sure I had everything I needed. It was tough to leave him because he took such good care of me, but he understood the move.

“I loved working for Dana and I enjoyed my time with him at Houston, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. I owe a lot to that man.”

And in a sense, West Virginia still owes some gratitude toward Spavital.

“He brought some great players to West Virginia,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “I’m excited about that.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Hokies beat Bearcats in Military Bowl

Coach Frank Beamer may not have been on the sideline for Virginia Tech, but the Hokies were still able to earn a 33-17 win over Cincinnati in the Military Bowl.

Virginia Tech (7-6) registered its 22nd consecutive winning season with the victory.

J.C. Coleman ran for a season-high 157 yards for the Hokies, who piled up 210 yards on the ground.

Michael Brewer threw for just 94 yards on 14-of-24 passing with a touchdown and interception.

Beamer was coaching from the coaches’ box, where he was ordered to be following throat surgery earlier in the month. His son Shane Beamer was the acting head coach.

Gunner Kiel completed 14-of-26 passes for 244 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bearcats (9-4), most of which came in the first half. Kiel exited the game early in the third quarter with a reported head injury.

Chris Moore and Shaq Washington had 103 and 100 receiving yards, respectively, for Cincinnati, and Moore caught a pair of touchdowns.

Backup quarterback Michael Colosimo led Cincinnati with 54 rushing yards.

Holding a narrow 13-10 lead at the break, Virginia Tech was able to gain some breathing room on the first two possessions of the third quarter.

Brewer capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Malleck on the opening possession of the second half to extend Virginia Tech’s lead to 20-10.

On the Bearcats’ first possession, Kiel was hit hard by Deon Clarke and lost the ball. Defensive tackle Nigel Williams scooped up the loose ball and after he was stripped on the return, teammate Greg Stroman recovered the ball and dragged a Cincinnati player into the end zone as the Hokies took a 27-10 lead.

Kiel would not return to the game, and Cincinnati mixed in Washington taking snaps in the wildcat and Colosimo over the following two drives. Colosimo was pressed into action because the more experienced backup quarterback, Munchie Legaux, was unable to play.

After two drives stalled in Kiel’s absence, the Hokies added to their lead with a 38-yard Joey Slye field goal.

The Bearcats offense finally got into a rhythm. Colosimo missed on his first three pass attempts, but his next two went to Moore for 23 yards and then a 43-yard score to get Cincinnati back into the game.

Colosimo could not duplicate that success, and Virginia Tech added one more field goal to account for the final margin.

The teams were tied at seven after a first quarter that saw each team touch the ball five times and turn it over once. Kiel’s 31-yard pass to Moore opened the scoring, and Coleman responded with a 1-yard plunge on the following drive.

In the second quarter, Slye made field goals of 45 and 49 yards. Andrew Gantz kicked a 25-yarder for Cincinnati.

Game Notes

Virginia Tech now owns a 6-5 lead in the all-time series; including a 2-1 record in bowl games ... The Hokies improved to 11-17 in bowl games, while the Bearcats fell to 8-7 ... Kiel’s touchdown pass was his 31st of the season, tying a single-season school record.


►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Saturday, December 27)


Final Score: (15) Arizona State 36, Duke 31

Demario Richard posted four touchdowns and Kweishi Brown came up with a key late interception as No. 15 Arizona State held on to take out Duke, 36-31, in the Sun Bowl. Richard racked up just 63 yards of total offense, yet crossed the goal line twice on rushes and twice more on Taylor Kelly passes for the Sun Devils (10-3). Kelly finished 24-of-34 for 240 yards, while Jaelen Strong led all receivers with 103 yards on seven receptions. Anthony Boone completed only 15 of his 31 attempts for 193 yards, two scores and that late pick for the Blue Devils (9-4). Jamison Crowder also threw a TD pass and racked up 102 yards on seven catches while also recording a 68-yard punt return score. Isaac Blakeney, Shaquille Powell and Johnell Barnes each posted a touchdown reception in defeat. Powell also totaled 117 yards on 29 carries.


Final Score: Virginia Tech 33, Cincinnati 17

Coach Frank Beamer may not have been on the sideline for Virginia Tech, but the Hokies were still able to earn a 33-17 win over Cincinnati in the Military Bowl. Virginia Tech (7-6) registered its 22nd consecutive winning season with the victory. J.C. Coleman ran for a season-high 157 yards for the Hokies, who piled up 210 yards on the ground. Michael Brewer threw for just 94 yards on 14-of-24 passing with a touchdown and interception. Beamer was coaching from the coaches’ box, where he was ordered to be following throat surgery earlier in the month. His son Shane Beamer was the acting head coach. Gunner Kiel completed 14-of-26 passes for 244 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bearcats (9-4), most of which came in the first half. Kiel exited the game early in the third quarter with a reported head injury. Chris Moore and Shaq Washington had 103 and 100 receiving yards, respectively, for Cincinnati, and Moore caught a pair of touchdowns.


Final Score: South Carolina 24, Miami-Florida 21

Dylan Thompson scored the decisive touchdown on a quarterback keeper after a Duke Johnson fumble, as South Carolina edged Miami-Florida 24-21 in Saturday’s Independence Bowl. Thompson threw two touchdown passes while finishing 22-of-34 for 294 yards. Pharoh Cooper had 170 yards and one touchdown on nine receptions for the Gamecocks (7-6), who won a school-record fourth straight bowl game. Johnson rushed 24 times for 132 yards, but the junior suffered an ankle injury and fumbled on what is expected to be his final collegiate carry. Johnson’s mother, Cassandra Mitchell, told the Palm Beach Post on Saturday that her son will enter the 2015 NFL Draft. Brad Kaaya was 19-of-33 for 236 yards with a touchdown and one interception for Miami (6-7), which ended the season on a four-game losing streak. The Hurricanes also suffered a school-record fifth consecutive bowl defeat.


Final Score: Penn State 31, Boston College 30 (OT)

Sam Ficken gave Penn State a walk-off win at Yankee Stadium. The Nittany Lions have paid their penance. Now it’s time to celebrate. Christian Hackenberg threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns, including a game-winning 10-yard TD pass to Kyle Carter in overtime, as Penn State edged Boston College 31-30 in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Nittany Lions appeared in their first bowl game since a loss to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl in January of 2012. Penn State was originally banned from participating in a bowl until 2016 after the NCAA levied sanctions against the school in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The NCAA, though, lifted the severe sanctions in early September due to Penn State’s good behavior. The institution will also have all of their scholarships returned next year. Tyler Murphy hit David Dudeck for a 21-yard score to conclude Boston College’s overtime march, but Mike Knoll hooked the ensuing extra point. It was the Eagles’ nation-leading eighth PAT miss of the season. Hackenberg connected with Jesse James for a 17-yard completion on a 3rd-and-15 and then lofted his 10-yard score for Carter in the front-left corner of the end zone. Ficken, who nailed a game-tying 45-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation, split the uprights on the extra point to give Penn State (7-6) the dramatic comeback victory.


Final Score: (24) USC 45, (25) Nebraska 42

Cody Kessler had three touchdown passes and Javorius Allen ran for two scores as 24th-ranked Southern California held off No. 25 Nebraska, 45-42, in a wild Holiday Bowl. Kessler finished 23-of-39 for 321 yards with an interception. Allen carried the ball 26 times for 152 yards for the Trojans (9-4), who won their sixth bowl game in the last seven tries. Adoree’ Jackson scored on a 98-yard kickoff return and caught a 71-yard TD pass. The Cornhuskers (9-4), guided by interim coach Barney Cotton, nearly rallied from an 18-point, second-half deficit in a game the teams combined for 1,040 yards. Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed 32-of-51 for 381 yards with three TDs and an interception. Ameer Abdullah rushed 27 times for 88 yards and a score, while De’Mornay Pierson-El had eight receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. Cotton, who has been on the staff as an associate head coach for the past seven seasons, replaced the fired Bo Pelini. The Cornhuskers let Pelini go on November 30 despite winning at least nine games in each of his seven seasons at the school. Mike Riley, who spent 14 seasons at Oregon State, was named the new Cornhuskers coach earlier this month.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Seahawks shoot for NFC West title, top seed

A loss to the hosting St. Louis Rams in Week 7 had many questioning if the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks would even be able to make the playoffs.

A victory over those same Rams this Sunday at CentruyLink Field will give the Seahawks a second straight NFC West title and the possibility of home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

Seattle was just 3-3 on the season following a 28-26 loss to St. Louis on October 13, just the Seahawks’ third setback in their past 19 meetings with the Rams. But the defending champs have won eight of their last nine games—including five straight—to clinch their ninth postseason berth in the past 12 years.

The Seahawks’ current winning streak began with a win the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle swept the season series between the clubs with last Sunday’s 35-6 victory in Glendale. The two clubs are tied atop the NFC West standings at 11-4, with the Seahawks needing a win or a loss by the Cardinals to secure the division title.

The Seahawks can also make sure that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Seattle with a victory as long as the Detroit/Green Bay matchup on Sunday does not end in a tie.

They could also do so with a win and a Dallas Cowboys loss to Washington.

Seattle racked up a franchise-record 596 yards of offense versus Arizona last weekend, with 267 of that coming on the ground. Russell Wilson ran for 88 yards on six carries with a score while also throwing for 339 yards and two touchdowns.

“That’s a lot of yards against a really tough group,“ Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “Just a fantastic job.“

Marshawn Lynch added 113 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries, including a career-high 79-yard scoring run that put the game away.

The Seahawks already held a 21-6 advantage before Lynch, battling a stomach illness, burst through the hole and cut across the field along the right sideline and stiff-armed Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson at the Seattle 45.

Lynch then powered through Peterson and Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson across midfield and Alex Okafor was unable to make a shoe-string tackle at the 20 before Lynch leapt into the end zone to complete the phenomenal touchdown with 10:14 left to play.

“As good of a run as I remember seeing,“ Carroll said.

Tight end Luke Willson caught three passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns and Doug Baldwin hauled in seven receptions for 113 yards in the triumph, while Seattle’s top-ranked defense held Arizona to 216 yards of offense.

The Rams come in needing a victory to match last season’s 7-9 record and they’ll try to avoid a third straight loss to end the campaign.

St. Louis pitched back-to-back shutout wins over San Diego and Oakland ahead of a 12-6 loss to Arizona in which the Rams again did not allow a touchdown. However, they struggled to keep the New York Giants out of the end zone last Sunday, falling in defeat 37-27.

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. racked up 148 yards and two touchdowns as well as some late hits from the Rams defense. One by linebacker Alec Ogletree in the second quarter sparked a brawl that saw three players ejected, including Rams defensive end William Hayes.

In all, the teams combined for 21 penalties totaling 225 yards.

“Very disappointed in the actions on the other sideline, there’s no place for that in the game,“ said Rams coach Jeff Fisher. “It just was unfortunate that it got out of hand over there. I thought the officials did a nice job controlling it.“

Shaun Hill threw for 290 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception, while wide out Kenny Britt made nine catches for 103 yards. Rookie running back Tre Mason ran for a score and 76 yards on 13 carries.

Shaun Hill hit on 24-of-32 throws for 290 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Rams. Kenny Britt finished with 103 yards on nine catches, while Tre Mason had 76 yards and a touchdown on 13 rushes in the loss.

However, the St. Louis defense was tagged for 514 yards of offense by the Giants.

“I guess I’ll say I’m extremely disappointed in a number of areas. Defensively, we’ve been playing better defense than that obviously,“ noted Fisher.

The Rams have lost nine straight in Seattle, having not won there since 2004.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Seahawks are near-impossible to beat when their offense is playing as well as the defense, something the Cardinals found out recently. Seattle is giving up just 16.5 points and 268.6 yards per game, both tops in the league, and just 184.5 yards through the air in this pass-heavy NFL.

The secondary, led by cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, is the face of the unit, but the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner has been key as well.

Wagner missed five games with a toe injury, but has racked up 44 tackles in five games since coming back, and Seattle has allowed just 6.6 points and 193.6 yards per game during that stretch.

Wagner is second on the club in tackles with 94 behind only linebacker K.J. Wright’s 100.

“I think we’re playing really well right now. I think we’re on it, from the run game to the pass game,“ said Wagner. “I think that we’re really gelling right now in the chemistry that we’ve got right now. It’s scary to the league.“

See Wilson or Lynch with the ball is no pretty sight either.

Lynch has put up MVP-type numbers this season with 1,246 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground while adding another 34 catches and four receiving TDs.

Wilson, meanwhile, appears as if he will fall just shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season, having amassed 842 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. He also has thrown 20 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.

St. Louis knows his dual-threat abilities all too well. When Wilson faced the Rams in Week 7, he became the first player in NFL history to throw for over 300 yards and rush for more than 100 in the same game.

The Rams defense was able to shut down some teams in recent weeks, but that wasn’t the case last Sunday and the Seahawks will look to keep the unit reeling.

While Lynch is making a case as the top player in football, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has a great shot at capturing NFL Rookie of the Year honors. He leads all rookies with eight sacks and has added 17 tackles for a loss.

Linebackers Ogletree and James Laurinaitis have both reached 100 tackles and end Robert Quinn has totaled 10 1/2 sacks.

St. Louis also showed last weekend that it will get physical, but Seattle won’t approach the unit any differently.

“We are trying to play the game we want to play, and play it on our terms as best as we can, and not be taken out of that,“ noted Carroll. “This is no different than any other game, although we do recognize something happened last week. That’s not going to change anything.“

On offense, the Rams are finishing with Hill under center after losing Sam Bradford to season-ending injury in the preseason. The unit ranks just 25th in the NFL with 319.3 yards per game.

Mason has been a bright spot, much like Zac Stacy emerged last season, as he is second among all NFL rookies in rushing yards with 737 despite not starting the first four games of the season.

Mason is one of many players on the Rams just looking to finish on a high note.

“We want to play good football. That’s what we want to do,“ said Fisher. “We want to go into the offseason having finished up playing good football. They know that and they understand the challenge. We’ve got four days or whatever it is here to really focus and prepare ourselves and go up and play good ball.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It looks like the Seahawks will be enjoying the comfort of home and help from the vaunted “12th Man” in the upcoming playoffs.

With the offense and defense moving like perfect clockwork, even the NFL’s elite would have trouble stopping the Seahawks right now, let along the offensively-challenged Rams.

To Carroll’s credit, his team most likely won’t be looking past this game and should roll into the postseason off a big win.


►  Falcons and Panthers clash for NFC South title

It will be survival of the fittest Sunday afternoon between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome.

The winner will claim the NFC South title and punch a ticket to the playoffs, albeit with a losing record. That’s how the cookie crumbles in the NFL.

Atlanta is trying to reach the playoffs for a fourth time in five years and erase a painful 4-12 campaign of 2013. The Falcons have benefited by playing in a porous division this season and took care of the NFC South-rival New Orleans Saints with Sunday’s 30-14 victory in the Big Easy.

Matt Ryan threw for 322 yards on 30-of-40 passing with a touchdown and no interceptions. He had wide receiver Julio Jones back in the lineup after a hip injury kept him out of a loss to Pittsburgh the previous week. Jones recorded his third straight 100-yard game, catching seven passes for 107 yards.

Jones has recorded 28 receptions for 555 yards and two scores in his last three games for the Falcons, who had lost two straight and three of four games. Jones leads the NFC with 100 receptions for 1,535 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl.

“Julio has had an unbelievable year. The production that he’s put on the field that he’s shown has been impressive,“ Ryan said. “Even for a teammate to kind of step back and look at it he’s been incredibly impressive.“

Roddy White is the veteran of the receiving core and has enjoyed success in his career against the Panthers. White, who is close to another 1,000-yard season with 817, has six touchdown catches in the past five encounters against Carolina, amassing 40 receptions for 536 yards.

Ryan, of course, is the one who has to get the ball to his playmakers. He has prevailed in five of the last six home starts against Carolina with 11 TDs and three INTs in that stretch. Ryan has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of the previous four seasons, and is aiming for a fifth straight 300-yard passing game Sunday.

Matty Ice talked about the do-or-die situation on Sunday at the Dome.

“This is what you worked so hard during the offseason and during training camp is to have opportunities like this late in the year, where everything is on the line. That’s fun,“ Ryan said. “I think guys are going to enjoy the moment. We’re going to prepare as best as we can all week. Then, go cut it loose and play the way that we’re capable of on Sunday.“

Ryan hasn’t been sacked in each of the previous two games and has gone down just twice in the past four.

“I think our offensive line has done a great job. We’ve had, even last week, we had Gabe Carimi come in and step up with Jon Asamoah out. He did a really nice job for us,“ Ryan said of the protection. “I give credit to those guys for battling all year long, and continuing to get better as the year progressed.“

Still, winning the NFC South and going to the playoffs is most important.

“We have a game at home and if you win, you’re in,“ Ryan said. “We are where we are and we’re excited about our chances.“

Ryan is back home, where owns a 39-13 record with 86 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions. Ryan has thrown at least one touchdown in 20 straight games dating back to 2013.

The Panthers are excited for their chances, too, with three consecutive wins following six straight defeats and one tie.

Carolina’s revival has brought the team to the precipice of a second straight division title. In Sunday’s 17-13 win versus the Cleveland Browns, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton returned from a one-game absence to pass for 201 yards with a touchdown and an interceptions. He also rushed for 63 yards and a score, showing no signs of fractures to his lower back suffered in a car accident earlier this month.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was pleased with how his team, especially Newton, fought back to set up a crucial showdown in Atlanta.

“In spite of the things we’ve gone through ... it all comes down to one game,“ Rivera said. “I think we’ve shown some resilience and we’ve fought our way through it. I’m pleased with the fact that we have the opportunity.“

Newton said it was tiring to go through the last few weeks, but it has paid off so far. He has had Jonathan Stewart to lean on in recent weeks, as the running back posted 122 yards on 24 carries versus Cleveland. Stewart is averaging 117.3 yards per game in his last three.

The Panthers will try to attack the Falcons through the air, however, because they are allowing an NFL-high 291.1 passing yards per game. Atlanta will be without safety William Moore for the rest of the season because of an injured shoulder.

Second-year safety and former seventh-round pick Kemal Ishmael will fill the vacancy left by Moore in the defensive backfield.

“He’s continuing to improve and mature as a safety and a defensive back,“ Falcons head coach Mike Smith said of Ishmael. “It’s a next-man-up mentality. He’s played more snaps this year than William has played so he’s got a lot of experience as a second-year player with scrimmage snaps.“

Ishmael leads the Falcons with four interceptions and picked off Newton back in Week 11.

Panthers rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin will try to beat the Falcons over the top and is second among first-year players with 999 yards and third with nine touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen had a TD catch in five of the past six meetings with Atlanta, which squeezed out a 19-17 win in Carolina on November 16. Matt Bryant connected on four field goals, including a 44-yarder late in the fourth quarter.

Benjamin had 109 yards and a score on nine catches in that one. Jones was held to 59 yards on six receptions for Atlanta, which leads the all-time series with the Panthers, 24-15. Smith owns an 8-5 record against the Panthers and is 23-18 against division opponents since 2008.

The only other team to make the playoffs with a losing record was Seattle (7-9) in 2010.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Panthers have played well this month lately with 11 wins over the previous 12 games in December. They went 11-1 down the stretch last season.

Newton has won three of his last four starts against the Falcons, and in seven career starts in this series, the former Heisman Trophy winner owns 11 TD passes and four rushing scores. Newton is ready to cash in on a possible playoff spot and division crown.

“We’re prepared for this moment,“ Newton said, “and hopefully we’ll seize it.“

Offensive coordinator Mike Shula appreciates the effort and strength Newton has put forth in getting himself back on the field.

“What a whirlwind it has been for him, and he never batted an eye,“ Shula said. “Without sounding too condescending or fatherly, I was very proud of him because I can’t even imagine. Just coming back from an injury ... let alone the fact that with the dang car rolling over, it could have been a lot worse.“

Newton has been sacked once in his last two games played, but was taken down 25 times in his previous six.

Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann leads the team with just 4 1/2 sacks, but owns two in his past three. He had a season high-tying seven stops in the first matchups with Carolina, while middle linebacker Paul Worrilow posted nine and leads the team with 136 total tackles.

Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson knows something about sacking the quarterback and leads the defense with 7 1/2. He sacks Ryan once in the first meeting and has nine in the past seven games in this rivalry. Johnson has recorded 6 1/2 sacks in the past three games at the Georgia Dome.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It’s hard to go against Ryan and the Falcons in their own backyard, and if anyone deserves to win the NFC South it’s Atlanta because of an unblemished 5-0 record in division play.

Ryan knows how important a win Sunday would be and doesn’t care about having a losing record heading into a winner-take-all showdown. To Ryan, the key is getting off to a fast start and putting up as many points as possible to bring the city another division title.

“It’ll be very important. Obviously, with what’s on the line and where we’re at to have an opportunity to continue to play into the playoffs that’s the reason I think guys play this game,“ Ryan said. “You work hard during the offseason; you work hard during training camp and all throughout the year to hopefully have an opportunity to keep playing in January.“

With some talented receivers in tow and an instinctive QB under center, the Falcons will ring in the new year as division champs for the third time in four years. Newton made a valiant effort to put the Panthers back on track and will get much-needed rest this offseason in hopes for a better 2015.


►  Colts search for confidence-building win over Titans

When it comes to lines of Week 17 questioning, most teams would prefer the phrase “No. 1 overall draft pick” not be germane to the conversation.

But that’s precisely where the Tennessee Titans find themselves as they approach the 2014 finale with the Indianapolis Colts, even if Ken Whisenhunt and his staff prefer not to ponder it just yet.

“That’s something there’s plenty of time to talk about, worry about,“ the Tennessee coach said. “We have another week of the season left.“

The Titans reach December’s end tied with Tampa Bay for the league’s worst record at 2-13, and they’d receive the first pick at this point, though a series of tiebreakers - or wins by either team - could change the dynamics by the actual close of the regular season on Monday.

Tennessee has lost nine in a row since a Week 6 defeat of Jacksonville, which is the franchise’s longest drought since the Houston Oilers lost 11 straight games on the way to a 2-14 end in 1994.

“It’s already one of the bad records in the league, but I mean we just want to win,“ wide receiver Kendall Wright said. “We just want to win, we’re not worried about the record at this point.“

It was a miss, but perhaps a nearer miss, last week in a 21-13 loss to the host Jaguars.

Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst’s 287 yards were the best of his career, the Titans scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time in 14 months and they didn’t turn the ball over for the first time in nine games.

“Nobody is giving up,“ Whitehurst said. “You can see how hard we fight until the very end, and that locker room expects to win (Sunday). That’s the way we’ve been all year and we just have not been able to put it all together yet.“

As for the Colts, they simply want to get back where they’ve been.

Indianapolis has already clinched the AFC South title, but its four-game win streak was rudely snapped last week with a 42-7 drubbing at Dallas. The loss locked the Colts into the No. 4 playoff seed in the conference, which means they’ll host whomever loses this weekend’s Sunday night game between AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

“It’s the National Football League. It’s a tough business,“ Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. “It’s not for everybody. That’s why we don’t get discouraged. Disappointed, yeah, but discouraged? Never.“

The Colts posted what had been a season-low 278 total yards while defeating Houston in Week 15, but saw that number plunge to 229 in the loss to the Cowboys, which also yielded the lowest scoreboard total of the year. Indianapolis generated a single rushing yard in Dallas, and quarterback Andrew Luck’s streak of 21 games (regular season and playoffs) with a TD pass was ended.

He also threw two interceptions as the Colts dropped to 1-4 this season against teams who’ll also reach Week 17 with a guaranteed playoff spot.

“You want to be confident going into the playoffs and you want to go in feeling good about yourself,“ Pagano said. “Nobody wants to go through a day like we went through (last Sunday), but you have to bounce back and you have to keep moving forward.“

The Colts have won six in a row and 11 of their last 12 against the Titans, and Luck insisted that his focus is indeed on Week 17 and not what comes next. He threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns while defeating Tennessee, 41-17, in Week 4.

“I’m thinking about Tennessee first,“ he said. “We’ve got to fix (things) and focus on Tennessee, and then we can worry about the playoffs.“

Luck’s No. 1 target, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, is probable for at least some work this week after missing the Dallas game with a hamstring injury. He has equaled a career-high with 82 catches and burned the Titans for 105 yards - of a career-best 1,345 all season - in the September victory.

Indianapolis could also stand to improve on defense after allowing 28 first- half points against the Cowboys. Tennessee, conveniently, has scored only 31 points in its last three games.

“We have no choice but to be ready,“ Colts safety Mike Adams said. “The most dangerous team going into the tournament is the wounded team, and that’s us right now.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Welcome Back, Hilton

Neither he nor Luck may play the entire 60 minutes, but it’ll be a welcome return to normalcy for the Colts’ quarterback to have his favorite target back in the fold. Hilton will likely find himself opposite a sound cornerback in Tennessee’s Jason McCourty, but he still should be a go-to option as Luck tries to erase the memory of far too many dropped passes in the Dallas game last week.

Make Them One-Dimensional

The Titans haven’t been the 1985 Bears on defense. In fact, they’ve allowed 142 rush yards per game - which is second-worst in the league. But the Colts don’t run the ball well either, so simply keeping Indianapolis to its accustomed level of mediocrity could enhance the opportunity for Tennessee to hang close and maybe force a Luck mistake or two and give itself a chance to win.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Colts have nothing to play for beyond self-preservation and momentum- generation. The Titans, meanwhile, could be playing for a coach’s job and to avoid the ignominy of drafting first next spring. That, along with home field, could keep things close in an ideal world. But in reality, it won’t be nearly enough. Instead, expect Luck to get a big lead and Matt Hasselbeck to steer it home after halftime.


►  Daniel takes over Chiefs in key spot

It sure felt a lot different heading into Thanksgiving.

Back then, the Kansas City Chiefs were riding high at 7-3 and heading into a Thursday night primetime game with a team that had begun its season with 10 consecutive losses.

Coming out of Christmas, though, the moods aren’t quite so cheerful.

A loss to the woeful Raiders triggered what’s since been a one-win holiday season nightmare, leaving Coach Andy Reid’s team near flat-lined when it comes to a potential playoff berth after this weekend’s regular-season finale with the visiting San Diego Chargers.

“We don’t necessarily control our own destiny, and the whole ‘what-ifs’ and ‘what do we need to have happen,‘ it’s easy to get distracted,“ quarterback Alex Smith said. “The thing will be to focus in on the Chargers, a division game, them coming in, and we need to take care of our business.“

Now it’s even easier to get distracted because Smith will not be around Sunday.

The veteran signal caller will miss the regular-season finale with a lacerated spleen, suffered during the third quarter of last week’s 20-12 loss to Pittsburgh.

“I felt great athletically, running around, throwing,“ Smith said. “Just kind of had this constant deal going on and thankfully, Doc kind of urged me to get the test.“

Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said that Smith’s injury does not require surgery, but usually takes six weeks to heal.

“Once you started hearing how serious it is, you start knowing the implications can come of this as far as not playing.“ commented Smith. “That’s the last thing you want to hear.“

Chase Daniel will get the start at quarterback in a game the Chiefs need to win - along with a Baltimore loss to Cleveland and a Houston loss to Jacksonville - to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in nearly 20 years.

“We’re not even looking at it like that,“ Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said. “We’re just trying to get better at what we do, and if the chips fall like they may that’s great.“

Foundering on third down has been a significant reason for Kansas City’s lack of success.

The Chiefs had converted 48% of their drive-prolonging opportunities through 10 games, but have plummeted to just 25% in the last five. Additionally, they’ve turned the ball over seven times in the last four games after giving it up only 10 times in the first 11.

“We just have to play as a team. Sometimes we find a way to play as a unit, sometimes we don’t,“ linebacker Tamba Hali said. “Most of these games we lose, it’s not because the other team is whipping us. We shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes and we don’t know how to bounce back from it.“

Also hurting during the late-season stretch has been a previously prolific run game. Kansas City remains 10th in the league with an average of 120.5 ground yards per game, but it’s managed just 79 yards per game and just two rushing touchdowns overall in the last five.

Jamaal Charles has failed to exceed 52 yards in three of his last four, though he’s averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored six times in his last seven games against San Diego.

The Chargers have surrendered 125 rushing yards per game for the season and allowed a ridiculous 355 rushing yards in Week 16 against San Francisco, but still managed to rally from a 21-point halftime deficit for a 38-35 overtime victory.

It was the highest rushing total ever allowed by a winning team.

It also boiled the postseason down to a simple proposition - win, and you’re in - which matches the scenario they faced in 2013, when a 27-24 defeat of Kansas City in Week 17 turned the trick.

Quarterback Philip Rivers kept the dream alive against the 49ers with a second-half/overtime effort that included 24 completions in 40 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. The final TD tied the game with 29 seconds remaining, and San Diego won with a 40-yard field goal in the extra session.

“It says a lot about him,“ Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “A lot of other teams, not just the quarterback, would have folded the way they played the first half. Philip’s one of the fiercest competitors and toughest competitors I’ve ever been around.“

Rivers has simultaneously been battling what’s been reported as a bulging disk in his back. His practice time last been limited in recent weeks, and his passer rating has dipped from 109.9 in the initial eight games to 81.4 in the last seven.

But in his last five games against the Chiefs, the rating is 112.1 and he’s got 12 TDs against four interceptions.

“We’ll do what’s in the best interest of Philip Rivers and our organization,“ McCoy said. “Philip’s as tough as there is in the business. Philip will play on Sunday.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Reaching for Milestones

Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston leads the league in sacks with 18, is two away from tying the franchise record of 20 and 4.5 from matching the league record of 22.5. So he’ll certainly be fired up. Responsible for keeping him out of the record books will be Chargers right tackle D.J. Fluker, who’s allowed five sacks this season and could be in need of help to keep that total from spiking.

Squashing Oliver

Rookie running back Branden Oliver has stepped up when full-time veteran Ryan Mathews has been unavailable with injuries, and he enters Week 17 with a matchup against a team for whom run-stopping has been a recent concern. The Chiefs have allowed 100-plus yards to anonymous types like Latavius Moore, C.J. Anderson and Kerwynn Williams, though they kept San Diego to 69 in Week 7.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The San Diego team that’s appeared at times this season - during the first half against San Francisco, and throughout a 37-0 loss to Miami in Week 9 - has been little short of forgettable. But the version that roared back to overtake the Niners could be dangerous to anyone at this time of year. Expect more of that Chargers unit to be on hand at Arrowhead to ensure the chance at playoff continuation.


►  Panthers RB Williams probable vs. Falcons

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is listed as probable for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Atlanta Falcons.

Williams has missed the last three games with a broken hand. He practiced fully all week, but Jonathan Stewart will make his fourth straight start Sunday.

The Panthers (6-8-1) are 3-0 with Stewart starting the past three games and need to beat the Falcons (6-9) to win the NFC South. Stewart has carried the ball 162 times for 760 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games this season.

Linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) is questionable.


►  Bengals and Steelers reach for AFC North bragging rights

The final regular-season game of the 2014 NFL season will decide the AFC North.

Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers have already clinched postseason berths but the North division crown and the corresponding home playoff game it entails will be at stake when the teams square off at Heinz Field Sunday night.

After two consecutive years on the outside looking in at the playoffs the Steelers, who own an NFL record six Super Bowl titles, are relevant again after clinching a spot in the dance with a 20-12 home win over Kansas City last Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass in the triumph and Pittsburgh’s defense held strong as the Steelers secured at least a wild-card berth.

Pittsburgh held the Chiefs out of the end zone and limited them to four Cairo Santos field goals.

“A lot of good efforts by a lot of people,“ said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. “We realized what next week is. It’s a big week for us.“

The Steelers also exacted revenge on the Chiefs for last season. In the final week of 2013, Kansas City rested the majority of its starters in a 27-24 overtime loss to San Diego. That ultimately knocked Pittsburgh out of playoff contention.

Roethlisberger completed 18-of-25 passes for 220 yards while MVP candidate Le’Veon Bell rushed 20 times for 63 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s third consecutive win.

The Bengals, meanwhile, joined the Steelers in the AFC playoffs a day later when Jeremy Hill rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown and Dre Kirkpatrick posted two interceptions of Peyton Manning as Cincinnati clinched a playoff spot for a fourth straight season with a 37-28 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

“We answered a lot of questions, especially on this Monday night thing,“ defensive tackle Domata Peko said referring to the team’s previous woes on nationally televised games. “Everybody was talking about it. We kept it in- house and just got it done. We’re just getting started.“

Andy Dalton completed 17-of-26 passes for 146 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Bengals while Dre Kirkpatrick intercepted a pair of Peyton Manning passes, one going for a pick-six.

“I’m very proud of our guys tonight for our resiliency, our ability to come back after negative plays and put positive plays and string them together,“ Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “Obviously, things to work on and do, but we’re still in position, still controlling our destiny, and that’s all we can ask for at this point in the year.“

Cincinnati still has an outside chance for the AFC’s No. 2 seed if its able to get a franchise-record fifth straight road win here, while the Steelers already know they will be playing on wild-card weekend but are looking to avoid packing.

Pittsburgh leads its all-time series with the Bengals by a significant 54-34 margin and has won seven of the past nine matchups, including a 42-21 blowout in Cincinnati on December 7 behind Bell’s 235 scrimmage yards and three TDs.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Things have changed dramatically in Pittsburgh and these Steelers are all about an explosive offense led by a new breed of triplets in Roethlisberger, Bell and receiver Antonio Brown.

Pittsburgh is second in the NFL in total offense, piling up 415.4 yards per game, less than one-yard short of league-leading New Orleans. Big Ben and Co. are also second when passing the football (300.5 ypg) and 13th when running it (114.9 ypg).

Roethlisberger already has compiled a single-season club record 4,635 passing yards and needs just one more TD pass to become the first player in franchise history with 250 for his career. The veteran has been especially hot in the second half, throwing for 3,042 yards in his past nine games (338.0 per game) with a 110.4 passer rating over that span.

Brown is his top target and leads the NFL with 122 receptions, needing just two more to surpass Herman Moore (123 in 1995) and Wes Welker (123 in 2009) for the second-most in a season in NFL annals. Brown’s consistency really stands out as he has caught five or more balls for 50-plus yards in 31 consecutive games, the longest streak in NFL history.

Bell, meanwhile, has had a breakout season, leading the AFC with 2,115 scrimmage yards (1,341 rushing, 774 receiving), already a single-season Steelers record. The Michigan State product is, perhaps, the most patient runner in football with an innate ability to find the hole and cut back thanks to his tremendous feet.

The Bengals defense trying to stop that triumvirate is 22nd in the NFL, far better at stopping the pass than the run. The Cincy stop unit is middle of the road against teams moving it through the air but it allows 122.1 ypg on the ground and Bell lit them up in space earlier this month.

“They know us and we know them,“ Tomlin admitted. “It’s a big football game. It’s going to be a good, classic AFC North football game. How else would you want it? I know our guys are excited.“

Win or lose Cincinnati is headed to the postseason for a franchise-record fourth consecutive season, a run which has correlated with Dalton taking over the team. The problem is that the Bengals are 0-3 when they get there so changing that narrative is paramount, making this a virtual must win to get the home playoff game.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,“ said Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry. “It’s always good to be playing meaningful football in December.“

Dalton has been inconsistent at times this season with part of the problem being the absences of targets like Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert but “the Red Rifle” has generally played well against the Steelers, passing for 812 yards with five TDs and no picks and a 95.0 passer rating in his last three games against Pittsburgh.

A resurgent running game behind Hill should only help. The former LSU star has 829 rushing yards in his last eight games (103.6 per game) with six TDs and leads all NFL rookies in rushing yards (1,024) rush TDs (nine).

“We just have a new attitude,“ Bengals star left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “The running game has really sparked kind of a feistiness, a will to make something happen for us. At times, we haven’t had that for whatever reason.“

The Steelers’ defense isn’t what it once was, allowing 354.5 yards per game (20th) but veteran coordinator Dick LeBeau has a host of playmakers at the linebacker position.

Veteran James Harrison, who spent 2013 with the Bengals before retuning to Pittsburgh, has 5 1/2 sacks in his past six games while Pro Bowl selection Lawrence Timmons leads the team with 121 tackles.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Steelers should have a little too much horsepower for a Bengals team that has taken a step back on the defensive side of the football after losing former coordinator Mike Zimmer to the head coaching job in Minnesota.

“We’re going to treat (this) like a playoff game like we’ve had the last three weeks,“ Roethlisberger said. “We still have work to do.“


►  Niners put Boone, Ventrone on IR

The San Francisco 49ers have placed offensive lineman Alex Boone and safety Bubba Ventrone on injured reserve.

Boone played in 15 games (14 starts) this season. The Ohio State product has appeared in 64 games (46 starts) during his career with the 49ers.

Ventrone saw action in eight games this year. The special teams ace has played in 97 career games with the Patriots, Browns and 49ers.

San Francisco also signed wide receiver Trindon Holliday to a two-year contract and promoted cornerback Cameron Fuller to the active roster from the practice squad.


►  Chargers RB Mathews out vs. Chiefs

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews was ruled out for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mathews was absent from practice all week with an ankle injury that will keep him out for a third straight game.

Wide receiver Keenan Allen, who missed his last game with a broken collarbone and an injured ankle, was listed as doubtful after not practicing all week.

Punter Mike Scifres remains out with a shoulder injury.

Quarterback Philip Rivers (chest/back), defensive tackle Corey Liuget (ankle) and cornerback Shareece Wright (concussion) are all listed as probable, while guard Chris Watt (ankle) is questionable.


►  Jones, Jackson questionable for Falcons

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Steven Jackson are questionable for Sunday’s regular- season finale against the Carolina Panthers.

Jones, who hadn’t practiced since suffering a hip injury against Green Bay on December 8, returned to practice on Friday.

He played last week against New Orleans and caught seven passes for 107 yards. The former Alabama star has 100 receptions for 1,535 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games this season.

Jackson (quadriceps) did not practice this week. The 31-year-old has carried the ball 190 times for 707 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games this season.

Guard Jon Asamoah (back) and cornerbacks Robert McClain (illness) and Josh Wilson (hamstring) are also listed as questionable.

The Falcons (6-9) would capture the NFC South for the first time since 2012 with a victory against the Panthers (6-8-1).


►  Extra Points: Lions prepare to climb their Everest

When you take up rock climbing, it’s probably not a good idea to start with Mount Everest.

The world’s highest peak is just under 30,000 feet above sea level and attracts many experienced climbers as the ultimate test of their skills, an obstacle so treacherous it requires bottled oxygen to reach the top, at least for most.

So why do people chose to scale Mount Everest?

According to George Mallory, who some believe is the first man to reach the summit, “Because it’s there.“

The Detroit Lions could use some of that Mallory bravado because they are preparing to take on a task that is far more difficult than climbing Earth’s tallest mountain, at least for them.

The Lions’ Everest is the Green Bay Packers or more specifically the Packers at Lambeau Field.

The last time a Detroit team won in Wisconsin George H.W. Bush was president, the Dow Jones average topped 3,000 for the first time, and Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were still relevant on the pop charts.

It was 1991 and the Lions have lost 23 straight in the Badger State since.

Postseason play is already assured for both Detroit and Green Bay this time around but plenty will be on the line Sunday when the rivals close the regular season at Lambeau.

The winner will not only claim the NFC North title and an all important first- round bye in the playoffs, it will have an outside chance of securing the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC.

For Green Bay that would mean a win, coupled with a Seattle loss, while Detroit would need the triumph and setbacks from both the Seahawks and Arizona.

“Any time you get to play for a division championship, especially in the NFC North, it’s huge,“ said Lions guard Rob Sims. “It’s going to be a good one.“

The Lions, however, face the daunting history in the winner-take-all contest, along with the opportunity to exorcise some serious demons.

To be fair, playing in Green Bay is an issue for most teams because Aaron Rodgers has been nearly flawless on his home field.

The Packers are 7-0 at Lambeau in 2014, averaging 41.1 points per game, and Rodgers has been lights out with a almost video-game-like 132.6 passer rating, currently the highest single-season home passer rating in NFL history.

If A-Rod keeps that pace up for one more contest he will be breaking his own record of 128.5 set in 2011, and next of the list is, you guessed it, Rodgers at 126.4 in 2013.

“(Rodgers is) just certainly an exceptional talent, but he’s also extremely familiar with the system that they run,“ Lions first-year coach Jim Caldwell said. “I mean, he knows where everyone is. He delivers the ball quickly and on time.

“When he doesn’t he’s certainly capable of getting outside of the pocket and gaining ground on the ground with his legs, but then also finding open receivers down the field. I think his familiarity, and he’s a good decision maker as well.“

Before this season Detroit was known primarily as an offensive team but the Lions are just 20th in total offense at 326.7 ypg and their own QB, Matthew Stafford, has been below average away from Detroit with a 72.8 road passer rating.

Yet the Lions are better equipped than most to at least slow Rodgers and the Packers down, entering Week 17 with the second-ranked defense in all of football, a group that allows just 295.9 yards per game. Detroit is also second in points allowed, surrendering only 16.8 per game and have the top- rated run defense (63.8 ypg).

“You just know it’s going to be a game where you have to be very efficient throwing the ball,“ Rodgers said. “You have to look for those opportunities for extended plays in the run game and the pass game.“

Another development that could trend favorably toward Detroit is Rodgers’ health as the veteran has a lingering calf issue and has also been battling with the flu.

“We have a full-plate game plan and I’m confident he’ll be able to run it,“ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

The real key to Green Bay’s home success, though, is a near-historic attention to detail.

The Packers sport the best turnover differential in the NFL at plus-15 and have given it away just 11 times all season, on pace to be a franchise record and just one above the all-time NFL record of 10 miscues set by the 2010 New England Patriots and matched by the 2011 San Francisco 49ers.

“I think it’s very, very difficult in this league to come away from a ball game without gaining a turnover and it’s very, very tough to win when you lose one or multiple,“ Caldwell admitted.

“We’ve got to do a great job of protecting the ball, particularly up there (Lambeau Field). You know, typically that’s been the problem with teams that have gone up. They’ve turned the ball over numerous times. You give the ball to him (Rodgers) an extra two or three times and believe me, he’s going to put some points on the board.“

Most outside observers think this is a hill too big for the Lions to climb.

Green Bay has won 22 consecutive regular-season home games against Detroit and 23 straight overall if you count a 1994 playoff triumph at Lambeau. Add in the fact that Stafford has been under whelming on the road this season and you should have a recipe for the fourth straight NFC North crown for the Packers.

Or do the Lions finally reach their summit?

“I can’t do a forecast,“ Caldwell said. “I can only tell you that I hope our experiences have benefited us. You’ll find that when you get into this stage of the season, that it’s going to take your ability to do certain things extremely well and you have to understand that the teams that you’re playing have very few deficiencies.

“But, you can also get hot this time of year.“


►  Bears sign C Garza to 1-year extension

The Chicago Bears signed center Roberto Garza to a one-year contract extension on Friday.

Garza started all 11 games he played this season, his 10th with Chicago.

“Extremely happy for Roberto, his family and the Chicago Bears that Roberto will remain with the team,“ Bears general manager Phil Emery said. “He has been a consistently good positive producer and key contributor to our offensive line for an extended time period.“

The 35-year-old veteran has started 175 of 205 career games over 14 seasons for the Bears and Falcons.

Garza played four seasons for the Falcons (2001-04), who selected him in the fifth round of the 2001 NFL Draft.


►  Cards’ Lindley gets nod over Thomas

Bruce Arians changed his mind.

The Arizona Cardinals coach said Friday that Ryan Lindley will start at quarterback against San Francisco on Sunday, not Logan Thomas.

The announcement came four days after Arians said he would go with Thomas in an important Week 17 game against the 49ers.

Arians said he picked Lindley after evaluating both quarterbacks during practice this week.

“He’s going to give us a better chance to win this game,“ Arians said. “Logan is going to be a hell of a player one of these days, but right now he’s not ready.“

The Cardinals (11-4) have already locked up a playoff berth and can clinch the NFC West with a win plus a Seattle Seahawks loss or tie against St. Louis. They can win the division with a tie against the 49ers if the Seahawks lose to the Rams.

Arizona can also clinch home-field advantage and a first-round bye with some help.

The team has had quarterback problems this season. Starter Carson Palmer was lost for the season with a knee injury and backup Drew Stanton suffered a partially torn ligaments in his knee and is still sidelined.

NFL.com reported Friday that Stanton could be lost for the season after having arthroscopic surgery to fight an infection.

Asked about the story, Arians said Stanton was “on schedule for next week.“

Lindley started last Sunday against the Seahawks and struggled in a 35-6 loss. He finished 18-of-44 for 216 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

Thomas, a rookie, appeared for one play and had his lone pass attempt go incomplete.


►  Browns rookie Shaw to start at QB

Cleveland Browns rookie Connor Shaw will get the start at quarterback on Sunday against Baltimore, his coach said Friday.

The undrafted rookie out of South Carolina will take his first NFL snaps against a Ravens team chasing a playoff berth.

He’s the third quarterback to start a game this season for Cleveland, joining Brian Hoyer and fellow rookie Johnny Manziel, who are both injured.

“It’s a challenge, but at the same time we look forward to it,“ Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “If we go out and perform at all the other positions well, that’s going to minimized the impact.“

Shaw, a three-year starter at South Carolina, got the nod over veteran Tyler Thigpen, who was signed this week.

The Browns placed Manziel on injured reserve Wednesday with a hamstring injury the former Heisman Trophy winner suffered last week against Carolina. Hoyer also was hurt during the game and is unlikely to be ready for Sunday.

The Ravens can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Browns plus a loss or tie by San Diego against Kansas City. They also make the playoffs with a tie and a Chargers loss.


►  Ravens make final playoff push, host Browns

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t hide his frustration after the Ravens’ disappointing loss last weekend.

“We got our (butts) kicked, plain and simple,“ Flacco said following a 25-13 defeat to the Houston Texans.

As a result, the Ravens no longer control their playoff destiny and they’ll need a victory this Sunday against the visiting Cleveland Browns and some help to reach the postseason for the sixth time in seven years.

The Ravens limited the Texans to 313 yards of offense, but the offense struggled all game in a costly setback that snapped a two-game winning streak and dropped Baltimore to 9-6 on the season.

The club now sits in third place in the AFC North at 9-6, a game back of second-place Baltimore Ravens and unable to catch the front-running Cincinnati Bengals, who are 10-4-1.

The Ravens now not only need a victory in this game, but they also need the San Diego Chargers to lose or tie in their road game at Kansas City this weekend.

Flacco put the blame on the offense for the setback to the Texans as he himself struggled in one of his worst NFL showings. He was just 3-of-18 passing in the first half with two interceptions and ended up getting picked off three times.

“We just got whopped man. There’s no other way about it,“ said Flacco, who ended up completing 21-of-50 pass attempts for 195 yards. “Our defense played well. Our special teams played well, and we didn’t do a single thing on offense. We just got beat up and whooped. It’s part of being a NFL football player; being able to take this sometimes and move on.“

Flacco completed a pair of touchdown passes to Torrey Smith, but running back Justin Forsett was limited to 19 yards on 10 carries.

Though the Ravens also are at the mercy of the Chargers, at least they have a favorable matchup this weekend.

Baltimore had an 11-game winning streak over Cleveland snapped in the second meeting of 2013, but defeated a hosting Browns team 23-21 back in Week 3 on Justin Tucker’s 32-yard field goal as time expired.

The Ravens have won six in a row at home over the Browns, who have not won in Baltimore since 2007, and are 12-3 as the host in this series.

Cleveland will try to snap its skid in Baltimore and finish the season at 8-8. Though last Sunday’s 17-13 setback to the Carolina Panthers was their fourth in a row, the Browns are still set to post their best record since going 10-6 in 2007.

First-year head coach Mike Pettine hopes to have his club headed in the right direction and will hope it can finish strong, but rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel won’t play in the finale after suffering a hamstring injury late in the first half versus the Panthers.

He has already been ruled out for this game.

“It felt like something I hadn’t experienced before and needed to get checked out,“ said Manziel. “Pretty frustrating.“

Brian Hoyer, who started the first 14 games of the season before getting benched, threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron, but did little else in racking up just 134 yards passing on the day.

Cleveland was outgained 404-228 in the loss.

“Offensively, not near good enough to win in this league,“ Pettine said. “Made the one big play but other than that, never seemed to get into much of a rhythm.“

Now Pettine will not have Hoyer for this game as the quarterback is dealing with a shoulder and biceps injury. Undrafted rookie Connor Shaw will get his first start with Tyler Thigpen, just signed to the club on Tuesday, penciled in as the backup.

“It’s a challenge, but at the same time we look forward to it,“ Pettine said. “If we go out and perform at all the other positions well, that’s going to minimized the impact.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Flacco has put together a very solid season, but he’ll need to bounce back in a hurry to keep Baltimore’s playoff chances alive. He’ll have to do so, however, without the services of tackle Rick Wagner, who left the game versus Houston with a foot injury and was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.

That could leave to rookie James Hurst making the start in Wagner’s place and fellow Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe is also hobbled with a foot injury.

Baltimore is averaging 126.0 yards per game on the ground, but has managed just 126 over the past two games total.

“They’ve blitzed the run game quite a bit,“ said Ravens coach John Harbaugh of what teams are doing against his ground game. “In some games, we’ve handled that and made them pay for it, and some games we haven’t, and in (versus the Texans) we certainly didn’t hurt them. We missed some throws.“

Flacco, meanwhile, has matched his previous career high with 25 touchdown passes this season and the Ravens offense is 10 points shy of setting a single-season club record, surpassing the 398 set in 2012.

Flacco has a good chance to break some marks this weekend as he is 12-1 in his career versus the Browns with 2,715 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 90.5 passer rating.

The Browns do come in with the seventh-ranked passing defense and lead the NFL with 21 interceptions. They have picked off a pass in 11 straight, with defensive end Billy Winn keeping the streak alive versus the Panthers.

Cleveland’s 21 picks are the most for the club since it had 23 in 2008 and the Browns have forced 24 turnovers in the past 10 games. That, despite talented corner Joe Haden sitting out last weekend with a shoulder injury.

Linebacker Karlos Dansby returned from a four-game absence caused by a knee injury to rack up 12 tackles versus Carolina, while former Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger is pacing the Browns with a career-high 10 sacks. That is the most by a Cleveland player since linebacker Kamerion Wimbley had 11 in 2006.

Cleveland was hoping to get one more look at Manziel before his rookie campaign came to a close, but now they face the reality of being without both the first-round pick and the man he replaced under center, Hoyer.

One would expect the Browns to lean on their ground game this weekend. They are the only team in the NFL to have a pair of rookies with over 500 yards rushing—Isaiah Crowell (601) and Terrance West (579), and the club has rushed for 16 touchdowns on the season.

When Shaw does keep the ball, he’ll have to be aware of the Ravens’ talented linebackers in Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.

Dumervil, who ranks third in the NFL in quarterback takedowns, remains one sack shy of a new career high of 18 and has 10 sacks in seven career games versus the Browns.

Suggs has faced Cleveland 22 times, racking up 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley leads all freshman NFL players with 122 tackles, second-most in the AFC, as the Ravens rank ninth in total defense.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Given the favorable matchup this weekend—at home versus the last-place Browns—the Ravens weren’t very happy to squander their meeting with the Texans. All the club can do now is win on the field and let the cards fall where they may.

“We lost control of our playoff destiny, and that hurts. We’re in a tough situation. What we can control is how we prepare this week and how we play this Sunday,“ said Harbaugh.

“We left all that was bad for us in Houston, and now the total focus has to be on beating the Browns this Sunday in Baltimore.“

Even doing so might not be enough for Baltimore, but it can’t afford to scoreboard watch either. Cleveland has nothing to lose and more than a few players will be looking to impress the coaching staff for next season.

That being said, the Ravens can also count on their defense and Suggs should have his unit ready to go regardless of who is under center for the Browns.


►  Cards take QB woes to Santa Clara in potential Harbaugh swan song

In winning nine of their first 10 games, the Arizona Cardinals seemed well on their way to their first division title since 2009.

Things haven’t gone according to plan since, but the Cardinals still have a shot at the NFC West crown this Sunday when they visit the disappointing San Francisco 49ers in a regular-season finale.

Arizona was 9-1 following a sixth straight victory on November 16, but the club then suffered back-to-back losses to Seattle and Atlanta on the road to tighten up the standings in the NFC West.

Wins over Kansas City and St. Louis then helped Arizona lock up its first playoff berth since 2009, though the Cardinals were then routed by the Seahawks 35-6 last Sunday to fall into a tie for first place in the division.

The loss to the Seahawks also gave Seattle a sweep of the season series, s. the Cardinals will need a victory and a loss this Sunday by the Seahawks to the visiting Rams to clinch the NFC West and a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs.

Arizona also still has a shot at claiming home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, a scenario it can secure with a win and a loss by both the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers to the visiting Detroit Lions.

As was the case last week, the Cardinals will have to find success without their top two quarterbacks. Carson Palmer is done for the season because of a torn ACL and backup Drew Stanton was unable to play versus the Seahawks due to his own knee ailment.

The Cardinals are hopeful Stanton will be able to return for the postseason, especially after Ryan Lindley struggled versus Seattle. He was just 18-of-44 passing for 216 yards with an interception.

Of course, the defense didn’t give him much help either, yielding 596 yards of offense to Seattle. That was the most allowed by the franchise since December of 1958.

The effort of the defense was summed up early in the fourth quarter, when Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch dodged and bullied his way to a 79-yard score to put the game away.

It was Arizona’s first loss at home this season.

“That’s not the outcome we were looking for but I’m still proud of our players,“ Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “We had it to a one-score game and then it fell apart.“

San Francisco has not had the type of season it had hoped for as it will miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons under head coach Jim Harbaugh, and the club continues to be plagued by rumors of his possible departure at season’s end.

San Francisco was eliminated from the playoff race with a loss to Seattle on December 14, then lost its fourth game in a row this past Saturday with a 38-35 overtime setback to the San Diego Chargers.

The Niners racked up a franchise-record 355 yards rushing in the game, but blew a 21-point lead at halftime as the Chargers scored two touchdowns in the final nine minutes of regulation before getting a game-winning 40-yard field goal in overtime.

San Francisco lost three fumbles in the game, including one in overtime when wide receiver Quinton Patton was striped on a 20-yard end-around, setting up Novak’s winner.

“We did a lot of things well. We just had three turnovers. That’s the difference in the game,“ said Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “We have a fumble on the goal line, a fumble that ends in a touchdown and a fumble in overtime. That’s at least a 14-point swing.“

Kaepernick passed for 114 yards with a touchdown, but added 151 yards rushing on seven carries. A bulk of that came on a 90-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Running back Frank Gore broke off a 52-yard scoring rush in the opening quarter, finishing with 158 yards on 26 carries.

The Niners had been to three straight NFC Championship Games—making one Super Bowl appearance—in Harbaugh’s first three seasons, but won’t finish with a winning record this season.

Harbaugh, who is 43-19 with the 49ers, has reportedly been offered the head coaching job at Michigan, his alma mater.

“There’s not much to say except keep fighting and get our last regular-season win,“ the coach said.

The Niners have won nine of their past 11 versus the Cardinals, but lost to them for the first time in five meetings with a 23-14 setback in Arizona on September 21.

The Cardinals have lost five straight in San Francisco and are trying to sweep the season series for the first time since 2008.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Cardinals looked like the team to beat when Palmer was under center and even figured to be a contender as long as Stanton played decent, but the likes of Lindley or rookie Logan Thomas aren’t likely to scare opposing defensive coordinators.

In Lindley’s defense, going up against the Seahawks is no easy task, but his inability to engineer a touchdown drive caused head coach Bruce Arians to suggest early this week he was thinking about giving Thomas the start this weekend.

The 6-foot-6 Thomas was taken in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, actually leading to the release of Lindley, who then rejoined the Cardinals last week following the injury to Stanton.

Thomas, though, has struggled in practice and reports surfaced late in the week that Arians may in fact start Lindley instead, something he made official on Friday.

“He’s going to give us a better chance to win this game,“ Arians said of Lindley. “Logan is going to be a hell of a player one of these days, but right now he’s not ready.“

There is a lot of pressure on Arizona quarterbacks given the club ranks just 30th on the ground with 80.7 yards per game.

Cardinals rookie receiver John Brown caught two of his five touchdowns this season back in Week 3 versus the Niners, while Larry Fitzgerald leads the club with 61 receptions and 755 yards.

Fitzgerald was targeted 11 times by Lindley versus the Seahawks, but only made four catches and continues to nagged by a knee injury. However, he is still just one touchdown catch shy of becoming just the 10th player in NFL history with at least 90 TD receptions and 12,000 receiving yards.

Arizona’s defense has yielded 20 points or fewer 12 times this season, but was gutted by Seattle last week. But despite the Seahawks’ 267 rushing yards, the Cardinals still rank eighth against the run.

Linebacker Alex Okafor had the Cards’ lone sack last weekend, his team-leading eighth of the season. He is looking to become just the third linebacker in team history to have a 10-sack season.

Like the Cardinals, the Niners have a strong defense that did not perform up to par in Week 16. San Francisco had three interceptions versus San Diego, but allowed Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to mount the comeback, with his second TD pass of the fourth quarter coming with 29 seconds left.

Perrish Cox, Antoine Bethea and Chris Culliver all had picks, with Bethea taking his 49 yards for a score.

Cox, meanwhile, nabbed his team-high fifth interception of the season, but also suffered a shoulder injury that is a concern.

Fellow defensive back Eric Reid, meanwhile, suffered his third concussion in two seasons and it would be a surprise to see him play this weekend.

One thing that has plagued San Francisco this season is Kaepernick’s inability to move the ball through the air and he has been unable to pull of the big plays in the passing game that earned him the starting job a few seasons ago.

The Niners rank 31st with just 191.6 passing yards per game and Kaepernick’s passer rating is just 85.1.

Kaepernick, though, is hoping that Sunday won’t mark Gore’s final game in a San Francisco uniform. The 31-year-old pending free agent is just 38 yards shy of his eight career 1,000-yard rushing season.

“He’s a huge asset and I’m hoping he’s back here. (I) feel a lot more comfortable with (Gore) in the backfield,“ said Kaepernick.

Former Arizona and current Niners wide receive Anquan Boldin is just 19 yards shy of his seventh career 1,000-yard receiving season.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Injuries dictate a lot in the NFL as the Cardinals are currently learning.

While the chance at a week off and some home-field advantage is certainly a goal that Arizona would love to reach, the reality is the Cards are going to the playoffs regardless, so Arians has some wiggle room this weekend.

It doesn’t matter if Lindley or Thomas gets the call really because even a victory won’t guarantee anything, especially with the Seahawks having a favorable matchup this weekend.

Arians would be wise to take it easy on his starters in this game.

San Francisco, meanwhile, is likely to be hitting a crossroad not long after this game ends, with Harbaugh seemingly on his way out. But the club has had a lot of success under the coach and should give its all in trying to send him out a winner.


►  NFL hands out fines for Giants-Rams skirmish

Five players received fines from the NFL for taking part in a sideline brawl during last week’s game between the New York Giants and St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.

A melee on the Giants’ bench ensued after Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree delivered a late hit on New York wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. late in the first half, leading to ejections for Giants wideout Preston Parker and teammate Damontre Moore as well as St. Louis defensive end William Hayes.

Parker and Moore were handed $15,000 fines for their participation in the fight, with Hayes docked $10,000. Beckham also received a $10,000 fine for retaliating against Ogletree, who drew the lightest punishment with a $8,268 penalty.

The Giants went on to earn a 37-27 win, with Beckham amassing 148 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches.


►  Browns suspend Josh Gordon for violating team rules

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is suspended again.

Gordon, who missed the first 10 games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, has now been suspended by the Browns for violating team rules.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, December 27)

Wirt County 45     Calhoun County 32

Harman 64     South Harrison 61

Webster County 81     Nicholas County 50

Philip Barbour 69     Tygarts Valley 58

Union Grant 64     Liberty 49

Grafton 51     #2 Notre Dame 49

Ravenswood 72     Roane County 50

Sherman 61     Clay County 51

Parkersburg South 62     Canal Winchester Harvest Prep, Ohio 55


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, December 27)

#6 Williamstown 78     #9 Gilmer County 48

Notre Dame 55     Richwood 36

Liberty 43     South Harrison 19

Philip Barbour 77     Point Pleasant 24

South Charleston 76     Parkersburg South 62

Belpre, Ohio 74     Wirt County 45

Herbert Hoover 59     Parkersburg Catholic 37

Parkersburg 65     John Marshall 45



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, December 27)


Final Score: (1) Kentucky 58, (4) Louisville 50

Tyler Ulis poured in 14 points as top- ranked Kentucky dispatched No. 4 Louisville for the third straight time, a 58-50 result on Saturday. Karl-Anthony Towns chipped in 10 with nine rebounds for the Wildcats (13-0), who used a late second-half surge to remain unbeaten. Terry Rozier compiled 15 points and eight boards for the Cardinals (11-1), who were limited to less than 26 percent shooting. Chris Jones and Wayne Blackshear picked up 13 and 10 points, respectively, in defeat.


Final Score: (8) Gonzaga 87, BYU 80

Kyle Wiltjer scored 24 points to help No. 8 Gonzaga make a second half comeback in its 87-80 win over Brigham Young. Kyle Pangos added 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and also dished out seven assists for the Bulldogs (12-1, 1-0 WCC). Gonzaga received 15 points and 10 rebounds from Byron Wesley. Gonzaga found itself down by six a few minutes into the second half, but the Bulldogs were able to come from behind by limiting BYU to 32.1 percent shooting in the second half, including 2-of-13 from long distance. The Cougars (10-4, 0-1) got 13 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds from Kyle Collinsworth for his second triple-double of the season, but it was not enough. Tyler Haws and Anson Winder led BYU with 17 points each.


Final Score: (15) Maryland 72, Oakland 56

Dez Wells played for the first time in over a month and scored all 10 of his points in the second half, helping No. 15 Maryland hold off Oakland for a 72-56 win on Saturday. Wells, out since suffering a broken right wrist against Iowa State on Nov. 25, threw down an alley-oop dunk to spark a 9-0 Terrapins run to end the game. Maryland led by as much as 23 points early in the second half before Oakland clawed back to make it a game. Melo Trimble scored 17 points to lead the Terrapins (12-1), who have won five in a row since falling to nationally ranked Virginia on Dec. 3 to reach their highest ranking in the Associated Press poll since Jan. 2, 2006. Jake Layman added 15 points and 12 rebounds in the victory. Jalen Hayes scored 13 points to lead Oakland (4-10). Kahlil Felder added 12 points and Corey Petros and Dante Williams had 11 each for the Golden Grizzlies, who went scoreless over the last 4:15 of the game.


Final Score: (20) North Carolina 89, UAB 58

Marcus Paige scored 16 points to lead all scorers and help No. 20 North Carolina beat UAB, 89-58, on Saturday. The Tar Heels (9-3) used a number of dunks to dominate the points in the paint battle by a 40-28 margin. Kennedy Meeks netted 14 points and grabbed a game- high nine rebounds and Justin Jackson contributed 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. C.J. Washington led the Blazers (4-9) with 12 points and pulled down seven boards. Robert Brown and Chris Cokley joined Washington in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively. The Blazers shot just 3-of-25 from long distance and 30.5 percent overall.


Final Score: (21) Ohio State 100, Wright State 55

D’Angelo Russell and Amir Williams combined for 45 points on 19 shots in 21st-ranked Ohio State’s 100-55 rout of Wright State. Russell, one of the nation’s scoring leaders among freshman, shot 6- for-6 from 3-point range en route to 24 points. Williams finished with a career-high 21 points with seven rebounds and four blocks. Kam Williams scored 15 points off the bench and Marc Loving had 13 for the Buckeyes (11-2), who shot a sizzling 61.4 percent from the field to crack the century mark for the second time this season. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s newly-minted zone defense looked as dominant as ever, holding the Raiders (8-6) to 21-of-70 shooting. Grant Benzinger had 12 points and Joe Thomasson finished with 10.


Final Score: (24) Colorado State 58, New Mexico State 57 (OT)

J.J. Avila scored 19 points with nine rebounds and 24th-ranked Colorado State continued the best start in school history with a 58-57 overtime win over New Mexico State on Saturday. Stanton Kidd chipped in 13 points for the Rams (13-0), who finished off their non- conference slate with a perfect record heading into a duel with Boise State to open Mountain West play on New Year’s Eve. Remi Barry deposited 14 points, Pascal Siakam had 13 points and 13 rebounds and Ian Baker added 12 points for the Aggies (5-9), losers in four of their last five.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Saturday, December 27)


Final Score: Toronto 110, LA Clippers 98

Kyle Lowry had 25 points, seven assists and three steals as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 110-98 on Saturday afternoon. Jonas Valanciunas posted 22 points and 11 rebounds while Amir Johnson snatched 12 boards for the Raptors, who have won seven of their last eight games. J.J. Redick netted 23 points, Blake Griffin added 22 points, six rebounds and five assists and DeAndre Jordan pulled down 20 boards for Los Angeles, which has dropped four of its last six games.


Final Score: Orlando 102, Charlotte 94

Nikola Vucevic scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and the Orlando Magic overcame Kemba Walker’s career-high scoring effort to down the Charlotte Hornets, 102-94, in a matchup of the bottom two teams in the Southeast Division. The Magic committed only six turnovers and had six players finish in double figures to win for just the third time in their last 10 games. Tobias Harris hit a key 3-pointer and netted 21 points, Victor Oladipo added 13 and Elfrid Payton filled his stat line with 11 points, eight assists and seven boards. Kemba Walker exploded for 35 of his 42 points after halftime, but Charlotte still dropped its second straight on the heels of a four-game winning streak.


Final Score: Washington 101, Boston 88

Paul Pierce netted 14 of his 17 points against his former team in the first half and the Washington Wizards defeated the Boston Celtics, 101-88, on Saturday night. Kris Humphries posted 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench, while John Wall added 12 points and seven assists for the Wizards, who have won eight of their last 10 games. Jeff Green provided a game-high 23 points for Boston, which has dropped four straight games.


Final Score: Memphis 103, Miami 95

Mike Conley scored 24 points and led the Memphis Grizzlies to a 103-95 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday. Marc Gasol had a productive game, scoring 22 points with 10 rebounds to help the Grizzlies snap a season-high four-game losing streak. Beno Udrih and Tayshaun Prince went for 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Memphis, which played without Zach Randolph (knee) for a fourth straight game. Dwyane Wade, coming off a 31-point outing on Christmas Day in a win against LeBron James and the Cavs, scored 25 points with seven assists. Danny Granger tallied 18 points off the bench and Luol Deng added 16 for the Heat, who have lost two of their last three and have not won back-to-back games since Nov. 22-23.


Final Score: Indiana 110, Brooklyn 85

David West and the Indiana Pacers took control in the second half and downed the cold-shooting Brooklyn Nets, 110-85, at Barclays Center. Seven Indiana players scored in double figures and the team shot 58.1 percent from the field while posting a 60-38 advantage in the second half. West scored all but two of his 17 points after halftime, and Rodney Stuckey put together a terrific all-around effort with 20 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals in the lopsided win. C.J. Watson finished with 17 points while Luis Scola and Chris Copeland contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively, off the bench for the Pacers, who have won three of four following a 1-10 stretch. Jarrett Jack netted 22 points, but the Nets shot just 36.4 percent from the field and had their three-game winning streak come to a screeching halt.


Final Score: Chicago 107, New Orleans 100

Jimmy Butler scored 33 points, and the Chicago Bulls extended their season-high winning streak to six games by topping New Orleans, 107-100, at the United Center. Derrick Rose added 19 points, while Aaron Brooks scored 13, and Taj Gibson tallied 12 with 10 rebounds. Chicago native Anthony Davis had 29 points to pace the Pelicans, who failed to build on a 97-90 home win over San Antonio Friday night. Tyreke Evans scored 26 and Jrue Holiday notched 19 with seven assists.


Final Score: Atlanta 90, Milwaukee 85

Jeff Teague had 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 90-85 on Saturday night. Al Horford posted 20 points and nine rebounds, while Paul Millsap added 17 points and eight boards for the Hawks, who have won six of their last seven games. Khris Middleton tallied 21 points and Zaza Pachulia provided 11 points and 15 boards for Milwaukee, which has dropped three of its last four games.


Final Score: Utah 88, Philadelphia 71

Derrick Favors scored 17 points and anchored Utah’s best defensive effort of the season, as the Jazz clipped the Philadelphia 76ers 88-71 on Saturday. Favors pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds and blocked five shots and Trey Burke dropped 17 points for the suddenly-hot Jazz, who have won four of five on the heels of a 1-12 stretch. Gordon Hayward had 15 points, Enes Kanter tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds and Trevor Booker gave 14 points off the bench in Utah’s return to EnergySolutions Arena following a six-game road trip. Tony Wroten paced Philadelphia with 20 points and Robert Covington scored 17 in defeat. Michael Carter-Williams shot 2-of-20 and committed a game-high six turnovers.


Final Score: Sacramento 135, New York 129 (OT)

DeMarcus Cousins scored nine of his season-high 39 points in overtime, and the Sacramento Kings handed the New York Knicks a seventh consecutive loss in Saturday’s 135-129 victory. Cousins, who missed Friday’s loss to the Suns with a stomach virus, did not look 100-percent physically but stepped up in crunch time. He went 14-of-27 from the floor and added 11 rebounds and four assists. Rudy Gay added 29 points and Darren Collison donated 27 with 10 assists for the Kings, who had dropped seven of eight coming in. Carmelo Anthony paced the Knicks with 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but it was not enough as New York fell to 2-14 on the road. Cole Aldrich scored a career-high 18 points before fouling out in overtime, while Tim Hardaway Jr. netted 19 for New York, which never led in regulation but scored nine of the final 11 points to force OT.


Final Score: Golden State 110, Minnesota 97

Stephen Curry scored 25 points with six assists to lead the Golden State Warriors in a 110-97 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. Klay Thompson supplied 21 points, while David Lee, Andre Iguodala and Marreese Speights each chipped in with 10 points in the win. Golden State snapped a two-game losing streak after a winless two-game trip through Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers. It has won nine straight at Oracle Arena, however. Thaddeus Young paced the scuffling Timberwolves with 17 points and Zach LaVine added 12 points with a career- high 14 assists in Minnesota’s eighth straight loss overall and on the road.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Saturday, December 27)


Final Score: Buffalo 4, NY Islanders 3 (SO)

Nicolas Deslauriers, Zemgus Girgensons and Chris Stewart scored in the third period to pull Buffalo out of a 3-0 hole and the Sabres snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night. Buffalo’s goals, highlighted by Girgensons’ short-handed tally, came in a span of 5:12 in the period. Stewart tied the score with 8:09 remaining. Jhonas Enroth made 33 saves in the win, including 17 after the second period, then stopped two shots in the shootout after the first Islanders skater fired wide. He improved to 5-0 in shootouts this season. The Islanders placed goaltender Jaroslav Halak on injured reserve Saturday with a lower-body injury and recalled Kevin Poulin from the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers to make his first appearance in the NHL this season. Poulin made 17 saves in the first two periods, then allowed three goals on six shots in the third. John Tavares had two goals in the loss and Nick Leddy scored one. Tavares made one too many moves as the last skater in the shootout and Enroth stopped him with his right pad.


Final Score: Detroit 3, Ottawa 2 (OT)

Gustav Nyquist finished off a dominant shift with the game-winning goal late in overtime to lift the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Nyquist cycled around the offensive with excellent puck protection for 28 seconds and beat Craig Anderson with a wrist shot from the left circle with 48 seconds remaining in the extra session to give Detroit the win. Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and an assist, Justin Abdelkader also scored and Niklas Kronwall supplied two helpers for the Red Wings, who have won two straight on the heels of a six-game losing streak. Jimmy Howard turned aside 31 shots in his return from a groin injury. Mike Hoffman and Clarke MacArthur each scored for the Senators, who have lost three in a row. Anderson made 24 stops in defeat.


Final Score: Tampa Bay 2, Carolina 1

Make if 5-for-5 for Ben Bishop against the Hurricanes. Bishop stopped 25 shots and the Tampa Bay Lightning got goals from Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn in a 2-1 victory over Carolina on Saturday. Bishop has five wins in as many career starts against Carolina. He took a shutout into the third period until Andrej Sekera lit the lamp on a wrister from just inside the blue line with 5:56 remaining. Cam Ward made 36 saves for the Hurricanes, who lost for the third time in four contests. They lost at Tampa Bay by the same score Dec. 11.


Final Score: NY Rangers 3, New Jersey 1

Derek Stepan registered his third career hat trick as the red-hot New York Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 at Madison Square Garden. Stepan had a short-handed and power-play goal before sealing the Rangers’ season-high eighth straight victory by scoring into an empty net with 55 seconds left in the game. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 19-of-20 shots in his 600th career game. Cory Schneider made 25 saves and Steve Bernier scored for the Devils, who played their first game since head coach Peter DeBoer was fired on Friday. New Jersey president and general manager Lou Lamoriello announced before Saturday’s game that he will go behind the bench with Adam Oates and Scott Stevens. Oates will handle the forwards and Stevens will oversee the defense. The Devils have dropped three straight and eight of nine overall.


Final Score: Columbus 6, Boston 2

Scott Hartnell tallied twice in his return from injury, while Kevin Connauton added a goal and two assists, as Columbus used a strong second period to claim a 6-2 victory over Boston at Nationwide Arena. Nick Foligno, Matt Calvert and Jeremy Morin also lit the lamp for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 9-1-1 in the month of December. Jack Johnson and Brandon Dubinsky each chipped in a pair of helpers to back a 26- save effort from Curtis McElhinney. Patrice Bergeron and Craig Cunningham scored for the Bruins, who had taken three of their last four coming in. Niklas Svedberg and Tuukka Rask both allowed three goals on 15 shots.


Final Score: Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3 (OT)

After a back-and-forth third period, a fortunate bounce helped Winnipeg top Minnesota 4-3 in overtime on Saturday. Andrew Ladd’s shot went way over the net, but the puck caromed off the glass into the crease. Minnesota goalie John Curry backed up looking for the puck and knocked it into the net to end the game. The Jets also received goals from Bryan Little, Adam Lowry and Blake Wheeler to win their fourth game out of their last five. Michael Hutchinson made 22 saves on 25 shots in the victory. Curry stopped 19-of-23 shots in goal for Minnesota after Darcy Kuemper was ruled out with an illness. Goals from Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek were not enough to keep the Wild from losing their fifth straight game. The two teams will conclude the home-and-home set in Winnipeg on Monday.


Final Score: Washington 3, Pittsburgh 0

Eric Fehr scored twice and the Washington Capitals blanked the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-0, on Saturday. Fehr opened the scoring with a goal late in the first period and put the game away with Washington’s third marker midway through the third. Marcus Johansson also scored for the Capitals, winners in four of five. Braden Holtby posted his third shutout of the season and second in the last four games, stopping all 31 shots he faced. Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves for Pittsburgh, which lost its third straight game.


Final Score: Dallas 4, St. Louis 3

Defensemen Trevor Daley and Jason Demers scored power-play goals in the second period as the Dallas Stars edged the St. Louis Blues 4-3 at Scottrade Center. Travis Moen and Ryan Garbutt both had first-period goals for Dallas, which has won six of its last eight games. Kari Lehtonen made 30 saves in the Stars’ first victory over a Central Division opponent this season (1-7-3). Vladimir Tarasenko netted his 21st goal of the season for the Blues, who suffered their fourth straight loss. David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo also scored, and Jake Allen stopped 20-of-24 shots.


Final Score: Nashville 4, Philadelphia 1

Pekka Rinne stopped 26 shots and Nashville pumped home three power-play goals to fuel a 4-1 decision over Philadelphia at Bridgestone Arena. Colin Wilson scored twice and Filip Forsberg and Mike Fisher once each for thePredators, who have won six of their last eight. Roman Josi contributed two assists to the winning side. Claude Giroux provided the sole offense for the Flyers, who had won the first three outings on their current eight-game road trip. Ray Emery surrendered three goals on 37 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Arizona 2, Anaheim 1 (SO)

Captains are expected to produce in big situations, but this seemed out of Shane Doan’s control. Doan broke his stick, but was the only skater to score in a four-round shootout as the Arizona Coyotes beat the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 on Saturday night, knocking off the NHL’s top team in a goofy ending. The blade of Doan’s stick snapped off as he fired a shot at Frederik Andersen, who got a piece of the splintered wood with his shoulder but whiffed on the puck as it trickled—tamely—past his left pad and inside the goal post.


Final Score: Chicago 5, Colorado 2

Patrick Kane tallied two goals and an assist as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 5-2, on Saturday. Brandon Saad, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp all scored and Jonathan Toews supplied two assists for the Blackhawks, who bounced back from a 5-1 loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday. Corey Crawford turned aside 23-of-25 shots. Nathan MacKinnon and Erik Johnson each lit the lamp and Calvin Pickard allowed four goals on 32 shots for the Avalanche, who had a three-game winning streak come to an end.


Final Score: Calgary 4, Edmonton 1

Johnny Gaudreau remained red-hot, scoring twice as the Calgary Flames opened a six-game homestand with a 4-1 win over the lowly Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. Gaudreau’s two goals came after he got his first career hat trick in Calgary’s last game, a 4-3 overtime win at Los Angeles on Monday. He has six goals in the last three games. Joe Colborne and Curtis Glencross also scored for the Flames, who have won twice this week on the heels of an eight-game losing streak. Jonas Hiller made 26 saves in the win. The NHL-worst Oilers have lost nine in a row (0-7-2) and 20 of their last 21 (1-14-6). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored their only goal 4:23 into the third period.


Final Score: Los Angeles 3, San Jose 1

Anze Kopitar finished with a goal and an assist to lift the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-1 victory over the in-state rival San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Tyler Toffoli and Jake Muzzin also scored and Jonathan Quick made 21 saves for the Kings, who have won three of their last four games. Joe Pavelski netted San Jose’s lone goal and Antti Niemi stopped 26 shots in defeat. The Sharks entered the game 9-1-1 over their last 11 contests.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


SUNDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2014


National Football League
Chicago at Minnesota, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (707)
Philadelphia at NY Giants, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (708)
New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (709)
Dallas at Washington, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (710)
Cleveland at Baltimore, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (711)
Jacksonville at Houston, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (712)
San Diego at Kansas City, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (713)
NY Jets at Miami, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (714)
Buffalo at New England, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (715)
Indianapolis at Tennessee, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (717)
Carolina at Atlanta, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (705)
Detroit at Green Bay, 4:25 PM - FOX, DSS (706)
Oakland at Denver, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (718)
Arizona at San Francisco, 4:25 PM - FOX, DSS (719)
St. Louis at Seattle, 4:25 PM - FOX, DSS (720)
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 8:30 PM - NBC


National Basketball Association
Detroit at Cleveland, 4:30 PM - FS-Detroit, Ohio, DSS
Houston at San Antonio, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Southwest, FS-Southwest, DSS
Oklahoma City at Dallas, 7:30 PM - FS-Oklahoma, Southwest, DSS
Toronto at Denver, 9:00 PM - SNET, Altitude, DSS
New York at Portland, 9:00 PM -  MSG, CSN-Northwest, DSS
Phoenix at LA Lakers, 9:30 PM - FS-Arizona, Time Warner, DSS


National Hockey League
Toronto at Florida, 5:00 PM - TVA, SNET-Ontario, FS-Florida, DSS
Vancouver at Anaheim, 8:00 PM - TVA, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS


College Basketball
Tulane vs. St. John’s, 12:00 PM - FS1
Central Connecticut State at Connecticut, 1:00 PM - SNY, ESPN3.com
Harvard at Arizona State, 2:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
UNC Greensboro at East Carolina, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
NJIT at Lafayette, 2:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Morgan State at Marquette, 2:00 PM - FS1
Bucknell at Siena, 2:00 PM - Time Warner
Long Beach State at Syracuse, 2:00 PM - ESPN U
Coast Guard at Army, 3:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Texas Southern at Kansas State, 3:00 PM - FS-Midwest
Central Penn at Radford, 3:00 PM - Big South Network
Milwaukee at South Dakota, 3:00 PM - ESPN U
Bowling Green at South Florida, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Rutgers at Monmouth, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Northwestern State at Arkansas, 3:30 PM - SEC Network
Howard at Fordham, 4:00 PM - SNY
St Katherine at Fresno State, 4:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Wake Forest at Richmond, 4:00 PM - NBCSN
Florida Gulf Coast at Xavier, 4:00 PM - FS1
Mississippi Valley State at Houston, 5:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Illinois-Chicago at Bradley, 5:00 PM - CSN-Chicago
Delaware State at Temple, 5:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Belmont at Butler, 6:00 PM - FS1
UC Davis at Washington State, 6:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
UCLA at Alabama, 6:30 PM - ESPN U
Stony Brook at Washington, 8:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Buffalo at Wisconsin, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network
CS Bakersfield at California, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network


Women’s College Basketball
East Carolina at South Florida, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Oakland at Central Michigan, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Oregon State at Tennessee, 1:00 PM - SEC Network
North Florida at Florida, 2:00 PM - SEC Network+
Rutgers at Indiana, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Northwestern at Michigan State, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Tennessee State at Kentucky, 2:00 PM - SEC Network+
Georgia at Seton Hall, 2:00 PM - Big East Digital Network
Miss Valley State at Alabama, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Penn State at Iowa, 3:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Notre Dame at UCLA, 4:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Michigan at Wisconsin, 4:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Temple at Memphis, 8:30 PM - ESPN U


College Hockey
Michigan Tech vs. Michigan, 3:30 PM - FS-Detroit+
Quinnipiac at Princeton, 4:00 PM - ESPN U
Ferris State vs. Michigan State, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit+


International Soccer
Nottingham Forest vs. Birmingham City, 6:55 AM - beIN Sport
Southampton vs. Chelsea, 9:00 AM - NBCSN
Blackburn Rovers FC vs. Middlesbrough FC, 9:55 AM - beIN Sport
Newcastle United vs. Everton, 11:15 AM - NBCSN

Sports News   141223

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Marshall’s Doc Holliday: “It’s time to go play”

“The only thing you remember is when you win ‘em,” said Doc Holliday, Marshall University’s head football coach, of bowl games as his 12-1 team prepared to face Northern Illinois University (11-2) in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday night.

Including the Boca Raton Bowl, Holliday has now been a part of 24 total bowl games.

“The ones I remember are the ones you have great feelings about that you walk out of here with a win, so you’ve got to separate the fun from the preparation and now it’s all business,” Holliday said on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Kickoff for Marshall University, the Conference USA champion, and NIU, the Mid-American Conference champion, is set for 6 PM Tuesday at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton — located within sight of the Atlantic Ocean. The game will be televised on ESPN.

The two teams last met on October 06, 2001. Marshall won that game 37-15 and leads the series against the Huskies 2-0.

“It’s a great matchup. There’s a lot of excitement. The stadium’s sold out down here, believe it or not, it’s hard to get tickets and it’s a beautiful venue,” Holliday said.

Steve Cotton, the play-by-play announcer for the Thundering Herd, talked with MetroNews from Boca Raton on Monday’s “Morning News.” “I’ve been to a few bowl games over the years and this has been the best bowl week experience I’ve been a part of,” Cotton said.

“The players seem to be having a great time and, of course, there are 28 Floridians on Marshall’s roster.”

The Herd’s bowl headquarters since Friday has been the historic Boca Raton Resort and Club, a Waldorf Astoria property that dates back to 1926. Since then, every U.S. president has stayed at the resort at least once.

The game comes less than a week after the death of Marshall University President Stephen Kopp who died from a heart attack at the age of 63. As a tribute to Kopp, the players will wear decals with Kopp’s initials, “SJK,” on their helmets during the game.

When asked about rumors that he was among those being considered for the head coaching position at Pitt, Holliday said he was only focused on preparing the Herd for Tuesday’s game.

“We’ve had a great week of preparation and our kids have done a great job while they’re down here, we’ve got a great challenge and we’re only concerned about making sure this team is prepared the best to go play,” Holliday said.

“It’s time to go play and just see what happens.”



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Which Heisman winner reaches the championship game?

Back in 1964, Navy’s Roger Staubach and Notre Dame’s John Huarte quarterbacked their teams against one another with the Fighting Irish shutting out the Midshipmen, 40-0.

What did these two players have in common? Both were Heisman Trophy winners, although Huarte would not receive the award until after the season.

On January 4, 2005, Jason White and his Oklahoma Sooners played Matt Leinart and his USC Trojans in the Orange Bowl. Both quarterbacks already had won the Heisman but the point differential was almost similar as the Trojans won 36.

Approximately four years later, two more Heisman Trophy winners met as another Oklahoma quarterback, Sam Bradford, squared off against Florida’s Tim Tebow in the BCS Championship Game. The one-loss Gators defeated the one-loss Sooners, 24-14.

Fast forward to this season and there are two more Heisman Trophy winners taking on one another, this time in the 2015 Rose Bowl. The victor moves on to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against either Alabama or Ohio State.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has been on fire all season long but has been most effective since November 8 when the Ducks defeated Utah. The junior has thrown 12 touchdown passes with zero interceptions since then, leading Oregon to 193 points - the largest four-game total in the team’s 12-game FBS schedule.

The Ducks also have put it together defensively allowing just 17 points per game over their last five contests. The defense gave up an average of 28 points per game in its first seven FBS matchups.

They will need their defense to stay on course against an explosive Florida State offense and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston. The sophomore had an off season in 2014 but still threw for 3,559 yards - ninth best in FBS play.

When discussing Winston, most people talk about his propensity to turn the ball over (17 interceptions in 2014). However, only one quarterback with at least 12 interceptions completed a higher percentage of passes than his 65% and that was Boise State’s Grant Hedrick.

It is true Winston has not performed as well as he had in 2013 but it has been clear since the first game of this season that the talent at Florida State is nowhere near the level it was last year. Moreover, Winston should be given a ton of credit for keeping the Seminoles unbeaten despite so many close finishes.

The key to this matchup is not at quarterback or even at running back where both teams possess tremendous freshmen (Royce Freeman at Oregon and Dalvin Cook at Florida State). The game will be won by the team with the better defense.

It is difficult to judge which team that is, especially since Oregon plays in a more offensive-minded conference which skews the numbers in Florida State’s favor. To wit, the Seminoles have allowed fewer yards, fewer yards per play and fewer yards per carry.

However, Oregon has given up fewer yards per pass attempt and, surprisingly, the Ducks have allowed fewer points even with seven of their 13 games against top 50 offenses. Florida State played just three contests against top 50 offenses. Oregon does have to deal with the absence of cornerback Ifo Ekpre- Olomu as the senior is out with a knee injury, which even things out a bit.

When all is said and done, look for the Ducks and Mariota to get the best of Florida State and Winston with a 38-31 victory.

ALABAMA AND OHIO STATE MEET IN SUGAR BOWL

Which team will play Oregon for the title? Alabama seems to be the logical choice as the Crimson Tide have been in the AP top four all but two weeks of the season while the Buckeyes, outside of the first week, did not see the top 10 until week 12.

Despite its high ranking, Alabama had just four easy wins since the end of September. In the five other games, the Tide had three victories (and one loss) by a touchdown or less. The other matchup was an 11-point win over Auburn, a game they trailed heading into the fourth quarter.

Ohio State made it this far due to its dominating 59-0 performance over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Cardale Jones threw three touchdown passes and Ezekiel Elliott did his best Melvin Gordon impersonation with 220 yards on 20 carries for the 12-1 Buckeyes.

One thing is for certain - Ohio State will not shut out Alabama. Blake Sims, for all his faults, is one hundred times better than Joel Stave. Furthermore, Alabama’s offense is the best one Ohio State has faced outside of the possible exception of Michigan State.

Ohio State’s offense will be unable to keep up with the Crimson Tide, especially with Jones leading the way for the Buckeyes. It is one thing to get the job done against Wisconsin up 24-0 just 16 minutes into the contest, but it will be a completely different scenario against an Alabama defense ranked 4th in the country in scoring defense.

Expect a blowout in the Sugar Bowl as Alabama wins, 35-23.


►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Monday, December 22)


Final Score: Memphis 55, BYU 48 (2-OT)

The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl turned into a Miami Beach brawl. Before actual punches were thrown, Memphis beat BYU 55-48 in a double-overtime thriller on Monday, taking the lead on Paxton Lynch’s 11- yard touchdown pass to Roderick Proctor, then sealing the win with an interception. But the Tigers’ celebration was interrupted by an ugly on-field melee in which players from both teams exchanged blows, leaving some bloodied and threatening to overshadow the first football game played inside Marlins Park. And what a game it was. BYU scored 17 straight points off turnovers in the fourth quarter to take a 45-38 lead, but Memphis tied the score on Lynch’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Keiwone Malone with 45 seconds left in regulation. In the first overtime, BYU’s Jordan Leslie was close to scoring a touchdown when he squeezed the ball against his right shoulder pad while falling into the end zone. But the ball touched the ground and the Cougars settled for Trevor Samson’s 45-yard field goal. Lynch and the Tigers lost 12 yards on their first overtime possession before Jake Elliott hammered through a 54-yarder to tie the score. Proctor’s sliding catch in the right side of the end zone gave Memphis lead and the game ended on a turnover when DaShaughn Terry intercepted Christian Stewart’s overthrown pass, sparking a celebration on the field that turned into a fight. Lynch accounted for all seven Memphis touchdowns, throwing for four of them and rushing for three. He passed for 306 yards and threw three interceptions, but the Tigers (10-3) won in their first bowl appearance since the 2008 season. Malone had two touchdown receptions and Alan Cross caught the other as Memphis picked up its seventh consecutive win. Stewart passed for 348 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions for BYU (8-5), which fell to 6-4 in its 10th consecutive bowl game under coach Bronco Mendenhall. Leslie, Mitchell Juergens and Mitch Mathews had touchdown catches and Paul Lasike rushed for two scores.


►  Memphis tops BYU in 2OT bowl thriller

The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl turned into a Miami Beach brawl.

Before actual punches were thrown, Memphis beat BYU 55-48 in a double-overtime thriller on Monday, taking the lead on Paxton Lynch’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Roderick Proctor, then sealing the win with an interception.

But the Tigers’ celebration was interrupted by an ugly on-field melee in which players from both teams exchanged blows, leaving some bloodied and threatening to overshadow the first football game played inside Marlins Park.

And what a game it was.

BYU scored 17 straight points off turnovers in the fourth quarter to take a 45-38 lead, but Memphis tied the score on Lynch’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Keiwone Malone with 45 seconds left in regulation.

In the first overtime, BYU’s Jordan Leslie was close to scoring a touchdown when he squeezed the ball against his right shoulder pad while falling into the end zone. But the ball touched the ground and the Cougars settled for Trevor Samson’s 45-yard field goal.

Lynch and the Tigers lost 12 yards on their first overtime possession before Jake Elliott hammered through a 54-yarder to tie the score.

Proctor’s sliding catch in the right side of the end zone gave Memphis lead and the game ended on a turnover when DaShaughn Terry intercepted Christian Stewart’s overthrown pass, sparking a celebration on the field.

The brawl appeared to start with Memphis defensive lineman Martin Ifedi and BYU offensive lineman Tejan Koroma, but many other players were involved.

In the clearest example of how bad it got, BYU defensive back Kai Nacua punched Memphis tight end Alan Cross from behind as Cross was being held by one of his coaches.

The blow was captured live on the TV broadcast, which also showed that Nacua was bleeding from a cut below his left eye.

Elsewhere, Memphis offensive lineman Chase Johnson was seen swinging his helmet at a BYU player and Cougars linebacker Harvey Langi appeared to throw several rapid punches at an opponent.

“It’s not who we are. It’s not what we want to represent,“ said Memphis coach Justin Fuente. “I hope it doesn’t take away from an incredible football game on both sides.“

Lynch accounted for all seven Memphis touchdowns, throwing for four of them and rushing for three. He passed for 306 yards and threw three interceptions, but the Tigers (10-3) won in their first bowl appearance since the 2008 season.

Malone had two touchdown receptions and Cross caught the other as Memphis picked up its seventh consecutive win.

Stewart passed for 348 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions for BYU (8-5), which fell to 6-4 in its 10th consecutive bowl game under coach Bronco Mendenhall. Leslie, Mitchell Juergens and Mitch Mathews had touchdown catches and Paul Lasike rushed for two scores.

“It seemed like one long game of the same game,“ Mendenhall said. “Of one team scoring, the other answering, one team trying to separate, the other closing ... back and forth. Basically a dead-even game.“

BYU trailed 17-14 after a back-and-forth first quarter but had a 28-21 lead at halftime after turning a Lynch interception into Lasike’s 3-yard touchdown.

Memphis took the lead with two touchdowns in the third quarter, including Lynch’s 1-yard run on the opening possession.

Later, Manoa Pikula’s interception set up Samson’s 23-yard field goal and the Cougars tied the score after Memphis return man Joe Craig was stripped on the ensuing kickoff and Lasike scored from seven yards out.

They took a 45-38 lead on Zac Stout’s 19-yard interception return with 7:48 left in regulation.

Lynch had almost 10 seconds to make his game-tying throw, working his way toward the right sideline behind good protection before finding Malone near the middle of the end zone for the 5-yard score.

Stewart’s long pass to Leslie on the last play of regulation was knocked down by Andrew Gaines near the Memphis 5-yard line as time expired.

Game Notes

BYU fell to 13-19-1 in bowl games while Memphis improved to 5-3 ... It was the first-ever meeting between the teams.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL flexes Bengals-Steelers into primetime for Week 17

The NFL announced Sunday night that the AFC North showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers will be the NBC primetime game for Week 17.

The league leaves the primetime spot open for Week 17 and makes their decision for the game when most of the Week 16 slate has been complete in order to schedule the best game.

The winner of the game will win the North. Pittsburgh has already clinched a playoff spot, while the Bengals can still play themselves out of the postseason with consecutive losses. Cincinnati, which currently leads the division, plays the Denver Broncos on Monday night.


►  NFL Game Results

(MONDAY, DECEMBER 22)


Final Score: Cincinnati 37, Denver 28

Jeremy Hill rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown and Dre Kirkpatrick posted two interceptions as the Cincinnati Bengals clinched a playoff spot for fourth straight season with a 37-28 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday. Andy Dalton completed 17-of-26 passes for 146 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Bengals (10-4-1), who will battle Pittsburgh for the AFC North title on Sunday night. Jermaine Gresham caught nine passes for 62 yards and a score and Giovani Bernard also hauled in a TD pass in the win. Peyton Manning struggled throughout, picked off four times while finishing with 311 yards and two scores on 28-of-44 passing for the Broncos (11-4), who had a four-game win streak come to an end. C.J. Anderson rushed for 83 yards and a score on 18 carries, Emmanuel Sanders had two scores to go with 70 yards on six catches and Demaryius Thomas finished with seven catches for a game-high 115 yards in defeat. New England clinched the first overall seed in the AFC due to Denver’s loss.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Boys Area High School Basketball Game Results

(MONDAY, DECEMBER 22)

#8 Tug Valley 64     #2 Notre Dame 52


►  Girls Area High School Basketball Game Results

(MONDAY, DECEMBER 22)

Bridgeport 64     Trinity 46



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Staten, WVU crush Wofford

Juwan Staten tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds as No. 18 West Virginia rolled over Wofford, 77-44, on Monday.

West Virginia’s full-court pressure was too much for Wofford in the early going. The Mountaineers forced five turnovers during an 18-2 start.

Jonathan Holton and Jaysean Paige both hit 3-pointers during the run, which stretched more than seven minutes.

Holton and Elijah Macon scored 11 points apiece for the Mountaineers (11-1), who forced 21 turnovers for the game.

“We’ve lost the last few years before Christmas and I’ve been absolutely miserable,“ said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “They have been great.“

Jevon Carter netted 10 points, Paige and Gary Browne both had nine and West Virginia connected on 19-of-23 from the free throw line.

Spencer Collins and Karl Cochran were the lone Terriers to reach double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Wofford (9-3) stumbled out of the gate and never really threatened, finishing an abysmal 11-for-41 from the field.

“They’re very good, very good in areas I was worried about,“ said Wofford coach Mike Young.

Wofford, which had won four straight and nine of its last 10 games, only made five field goals in the first half and trailed 42-20 at the break.

WVU’s defense made another statement in the opening stages of the first half, holding Wofford without a field goal until Collins’ 3-pointer at 13:32.

That cut the deficit to 51-25, but Carter countered with a jumper that sparked an 11-0 run.

The spread reached 40 with just under four minutes to play.

Game Notes

West Virginia is off to its best start since 2009-10, when it opened 12-1 and went to the Final Four ... WVU won the rebounding margin, 37-27 ... West Virginia outscored Wofford 32-6 in the paint ... Wofford fell to 0-20 all-time against Top-25 teams.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Men’s Basketball Associated Press Top 25

1. Kentucky
2. Duke
3. Arizona
4. Louisville
5. Virginia
6. Wisconsin
7. Villanova
8. Gonzaga
9. Texas
10. Kansas
11. Wichita State
12. Iowa State
13. Washington
14. Utah
15. Maryland
16. Notre Dame
17. St. John’s
18. West Virginia
19. Oklahoma
20. North Carolina
21. Ohio State
22. Baylor
23. Northern Iowa
24. Colorado State
25. TCU


►  Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll

1. Kentucky
2. Duke
3. Arizona
4. Louisville
5. Virginia
6. Wisconsin
7. Villanova
8. Gonzaga
9. Texas
10. Kansas
11. Wichita State
12. Iowa State
13. Washington
14. Utah
15. Maryland
16. Notre Dame
17. West Virginia
18. Ohio State
19. St. John’s
20. Oklahoma
21. North Carolina
22. Baylor
23. San Diego State
24. Northern Iowa
25. Colorado State


►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Monday, December 22)


Final Score: (6) Wisconsin 68, California 56

Nigel Hayes recorded a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds and No. 6 Wisconsin went into Haas Pavilion and shut down the California Golden Bears en route to a 68-56 victory. Cal came in averaging over 70 points per game but succumbed to Wisconsin’s vaunted defense, which limited the Bears to 38.9 percent shooting. Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky each donated 14 points and combined for 14 rebounds for the Badgers (11-1), winners of four in a row following their lone loss against No. 2 Duke. Tyrone Wallace led Cal (10-2) with 17 points while Jordan Mathews added 15 in the loss, the team’s first in eight games.


Final Score: Temple 77, (10) Kansas 52

Temple took the subway to play Kansas. An early run and an unrelenting second half carried it the rest of the way. Will Cummings had 19 points and the Owls rolled to a 77-52 upset of No. 10 Kansas on Monday night, shooting better than 58 percent from the field for its first win over the Jayhawks in exactly 19 years. The game was never close, with Cummings sparking a 12-2 run at the start and the Owls (8-4) pulling away to lead by as many as 30 down the stretch. It came 19 years to the day after Temple’s last win over the Jayhawks, also a big upset. The Owls beat No. 1 Kansas 74-66 in overtime on Dec. 22, 1995, during what was the inaugural Jimmy V Classic in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jayhawks (9-2) entered this one riding eight consecutive wins since their 32-point loss to Kentucky on Nov. 18. Only Frank Mason III scored double figures with a game-high 20, including 13 in the first half to keep Kansas from being run out of the building.


Final Score: (11) Wichita State 80, Loyola Marymount 53

Darius Carter and Tekele Cotton both scored 12 points in a balanced effort for No. 11 Wichita State, which disposed of Loyola Marymount 80-53 in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic. Ron Baker had 11 points and Zach Brown added 10 off the bench for Wichita State (9-1), which got points from 13 different players. The Shockers await the winner of the final game of round 1 between Nebraska and host Hawaii. Evan Payne scored a game-high 15 points, which included a pair of highlight reel dunks, and Ayodeji Egbeyemi dropped 13 for Loyola Marymount (3-7).


Final Score: (13) Washington 66, Tulane 57

Nigel Williams-Goss had 14 points and nine assists as No. 13 Washington defeated Tulane 66-57 on Monday night. Robert Upshaw posted 11 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, while Shawn Kemp Jr. added 16 points for the Huskies (11-0), who improved to 5-0 at home this season. Dylan Osetkowski tallied 12 points and nine boards off the bench to lead Tulane (9-2), which had its nine-game winning streak snapped.


Final Score: (16) Notre Dame 91, Northern Illinois 66

Pat Connaughton recorded his second straight double-double and No. 16 Notre Dame crushed Northern Illinois, 91-66, on Monday. Connaughton, two days after posting 19 points and 14 rebounds in a rout of Purdue, poured in 21 points behind five 3-pointers and grabbed 10 boards in the Fighting Irish’s eighth consecutive win. All five Notre Dame (12-1) starters scored in double figures, with Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson each checking in with 16 points, and Jerian Grant and Steve Vasturia adding 11 and 10, respectively. Darrell Bowie’s 15 points paced Northern Illinois (4-5), which fell for the fourth time in five games.


Final Score: (17) St. John’s 66, Long Beach State 49

Chris Obekpa had 16 points, six blocks and eight rebounds as No. 17 St. John’s routed Long Beach State 66-49 on Monday night. Phil Greene IV posted 16 points and four steals, while Sir’Dominic Pointer added 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Red Storm (10-1), who moved to 8-0 at home this season. Mike Caffey netted 13 points to lead Long Beach State (5-8), which fell to 0-7 on the road.


Final Score: (18) West Virginia 77, Wofford 44

Juwan Staten tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds as No. 18 West Virginia rolled over Wofford, 77-44, on Monday. West Virginia’s full-court pressure was too much for Wofford in the early going. The Mountaineers forced five turnovers during an 18-2 start. Jonathan Holton and Jaysean Paige both hit 3-pointers during the run, which stretched more than seven minutes. Holton and Elijah Macon scored 11 points apiece for the Mountaineers (11-1), who forced 21 turnovers for the game. Jevon Carter netted 10 points, Paige and Gary Browne both had nine and West Virginia connected on 19-of-23 from the free throw line. Spencer Collins and Karl Cochran were the lone Terriers to reach double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Wofford (9-3) stumbled out of the gate and never really threatened, finishing an abysmal 11-for-41 from the field.


Final Score: (19) Oklahoma 85, Weber State 51

Ryan Spangler and Jordan Woodard scored 15 points apiece and No. 19 Oklahoma set an NCAA record in a dominating 85-51 win over Weber State on Monday. TaShawn Thomas added 13 points while Buddy Hield and Dinjiyl Walker scored 10 apiece for the Sooners (8-3), who rebounded easily from Saturday’s 69-67 loss to nationally ranked Washington in Las Vegas. The wire-to-wire win over Weber State included a 39-0 run in the first half—the most consecutive points ever scored against a Division I opponent.


Final Score: (21) Ohio State 93, Miami-Ohio 55

Kam Williams led No. 21 Ohio State with 18 points and the Buckeyes rolled to an easy wire-to-wire win over the Miami-Ohio RedHawks, 93-55, Monday. Ohio State (10-2) went on a 17-0 run in the first half, and the game was never close from there. Marc Loving scored 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds, and D’Angelo Russell added 15 points with nine assists. Keita Bates-Diop chipped in 12 points with seven boards, and Jae’Sean Tate scored 10. The RedHawks (3-8) were paced by L.J. Livingston’s career-high 17 points off the bench. He shot 7-of-8 from the field and grabbed eight boards. Geovonie McKnight was the RedHawks’ only other scorer in double figures with 10 points.


Final Score: (22) Baylor 70, Southern 66

Baylor was tested Monday, but the 22nd- ranked Bears survived with a 70-66 win over the visiting Southern Jaguars. Johnathan Motley led Baylor (10-1) with 19 points, and Rico Gathers added 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Southern (3-10) remained winless against D-I opponents this season. Adrian Rodgers paced the Jaguars with 26 points, making 9-of-17 shots from the field. Trelun Banks contributed 13 points and had seven assists.


Final Score: (24) Colorado State 75, Charleston Southern 54

Daniel Bejarano contributed 15 points with eight rebounds and six assists in 24th-ranked Colorado State’s 75-54 win over Charleston Southern. The Rams (12-0) set the record for the longest single-season winning streak in school history while also winning their seventh straight at Moby Arena. John Gillon supplied 14 points off the bench and Stanton Kidd added 13 in the win. Charleston Southern (5-5) completed a winless three-game road trip and has now lost four straight away from home. The Buccaneers opened the season with an overtime win at Ole Miss. Saah Nimley led all scorers with 18 points in the loss.


Final Score: (25) TCU 80, Grambling State 39

Kyan Anderson had game-high 17 points as No. 25 TCU handled Grambling State, 80-39, on Monday. Chauncey Collins scored 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and Charles Hill Jr. supplied nine points and five rebounds for the Horned Frogs (12-0), who are off to their best start in program history. A’Torri Shine was Grambling State’s lone scorer in double digits and Richard Freeman netted eight for the Tigers (2-8). who have dropped their last three games.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Horford, Aldridge are NBA Players of the Week

Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford and Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge were named the NBA Players of the Week on Monday.

Horford led the Hawks to a perfect 3-0 week, averaging 18.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.7 blocks.

Aldridge helped the Trail Blazers to a 4-0 mark last week, posting point- rebound double-doubles in all four games. He averaged 26.3 points, 14.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.25 steals and 1.25 blocks.


►  NBA Game Results

(Monday, December 22)


Final Score: Charlotte 110, Denver 82

Al Jefferson scored 22 points for the Charlotte Hornets on their way to a 110-82 win over the Denver Nuggets. The Hornets never trailed in their third straight win. Jefferson was joined by four other Hornets in double figures, including Kemba Walker with 18 and nine assists. P.J. Hairston added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Charlotte’s Lance Stephenson missed his third game with a pelvic sprain. Ty Lawson paced Denver with 18 points and made both of its 3-pointers. The Nuggets shot just 2-of-18 from long distance as they had their two-game winning streak snapped. Alonzo Gee chipped in 15 points for Denver.


Final Score: Chicago 129, Toronto 120

Jimmy Butler continued his torrid stretch on Monday night, but didn’t eclipse the 30-point mark this time. Butler had 27 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and four assists as the Chicago Bulls recorded a 129-120 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors. He scored a career-high 35 points in a victory over New York on Thursday, then followed it up with a 31-point, 10-rebound performance against Memphis. Derrick Rose netted 29 points, Pau Gasol posted 14 points and nine rebounds and Aaron Brooks poured in 17 points off the bench for the Bulls, who have won six of their last seven games. Kyle Lowry tallied 34 points and six boards, while Jonas Valanciunas added 20 points and nine rebounds for Toronto, which had its six-game winning streak snapped.


Final Score: Houston 110, Portland 95

James Harden padded his NBA scoring lead with 44 points as the Houston Rockets manhandled the LaMarcus Aldridge-less Portland Trail Blazers, 110-95, on Monday. The Blazers upended the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs last season, but without Aldridge, who sat with an illness, Portland had no one step up to match Harden’s production. Harden only played 32 minutes, shot 14-of-26 from the field and only missed one of his 13 free throw attempts to tie his season-best point total. He added seven assists and five steals for good measure.


Final Score: Utah 97, Memphis 91

Alec Burks scored 13 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter as the Utah Jazz came away with a 97-91 victory over the suddenly struggling Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Gordon Hayward chipped in 21 points and Derrick Favors had 15 along with seven rebounds to help the Jazz send the Southwest Division-leading Grizzlies to a season-high third straight loss. Memphis was without top rebounder Zach Randolph for a second consecutive game due to a swollen knee, while defensive stopper Tony Allen missed his fourth in a row with an eye abrasion.


Final Score: Atlanta 105, Dallas 102

The Atlanta Hawks are proving that they can do just fine without their starting point guard. Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 22 points starting in place of Jeff Teague to lead the Hawks to a 105-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Teague missed his third straight game with a strained left hamstring. Atlanta has won four straight and closed an impressive three-game road trip that also included wins over Cleveland and Houston. Kyle Korver supplied 18 points, Al Horford had 17 and Paul Millsap deposited 13 points with 12 rebounds in the win. Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 18 points on 8-of-22 shooting and Dirk Nowitzki added 16. Dallas had its three-game winning streak snapped. Rajon Rondo, making his second start as a member of the Mavs, contributed the first double-double for his new club with 13 points and 11 assists.


Final Score: San Antonio 125, LA Clippers 118

Tony Parker scored 26 points and Tim Duncan posted his third straight double-double to help the San Antonio Spurs get back in the win column with a 125-118 decision over the Los Angeles Clippers. Duncan went for 21 points and 12 rebounds, Boris Diaw added a season-high 23 points off the bench and Manu Ginobili scored 19 with 10 assists for the Spurs, losers of an unlikely four straight games before this win. The Spurs assisted on 37 of their 49 baskets and shot a season-high 63.6 percent from the field. Chris Paul scored 25 points and Blake Griffin had 22 in LA’s fourth straight road loss. The Clippers were up by eight early on following DeAndre Jordan’s layup, but lost their lead late in the first quarter and never led again.


Final Score: Golden State 128, Sacramento 108

Klay Thompson scored 25 points to lead the Golden State Warriors in a 128-108 rout of the Sacramento Kings on Monday. Justin Holiday had a career-high 18 points, Festus Ezeli posted a career-high 15 points with eight rebounds and Stephen Curry checked in with 12 points and 11 assists for Golden State. The Warriors have won two straight since Memphis halted their 16-game winning streak last Tuesday. Andre Iguodala and Marreese Speights each chipped in 12 points. Golden State improved to 10-1 at home this season in winning its sixth straight over the Kings. Sacramento could not build off of Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers that snapped a five-game skid. DeMarcus Cousins finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists to lead the Kings, while Darren Collison and Omri Casspi tallied 17 and 16 points, respectively.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Twins extend Hughes

The Minnesota Twins agreed to terms with starting pitcher Phil Hughes on a new five-year contract extension on Monday.

Hughes, who was originally signed to a three-year contract last winter which would have paid him $8 million in both 2015 and 2016, will now earn $9.2 million in 2015, $9.2 million in 2016, $13.2 million in 2017, $13.2 million in 2018 and $13.2 million in 2019.

Hughes, 28, went 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts last season, his first with the Twins. He set a major league record with an 11.63 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio and made news when he finished one-third of an inning shy of a $500,000 bonus.

In his final start of the season, rain forced the Twins’ game against Arizona into a delay after eight innings, forcing Hughes from the game one out shy of 210 innings and the bonus. The club offered Hughes a shot at the bonus by allowing him to work out of the bullpen in one of the remaining games, but he refused.

Hughes has a career record of 72-60 with a 4.32 ERA over 214 games in eight seasons with the Yankees and Twins.


►  Giants officially re-sign Romo

The San Francisco Giants officially re-signed right-handed relief pitcher Sergio Romo to a two-year contract on Monday.

The deal is reportedly worth $15 million.

Romo’s numbers dipped in 2014 as he finished the year with 23 saves, a 3.72 earned run average and a 6-4 record over 64 games.

The 31-year-old Romo, who has been a part of all three of the Giants’ World Series teams since 2010, has racked up 78 saves, a 2.51 ERA and a 31-21 record over 405 games spanning seven seasons with San Francisco.

The right-hander has also gone 3-1 over 25 career postseason appearances, registering a 2.11 ERA and four saves.


►  Pirates win bidding process on SS Kang

The Pittsburgh Pirates submitted the highest bid for the negotiating rights to Korean shortstop Jung Ho Kang.

The Pirates now have 30 days to try and work out a contract with Kang.

Kang, 27, hit .356 with 40 home runs and 117 RBI over 117 games last season for the Nexen Heroes.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Penguins send three home to be tested for mumps

The Penguins announced Monday that forwards Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie and goaltender Thomas Greiss were sent back to Pittsburgh to be tested for mumps.

The Penguins play at the Florida Panthers on Monday. The three players will be placed in isolation until test results are known.

Sidney Crosby, Beau Bennett and Olli Maatta have all tested positive, though Crosby is back in the lineup.


►  NHL Game Results

(Monday, December 22)


Final Score: Washington 2, Ottawa 1

Braden Holtby’s outstanding performance between the pipes kept the Washington Capitals on a roll with a 2-1 decision over the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center. Holtby recorded 38 saves in a game in which the Capitals were outshot by a 39-23 count, with Nicklas Backstrom accounting for the deciding goal on a power play late in the second period to help Washington earn a point for a ninth straight outing. The Caps are 7-0-2 during the surge. Jay Beagle also scored for Washington, with Mike Green assisting on both Capitals’ markers. Erik Condra had the lone goal for Ottawa, which received 21 saves from Craig Anderson.


Final Score: Nashville 5, Columbus 1

Pekka Rinne made 30 stops and Nashville broke open the game with three goals in a span of 2:14 early in the third period to claim a 5-1 victory over Columbus at Nationwide Arena. Craig Smith scored twice, Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson and Seth Jones once each for the Predators, winners of three straight and five of their last six. Alexander Wennberg produced a late tally for the Blue Jackets, who lost for just the second time in their last 10 outings. Sergei Bobrovsky was on the hook for four goals on 30 shots in defeat. Curtis McElhinney stopped four of five shots faced in the game’s final 12 minutes.


Final Score: Florida 4, Pittsburgh 3 (SO)

Aleksander Barkov provided the lone goal of a seven-round shootout as Florida claimed a 4-3 decision over Pittsburgh on Monday. After Simon Despres had his chance deflected away by Roberto Luongo to open the final round, Barkov faked a move from forehand to backhand up the middle and casually flipped a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury which ended the game. Jimmy Hayes scored twice in regulation and Jussi Jokinen once for the Panthers, while Luongo came up with 24 saves. Florida has endured four shootouts in its last six contests, lasting a total of 35 rounds. Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling and Evgeni Malkin lit the lamp for the Penguins, and Fleury stopped 34 shots.


Final Score: Vancouver 7, Arizona 1

Alex Burrows had two goals and the Vancouver Canucks broke out of a scoring slump in a big way, rolling to a 7-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. After mustering just 10 goals over their previous six games, the Canucks put up three in the first period to back a 38-save effort from Ryan Miller. Three of Vancouver’s scores on the night came on the power play, where the club had gone 1-of-22 over its last seven outings. Daniel Sedin and Brad Richardson had a goal and an assist in the rout, with Kevin Bieksa, Chris Higgins and Shawn Matthias also lighting the lamp for the Canucks. Mike Smith lasted just over a period for Arizona before being pulled after letting up four goals on 11 shots. Devan Dubnyk stopped 26-of-29 chances in relief. Oliver Ekman-Larsson accounted for the Coyotes’ lone goal as the visitors dropped their seventh game in the last eight.


Final Score: Anaheim 3, San Jose 2 (OT)

Ryan Kesler tallied at the 58-second mark of overtime, just after a power play expired, giving Anaheim a 3-2 victory over San Jose at Honda Center. San Jose’s Brent Burns committed a high-sticking infraction in the final 67 seconds of regulation, and Antti Niemi made a lunging glove stop on Kesler with 23.8 on the clock to help get his team beyond regulation. Niemi was powerless to stop Kesler’s second chance, an overpowering slapshot from the left circle which rippled the net under the crossbar on the far side. Rickard Rakell netted his first NHL regular- season goal and Cam Fowler also lit the lamp for the Ducks, who were coming off a 6-2 loss in Ottawa which concluded a five-game road trip. Frederik Andersen came up with 30 saves for the win.


Final Score: Calgary 4, Los Angeles 3 (OT)

Mark Giordano scored the game-winning goal with 53 seconds left in overtime, Johnny Gaudreau tallied his first career hat trick and the Calgary Flames erased a three-goal deficit for a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. Jonas Hiller made 31 saves while Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman each supplied two assists for the Flames, who halted an eight-game skid for their first win since Dec. 4. Marian Gaborik, Jamie McBain, and Trevor Lewis each scored for the Kings, who had their two- game win streak come to an end. Jonathan Quick stopped 24-of-28 shots in defeat.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  2014 Golf Year In Review

The 2014 golf season got off to roaring start for one player and another player dominated the late part of the schedule, while several others were great throughout.

The 2014 schedule started in late 2013 and Jimmy Walker was the story early on as he won three times between October and February. Patrick Reed won a pair of events and declared himself a top-5 player, and promptly went into a tailspin.

Reed went 12 more events, and nearly five full months, before his next top-10 finish. He did play well at the Ryder Cup, but he couldn’t help the United States win the cup back.

After Bubba Watson won the Masters for a second time, Martin Kaymer returned to the winners circle for the first time in three years as he won the Players Championship and followed that with a resounding win at the U.S. Open.

The week after Kaymer won his second major at Pinehurst No. 2, Michelle Wie won her first major at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer dominated the majors on the Champions Tour as they both won two majors.

The story of the year was Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman went on a magical run through July and August that saw him win three straight events—the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship.

After posting a 2-1-2 record at the Ryder Cup, McIlroy cruised down the stretch. He finished second in his final three events, and seemingly didn’t play well at times during those events.

As McIlroy dominated, there was plenty of talk about Tiger Woods, but that was all there was. Woods was held to eight events due to back spasms and back surgery. His best finish was a tie for 25th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he finished 20 strokes behind McIlroy.

While Wie won her first major, like Woods, she also missed time due to an injury. That led to a three-way battle for player of the year on the LPGA between Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko. All three won three times with Lewis claiming the Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average) and the money title.

Let’s look at the top performers of the season:


PLAYER OF THE YEAR—RORY MCILROY

Every great season has its bumps in the road. After collecting his first win of 2014, Rory McIlroy went on a four-event run in which his best finish was a tie for 14th.

McIlroy followed that with one of the best stretches of golf by any player in over a decade. Starting in the middle of July with the Open Championship, he played nine events the remainder of the season.

In those nine, McIlroy posted three wins (including two majors) and three second-place finishes. The other three results were a tie for fifth, a share of eighth and a tie for 22nd, which was one of just five finishes outside the top-15 all season.

McIlroy won the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in three consecutive starts. He now owns three legs of the career grand slam with the Masters being the only major he has yet to win. Let the hype for Augusta begin.

With his win at Valhalla, McIlroy started with three straight rounds in the 60s, marking the third time he has done so en route to winning a major championship.

For the year, McIlroy had four wins in 24 worldwide starts. He also notched five runner-up finishes among his 10 top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes.

In 2012 and 2014, McIlroy combined for nine worldwide wins and he earned over $16.3 million on the PGA Tour in those two seasons.

LPGA stalwarts Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko, three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos Ortiz and Champions Tour leading money winner Bernhard Langer were all considered.


TOURNAMENTS OF THE YEAR—U.S. OPEN and U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN

For the first time in history, one course hosted major championships in consecutive weeks, and both provided plenty of storylines other than the course itself.

Martin Kaymer dominated Pinehurst No. 2 the first two rounds and cruised to victory at the U.S. Open Championship. Kaymer opened with a pair of 65s to grab a 6-shot lead at the halfway point.

The German played the final 36 holes at a more U.S. Open-like 1-over par, but he did more than enough in the first two rounds en route to winning by eight strokes.

Kaymer torched the course thanks to a hot putter, which he used every chance he had to putt from off the green. And the plan worked to perfection.

Michelle Wie didn’t have it as easy, but Wie finally claimed her first major championship a week after Kaymer’s domination at Pinehurst.

Wie shared the lead entering the final round, and she closed with an even-par 70 to hold off Stacy Lewis for the title. Lewis had an impressive eight birdies in the final round, but Wie did enough for the win.

After Lewis had climbed within one, Wie poured in a big eagle putt on the 10th to push her lead back to four shots, and hung on down the stretch.

Pinehurst was set up well to host two majors in back-to-back weeks and two worthy champions walked away with the trophies.

Two other major championships—PGA Championship and Senior British Open—as well as the BMW International Open were also considered.


ROOKIE OF YEAR—LYDIA KO

After winning two LPGA events as an amateur, it was only a matter of time before Lydia Ko earned her first professional title on the LPGA Tour. She waited until her ninth tour start in 2014 to get it done.

In what turned out to be a three-player battle, Ko beat Stacy Lewis and Jenny Shin to win the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.

The victory was Ko’s fourth top-10 finish of the season, and she would go on to post 15 top-10s overall. Ko, Lewis and Inbee Park all won three times in 2014.

Ko wrapped up the season with back-to-back 68s, which helped her get into a playoff at the CME Group Tour Championship. On the fourth playoff hole, Ko made par to secure her third title of the season.

The 17-year-old didn’t miss a cut in 26 starts, finished third on the money list and third in both top-5 and top-10 finishes.

Brooks Koepka, Scott Dunlap and Chesson Hadley were also considered.


GOOD YEAR

- Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko all won three times on the LPGA Tour and battled for Player of the Year honors. Lewis narrowly claimed the award thanks in part to topping the money list and winning the Vare Trophy. Lewis was the first American since Betsy King in 1993 to win Rolex Player of the Year, the Vare Trophy and the money title in the same season.

- Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer both won twice in the 2014 season, and each claimed their second major championship title. Watson won his second Masters title and Kaymer rolled to victory at the U.S. Open.

- Rickie Fowler failed to win in 2014, but had top-5 finishes in all four majors and shared the third-most top-10 finishes (10) on the PGA Tour.

- Bernhard Langer dominated the Champions Tour from beginning to end. He won the season-opener in Hawaii for the first of his five victories. He was a playoff winner at the Senior Players Championship and he dominated the Senior British Open Championship, which he won by a Champions Tour record 13 strokes. Langer posted 18 top-10 finishes in 21 starts, finished outside the top-20 once in 21 events and earned over $3 million.

- Colin Montgomerie won for the first time in the United States, and won his first major championship, two in fact, of his career. Sure, they came on the Champions Tour, but a win is a win. He ended in the top-16 at all five majors and won the European Senior Tour Order of Merit in just six starts, four of which he won.

- Jay Haas won for the first time since the 2012 season and he finished second to Bernhard Langer in top-5 and top-10 finishes. Haas was also third on the money list.

- Carlos Ortiz and Adam Hadwin were the only two multiple winners on the Web.com Tour in 2014. Ortiz won three times and became the 10th player to gain the battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour.


BAD YEAR

- Due to a lingering back issue that led to surgery, Tiger Woods played in only eight events. He went winless for the third season of his career and his best finish was a share of 25th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

- Ian Poulter had been 12-3 in the Ryder Cup and 4-0 in his four singles matches, but he went 0-1-2 at Gleneagles, which followed an atypical year for the Englishman. He managed a pair of runner-up finishes, but overall collected just five top-10 finishes in 24 starts.

- Phil Mickelson went winless for the first time since 2003 and waited until the PGA Championship to post his one and only top-10 finish of the season.

- Seven-time PGA Tour winner Joey Sindelar notched a single top-10 finish, a tie for 10th at the SAS Championship, in 23 starts on the Champions Tour. Through seven full years on the senior circuit, Sindelar remains winless with four runner-up finishes, two of which came at the then named-Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, which is a team event.

- Former women’s world No. 1 Ai Miyazato did not record a single top-10 finish and she missed seven cuts in 22 starts in 2014. Miyazato finished 86th on the money list.


►  McIlroy ends year atop world rankings

There was not much change to the men’s world rankings as there were just two changes inside the top 20 this week.

Rory McIlroy finished the year as the No. 1 ranked player as he holds a comfortable lead atop the rankings.

Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson all stayed put as Nos. 2-4. The lone change to the top 10 saw Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose swap spots, with Garcia moving up one to No. 5.

Jim Furyk, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Martin Kaymer all remained the same at Nos. 7 through 12. FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel exchanged places with Phil Mickelson, moving Horschel up one to No. 13 and Mickelson down a spot to No. 14.

Graeme McDowell, Hideki Matsuyama, Victor Dubuisson, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson and Chris Kirk rounded out the top 20 once again from No. 15.

With this being the final world ranking for 2014, several players earned invitations to the 2015 Masters for ending this season in the top-50 in the rankings. Among that group were Joost Luiten, Stephen Gallacher, Shane Lowry, Mikko Ilonen and Danny Willett, who moved from 51 to 50 this week.


►  Ko jumps Lewis into No. 2 spot in world rankings

Despite not playing last week, 17-year- old Lydia Ko jumped Stacy Lewis and is No. 2 in this week’s world rankings.

Ko, who trailed Lewis by 0.01 average points last week, fell 0.14 average points, while Lewis dropped 0.18 average points, allowing Ko to move up a spot to No. 2.

That was the only change inside the top 20 this week as Inbee Park remained the No. 1 player in the world. After Ko and Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Michelle Wie, So Yeon Ryu, Hyo-Joo Kim, Karrie Webb and Lexi Thompson rounded out the top 10 from No. 4.

Kyu Jung Baek, Anna Nordqvist, Cristie Kerr, Azahara Munoz, Sun Ju Ahn, Mi Rim Lee, Na Yeon Choi, Brittany Lincicome, Paula Creamer and In Gee Chun all stayed put and they are Nos. 11 through 20.


►  Top amateur Henderson turns pro

Brooke Henderson, the top-ranked amateur female golfer in the world, has turned pro.

IMG said in a news release Thursday that the 17-year-old Canadian has signed on for representation and also inked a deal with the golf equipment company Ping.

Henderson has won more than 50 tournaments as an amateur and has competed on the LPGA Tour eight times since 2012. She was the low amateur in June’s U.S. Women’s Open, finishing in a tie for 10th place.

After turning pro, Henderson became the top-ranked Canadian in women’s golf.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2014


National Basketball Association
Minnesota at Cleveland, 7:00 PM - FS-North, Ohio, DSS
New Orleans at Indiana, 7:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, Indiana, DSS
Boston at Orlando, 7:00 PM - CSN-New England, FS-Florida, DSS
Chicago at Washington, 7:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, DC+, DSS
Philadelphia at Miami, 7:30 PM - CSN-Philadephia, SunSports, DSS
LA Clippers at Atlanta, 7:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, SportSouth, DSS
Denver at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - Altitude, YES, DSS
Portland at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, DSS
Charlotte at Milwaukee, 8:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Wisconsin, DSS
Dallas at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - FS-Southwest, Arizona, DSS
Golden State at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - CSN-Bay, Time Warner, DSS


National Hockey League
Nashville at Boston, 7:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, NESN, DSS
Philadelphia at Minnesota, 7:00 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, FS-North+, DSS
Washington at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC, MSG, DSS
Toronto at Dallas, 7:00 PM - SNET-Ontario, FS-Southwest+, DSS
Montreal at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - RDS, MSG+2, DSS
Carolina at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - FS-Carolina, MSG+, DSS
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, SunSports, DSS
Buffalo at Detroit, 7:30 PM - MSG-Buffalo, FS-Detroit, DSS
Arizona at Edmonton, 8:00 PM - SNET-West, DSS
St. Louis at Colorado, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
Winnipeg at Chicago, 8:30 PM - TSN3, CSN-Chicago+, DSS


College Basketball
SE Louisiana at South Florida, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Massachusetts at BYU, 2:00 PM - BYUtv
Diamond Head Classic, 2:30 PM - ESPN U
Detroit at Arizona State, 3:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Diamond Head Classic, 4:30 PM - ESPN U
Wagner at Cincinnati, 7:00 PM - FS-Ohio, ESPN3.com
CS Northridge at Louisville, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Holy Cross at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Sacred Heart at Rutgers, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Stanford at Texas, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
NJIT at Villanova, 7:00 PM - FS1
Texas Southern at Auburn, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Georgia Tech at Dayton, 8:00 PM - CBSSN
Jacksonville at Mississippi State, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Diamond Head Classic, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
Las Vegas Classic, 9:00 PM - FS1
South Dakota State at Utah, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Arizona at UNLV, 10:00 PM - CBSSN
Diamond Head Classic, 11:30 PM - ESPN U
Las Vegas Classic, 11:30 PM - FS1


College Football
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois (Boca Raton Bowl), 6:00 PM - ESPN
Navy vs. San Diego State (Poinsettia Bowl), 9:30 PM - ESPN

Sports News   141222

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Steelers lock up playoff berth, move into AFC North lead

The Steelers are back in the playoffs.

Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass and Pittsburgh’s defense held strong in a 20-12 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field.

The Steelers (10-5) secured a wild card berth and will host Cincinnati next Sunday for the AFC North title. The Bengals (9-4-1) host AFC West-champion Denver Monday night.

Pittsburgh, in the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season, held the Chiefs (8-7) out of the end zone and limited them to four Cairo Santos field goals. Kansas City’s playoff hopes are slim heading into next Sunday’s home game against San Diego (9-6).

The Steelers exacted revenge on the Chiefs for last season. In the final week, Kansas City rested the majority of its starters in a 27-24 overtime loss to San Diego. That ultimately knocked Pittsburgh out of playoff contention.

The Chiefs lost for the fourth time in five games.

Shaun Suisham’s 23-yard field goal widened Pittsburgh’s lead to 20-9 with 4:04 remaining. That capped a 12-play, 70-yard march that took 6:14 on the clock. The drive was aided by a 24-yard pass interference penalty on Jamell Fleming on 3rd-and-3 from the KC 48.

Santos split the uprights from 23 yards out with 1:37 left, but the Steelers were able to kill the clock when the Chiefs failed to recover the onside kick.

Roethlisberger completed 18-of-25 passes for 220 yards. Le’Veon Bell rushed 20 times for 63 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s third consecutive win.

Alex Smith finished 31-of-45 for 311 yards for the Chiefs, who also received 29 rushing yards from Jamaal Charles.

Suisham’s 23-yard field goal capped Pittsburgh’s 11-play, 80-yard drive to open the game. The big play of the march was a 44-yard reception by Martavis Bryant down the right sideline during a 3rd-and-4 play from the Pittsburgh 21.

Santos tied the game with a 35-yard field goal on KC’s first possession, during which Smith converted a key 3rd-and-16 with a 19-yard connection to Albert Wilson.

The Chiefs pushed the envelope twice in the second quarter in an attempt to get into the end zone. First, they faked a field goal, and Travis Kelce’s 6- yard gain gave the Chiefs a 1st-and-goal from the 6. The drive stalled, and Santos kicked a 25-yard field goal with 9:25 left in the half.

Pittsburgh battled back to grab a 10-6 edge. Roethlisberger converted a 3rd- and-7 with a 13-yard pass to Markus Wheaton to the KC 32. A 14-yard reception by Heath Miller brought the ball to the 6, but the Chiefs made two stops from the 1 on a pair of incompletions. On 4th-and-goal, Bell rushed off right tackle into the end zone with 4:18 remaining.

Smith led the Chiefs from their own 16 to the Pittsburgh 12. but on 4th-and- inches and under 30 seconds left in the half, the Chiefs opted to run Charles up the middle. He was met by linebacker Lawrence Timmons and a host of Steelers for no gain. On the play prior, De’Anthony Thomas caught a 5-yard pass, which would have been a first down, but replays showed Thomas’ knee hit the ground before he stretched the ball to the marker.

Charles was stripped of the ball midway through the third quarter. The turnover led to Roethlisberger’s 3-yard TD connection to the middle of the end zone to Antonio Brown with 34 seconds left in the quarter for a 17-6 margin. Roethlisberger appeared to injure his knee during the scoring play when defensive tackle Vance Walker stuck his foot out and made contact with the Pittsburgh QB just as he stood in the pocket and threw the TD pass.

Roethlisberger went to the locker room but returned in time for Pittsburgh’s next offensive series after Santos drilled a 43-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Game Notes

Brown had seven receptions for 72 yards ... Bell’s TD was just the third rushing one allowed by KC all season ... Pittsburgh has won six straight games in December.


►  Romo, Cowboys rout Colts, win NFC East

Tony Romo threw for 218 yards with four touchdowns on 18-of-20 efficiency to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a 42-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts, and help clinch the franchise’s 19th NFC East title in the process.

Dallas (11-4), which just needed a win in one of its final two games after Philadelphia’s loss to Washington on Saturday, captured the division crown for the first time since 2009.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have been eliminated from playoff contention.

DeMarco Murray was active even though he underwent surgery Monday on his fractured left hand sustained in last Sunday’s win over the Eagles. Murray rushed for 58 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown.

Terrance Williams hauled in two touchdown passes, while Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley each had a touchdown grab in the Cowboys’ third straight win.

The Colts (10-5), who clinched the AFC South last week, had their four-game winning streak snapped.

Andrew Luck threw for a career-low 109 yards on 15-of-22 passing with two interceptions before getting substituted for Matt Hasselbeck late in the third. Luck’s 41.7 passer rating was the lowest of his career.

Dallas had a very productive touchdown drive to open the game that was prolonged by a taunting penalty.

On 3rd-and-11 from midfield, Romo checked down to Lance Dunbar, who was dropped by Jerrell Freeman for a loss of four on the play. However, Freeman stared down Dunbar as he got up from the tackle which warranted the taunting violation. Five plays later, Romo capped the 15-play, 80-yard drive that spanned 8:24 with a 9-yard TD to Williams on a slant that gave the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.

Indianapolis went backward on its first possession, then Colts coach Chuck Pagano tried some trickery on fourth down. The punt team was sent out at the 19-yard line and punter Pat McAfee dropped back to pass. He lofted a pass to an open Dewey McDonald on the near sideline, but McDonald dropped the easy first down to give the ball back to Dallas in excellent field position.

Romo didn’t wait long to punch another touchdown in, hooking up with Bryant for a 19-yard score following McDonald’s blunder.

The Cowboys continued to add on with another scoring drive that bridged the first and second quarters. Bryant hauled in a 24-yard pass from Romo toward the end of the first. Later in the march, Beasley caught a crossing pattern, slipped under D’Qwell Jackson and raced into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown to make it 21-0.

The Colts were forced into another punt following three more unsuccessful plays. Dallas proceeded to chew up 6:31 of clock with Murray capping the 10- play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Dwayne Allen then dropped his third pass of the half while wide open deep down the far sideline that would have given the Colts their initial first down of the game. Reggie Wayne finally gave the visitors a fresh set of downs on a swing pass with under six minutes to play in the half.

Indianapolis moved past midfield for the first time with under a minute left, but Luck was intercepted by J.J. Wilcox in the back of the end zone to close the half.

The second half started how the first half ended with a Cowboys interception of Luck. Nick Hayden got a hand on a pass at the line of scrimmage and Anthony Hitchens hauled in his first career interception. Dallas went backward on the possession, though, and Dan Bailey missed wide from 52 yards out.

Romo’s 15th consecutive completion was a 25-yard touchdown to Witten. That mark was a personal best for Romo, who also passed Troy Aikman (32,942) for the franchise lead in passing yards on the play.

Brandon Weeden relieved Romo in the fourth and hit Williams for a 43-yard touchdown, then Hasselbeck found Zurlon Tipton for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 5:24 remaining to account for the final margin.

Game Notes

Dallas snapped a three-game home losing streak ... Cowboys right tackle Doug Free was again inactive with an ankle injury ... The Cowboys have never shutout an opponent while scoring 40-plus points ... Murray is 28 yards shy of Emmitt Smith for the most rushing yards in franchise history ... The Colts were last shut out in a 38-0 loss to New England in 1993 ... Witten had a team-high 90 yards on seven receptions ... Hakeem Nicks caught a team- high nine passes for 72 yards in the loss ... Hasselbeck finished 15-of-21 for 126 yards with a touchdown.


►  NFL Game Results - Week 16

(SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21


Final Score: Carolina 17, Cleveland 13)

Cam Newton accounted for two touchdowns and the Carolina Panthers picked up a crucial win to set up a winner-take-all NFC South showdown next week. Newton’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Stewart in the fourth quarter was the difference, and Carolina topped the Cleveland Browns, 17-13, on Sunday. The scoring strike to Stewart, which capped a 7-play, 66-yard drive, came less than three minutes after the Browns took their first lead on Brian Hoyer’s 81-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron. Hoyer replaced Johnny Manziel late in the first half after the rookie exited with a hamstring injury. The Panthers (6-8-1) will travel to Atlanta next week with the division on the line. Whoever wins that game will clinch the NFC South and host a playoff game.


Final Score: Detroit 20, Chicago 14

Joique Bell’s touchdown run in the fourth quarter gave the Detroit Lions a 20-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Detroit’s win coupled with Green Bay’s triumph in Tampa Bay, means the winner of the NFC North will be decided next week as the Lions will travel to Lambeau Field in a winner-take-all Week 17 matchup. The Lions came into the game having been assured of a playoff spot due to Philadelphia’s loss to Washington on Saturday. It is the first time since the 2011 season that the team has made it to the postseason. Green Bay also locked up a playoff spot Sunday. Matthew Stafford had a rough game as he went just 22-for-39 for 243 yards with a pair of red zone interceptions, while Reggie Bush also had a rushing touchdown for the Lions (11-4), who have won four straight to reach 11 wins for the first time since going 12-4 in 1991. Jimmy Clausen played admirably in the start, as he was under center in favor of a benched Jay Cutler. Clausen finished the game 23-for-39 for 181 yards and a pair of touchdown passes along with an interception for the Bears (5-10), who have lost their past four games.


Final Score: Houston 25, Baltimore 13

Randy Bullock converted a franchise-record six field goals while Arian Foster threw a touchdown pass as the Houston Texans downed the Baltimore Ravens, 25-13, in Week 16 action. Case Keenum passed for 185 yards and was picked off once after completing 20-of-42 passes to record his first career win as a starter for the Texans (8-7), who guaranteed themselves at least a .500 season with their third win in the last four. Foster also racked up a game-high 96 yards rushing on 25 attempts while C.J. Fiedorowicz was the beneficiary of his scoring throw. Andre Johnson totaled 65 yards on six catches and reached the 1,000-reception plateau. Joe Flacco had one of his worst days as a professional, completing only 21 of his 50 passes for 195 yards, two touchdowns to Torrey Smith and three interceptions for the Ravens (9-6), who had a two-game win streak snapped. Baltimore needs a win next week at home against Cleveland and some help in order to snag a wild-card berth. Steve Smith picked up 49 yards on five grabs, while Justin Forsett was held to 19 yards on 10 carries.


Final Score: Miami 37, Minnesota 35

Terrence Fede blocked Jeff Locke’s punt out of the end zone for a safety with 41 seconds left, sending the Miami Dolphins to a 37-35 win over the Minnesota Vikings. The blocked punt came after Damien Williams’ 3-yard TD catch tied the game for the Dolphins. The fourth quarter featured a combined 41 points. Despite the win, Miami (8-7) was eliminated from playoff contention due to the Steelers’ win over Kansas City. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in the locker room after the game that head coach Joe Philbin will be back next season. Ryan Tannehill completed 35-of-47 passes for 396 yards, four touchdowns and an interception for the Dolphins, who snapped a two-game skid. Lamar Miller carried the ball 19 times for 92 yards and a score and caught five passes for 58 yards. Mike Wallace hauled in five passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Teddy Bridgewater connected on 19-of-26 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Vikings (6-9), who have lost two in a row. Matt Asiata carried the ball 16 times for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Greg Jennings caught three passes for 56 yards and a score.


Final Score: Atlanta 30, New Orleans 14

Matt Ryan threw for 322 yards and the Atlanta Falcons’ maligned defense rose to the occasion in a season-saving 30-14 victory over New Orleans that dropped the erratic Saints out of the NFC South race. Entering this critical divisional showdown ranked at the bottom of the NFL in total defense, pass defense and sacks, the Falcons put forth their best effort of the year on that side of the ball to set up a winner- take-all matchup with Carolina for the NFC South crown next Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta (6-9) held the Saints to 328 total yards and came up with five sacks and four takeaways, including a pivotal fumble from Jimmy Graham at the goal line early in the fourth quarter and Osi Umenyiora’s 86-yard fumble return touchdown on the final play. Ryan did his part as well, completing a sharp 30-of-40 passes with a touchdown and no turnovers. Julio Jones racked up 107 yards on seven catches after not practicing the entire week due to a hip injury. Drew Brees finished 30-of-47 for 313 yards and a touchdown to Graham, but was intercepted twice in the loss, the fifth straight at the Superdome for New Orleans (6-9).


Final Score: Pittsburgh 20, Kansas City 12

The Steelers are back in the playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass and Pittsburgh’s defense held strong in a 20-12 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field. The Steelers (10-5) secured a wild card berth and will host Cincinnati next Sunday for the AFC North title. The Bengals (9-4-1) host AFC West-champion Denver Monday night. Pittsburgh, in the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season, held the Chiefs (8-7) out of the end zone and limited them to four Cairo Santos field goals. Kansas City’s playoff hopes are slim heading into next Sunday’s home game against San Diego (9-6). The Steelers exacted revenge on the Chiefs for last season. In the final week, Kansas City rested the majority of its starters in a 27-24 overtime loss to San Diego. That ultimately knocked Pittsburgh out of playoff contention. The Chiefs lost for the fourth time in five games.


Final Score: Green Bay 20, Tampa Bay 3

The Packers clinched a spot in the playoffs for the sixth straight season on the backs of their defense, limiting the Buccaneers to 109 yards of offense in a 20-3 win over Tampa Bay Sunday. Next week the Packers host the Detroit Lions, and the winner of that game clinches the NFC North title. Detroit rallied for a 20-14 win at Chicago Sunday. Offensively the Packers (11-4) were led by Aaron Rodgers once again as he threw for 318 yards and a touchdown to Jordy Nelson. Rodgers completed 31-of-40 passes. Nelson caught nine passes for 113 yards and fellow receiver Randall Cobb set career highs with 11 catches and 131 receiving yards. Eddie Lacy ran for 99 yards on 17 carries, including a 44- yard touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter. Tampa Bay (2-13) got only 16 rushing yards, led by Doug Martin with 17. His longest run of the day was four yards. McCown completed just 12-of-26 passes for 147 yards. Vincent Jackson caught three passes for 60 yards, and Mike Evans added 49 yards on four receptions.


Final Score: NY Giants 37, St. Louis 27

Odell Beckham Jr. put on a show once again, amassing 148 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches to help the New York Giants record a 37-27 win over the St. Louis Rams. New York’s third straight victory featured another jaw-dropping performance by the rookie sensation, who followed up an 11-reception, 130-yard effort at Tennessee in Week 14 with last Sunday’s 12-grab, 143-yard, three-touchdown display against Washington. Beckham wasn’t the only Giant to put up big numbers on a day in which New York (6-9) piled up a season-best 514 yards. Eli Manning threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns while completing 25-of-32 attempts, Rueben Randle caught six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown and Andre Williams added 110 rushing yards on 26 carries. St. Louis (6-9) hadn’t allowed a touchdown in any of its previous three games, having yielded only 12 points during that stretch. Shaun Hill hit on 24-of-32 throws for 290 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Rams. Kenny Britt finished with 103 yards on nine catches, while Tre Mason had 76 yards and a touchdown on 13 rushes in the loss.


Final Score: Dallas 42, Indianapolis 7

Tony Romo threw for 218 yards with four touchdowns on 18-of-20 efficiency to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a 42-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts, and help clinch the franchise’s 19th NFC East title in the process. Dallas (11-4), which just needed a win in one of its final two games after Philadelphia’s loss to Washington on Saturday, captured the division crown for the first time since 2009. The Eagles, meanwhile, have been eliminated from playoff contention. DeMarco Murray was active even though he underwent surgery Monday on his fractured left hand sustained in last Sunday’s win over the Eagles. Murray rushed for 58 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. Terrance Williams hauled in two touchdown passes, while Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley each had a touchdown grab in the Cowboys’ third straight win. The Colts (10-5), who clinched the AFC South last week, had their four-game winning streak snapped. Andrew Luck threw for a career-low 109 yards on 15-of-22 passing with two interceptions before getting substituted for Matt Hasselbeck late in the third. Luck’s 41.7 passer rating was the lowest of his career.


Final Score: Oakland 26, Buffalo 24

Derek Carr passed for 214 yards and two touchdowns, while Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals as the Oakland Raiders topped the Buffalo Bills, 26-24, on Sunday. Carr completed 17-of-34 attempts and tossed scores to James Jones and Jamize Olawale for the Raiders (3-12), who have a chance to match their win total of the past two seasons if they top the Broncos in Denver next week. Latavius Murray and Darren McFadden combined for 140 yards on 32 attempts, while Kenbrell Thompkins posted 90 yards on five receptions. Kyle Orton finished 32-of-49 for 329 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Bills (8-7), who conclude the regular season at New England seven days from now having been eliminated from postseason contention. With the running game largely shackled to the tune of 13 yards on 13 attempts, Fred Jackson totaled 93 yards on nine catches, while Sammy Watkins, Scott Chandler and Robert Woods posted a TD catch apiece.


Final Score: Seattle 35, Arizona 6

Marshawn Lynch wasn’t on the field for the start of the game due to an upset stomach. Following a drink of water and a mouthful of skittles, he was ready to go. Lynch then gave the Arizona Cardinals faithful nausea with a back-breaking touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Lynch broke off a career-high 79-yard scamper to put the game away as the Seahawks seized control of the NFC West with a 35-6 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday night. The Seahawks had already held a 21-6 advantage before Lynch took a handoff off left tackle. He burst through the hole and cut across the field along the right sideline and stiff-armed Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson at the Seattle 45. Lynch then powered through Peterson and Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson across midfield and Alex Okafor was unable to make a shoe-string tackle at the 20 before he leapt into the end zone to complete the phenomenal touchdown. Seattle won for the eighth time in nine games following a 3-3 start and can win the NFC West and clinch homefield advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with a win over the St. Louis Rams next Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks hold the tiebreaker over Arizona after sweeping the season series. Lynch carried the ball 10 times for 113 yards and two scores. Russell Wilson was 20-of-31 for 339 yards and two touchdowns, while racking up 88 yards and a score on the ground for Seattle (11-4), which totaled a franchise-record 596 yards.


(SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20)


Final Score: Washington 27, Philadelphia 24

Kai Forbath kicked a 26-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to lift the Washington Redskins to a 27-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday. The Redskins snapped a six-game losing streak and dealt a significant blow to the Eagles’ playoff hopes. Philadelphia has lost three straight games since a Thanksgiving win at Dallas gave it sole possession of first place in the NFC East. A win at home by the Cowboys against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday will eliminate the Eagles from postseason contention. The Eagles (9-6) have been prone to turning the ball over this season and cornerback Bashaud Breeland intercepted Mark Sanchez’s pass at the Washington 42-yard line inside the two- minute warning. Robert Griffin III then threw a short pass to Pierre Garcon, who spun out of a defender’s grasp for a 23-yard gain. A roughing the passer penalty tacked on 15 more yards and the Redskins added one more first down, forcing Philadelphia to use each of its three timeouts before Forbath nailed the go-ahead kick. The Eagles, who had erased a 24-14 deficit, were still alive with three seconds remaining because Forbath drilled Trey Burton with the kickoff at midfield. Cornerback David Amerson knocked down Sanchez’s pass in the end zone to end the game. Griffin completed 16-of-23 passes for 220 yards with one interception and Darrel Young had two 1-yard touchdown runs in the third quarter for Washington (4-11). Sanchez was 37- of-50 for 374 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Riley Cooper. Tight end Zach Ertz set an Eagles franchise record with 15 catches for a career-high 115 yards.


Final Score: San Diego 38, San Francisco 35 (OT)

Philip Rivers’ arm got the San Diego Chargers to overtime. Eric Weddle’s arm helped them win the game once they got there. Rivers led two touchdown drives in the final nine minutes of regulation and Weddle forced a fumble that led to Nick Novak’s winning 40-yard field goal in overtime, as the Chargers rallied to beat the San Francisco 49ers 38-35 in a thriller on Saturday night. San Diego trailed by 21 points at halftime and by 14 in the fourth quarter before Rivers’ touchdown passes to Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd, the last one coming with 29 seconds left on the clock. Weddle, the veteran safety, stripped wide receiver Quinton Patton on a 20-yard end-around—just San Francisco’s second play in overtime—and Novak split the uprights for the win. Rivers passed for 356 yards with four touchdowns and San Diego (9-6) overcame his three interceptions, including two that led to 14 San Francisco points in the first half. The playoff-hopeful Chargers stopped a two-game losing streak, winning without injured stars Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen. Despite 355 rushing yards, the 49ers (7-8) suffered their fourth straight loss, guaranteeing them their first non-winning season under Jim Harbaugh. Colin Kaepernick had the second-longest touchdown run by a quarterback in NFL history, a 90-yarder late in the third quarter that restored San Francisco’s 14-point lead. It came two just two plays after his fumble was recovered in the end zone by Corey Liuget for a San Diego touchdown. Kaepernick passed for 114 yards with a touchdown to Bruce Ellington and rushed for 151 on seven carries. Frank Gore added 158 yards on 26 rushes, including a 52-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the game.


(THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18)


Final Score: Jacksonville 21, Tennessee 13

Jordan Todman’s 62-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter highlighted the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. Blake Bortles completed 13-of-26 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown for the Jaguars, who scored 21 straight points after falling behind 10-0. Todman carried the ball five times for 71 yards for Jacksonville (3-12), which avenged a 16-14 loss to these Titans on Oct. 12. Toby Gerhart rushed for 53 yards and a score on 12 carries. Tennessee turned back to Charlie Whitehurst due to injuries and he connected on 24-of-35 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown. Leon Washington caught seven passes for 62 yards and a score. Bishop Sankey carried the ball 14 times for 44 yards for the Titans (2-13), who have lost nine in a row.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Things we learned on Sunday of Week 16

Overall fantasy points leader, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw for less yards than rookie Blake Bortles. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for more yards than anyone except 49ers teammate Frank Gore. And Houston place-kicker Randy Bullock was successful on six field goal attempts.

So much for things going according to plan in Championship Weekend.

Below are a few more things we observed:


Cleveland at Carolina

The biggest question entering this matchup was how Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton would look after his unfortunate car accident. More specifically, owners were wondering how mobile he would be. Well, he looked good on the first possession, rushing two times for 19 yards, and showed no signs of laboring. Newton continued to look unaffected throughout the whole game, finishing with 201 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception, along with 65 rushing yards and one additional score on the ground.

Panthers’ tailback Jonathan Stewart has taken complete advantage of the absence of teammate DeAngelo Williams. After rushing for a combined total of 230 yards and one touchdown during his previous two games, Stewart was able to keep his hot hand going on Sunday, totaling 129 yards and a receiving touchdown to cap off his day.

The Johnny Manziel Show of 2014 may already be over. He left Sunday’s contest during the second quarter with a hamstring injury and was only 3-of-8 for 32 yards before his departure. Quarterback Brian Hoyer took over and was not particularly sharp, but he completed an 81-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron to salvage both players’ afternoons. Hoyer finished 7-of-13 for 134 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Cameron’s long touchdown catch led to the majority of his team-high 88 receiving yards.

Carolina rookie wideout, Kelvin Benjamin, continued to be the Panthers’ top option. He had a team-high 12 targets for 47 yards on five catches. He is now just one yard short of his first 1,000-yard season.

Fantasy owners have been begging the Browns to stick with one featured running back, and they got their wish during Week 16. Isaiah Crowell recorded 16 carries, while no other player rushed more than two times. However, Crowell finished with just 55 yards on the day.


Detroit at Chicago

We had a Reggie Bush sighting. The Detroit Lions’ halfback had been dealing with an ankle injury for much of the season and had accumulated only 224 rushing yards, 187 receiving yards, and one score heading into Week 16. However, he opened up the scoring for Detroit with a first-quarter 13-yard touchdown run and finished with 98 combined yards.

Bush’s teammate, fellow tailback Joique Bell, has cemented himself as the lead back in Detroit, but had only three carries for five yards during the first half. Good thing they play two halves because Bell was able to help owners with a 17-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run, which got him going. He ended up with 17 carries for 74 yards and two receptions for 13 more yards.

Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford was able to move the ball during the first half of play, passing for 148 yards. Yet what fantasy owners do not want to hear is the fact that he threw two interceptions inside the red zone before halftime. Unfortunately those owners stayed disappointed until the final whistle, because Stafford was unable to find the end zone and finished 22- of-39 for 243 yards.

Most of Stafford’s yards went to none other than receiver Calvin Johnson, who posted six receptions for 103 yards, on 12 targets.

With Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler benched for Week 16, Jimmy Clausen was given his first start since 2010, and he did a decent job during the first half. His numbers will not overwhelm you, but Clausen was able to manage 106 passing yards, along with completing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Matt Forte with 30 seconds left in the second quarter. He did throw for another score during the second half, but was plagued by seven drops from Chicago pass- catchers.

One of the culprits of those drops was Chicago wideout Alshon Jeffery. He did manage a touchdown on six catches for 72 yards, but clearly did not make the most of his 15 targets.

Forte’s second-quarter touchdown helped his afternoon immensely. He ended his afternoon with only 55 rushing yards on 19 carries, but was able to manage six receptions for 40 additional yards.


Baltimore at Houston

Houston Texans’ quarterback Case Keenum received his first start of the season, and while many did not expect him to do much coming into this game, he came out of the gate playing well, going 8-of-13 for 120 yards on three first- quarter possessions. He did enough to help Houston to a victory, but probably not fantasy owners as he threw for 185 yards and one interception, along with 19 yards rushing.

Houston running back Arian Foster tossed his first career pass, and he now owns an impressive passer-rating (127.1) after it went for a touchdown. Yet, the reason owners drafted Foster was for his running ability, and he totaled 96 yards on 25 carries, and also had one catch for 23 yards as well.

Texans’ wideout Andre Johnson was the biggest benefactor of Keenum starting the game. He saw nine targets during the first half, and caught five of them for 64 yards, but did almost nothing in the second half, adding just one more catch for one yard. His six receptions for 65 yards on 13 targets were all team-highs.

Hopefully owners started Houston place-kicker Randy Bullock. He was the fantasy stud of this matchup, converting all six of his field goal attempts, and totaling 19 points on the afternoon.

While Keenum and the Texans’ offense were able to move the ball during the first half, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens had two quarters they would like to forget.

Baltimore’s quarterback had a dreadful opening half, going 3- of-18 for only 27 yards and two interceptions. His 16.7% completion percentage was the worst any quarterback has totaled in any half this season. Flacco did manage two touchdowns during the second half, but still had a horrible stat line, going 21-of-50 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Typically when a quarterback struggles, the rest of the team does as well. Ravens’ tailback Justin Forsett had his worst game of season, recording only 19 yards on 10 carries. Not what fantasy owners want out of their RB1 during the championship round.

Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith was the one player on the team who came through for owners during Week 16. He made the most of his 12 targets by catching five passes for 59 yards and two scores.


Minnesota at Miami

Fantasy owners who continue to start Minnesota Vikings’ running back Matt Asiata must understand that his production is dependent on whether he gets into the end zone or not. Those owners will be happy this week, as Asiata scored the opening touchdown of the game, on a 1-yard run and added his second on a 5-yard scamper during the fourth quarter. He finished in typical fashion with 16 carries for just 58 yards.

The guy who hands the ball off to Asiata, Teddy Bridgewater, has really improved as the season has progressed. The Vikings’ signal-caller connected on a beautiful third-down touchdown for 21 yards to wideout Greg Jennings, giving Minnesota a 14-0 lead. While that lead quickly disintegrated, Bridgewater ended his afternoon with a 114.1 passer rating, along with 259 yards, two scores and one interception.

Jennings’ touchdown grab was essentially his lone highlight. He finished with a team-high 58 receiving yards on three receptions.

Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill could not get much going through the first quarter and a half, but on his third possession the switch seemingly went on and he connected on the first of four touchdown passes. Tannehill threw for 396 yards with those four scores.

Dolphins’ receiver Mike Wallace has rebounded during his second season in Miami. He caught two touchdown passes, and now has an impressive 10 scores on the season.

Miami running back Lamar Miller had not totaled over 90 yards since Week 11, but came to life on Sunday. He likely made fantasy owners jump for joy, as he put together 19 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, along with five catches for 58 more yards.


Atlanta at New Orleans

Steven Jackson doing what Steven Jackson does - sit due to injury, this time a quad. Remember when he was a reliable fantasy running back? Neither do I. Actually it was around 2009.

Matt Ryan had 209 yards and a touchdown ... at halftime. he would finish with 322 yards and the Falcons will play Carolina for the division title next weekend.

Julio Jones caught seven balls for 107 yards. Practice? We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice, man, practice. Apparently Jones, like Allen Iverson, doesn’t need it.

Did we see the future of the Falcons running game on a 31-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman?

Jalen Saunders took the opening kickoff back 99 yards, but somehow didn’t score. What are the odds of that? Mark Ingram’s fantasy owners thank him for the Christmas gift.

The Saints went for it on fourth and seven at the Atlanta 39 in the first quarter and the Drew Brees pass appeared to be picked off or at least incomplete and the announcer said it didn’t make a difference. I guess he didn’t have Brees as his fantasy league quarterback.

Brees hit Jimmy Graham for two touchdown passes, but on the first one the zebras ruled he failed to cross into the end zone before fumbling. I’d say they need to watch the game a bit closer. And no, I don’t have Graham on any of my five fantasy teams.


New England at New York Jets

The Jets had no one who could cover Rob Gronkowski. Too big and too fast. It’s a common complaint around the league. Gronk caught his 12th touchdown pass of the season tying him with Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas for the position lead.

Other than Tom Brady to Gronkowski, however, the Pats offense did little in the first half. They “amassed” 52 yards in the first 30 minutes and finished with just 231 yards.

Without LeGarette Blount, the Pats divided up the running back work fairly evenly between Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden making no one fantasy worthy.

The Patriots’ win today was Bill Belichick’s 230th (including playoffs), passing Curly Lambeau for fourth on the all-time wins list by a head coach. For fantasy owners he’s ranked No. 1 as the “most frustratingly unpredictable coach.“

In fact, Geno Smith passed for more yards than Brady in this one (210-182). But hey, Geno, in the fourth quarter when you are in field goal range, don’t take a sack, dummy. Rex Ryan the blame is on you too. Why are you passing the ball?


Kansas City at Pittsburgh

Still waiting for that first Kansas City touchdown pass to a receiver. Glad I’m not holding my breath. Alex Smith did throw for 177 first-half yards and a season-high 313 yards.

Jamaal Charles was missing in action for a second straight weekend. It was a horrible time for him to go into a slump, with the fantasy championship on the line.

Le’Veon Bell continued to make his contribution to your championship hopes. This time with a 1-yard touchdown run. He has eight touchdowns in the last five games. He didn’t produce many yards, however, just 72 combined.

Antonio Brown made it 15 games in a row with five or more catches this season and 31 straight over two seasons.


Green Bay at Tampa Bay

Eddie Lacy apparently didn’t need his vision to get into the end zone. He’s been dealing with an eye issue due to his contact lenses, but it didn’t change the fact he’s been running the ball very well lately, including his longest touchdown run of the season from 44-yards out. His owners will be unhappy, however, because he finished the game with 99 yards rushing, one short of the bonus.

Aaron Rodgers wasn’t feeling well, injured his left leg and still threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown. He’s just that good.

Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson combined for 244 yards and a touchdown with both guys cracking the 100-yard mark.

With four minutes remaining in the first half the Bucs have 20 yards of offense. I hope you didn’t start any of them. They finished with 109 yards and three points. This Bucs team needs a complete rebuild.


New York Giants at St. Louis

Odell Beckham Jr. was at it again, catching an early touchdown pass. With his fourth catch of the day he passed Jeremy Shockey for receptions by a Giant rookie (74).

Beckham Jr. didn’t stop there. He caught a second touchdown pass, this one 80- yards in length, in the third quarter giving him his third consecutive 100- yard bonus performance (8-148-2) and sixth in his last eight games. Can you say fantasy superstar?

A great first half from Eli Manning: 16-of-18 for 200 passing yards and a TD. It was the highest first-half completion percentage of his career (88.9%). He finished 25-of-32 for 391 yards and three touchdowns.

Andre Williams rushed for more than 100-yards for the second time in three games. He’s starting to look better, but he still needs to figure out a way to get involved in the passing game if he wants to stay on the field and be a consistent fantasy-worthy asset.

The Rams’ Tre Mason put together another fine game despite limited touches. He ran the ball just seven times in the first half, but averaged 7.6 ypc and scored once. Too bad they fell so far behind they couldn’t use the running game.


Indianapolis at Dallas

The already-in-the-playoffs Colts looked like they were on vacation and not playing an NFL game.

The resulting blowout was a disaster for fantasy owners who had been carried for 14 weeks by fantasy points leader Andrew Luck. Luck sat down for good midway through the third quarter with a career-low 109 passing yards and two interceptions.

Indianapolis gambled on a fourth-down pass from punt formation at their own 19-yard line in the first quarter. When it backfired, the Cowboys went right to Dez Bryant for a quick-strike touchdown and the rout was on.

DeMarco Murray didn’t seemed too bothered by the hand injury. He scored a 1- yard run in the second quarter to give the Cowboys a 28-0 lead. That also should have signaled the time for the Dallas coaching staff to get him out of the game and rest his broken hand, but he played into the third quarter. Not sure why, but he added a few points for fantasy owners in that time.

Tony Romo was 13-of-14 for 155 yards and three touchdowns in the first 30 minutes. He completed 15 in a row though his third quarter touchdown pass to Jason Witten and finished 18-of-20 for 218 yards and four touchdowns.

What December swoon? Romo has 10 TD passes and zero interceptions this month. And his Cowboys are 3-0.


Buffalo at Oakland

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Dan Carpenter led the league in made field goals heading into Week 16. He hit a bonus-earning 54-yarder to end the first half.

Sammy Watkins caught a big one early (42-yard TD) in what was expected to be an easy win over the 2-12 Oakland Raiders. It’s always good to get your receiver an early touchdowns because if it does turn into a rout the winning team doesn’t throw much later on in the game. Of course, it didn’t turn out that way.

A Derek Carr touchdown pass was the first the Bills had given up in 17 quarters despite facing Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers during that time.

Latavius Murray started slowly, but finished the day with 23 carries for 85 yards. Fantasy owners have to like the workload with McFadden seeing the other nine rushing attempts.

Garbage time was good for Kyle Orton owners. Down by two scores for most of the fourth quarter Orton finished the day with 329 yards and three scores courtesy of two final stanza touchdown passes.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  With a No. 38 RPI, Wofford will gauge West Virginia’s ability to refocus

Not since their final night in San Juan had the West Virginia Mountaineers been so fiery and dogged, at least not to their coach’s satisfaction.

Bob Huggins sensed the ambush of Connecticut back on Nov. 23 evolved into a false pinnacle that left his team feeling too satiated. In complete accord was point guard Juwan Staten, who noticed a receding hunger from West Virginia’s first five games to its subsequent five.

What the Mountaineers needed to regain their edge, said Staten, turned out to be game No. 11, which resulted in Saturday night’s 83-69 win over N.C. State at Madison Square Garden.

“Yeah, I think we got it back,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve played with as much passion and intensity since Puerto Rico. We were wanting to get ranked and prove to the world how good we were, and once we did that, I think we got a little lax.”

If handling a solid ACC opponent showed a glimpse of WVU rekindled, Monday night’s quick-turn game against a mid-major that actually sports a higher RPI than the Wolfpack will test the ability to maintain.

Will the Mountaineers remain stuckin a New York state of mind, or is all this trap-game stuff nonsense? Here’s the primer for tonight …


WOFFORD (9-2) at No. 22 WEST VIRGINIA (10-1)

Tipoff: 7:30 PM Monday in Morgantown (West Virginia Media local TV affiliates)

Scouting Wofford: After a 20-13 season that culminated with an NCAA loss to Michigan, Wofford returned seven players who averaged 4.4 points or more. So the Southern Conference favorites possess continuity and chemistry. … The Terriers have never beaten a ranked team (0-19), but their 55-54 win at N.C.State on Dec. 14 certain caught WVU’s attention. … After dropping its opener 74-59 at Stanford, Wofford later fell 66-62 at William & Mary—a loss that ended a swing of five games in nine days. … Senior point guard Karl Cochran paces the team in scoring (13.6), rebounds (6.8), assists (3.3) and steals (2.2). Junior guard Spencer Collins adds 11.4 per game. The Terriers don’t feature a starter taller than 6-6.

Another Terriers tidbit: With an enrollment of 1,600 students, Wofford is the third-smallest school in Division I, ahead of only Presbyterian and VMI, which West Virginia beat 103-72 last month.

Williams awakens: Being 6-foot-8 and absurdly muscular doesn’t guarantee a player can get shots off at the rim, as Devin Williams’ 44-game career at West Virginia proves.

During a recent six-game stretch, when he made only 13-of-36 attempts (36 percent), Williams was particularly ineffective. That drought ended against N.C. State—one of the nation’s top shot-blocking teams—with a season-high 16 points on 6-of-11 shots.

“I’ve just got to continue to believe in my craft. Although I haven’t been playing real good offensively I’ve been in the gym everyday trying to figure it out,” Williams said. “I think this game really helped me out, really boosted my confidence.”

Fellow forward Jonathan Holton liked what Williams brought to the Garden: “Devin had energy. You could see it in him—he played like a real beast. It could be scary as we go forward.”

Huggins doles compliments: The rotations on the press haven’t always been reliable and the shooting has been downright dreadful in spurts, yet West Virginia has positioned itself to chase an NCAA bid with some winning work in the nonconference slate.

“This group, they let you coach them,” Huggins said. “I can get on their butts pretty good and they respond to it. They don’t take anything personal.”

Holton a threat from 3 again? The coach had no contempt for Holton launching late-game 3-pointers on Saturday. Huggins just wants more of them to go in, as Holton’s final two attempts did. Those lifted his season 3-point accuracy to 18 percent.

“If we’re going to make a serious run, he needs to make those shots,” Huggins said. “Because we can spread people then and let Wannie do what he does.

“We watch Jon shoot everyday—it’s not like he can’t shoot. It just hasn’t transferred over to the games yet. I think he gets anxious and gets in a hurry.”

Guard Jaysean Paige figures it’s a matter of time before Holton’s jump-shooting practice pays off.

“He works on that corner shot a lot, so I believe in him shooting the 3-ball. It hasn’t been falling, but as long as he works on it everyday, you can’t knock him for shooting it. It’s going to start falling sometime.”



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Sunday, December 21)


Final Score: (6) Virginia 76, Harvard 27

Chalk up another impressive defensive effort for the unbeaten Virginia Cavaliers. Mike Tobey had 15 points and 10 rebounds, as the No. 6 ranked team dominated Harvard, 76-27, at John Paul Jones Arena. Malcolm Brogdon also scored 15 for Virginia (11-0), which is off to its best start since the 1992-93 season. The Cavaliers entered the day ranked second in the nation in scoring defense (47.9 ppg), behind only Kentucky (47.7 ppg). Virginia has held opponents under 70 points in a nation- leading 17 consecutive contests. It was also the second time this season the Cavaliers held an opponent under 30 points. They beat Rutgers, 45-26, on Nov. 29. Corbin Miller scored eight for Harvard (7-2), which shot 16 percent (8- of-50) from the field in its first game since a 12-day layoff for final exams. The Crimson had a six-game winning streak snapped. Harvard went 1-of-20 from the floor in the first half. That ties an NCAA record with Northern Illinois for fewest field goals in a half. The Huskies were 1-of-31 against Eastern Michigan on Jan. 26, 2013.


Final Score: (17) Maryland 73, Oklahoma State 64

Jake Layman’s first career double-double helped No. 17 Maryland overcome a late rally and top Oklahoma State, 73-64, in a non-conference showdown on Sunday. Layman shot 7-for-12, finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds in Maryland’s fourth straight win following an 11-point loss to Virginia on Dec. 3. The Terrapins (11-1) won seven straight to open the season. Freshman Melo Trimble continued his strong play at point guard, making all seven of his free throws and netting 15 points with four assists, and fellow rookie Jared Nickens scored 11. Le’Bryan Nash had 17 points and nine boards to pace OSU (9-2), losers in two of four after also starting the season 7-0.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nuggets’ Gallinari out indefinitely

Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari has been diagnosed with a meniscus tear in his right knee and is out indefinitely.

The news was unexpected, as Gallinari scored 19 points and helped lead the Nuggets to a win over the Pacers on Saturday. He had been limited this season with knee soreness.

Gallinari is expected to undergo surgery.

The sixth-year forward is averaging 7.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game, the lowest totals since his rookie year.


►  NBA Game Results

(Sunday, December 21)


Final Score: Toronto 118, New York 108

Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams led the way with 22 points apiece as six players scored in double figures for the Toronto Raptors in a 118-108 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday. Lowry also had nine assists and three steals for the Raptors, who have won six in a row. Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross tallied 21 and 18 points, respectively. Carmelo Anthony ended with 28 points for the Knicks, who have dropped five straight. Jason Smith and Jose Calderon contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively, with Calderon also dishing out 10 assists.


Final Score: Cleveland 105, Memphis 91

LeBron James scored 25 points and handed out 11 assists to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-91 win over the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies Sunday. Dion Waiters scored 21 off the bench for Cleveland, including 13 in the final quarter to keep the game out of reach. The Cavs shot 60.5 percent from the field while making 7-of-14 from long distance. Anderson Varejao chipped in 18 points and Kyrie Irving added 17 points with 12 assists in Cleveland’s second straight win. Memphis was without Tony Allen for the third straight game and Zach Randolph missed the contest with a sore right knee. In their absence, Marc Gasol scored 23 points, pulled down 11 boards and added five assists for the Grizzlies, losers of two straight. The Grizzlies were just 1-of-16 (6.3 percent) from beyond the arc and never led.


Final Score: Brooklyn 110, Detroit 105

Mason Plumlee posted 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Brooklyn Nets, who survived a late comeback effort by the Detroit Pistons to hold on for a 110-105 victory at the Barclays Center. Brooklyn had a 15-point fourth-quarter lead cut down to one after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope buried a 3-point shot with 9.8 seconds left, but held off the Pistons over the remainder to halt a three-game losing streak. Plumlee went 9-of-10 from the field and Joe Johnson recorded 16 points and seven assists for the Nets. Jarrett Jack, starting in place of an injured Deron Williams, contributed 15 points and 10 assists to the win. Caldwell-Pope finished with 20 points and Andre Drummond had 18 along with 20 rebounds—13 on the offensive end. However, the Pistons couldn’t complete the rally and fell for the 17th time in 19 games.


Final Score: Miami 100, Boston 84

Luol Deng scored 23 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 100-84 win over the Boston Celtics on Sunday. Heat forward Chris Bosh (calf) missed his fifth straight game, while Dwyane Wade (right knee contusion), Hassan Whiteside (left toe) and Josh McRoberts (knee) were also inactive. Rookie James Ennis posted his best scoring game as a pro, going for 16 points to help Miami snap its five-game home losing streak and two-game losing streak overall. Norris Cole had 15 points and Mario Chalmers supplied 11 points and 10 assists in the win.


Final Score: Philadelphia 96, Orlando 88

Behind 21 points and six assists from Michael Carter-Williams, the Philadelphia 76ers started a seven-game road trip with a 96-88 win over the Orlando Magic. Five players reached double figures for Philadelphia as it ended a five-game losing streak. Nerlens Noel posted 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Henry Sims and Robert Covington joined Noel by posting double-doubles as well. Sims had 12 points and 12 boards, with Covington recording 11 points and 10 rebounds. Victor Oladipo led all scorers with 23 points for the Magic, who have lost four straight and six of their last seven. Despite getting 19 points and 17 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic, Orlando was outrebounded by Philadelphia 52-43.


Final Score: Sacramento 108, LA Lakers 101

DeMarcus Cousins led the way with 29 points and 14 rebounds as the Sacramento Kings battled back in the fourth quarter to take a 108-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Rudy Gay finished with 24 points and six assists, Ben McLemore had 23 points and eight boards and Darren Collison scored 19 for the Kings, who ended a five-game skid and won for the first time under interim head coach Tyrone Corbin. Nick Young had 26 points and Kobe Bryant supplied 25 points on a poor 8-of-30 shooting display for the Lakers, who have dropped their last three contests.


Final Score: Phoenix 104, Washington 92

Eric Bledsoe had 17 points and nine rebounds as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Washington Wizards 104-92 on Sunday night. Goran Dragic posted 16 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Markieff Morris tallied 17 points for Phoenix, which has won three straight on the heels of a six-game losing streak. John Wall recorded 14 points, eight assists, five boards and three steals and Bradley Beal added 14 points and seven boards for the Wizards, who had their six-game winning streak snapped.


Final Score: Indiana 100, Minnesota 96

C.J. Miles scored 28 points off the bench to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 100-96 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Roy Hibbert supplied 15 points with eight rebounds and David West netted 14 points for Indiana, which snapped an eight-game road losing streak. Mo Williams poured in 24 points with 10 assists for the Timberwolves, while Shabazz Muhammad and Chase Budinger deposited 21 and 13 points, respectively. Minnesota has lost five straight.


Final Score: New Orleans 101, Oklahoma City 99

Anthony Davis had 38 points and 12 rebounds as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-99 on Sunday night. The Thunder regained possession with 10 seconds left following a Pelicans shot clock violation. Russell Westbrook got the ball at the top of the arc and dribbled to the left elbow before Jrue Holiday poked it away. Westbrook got it back at the 3-point line and rose for the triple from straightaway and the ball clanked off the front of the rim. Tyreke Evans came down with the rebound after Serge Ibaka’s tip attempt was off the mark to seal the outcome. Davis, who was 16-of-22 from the field, was coming off a 3-of-14 performance from the floor during New Orleans’ 114-88 blowout loss to Portland on Saturday night.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Sunday, December 21)


Final Score: Colorado 2, Detroit 1 (SO)

Jarome Iginla scored the decisive goal in the ninth round of the shootout as the Colorado Avalanche edged the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 at Joe Louis Arena. Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene scored on Colorado’s first two chances in the tiebreaker, but the Red Wings stayed alive with goals from Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar in rounds two and three. Detroit’s Petr Mrazek and Colorado’s Calvin Pickard then matched one another save for save until Iginla’s goal to begin the ninth round. Pickard then made a right pad save on Brendan Smith to secure the victory. Pickard finished with 34 saves for the Avalanche, who have won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 22-25 and concluded their road trip at 2-0-1. They have played beyond regulation in four of their last five games, going 3-0-2 over that stretch. Mrazek, starting in place of Jimmy Howard (lower-body injury), made 22 saves for a Detroit team winless in its last six games (0-2-4). The Red Wings have totaled six goals during their current skid.


Final Score: Dallas 6, Edmonton 5 (SO)

Shawn Horcoff scored in the eighth round of the shootout to give the Dallas Stars a 6-5 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. In the eighth round, Horcoff’s wrister went in between the pads of Ben Scrivens, and Anders Lindback stopped Anton Lander’s wrister with the glove for the win. Tyler Seguin had two goals and an assist, while Jamie Benn totaled a goal and an assist for the Stars, who have won four straight. Lindback stopped 9-of-10 shots to get the win in relief of Kari Lehtonen, who allowed four goals on 19 shots before getting pulled halfway through the second period. Taylor Hall scored two goals with an assist, Mark Arcobello had two goals and Teddy Purcell recorded a goal and two assists for the Oilers, who have lost seven straight. Scrivens stopped 40 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Boston 4, Buffalo 3 (OT)

Loui Eriksson scored the game-winning goal 2:14 into overtime to lift the Boston Bruins to a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. Eriksson took a touch pass from Milan Lucic through the neutral zone and fought off a defender before firing a shot through the pads of Jhonas Enroth for the win. Dougie Hamilton finished with two goals and an assist, Chris Kelly also scored and Zdeno Chara added two helpers for the Bruins, who are 5-0-1 in their last six games against the Sabres. Tuukka Rask made 25 saves in the win. Tim Schaller scored his first NHL goal, while Andrej Meszaros and Rasmus Ristolainen also lit the lamp for the Sabres, who have dropped their last three. Enroth stopped 33-of-37 shots in defeat.


Final Score: NY Rangers 1, Carolina 0

Cam Talbot made 18 saves in backstopping the surging New York Rangers to a 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday night in the back end of a home-and-home set. Ryan McDonagh scored in the first period to give Talbot all the support he needed. The backup goaltender, who signed a contract extension on Friday, has three wins this season, all coming via shutout. The Rangers won their season-high sixth straight game and continued their home dominance against the Hurricanes, who have dropped eight in a row at Madison Square Garden. Anton Khudobin played well for Carolina, making 30 saves, but he still remains in search of his first win this season. The Hurricanes have lost eight of their last nine games overall.


Final Score: Chicago 4, Toronto 0

Antti Raanta stopped 31 shots for his second shutout of the season to lead the Chicago Blackhawks in a 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. Patrick Kane posted a goal and two assists while David Rundblad, Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg all lit the lamp for the Blackhawks, who have won three of their last four. James Reimer allowed all four goals on 34 shots for the Maple Leafs, who have dropped their past three.


Final Score: Philadelphia 4, Winnipeg 3 (OT)

Jakub Voracek’s goal 10 seconds into overtime finished off a furious comeback as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 4-3, on Sunday. Claude Giroux pressured Dustin Byfuglien on the forecheck and Voracek was there to take the loose puck and emerge from behind the net to beat Ondrej Pavelec with a quick wrister for the win. Voracek continued his frenetic scoring pace with two goals and Vincent Lecavalier’s second goal of the night tied the game late in regulation for the Flyers, who were coming off a 7-4 win over Toronto on Saturday. Rob Zepp stopped 25-of-28 shots in his NHL debut. The 33-year-old became the oldest NHL netminder to win his first career start since 41-year-old Hugh Lehman in 1926. Matt Halischuk, Mathieu Perreault and Byfuglien all lit the lamp for the Jets, who had their two-game winning streak come to an end. Pavelec made 19 stops in defeat.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Muhammad Ali hospitalized with pneumonia

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali has been hospitalized with a mild case of pneumonia, according to several media reports.

The 72-year-old, three-time world heavyweight champion, who has been battling Parkinson’s disease for 30 years, went to an undisclosed hospital Saturday morning. His prognosis is “good” for recovery, spokesman Bob Gunnell said in a statement to several media outlets.

Ali, who retired from boxing in 1981, has traveled the globe on humanitarian missions. He was the final Summer Olympic torchbearer in 1996.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


MONDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2014


National Football League
Denver at Cincinnati, 8:30 PM - ESPN


National Basketball Association
Denver at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - Altitude, SportSouth, DSS
Toronto at Chicago, 8:00 PM - SNET One, CSN-Chicago, DSS
Portland at Houston, 8:00 PM - KGW, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Utah at Memphis, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, SportSouth, DSS
Atlanta at Dallas, 8:30 PM - SportSouth, FS-Southwest, DSS
LA Clippers at San Antonio, 8:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, Southwest, DSS
Sacramento at Golden State, 10:30 PM - CSN-California, Bay, DSS


National Hockey League
Nashville at Columbus, 7:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, Ohio, DSS
Ottawa at Washington, 7:00 PM - RDS, TSN5, CSN-DC, DSS
Pittsburgh at Florida, 7:30 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, FS-Florida, DSS
San Jose at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - CSN-California, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS
Arizona at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - FS-Arizona, SNET-Pacific, NHL Network, DSS
Calgary at Los Angeles, 10:30 PM - SNET-West, KCOP, DSS


College Basketball
Stetson at Florida State, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Ill-Chicago at Northwestern, 2:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Ohio vs. George Washington, 2:30 PM - ESPN U
Elon at Kennesaw State, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Dartmouth at Penn State, 4:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
DePaul vs. Colorado, 4:30 PM - ESPN U
Manhattan vs. Fordham, 6:00 PM - SNY
Citadel at Michigan State, 6:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
Miami-Ohio at Ohio State, 6:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Gardner-Webb at Purdue, 6:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
UT Martin at Butler, 7:00 PM - FS1
Oakland at Clemson, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Florida A&M at East Carolina, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Towson at Navy, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Northern Ill at Notre Dame, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Liberty at Princeton, 7:00 PM - Ivy League Digital Network
Colgate at Syracuse, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Kansas vs. Temple, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Mercer at Tennessee, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
SE Louisiana at UCF, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
East Tennessee State at VCU, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC+
VMI at Virginia Tech, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Bucknell at Wake Forest, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
New Orleans at Indiana, 7:05 PM - Big Ten Network
Columbia vs. Connecticut, 7:30 PM - SNY
Long Beach State at St. John’s, 7:30 PM - CBSSN
Wofford at West Virginia, 7:30 PM - WV Media
Southern at Baylor, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest
UAB at Chattanooga, 8:00 PM - FSN, American Sports Network, MASN
Charleston Southern at Colorado State, 8:00 PM - Mountain West Network
North Florida at Iowa, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Coppin State at Michigan, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Furman at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Weber State at Oklahoma, 8:00 PM - Sooner Sports
Chicago State at SIU Edwardsville, 8:00 PM - FS-Midwest
Incarnate Word at Tulsa, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Penn at Vanderbilt, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+
Jacksonville State at Air Force, 9:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Milwaukee at Arkansas, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Wisconsin at California, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
College of Charleston at LSU, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
North Dakota at Marquette, 9:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin
Northern New Mexico at New Mexico State, 9:00 PM - ESPN3.com
UC Santa Barbara at Oregon, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Miami-Florida vs. Providence, 9:00 PM - FS1
UC Riverside at San Diego State, 11:00 PM - FS-San Diego
Tulane at Washington, 11:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Loyola Marymount vs. Wichita State, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
Nebraska at Hawaii, 1:00 AM - ESPN U


Women’s College Basketball
Temple at Villanova, 11:30 AM - Big East Digital Network
Belmont at Georgia, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
UT Martin at Missouri, 8:00 PM - SEC Network+


College Football
BYU vs. Memphis (Miami Beach Bowl), 2:00 PM - ESPN


International Soccer
Juventus FC vs. SSC Napoli, 12:30 PM - beIN Sport
Stoke vs. Chelsea, 2:55 PM - NBCSN

Sports News   141221

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Michigan transfer Ferns officially joins WVU with an eye toward 2016

West Virginia confirmed Friday that Michigan transfer Michael Ferns will enroll for spring semester. The former four-star middle linebacker redshirted as a true freshman for the Wolverines and must sit out the 2015 season under NCAA transfer rules, but he could play a crucial role beginning in 2016 when WVU must replace Nick Kwiatkoski and a host of other linebackers.

“It’s perfect timing,” said Rivals senior writer Keenan Cummings, noting that Shaq Petteway, EDward Muldrow, Jared Barber and Isaiah Bruce also will be departing by the time Ferns regains eligibility. “With all those guys leaving, West Virginia could really use a player like Ferns.”

At 6-foot-3, 239 pounds, Ferns leaves Michigan just weeks after the firing of Brady Hoke and only a year after coming out of Saint Clairsville, Ohio, as one of the nation’s top-rated insider linebackers. Rivals ranked him 14th at the position and 211th overall in the Class of 2014.

Ferns was a primary target for Ohio State and held offers from the likes of Alabama, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford and West Virginia. Ferns grew up a Mountaineers fan near Wheeling, helping his decision to move closer to home.

“He played high school in Ohio, was sought after very young, commits to Michigan as a sophomore and he had a goal in mind, and part of that was playing for Coach Hoke,” his father, Mike Ferns, told MLive.com this week. “And then you get there, and a lot of what you thought you were fighting for is no longer there, it makes it a little tougher.

“So now, the question is, you have an opportunity to play for the school you grew up rooting for (West Virginia)—a lot of kids don’t get that chance. I understand Michigan and WVU, academically, aren’t in the same neighborhood. But Michael is the type of kid who is going to do well in life no matter what he does.”

Ferns was slowed by a hamstring injury in his first season at Michigan, and now will be two years deep into his college career before seeing his first live-game action.

“He’s better against the run than he is against the pass,” Cummings said. “”He doesn’t struggle in coverage, it’s just not his strong suit. But you don’t get the kind of offers he got out of high school unless you can play.”

Ferns has a younger brother, Brendan, a top linebacking prospect for 2016 who already holds offers from Ohio State, WVU, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Pitt and others. Brendan just wrapped up his junior season at 6-3, 223 and shows the speed to play outside linebacker in college.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Saturday, December 20)

Final Score: Louisiana 16, Nevada 3

Once again, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns felt right at home in the Big Easy. Terrance Broadway threw for 227 yards and Hunter Stover kicked three field goals as the Ragin Cajuns won an unprecedented fourth straight New Orleans Bowl with a 16-3 triumph over Nevada. Broadway completed a crisp 26-of-31 passes with a first-quarter touchdown to C.J. Bates, though it was Louisiana’s defense that played the biggest role in the program’s latest successful venture into the Superdome. Louisiana (9-4) held the Wolf Pack to season-low totals in points and total yards (213), with Nevada (7-6) mustering just 89 on the ground after rushing for 223 or more in five straight games coming in. Cody Fajardo, Nevada’s dual-threat quarterback, was kept squarely in check in his final collegiate game, throwing for a mere 124 yards on 14-of-29 passing and gaining 49 yards on 13 carries. Elijah McGuire put up 153 yards from scrimmage to help the Cajuns close out the season with an eighth win in nine tries, with James Butler recording eight catches for 53 yards in the victory.


Final Score: Utah State 21, UTEP 6

The New Mexico Bowl was bereft of big plays, but Kent Myers accounted for two of them as Utah State grinded out a 21-6 victory over UTEP on Saturday. Myers ran for a 48-yard touchdown in the first quarter and set up a Nick Vigil TD run in the third with a 46-yard pass to JoJo Natson. The Aggies were otherwise stagnant on offense, but so were the Miners, who converted 5-of-20 third-down tries and managed just 149 rushing yards, well below their season average of 212. Utah State (10-4) reached double-digit wins for the second time in school history and posted its third straight postseason victory. The Miners (7-6) were hoping to end their campaign the way they started—with a win at University Stadium in Albuquerque. They upended New Mexico there in the season opener behind Aaron Jones’ 237 yards and three TDs on the ground, but Jones was limited to 88 yards on 25 carries in the finale. Jameill Showers completed 13-of-24 passes for 126 yards and an interception in defeat.


►  Utah crushes Colorado State in Las Vegas Bowl

Travis Wilson accounted for four scores as No. 23 Utah crushed Colorado State, 45-10, in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Wilson was 17-for-26 for 158 yards with a touchdown and an interception and added 11 carries for 91 yards and three scores for the Utes (9-4), who improved to 3-1 in this bowl game.

Devontae Booker had 26 carries for 162 yards and a score and Bubba Poole added a rushing touchdown for Utah, which won its first bowl game since a 30-27 overtime triumph versus Georgia Tech in the 2011 Sun Bowl.

Garrett Grayson was 20-for-34 for 227 yards with an interception and also caught a touchdown pass for the Rams (10-3), who fell to 6-8 in bowl games.

Colorado State was being coached by offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin as former head coach Jim McElwain bolted for Florida earlier this month.

Utah’s first snap of the game was a trick play that saw a reverse go to the left before a lateral back to the right got the ball to Wilson, who went deep for a 36-yard completion to Kaelin Clay. Two plays later, Wilson ran it in from eight yards out for a 7-0 lead.

The Utes’ second touch saw the team find the end zone again, as Wilson went to the left corner of the end zone where Delshawn McClellon made a leaping grab for a 16-yard score. Troy McCormick’s 49-yard run set up the touchdown.

Colorado State got on the board on its next possession with a trick play of its own. At the Utah 39, Charles Lovett took a toss to the right and then went back to the left for Grayson, who caught the pass and raced into the end zone to make it a 14-7 game with 5:42 to play in the first quarter.

Utah, though, quickly answered, as Booker took the first snap up the middle and raced down the right sideline for a 60-yard score and a 21-7 lead.

The Rams were able to get a 41-yard field goal from Jared Roberts to make it an 11-point game with 2:09 to play in the first quarter, and had a chance to cut further into their lead whem Wilson was picked off by DeAndre Elliott, but the team was unable to move the ball and had to punt.

Utah moved the ball 37 yards on eight plays, capping the drive with a 38-yard field goal from Andy Phillips to make it a 24-10 game with 8:25 left in the first half.

Phillips attempted another 38-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, but hit it off the left upright and it stayed out.

Colorado State got into scoring position on its first possession of the second half as Roberts lined up for a 44-yard field goal attempt, but he missed it well to the left.

Utah took advantage of the miss to build on its lead, as Wilson capped a 10- play, 73-yard match with a 15-yard run into the end zone for a 31-10 advantage with 4:12 to play in the third.

Early in the fourth, Utah recovered a fumble at the CSU 12, and the next snap saw Wilson run it in for a 38-10 lead 1 1/2 minutes into the final frame.

Grayason had a pass picked off on Colorado State’s next possession and that led to a 10-yard TD run by Poole.

Game Notes

Utah improved to 14-4 in bowl games, overall ... Utah leads the series with its former Mountain West Conference foe, 56-22-2 ... Utah totaled 548 yards to just 278 for Colorado State ... The Utes controlled the ball for nearly 34 minutes ... Colorado State’s Rashar Higgins led all receivers with seven catches for 110 yards.


►  Louisiana stifles Nevada in New Orleans Bowl

Once again, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns felt right at home in the Big Easy.

Terrance Broadway threw for 227 yards and Hunter Stover kicked three field goals as the Ragin Cajuns won an unprecedented fourth straight New Orleans Bowl with a 16-3 triumph over Nevada.

Broadway completed a crisp 26-of-31 passes with a first-quarter touchdown to C.J. Bates, though it was Louisiana’s defense that played the biggest role in the program’s latest successful venture into the Superdome.

Louisiana (9-4) held the Wolf Pack to season-low totals in points and total yards (213), with Nevada (7-6) mustering just 89 on the ground after rushing for 223 or more in five straight games coming in.

Cody Fajardo, Nevada’s dual-threat quarterback, was kept squarely in check in his final collegiate game, throwing for a mere 124 yards on 14-of-29 passing and gaining 49 yards on 13 carries.

“We put together four quarters of possibly the best football we’ve played this season,“ said Ragin Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth. “Terrance was spot-on and our running game was efficient. We played really solid defense and were able to apply pressure.“

Elijah McGuire put up 153 yards from scrimmage to help the Cajuns close out the season with an eighth win in nine tries, with James Butler recording eight catches for 53 yards in the victory.

The 10 AM local time kickoff seemed to affect the West Coast-based Wolf Pack, as Louisiana thoroughly dominated the first quarter of play. The Ragin Cajuns outgained Nevada by a 137-35 margin in total yards for the period, while scoring on their first two drives to build a 10-0 lead.

Broadway, who completed his first 14 passes, marched Louisiana 77 yards in just eight plays on the game’s opening possession, which the senior quarterback capped with a 17-yard touchdown strike to Bates on 3rd-and-9.

The Cajuns grinded out 60 yards in 13 plays on their second series, positioning Stover to knock through a 46-yard field goal with 2:55 left in the first quarter.

Nevada was able to move into the red zone on its third drive of the day, with Fajardo’s 9-yard connection with Jarred Gipson on 4th-and-4 extending the sequence. The Wolf Pack came up empty, however, when Sean Thomas knocked the ball loose from Wyatt Demps following a short catch and Louisiana recovered at its own 11.

An 8-yard shank by Ragin Cajuns punter Daniel Cadona shortly after the turnover gave Nevada back the ball at the opposing 26-yard line. The Wolf Pack later had a 1st-and-goal from the 1, but a false start penalty and two Fajardo incompletions forced them to settle for Brent Zuzo’s field goal that cut the lead to 10-3 late in the second quarter.

“I look at the first half as a case of missed opportunities,“ said Nevada head coach Brian Polian. “Give Louisiana all the credit. They made all the plays and didn’t do the things to shoot themselves in the foot.“

Lenny Jones came up with a big defensive play for Nevada midway through the third quarter to keep it a one-score game, sacking Broadway with the Cajuns in scoring range and recovering the resulting fumble. However, the Wolf Pack offense crossed midfield just once in the second half, when they were stopped on downs at the Louisiana 35 with around nine minutes left.

“(This) was our best defensive effort by far,“ Hudspeth said. “We wanted to get pressure on (Fajardo). He was able to get out of the pocket a couple of times. But we were able to get him to. Got some big sacks and lost yardage plays that allowed us to come after him again.“

The Ragin Cajuns created some more distance by putting together a 15-play, 77- yard trek that overlapped the third and fourth quarters and consumed nearly 7 1/2 minutes. It again ended in a Stover field goal, this one from 30 yards away with 11:51 to play.

Stover tacked on a 35-yard kick with under five minutes remaining to increase the lead to 16-3, with Broadway’s 31-yard pass to Gabe Fuselier on third down setting up the attempt.

Game Notes

Nevada had scored at least 20 points in every game this season, while its previous low mark for total yards was 256 at San Jose State on September 27 ... McGuire, the 2014 Sun Belt Player of the Year, had 99 rushing yards on 16 attempts and five catches for 54 yards ... Fajardo became the first FBS player this season to pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 ... Stover’s three field goals tied a New Orleans Bowl record held by former Cajun Brett Baer, who did so against East Carolina in 2012 ... Louisiana’s four New Orleans Bowl wins are the most in the game’s history, breaking a tie it had held with Southern Mississippi ... The Sun Belt has now won each of the last six New Orleans Bowls ... Nevada has lost seven of its last eight bowl appearances.


►  Falcons edge Jaguars late in inaugural Camellia Bowl

South Alabama took its first lead in its first bowl game with 1:20 remaining, but it didn’t take long for Bowling Green to go back in front.

What a way to snap a 10-year bowl win drought.

James Knapke tossed a go-ahead 78-yard touchdown pass to Roger Lewis with 1:06 remaining and the Falcons defeated the Jaguars 33-28 in the inaugural Camellia Bowl on Saturday night.

Bowling Green regained the advantage 16 seconds after Terrance Timmons scampered in from three yards out off a pitch to the left side, staking South Alabama to a 28-27 edge.

Knapke lofted a perfect pass down the right seam to Lewis on the ensuing offensive snap to help the Falcons vault back ahead.

Jude Adjei-Barimah intercepted Brandon Bridge on South Alabama’s first play of its next drive to essentially seal the outcome. The Jaguars then forced a potential three-and-out, but committed a roughing the kicker penalty on a Joe Davidson punt to give the Falcons a fresh set of downs.

Bowling Green recorded its first bowl win since the 2004 GMAC Bowl, when it beat Memphis 52-35.

Knapke completed 25-of-39 passes for 368 yards with two touchdowns, Lewis finished with four receptions for 137 yards and two scores, Gehrig Dieter caught seven balls for 108 yards for the Falcons (8-6), who snapped a three- game losing streak.

Travis Greene ran for a pair of scores in the triumph.

No program had ever made a bowl game quicker than South Alabama. The Jaguars made it into the postseason in just their second year as a full-fledged FBS team after beginning the football program in 2009.

Bridge, who was just 4-of-13 for 34 yards in the first half, finished 20-of-37 for 279 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for South Alabama (6-7), which went 6-6 last season but was not invited to a bowl game.

Danny Woodson had six catches for 122 yards in defeat.

Bridge hit Woodson down the left sideline with a 45-yard completion to move the ball to the Bowling Green 32. Bridge floated 18-yard TD pass to DeMarrion Buford-Hughes four plays later to trim the Jaguars’ deficit to 27-21 with 11:23 to go.

Fred Coppet burst through a huge hole up the middle for a 31-yard run on the first snap of Bowling Green’s following sequence. Montell Garner committed a pass interference penalty in the end zone on a 3rd-and-3 to put the ball at the 2, but Greene was unable to get in on three consecutive carries. Tyler Tate then hooked an 18-yard field goal wide left to keep it a one-score contest midway through the fourth.

Earlier, Lewis hauled in a 44-yard TD catch to cap the Falcons’ opening 7- play, 65-yard march and the Falcons went up 14-0 on Greene’s 1-yard TD plunge a possession later.

South Alabama answered, though, as Kendall Houston broke off a 44-yard TD run down the right sideline to trim the gap in half.

Tate nailed a 39 and 22-yard field goal in the second to help the Falcons take a 20-7 cushion into the locker room.

Bridge’s 15-yard TD sprint along the left sideline with six minutes to go in the third got South Alabama within 20-14, but Greene’s 17-yard TD run on Bowling Green’s next touch helped it go back up by 13, 27-14.

Game Notes

Knapke surpassed the 350-plus yard passing mark for the third time in his career ... Bowling Green was coming off a 51-17 loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game ... Bowling Green outgained South Alabama, 500-415 ... The Jaguars went 5-of-15 on third down, while the Falcons finished 7- of-21.


►  Air Force runs past Western Michigan in Potato Bowl

Shayne Davern ran for 101 yards with a pair of touchdowns, as Air Force used its patented ground attack to claim a 38-24 win over Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium on the campus of Boise State.

D.J. Johnson added 83 rushing yards and a score for the Falcons (10-3), who ranked seventh in the nation in rushing during the regular season at 272.2 yards per game and finished with 284 yards on the ground to snap a two-game bowl losing streak. Kale Pearson threw for 77 yards and chipped in 41 on 14 carries in the victory.

Zach Terrell threw for 297 yards with three touchdowns to Corey Davis, who hauled in eight passes for 176 yards in defeat. Western Michigan (8-5) has never won a bowl game in six tries.

Western Michigan managed only one first down on its first three possessions of the second half, then marched 92 yards on nine plays to pull within 23-17 with 13:26 remaining in the fourth when Terrell hit Davis down the left sideline with a 35-yard touchdown pass.

The Broncos got the ball right back after a punt and a 10-yard pass from Terrell to Davis put Western Michigan at the Air Force 43. Two plays later, though, Terrell fumbled and Dexter Walker raced 60 yards the other way for a score. The two-point conversion gave Air Force a 31-17 lead.

Western Michigan’s next series ended in a fourth-down incomplete pass and the Falcons converted 4th-and-6 with a 26-yard Colton Huntsman run to set up the clinching score, a 9-yard burst by Johnson on the next play.

Terrell and Davis hooked up again for a 51-yard score with 3:16 remaining to account for the final margin, as Air Force recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran off the remaining time.

Air Force’s Devin Rushing fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and Western Michigan took advantage with a 25-yard field goal from Andrew Haldeman, but the Falcons went in front later in the first quarter when Davern scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 61-yard drive. A fumbled snap on the point-after attempt left it 6-3.

Davis hauled in a 47-yard touchdown pass from Terrell early in the second quarter to put the Broncos back on top, but it didn’t take long for the Falcons to answer as Davern took a simple handoff up the middle on the third play after the kickoff and broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run.

Air Force appeared to be stopped on its next offensive series, but Davern took the snap on a fake punt and ran eight yards to convert 4-and-2. The Falcons continued the march and Rushing finished the 15-play, 80-yard set with a leaping touchdown run from the one on fourth down to make it 20-10 with 2:32 remaining in the first half.

Will Conant drilled a 31-yard field goal on Air Force’s second possession of the third quarter to extend the margin to 23-10.

Game Notes

Air Force improved to 11-12-1 all-time in bowl games and won for the first time since the 2010 Independence Bowl ... Terrell, who completed 19-of-38 passes, was also Western Michigan’s leading rusher with 61 yards on 11 carries ... Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin, the MAC’s top freshman, managed only 26 yards on 12 carries ... The Broncos outgained the Falcons, 376-361 ... This was the first meeting between the two programs.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Broncos list Manning questionable for Monday

The Denver Broncos have declared quarterback Peyton Manning as questionable for Monday night’s game at Cincinnati due to a thigh injury the five-time league MVP sustained last week.

Manning, who was a limited practice participant during the week, is still fully expected to start Monday’s contest, however. He was held out of one series of Sunday’s 22-10 win at San Diego after taking a shot to his thigh while blocking Chargers linebacker Donald Butler on a running play but played the entire second half following a brief visit to the locker room.

The 38-year-old has never missed a start in 16 of his 17 NFL seasons, the lone exception being the 2011 campaign. Manning sat out that entire season, his last with the Indianapolis Colts, after undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is also questionable for Denver’s Week 16 tilt after sitting out Saturday’s practice with an illness. Offensive tackle Ryan Clady (thigh) and running backs Ronnie Hillman (foot) and Juwan Thompson (foot) were deemed 50/50 as well, though all were limited practice participants throughout the week.

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, tight end Julius Thomas and running back C.J. Anderson, each of whom are dealing with minor ankle issues, are all probable to face the Bengals.

Linebacker Brandon Marshall, Denver’s leading tackler, has been ruled out after spraining his left foot in the San Diego game.


►  Browns put S Gipson on IR

The Cleveland Browns have shut down safety Tashaun Gipson for the remainder of the season, placing the playmaking defensive back on injured reserve Saturday due to a lingering knee injury.

Gipson tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee against Atlanta on November 23 and sat out the Browns’ next three games.

The former undrafted free agent was leading the NFL with six interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown in a Week 2 win over New Orleans, at the time of the injury. Gipson added 52 tackles and eight passes defensed while starting Cleveland’s first 11 games.

Linebacker Scott Solomon was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster in a corresponding move.


►  NFL Game Resuts

(SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20)


Final Score: Washington 27, Philadelphia 24

Kai Forbath kicked a 26-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to lift the Washington Redskins to a 27-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday. The Redskins snapped a six-game losing streak and dealt a significant blow to the Eagles’ playoff hopes. Philadelphia has lost three straight games since a Thanksgiving win at Dallas gave it sole possession of first place in the NFC East. A win at home by the Cowboys against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday will eliminate the Eagles from postseason contention. The Eagles (9-6) have been prone to turning the ball over this season and cornerback Bashaud Breeland intercepted Mark Sanchez’s pass at the Washington 42-yard line inside the two- minute warning. Robert Griffin III then threw a short pass to Pierre Garcon, who spun out of a defender’s grasp for a 23-yard gain. A roughing the passer penalty tacked on 15 more yards and the Redskins added one more first down, forcing Philadelphia to use each of its three timeouts before Forbath nailed the go-ahead kick. The Eagles, who had erased a 24-14 deficit, were still alive with three seconds remaining because Forbath drilled Trey Burton with the kickoff at midfield. Cornerback David Amerson knocked down Sanchez’s pass in the end zone to end the game. Griffin completed 16-of-23 passes for 220 yards with one interception and Darrel Young had two 1-yard touchdown runs in the third quarter for Washington (4-11). Sanchez was 37- of-50 for 374 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Riley Cooper. Tight end Zach Ertz set an Eagles franchise record with 15 catches for a career-high 115 yards.


Final Score: San Diego 38, San Francisco 35 (OT)

Philip Rivers’ arm got the San Diego Chargers to overtime. Eric Weddle’s arm helped them win the game once they got there. Rivers led two touchdown drives in the final nine minutes of regulation and Weddle forced a fumble that led to Nick Novak’s winning 40-yard field goal in overtime, as the Chargers rallied to beat the San Francisco 49ers 38-35 in a thriller on Saturday night. San Diego trailed by 21 points at halftime and by 14 in the fourth quarter before Rivers’ touchdown passes to Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd, the last one coming with 29 seconds left on the clock. Weddle, the veteran safety, stripped wide receiver Quinton Patton on a 20-yard end-around—just San Francisco’s second play in overtime—and Novak split the uprights for the win. Rivers passed for 356 yards with four touchdowns and San Diego (9-6) overcame his three interceptions, including two that led to 14 San Francisco points in the first half. The playoff-hopeful Chargers stopped a two-game losing streak, winning without injured stars Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen. Despite 355 rushing yards, the 49ers (7-8) suffered their fourth straight loss, guaranteeing them their first non-winning season under Jim Harbaugh. Colin Kaepernick had the second-longest touchdown run by a quarterback in NFL history, a 90-yarder late in the third quarter that restored San Francisco’s 14-point lead. It came two just two plays after his fumble was recovered in the end zone by Corey Liuget for a San Diego touchdown. Kaepernick passed for 114 yards with a touchdown to Bruce Ellington and rushed for 151 on seven carries. Frank Gore added 158 yards on 26 rushes, including a 52-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the game.


(THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18)


Final Score: Jacksonville 21, Tennessee 13

Jordan Todman’s 62-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter highlighted the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. Blake Bortles completed 13-of-26 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown for the Jaguars, who scored 21 straight points after falling behind 10-0. Todman carried the ball five times for 71 yards for Jacksonville (3-12), which avenged a 16-14 loss to these Titans on Oct. 12. Toby Gerhart rushed for 53 yards and a score on 12 carries. Tennessee turned back to Charlie Whitehurst due to injuries and he connected on 24-of-35 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown. Leon Washington caught seven passes for 62 yards and a score. Bishop Sankey carried the ball 14 times for 44 yards for the Titans (2-13), who have lost nine in a row.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Checklist to a championship

Fantasy owners have less than a day to make their final preparations for their championship matchups. Every decision, right on down to the defenses and kickers, matters.

Despite the importance of every choice, it is also vital not to micromanage the team at this point. In order to help fantasy owners on the verge of a title, here is a checklist to follow before submitting the Week 16 lineup.

When in doubt, start the studs

Championship week is not the time to get cute. Owners obviously hated Josh Hill stealing two touchdowns from Jimmy Graham in the semifinals last week, but this week is not the time to roll with Hill.

Although Graham has been disappointing based on his ADP, he leads the Saints with 73 catches, 782 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Don’t overthink it. Leave him in the lineup.

Even studs with poor matchups should be left in lineups. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders might not receive as many opportunities as normal against a good Bengals pass defense. The Broncos may deploy a run-first game plan because Cincinnati struggles to stop the run, but Thomas and Sanders must be in lineups. It only takes one Peyton Manning pass to score major fantasy points.

The same goes for Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. The Chiefs allow the second- least passing yards in the league and have given up just two rushing touchdowns this season

It doesn’t matter. Brown has at least five catches and 70 yards in every game this season, and Bell has at least 100 total yards and a touchdown in the last four games. Don’t sit them now.

Identity boom-or-bust players versus safe players

If an owner is stuck between two different players and can’t decide who to start, this strategy is sometimes helpful.

First, identity if one of the players has higher upside or higher risk.

Here’s an example: in my 12-team league, Giovani Bernard and Martavis Bryant are two possibilities to start in my FLEX spot for a 12-team league. Unless the Bengals run 45 times for 244 yards again versus the Broncos, Bernard’s value is limited because Jeremy Hill is the first-down back.

As for Bryant, he has been the very definition of boom-or-bust this year. Since Week 7, he has five games with 10 or more fantasy points and three games with three or fewer points in standard leagues.

Therefore, Bryant has the much higher upside, but comes with higher risk as well.

Next, look at your opponent’s lineup and determine whether it might take a big score out of the position in question to beat him.

In my case, I feel confident enough in the rest of my team against my opponent’s squad. In that case, settle for some points and start the “safe” player.

If owners feel as though their opponent has a chance for a huge day, and more points to win are necessary, the high-risk, high-reward player would be the better start.

Avoid kickers in bad weather

Unless owners have stud kickers Stephen Gostkowski and Cody Parkey, kickers in cold weather should be avoided. Those two are excellent kickers on great offenses, so barring a snowstorm, they are the exception to this rule.

Connor Barth is the only other kicker in a cold weather city in Week 16 worth considering.

Notable kickers such as Matt Prater and Shaun Suisham should move to the bench or waiver wire this week. Although they are very good fantasy kickers, both are kicking in tough, cold stadiums, Solider Field and Heinz Field, respectively.

Matt Bryant is owned in just 36% of Yahoo leagues and is kicking inside this weekend. Bryant has at least eight fantasy points in six straight weeks and has the potential for a big week versus the Saints.

Bryant is an easy add for any team needing a kicker with a great matchup in favorable kicking conditions.

Pick up another quarterback

This might depend on the league, but the first tiebreaker in most leagues is bench points. Quarterbacks score the most points, so on the off-chance there is a tie in the championship, owners want a third or even fourth quarterback to increase the bench score.

Picking up the best available quarterback is easy; deciding who to drop could be a little more difficult.

The best player to drop is a handcuff owners have carried all season, but no longer need because the starter is healthy for Week 16. Or, owners can simply choose the least likely player they would start in Week 16.

In a perfect world, make the transaction either Friday or Saturday depending on the league. The idea here is to not leave enough time for that player to clear waivers and allow the opponent to pick them up and use them in the championship. In leagues with no waivers, waiting until the last minute is best when implementing this plan.

Keep in mind, however, players in the two Saturday games will not be droppable on Sunday morning. If Malcom Floyd is your worst player, or Carlos Hyde is the handcuff you don’t need anymore, drop them for the quarterback on Saturday.

Double, triple, and quadruple check injuries

After starting the studs, picking the safe or boom-or-bust players, finding the right kicker, and fixing the bench, the lineup should be pretty much set. Hopefully, owners planned ahead and already have the stud defense.

The best thing to do now is leave the lineup alone.

The only detail left is to make sure everyone in the lineup is playing. DeMarco Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are questionable. So is T.Y. Hilton and Julian Edelman. It looks like Julio Jones will be a game-time decision.

All these guys are must-starts if active, but it would be a huge mistake to start them and take a zero if they aren’t playing. Check the lineup at 10 AM to make sure the players felt good when they woke up. Check it again, around 11 AM to make sure there were no setbacks in warm-ups, and check it one more time at 12 PM when the inactive lists come out.

As long as owners don’t tinker with decisions already made throughout the week, it doesn’t matter how many times they check it. Just do not change anything unless a questionable player is ruled out to avoid micromanaging.

Follow this list and owners should be golden for Week 16. Best of luck to everyone in championship games.


►  Two minute warning - Week 16

It’s Championship Week for most fantasy leagues so it’s “do-or-die” time.

The weather in Week 16 is very good for a late December weekend. No rain, no snow and very little wind.

The truth of the matter is that at this time of the year, no football player is 100-percent healthy and everyone is feeling some pain. However, the list below is of those players where it may effect their production and therefor your fantasy lineup.

Here is the latest information as we approach game-time. We will continue to update this story as the information changes all the way up to the 1 p.m. kickoff.


Quarterbacks -

Peyton Manning, Denver - Manning’s thigh won’t hurt his production, after all, we don’t start the Broncos’ star for his legs, we start him for his arm and his brain.

Tony Romo, Dallas - Each week further away from the back injury the better he has played. He’s thrown three touchdown passes in each of the past two games without an interception. He could be without his best weapon, DeMarco Murray, but he’s still got Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Start him as always.

Cam Newton, Carolina - Newton (back) is expected to play, but has a couple of things going against him in Week 16. First, he’s likely to protect his back by not running as much as he has been and that’s a big part of his game. Second, the Browns defense is No. 6 against the pass and No. 31 in yards allowed on the ground, so Newton should be handling the ball off to Jonathan Stewart for most of the day.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh - Roethlisberger is a bit beat up, but nothing that will keep him from starting, but the Kansas City Chiefs defense is No. 4 in points allowed (18.1 ppg), No. 7 in yards allowed (331.8 ypg) and No. 2 against the pass (199.2 ypg). Play him at your own risk.


Running Backs -

DeMarco Murray, Dallas - It’s the biggest question during this “Championship Weekend,“ - will Murray play, and if so, how effective will he be? It appears he’s going to give it a try and fantasy owners will be forced to start him despite the question marks. You should return here after inactives are announced to verify that he’s in the lineup.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants - Jennings missed practice all week and will not play Sunday. Rookie Andre Williams will be the workhorse back and is a viable fantasy option despite facing a solid Rams defense.

LeGarrette Blount, New England - Blount has already been ruled out of this one. That leaves Jonas Gray and Shane Vereen as fantasy options. With Julian Edelman also sidelined we like Vereen as both a runner and a pass receiver against the Jets.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo - Spiller will be active for the first time since Week 7, but his role in the offense is a question mark. I think Fred Jackson still gets a majority of the work and is the only viable fantasy option with a title on the line.

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina - Williams won’t play due to his hand injury and Cam Newton isn’t going to want to run due to his back injury which makes Stewart a very good option in Week 16.

Kerwynn Williams, Arizona - Williams has averaged 5.1 ypc over 34 carries, but has two factors going against him in Week 16 - a sore knee and a dominant Seahawks defense.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay - Lacy’s problem isn’t related to his arms or legs, but vision. His eye is irritated due to an issue with his contact lens, but he’ll be out there, perhaps with goggles on. I don’t care what he looks like out there, only that he is and given how well he’s playing he’s a must start.


Wide Receivers -

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis - The Colts would like to win this game with Dallas, but they don’t need it as they have already qualified for the postseason. Therefore, it’s unlikely that Hilton plays in this one. Plan on life without Hilton in Week 16. Think Reggie Wayne, Donte Moncrief and Hakeem Nicks.

Julio Jones, Atlanta - The latest rumors have Jones (strained oblique) in the lineup despite not practicing all week. That’s a dangerous gamble for fantasy owners and is also a problem for those that have used Harry Douglas as a plug- and-play option. Jones could also play “decoy” for Douglas or Roddy White, so this game is rife with risk.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver - Sanders missed practice on Saturday with flu-like symptoms and the Monday night game is both good and bad for fantasy owners. It’s an extra day rest, but leaves few options should he not go. Do you feel lucky?

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston - Hopkins (ankle) missed his third consecutive day of practice on Friday and despite a game-time decision tag, it’s not looking very good. Also he’ll have Case Keenum under center, That’s a bad combination to gamble on with a title on the line.

Julian Edelman, New England - Edelman has been declared out for Week 16. Brandon LeFell is hurting too with a shoulder issue. Rob Gronkowski might have to set a few records in this one, though we also like Vereen out of the backfield as a receiver.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City - Why are you still looking at Bowe? OK, Bowe (illness) is likely to be out there, but we’re still waiting for him to catch his first touchdown of the season.


Tight Ends -

Julius Thomas, Denver - Thomas has hurt fantasy owners the past two weeks and if you have somehow survived to reach the finals are you really willing to bet he turns it around this weekend? He’s caught one ball for 30 yards over the past two games.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota - He’s got both ankle and knee problems in this a “lost” season for the Vikings’ tight end. He’s played just eight games and amassed 24 receptions for 231 yards. Keep looking for tight end help.

Kickers -

Dan Carpenter, Buffalo - Carpenter is dealing with a groin injury, common to place-kickers, but should be ready to go and very busy against the sad Oakland Raiders. He’s 28-of-32 this season.

Robbie Gould, Chicago - Gould (quad) will miss the game, his third in a row. Jay Feely will handle the kicking chores.


►  Fred Jackson: start him or sit him?

Last piece was a column giving my advice on whether to start or sit Washington Redskins’ wide receiver Pierre Garcon for Saturday’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Saturday’s column will discuss whether fantasy owners should start or sit Buffalo Bills’ running back Fred Jackson for Sunday’s contest versus the Oakland Raiders.

After dealing with a groin injury earlier this season, Jackson reclaimed his lead-back duties during Week 12 against the New York Jets. Since that point, Jackson has out-touched and out-gained (53 touches, 312 yards) both Anthony Dixon (19 touches, 116 yards) and Bryce Brown (29 touches, 159 yards), proving he is the guy the coaching staff trusts.

The biggest issue owners need to worry about this week is the return of halfback C.J. Spiller. He will be returning from a broken collarbone on Sunday, and after being sideline since Oct. 19, he should have some sort of a role.

However, my advice to owners is not let Spiller’s presence affect the decision on whether or not to start Jackson.

In the seven games Spiller took part in this season, he failed to reach the 20-touch mark and scored only one touchdown during that span. The combination of poor production from earlier this year with the fact the coaching staff will likely ease him back into his role, should make Spiller not much of a fantasy factor against Oakland.

This is good news for Jackson-owners.

The Raiders are giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs (according to Yahoo), as they are allowing 24 points-per-game. Jackson is averaging close to 10 touches per game more than any other tailback on Buffalo’s roster over the past four games, which should give owners confidence that he will have the best opportunity to produce.

It is only natural to be a bit nervous about the Bills’ coaching staff giving more touches to Spiller, Dixon, or Brown, but with Jackson being the team’s third-down back, along with him being the guy who has solidified the backfield for Buffalo over the past few weeks, it is hard to imagine Jackson losing many touches, if any at all.    ~~  Max Zelenko ~~


►  NFL Inactives - Sunday, December 21, 2014

The following is a list of inactive players for today’s game.

DETROIT LIONS AT CHICAGO BEARS, 1:00 PM (ET)

Detroit - G Rodney Austin, WR Ryan Broyles, DT Nick Fairley, QB Kellen

Moore, DT Caraun Reid, CB Mohammed Seisay, DE Larry Webster

Chicago - S Chris Conte, DT Brandon Dunn, QB David Fales, K Robbie Gould,

CB Terrance Mitchell, OT Michael Ola, DE Trevor Scott

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, 1:00 PM (ET)

Green Bay - LB Carl Bradford, DT Bruce Gaston, C Garth Gerhart, CB Davon

House, WR Jeff Janis, TE Justin Perillo, QB Scott Tolzien

Tampa Bay - OT Anthony Collins, CB Isaiah Frey, WR Robert Herron, RB Mike

James, WR Solomon Patton, FB/TE Evan Rodriguez, LB Lawrence Sidbury

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS, 1:00 PM (ET)

Kansas City - WR Donnie Avery, CB Marcus Cooper, OT Laurent

Duvernay-Tardif, OL Eric Kush, QB Aaron Murray, RB Charcandrick West, DT

Nick Williams

Pittsburgh - WR Justin Brown, DE Clifton Geathers, G Chris Hubbard, QB

Landry Jones, S Troy Polamalu, TE Matt Spaeth, CB Ike Taylor

MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS, 1:00 PM (ET)

Minnesota - LB Anthony Barr, OT Carter Bykowski, DB Ahmad Dixon, OT

Charlie Johnson, FB Zach Line, CB Shaun Prater, TE Kyle Rudolph

Miami - G Nate Garner, WR Matt Hazel, S Don Jones, WR Rishard Matthews, LB

Chris McCain, G Dallas Thomas, RB Daniel Thomas

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT NEW YORK JETS, 1:00 PM (ET)

New England - CB Kyle Arrington, RB LeGarrette Blount, OL Dan Connolly, CB

Alfonzo Dennard, OT Jordan Devey, WR Julian Edelman, RB James White

NY Jets - DT T.J. Barnes, G Dakota Dozier, S Jaiquawn Jarrett, OL Wesley

Johnson, S Rontez Miles, WR Walter Powell, QB Matt Simms

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS, 1:00 PM (ET)

Cleveland - TE Gary Barnidge, DB Joe Haden, OT Vinston Painter, WR Rodney

Smith, DB K’Waun Williams, RB Glenn Winston

Carolina - CB Carrington Byndom, OT David Foucault, LB A.J. Klein, S

Robert Lester, DT Kyle Love, G Amini Silatolu, RB DeAngelo Williams

ATLANTA FALCONS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, 1:00 PM (ET)

Atlanta - CB Ricardo Allen, LB James Anderson, G Jon Asamoah, FS Charles

Godfrey, DE Stansly Maponga, QB Sean Renfree, LB Tyler Starr

New Orleans - OT Terron Armstead, RB Travaris Cadet, LB Moise Fokou, CB

Stanley Jean-Baptiste, WR Seantavius Jones, S Jamarca Sanford, NT Lawrence

Virgil

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT HOUSTON TEXANS, 1:00 PM (ET)

Baltimore - LB Arthur Brown, WR Michael Campanaro, NT Terrence Cody, G/C

Gino Gradkowski, CB Chris Greenwood, C Ryan Jensen, DL Casey Walker

Houston - LB Jason Ankrah, DB Josh Aubrey, TE Garrett Graham, LB Mike

Mohamed, WR DeVier Posey, QB Tom Savage, OG Xavier Su’a-Filo

NEW YORK GIANTS AT ST. LOUIS RAMS, 4:05 PM (ET)

NY Giants - TE Jerome Cunningham, LB James Davidson, OL Adam Gettis, DT

Dominique Hamilton, G Eric Herman, CB Jayron Hosley, RB Rashad Jennings

St. Louis - TE Alex Bayer, DE Alex Carrington, TE Justice Cunningham, G/C

Barrett Jones, CB Marcus Roberson, G Brandon Washington, DE Ethan

Westbrooks

BUFFALO BILLS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS, 4:25 PM (ET)

Buffalo - None

Oakland - None

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS, 4:25 PM (ET)

Indianapolis - None

Dallas - None

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT ARIZONA CARDINALS, 8:30 PM (ET)

Seattle - None

Arizona - None



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(12.20.14 – Saturday)

Parkersburg South 67     Lewis County 50

#2 Poca 62     #1 Robert C. Byrd 35

Lincoln County 60     Liberty 51

Philip Barbour 70     Tolsia 49

Lincoln 61     Sissonville 60

#4 Bridgeport 72     #9 Mingo Central 50


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(12.20.14 – Saturday)

#9 Gilmer County 63     Notre Dame 35

Ritchie County 57     Doddridge County 47 (OT)

Buckhannon-Upshur 45     Spring Mills 36



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Mountaineers topple NC State

Juwan Staten scored 24 points and Devin Williams added 16, leading 22nd-ranked West Virginia to an 83-69 win over North Carolina State in the Gotham Classic on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Jaysean Paige contributed 11 points off the bench before fouling out late in the contest for the Mountaineers (10-1), who have won three straight since their lone loss of the season, a 74-73 setback to LSU on Dec. 4.

Trevor Lacey tried to keep North Carolina State close with 24 points, while Anthony Barber added 16 in defeat. The Wolfpack (9-3) committed 23 turnovers and fell to 3-3 after opening with six straight wins.

North Carolina State started the second half with an 11-3 run and drew within 44-43 on a Lacey three, but a jumper by Staten was followed by a Paige steal and layup to extend the West Virginia lead back to five.

Lacey’s tip-in with 10 1/2 minutes remaining made it a 54-53 game, but again the Mountaineers had an answer with seven straight points fueled by a Tarik Phillip triple.

The Wolfpack got only as close as six from there and trailed 71-64 with four minutes remaining when Phillip made a free throw. He missed the second, but Paige came up with the offensive rebound and Jonathan Holton drilled a three to extend the West Virginia lead to 10.

Another Holton triple with just over a minute remaining made it 81-67.

“This was really a good team win,“ said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who notched his 750th career win.

North Carolina State held an 11-6 lead early, but West Virginia answered with the next seven points to move in front. It remained tight for the next couple of minutes, but Staten scored four in a 6-0 spurt that gave West Virginia a 24-18 lead and forced an NC State timeout.

The Wolfpack, though, managed only four free throws over the next few minutes as West Virginia continued to pull away. A tip-in by Paige provided the Mountaineers with a 32-22 advantage, then NC State clawed within 37-32 in the final minute.

Williams halted the momentum with a free throw for West Virginia and the Mountaineers came up with a steal as NC State was trying to run the clock down. Jevon Carter then banked a 3-pointer home at the buzzer to give West Virginia a 41-32 margin at the break.

“In the first half, their pressure bothered us,“ said NC State coach Mark Gottfried. “We played like a young team. We had 16 turnovers. We got in a hurry. I thought their defense sped us up. We did not play with a lot of poise and that was all to their credit. They did a nice job with their pressure. I thought in the second half we settled down and played. We handled the pressure much better.“

Game Notes

Holton and Carter each finished with eight points for West Virginia, which shot 53.4 percent and connected on 7-of-13 from beyond the arc ... North Carolina State shot 55.6 percent and made 8-of-14 from 3-point range ... The Mountaineers improved to 10-7 all-time against North Carolina State ... West Virginia next plays Monday at home against Wofford, a team that beat NC State by a 55-54 margin last week ... North Carolina State will host Louisiana Tech on Tuesday.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, December 20)


Final Score: (1) Kentucky 83, UCLA 44

Devin Booker scored 19 points and top-ranked Kentucky put on a defensive clinic in an 83-44 obliteration of UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic. The Wildcats opened the game on a 24-0 run and allowed just three field goals on 37 shots from the Bruins in the first half en route to building a startling 41-7 lead at the break. The seven points were the lowest total in a half in UCLA’s storied history and the fewest Kentucky has permitted in a period since 1943. UCLA finished a miserable 25.4 percent from the field and 1-of-4 from the foul line, committed 15 turnovers and had 13 shots rejected by the Wildcats’ suffocating defense. Aaron Harrison chipped in 15 points and Andrew Harrison dished out eight assists to help Kentucky (12-0) dominate from start-to-finish. Isaac Hamilton had 14 points and Bryce Alford finished with 13 for UCLA (8-4), though neither scored during the Bruins’ humiliating opening half.


Final Score: (4) Louisville 76, Western Kentucky 67

Terry Rozier had 32 points and three steals in the fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals’ 76-67 victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Saturday. The game almost got ugly with 38.7 seconds left before the half. After a post-rebound scrum, Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell tried to throw a punch at Western Kentucky guard Avery Patterson. Shortly after, head coaches Rick Pitino and Ray Harper were both given technicals for jawing with each other. Harrell, who had 14 points and six rebounds, was ejected from the game. He will be suspended for Tuesday’s game against Cal State-Northridge. Chris Jones added 10 points for the Cardinals (10-0), who survived their first true road test of the 2014-15 campaign. T.J. Price ended with 24 points and seven rebounds for the Hilltoppers (5-5), who had a two-game winning streak snapped. DJ Clayton tallied 14 points.


Final Score: (7) Villanova 82, Syracuse 77 (OT)

Villanova erased a five-point deficit over the final 17 seconds of regulation and the seventh-ranked Wildcats eventually prevailed, 82-77, in overtime over Syracuse at Wells Fargo Center. With 11 seconds left in the second half, Josh Hart hit a 3-pointer to bring Villanova (11-0) within 69-67 and after stealing the inbounds pass the following possession, Jayvaughn Pinkston’s layup tied the game with four seconds left. Pinkston led all scorers with 25 points and 10 rebounds and Darrun Hilliard added 23 points. Hart’s 21-point game was a career high. Once leading by as many as 15 points, the Orange (6-4) could not put the hosts away. Rakeem Christmas and Michael Gbinije each paced Syracuse with 18 points before fouling out in overtime.


Final Score: (8) Gonzaga 63, Cal Poly 50

Przemek Karnowski had 16 points and eight rebounds as No. 8 Gonzaga defeated Cal Poly 63-50 on Saturday night. Kevin Pangos netted 16 points for the Bulldogs (11-1), who have won four straight since their lone loss at Arizona on Dec. 6. David Nwaba led the Mustangs (5-5) with 21 points.


Final Score: (9) Texas 78, Long Beach State 68

Javan Felix posted 17 points to lead No. 9 Texas to a 78-68 win over Long Beach State on Saturday. Jonathan Holmes scored 14 points, Cameron Ridley gave 13 points and six rebounds and Connor Lammert had 10 points and 12 boards for the Longhorns (10-1), who have won their past three. Demarcus Holland had 10 points, seven boards and four assists. Mike Caffey scored 23 points for the 49ers (5-7), who have lost three straight.


Final Score: (10) Kansas 96, Lafayette 69

Kelly Oubre Jr. gave 23 points and 10 rebounds as No. 10 Kansas crushed Lafayette, 96-69, on Saturday. Frank Mason III had 14 points and nine assists and Wayne Selden Jr. added 12 points and six assists for the Jayhawks (9-1), who have won eight straight since a loss to Kentucky on Nov. 18. Seth Hinrichs had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Leopards (7-3), who had a four-game winning streak stopped. Dan Trist gave 12 points in the loss.


Final Score: (24) North Carolina 82, (12) Ohio State 74

Brice Johnson had 18 points and nine rebounds in the 24th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels’ 82-74 victory over the 12th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at the United Center. Marcus Paige added 16 points for the Tar Heels (8-3), who have won two in a row since a loss at top- ranked Kentucky on Dec. 13. Justin Jackson tallied 11 points. Marc Loving ended with 19 points for the Buckeyes (9-2), who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Sam Thompson contributed 17 points.


Final Score: (13) Iowa State 83, Drake 54

Naz Long scored 13 points to lead a balanced effort for No. 13 Iowa State in an 83-54 win over Drake on Saturday. Monte Morris netted 12 points, while Dustin Hogue and Matt Thomas each chipped in with 10 points for the Cyclones (9-1), who have won six straight since their lone loss of the season, a 72-63 decision against Maryland on Nov. 25. Iowa State shot 54 percent from the floor, including 52 percent from beyond the arc in the blowout win. Jacob Enevold Jensen and Trevor Berkeley each scored 10 points to lead the Bulldogs (2-9).


Final Score: (14) Utah 59, UNLV 46

Delon Wright scored 17 points and No. 14 Utah pulled away in the second half for a 59-46 win over UNLV at the MGM Grand on Saturday night. Brandon Taylor added 16 points for the Utes (8-2), who rebounded from a 63-60 loss to No. 10 Kansas last Saturday. They snapped a three-game losing streak to UNLV and beat the Runnin’ Rebels for just the second time in their last 10 meetings in Las Vegas. Rashad Vaughn scored 16 points to lead UNLV (7-3), which had a three-game winning streak snapped.


Final Score: (16) Washington 69, (15) Oklahoma 67

Mike Anderson and Robert Upshaw scored 11 points apiece, helping No. 16 Washington beat 15th-ranked Oklahoma 69-67 Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Huskies (10-0) built a 20- point lead in the first half, but had to hold on down the stretch to continue the program’s best start since going 11-0 to begin 2005-06. Jernard Jarreau paced Washington with 12 points and grabbed six rebounds. Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield both scored 17 points for Oklahoma (7-3), which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Ryan Spangler posted a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds in defeat.


Final Score: (19) San Diego State 70, Ball State 57

Winston Shepard finished with 15 points and five assists to lift No. 19 San Diego State to a 70-57 victory over Ball State on Saturday. JJ O’Brien scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and added six rebounds and three assists, while Skylar Spencer had 10 points and six boards for the Aztecs (8-3), who bounced back from a 71-62 double-overtime loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday. Jeremie Tyler netted a game-high 17 points and Matt Kamieniecki supplied 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Cardinals (3-6), who dropped their third straight game.


Final Score: (21) Notre Dame 94, Purdue 63

Pat Connaughton recorded a double- double of 19 points and 14 rebounds and No. 21 Notre Dame bested Purdue, 94- 63, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Saturday’s Crossroads Classic matchup proved the Irish (11-1) have bragging rights in the Hoosier State, what with seven straight victories following their lone loss against Providence on Nov. 23. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures and Austin Torres donated 11 points off the bench for the victors. Demetrius Jackson led the way with 22 points, Steve Vasturia chipped in with 11, and Jerian Grant and Zach Auguste each added 10 in the rout. Jon Octeus, Bryson Scott and A.J. Hammons all scored 11 points as the Boilermakers (8-4) suffered their second straight loss.


Final Score: (22) West Virginia 83, North Carolina State 69

Juwan Staten scored 24 points and Devin Williams added 16, leading 22nd-ranked West Virginia to an 83-69 win over North Carolina State in the Gotham Classic on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Jaysean Paige contributed 11 points off the bench before fouling out late in the contest for the Mountaineers (10-1), who have won three straight since their lone loss of the season, a 74-73 setback to LSU on Dec. 4. Trevor Lacey tried to keep North Carolina State close with 24 points, while Anthony Barber added 16 in defeat. The Wolfpack (9-3) committed 23 turnovers and fell to 3-3 after opening with six straight wins.


Final Score: Indiana 82, (23) Butler 73

Yogi Ferrell scored all 20 of his points in the second half, helping Indiana gain some long-awaited revenge on Butler with an 82-73 victory over the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Troy Williams tied a career high with 22 points and pulled down a personal-best 11 rebounds to aid Indiana’s cause in the first meeting between the in-state rivals since Butler stunned the then top-ranked Hoosiers in overtime in Indianapolis during December of 2012. The outcome also was a special one for Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean, who garnered his 300th career win. Butler (8-3) received 23 points from Kellen Dunham and 14 out of Andrew Chrabascz, but struggled offensively for a second straight game.


Final Score: Texas Southern 71, (25) Michigan State 64 (OT)

Texas Southern did not take its first lead of the game until there was only 1:26 remaining in regulation, but the Tigers were able to force overtime and pull off a 71-64 upset win over No. 25 Michigan State on Saturday. Jason Carter’s 3-pointer capped a 7-0 Texas Southern run to give it a 53-52 lead, and his bucket the next possession helped push the game to overtime. Texas Southern (2-8) hit 12 free throws in the extra session to record its second win of the season. Chris Thomas led all scorers with 22 points for the Tigers, while Malcolm Riley added 20 off the bench. The Spartans (8-4) got 17 points and 10 rebounds from Matt Costello, and Denzel Valentine chipped in



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Saturday, December 20)


Final Score: Phoenix 99, New York 90

Isaiah Thomas scored nine of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to help the Phoenix Suns pull away from the New York Knicks in their 99-90 victory at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon. Eric Bledsoe posted a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds while Markieff Morris chipped in with 19 points for the Suns, winners of two straight following a six-game slide. Carmelo Anthony returned to the Knicks’ lineup after missing Thursday’s loss in Chicago and netted 25 points on 9- of-19 shooting. He also pulled down 11 boards, but it was not enough as New York fell for the 14th time in 15 games. Jose Calderon added 21 points but netted just two in a fourth quarter that saw the Knicks get outscored by 10.


Final Score: Charlotte 104, Utah 86

Kemba Walker scored 20 points with six assists to lead the Charlotte Hornets to a 104-86 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday. Al Jefferson posted 19 points with 10 rebounds and Gerald Henderson netted 17 points for the Hornets, who have won two straight on the heels of a four-game skid. Gordon Hayward paced the Jazz with 14 points to go along with six assists. Joe Ingles had a career-high 13 points off the bench and Derrick Favors also scored 13 points as Utah had its 10-game winning streak against the Hornets snapped. Rudy Gobert deposited 11 points with 12 rebounds in the loss.


Final Score: Portland 114, New Orleans 88

So much for the Trail Blazers being sluggish following Friday’s triple-overtime victory over the Spurs. There was no hangover for Portland, as LaMarcus Aldridge poured in 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 114-88 wire-to-wire drubbing of the Pelicans on Saturday. Damian Lillard, fresh off his 43-point performance against San Antonio, scored 17 points, and the Blazers led by as many as 34 by shooting 57.1 percent from the field over the first three quarters. Chris Kaman chipped in with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting for Portland, which rolled to a fifth straight win heading into another tough road matchup against Houston on Monday. New Orleans had won three of four coming in, but the usually productive triumvirate of Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday combined to shoot 8-of-37 (21.6 percent) for a total of 19 points. Austin Rivers netted a team-high 21 points and Ryan Anderson added 16.


Final Score: Atlanta 104, Houston 97

Kyle Korver scored 22 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc to help the Atlanta Hawks to a 104-97 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday. Paul Millsap and Al Horford each chipped in with 14 points and DeMarre Carroll added 13 for the Hawks, who have won three straight and 12 of their last 13. Dennis Schroder tallied eight points with six rebounds and six assists in the place of Jeff Teague, who missed the game with a strained left hamstring. Houston lost back-to-back home games for the first time since November of last season and also had a 19-game home winning streak against Eastern Conference opponents halted. Dwight Howard paced the Rockets with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while James Harden supplied 18 points and a career-high 14 assists. Jason Terry and Patrick Beverley each had 14 points in the loss. The Rockets acquired Corey Brewer from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Alexey Shved from the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, but both players were inactive. Houston dealt Troy Daniels and some cash to acquire the two wings. The Rockets waived Francisco Garcia to make room for their newest additions.


Final Score: Dallas 99, San Antonio 93

Three of Rajon Rondo’s nine assists went to Monta Ellis, who scored 38 points to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 99-93 win over the short-handed San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night. Rondo also had six points and seven rebounds in his Mavericks debut, two days after he was acquired from Boston in a blockbuster trade. He missed eight of his 11 shots. Chandler Parsons added 16 points while Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris scored 13 apiece as Dallas earned its third consecutive win. The Spurs sat much of their roster after losing back-to-back triple-overtime games on Wednesday and Thursday. Missing Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter—among others—the Spurs scored 30 points in the third quarter and had a 77-75 lead going into the fourth, but shot just 31 percent over the final 12 minutes. They have lost four in a row for the first time in almost four years. Marco Belinelli led San Antonio with 21 points, Aron Baynes scored 16 with 10 rebounds and Cory Joseph and Matt Bonner each had 14 points.


Final Score: Denver 76, Indiana 73

Danilo Gallinari scored a season-high 19 points to lift the Denver Nuggets to a 76-73 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. Ty Lawson deposited 15 points with 10 assists and J.J. Hickson added 10 points off the bench for Denver, which has won two straight on the heels of a three-game skid. Timofey Mozgov pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds and tied a career high with five blocks in the win. David West led the Pacers with 19 points to go with 10 rebounds and C.J. Miles netted 16 points off the bench in the loss. Indiana has dropped 10 of its last 11 games.


Final Score: LA Clippers 106, Milwaukee 102

Chris Paul had 27 points and nine assists as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 106-102 on Saturday night. Blake Griffin posted 24 points and eight assists, J.J. Redick netted 23 points and DeAndre Jordan pulled down 16 rebounds for the Clippers, who have won three of their last four games. Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 18 points, nine boards and six helpers for Milwaukee, which had won three of its last four coming in. Paul netted nine of the Clippers’ last 11 points.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Giants acquire McGehee from Marlins

The San Francisco Giants have acquired infielder Casey McGehee from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league pitchers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo.

The Giants have been searching for a third baseman since Pablo Sandoval left last month to sign with the Boston Red Sox.

McGehee became expendable when the Marlins acquired infielder Martin Prado from the New York Yankees in a five-player deal on Friday.

The 32-year-old McGehee won NL Comeback Player of the Year honors after hitting .287 with 29 doubles, four home runs and 76 RBI in 160 games with the Marlins in 2014. He spent the 2013 season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan.

McGehee owns a career .264 batting average with 128 doubles, 65 home runs and 359 RBI in 711 MLB games with the Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Yankees and Marlins.

Flores went 4-6 with a 4.09 ERA over 20 starts with Class A Advanced San Jose this past season. The Dominican Republic native accumulated 112 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings.

Castillo made 48 relief appearances at Class A Augusta in 2014, going 2-2 with a 3.07 ERA and 10 saves.


►  BoSox swap Middlebrooks for Hanigan

The Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres have made a deal.

On Friday night, the BoSox formally announced the acquisition of catcher Ryan Hanigan in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

The Padres picked up Hanigan from Tampa Bay as part of the 11-player deal consummated earlier on Friday that also landed them outfielder Wil Myers. However, San Diego had already added another catcher in Derek Norris from Oakland on Thursday to make Hanigan trade bait.

Middlebrooks became expendable in Boston after the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval as a free agent earlier this offseason. The Padres were reportedly also in the running for Sandoval.

Hanigan hit just .218 in 84 games last season, his first in Tampa Bay after playing the first seven years of his career in Cincinnati. The 34-year-old veteran, who has played more than 100 games in a season just once, is a career. 256 hitter with 25 homers and 172 RBI in 558 games.

Middlebrooks was projected to be Boston’s future third baseman after a 2012 season in which he batted .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBI in 75 games as a rookie. He struggled in 2013, hitting .227 with 17 homers in 94 games, and last year hit just .191 in 63 games as he split time between Triple-A Pawtucket and Boston.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Saturday, December 20)


Final Score: Los Angeles 4, Arizona 2

Marian Gaborik scored his sixth goal in the last four games to help the Los Angeles Kings top the Arizona Coyotes, 4-2, Saturday at Staples Center. His goal tied the game at 2-2 at the end of the second period, and the Kings received goals from Alec Martinez and Trevor Lewis in the third to win their second straight game. Jeff Carter scored the Kings’ first goal and Jonathan Quick made 15 saves in the win. Devan Dubnyk was under siege all game, facing 35 shots and allowing all four Los Angeles goals. Arizona, losers of six of its last seven, picked up goals from Martin Hanzal and Kyle Chipchura in the second period.


Final Score: Colorado 5, Buffalo 1

Rookie Calvin Pickard made 28 saves to backstop the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. Erik Johnson and Cody McLeod scored in the first period for the Avalanche, who have earned at least a point in four straight games (2-0-2). In the third period, Alex Tanguay scored twice and set up John Mitchell for a power-play goal. Jhonas Enroth stopped 18-of-22 shots for Buffalo, which has been outscored 10-2 while dropping its last two on the heels of a four-game winning streak.


Final Score: Philadelphia 7, Toronto 4

Claude Giroux posted two goals and two assists to lead the Philadelphia Flyers in a 7-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Jakub Voracek had four assists while Michael Raffl and Sean Couturier each gave a goal and an assist for the Flyers, who snapped a two-game losing streak to open their eight-game road trip. Ray Emery allowed four goals on 25 shots in the victory. Joffrey Lupul posted a goal and an assist while James van Riemsdyk, Peter Holland and David Clarkson all scored for the Maple Leafs, who have dropped their past two. Jonathan Bernier allowed all seven goals on 41 shots, while James Reimer played the final 10 1/2 minutes and stopped the one shot he faced.


Final Score: Montreal 4, Ottawa 1

Carey Price settled in to make 24 saves after allowing a short-handed goal a few minutes into the game and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Saturday. Montreal scored four unanswered goals to win its fourth game in its last five. Brandon Prust and Brendan Gallagher scored in the first and second periods, respectively, and Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk scored third-period markers to put the game away. Erik Condra potted Ottawa’s only goal as it had its brief two-game winning streak snapped. Robin Lehner made 25 saves on 29 shots in the Senators’ loss.


Final Score: Washington 4, New Jersey 0

Nicklas Backstrom scored a pair of goals and Alex Ovechkin notched a highlight-reel tally, leading the Washington Capitals to a 4-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday at the Prudential Center. Mike Green also scored and Backstrom added an assist for the Capitals, who have won two straight and are 6-0-2 in their last eight games. Braden Holtby needed to stop only 21 shots for his second shutout of the season. Cory Schneider was back in the net for the Devils, who were coming off a 3-2 shootout win over Tampa Bay behind rookie Keith Kinkaid’s first NHL win on Friday night. The veteran netminder finished with 17 saves.


Final Score: NY Islanders 3, Tampa Bay 1

The New York Islanders scored a pair of goals in a 12-second span late in the third period to lift them to a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. John Tavares whistled a wrister from the slot past Andrei Vasilevskiy with 3:09 remaining to tie the game at 1-1. Travis Hamonic then put a wrister on net from the right point, which was re-directed by Anders Lee into the topleft corner to put the Islanders in front. Nikolay Kulemin added an empty-net goal for New York, which outshot Tampa Bay 48-21 and improved to 12-2-1 in its last 15 home matchups against the Lightning. Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves for the Islanders, who have won four straight games on the heels of a three-game losing streak. Vasilevskiy stopped 45 shots for Tampa Bay, which has dropped six of its last eight contests. Brett Connolly netted the lone goal for the Lightning in defeat.


Final Score: Pittsburgh 3, Florida 1

Derrick Pouliot scored in his NHL debut, Marc-Andre Fleury made 45 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins topped the Florida Panthers 3-1 on Saturday night in the first of a home-and-home set. Sidney Crosby and Nick Spaling also scored in the Penguins’ fifth consecutive home win. They are 5-0-2 in their last seven games overall. Pittsburgh native Vincent Trocheck provided the lone goal for Florida, which had played beyond regulation in its previous four games, winning three in shootouts and losing the other in overtime. Despite the loss, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was pleased with his team’s effort. Roberto Luongo stopped 31 shots in defeat.


Final Score: NY Rangers 3, Carolina 2 (SO)

Kevin Klein tied the score late in the third period and the New York Rangers went on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night to open a home-and-home set. Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal in the shootout and Henrik Lundqvist made two stops, including a glove save on Chris Terry’s backhand to end the game. A third Hurricanes skater shot wide. J.T. Miller had a power play goal in regulation for the Rangers, who extended their season-high winning streak to five games and finished off a 4-0 road trip. Lundqvist made 18 saves, including three in overtime. Terry and Jeff Skinner scored for the Hurricanes, who were coming off a 4-1 win over Toronto on Thursday night, their only victory in the last eight games. Cam Ward played well in defeat, making 32 saves, plus one in the shooting to give Carolina a chance. The Hurricanes haven’t won back-to-back games since a four-game winning streak Nov. 1-7.


Final Score: Columbus 3, Chicago 2 (SO)

Jack Johnson scored the deciding goal in the ninth round of the shootout and Sergei Bobrovsky was stellar as the Columbus Blue Jackets ended a 13-game losing streak to the Chicago Blackhawks with a 3-2 victory on Saturday. The Blue Jackets seem to prefer playing more than the required 60 minutes as they went to their sixth straight beyond regulation (5-0-1). Each goaltender was perfect through four rounds before former Blackhawk Jeremy Morin beat Corey Crawford with a quick wrister. Andrew Shaw kept Chicago alive, however, as he snapped a shot over Bobrovsky’s glove. Brandon Saad, the Blackhawks’ eighth shooter, had Bobrovsky beaten, but his shot rang off the left post. Johnson followed by dragging Crawford out of position with a slick backhand-forehand move and wristed the shot into an open net to put Columbus ahead. Bobrovsky stood tall and sealed the win by denying Bryan Bickell’s shot from the slot. The Blue Jackets defeated the Blackhawks for the first time since a 4-3 win on Feb. 18, 2011.


Final Score: Nashville 6, Minnesota 5 (OT)

Mattias Ekholm scored the game-winning goal 1:45 into overtime to lift the Nashville Predators to a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. An extra session was needed after Minnesota pulled its netminder and Thomas Vanek tied the game with 47.8 seconds remaining. The Predators, however, did not let the two points slip away. Ekholm battled along the boards behind the Minnesota net, emerged with the puck and scored off a wrister from the right circle for the win. Craig Smith, Matt Cullen and Roman Josi each had a goal and an assist, while Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg also lit the lamp for the Predators, who have won four of their last five games. Pekka Rinne earned the win despite allowing a season-high five goals on 27 shots. Zach Parise finished with two goals and an assist in defeat. Vanek and Marco Scandella each tallied a goal and a helper and Jason Zucker also scored for the Wild, who dropped their third straight game. Niklas Backstrom gave up three goals on 30 shots in relief of Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 11-of-14 shots during the first period.


Final Score: Vancouver 3, Calgary 2 (OT)

Chris Tanev celebrated his 25th birthday with the game-winning goal just 18 seconds into overtime, lifting the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Saturday at Rogers Arena. The Flames, who battled back from a 2-0 deficit that included an own goal, had the first shot of the extra period. It went wide and the Canucks raced the other way. Henrik Sedin carried the puck into the Calgary zone along the left wing and sent a pass back to a trailing Tanev, who snapped a shot from the slot past Jonas Hiller for his second goal of the season. Radim Vrbata scored and Yannick Weber was credited with a goal for Vancouver when the Flames shot the puck into their own empty net on a delayed penalty. Ryan Miller made 26 saves for the Canucks, who snapped a five-game skid. Vancouver forward Jannik Hansen collapsed on the bench during the second period, but was apparently better in the locker room. He did not return for precautionary reasons.


Final Score: San Jose 3, St. Louis 2 (OT)

Brent Burns scored with 38 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the San Jose Sharks to a dramatic 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. The Sharks tied the game on Marc- Edouard Vlasic’s goal with 20.6 seconds remaining in regulation and the goaltender pulled, then skated 4-on-3 thanks to Alexander Steen’s tripping infraction with 2:03 remaining in overtime. Joe Pavelski skated up to the right circle and dished the puck to Burns, who stepped into the pass and blasted it past the blocker of Jake Allen for the win. Andrew Desjardins also scored and Antti Niemi stopped 18-of-20 shots for the Sharks, who have won eight straight home games. Patrik Berglund and Steve Ott each lit the lamp for the Blues, who have dropped two in a row on the heels of a five- game winning streak. Allen made 27 saves in defeat.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2014


National Football League
Cleveland at Carolina, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (705)
Baltimore at Houston, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (706)
New England at NY Jets, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (707)
Kansas City at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM - CBS, DSS (708)
Detroit at Chicago, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (709)
Minnesota at Miami, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (710)
Atlanta at New Orleans, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (711)
Green Bay at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM - FOX, DSS (712)
NY Giants at St. Louis, 4:05 PM - FOX, DSS (713)
Indianapolis at Dallas, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (714)
Buffalo at Oakland, 4:25 PM - CBS, DSS (715)
Seattle at Arizona, 8:30 PM - NBC


National Basketball Association
New York at Toronto, 3:30 PM - MSG, SportsNet, DSS
Memphis at Cleveland, 4:30 PM - SportSouth, FS-Ohio, DSS
Detroit at Brooklyn, 6:00 PM - FS-Detroit+, YES, DSS
Philadelphia at Orlando, 6:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Florida, NBA TV
Boston at Miami, 6:00 PM - CSN-New England, SunSports, DSS
Phoenix at Washington, 6:00 PM - FS-Arizona, CSN-DC, DSS
LA Lakers at Sacramento, 6:00 PM - Time Warner, CSN-California, DSS
Indiana at Minnesota, 7:00 PM - FS-Indiana, North, DSS
New Orleans at Oklahoma City, 7:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, Oklahoma, DSS


National Hockey League
Colorado at Detroit, 6:00 PM - Altitude, FS-Detroit, DSS
Dallas at Edmonton, 6:00 PM - FS-Southwest, SNET-West, DSS
Toronto at Chicago, 7:00 PM - TVA, WGN, NHL Network, DSS
Buffalo at Boston, 7:00 PM - MSG-Buffalo, NESN, DSS
Carolina at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - FS-Carolina, MSG, DSS
Philadelphia at Winnipeg, 9:00 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, TSN3, DSS


College Basketball
Harvard at Virginia, 12:00 PM - ESPN U
Maine at Army, 1:00 PM - Patriot League Network
San Francisco at Cleveland State, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Maryland at Oklahoma State, 2:00 PM - ESPN U
Western Carolina at UNC-Asheville, 2:00 PM - Big South Network
Vermont at Saint Louis, 2:00 PM - FS-Midwest
Creighton at North Texas, 2:00 PM - FSN, MASN2
Cornell at Radford, 2:00 PM - Patriot League Network, Big South Network
Goshen at Valparaiso, 2:35 PM - ESPN3.com
Austin Peay at Lipscomb, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Tennessee St at Middle Tennessee, 3:00 PM - American Sports Net, MASN
Coker at South Carolina, 3:30 PM - SEC Network+
USC at Boston College, 4:00 PM - ESPN U
Seton Hall at Georgia, 6:00 PM - ESPN U
Appalachian St at Alabama, 6:30 PM - SEC Network
San Jose St at Washington St, 7:00 PM - Pac-12 Network


Women’s College Basketball
St. John’s Invitational, 12:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Texas A&M vs. Texas, 1:30 PM - SEC Network
Southern at Florida, 2:30 PM - SEC Network+
St. John’s Invitational, 2:30 PM - ESPN3.com
New Orleans at Alabama, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Dayton at Vanderbilt, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
Kentucky at Duke, 3:00 PM - ESPN 2
Princeton at Monmouth, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
UNC Asheville at USC Upstate, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Chicago State at Milwaukee, 3:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Oklahoma State at USC, 3:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Oklahoma vs. Arkansas, 4:00 PM - SEC Network
Louisville at California, 5:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Connecticut at UCLA, 5:00 PM - ESPN 2


International Soccer
Hellas Verona FC vs. AC ChievoVerona, 6:25 AM - beIN Sport
Newcastle United vs. Sunderland, 8:30 AM - NBCSN
ACF Fiorentina vs. Empoli FC, 8:55 AM - beIN Sport
AS Saint-Etienne vs. Evian Thonon Gaillard FC, 10:55 AM - beIN Sport
Liverpool vs. Arsenal, 11:00 AM - NBCSN
Elche CF vs. Malaga CF, 12:55 PM - beIN Sport
FC Internazionale Milano vs. SS Lazio, 2:55 PM - beIN Sport

Sports News   141220

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►  Eagles try to keep playoff hopes alive

The Philadelphia Eagles no longer control their own destiny and squandered those chances with back-to-back convincing defeats.

The Eagles will try to keep their fading playoff hopes alive when they visit the Washington Redskins Saturday at FedEx Field.

Philadelphia was in a euphoric state after dismantling rival Dallas on Thanksgiving, but came back down to Earth with a 24-14 loss to Seattle the next week. To make matters worse, the Cowboys entered south Philly Sunday night and left town with a 38-27 victory and sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant torched Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher for 114 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions.

“I had a terrible game. That’s what happened today,“ Fletcher said.

Eagles other defensive back Cary Williams was whistled for a few penalties in the loss, Philadelphia’s third in the last five games.

The start of the game set the tone for the Cowboys, who recovered the opening kickoff deep in Philadelphia territory after Josh Huff let the ball bounce, almost as if he was fielding a punt. DeMarco Murray later scored on a one-yard run to open the scoring and Dallas eventually led 21-0.

Philadelphia would scored the next 24 points for a three-point lead, but the Cowboys persevered with back-to-back scores from Murray and Bryant.

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 17-of-28 passes for 252 yards and two interceptions. Sanchez, who shouldered blame for the loss, has nine INTs this season to 10 touchdown passes and is looking forward.

“We’ve just got to bounce back,“ Sanchez said Sunday night. “Get this taste out of our mouth as soon as possible, as in tonight, and get in there, get in the film room, shake it off and move on. Because I know we have so much talent on this team, and it would be a real shame if we didn’t maximize it and get these next couple of wins. But it starts with next week.

“I need to clean up some mistakes and attack this thing like I do every week. That’s with a positive attitude, learning from the previous week, learning from this game and being ready to play.“

The Eagles will close the regular season on the road against the New York Giants on December 28 and can miss out on a chance to win the NFC East with a loss Saturday and a Dallas win Sunday versus Indianapolis.

Washington is last in the NFC East with a dismal 3-11 record and is mired in a six-game losing streak. In Sunday’s 24-13 road loss to the Giants, Robert Griffin III took over for Colt McCoy (neck) and completed 18-of-27 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

McCoy left early against the Giants after aggravating a neck injury and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Now the starting job is back in the hands of Griffin, who is supposedly the future and face of the franchise.

“We’ve got two games left and we’ve got to make sure that as a team we go out there ready to play,“ Griffin said. “These guys in there are the best in the world, so we have to go out there and show it. So I pray that the team is ready to go.“

Griffin said the Eagles have an aggressive defense, but is ready for the challenge. Griffin did not play in the first meeting with the Eagles, a 37-34 setback at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 3. Kirk Cousins, who is now the backup, threw for 427 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Pierre Garcon caught 11 passes for 138 yards and a score, while former Eagle DeSean Jackson recorded 117 yards and a score on five catches, including an 81-yard TD reception in the third quarter. Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin ended with 154 yards and a TD on eight catches. Maclin, who owns 10 TDs this season, has four 100-yard games in the last five against the ‘Skins.

The Redskins struggled against Giants rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and could be in for another frustrating game versus Maclin.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who is out with a broken clavicle, completed 27 of his 41 pass attempts for 325 yards and three scores with no INTs back in Week 3. Now it’s up to Sanchez to get Philly back on track. He won his only start against the Redskins back on December 4, 2011 with the New York Jets.

The Redskins lost both meetings with the Eagles last season, but lead the all- time series, 81-74-6. Washington has lost three in a row and six of the past eight meetings between the rivals.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Eagles have been able to slow down two of the top running backs in the league the last few weeks. Murray and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch had seen better days against the Eagles, who now have to worry about both Alfred Morris and Griffin.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly knows how good RG3 is.

“If you sleep on that guy, trust me, you’ll be sitting here after the game going, ‘Boy, he ran for 100 yards against you, how’d that happen?‘“ Kelly said Wednesday. “That kid’s athletic as heck, and he can run really, really well. We have to understand where he is on every single play.“

Philadelphia struggled against the elusive Russell Wilson in the loss to the Seahawks and could be in for a long afternoon if it misses assignments and tackles poorly.

“We’ve got to be really sharp on our contain when we rush the quarterback, because he’s a different element than we’ve seen except for Russell Wilson,“ Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said.

Jenkins also acknowledged Griffin’s arm strength and ability to set his feet and throw after moving out of harm’s way. Griffin has explosive receivers in Garcon, Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed. Morris can catch passes as well and needs 52 rushing yards for a third straight 1,000-yard season.

The Eagles won’t have Trent Cole Saturday and possibly for the remainder of the season because of a broken hand suffered Sunday night. Brandon Graham will make the start in Cole’s place at outside linebacker

“I’m just excited for any opportunity that I get,“ Graham said. “I’m definitely going to make the best of this opportunity, these last two games, and hopefully we can sneak into these playoffs.“

Rookie Marcus Smith could see extended playing time, too. He’s played in eight games and has just one tackle to show for it.

“I’m working hard and I have to be ready,“ Smith said. “The best way to learn is to get out on the field and do it.“

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin leads the team and the NFC with 14 1/2 sacks and has recorded four in the past four games. Fellow linebacker Mychal Kendricks leads the team with 67 tackles (51 solo).

Washington has a talented pass rusher in Ryan Kerrigan, who has 12 1/2 sacks this season. Kerrigan has posted four sacks in the last five games against Philadelphia. Linebacker Keenan Robinson leads the ‘Skins with 99 tackles (64 solo).

The Redskins are one of three teams with only five interceptions this season. Kansas City is at the bottom with only four INTs. Robinson has one of those picks.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy didn’t have a healthy line to play behind in the first meeting with the Redskins and recorded 22 yards on 19 carries. He has just two 100-yard games in his last six and posted 64 yards on 16 carries Sunday night.

“The situation we’re in now, we need wins, and they’re a team trying to finish the season out. I’ve been there. I know that type of role,“ McCoy said. “You want to play hard, but you’ve probably got your flights already scheduled, where you’re going. We’re fighting for something.“

Tackle Jason Peters was ejected in the first game for defending Foles, who was blindsided by Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker on a turnover.

“We’re going down there to win ... Point blank,“ Peters said. “Whatever we’ve got to do to win, that’s what we’re going down to do.“

Philadelphia will keep its playoff hopes alive and can only hope the Colts upend the Cowboys in Big D. It’s a lot to ask, but extremely possible.


►  Ravens try to take advantage of banged-up Texans

The Baltimore Ravens hope to clinch their sixth playoff berth in seven years on Sunday when they visit a Houston Texans club that is reaching deep into the quarterback well to keep its postseason chances alive.

The Ravens have won two straight and four of their past five to stay in the mix of an ultra-competitive AFC North. However, at 9-5 they have a chance to secure a playoff spot with a victory and losses by division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, or a win and a loss by both Kansas City and San Diego.

Baltimore is tied with Pittsburgh for second in the division, just behind 9-4-1 Cincinnati.

The Ravens, who host the Cleveland Browns to close out the regular-season next Sunday, picked up their second win in a row with a less-than-impressive 20-12 decision over the Jacksonville Jaguars this past weekend.

Joe Flacco threw for just 221 yards, including a three-yard strike to tight end Owen Daniels, but defense and special teams also chipped in.

Baltimore recorded a season-high eight sacks—2 1/2 by linebacker Terrell Suggs and another two from rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan—while Darian Stewart blocked a punt that Kamar Aiken returned 11 yards for an early score.

“We didn’t play smart all the time. We had too many mistakes, too many errors that kept us off the field or put our defense back on the field, those kind of things,“ said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “But Jacksonville did a good job. That’s a good young football team, especially on defense. That defense is salty and they get after you.“

Houston’s defense can also get after teams as it proved in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Texans held the Colts to season lows of 17 points and 278 yards, but still failed to win a third straight game while falling to 7-7 on the year.

Already without wide receiver Andre Johnson (concussion) and tight end Garrett Graham (ankle), Texans starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick left in the second quarter with a leg injury that forced rookie Tom Savage into duty.

“I felt for him because he knew right away that it was injured, his leg was injured, and I felt bad for him,“ said Texans coach Bill O’Brien of Fitzpatrick.

Savage completed 10-of-19 passes for 127 yards with two fumbles—one lost—and an interception in his NFL debut.

Fitzpatrick had season-ending surgery on his leg Monday, while Savage will also be out this weekend due to an undisclosed injury. With Ryan Mallett having been lost earlier to a season-ending pectoral injury, Houston will start a fourth different quarterback this season.

That will be either Thad Lewis or Case Keenum, who was signed off the St. Louis Rams practice squad this week. Keenum played with Houston last season and was with the club in training camp before getting released on August 31.

O’Brien, though, has yet to announce a starter, but whoever goes could also be under center for the Week 17 finale against visiting Jacksonville.

“I’m going to keep that one close to the vest,“ O’Brien said on Wednesday. “Both these guys, Case and Thad, are out there working hard. Right up until game time, that’s going to be the way it is.“

The Texans have beaten the Ravens only once in seven prior meetings, including a 2011 playoff victory for Baltimore.

This game will also mark a return to Houston for Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and Owns, who played with the Texans from 2006-13.

Kubiak, meanwhile, was Houston’s head coach from 2006-13, helping the club win back-to-back AFC South crowns in 2011-12.

“I think it will mean everything,“ Owens said of Kubiak getting a win this Sunday. “That’s all we want. Obviously, for this team to go in there and take care of business—to keep our playoff hopes on track—that’s the biggest thing. And then it’s just a little icing on top for (Kubiak) probably to go back into a place (where he was the head coach).“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Both quarterbacks figure to be under heavy pressure this Sunday as some of the top pass rushers will be on the field.

For the Ravens, they rank third in the NFL with 45 sacks and no other duo in the league has more combined sacks than Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, who have 28 between the two of them. Suggs’ 11 give him his sixth-career double-digit sack season.

Dumervil, meanwhile, has joined Texans defensive end J.J. Watt in the Defensive Player of the Year discussions. His 17 sacks are tied with Kansas City’s Justin Houston for the most in the NFL and match is previous career high of 17 set in 2009.

The Ravens limited the Jaguars to 248 total yards, including just 68 in the second half, and Dumervil also picked up a sack.

“It’ll be a good challenge for both offensive lines,“ said Dumervil of this matchup. “We have guys who get after the quarterback, and (Watt) is a guy who can get after the quarterback. So, I’m sure whoever’s defense plays the best wins the game, for sure.“

Watt, who has multiple sacks in a career-high three straight games, with seven over that time, agreed that the Ravens have depth at pass rushing.

“(Dumervil’s) playing very well. He’s playing very good football right now, and their whole defensive line is playing good football,“ said Watt. “You have him, Suggs and (Pernell) McPhee and Jernigan—all those guys are playing some good football up there. So, as a defensive lineman, you enjoy watching good football being played, and they’re definitely doing a good job of it.“

Watt has done a great job of playing football himself. He has 16 1/2 sacks on the year, 10 passes defensed, a pick-six and three forced fumbles, one he returned for a score.

The playmaker also has caught three touchdown passes.

“Where do you start? He does everything well. He catches passes for touchdowns, so what doesn’t he do? He’s just a great player,“ noted Harbaugh of Watt.

Houston’s Watt-led defense will try to slow down Flacco, who has posted a 107.2 passer rating over the Ravens’ past four games. He also is three touchdown passes shy of passing the career-high 25 he threw in 2010, while Baltimore is 23 points short of setting a new single-season record for points score. The 2012 squad scored 398.

Helping Flacco is the fact that under Kubiak, the club has allowed only 16 sacks, second-fewest in the NFL.

Watt figures to challenge that, while Houston running back Arian Foster will attempt to snap Baltimore’s string of 24 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Foster just missed the mark versus the Colts, rushing for 99 yards on 26 attempts, and is averaging 102.5 yards per game on the ground this season.

Foster has 11 touchdowns, eight of those rushing, over his last eight games.

Johnson also expects to return this weekend from his concussion and is four receptions shy of 1,000 for his career. Hitting the mark this weekend would make him the second-fastest player to do so, coming in Johnson’s 168th career game.

His return should help either Keenum or Lewis.

Keenum passed for 1,760 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions in eight games for the Texans last season, while Lewis has passed for 1,296 yards with five touchdowns and four picks in seven all-time appearances, including five starts.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

In trying to deal with Watt, Flacco should have some room for error as the Ravens defense is likely to make it a long day for either Keenum or Lewis. Not helping either quarterback is the fact that Houston may not be able to lean heavily on Foster given Baltimore’s success versus the run.

The Ravens rank third in that department, yielding a mere 84.3 yards per game, while the Texans are fourth in the NFL with 136.8 yards per game on the ground.

Getting Foster some room to run will be key, but also easier said than done and the Ravens catch a break with the Texans’ issues under center.


►  OBJ takes aim at Rams’ stingy defense

Where was the pass rush from Jason Pierre-Paul earlier this season? The New York Giants defensive end looks to wreak more havoc on the St. Louis Rams Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

Pierre-Paul recorded only 1 1/5 sacks in his first six games and 3 1/2 over 11 games from September 8 - November 23. JPP posted 2 1/2 sacks in Sunday’s 24-13 win over the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium and has six in the past three games.

“I think we have some people that are playing very well,“ Giants coach Tom Coughlin said today. “JPP is playing very well. Technically, early on, he was doing some things that we could correct and help with and he has really adapted his game again to the way and manner in which we would like him to rush.“

Pierre-Paul is now the veteran of the bunch and arguably the most talented across the defensive line. He had 2 1/2 of New York’s seven sacks on the afternoon, while DT Johnathan Hankins posted 2 1/2 as well. JPP leads the team with 9 1/2 on the season and rookie linebacker Devon Kennard has 4 1/2 sacks over the previous three games.

The Giants have sacked opposing quarterbacks at least seven times in each of the last three games (22 total). They have 41 total this season.

New York has won two straight following a seven-game losing streak and are averaging 28 points per game in the last four. It is 3-7 against NFC foes this season and 2-5 as the visiting team.

St. Louis is coming off Thursday’s 12-6 setback versus the NFC West-rival Arizona Cardinals last Thursday, as the offense stalled with a pair of Greg Zuerlein field goals.

Rams quarterback Shaun Hill passed for 229 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, while running back Tre Mason added 33 yards on 13 carries. Wide receiver Stedman Bailey posted a team-best 74 yards on five receptions.

“It’s hard to win football games when you don’t score touchdowns,“ Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “The difference in this game was our inability to get the ball in the end zone.“

The Rams had won two straight and three of four games.

“We’ve got to keep battling in this game,“ Rams tight end Jared Cook said. “The season’s not over. We’ve still got two games left. You’ve got to keep scratching and clawing your way to the top.“

St. Louis leads the series with New York, 25-14, and the teams have split two playoff matchups. The Giants have won the last five meetings with the Rams and recorded a 28-16 triumph in the last matchup on September 19, 2011. Eli Manning threw for 223 yards with a pair of TD strikes and one interception.

Coughlin is 3-1 in his career against the Rams, with the lone loss coming in 1996 while the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has taken off the past few weeks, especially the previous two games. He had 11 receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown at Tennessee on December 7, then caught 12 passes for 143 yards and three scores on Sunday.

Beckham’s speed and excellent hand coordination has him as one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year.

“Nothing this guy does amazes me at this point,“ Giants safety Antrel Rolle said of Beckham. “He’s a phenomenal talent and more importantly, I think he has the attitude and passion that this game deserves and that this team needs. He tries to go out there and be the best of the best each and every time on the field.“

Beckham has six touchdown catches in his last four games and five 100-yard efforts in the past seven. Beckham has recorded no less than 90 yards receiving since early November and his 12 catches Sunday were a rookie record for the Giants.

Beckham’s 12 receptions tied the highest total by a wide receiver in franchise history and it was the sixth time a Giants player caught at least 12 passes in a game. Hakeem Nicks was the last to accomplish the feat, registering 12 receptions at Houston on October 10, 2010. His 972 yards this season are a new Giants rookie record. The old record of 894 was set by Jeremy Shockey in 2002.

The LSU product’s nine touchdowns this season are the highest total by a Giants rookie since Bill Swiacki set the record with 10 in 1948.

“The young man is having outstanding success. When we are getting the ball to him, he’s doing very well with it,“ Coughlin said. “He’s a very good football player. He has the ability to go the distance, I think, any time he gets it ... whether as a punt returner or as an offensive player. He can run the football; he can throw the football, so we’ve tried to create a lot of situations. He does have the talent to exploit the defense in a lot of different ways.“

The Rams are allowing 249.7 receiving yards a game this season.

St. Louis has five players with two or more interceptions and cornerback Trumaine Johnson leads the team with three in seven games. Alec Ogletree, E.J. Gaines, Rodney McLeod and Janoris Jenkins each have two INTs.

Manning is good for one or two interceptions a game, but protected the ball Sunday versus Washington. In his last six games, Manning has thrown eight picks to 10 TD strikes. He won his 90th regular-season game as New York’s starting QB, five behind Phil Simms (95).

Manning, who passed for 250 yards with three TDs and no INTs, recorded a rating of 118.5, the second-highest of the season.

“We are preparing ourselves today for a very good (St. Louis) Rams team that is very physical,“ Coughlin said. “They have done a lot of very good things. They have done good things at home and we are going there to play at their place.“

Manning is facing a Rams defense that has posted 36 sacks, including 10 1/2 by Robert Quinn. Quinn has 4 1/2 sacks in his last three games and has posted at least 10 in each of the previous three seasons.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Giants would enjoy nothing more than to end the season on a high note and perhaps save the job of Coughlin. After visiting the Rams, the Giants will close the season at home versus Philadelphia, which is still eyeing the postseason.

Before trying to spoil the Eagles’ season, New York has to get through a stingy St. Louis defense and Manning must keep the football out of harm’s way. The Rams scored only six points versus a tough Arizona squad and will at least triple that number Sunday.

It won’t be enough, however, to stop Beckham and his remarkable season.


►  Cardinals hope to hold off surging Seahawks

A 10-win season didn’t get Arizona into the playoffs in 2013, so the club made sure not to chance it this year by going 11-3 and securing a postseason spot with two weeks left to go.

A 12th win on Sunday would put the Cardinals in a much-desired position going into the playoffs, but it won’t come easy as they host the Seattle Seahawks.

The Cardinals had to wait a few days after beating the St. Louis Rams 12-6 last Thursday, but they officially locked up their first playoff spot since 2009 when Dallas beat Philadelphia this past Sunday night.

Arizona’s 11 wins this season match a franchise record set in 1925, 1948 and 1975, and another win in this game would give the Cardinals their third NFC West title in seven seasons as well as home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

However, a loss to the 10-4 Seahawks would give Seattle the inside lane at winning the division since they picked up a 19-3 win at home over the Cards back on November 23.

The defending Super Bowl champions themselves can secure a playoff spot with a victory and a loss by either the Eagles, Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers. They also get in regardless of the outcome of this game if Philadelphia losses on Saturday to Washington and Dallas beats or ties Indianapolis on Sunday.

As if dealing with the red-hot Seahawks wasn’t enough, the Cardinals are down to their third quarterback as Drew Stanton left the win over the Rams with a right knee injury. Ryan Lindley replaced him for his first NFL action since 2012 and completed 4-of-10 pass attempts for 30 yards as Arizona won despite not scoring a touchdown.

The Cards have now won two straight since back-to-back road losses to Seattle and Atlanta, with the setback to the Seahawks halting a six-game winning streak.

Stanton was making his fifth start since Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee on November 9 versus the Rams.

“I’m glad we don’t have to play the Rams anymore,“ Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Both times we played them they banged our quarterbacks up.“

At 31 years and 102 days old, Fitzgerald became the youngest player in NFL history to compile 900 career receptions after finishing with seven catches for 30 yards versus the Rams, while running backs Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor combined to rush for 136 yards on 29 carries.

Arizona is 7-0 at home this season and are looking to go undefeated in a season at home for the first time in club history, but they’ll have to solve the Seahawks first.

Seattle has won six of its past nine versus Arizona, including a 19-3 win on November 23. Stanton threw for 149 yards and was picked off in the loss, while Fitzgerald did not play because of a knee injury.

Russell Wilson threw for 211 yards with a touchdown and also ran for 73 yards on 10 carries for the Seahawks.

Wilson has won 34 games in his career, the most by any quarterback in NFL history over his first three seasons. The latest came this past Sunday, a 17-7 win over San Francisco that knocked the rival 49ers out of the playoff picture.

Wilson was 12-of-24 passing for 168 yards with a 10-yard touchdown throw to rookie Paul Richardson and an interception, while Jermaine Kearse caught five passes for 78 yards for Seattle.

The Seahawks have won four straight, a run that began with the win over the Cardinals, and seven of their last eight overall.

“We’re having a great time right now,“ Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “I think we did great overall the whole game.“

Marshawn Lynch ran for 91 yards and a touchdown as Seattle allowed 178 yards to San Francisco in the first half, but clamped down and limited the 49ers to a meager 67 over the final 30 minutes. The Seahawks finished with six sacks.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

While the Cardinals are hopeful Stanton will return at some point, the club can’t be glad to see the Seahawks are on deck for Lindley in his first NFL start since 2012.

As a rookie, Lindley made four starts and six appearances for the Cardinals that season under former head coach Ken Whisenhunt, throwing for 752 yards while getting picked off seven times without a TD pass.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians kept Lindley as his third quarterback last season, but was released in August in favor of Logan Thomas. Lindley joined San Diego’s practice squad, but re-signed with the Cardinals when Palmer got hurt.

He’ll now move past Thomas and make the start, though Arizona is expected to have a package of plays ready for Thomas this weekend.

Lindley, meanwhile, isn’t trying to draw anything from his previous experience with the Cardinals.

“That’s night and day. At this point I don’t even think about (2012). Just the amount I’ve learned from both Drew and Carson and the staff, it’s a totally different ballgame right now,“ he said.

Lindley will be facing the league’s top-ranked defense, one that is allowing just 272.4 yards per game. Seattle has given up just 27 points and 752 yards over its last four games.

The return of linebacker Bobby Wagner has helped. He has 35 tackles in his last four games, including 10 stops and a sack last weekend, after missing five in a row due to a toe injury.

“We’ve rushed the passer a lot better and made it harder on the quarterbacks,“ noted Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. “The whole defense has played better. The pass rush has really been significant.“

And despite the switch at quarterback for Arizona, the Seahawks aren’t changing things up ahead of this meeting.

“They don’t look that different, in terms of the plays they’re running and how they’re using their personnel,“ cornerback Richard Sherman told Seattle’s website.

“So I think you have to be prepared for them the same way you’d prepare if Carson was playing or if Stanton was in there.“

Seattle is second in the NFL with 17.3 points allowed per game, just ahead of Arizona’s 17.4 given up per contest.

The Cardinals did sack Wilson seven times in the earlier loss, three by defensive end Calais Campbell, though the Seahawks quarterback threw three touchdown passes in a 34-22 win at Arizona last season.

Lynch, though, has been held to just 110 rushing yards in his past two games versus the Cardinals.

Also, Arizona expects to have talented young safety Tyrann Mathieu available this weekend after he missed the previous two games because of a fractured left thumb. He is likely to play with a large cast covering the ailment.

“I wasn’t going to miss this one,“ Mathieu said on Arizona’s website. “I didn’t want to miss the last two.“

Though yet to be officially ruled out, Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung may not play this weekend due to bruised lung suffered versus the 49ers.

Still, the offensive lineman figures to be a stretch to play and will likely be replaced by Alvin Bailey, who stepped in versus San Francisco.

“He made it through it,“ Carroll said of Bailey’s performance against the Niners. “He had some good plays and some bad plays. He did some good things. He struggled a little bit too. He wasn’t on his best game but he made it through it and managed to get through the game.“

Carroll added that extra preparation for Bailey this week would be a big help for the second-year player.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Many have expected the Cardinals to fade this season and those doubters will now have to wait until the postseason to see Arizona go away.

The Cards have so far survived the loss of Palmer, but losing Stanton ahead of such a big matchup is another mighty blow. Lindley must now step into the spotlight in primetime, where Arizona is 2-0 this season.

But Seattle is 3-0 this season in primetime football and now resembles the club that won the most recent Super Bowl.

This season’s NFL title game is set to take place in Arizona and this Sunday could be a mere warmup to the party again for the Seahawks.


►  Cowboys search for different kind of ‘Luck’ vs. Colts

The Dallas Cowboys control their own destiny for an NFC East title and will try to solve some home woes when they host the AFC South- champion Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys are winless in their last three home games and have scored no more than 17 points in each of those contests. They were throttled, 33-10, by Philadelphia on Thanksgiving and rebounded with back-to-back road victories over Chicago and the division-rival Eagles.

Dallas is 7-0 on the road and handed Philadelphia a 38-27 loss Sunday night, as Dez Bryant torched the Eagles for 114 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions to help the Cowboys claim sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a 10-4 mark. Jason Witten was a thorn in the Eagles’ side with 69 yards on seven catches.

Witten talked about Dallas’ chances of grabbing a postseason spot and possibly a division crown for the first time since 2009.

“We can’t really worry about how it all plays out,“ Witten said. “We have to handle our business and control what we can. At this point in the season, you know what you are playing for and it’s just one game at a time.“

The Cowboys will close the regular season at Washington on December 28 and has a chance to lock up a postseason berth and the NFC East title with a win and a Philadelphia loss to the Redskins. The Eagles will visit Washington Saturday.

Dallas can also clinch a playoff spot with a win along with losses by Green Bay and Detroit.

“We’re trying to stay together, play together and understand from here on out that these are all big games,“ Bryant said.

Bryant leads the NFL with 13 receiving scores.

NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray (1,687 yards, 11 TD) suffered a broken left hand against the Eagles and has been limited in practice. Murray’s status for Sunday is unknown and he underwent surgery Monday. Joseph Randle is second on the Cowboys with 237 rushing yards and Lance Dunbar has 91.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said it all depends on Murray’s conditioning if he will play Sunday, and at this point of the season his running back should be alright to suit up. Most players in this league are battling through bumps and bruises, and Murray is a valuable to piece to the team.

Murray has rushed for 403 yards in three games against AFC foes this season and has recorded five touchdowns in the previous five games against the conference.

Meanwhile, the Colts captured their second straight AFC South title with Sunday’s 17-10 win over the Houston Texans.

Colts QB Andrew Luck threw for only 187 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and an interception, while running back Dan Herron posted 60 yards on 11 carries.

“It wasn’t pretty, but to be division champs is special, and we’re excited about that,“ said Luck.

Luck is looking forward to the challenge in Dallas.

“It’s fun to play teams that are fighting for something. There’s a lot of magnitude to this game,“ Luck said. “That’s a good football team.“

Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who leads the team with 1,345 yards, had 50 yards on four receptions and is dealing with a sore hamstring. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Hilton is day-to-day for an Indianapolis team jockeying for playoff seeding in the AFC.

The Colts, whose streak of at least 20 points in 20 games came to an end, have won four in a row after losing, 42-20, to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on November 16. They will wrap up the regular season on the road against the Tennessee Titans December 28.

In milestone news for the Colts, veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne set the franchise record with 209 games played. Wayne was asked what the Colts are seeking to accomplish next.

“If you still have room to move up into the seeding chart, you want to definitely do that. And you still want to finish off the season strong,“ Wayne said. “We’ve been blessed to have conquered the division but we still have a couple of games left where you want to win those games. You want to win, so you have that feeling rolling into the playoffs.“

Indianapolis is 6-9 all-time against Dallas, including a win in Super Bowl V. The Cowboys have won the last two meetings, including a 38-35 victory in overtime on December 5, 2010. Peyton Manning was the quarterback for the Colts and threw for 365 yards with two TDs and four interceptions.

Jon Kitna was under center for the Cowboys.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Luck leads the NFL in passing yards (4,492), yards per game (320.9) touchdowns (38) and is tied for third with 14 interceptions. The Colts are averaging an NFL-best 310.9 passing yards per game and are third in total offense with 421.4 yards per game.

The Colts will try to keep Dallas’ home woes going, but it won’t be easy.

“We know what kind of team they have, and what kind of players they have. We’ve got to go on the road and play a darn good football team,“ Pagano said.

It will be tough for the Colts to win if Hilton is out. However, Luck has other targets in Dwayne Allen, who has a team-high eight receiving scores, and Coby Fleener. Fleener has hauled in six TD grabs this season.

Dallas is allowing 249.6 passing yards on defense and 359.9 total yards. It shouldn’t have a problem with Indy’s ground attack, which features Herron and a disappointing Trent Richardson.

If Murray does play, the Colts will have their hands full with him and that cohesive offensive line. The Colts allowed 99 yards to Houston running back Arian Foster last week.

“We’re going to face a great runner in DeMarco Murray,“ Pagano said. “I understand that he has a hand injury and possibly a broken bone; I don’t know. I fully expect him to be out there and that’s how we’ll prepare, but the run defense has been outstanding.“

Indianapolis and Dallas are both allowing 110.4 rushing yards per game.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

If Romo and the Cowboys have plans on making the postseason, they have to start playing better at home. It seems the pressure of winning in Jerry’s world has taken its toll.

Romo was asked about the struggles at home.

“We’ve played well on the road. We’ve played some games well at home, too,“ Romo said. “We just need to do better as a whole and execute better and I look forward to doing that this week.“

Romo has won his last four starts against AFC foes and owns 17 TD passes to just two interceptions in his past eight against the conference. He expects AT&T Stadium to be energetic and loud with the possibility of clinching the NFC East. That goal may have to wait a week, but the Cowboys will get a step closer with a win Sunday.

►  Titans send McCluster to IR

The Tennessee Titans placed running back Dexter McCluster on injured reserve prior to Thursday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

McCluster, Tennessee’s primary third-down back this season, injured his knee during Sunday’s 16-11 loss to the New York Jets.

Signed to a three-year contract by the Titans during the offseason, the former Kansas City Chief caught 26 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown in 14 games. McCluster added 131 rushing yards on 40 carries.

He is the third Titans’ player to be put on IR this week, joining deposed starting quarterback Jake Locker (shoulder) and tight end Brett Brackett (knee).

Wide receiver Rico Richardson was elevated from the practice squad to take McCluster’s place on the 53-man roster.


►  Newton ‘on target’ to start

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera told reporters Thursday that Cam Newton will “probably” start Sunday’s game against Cleveland as the quarterback continues to progress well after a recent car accident.

Newton took the majority of first-team reps during Thursday’s practice, his first full session since injuring his lower back in a two-car accident on December 9. He declared himself pain-free when speaking to the media afterward, though Rivera has yet to make it definitive that Newton would be back under center against the Browns.

“I don’t want to say yes and then suddenly we have a setback,“ Rivera said. “We want to go through the process and make sure we do things the right way. I would say he’s on target. He had a good day today. He looked good out there, took the reps he was supposed to.

“But we’re going through the process. He did a few more things, and we’ll evaluate the tape and take a real good look to make sure he’s fine. We did some more things with him that we didn’t do yesterday, and we’ll increase that again tomorrow to make sure he’s really where he needs to be. Then we’ll double-check him on Saturday morning.“

Derek Anderson filled in for Newton last week against Tampa Bay, throwing for 277 yards and a touchdown to help the Panthers to an important 19-17 win over the Buccaneers.

“I don’t think we’re worried about who is starting at quarterback. I think we’re both ready,“ Newton said.

At 5-8-1, the Panthers enter the season’s final two weeks just behind 6-8 New Orleans for first place in the NFC South.


►  Bears make change at QB

Chicago Bears head coach Mark Trestman has decided to start Jimmy Clausen over Jay Cutler at quarterback for this Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.

Cutler started the first 14 games of his sixth season with the Bears, completing 66.1% of his passes for 3,640 yards, 28 touchdowns and an NFL-high 18 interceptions.

He has fumbled 12 times as well, losing six to lead the league in overall turnovers.

“This is performance-based only,“ said Trestman during a news conference on Thursday. “We’re not getting enough out of our quarterback.“

Trestman added that this decision is for this week only and he will re- evaluate heading into the final week of the season.

“We’re not playing well enough at the quarterback position on a consistent basis,“ added Trestman.

Cutler said Thursday that he wants to stay in Chicago and can see himself working with Trestman in the future.

“I would like to stay here,“ said Cutler. “I really like it here. I love the guys in the locker room. This is where I’d like to be.“

Clausen, who was signed to a one-year contract in June, hasn’t started a game since 2010 while with the Carolina Panthers. He has thrown nine passes in three games for Chicago (5-9) this season, completing three.

Before this season, the former Notre Dame star hadn’t appeared in an NFL game since playing 13 for the Panthers as a rookie after he was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft.

The Bears enter Sunday’s matchup having lost three straight and six of their last eight games.


►  From Manziel to Manning: Bengals try to solve Peyton

If Jim Ross was getting ready to broadcast the Cincinnati Bengals’ next game, the famed wrestling announcer might say: “Business is about to pick up.“

When the Bengals welcome Denver to Paul Brown Stadium for “Monday Night Football,“ it’s with the stark realization that Johnny Manziel will be turning into Peyton Manning over a one-week span. That’s the equivalent of a basic arithmetic test followed up by one on advanced calculus.

“It’s going to be a big shift, safe to say,“ Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis admitted. “It’s a challenge. (Manning) gets everyone’s attention in this building right away. The player he is, how he carries himself, how he runs things on the field—it’s going to be a great challenge for us.“

Challenge may be an under statement because the Bengals have never beaten Manning whether he was in Indianapolis or Denver, compiling an 0-8 mark when the five-time MVP is lined up opposite them.

Cincinnati inched closer to its fourth consecutive postseason berth in Week 15 when plenty of money signs were flashed but none coming from the player associated with the gesture, Manziel.

The Cleveland rookie quarterback’s first career NFL start was as dismal as it gets and the Browns were whitewashed, 30-0, by the AFC North-leading Bengals.

Jeremy Hill had 148 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and Giovani Bernard amassed 79 yards on the ground for the Bengals (9-4-1), who produced points on each of their first four drives and remain a half-game ahead of Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the division standings entering Week 16.

Cincinnati can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Broncos and it can earn the AFC North crown with a win coupled with losses by the Steelers, who play Kansas City on Sunday, and the Ravens, who are at Houston.

“We’re still in control of everything,“ said quarterback Andy Dalton. “We know these next two games are going to be big. The way our division is going, everyone keeps winning. We know what we’re facing.“

Dalton completed 14-of-24 passes for 117 yards with one interception against the Browns as Cincinnati won its fourth straight road game to tie a club record.

Denver, meanwhile, already punched its ticket to the postseason dance by winning the AFC West for a fourth straight year after downing San Diego, 22-10, in Week 15.

Now the Broncos are focused on a first-round bye and the top spot in the AFC. Denver will clinch the mini-vacation with a win over the Bengals but needs to win out and hope New England loses one of its final two games to claim the top spot in the conference.

Hindered by a bout with the flu and temporarily sidelined by a thigh injury, Manning got plenty of support from his Broncos teammates against the Chargers.

Manning briefly exited the game late in the first half and produced a modest 233 yards with a touchdown, but five Connor Barth field goals and a strong defensive effort helped Denver sew up another division crown.

“It’s a tough division to win, so it feels good,“ said Manning. “All it does is guarantee you a spot in the playoffs, but at least you have a shot.“

The Broncos limited San Diego to 288 total yards, with the Chargers failing to mount a sustained rushing attack with top back Ryan Mathews out with an ankle injury.

Demaryius Thomas caught six passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, while C.J. Anderson added 85 rushing yards on a workmanlike 29 carries.

“All that really matters now is winning,“ said Thomas.

Manning completed 14-of-20 attempts one week after he threw for a season-low 173 yards and had a streak of 51 consecutive games with a touchdown pass halted against Buffalo. The Broncos won that game, too, though.

Manning was shaken up while blocking Chargers linebacker Donald Butler on Anderson’s third-and-goal run that was initially ruled a touchdown, then overturned on review. When the five-time league MVP hobbled, Broncos head coach John Fox opted for Barth’s 19-yard field goal.

Brock Osweiler directed Denver’s next series, which ended in a quick three- and-out, as Manning received treatment in the locker room.

The Broncos lead their all-time series with the Bengals by a significant 19-8 margin and have won four straight, the last of which was a 31-23 triumph in November of 2012 when Manning threw for 291 yards and three TDs.

Both teams have had their troubles on Monday nights with Denver compiling a 29-36-1 mark over the years and Cincinnati being even worse at 10-20.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Manning and the Broncos offense have taken a step back from their 2013 performance, perhaps the best statistical season in NFL history, when Denver became the first team to pass the 600-point barrier.

That said, when you look up, the numbers remain staggering as Manning is third in the AFC with 4,143 passing yards and even better with 37 TD passes (second in the NFL) and a 106.4 passer rating (tops in the conference). The veteran now has an NFL record 14 career 4,000-yard passing seasons and headlines an offense that is fifth in the NFL in both yards (400.7 yards per game) and points per game (29.1).

If anything the group has become more well-rounded in recent weeks because of the emergence of the ground game and Anderson, who is averaging 135.3 scrimmage yards per game (812 total) with six total TDs (four rushing, two receiving) over the past six games.

The receiving threats remain as good as any in football led by Thomas, who has 1,389 receiving yards and leads all AFC receivers with 41 TD catches since entering the league in 2010. His running mate, Emmanuel Sanders, has a career- high 1,261 yards and seven TD catches over his past nine games.

The Cincinnati defense looked like world-beaters against Manziel but has taken a significant step back overall without Mike Zimmer, now the head coach in Minnesota.

The Bengals D entered last week’s contest 25th in the league and are now 20th after dominating Manziel. The 25 number is probably more indicative of where they belong because facing a QB who isn’t ready to play in the NFL is an anomaly and certainly not what Cincy will be up against on Monday night.

Dalton has been inconsistent this season so the strength of the Bengals offense is the running game, which is clicking now that Bernard is healthy and the rookie Hill is getting more comfortable week by week. The Cincinnati running game has been averaging 145.3 yards per game over its past four games.

That shapes up as strength versus strength, though, because the Denver defense is second in the NFL. allowing only 71.6 yards per game on the ground. Overall, Jack Del Rio’s stop unit is one of the most improved in the league and is fourth overall, surrendering 309.4 yards per game.

The two stars of the unit, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, come off the edge and the Broncos are one of only two teams with two players that have recorded 10 or more sacks (Miller 13, Ware 10).

“We have to get through this game before we have any opportunities at January,“ Lewis said. “It’s been (a playoff mentality) for the last seven weeks. Preparation and how you go about it, and the confidence of knowing what to do and how to do it allows you to play fast. That’s the most important thing, for us: to play fast, to play physical, to play smart.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Bengals are 13-2-1 in their past 16 regular-season home games but one of those losses and the tie came in their past two as the host. With the air of invincibility at Paul Brown Stadium diminishing and Manning’s history of success against Cincinnati, it’s tough to pick the Bengals here.

“It’s our goal (to win the Super Bowl) every year,“ Fox said. “Everybody’s hope and dream before the season is you’ll be hoisting that championship trophy. We got close last year and came up short. Obviously, (the AFC West championship) is a great accomplishment, but we still have more season left.“


►  Extra Points: Bengals need to buck history

Peyton Manning and the dark of night?

That’s as scary as it gets for the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals inched closer to what would be an ongoing franchise-record fourth consecutive postseason berth in Week 15 when plenty of money signs were flashed but none coming from the player most associated with the overbearing gesture, Johnny Manziel.

The Cleveland rookie quarterback’s first career NFL start was as dismal as it gets and the Browns were whitewashed, 30-0, by the AFC North-leading Bengals.

But if Jim Ross was getting ready to broadcast the Bengals’ next game, the famed wrestling announcer might say: “Business is about to pick up.“

Cincinnati can clinch the playoff spot with a win over the AFC West champion Denver Broncos on Monday night, and it can earn the AFC North crown with a win coupled with losses by the Steelers, who play Kansas City on Sunday, and the Ravens, who are at Houston.

“We’re still in control of everything,“ said Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. “We know these next two games are going to be big. The way our division is going, everyone keeps winning. We know what we’re facing.“

What their facing is the Boogeyman on “Monday Night Football,“ along with the stark realization that Manziel will be turning into Manning over a one-week span.

That’s the equivalent of a basic arithmetic test followed up by one on advanced calculus.

“It’s going to be a big shift, safe to say,“ Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis admitted. “It’s a challenge. (Manning) gets everyone’s attention in this building right away. The player he is, how he carries himself, how he runs things on the field—it’s going to be a great challenge for us.“

Challenge may be an under statement because the Bengals have never beaten Manning whether he was in Indianapolis or Denver, compiling an 0-8 mark when the five-time MVP is lined up opposite them.

If that wasn’t daunting enough, the game is also going to be played after sundown and that’s never a good thing for Cincinnati.

The Bengals have played twice in primetime so far this season, getting blown out both times, a 43-17 setback at New England in a Sunday night game on October 5, and a 24-3 drubbing at the hands of the Browns while Brian Hoyer was still in charge on Thursday, November 6.

Since Dalton took over the Bengals in the 2011 season Cincinnati is playing .250 football (2-6) under the national spotlight, a sharp contrast from its 37-16-1 mark over that same span during day games.

“I have no idea,“ defensive end Wallace Gilberry said when asked about the team’s struggles at night. “I guess we’re afraid of the dark.“

Add in the three playoff losses since 2011 and the Bengals are a downright dismal 2-9 when the spotlight is focused squarely on them and Lewis’ team is tired of hearing about it.

“It is annoying and it’s our job to make it unannoying,“ safety George Iloka said. “If we lose this game, the talk will come back again. But that’s (the media’s) job to do. And if we want to silence the critics, we’ve got to put up or shut up. That’s how it goes. It might be annoying, but that’s on us.“

Silencing anyone on Monday is going to be a daunting task.

Manning and the Broncos’ offense have taken a step back from their historical 2013 performance, perhaps the best statistical season in NFL history.

That said, when you look up, the numbers remain staggering as Manning is third in the AFC with 4,143 passing yards and even better with 37 TD passes (second in the NFL) and a 106.4 passer rating (tops in the conference). The veteran now has an NFL record 14 career 4,000-yard passing seasons and headlines an offense that is fifth in the NFL in both yards (400.7 yards per game) and points per game (29.1).

If anything the group has become more well-rounded in recent weeks because of the emergence of the ground game and C.J. Anderson, who is averaging 135.3 scrimmage yards per game (812 total) with six total TDs (four rushing, two receiving) over the past six games.

The receiving threats, meanwhile, remain as good as any in football led by Demaryius Thomas, who has 1,389 receiving yards and leads all AFC receivers with 41 TD catches since entering the league in 2010. His running mate, Emmanuel Sanders, has a career-high 1,261 yards and seven TD catches over his past nine games.

The Cincinnati defense looked like world-beaters against Manziel but has taken a significant step back overall without Mike Zimmer, now the head coach in Minnesota.

The Bengals D entered last week’s contest 25th in the league and are now 20th after dominating Manziel.

The 25 number is probably more indicative of where Cincinnati belongs because facing a QB who isn’t ready to play in the NFL is an anomaly and certainly not what the Bengals will be up against on Monday night.

“We have to get through this game before we have any opportunities at January,“ Lewis said. “It’s been (a playoff mentality) for the last seven weeks. Preparation and how you go about it, and the confidence of knowing what to do and how to do it allows you to play fast. That’s the most important thing, for us: to play fast, to play physical, to play smart.“


►  Newton probable for Sunday

The Carolina Panthers have listed Cam Newton as probable for Sunday’s game against Cleveland, one day after head coach Ron Rivera said it was likely that his starting quarterback would return to action.

Newton sat out last week’s game against Tampa Bay while recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident on December 9. He took the majority of first- team reps during Thursday’s practice, however, after which Rivera told reporters that Newton was “on target” to start against the Browns.

Derek Anderson filled in for Newton last week, throwing for 277 yards and a touchdown to help the Panthers to an important 19-17 win over the Buccaneers. The result kept Carolina (5-8-1) right behind first-place New Orleans in the NFC South entering the season’s final two weeks.

Running back DeAngelo Williams’ status for Sunday’s matchup is less certain as he continues to mend from a broken hand that has kept him out of the team’s last two games.

Williams has practiced the entire week on a limited basis and was termed questionable on the final injury report, though Rivera indicated on Friday that he isn’t optimistic about the veteran back’s chances of suiting up this weekend.

Guard Amini Silatolu (knee) and linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) also have been declared questionable.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers picked an awful time to have his first game with no touchdown passes of the 2014 season. Last week in Buffalo, he completed just 40% of his passes and threw two interceptions.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, do not quite have the Bills secondary. The way Rodgers responded from his below average play (for his standards) at the beginning of the season, owners can expect Rodgers to bounce back and remind everyone why he is the front-runner for the MVP award.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford all have very “friendly” matchups against division rivals this weekend. Brady faces the Jets, who rank fifth- most in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Brady threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting versus the Jets.

Stafford arguably has the best matchup of the week against the leaky Chicago Bears. Stafford posted 390 yards and two touchdowns versus the Bears on Thanksgiving. Chicago allows the most fantasy points against quarterbacks.

Like Brady and Stafford, Brees ripped apart the team he is facing this week, the Falcons, in the first matchup. Brees was 29-of-42 with 333 yards, one touchdown and one interception versus Atlanta in Week 1.

Peyton Manning falls out of the top-five this week because of his below average play the last three weeks. Manning is averaging 195 yards in the last three games, which were against the Chiefs, Bills and Chargers. Over the same span, he had three touchdowns and three turnovers as well. Those three opponents are all tough on quarterbacks, but so are the Bengals, Manning’s Week 16 opponent. Denver might again feature a run-first attack.

Mark Sanchez is another struggling quarterback, having thrown just two touchdowns and three interceptions in the last two games. Sanchez should get on track versus Washington. Chicago is the only team that permits more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than Washington does.

Robert Griffin III has a chance for a big game as well since the Eagles are also friendly to quarterbacks. If owners need quarterback help, Griffin is an option.

Alex Smith is another option for owners hurting at the quarterback position. The Steelers allow the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

Top-25 Quarterback Rankings

—————————————-

1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

2) Tom Brady, New England

3) Drew Brees, New Orleans

4) Matthew Stafford, Detroit

5) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

6) Peyton Manning, Denver

7) Matt Ryan, Atlanta

8) Tony Romo, Dallas

9) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

10) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

11) Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia

12) Joe Flacco, Baltimore

13) Russell Wilson, Seattle

14) Alex Smith, Kansas City

15) Philip Rivers, San Diego

16) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco

17) Eli Manning, New York Giants

18) Robert Griffin III, Washington

19) Cam Newton, Carolina

20) Ryan Tannehill, Miami

21) Kyle Orton, Buffalo

22) Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

23) Shaun Hill, St. Louis

24) Josh McCown, Tampa Bay

25) Jimmy Clausen, Chicago


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - running backs

With a championship on the line, fantasy owners need to stick with the basics. Barring injuries, start your stars, the guys who have put you in this position in the first place.

Of course, the one exception could be Dallas running back DeMarco Murray.

Murray has been fantastic this season, rushing for a league-leading 1,687 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s added 54 receptions for 395 yards and leads all running backs in fantasy points.

But Murray had left-hand surgery Monday and though he appears to be in line to return to the field this weekend, he is still a question mark at this point. It’s also likely that he’ll give up some of his carries to backup Joseph Randle as the Cowboys try to limit Murray’s exposure.

And if the game is out of reach, expect to see Murray sitting on the sideline. For those reasons, Murray is, at best, an RB2 this weekend versus the Indianapolis Colts and is ranked all the way down at No. 10, his lowest ranking since Week 2.

Our top selection is Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell. Even while his three-game streak of 200 yards from scrimmage was coming to an end in Atlanta last Sunday, Bell was still a big help to his fantasy owners. He scored twice while totaling “just” 119 yards from scrimmage.

Bell and the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs and the running back will once again be involved in both the running and passing games. His home splits are significantly different from his road splits in 2014. He’s hasn’t been as good a runner (72.7 ypg vs. 105.3), but he’s been a much better receiver at Heinz Field (79.2 ypg vs. 36.3).

Behind Bell is Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy. After a slow start, Lacy has been a touchdown machine scoring 12 times in the last 11 games. he should get plenty of chances against the Tampa Bay Bucs. He’s also become more involved in the passing game, having already caught more balls for more yards than all of last season.

Sliding in at No. 3 is Houston tailback Arian Foster. Given the team’s questionable options at quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallet and Tom Savage are all sidelined), Foster figures to see 30 touches against the Baltimore Ravens.

You will find Buffalo running back Fred Jackson a lot further up the list than normal. Jackson has attempted 20 or more rushes in two of the last three games and facing a very generous Oakland Raiders team he and the Bills should be “working on the clock” for most of the second half. Earning the 100-yard bonus for the first time this season is not out of the question.

Top-50 Running Back Rankings

——————————————

1) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

2) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

3) Arian Foster, Houston

4) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

5) C.J. Anderson, Denver

6) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

7) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

8) Matt Forte, Chicago

9) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

10) DeMarco Murray, Dallas

11) Fred Jackson, Buffalo

12) Joique Bell, Detroit

13) Justin Forsett, Baltimore

14) Tre Mason, St. Louis

15) Lamar Miller, Miami

16) Latavius Murray, Oakland

17) Alfred Morris, Washington

18) Matt Asiata, Minnesota

19) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

20) Mark Ingram, New Orleans

21) LeGarrette Blount, New England

22) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

23) Daniel Herron, Indianapolis

24) Steven Jackson, Atlanta

25) Joseph Randle, Dallas

26) Kerwynn Williams, Arizona

27) Andre Williams, New York Giants

28) Alfonso Smith, San Francisco

29) Terrance West, Cleveland

30) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

31) Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

32) Chris Johnson, New York Jets

33) Knile Davis, Kansas City

34) Chris Ivory, New York Jets

35) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

36) Shane Vereen, New England

37) Pierre Thomas, New Orleans

38) Silas Redd, Washington

39) James Starks, Green Bay

40) Theo Riddick, Detroit

41) Reggie Bush, Detroit

42) Juwan Thompson, Denver

43) Trent Richardson, Indianapolis

44) Stepfan Taylor, Arizona

45) Bernard Pierce, Baltimore

46) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee

47) DeAngelo Williams, Carolina

48) Alfred Blue, Houston

49) Bennie Cunningham, St. Louis

50) Phillip Tanner, San Francisco


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - wide receivers

Wide receivers Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas have helped carry a lot of fantasy teams to championships in 2014, but unfortunately in championship week, none of them have outstanding matchups. As a result, all three of them land outside of the top five on this week’s rankings.

Each wideout faces a defense that does not allow many fantasy points to opposing wide receivers with Thomas drawing the worst matchup in Cincinnati. The Bengals yield the second-least fantasy points to the other team’s receivers.

Even still, now is not the time to get cute. These wideouts are obvious must- start players and all of them are just one big play away from a huge fantasy day.

Julio Jones is expected to be back on the field this Sunday after missing last week with a hip injury. Prior to the injury, Jones set receiving career-highs in back-to-back weeks. If he is on the field, he needs to be in fantasy lineups for what should be a high-scoring affair in the “Big Easy.“

Without Jones, Harry Douglas started against the Steelers and caught 10 passes for 131 yards last week. If Jones suffers a setback, Douglas turns into a strong WR2, but with Jones, Douglas should still receive some FLEX consideration because of the expected high score against the Saints.

If owners are looking for juicy matchups, DeAndre Hopkins faces the Ravens, who allow the most-points to fantasy wide receivers. Hopkins has emerged as a dynamic playmaker as Andre Johnson continues to decline. If this game was a week ago, Hopkins would be in line for a low-end WR1 status.

The problem, however, is it is unclear who will be throwing to Hopkins with Tom Savage, Ryan Mallett and Ryan Fitzpatrick all injured. Thad Lewis and Case Keenum, possible starters under center for Houston, will not exactly intimidate the Baltimore secondary. Hopkins should still be in lineups this weekend, but his upside is somewhat limited with unknown quarterback talent throwing him the ball.

Just taking a glance at T.Y. Hilton’s matchup, it would appear he has a great matchup as well with Indianapolis paying a visit to Dallas in Week 16. The Cowboys secondary is 23rd in the league with 249.6 passing yards allowed per game. Dallas, however, gives up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, so Hilton comes in ranked as the 19th receiver for Week 16.

Mike Wallace, Larry Fitzgerald and Martavis Bryant should probably hit the bench this week. Wallace is coming off his best game of the season with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots. That’s a great sign, but the Vikings are a pretty tough matchup for wide receivers as well. Since it took Wallace 14 games to earn a 100-yard receiving day, it doesn’t seem like a good gamble to hope lightning strikes again.

Fitzgerald and Bryant have tough matchups against the Seahawks and Chiefs, respectively. Despite playing at home, both receivers run the risk of posting very low numbers, particularly Fitzgerald, who will have the Cardinals third- string quarterback throwing him passes.

If owners are looking for an emergency plug-in, Dwayne Bowe has a favorable matchup against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed 28 passing touchdowns, the fifth-most in the league. Perhaps a Kansas City receiver will finally score a touchdown.

Top-50 Wide Receiver Rankings

——————————————-

1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit

2) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

3) Julio Jones, Atlanta

4) Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

5) A.J. Green, Cincinnati

6) Dez Bryant, Dallas

7) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

8) Demaryius Thomas, Denver

9) Julian Edelman, New England

10) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia

11) Randall Cobb, Green Bay

12) Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

13) Golden Tate, Detroit

14) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay

15) Emmanuel Sanders, Denver

16) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

17) Roddy White, Atlanta

18) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

19) T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

20) Brandon LaFell, New England

21) Josh Gordon, Cleveland

22) Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia

23) Marques Colston, New Orleans

24) Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore

25) Kenny Stills, New Orleans

26) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

27) Jarvis Landry, Miami

28) Andre Johnson, Houston

29) Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

29) Davante Adams, Green Bay

30) Torrey Smith, Baltimore

31) Harry Douglas, Atlanta

32) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis

33) Malcom Floyd, San Diego

34) Anquan Boldin, San Francisco

35) Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati

36) Charles Johnson, Minnesota

37) Pierre Garcon, Washington

38) Mike Wallace, Miami

39) DeSean Jackson, Washington

40) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

41) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City

42) Doug Baldwin, Seattle

43) Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh

44) Eric Decker, New York Jets

45) Kendall Wright, Tennessee

46) Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville

47) Marquess Wilson, Chicago

48) Michael Floyd, Arizona

49) Michael Crabtree, San Francisco

50) Stedman Bailey, St. Louis


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - tight ends

Another game, another opportunity for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to be ranked at the very top of the list.

Gronkowski has been a very consistent performer this season, scoring touchdowns in nine of 14 games this season. While not quite up to his record- breaking 2011 season, “Gronk” has 76 receptions for 1,093 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’ll face a New York Jets defense that has yielded the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Carolina’s Greg Olsen comes in at No. 2 off a 10-catch performance in Week 15. It was his second consecutive game with double-digit receptions and it shouldn’t matter whether Cam Newton is back in the lineup or Derek Anderson is under center. Olsen is a great fantasy option.

In his highest ranking of the season, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce sits at No. 4. Off back-to-back double-digit fantasy games, Kelce faces a vulnerable Steelers defense. His five touchdown passes this season is tied for the team lead with running back Jamaal Charles. Of note, through 14 games the Chiefs still have zero touchdown passes to wide receivers and nine to their tight ends.

Martellus Bennett of Chicago has been a good option all season, but his No. 5 ranking could now be in question with an unknown quantity starting at quarterback for the Bears. In case you haven’t been near a computer or a television, Jay Cutler has been benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen.

The Cowboys have turned back to Jason Witten over the past seven games. After seeing more than six targets just once in the first seven games, Tony Romo has looked for his tight end in the second half of the season. Four times since Week 8 he’s seen at least seven targets including nine times last weekend against the Eagles. He figures to have a big game against Indianapolis, who has yielded the fifth-most points to opposing tight ends.

Top-25 Tight End Rankings

————————————-

1) Rob Gronkowski, New England

2) Greg Olsen, Carolina

3) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans

4) Travis Kelce, Kansas City

5) Martellus Bennett, Chicago

6) Jason Witten, Dallas

7) Delanie Walker, Tennessee

8) Larry Donnell, New York Giants

9) Antonio Gates, San Diego

10) Julius Thomas, Denver

11) Jordan Reed, Washington

12) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

13) Jared Cook, St. Louis

14) Mychal Rivera, Oakland

19) Dwyane Allen, Indianapolis

15) Coby Fleener, Indianapolis

16) Jordan Cameron, Cleveland

17) Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota

18) Brent Celek, Philadelphia

20) Charles Clay, Miami

21) Owen Daniels, Baltimore

22) Health Miller, Pittsburgh

23) Ryan Hewitt, Cincinnati

24) Eric Ebron, Detroit

25) Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - kickers

The difference between a kicker getting fantasy owners 12 points compared to five points has the potential to be a deciding factor, when it comes to competing in your fantasy football championship. On many occasions, choosing the right kicker is a crapshoot, yet there are definitely a few trends owners can use to help make the correct decisions.

Our top-ranked kicker has the second-most fantasy points (according to Yahoo) this season, with 146, and has accumulated the most points over the past four games (49). Philadelphia Eagles’ place-kicker Cody Parkey has jumped onto the scene as a rookie, and has made a major impact during the 2014 fantasy football season. With the Eagles scoring on just 48% of their red-zone possessions, Parkey should continue to have a good amount of field goal opportunities during Week 16.

New England Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski was projected as the top- ranked kicker heading into the season, and has simply lived up to that expectation. He has the most fantasy points among kickers (155) and continues to be a major weapon for fantasy owners. Gostkowski’s upcoming opponent, the New York Jets, are giving up the ninth-most points to opposing kickers (8.8 points per game), paving way for New England’s kicker to put together another solid outing.

The only guy who has played in every game this season and yet to miss a field goal attempt, is Indianapolis Colts’ kicker Adam Vinateri. Not only is he our third-ranked kicker for Week 16, but Vinateri also has the third-most fantasy points (146.0) among place-kickers. The future Hall-of-Famer continues to be as steady as a rock for both the Colts and more importantly, fantasy owners.

The Detroit Lions were in desperate need of somebody to solve their kicking woes. After going through both Nate Freese and Alex Henery, it seems Detroit finally found their man in Matt Prater. Over the past four games he has recorded 44 fantasy points, which is tied for third-most among kickers, and with a juicy matchup against the Chicago Bears who give up the most points to opposing place-kickers (11 ppg), Prater is in line to keep his hot streak going.

Another player who did not start the season with his current team is Denver Broncos’ kicker Connor Barth. Fantasy owners need to have confidence in starting him this week against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are giving up the 10th-most points to opposing kickers (8.6 ppg). On top of that, Barth has excelled during his time in Denver, and has put together a four-week span of producing the fifth-most fantasy points (43) at his position (tied with Matt Bryant). All good trends heading into the championship round.

Top-25 Kicker Rankings

———————————

1) Cody Parkey, Philadelphia

2) Stephen Gostkowski, New England

3) Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis

4) Justin Tucker, Baltimore

5) Steven Hauschka, Seattle

6) Matt Bryant, Atlanta

7) Matt Prater, Detroit

8) Dan Bailey, Dallas

9) Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh

10) Connor Barth, Denver

11) Mike Nugent, Cincinnati

12) Mason Crosby, Green Bay

13) Dan Carpenter, Buffalo

14) Randy Bullock, Houston

15) Nick Novak, San Diego

16) Blair Walsh, Minnesota

17) Phil Dawson, San Francisco

18) Shayne Graham, New Orleans

19) Cairo Santos, Kansas City

20) Caleb Sturgis, Miami

21) Josh Brown, New York Giants

22) Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona

23) Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis

24) Graham Gano, Carolina

25) Billy Cundiff, Cleveland


►  Week 16 player fantasy rankings - defense

It is important to never overlook the defensive position in your fantasy football lineup. Making the wrong choice could easily determine whether you win, or lose, that coveted championship matchup.

After a somewhat lackluster start to the season, the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive unit has shined as of late. They have not allowed more than 14 points over the past four games, and in three of those contests Seattle has let up just seven points or fewer. This impressive streak makes it an easy choice for the Seahawks to be our top-ranked defense heading into Week 16.

With Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback Ryan Lindley making just his fifth career start in such a meaningful game, fantasy owners should expect Seattle’s defense to feast on the young signal-caller.

While Seattle’s defense has been dominant during the past month, the Buffalo Bills’ defense has been even better (according to Yahoo). Buffalo has accumulated 67 fantasy points over the past four games, which ranks second in fantasy football. They have the most sacks in the NFL (49), and with a matchup against the lowly Oakland Raiders, it is hard not to love the Bills’ chances to produce even more.

The team who has the third-most sacks (45) in the league in 2014 is also our third-ranked defense for Week 16. The Baltimore Ravens have played well lately, and as a result have the fifth-most fantasy points (49.0) over the past four games. Their opponent, the Houston Texans have actually played well against opposing defenses, allowing only 5.5 points per game, however with quarterbacks Thad Lewis or Case Keenum destined to make a start, Baltimore’s defense should continue to thrive.

A team that has taken a step back over the past couple of weeks is a team that owners should not shy away from on Saturday afternoon. The Philadelphia Eagles are still atop the defensive charts with 173 points, and will be facing off against the Washington Redskins, who are giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing defenses (12.2 points per game). Fantasy owners need to start Philadelphia’s defensive unit with confidence.

The casual fan may not have a clue which team has recorded the most defensive fantasy points during the past four weeks. If you said the St. Louis Rams, you are correct; and the ranking is warranted as they have allowed only 12 total points over their last three games, including two shutouts. They will be facing off against Eli Manning and the New York Giants, and with Manning prone to turning the ball over combined with New York allowing the 10th-most fantasy points (8.7 ppg) to opposing defenses, St. Louis makes for an intriguing play once again.

Top-25 Defense/Special Teams Rankings

——————————————————-

1) Seattle Seahawks

2) Buffalo Bills

3) Baltimore Ravens

4) New England Patriots

5) Arizona Cardinals

6) Philadelphia Eagles

7) St. Louis Rams

8) Detroit Lions

9) New York Giants

10) Carolina Panthers

11) Miami Dolphins

12) Cleveland Browns

13) Minnesota Vikings

14) Kansas City Chiefs

15) Tennessee Titans

16) Pittsburgh Steelers

17) Green Bay Packers

18) San Francisco 49ers

19) Houston Texans

20) Denver Broncos

21) Indianapolis Colts

22) New Orleans Saints

23) Cincinnati Bengals

24) Atlanta Falcons

25) Dallas Cowboys



The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


Roane County 66     South Harrison 47

Wood County Christians 63     Elk Valley 24


►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


#9 Gilmer County 72     Doddridge County 47

Notre Dame 47     Ritchie County 35

Roane County 59     South Harrison 20

#1 Fairmont Senior 86     Philip Barbour 36

Lewis County 41     Preston 39

East Fairmont 48     Robert C. Byrd 43

Bridgeport 77     Liberty 17

Wood County Christian 59     Elk Valley 44



<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


Final Score: (3) Arizona 60, UTEP 55

Freshman phenom Stanley Johnson scored 17 points and No. 3 Arizona survived its first true road test of the season with a 60-55 win over UTEP. Gabe York added 13 points and T.J. McConnell tallied nine points, eight assists and six rebounds for the unbeaten Wildcats (12-0), who have now won 39 straight non-conference regular season games. Vince Hunter paced UTEP (6-4) with 18 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out midway through the second half.


Final Score: Eastern Kentucky 72, (18) Miami-Florida 44

Corey Walden scored 18 points and Eastern Kentucky’s tough defense stifled No. 18 Miami in a 72-44 upset of the Hurricanes at BankUnited Center. The Colonels (6-4) held Miami to 29.3 percent shooting from the field and scored 20 points off 14 Hurricanes turnovers. Timmy Knipp nailed five 3-pointers on his way to a 17-point game and Isaac McGlone shot 4-of-4 from long range for 12 points off the bench. Eastern Kentucky shot 53.8 percent from 3-point range. The Hurricanes (9-2) lost for the second time in their last three games after falling to Green Bay on Dec. 6 at home. They were outrebounded by a 37-26 margin. Sheldon McClellan paced Miami with 14 points as its only player to reach double-digit points. Angel Rodriguez went 0-for-6 in a one-point performance.


Final Score: (20) St. John’s 53, St. Mary’s-CA 47

D’Angelo Harrison posted 21 points to guide No. 20 St. John’s to a 53-47 victory over St. Mary’s on Friday. Sir’Dominic Pointer gave 11 points and 11 rebounds and Chris Obekpa added eight points and seven rebounds for the Red Storm (9-1), who have won their past five games. Brad Waldow gave 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Gaels (6-3), who have lost two of their last three games.



The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Friday, December 19)


Final Score: Utah 101, Orlando 94

Derrick Favors had 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Utah Jazz defeated the Orlando Magic 101-94 on Friday night. Gordon Hayward posted 20 points and six assists, while Enes Kanter added 11 points and seven rebounds for Utah, which has won two straight on the heels of a 1-12 stretch. Tobias Harris netted 24 points and Evan Fournier provided 21 for the Magic, who have dropped five of their last six ga