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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

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results - 01.04.15

The Gilmer Free Press

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results

Bowl Winner Score Winner’s Conference
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T
No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 4 Ohio State

PAC 12 - NORTH vs. BIG TEN - EAST
The Gilmer Free Press      
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

MWC - WEST vs. SUN BELT
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana-Lafayette 3-16 SUN BELT
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP

MWC - MOUNTAIN vs. C-USA -WEST
The Gilmer Free Press Utah State 21-6 MWC - MOUNTAIN
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State

PAC 12 - SOUTH vs. MWV - MOUNTAIN
The Gilmer Free Press Utah 45-10 PAC 12 - SOUTH
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force

MAC - WEST vs. MWC - MOUNTAIN
The Gilmer Free Press Air Force 24-38 MWC - MOUNTAIN
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green

SUN BELT vs. MAC - EAST
The Gilmer Free Press Bowling Green 28-33 MAC - EAST
Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis

FBS INDEPENDENT vs. AMERICAN
The Gilmer Free Press Memphis 48-55 AMERICAN
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois

C-USA - EAST vs. AMERICAN
The Gilmer Free Press Marshall 52-23 C-USA - EAST
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State

FBS INDEPENDENT vs. MWC - WEST
The Gilmer Free Press Navy 17-16 FBS INDEPENDENT
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky

MAC - WEST vs. C-USA - EAST
The Gilmer Free Press Western Kentucky 48-49 C-USA - EAST
Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice

MWC - WEST vs. C-USA - WEST
The Gilmer Free Press Rice 6-30 C-USA - WEST
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech

BIG TEN - WEST vs. C-USA - WEST
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana Tech 18-35 C-USA - WEST
Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina

BIG TEN - EAST vs. ACC - COASTAL
The Gilmer Free Press Rutgers 40-21 BIG TEN - EAST
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF

ACC - ATLANTIC vs. AMERICAN
The Gilmer Free Press NC State 34-27 ACC - ATLANTIC
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

AMERICAN vs. ACC - COASTAL
The Gilmer Free Press Virginia Tech 17-33 ACC - COASTAL
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Arizona State vs. Duke

PAC 12 - SOUTH vs. ACC - COASTAL
The Gilmer Free Press Arizona State 36-31 PAC 12 - SOUTH
Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami vs. South Carolina

ACC - COASTAL vs. BIG TEN - EAST
The Gilmer Free Press South Carolina 21-24 BIG TEN - EAST
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Penn State

ACC - ATLANTIC vs. BIG TEN -EAST
The Gilmer Free Press Penn State 30-31 BIG TEN -EAST
National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. USC

BIG TEN - WEST vs. PAC 12 - SOUTH
The Gilmer Free Press USC 42-45 PAC 12 - SOUTH
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia

SEC - WEST vs. BIG 12
The Gilmer Free Press Texas A&M 45-37 SEC - WEST
Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Clemson

BIG 12 vs. ACC - ATLANTIC
The Gilmer Free Press Clemson 6-40 ACC - ATLANTIC
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas

SEC - WEST vs. BIG 12
The Gilmer Free Press Arkansas 31-7 SEC - WEST
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame vs. LSU

FBS INDEPENDENT vs. SEC - WEST
The Gilmer Free Press Notre Dame 31-28 FBS INDEPENDENT
Belk Bowl
Georgia vs. Louisville

SEC - EAST vs. ACC - ATLANTIC
The Gilmer Free Press Georgia 37-14 SEC - EAST
Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland vs. Stanford

BIG TEN - EAST vs. PAC 12 - NORTH
The Gilmer Free Press Stanford 21-45 PAC 12 - NORTH
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Mississippi vs. TCU

SEC - WEST vs. BIG 12
The Gilmer Free Press TCU 3-42 BIG 12
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
Boise State vs. Arizona

MWC - MOUNTAIN vs. PAC 12 - SOUTH
The Gilmer Free Press Boise State 38-30 MWC - MOUNTAIN
Capital One Orange Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech

SEC - WEST vs. ACC - COASTAL
The Gilmer Free Press Georgia Tech 34-49 ACC - COASTAL
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Missouri vs. Minnesota

SEC - EAST vs. BIG TEN - WEST
The Gilmer Free Press Missouri 33-17 SEC - EAST
Outback Bowl
Auburn vs. Wisconsin

SEC - WEST vs. BIG TEN -WEST
The Gilmer Free Press Wisconsin 31-34 BIG TEN -WEST
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Michigan State vs. Baylor

BIG TEN - EAST vs. BIG 12
The Gilmer Free Press Michigan State 42-41 BIG TEN - EAST
Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual
College Football Playoff Semifinal

Oregon vs. Florida State

PAC 12 - NORTH vs. ACC - ATLANTIC
The Gilmer Free Press Oregon 59-20 PAC 12 - NORTH
Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal

Alabama vs. Ohio State

SEC - WEST vs. BIG TEN - EAST
The Gilmer Free Press Ohio State 35-42 BIG TEN - EAST
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Pittsburgh

AMERICAN vs. ACC - COASTAL
The Gilmer Free Press Houston 35-34 AMERICAN
TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa vs. Tennessee

BIG TEN - WEST vs. SEC - EAST
The Gilmer Free Press Tennessee 28-45 SEC - EAST
Valero Alamo Bowl
Kansas State vs. UCLA

BIG 12 vs. PAC 12 - SOUTH
The Gilmer Free Press UCLA 40-35 PAC 12 - SOUTH
TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington vs. Oklahoma State

PAC 12 - NORTH vs. BIG 12
The Gilmer Free Press Oklahoma State 22-30 BIG 12
Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina vs. Florida

AMERICAN vs. SEC - EAST
The Gilmer Free Press Florida 20-28 SEC - EAST
GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo vs. Arkansas State

MAC - WEST vs. SUN BELT
The Gilmer Free Press Toledo 63-44 MAC - WEST

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.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   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.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


FRIDAY, 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

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results - 01.01.15

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results - 01.01.15

The Gilmer Free Press

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results

Bowl Winner Score
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana-Lafayette 3-16
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP
The Gilmer Free Press Utah State 21-6
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State
The Gilmer Free Press Utah 45-10
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
The Gilmer Free Press Air Force 24-38
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
The Gilmer Free Press Bowling Green 28-33
Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis
The Gilmer Free Press Memphis 48-55
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
The Gilmer Free Press Marshall 52-23
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State
The Gilmer Free Press Navy 17-16
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
The Gilmer Free Press Western Kentucky 48-49
Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice
The Gilmer Free Press Rice 6-30
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana Tech 18-35
Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina
The Gilmer Free Press Rutgers 40-21
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF
The Gilmer Free Press NC State 34-27
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Virginia Tech 17-33
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Arizona State vs. Duke
The Gilmer Free Press Arizona State 36-31
Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami vs. South Carolina
The Gilmer Free Press South Carolina 21-24
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Penn State
The Gilmer Free Press Penn State 30-31
National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. USC
The Gilmer Free Press USC 42-45
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
The Gilmer Free Press Texas A&M 45-37
Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Clemson
The Gilmer Free Press Clemson 6-40
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas
The Gilmer Free Press Arkansas 31-7
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame vs. LSU
The Gilmer Free Press Notre Dame 31-28
Belk Bowl
Georgia vs. Louisville
The Gilmer Free Press Georgia 37-14
Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland vs. Stanford
The Gilmer Free Press Stanford 21-45
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Mississippi vs. TCU
The Gilmer Free Press TCU 3-42
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
Boise State vs. Arizona
The Gilmer Free Press Boise State 38-30
Capital One Orange Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Georgia Tech 34-49
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Missouri vs. Minnesota
The Gilmer Free Press Missouri 33-17
Outback Bowl
Auburn vs. Wisconsin
The Gilmer Free Press Wisconsin 31-34
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Michigan State vs. Baylor
The Gilmer Free Press Michigan State 42-41
Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual
College Football Playoff Semifinal

Oregon vs. Florida State
The Gilmer Free Press Oregon 59-20
Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal

Alabama vs. Ohio State
The Gilmer Free Press Ohio State 35-42
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Pittsburgh
The Gilmer Free Press    
TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa vs. Tennessee
The Gilmer Free Press    
Valero Alamo Bowl
Kansas State vs. UCLA
The Gilmer Free Press    
TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington vs. Oklahoma State
The Gilmer Free Press    
Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina vs. Florida
The Gilmer Free Press    
GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo vs. Arkansas State
The Gilmer Free Press    
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T
No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 4 Ohio State
The Gilmer Free Press    

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results - 12.31.14

The Gilmer Free Press

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results

Bowl Winner Score
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana-Lafayette 3-16
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP
The Gilmer Free Press Utah State 21-6
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State
The Gilmer Free Press Utah 45-10
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
The Gilmer Free Press Air Force 24-38
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
The Gilmer Free Press Bowling Green 28-33
Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis
The Gilmer Free Press Memphis 48-55
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
The Gilmer Free Press Marshall 52-23
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State
The Gilmer Free Press Navy 17-16
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
The Gilmer Free Press Western Kentucky 48-49
Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice
The Gilmer Free Press Rice 6-30
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana Tech 18-35
Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina
The Gilmer Free Press Rutgers 40-21
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF
The Gilmer Free Press NC State 34-27
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Virginia Tech 17-33
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Arizona State vs. Duke
The Gilmer Free Press Arizona State 36-31
Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami vs. South Carolina
The Gilmer Free Press South Carolina 21-24
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Penn State
The Gilmer Free Press Penn State 30-31
National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. USC
The Gilmer Free Press USC 42-45
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
The Gilmer Free Press Texas A&M 45-37
Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Clemson
The Gilmer Free Press Clemson 6-40
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas
The Gilmer Free Press Arkansas 31-7
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame vs. LSU
The Gilmer Free Press Notre Dame 31-28
Belk Bowl
Georgia vs. Louisville
The Gilmer Free Press Georgia 37-14
Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland vs. Stanford
The Gilmer Free Press Stanford 21-45
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Mississippi vs. TCU
The Gilmer Free Press TCU 3-42
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
Boise State vs. Arizona
The Gilmer Free Press Boise State 38-30
Capital One Orange Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Georgia Tech 34-49
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Missouri vs. Minnesota
The Gilmer Free Press    
Outback Bowl
Auburn vs. Wisconsin
The Gilmer Free Press    
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Michigan State vs. Baylor
The Gilmer Free Press    
Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual
College Football Playoff Semifinal

Oregon vs. Florida State
The Gilmer Free Press    
Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal

Alabama vs. Ohio State
The Gilmer Free Press    
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Pittsburgh
The Gilmer Free Press    
TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa vs. Tennessee
The Gilmer Free Press    
Valero Alamo Bowl
Kansas State vs. UCLA
The Gilmer Free Press    
TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington vs. Oklahoma State
The Gilmer Free Press    
Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina vs. Florida
The Gilmer Free Press    
GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo vs. Arkansas State
The Gilmer Free Press    
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T
TBD vs. TBD
     

Sports News   150101

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►   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.



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►   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

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results - 12.29.14

The Gilmer Free Press

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results

Bowl Winner Score
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana-Lafayette 3-16
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP
The Gilmer Free Press Utah State 21-6
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State
The Gilmer Free Press Utah 45-10
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
The Gilmer Free Press Air Force 24-38
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
The Gilmer Free Press Bowling Green 28-33
Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis
The Gilmer Free Press Memphis 48-55
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
The Gilmer Free Press Marshall 52-23
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State
The Gilmer Free Press Navy 17-16
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
The Gilmer Free Press Western Kentucky 48-49
Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice
The Gilmer Free Press Rice 6-30
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana Tech 18-35
Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina
The Gilmer Free Press Rutgers 40-21
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF
The Gilmer Free Press NC State 34-27
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Virginia Tech 17-33
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Arizona State vs. Duke
The Gilmer Free Press Arizona State 36-31
Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami vs. South Carolina
The Gilmer Free Press South Carolina 21-24
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Penn State
The Gilmer Free Press Penn State 30-31
National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. USC
The Gilmer Free Press USC 42-45
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
The Gilmer Free Press Texas A&M 45-37
Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Clemson
The Gilmer Free Press Clemson 6-40
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas
The Gilmer Free Press Arkansas 31-7

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 ass, 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

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results - 12.26.14

The Gilmer Free Press

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results

Bowl Winner Score
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana-Lafayette 3-16
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP
The Gilmer Free Press Utah State 21-6
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State
The Gilmer Free Press Utah 45-10
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
The Gilmer Free Press Air Force 24-38
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
The Gilmer Free Press Bowling Green 28-33
Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis
The Gilmer Free Press Memphis 48-55
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
The Gilmer Free Press Marshall 52-23
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State
The Gilmer Free Press Navy 17-16
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
The Gilmer Free Press Western Kentucky 48-49
Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs. Rice
The Gilmer Free Press Rice 6-30
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana Tech 18-35
Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina
The Gilmer Free Press Rutgers 40-21
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF
The Gilmer Free Press NC State 34-27

Sports News   141227

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►   WVU quarterback career over after multiple concussions

Riddled by five concussions in the past 14 months, including two he admitted hiding from team doctors, West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett won’t appear in the Liberty Bowl and says his playing career is finished.

Trickett talked with reporters Friday at Memphis University School field, just yards away from where his teammates practiced. “I would love to be out there and finish the season with my guys,“ he said. “But it would be dangerous to be out there and I probably wouldn’t be as effective.“

The fifth-year senior, who now plans to begin his coaching career, left during the second half of a 26-20 loss to Kansas State on November 30 and sat out the regular-season finale at Iowa State. That means sophomore Skyler Howard will make his second career start when West Virginia meets Texas A&M at the Liberty Bowl, though for the moment at least, questions remained about Trickett’s health and how he managed to keep at least two head injuries undetected.

“In fairness to our training staff, they didn’t know,“ he said. “I didn’t tell them, so that was on me. If they would’ve known they probably would’ve been more precautions about it. But I was trying to push through it.“

Saying his family is “big on finishing what we start,“ Trickett maintained hope of appearing in one last college game, at least until last week when doctors at UPMC in Pittsburgh declared him out. The quarterback visited the hospital several times this month for concussion-impact testing but said his results were “not close” to where they need to be.

Even five weeks since bumping his head while making a tackle on an interception against K-State, Trickett said he continues to endure typical post-concussion symptoms: “It’s pretty bad.“

With a father who coaches Florida State’s offensive line and a brother serving as the offensive coordinator at Samford, Trickett said he’s eager to get “into the family business.“ Though not considered an NFL prospect, he previously mentioned taking his shot in the Canadian Football League.

“The more and more I think about,“ he said, “what I’m getting into I probably need to have a couple brain cells left.“

Trickett’s 3,285 yards rank fourth on the West Virginia single-season passing list, behind No. 3 Marc Bulger (3,607 yards in 1998) and Geno Smith’s two mammoth years (4,205 in 2012 and 4,385 in 2011).

Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen called the premature ending to Trickett’s career unfortunate but projected that “he’s going to make a hell of a coach.“


►   WVU football player grazed by bullet

A WVU football player suffered minor injuries during a shooting Christmas Eve. WINK TV reports redshirt freshman receiver Jacky Marcellus was one of three people sitting inside a car when shots were fired into the vehicle.

One of the bullets grazed Marcellus, but another shot struck his brother, Jackinson, in the face. He’s reported in serious condition.  J.C. Jackson, a University of Florida football player, was also in the vehicle and received minor injuries.

According to WINK News, “Deputies say there were at least three people sitting inside a car outside of the Crestview Apartments when bullets broke through the windows.”  Authorities say one or two men walked up to the car and fired.

WINK reports that witnesses say the three men were visiting friends while the two football players were home for Christmas break.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   College Football Bowl Game Results

(Friday, December 26)


Final Score: Louisiana Tech 35, Illinois 18

Kenneth Dixon finished with two touchdowns to lift Louisiana Tech to a 35-18 victory over Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Friday. Dixon rushed for 63 yards on 13 carries and also caught an 80-yard touchdown pass for the Bulldogs (9-5), who won their first bowl game since 2008. Cody Sokol completed 14-of-28 passes for 247 yards and a score and Blake Martin and Jarred Craft each added rushing touchdowns in the win. Reilly O’Toole threw for 290 yards on 23-of-38 passing with a touchdown pass to Jon Davis and an interception, while Donovonn Young had a rushing score for the Illini (6-7).


Final Score: Rutgers 40, North Carolina 21

Robert Martin and Josh Hicks combined for more than 300 yards rushing and three touchdowns, as Rutgers rolled past North Carolina, 40-21, in the Quick Lane Bowl. Martin ended the day with 100 yards and reached the end zone twice, with Hicks earning MVP honors after racking up 202 yards and another TD on 19 carries. Gary Nova threw for 184 yards and scores to Andrew Turzilli and Andre Patton for the Scarlet Knights (8-5), who claimed their first bowl win since beating Iowa State in the Pinstripe Bowl in December of 2011. Marquise Williams finished 25-of-37 for 198 yards with a touchdown through the air and one on the ground for the Tar Heels (6-7), who failed in their bid for a second straight postseason victory. Mitch Trubisky finished up with a touchdown pass on 7-of-9 efficiency. T.J. Logan compiled 110 yards on 14 carries, while Kendrick Singleton and Jack Tabb posted a scoring catch apiece in defeat.


Final Score: NC State 34, UCF 27

Matt Dayes rushed for two touchdowns in the third quarter as North Carolina State capped off a remarkable turnaround season with a 34-27 win over UCF in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Jacoby Brissett completed 15-of-26 passes for 262 yards with one touchdown for the Wolfpack (8-5), who had gone 3-9 in coach Dave Doeren’s first season in 2013. Dayes totaled 78 yards on 13 carries while his backfield mate, Shadrach Thornton, rushed 17 times for 96 yards and added a touchdown pass. UCF’s Justin Holman threw three touchdown passes to Josh Reese, the last coming with 1:44 left in the game, but the Knights (9-4), with no timeouts remaining, were unable to secure the onside kick. Holman was 23-of-53 for 291 yards with one interception, and Breshad Perriman had 138 yards on nine receptions.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Bucs extend WR Murphy

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have agreed to terms with wide receiver Louis Murphy on a multi-year contract extension.

Murphy had been scheduled to become a free agent after the season. The Florida product caught 31 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games this season before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

The 27-year-old Murphy has played in 82 NFL games with the Raiders, Panthers, Giants and Buccaneers, totaling 152 receptions for 2,124 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has also carried the ball 14 times for 146 yards and one touchdown.


►   Chiefs QB Smith out with lacerated spleen

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will miss Sunday’s regular-season finale against San Diego with a lacerated spleen.

Smith, who practiced earlier this week, suffered the injury during the third quarter of last week’s 20-12 loss to Pittsburgh after getting hit on a throw to rookie receiver Albert Wilson.

“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 that will have postseason implications for Kansas City.

The Chiefs need to defeat the Chargers and also need Cleveland and Jacksonville to win on the road in order to make the playoffs.


►   Cowboys try to finish off a perfect December

So much for that December breakdown.

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t buy into that theory this season and are NFC East champions for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys will put the finishing touches on the regular season Sunday against the division-rival Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

Dallas cinched up an NFC East crown with Sunday’s 42-7 dismantling of Andrew Luck and the AFC South-champion Indianapolis Colts. Tony Romo, who’s notorious for collapsing toward the end of the season, tossed four touchdown passes and threw for 218 yards with no interceptions.

“It’s great to see the guys go out and play a really good football game when we needed it,“ said Romo, who passed Troy Aikman for the most passing yards in franchise history and completed 18-of-20 attempts.

Romo finished the game with a 151.7 passer rating, setting an NFL record for six games this season with a rating over 135.0, surpassing Steve Young (1993) and Peyton Manning (2013). He has won seven of past 11 starts against the Redskins and leads the NFL with a 114.4 rating.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is glad to have Romo on his side.

“I’m confident as we go into the tournament that we’re going to have as good of quarterback play as any other team in the NFL,“ Jones said Sunday. “I think Romo is there. I’m going to say it one more time ... somehow, someway he needs to have a Super Bowl by his name. He’s that good.“

Philadelphia’s loss to the Redskins on Saturday set the stage for Romo and Dallas, which has won three in a row and five of its last six games. The Cowboys can still a first-round bye under a few scenarios. A win plus losses by Seattle and Arizona will give the Cowboys an extra week of rest.

Here’s an unlikely scenario: If the Cowboys win, Detroit-Green Bay ends in a tie and either Arizona loses or Seattle wins, Dallas will clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Dallas has been outstanding on the road this season as evidenced by a 7-0 record. It is 3-2 against the NFC East and 7-4 in conference action.

It is unknown if head coach Jason Garrett will rest his players in DC.

“Our plan is to practice as well as we can practice and go play our best football game with the guys who are available to us,“ Garrett said. “We’re excited about that opportunity. That’s what we do here.“

Cowboys running back and NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray played with a broken hand versus the Colts and could take a breather again the Redskins. He has 1,745 yards on 373 carries, so the possibility of reaching 2,000 yards is pretty much out of reach. He is 29 yards shy for the most rushing yards in a season, as Emmitt Smith currently holds the record of 1,773 yards in 1995.

Murray has 11 100-yard rushing games this season, which is tied with Smith for the most in a season for the Cowboys.

The Redskins ended a six-game losing streak with a 27-24 victory over the Eagles and spoiled Philly’s chances of making a playoff run.

Defensive back Bashaud Breeland intercepted Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez’s pass at the Washington 42-yard line inside the two-minute warning and Pierre Garcon later broke a tackle to set up Kai Forbath’s 26-yard field goal with five seconds remaining.

Philadelphia had one last chance and Sanchez’s desperation heave was batted down in the end zone.

“Love the way our team battled and competed,“ said Redskins coach Jay Gruden. “There’s been a lot of talk about people quitting and you can see what type of guys we have. Guys didn’t quit.“

Alfred Morris rushed for 83 yards on 21 carries and joined Stephen Davis (1999-2001) as the only running backs in team history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Robert Griffin III made the start at quarterback and didn’t have to do much, completing 16 of his 23 passes for 220 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

DeSean Jackson finished with 126 yards on four catches and will wrap up his first season in Washington this weekend. The former Eagle was asked if the team misses his big-play capability.

“That’s a question you have to ask them,“ Jackson said. “As far as my ex- teammates, I think a lot of the guys miss me. I’m happy to be here in Washington. Things didn’t go the way we wanted it go this year, but at the end of the day, we’ve got a job to do, which is to finish strong.“

The Redskins are 4-11 on the season and a win Sunday over the Cowboys would give them the most wins since a 10-6 record and an NFC East title in 2012. The ‘Skins were only 3-13 in 2013.

Washington defeated Dallas, 20-17, in overtime on October 27 in Big D, as Forbath booted a 40-yard field goal to win it. Morris had 73 yards and a touchdown, while Murray ran for 141 yards in defeat. Morris has rushed for seven scores in the past five encounters with the rival Cowboys.

Dallas leads the all-time series with a 64-41-2 advantage in the regular season over Washington and has won five of the past eight meetings, including both matchups in 2013. The Redskins haven’t swept a season series from the Cowboys since 2012.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Offensive play caller Scott Linehan pulled all the right strings for the Cowboys to this point and is hoping the success continues. It’s difficult to fail with a savvy quarterback, a dynamic wide receiver and running back, and a stout offensive line, but it’s happened in the past.

This season had a different feel to it and the Cowboys never quit.

Garrett reflected on the Week 1 loss versus San Francisco in which Romo threw three interceptions to just one touchdown. Romo, of course, dealt with a back issue all season.

“I felt like he was making progress physically, almost day by day and week by week since the start of the offseason,“ Garrett said. “At different times he didn’t look quite like himself physically because of the work he’d done in training camp or because of something that happened in a previous game. I think he’s had some of those moments throughout the year. But that’s every player. Some guys are banged up at different times. Tony’s a tough guy. He’s a physically tough guy. He’s a mentally tough guy. I knew he was going to respond the right way. That’s how he’s responded throughout his career. I knew he was going to get better physically.“

Dallas went on to win six in a row after the loss to the 49ers. Romo has thrown for 18 touchdowns to just two interceptions his last seven games, and is four TD strikes shy of matching a career-high 36 set in 2007. He should come close to that mark if he plays the entire game in Washington because the Redskins secondary is one of the weakest in the league.

“I just feel very comfortable throwing the football,“ Romo said. “Those are things that come with age and experience and working your butt off to technically perfect your craft. When you’re feeling good in that rhythm throwing it, I always felt like I could read it and see it, but you need that fundamental aspect of the game to take it to the next level. I think I’ve done a better job of that this year.‘

Romo has catapulted himself to MVP status. It helps to have Dez Bryant at receiver. Bryant leads the Cowboys in receptions (84), receiving yards (1,221) and receiving touchdowns (14). He needs six receptions to become the first Cowboy with 90 or more catches, 1,000-plus yards and 10 or more receiving TDs in three straight seasons.

The Redskins will try to expose Dallas’ defense with the vertical threat of Jackson and Garcon. Garcon had 47 yards on four receptions in the first meeting with Dallas and Jackson caught six passes for 136 yards. Jackson leads the Redskins with 1,083 yards and has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in each of the past two seasons and four times in his career.

Jackson has never had fewer than 700 yards in a season.

“He’s been great, man,“ Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. “I gained a lot of respect for DeSean. Whatever happened in the past in Philadelphia I don’t know, but I know since that he’s been a Washington Redskin, he’s been solid to be around. He’s been a good worker and obviously he’s a big-time threat all the time.“

In 11 career games against Dallas, Jackson has 810 yards and only one touchdown on 42 catches.

“Anytime the Redskins play the Cowboys, it doesn’t matter what your record is, it should be great motivation and that’s definitely going to be my No. 1 tool this week for motivation is just beating the Cowboys,“ Gruden said.

Gruden utilizes Jackson’s speed and home run-hitting ability, and it doesn’t matter who’s throwing him the football. Gruden played musical chairs with his quarterbacks all season and Griffin could be playing his final game with Washington, which drafted him second overall in 2012.

Defensively, Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has recorded a full sack in five straight games and has 13 1/2 on the season. He is currently tied with former linebacker Ken Harvey for the most sacks in a single season by an LB.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

If the Redskins had the chance to spoil the season for the Cowboys on Sunday, they would accomplish the task because misery loves company.

Not the case this weekend.

Dallas is in and could probably care less how the season finale unfolds. The Cowboys, though, should take it seriously in order to prepare for a tough NFC opponent in the postseason.

Entering the playoffs on a losing note doesn’t breed positivity.


►   Cardinals 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.

Either way, the Cardinals will need Stanton healthy come playoff time.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed,“ Arians told Arizona’s website. “There are no sureties about either one. If (Stanton’s) ready for this one, it would be in a backup status, and we’ve got our fingers crossed he’ll be ready to practice next week.“

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.


►   Rex aims to go out on a winning note

As it turns out, Rex Ryan needn’t hire a realtor in South Beach.

Though Ryan’s six-year run as head coach of the New York Jets will presumably come to an end after a Week 17 visit to the Miami, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has already eliminated one destination from the embattled Gang Green leader’s subsequent offseason interviewing tour.

Ross confirmed after Miami’s 37-35 defeat of Minnesota last week that Joe Philbin will return for a fourth season along the sidelines in 2015.

“It’s important for a head coach of a NFL football team that the owner believes in him, what he is doing and the program he is instilling,“ Philbin said. “It’s very important. If you don’t have that type of belief and faith from the owner it’s not going to work. I know if players don’t believe in their coaches and coaches don’t believe in their players, you have no chance. But again, I’ve been in this profession a long time, I wasn’t worried about my own personal future.“

Philbin improved from 7-9 to 8-8 in his first two seasons with the Dolphins, and can get to 9-7 with a victory in the finale against the Jets, though any hopes for the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2008 were erased last week when Pittsburgh beat Kansas City.

Miami is near New York in terms of defensive statistics - allowing 22.4 points and 333.3 yards per week through 15 games - and defeated the Jets, 16-13, in the teams’ first 2014 matchup in Week 13.

New York allows an average of 323.2 yards and 25.1 points per week.

Philbin’s holdover to next season was also welcomed on the offensive side, where quarterback Ryan Tannehill has posted solid numbers in 2014, including a 67% completion rate, a per-game average of 252.4 yards, 26 touchdowns and a 93.2 passer rating.

In the win against Minnesota, Tannehill had 35 completions, 396 yards and four touchdowns.

“That’s exciting news for me, and I think everyone on the team,“ Tannehill said. “We believe in coach Philbin and the program he has and everything he has set in place.“

The sky seemed the limit for Ryan after he arrived in 2009 and immediately steered the Jets to consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history.

New York dropped to 8-8 amid turmoil in year three, however, and has failed to exceed .500 in three more seasons under his leadership.

“These last couple seasons have been pretty tough, there’s no doubt,“ he said. “So, I’d say this one’s probably a ‘dog-year’ season. We’ve only got three wins. At the same time, it feels like yesterday. So it’s like, man, I’m still here with my guys and I enjoy coming to work. Like, every day I’m excited about presenting a game plan and doing different things and watching players grow. So that part of it has been great.“

His job security hasn’t been helped by shortcomings at quarterback, where the tandem of youngster Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick have provided the league’s lowest per-game passing average of 170.4 yards. Smith began the season as the starter before losing the role to Vick in November.

He’s returned to start the last four games, but his season-long passer rating (70.9) is ahead of just two full-time quarterbacks - Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles (70.8) and Tampa Bay’s Josh McCown (70.5).

Smith managed just 65 yards passing in the December 1 loss to the Dolphins.

“The toughest part about it is not being able to continue to play for the same coach, the same guy that you learned to love, you invest so much in, and you believe (in) them,“ Smith said. “To reset and re-adjust is a tough thing to do, but we are professionals and we have to do it. A change could be good for us all, so if it happens, when it happens, then we’ll see.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Win the Rematch

Miami right guard Mike Pouncey has struggled with injuries and a new position during a largely ineffectual 2014 season, and has surrendered three sacks and 24 quarterback hurries on the year. But he held his own against New York’s Sheldon Richardson - allowing just two hurries - in Week 13, and could go a long way toward prolonging Week 17 drives if he replicates the effort.

Geno’s Secret Weapon

Truth told, the extent of Smith’s role in the Jets’ game plan is often turning to his right or left and handing the ball to a running back. But, with the addition of versatile playmaker Percy Harvin, the possibilities are at least multiplied. Harvin ran six times for 27 yards in Week 13, and he’ll likely be covered by cornerback Brent Grimes when it comes to passing downs this time around.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

One coach has eluded the hangman’s noose, while the other one likely will not. Ironically, it’s that lack of job status that could provide the difference in the finale. While Philbin has more overall talent on both sides of the ball, Ryan does intermittently get a lot out of a roster that’s really not even on an NFL average level. That bunch will get itself up for one last go-round before “Black Monday” comes.


►   Broncos hope to secure first-round bye

The top spot in the conference is out of their reach but the Denver Broncos still want a week off.

The AFC West champions will try to secure a first-round bye in the AFC playoff bracket when they close the regular season against the three-win Oakland Raiders.

The Broncos can earn the bye with a win over Oakland or a Cincinnati loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

Denver’s hopes of garnering the top seed in the conference went up in smoke during Week 16 when Jeremy Hill rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown and Dre Kirkpatrick posted two interceptions as the Cincinnati Bengals clinched a playoff spot of their own with a 37-28 win over the Broncos.

Peyton Manning struggled throughout the game and was picked off four times while finishing with 311 yards and two scores on 28-of-44 passing for Denver, which 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.

“We just have to be more consistent for four quarters,“ Manning said. “You can’t play well the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter - not play well in the first and not play well in the fourth. Against good football teams, you have to be more consistent and I have to play better as well.“

New England clinched the first overall seed in the AFC due to Denver’s loss.

The Raiders, meanwhile, come in off an exciting 26-24 win over Buffalo in which Derek Carr passed for 214 yards and two touchdowns, and Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals for Oakland.

Carr completed 17-of-34 attempts and tossed scores to James Jones and Jamize Olawale for the Raiders, who have a chance to match their win total of the past two seasons if they top the Broncos.

“We wanted to give our fans something special this week. [The fans] have been tremendous,“ said Raiders head coach Tony Sparano. “That’s a great job of fighting when nobody thought you’d come out and fight.“

Latavius Murray and Darren McFadden combined for 140 yards on 32 attempts, while Kenbrell Thompkins posted 90 yards on five receptions.

Oakland leads its all-time series with Denver by a 59-47-2 margin but the Broncos have won six straight, including a 41-17 win in Northern California on November 9 when Manning threw for 340 yards and five TDs, two apiece to Julius Thomas and Sanders.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The quarterback is the epicenter in every NFL city, the first player commented on and evaluated, be it positive or negative. And when that signal caller happens to be Manning, any blip, no matter how slight, in a career defined by consistency is going to be overblown.

To be fair to those currently questioning Manning, he is obviously far closer to the end of his brilliant career than the beginning with a medical record that includes four neck surgeries so it’s not exactly out of bounds to be on the lookout for what is the inevitable decline for every player.

Manning has looked mortal in recent weeks, almost like an actual 38-year-old man with Monday’s four-interception implosion in Cincinnati serving as the main course for the haters.

“The sky is not falling,“ Broncos coach John Fox said. “We’re not getting ready to get rid of our quarterback. He’s fine and, we’re all going to get better.“

Fine is a relative term in the NFL.

The setback against the Bengals was Manning’s first quadruple INT game since 2010 and helped assure that the road to AFC championship would go through Foxbrorough and not the Rocky Mountains, a potential death blow when it comes to the fairytale ending of Manning walking off stage left with the Lombardi Trophy.

“We have to find a way to learn from this,“ a dejected Manning said.

All four of Denver’s losses have come on the road this season and 11 of Manning’s 15 interceptions have come away from Mile High. Meanwhile, six of those 11 picks came at the hands of the Bengals and Patriots, two teams the Broncos may have to beat if they plan on being in Glendale come February.

Denver personnel chief John Elway overhauled his defense following the Super Bowl XLVIII collapse against Seattle last season and bringing in players like DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib and T.J. Ward has certainly helped on that side of the ball as evidenced by Denver’s current standing as the third-ranked stop unit in all of football.

What Elway didn’t address, however, was the offensive line, the team’s real Achilles’ heel against both the Seahawks and Cincinnati on Monday night.

“We gave up two sacks and we lead the whole National Football League in sacks per pass (play),“ Fox said when discussing his much-maligned OL on Tuesday. “We did not coach well enough and we did not play well enough. They had a better night than we did.“

The thought in Denver was the return of star left tackle Ryan Clady, who missed most of the ‘13 campaign with a Lisfranc injury would be enough. The plan was for Chris Clark, who replaced Clady at LT last season, to bump over to the right side with Orlando Franklin moving inside to left guard opposite solid right guard Louis Vasquez.

And if the ‘12 version of Clady, who allowed just one sack the entire season, showed up this time around all of that might have worked but the former All- Pro has been average at best this season despite the reputation-generated Pro Bowl nod he received on Tuesday night.

The ‘14 Clady has been playing at a level nowhere near the AFC’s best left tackles—Cleveland’s Joe Thomas and the Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth—and one high-profile, scouting-based website has him rated as the 45th best tackle in the NFL.

Clark, meanwhile, couldn’t carry his own water at right tackle before being replaced by Paul Cornick, who also faltered, leaving the Broncos to make wholesale changes, kicking Vasquez outside, moving Manny Ramirez from center to right guard and inserting veteran pivot Will Montgomery.

The lack of consistency has hurt but the bigger issue has been the athleticism or lack thereof, as the Denver O-Line has trouble getting to the second level in the running game, and Vasquez struggles mightily against speed on the outside as evidenced by Carlos Dunlap’s big game on Monday night.

No one covers for a mediocre offense line better than Manning, a signal caller who possesses a lightning-quick release as well as a football IQ that is off the charts.

Manning can and does vary his snap count better than just about any other QB who has ever played the game but eventually a defense is going to get its chances against a stationary target and the lack of consistent pass protection has left Manning a battered and bruised mess with the playoffs looming.

Perhaps no team ticketed for the postseason needs a first-round bye more than the Broncos and they can lock that up with a Week 17 win as a two-touchdown favorite over Oakland.

A rested and relatively healthy Manning is the difference between a deep playoff run and one-and-done.

“I learned a long time ago it doesn’t matter how you start the race it’s how you finish,“ said Fox. “We’ll step back from (Monday night), we’ll learn from it, we’ll analyze and decipher went wrong and hopefully get it fixed.“

For the Raiders, Carr leads all rookies in both passing yards (3,112) and touchdowns (20), and has probably been the second best freshman signal caller this season behind Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater.

Carr, though, has been well below average in the road, compiling a less-than- stellar 69.8 passer rating which has contributed to Oakland’s 0-7 record away from the Bay Area.

“We’ve got to learn how to take what we do (at home) and go on the road and do it,“ Carr said. “We need to learn how to do that and it’s something that we are learning to do. But it just hasn’t happened yet. Eventually we’ll get it right.“

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Carr and the Raiders may eventually get it but not this week. Denver has a significant talent advantage on both sides of the football and plenty to play for.

“The reality is we’re going to get an opportunity to compete for the Lombardi Trophy,“ Fox said. “We’re in the playoffs.“


►   Top-seeded Patriots finish up regular season vs. Bills

Hey, Buffalo, it was fun while it lasted, right?

The NFL’s longest running non-playoff participant woke up 1990s echoes for a few weeks during the back half of the 2014 regular season, and actually reached the final two games of the schedule with a mathematical - if not exactly linear - path to the league’s post-December Promised Land.

But then the Bills went to Oakland and, well, reality bit.

The drought reached 15 consecutive years after a 26-24 loss to the two-win Raiders and instantly transformed Buffalo’s final-week trip to New England from highly anticipated to already forgettable.

“It just breaks your heart,“ quarterback Kyle Orton said. “It was all there. We just didn’t have the execution. And in the end, it cost us.“

Orton threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns and was intercepted twice in the game, his 11th start of the season since taking over for benched former first-round draft choice EJ Manuel. The realities of the Week 17 trip to Foxborough raised questions about Manuel perhaps getting another call to start, but Bills coach Doug Marrone said winning still trumps prospecting, even against the Patriots.

“The game means a lot to me. We’re going to play the players that we feel give us the best chance to win,“ Marrone said. “That’s just the way that I’m wired and that’s my responsibility to the team. We all have a responsibility to each other and I have to make those decisions each week. Right now we still feel that (Orton) gives us the best chance to win in terms of efficiency, control, things of that nature than any other quarterback that we have.“

Truth told, it’s stopping the other team’s quarterback - a fellow named Tom Brady - that’ll likely have more impact on whether Buffalo is competitive in its finale. The Bills were gashed for 396 total yards in a 37-22 home loss to New England in Week 6, its second-highest allowance this season.

Buffalo also failed to force a turnover.

Three of the Bills’ defensive line players - end Mario Williams, and tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams - were selected to the Pro Bowl. Dareus dinged up a knee in the Oakland game and is questionable against the Patriots.

“We’ll just keep progressing with it through the week,“ Marrone said. “I think it’ll go all the way to the end.“

It’s a different subject, but New England certainly has the same mindset.

The Patriots enter Week 17 having clinched all pertinent playoff possibilities, meaning a No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout their stay prior to Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix.

They earned their lofty spot with a 17-16 defeat of the New York Jets last week, combined with Denver’s loss to Cincinnati on Monday night. Also, Buffalo has not won a game in Foxborough in 13 tries.

Brady threw for 182 yards and a touchdown and was picked off once against the Jets, but he’s memorized the “we’re not looking ahead” mantra, in spite of not winning a Super Bowl since the one that followed the 2004 regular season.

“There is plenty of time to think about things down the road,“ he said. “This isn’t the time for it. We’ve got to go play well this week. That is the attitude and that is what all the leaders of the team have to make sure everyone is on the same page.“

It’s predictably the same from New England coach Bill Belichick, especially after his team generated a season-low 231 yards on offense against the Jets.

“(We’ll) just keep getting ready for Buffalo,“ he said. “That’s what our challenge is. What our position is, it is, but that will all take care of itself in due course. It doesn’t really have anything to do with right now.“

Belichick conceded he’ll “do whatever is best for the team” in terms of who plays and who doesn’t against the Bills, which has prompted speculation that tight end Rob Gronkowski will sit, perhaps alongside wide receiver Julian Edelman, offensive lineman Dan Connolly and running back LeGarrette Blount. The latter three each missed last week’s game with New York.

Brady had 361 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Week 6 win, which lifted the Patriots to 21-1 in their last 22 games against Buffalo. The Bills, meanwhile, can finish better than .500 for the first time since they went 9-7 in 2004.

“With the (first-round bye), you realize we’re going to have a little time to rest up,“ Brady said. “We just want to go out and play well and see if we can string together as many good plays as possible. (The Bills’) defense will challenge you. They’ve got a good front, one of the best defenses in the league, one of the best defenses we’ve faced all year.“

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Keeping it Tight

The most likely scenario for the final game has Gronkowski arriving in uniform, but playing sparingly. Such an approach will not only allow the Patriots to keep their matchup nightmare healthy for January, but also to get another look at Tim Wright, who caught seven passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in his teammate’s absence during a Week 8 game with Chicago.

Go for a Run

The Bills somehow made the Raiders look like a run-stopping machine in Week 15, winding up with only 13 rushing yards on 13 attempts. And when the responsibility for winning was left in the hands of Orton, the results were self-explanatory. Buffalo averaged less than three yards a carry in its first meeting with the Patriots earlier this season, so it’ll need to improve that mark against better opposition.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The last time the Patriots clinched the No. 1 seed prior to the final kickoff, Brady played two full quarters and part of a third before giving way to then- backup Brian Hoyer. A similar scenario probably occurs this time, with Jimmy Garoppolo taking over at some point to ensure the franchise passer’s health into the postseason. After a deflating loss in Oakland and a cross-country trip, Buffalo won’t match the output.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Week 17 player fantasy rankings - quarterbacks

Any fantasy owners who have looked at Aaron Rodgers’ production in Lambeau Field this season, can’t possibly argue with his choice for our top pick in Week 17.

In seven home games, Rodgers has a stunning 132.6 QB rating. He’s thrown for an average of 301.1 ypg, tossed 23 touchdowns without an interception and, oh yes, his Packers are 7-0 and averaging 41.4 ppg.

And while the Lions are a very good defensive team, it should be noted they are No. 1 against the run and only No. 13 against the pass.

Put Rodgers in your fantasy lineup and you can R-E-L-A-X.

Drew Brees and the Saints are out of the playoff hunt, but Brees has a chance to reach the 5,000-yard passing mark for the fifth time in his career. That’s an even more impressive feat when you realize it’s only been done eight times in NFL history. Brees needs 329 yards passing. He’ll get it.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown for more than 300 yards in four consecutive games. He’ll have a good chance to make in five-in-a-row when he and his Falcons face off for the NFC South title against Carolina in the Georgia Dome.

Ryan is historically a much better quarterback at home and that hasn’t changed in 2014. He’s averaging 311 ypg in seven home games with 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions. As long as Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas are healthy, Ryan should be a top fantasy selection.

Tony Romo was nearly perfect last weekend against the Colts (18-of-20 for 218 yards and four touchdowns) and faces a below-average Washington defense. The Cowboys still have a chance for a first-round bye, so expect to see Romo targeting Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and the rest of the receiving corps early and often to take pressure off of DeMarco Murray and his broken hand.

Top-25 Quarterback Rankings

—————————————-

1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

2) Drew Brees, New Orleans

3) Matt Ryan, Atlanta

4) Tony Romo, Dallas

5) Peyton Manning, Denver

6) Matthew Stafford, Detroit

7) Eli Manning, New York Giants

8) Russell Wilson, Seattle

9) Philip Rivers, San Diego

10) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

11) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

12) Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia

13) Cam Newton, Carolina

14) Ryan Tannehill, Miami

15) Kyle Orton, Buffalo

16) Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota

17) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

18) Tom Brady, New England

19) Joe Flacco, Baltimore

20) Jay Cutler, Chicago

21) Alex Smith, Kansas City

22) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco

23) Robert Griffin III, Washington

24) Shaun Hill, St. Louis

25) Josh McCown, Tampa Bay


►   Week 17 player fantasy rankings - running backs

For many fantasy leagues, the season ended in Week 16, but for those still competing, it’s Championship Week.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-purpose running back Le’Veon Bell is our top choice in Week 17. He’ll face a slightly below-average run defense in Cincinnati (122.3 ypg). And as always, he’ll be a key component in the Pittsburgh passing game. Last Monday night, C.J. Anderson caught eight balls against the Bengals and he isn’t nearly the receiver Bell has become.

Interestingly, Bell has averaged just 71.3 ypg on the ground in seven home games, but 69.1 ypg receiving. That’s completely opposite of his road numbers where he rushes for over 105 yards per contest.

The Steelers and the Bengals will be playing for the AFC North division title, so Bell will be a 60-minute player.

If you were Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and you had a choice of having the outcome of the game determined by your just-signed quarterback, Case Keenum, or your star running back, Arian Foster, which would you choose?

Foster saw 26 touches against the No. 4-ranked Ravens defense last weekend. In Week 17 they face the Jacksonville Jaguars who are ranked 27th in the league yielding 127.3 ypg. If Foster doesn’t see 30-plus touches, someone isn’t paying enough attention to the statistics.

The “new” Denver offense isn’t as exciting as last year’s model, but it’s paid dividends for C.J. Anderson fantasy owners. The Broncos haven’t been passing the ball as often as earlier in the season, primarily because they are having trouble pass protecting. Anderson is the beneficiary of the additional running plays and short passes. He’s our No. 3 choice against Oakland.

Baltimore’s Justin Forsett faces the worst run defense in the NFL in Cleveland (142.4 ypg) which is the only reason he’s cracked the top-10 after two sub par games. We expect him to get back on track.

C.J. Spiller did return from the Buffalo injured list last weekend, but didn’t show anything for fantasy owners to get excited about while rushing for minus four yards in four carries. The Bills backfield workload still belongs to Fred Jackson.

Top-50 Running Back Rankings

——————————————

1) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

2) Arian Foster, Houston

3) C.J. Anderson, Denver

4) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

5) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

6) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

7) Matt Forte, Chicago

8) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

9) DeMarco Murray, Dallas

10) Justin Forsett, Baltimore

11) Joique Bell, Detroit

12) Tre Mason, St. Louis

13) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

14) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

15) Lamar Miller, Miami

16) Latavius Murray, Oakland

17) Mark Ingram, New Orleans

18) Fred Jackson, Buffalo

19) Alfred Morris, Washington

20) Matt Asiata, Minnesota

21) Andre Williams, New York Giants

22) Frank Gore, San Francisco

23) Daniel Herron, Indianapolis

24) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

25) Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

26) LeGarrette Blount, New England

27) Joseph Randle, Dallas

28) Kerwynn Williams, Arizona

29) Reggie Bush, Detroit

30) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

31) Chris Johnson, New York Jets

32) Stepfan Taylor, Arizona

33) Knile Davis, Kansas City

34) Chris Ivory, New York Jets

35) Jonas Gray, New England

36) Pierre Thomas, New Orleans

37) Silas Redd, Washington

38) James Starks, Green Bay

39) Trent Richardson, Indianapolis

40) Terrance West, Cleveland

41) Steven Jackson, Atlanta

42) Bernard Pierce, Baltimore

43) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee

44) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

45) DeAngelo Williams, Carolina

46) Alfred Blue, Houston

47) Bennie Cunningham, St. Louis

48) Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville

49) Theo Riddick, Detroit

50) C.J. Spiller, Buffalo


►   Week 17 player fantasy rankings - wide receivers

As good as Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has been in home games this season, it’s hard not to predict that his favorite wide receiver, Jordy Nelson, will go big in Week 17.

Nelson has been spectacular at home this season, particularly catching the long ball. He’s averaging a stunning 23.97 ypc at Lambeau Field. He’s also averaging 116.4 ypg with nine touchdowns in seven contests.

Green Bay can clinch a first-round bye if things go right and throwing the ball to Nelson usually makes things go very right.

The Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. has been the best pass receiver in football over the past two months, He’s not just making the spectacular one-handed catches, he’s making all of them. Over the past eight games he’s amassed 1,014 yards (126.7 ypg) and eight touchdowns. He’s even making Eli Manning look good. He’ll face an Eagles secondary that gives up the long ball. Often.

Dallas wideout Dez Bryant is a touchdown machine. He’s caught a league-leading 14 this season, including four in the past two games. Few defenses can hold him down and Washington isn’t one of them.

Julio Jones (oblique) didn’t practice at all last week and still posted 107 yards on Sunday against New Orleans. He probably won’t practice much this week either, but with the division title on the line, he’s going to be a big part of the game plan.

Top-50 Wide Receiver Rankings

——————————————-

1) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

2) Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

3) Dez Bryant, Dallas

4) Julio Jones, Atlanta

5) Calvin Johnson, Detroit

6) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

7) Demaryius Thomas, Denver

8) Emmanuel Sanders, Denver

9) A.J. Green, Cincinnati

10) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia

11) Randall Cobb, Green Bay

12) Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

13) Golden Tate, Detroit

14) Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

15) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay

16) Julian Edelman, New England

17) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

18) Roddy White, Atlanta

19) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

20) T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

21) Brandon LaFell, New England

22) Marques Colston, New Orleans

23) Torrey Smith, Baltimore

24) Mike Wallace, Miami

25) DeSean Jackson, Washington

26) Kenny Stills, New Orleans

27) Anquan Boldin, San Francisco

28) Jarvis Landry, Miami

29) Charles Johnson, Minnesota

30) Doug Baldwin, Seattle

31) Josh Gordon, Cleveland

32) Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia

33) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

34) Andre Johnson, Houston

35) Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore

36) Harry Douglas, Atlanta

37) Kenny Britt, St. Louis

38) Malcom Floyd, San Diego

39) Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati

40) Pierre Garcon, Washington

41) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

42) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City

43) Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh

44) Eric Decker, New York Jets

45) Kendall Wright, Tennessee

46) Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis

47) Marquess Wilson, Chicago

48) Michael Floyd, Arizona

49) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis

50) Michael Crabtree, San Francisco


►   Week 17 player fantasy rankings - tight ends

Unfortunately, there aren’t any clear- cut No. 1 options at tight end for Week 17. The usual suspects, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas, all have their “cons” that keep them out of the No. 1 spot.

Therefore, the oldie but goodie, Antonio Gates comes in as the No. 1 ranked tight end. Gates also has his “cons,“ facing a pretty tough Chiefs defense on the road, but with a playoff spot on the line, Philip Rivers should look for his hottest and favorite target. Gates has 16 catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks.

Speaking of hot, after failing to catch more than six passes in any game before Week 15, Jason Witten has seven catches in each of the past two games. Over that stretch, he also has 159 yards and a touchdown.

Witten is facing Washington, who allows the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, so it would be wise to ride out his hot streak.

Gronkowski returned to his 2011 form this year with 82 catches, 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he remains a top option at tight end in Week 17. The only thing keeping him from being ranked No. 1 is the fact New England has nothing to play for, having already locked up home-field advantage.

Even though he might not play much in the second half, owners must start Gronkowski if they are in a championship game this weekend.

Martellus Bennett really let owners down with just one catch for zero yards in Week 16, but he should benefit with Jay Cutler back under center. Among tight ends, Bennett is second in receptions (82) and third in receiving yards (857) with six touchdowns and that is all with Cutler at quarterback.

If owners need some help at tight end, the Bengals vs. Steelers game could see some great production from the position with Jermaine Gresham and Heath Miller. Both caught touchdowns in the first matchup between these two teams three weeks ago and both are coming off a good Week 16.

Miller made seven catches for 68 yards versus the Chiefs, and Gresham had nine catches for 62 yards and a score against the Broncos last week.

Luke Willson surprised pretty much everybody with three receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday versus the Cardinals, but he likely won’t repeat that performance against the Rams. St. Louis allows the second-least amount of fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Top-25 Tight End Rankings

————————————-

1) Antonio Gates, San Diego

2) Jason Witten, Dallas

3) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans

4) Greg Olsen, Carolina

5) Rob Gronkowski, New England

6) Delanie Walker, Tennessee

7) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

8) Julius Thomas, Denver

9) Martellus Bennett, Chicago

10) Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati

11) Jordan Reed, Washington

12) Travis Kelce, Kansas City

13) Mychal Rivera, Oakland

14) Charles Clay, Miami

15) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh

16) Luke Willson, Seattle

17) Larry Donnell, New York Giants

18) Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis

19) Zach Rudolph, Minnesota

20) Scott Chandler, Buffalo

21) Jared Cook, St. Louis

22) Jordan Cameron, Cleveland

23) Coby Fleener, Indianapolis

24) Eric Ebron, Detroit

25) Owen Daniels, Baltimore


►   Week 17 player fantasy rankings - kickers

Fantasy owners could still be fuming over the poor Colts performance that contributed to Adam Vinatieri’s worst fantasy day of the year. The 41-year-old attempted just one extra-point to finish with one fantasy point.

Vinatieri should get back on track this week versus the Titans. The Colts should play their starters even though it is unlikely they improve their playoff seed. Indianapolis cannot afford to rest healthy starters after a horrible performance last week, so the offense could be in for a big day at Tennessee. The Titans allow the second-most fantasy points to opposing kickers.

The only other notable kicker not playing in potentially cold weather conditions is Matt Bryant. He came up big with three field goals, including a 50-yarder, and three extra points last week. Bryant has at least eight fantasy points in every game going back to Week 10 and has produced double-digit fantasy points in four of the last seven games.

Bryant also has favorable kicking conditions once again inside the Georgia Dome.

Randy Bullock was one of only two kickers to score more fantasy points than Bryant did last week. Bullock was 6-of-6 with an extra-point versus the Ravens. The Houston kicker could have another huge day against Jacksonville.

Blair Walsh has the most favorable matchup of the weekend versus the Chicago Bears, though, it might not be the best idea to count on Walsh kicking well in cold Minneapolis. At home since November 2, Walsh is 4-of-6 kicking field goals, and two weeks ago in Detroit, Walsh was 0-of-3.

Steven Hauschka is also struggling as of late. Going into Week 16, Hauschka had missed just three field goal attempts all season, but in Arizona, he went 0-for-3. Based on his season, owners should give Hauschka another chance in a game that could have a lot of field goals.

Top-25 Kicker Rankings

———————————

1) Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis

2) Matt Bryant, Atlanta

3) Connor Barth, Denver

4) Cody Parkey, Philadelphia

5) Stephen Gostkowski, New England

6) Randy Bullock, Houston

7) Justin Tucker, Baltimore

8) Dan Bailey, Dallas

9) Blair Walsh, Minnesota

10) Nick Novak, San Diego

11) Steven Hauschka, Seattle

12) Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh

13) Mason Crosby, Green Bay

14) Graham Gano, Carolina

15) Matt Prater, Detroit

16) Mike Nugent, Cincinnati

17) Shayne Graham, New Orleans

18) Caleb Sturgis, Miami

19) Cairo Santos, Kansas City

20) Dan Carpenter, Buffalo

21) Phil Dawson, San Francisco

22) Josh Brown, New York Giants

23) Billy Cundiff, Cleveland

24) Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona

25) Patrick Murray, Tampa Bay


►   Week 17 player fantasy rankings - defense

The Texans defense has been on quite a fantasy tear with double-digit points in the last four games. In fact, Houston has scored at least seven fantasy points in every game since Week 8.

Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who allow the most-points to opposing defenses in the league, Houston comes in as the No. 1 defense for Week 16.

If Houston is No. 1, Seattle’s defense is “1A.“

The Seahawks have allowed 33 total points during their five-game winning streak. In each of those games, the Seattle defense has at least 11 fantasy points. Going all the way back to Week 8, the Seahawks have at least six points in every game.

It doesn’t matter that in Week 7, the Seattle defense scored just one fantasy point versus the Rams. It is a different Seahawks defense at this point in the season, and they are home this time.

The Patriots defense has played very well lately too, but with the team already wrapping up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, New England has nothing to play for this week. The Patriots could be sitting starters in the second half, so the defense’s fantasy value takes a slight hit.

Conversely, the Bills defense sees an increase in value due to the Patriots maybe resting some players. Buffalo has been one of the best fantasy defenses this year anyway and against Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, the Bills defense scored an average of 12 fantasy points.

The Lions have also been one of the best fantasy defenses this season and have played well lately, however, it wouldn’t be a wise choice to start them versus the Packers in Lambeau. Detroit hasn’t won in Green Bay in 24 years, and Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home since December of 2012.

Top-25 Defense/Special Teams Rankings

——————————————————-

1) Houston Texans

2) Seattle Seahawks

3) Miami Dolphins

4) Philadelphia Eagles

5) Minnesota Vikings

6) Buffalo Bills

7) Baltimore Ravens

8) Kansas City Chiefs

9) Arizona Cardinals

10) New England Patriots

11) Dallas Cowboys

12) Denver Broncos

13) Atlanta Falcons

14) Detroit Lions

15) St. Louis Rams

16) San Francisco 49ers

17) New York Jets

18) Pittsburgh Steelers

19) New York Giants

20) San Diego Chargers

21) Green Bay Packers

22) New Orleans Saints

23) Indianapolis Colts

24) Carolina Panthers

25) Cincinnati Bengals



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Boys Area Game Results

(Friday, 12.26.14)

Huntington St. Joseph 66     Calhoun County 53

Wirt County 58     Williamstown 74

#10 Tucker County 53     Philip Barbour 53

#2 Notre Dame 75     Philip Barbour 53


►   Girls Area Game Results

(Friday, 12.26.14)

Richwood 47     Liberty 32

Notre Dame 50     South Harrison 34

#7 Greenbrier East 90     Philip Barbour 44



<The Gilmer Free Press

►   AP Men’s College Basketball 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


►   Coaches Poll Men’s College Basketball 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. 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



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Knicks’ Acy suspended one game

The NBA suspended New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy one game without pay for committing a flagrant foul 2 which initiated an altercation with Washington Wizards guard John Wall.

The incident, which resulted in an ejection for Acy, occurred with 5:31 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ 102-91 loss to the Wizards at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day.

Wall took exception to a hard foul from Acy, retaliating with a shove. The New York forward swung his right arm as if to throw a punch before holding up.

The 24-year-old Wall was fined $15,000 for pushing Acy and escalating the incident.

Acy will serve his suspension on Saturday when the Knicks travel to Sacramento to play the Kings.


►   Rockets officially sign Josh Smith

The Houston Rockets signed former Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith on Friday.

The Pistons waived Smith on Monday, less than two years into a four-year, $54 million contract.

Smith averaged 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28 games this season for the Pistons.

The 29-year-old will once again play with Dwight Howard, who is one of Smith’s closest friends and a former AAU teammate.

The Pistons acquired Smith as a free agent after the 2012-13 season. During his time with Detroit, Smith averaged 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

For his career, Smith has averages of 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds in 781 games with the Atlanta Hawks and Pistons.

The Rockets waived forward Tarik Black earlier Friday to free up room to sign Smith. Black averaged 4.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 25 games (12 starts) this season.


►   NBA Game Results

(Friday, December 26)


Final Score: Brooklyn 109, Boston 107

Jarrett Jack’s late jumper helped seal the Brooklyn Nets’ impressive 109-107 comeback victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday afternoon. Jack finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Alan Anderson scored 15 off the bench and Mason Plumlee had 14 points and 12 boards for the Nets, who have won three straight games. Jeff Green had 22 points and five assists, Jared Sullinger contributed 19 points and eight boards and Avery Bradley netted 17 points for the Celtics, who have lost three in a row.


Final Score: Cleveland 98, Orlando 89

LeBron James scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, lifting the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 98-89 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday night. Kevin Love had 22 points and seven rebounds for Cleveland despite not playing the fourth quarter and Dion Waiters scored 17. The Cavaliers snapped a three-game road losing streak and have won four of their last five overall. They were coming off 101-91 loss to the Heat on Christmas in James’ return to Miami. Tobias Harris had 16 points and Evan Fournier scored 15 to lead the Magic, who have dropped five of their last six and finished 1-3 on a four-game homestand. The Cavs were without point guard Kyrie Irving (knee) but got their ninth consecutive win over Orlando.


Final Score: Milwaukee 107, Atlanta 77

Jared Dudley was perfect off the bench, making all 10 of his shots and finishing with 24 points in leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 107-77 rout of the Atlanta Hawks Friday night in the first of a home-and-home set. Dudley, who drained four 3-pointers, was one of six Milwaukee players to reach double figures in scoring. Brandon Knight had 16 points and Zaza Pachulia added 14 with eight rebounds for the Bucks, who snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Hawks and matched last season’s victory total of 15 in their 30th game. Johnny O’Bryant and Jerryd Bayless each scored 12 points and O.J. Mayo supplied 11 as Milwaukee ended a five-game slide at Atlanta. The Bucks posted their first win at Philips Arena since Nov. 10, 2010.


Final Score: Detroit 119, Indiana 109

Andre Drummond put together 20 points, six rebounds and three steals as Detroit posted a 119-109 victory over Indiana on Friday. Greg Monroe followed with 19 points and a game-best 15 rebounds for the Pistons, who put their four-game losing streak to rest and won just their sixth game all season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 15 points, with Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin picking up 14 points apiece. Roy Hibbert topped the list with 19 points while Solomon Hill, CJ Watson and Luis Scola all posted 14 for the Pacers, who failed to win a season-best third straight game.


Final Score: Houston 117, Memphis 111 (OT)

James Harden had 32 points, including a tying layup late in regulation, and the Houston Rockets scored eight of their 13 points in overtime at the foul line to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 117-111 on Friday night. Josh Smith had 21 points and eight rebounds in his Rockets debut after being signed earlier in the day and Harden added 10 assists. Harden’s layup with 15.5 seconds remaining in regulation tied the score and came after Vince Carter had made two go-ahead 3-pointers for the Grizzlies. Houston took a half-game lead over Memphis in the Southwest Division, handing the Grizzlies their first four-game losing streak in more than a year. Corey Brewer added 13 points for Houston, Trevor Ariza scored 15 with 10 rebounds and Patrick Beverley had 12 points in the win.


Final Score: New Orleans 97, San Antonio 90

With Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson each netting 22 points to lead the way, the New Orleans Pelicans dealt the ailing San Antonio Spurs another loss with a 97-90 decision at Smoothie King Center. Davis added 12 rebounds and five blocks and Anderson provided a spark off the bench in a key victory for New Orleans, which also received 15 points and seven assists from Jrue Holiday. The defending world champion Spurs fell for the sixth time in seven games and took the court minus Tony Parker due to a hamstring injury, with Kawhi Leonard remaining on the sidelines with a torn ligament in his hand. Tim Duncan did come up with 20 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio, while Cory Joseph also had 20 points starting in place of Parker. However, the Spurs were hurt by 17 turnovers that led to 20 New Orleans points.


Final Score: Oklahoma City 98, Charlotte 75

Russell Westbrook’s 29-point outing, his career-best 11th straight game with 25-plus, helped the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 98-75 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Westbrook had to take a bulk of the scoring load once again because his star teammate, Kevin Durant, sat for a fifth consecutive game due to a sprained ankle. Serge Ibaka scored 13 points with a season-high 14 rebounds and Anthony Morrow chipped in 11 points for Oklahoma City, which won for a second straight day after a two- game skid. The Thunder were coming off a 114-106 win over San Antonio on Christmas. Brian Roberts paced the Hornets with 17 points off the bench and Marvin Williams added 11 points in a reserve role.


Final Score: Dallas 102, LA Lakers 98

Rajon Rondo turned in a game-high 21 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists as Dallas claimed a 102-98 win over the Lakers on Friday. Tyson Chandler picked up 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Monta Ellis chipped in 15 and Dirk Nowitzki followed with 14 points and eight boards for the Mavericks, who snapped a two-game slide and have won four of their last six. Carlos Boozer poured in 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Los Angeles, which has lost five of their last seven and two of three with Kobe Bryant on the sidelines. Nick Young totaled 15 with Jordan Hill and Wayne Ellington adding 12 points each in defeat. The Mavs led 95-79 with 3:56 remaining on Rondo’s lone triple of the contest, but the Lakers gradually chipped away for the remainder.


Final Score: Denver 106, Minnesota 102

Kenneth Faried racked up 26 points and a career-best 25 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets needed every last one to hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves by a 106-102 score. Faried, who finished 11- of-15 from the field, was one of three Nuggets to record a double-double as Denver halted a two-game skid. Ty Lawson compiled 16 points with 11 assists, while Timofey Mozgov pulled down 14 boards in addition to netting 11 points. Wilson Chandler contributed 21 points to help the Nuggets send the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Timberwolves to a seventh consecutive defeat. Thaddeus Young had 23 points for Minnesota and Andrew Wiggins tallied 22 in the loss, with Gorgui Dieng amassing 14 points and 13 rebounds.


Final Score: Portland 114, Philadelphia 93

Damian Lillard scored 28 points with nine assists, Wesley Matthews tallied 25 points and the Portland Trail Blazers cruised past the Philadelphia 76ers, 114-93, on Friday. Lillard and Matthews connected on 10 of the Blazers’ season-high 18 3-pointers, with Matthews converting 7-of-14 tries from deep. Already playing without center Robin Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge (upper respiratory illness) and Chris Kaman (child’s birth) were both out of the lineup as well. In stepped Joel Freeland, who scored six points and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds in Portland’s fifth straight win at home. Tony Wroten scored 22 points for the Sixers, who had a season-high two-game winning streak snapped. Michael Carter-Williams added 17 points with six rebounds and five assists.


Final Score: Phoenix 115, Sacramento 106

Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points off the bench in his return to Sacramento to help the Phoenix Suns come through with a 115-106 victory over the scuffling Kings. Thomas, traded to the Suns in July after three very productive seasons in Sacramento, put up eight of his points during a 16-2 second-half run that lifted Phoenix to a season- high fifth straight win. Fellow reserve Marcus Morris also had a big night for the Suns, hitting 6-of-7 attempts from 3-point range to finish with 20 points. Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris contributed 18 and 17 points, respectively, while Goran Dragic had 16 along with six assists. Playing without star center DeMarcus Cousins due to a stomach virus, Sacramento suffered its seventh loss in eight games after failing to match Phoenix’s markmanship from the perimeter, as the Suns went 14-of-33 on 3-point tries. Darren Collison paced the Kings with 19 points and Rudy Gay and Derrick Williams both had 16 in defeat. Reggie Evans compiled 11 points and 16 rebounds starting in place of Cousins.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Nationals ink Uggla to minor league deal

The Washington Nationals and second baseman Dan Uggla agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training on Friday.

Uggla, 34, struggled at the plate last season, hitting just .162 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 48 games for Atlanta. He was released on July 18 and signed by the Giants, who also released him after only four games.

The three-time All-Star, most recently in 2012, has hit for a .243 average with 233 homers and 690 RBI in 1,279 career games over nine seasons with the Marlins, Braves and Giants.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


SATURDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2014


National Basketball Association
Toronto at LA Clippers, 3:30 PM - SNET, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS
Orlando at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - FS-Florida, SportSouth, DSS
Boston at Washington, 7:00 PM - CSN-New England, DC
Memphis at Miami, 7:30 PM - SunSports, SportSouth, NBA TV, DSS
New Orleans at Chicago, 8:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, WGN, DSS
Indiana at Brooklyn, 8:00 PM - FS-Indiana, YES, DSS
Atlanta at Milwaukee, 8:30 PM - SportSouth, FS-Wisconsin, DSS
Philadelphia at Utah, 9:00 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
New York at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - MSG, CSN-California, NBA TV, DSS
Minnesota at Golden State, 10:30 PM - FS-North, CSN-Bay, DSS


National Hockey League
NY Islanders at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - MSG+, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Boston at Columbus, 7:00 PM - NESN, FS-Ohio, DSS
Carolina at Tampa Bay, 7:00 PM - FS-Carolina, SunSports, DSS
Detroit at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - CBC, FS-Detroit, DSS
New Jersey at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - MSG+2, MSG, DSS
Winnipeg at Minnesota, 7:00 PM - CITY, FS-North, DSS
Washington at Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM - TVA, ROOT-Pittsburgh, NBCSN
Philadelphia at Nashville, 8:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Tennessee, DSS
Anaheim at Arizona, 8:00 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, Arizona, DSS
Dallas at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, Midwest, DSS
Chicago at Colorado, 9:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, Altitude, DSS
San Jose at Los Angeles, 10:00 PM - NBCSN
Edmonton at Calgary, 10:00 PM - CBC, DSS


College Basketball
Georgetown vs. Indiana, 12:00 PM - ESPN 2
Maine at Seton Hall, 12:00 PM - FS1
UNC Wilmington at Minnesota, 1:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Kentucky at Louisville, 2:00 PM - ESPN 2
Northern Kentucky at Northwestern, 3:00 PM - Big Ten Network
UAB at North Carolina, 4:00 PM - ESPN 2
Santa Clara at St. Mary’s (CA), 4:00 PM - Time Warner, ROOT, CSN-Bay
Oakland at Maryland, 5:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Gonzaga at BYU, 6:00 PM - ESPN 2
Mercer at Georgia, 6:00 PM - SEC Network
San Francisco at Pacific, 6:00 PM - CSN-California
Wright State at Ohio State, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Presbyterian at Virginia Tech, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Tennessee State at Tennessee, 8:30 PM - SEC Network
Kennesaw State at Illinois, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Wayland Baptist at Utah State, 9:05 PM - Mountain West Network
SD Christian at San Diego State, 10:00 PM - FS-San Diego
Southern Utah at UNLV, 10:00 PM - Mountain West Network


Women’s College Basketball
SMU at Connecticut, 1:00 PM - SNY, ESPN3.com
UCF at Houston, 3:00 PM - American Digital Network
BYU at Gonzaga, 5:00 PM - SWX


College Football
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (Military Bowl), 1:00 PM - ESPN
Duke vs. Arizona State (Sun Bowl), 2:10 PM - CBS
Miami-Florida vs. South Carolina (Independence Bowl), 3:30 PM - ABC
Boston College vs. Penn State (Pinstripe Bowl), 4:30 PM - ESPN
Nebraska vs. USC (Holiday Bowl), 8:00 PM - ESPN

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Schedule - 12.26.14

The Gilmer Free Press

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Schedule

Bowl Location Date/Time Network
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
Dallas, Texas
Cotton Bowl
December 26
1:00 PM
ESPN
Quick Lane Bowl
Rutgers vs. North Carolina
Detroit, Michigan
Ford Field
December 26
4:30 PM
ESPN
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl
NC State vs. UCF
St. Petersburg, Florida
Tropicana Field
December 26
8:00 PM
ESPN
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman
Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Annapolis, Maryland
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
December 27
1:00 PM
ESPN
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
El Paso, Texas
Sun Bowl
December 27
2:00 PM
CBS
Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Miami vs. South Carolina
Shreveport, Louisiana
Independence Stadium
December 27
3:30 PM
ABC
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs. Penn State
Bronx, New York
Yankee Stadium
December 27
4:30 PM
ESPN
National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. USC
San Diego, California
Qualcomm Stadium
December 27
8:00 PM
ESPN
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs. West Virginia
Memphis, Tennessee
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
December 29
2:00 PM
ESPN
Russell Athletic Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Clemson
Orlando, Florida
Florida Citrus Bow
December 29
TBD
TBD
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs. Texas
Houston, Texas
NRG Stadium
December 29
9:00 PM
ESPN
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Notre Dame vs. LSU
Nashville, Tennessee
LP Field
December 30
3:00 PM
ESPN
Belk Bowl
Georgia vs. Louisville
Charlotte, North Carolina
Bank of America Stadium
December 30
6:30 PM
ESPN
Foster Farms Bowl
Maryland vs. Stanford
Santa Clara, California
Levi’s Stadium
December 30
10:00 PM
ESPN
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Mississippi vs. TCU
Atlanta
Georgia Dome
December 31
12:30 PM
ESPN
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl
Boise State vs. Arizona
Glendale, Arizona
University of Phoenix Stadium
December 31
4:00 PM
ESPN
Capital One Orange Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech
Miami Gardens, Florida
Sun Life Stadium
December 31
8:00 PM
ESPN
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Missouri vs. Minnesota
Orlando, Florida
Florida Citrus Bowl
January 01
1:00 PM
ABC
Outback Bowl
Auburn vs. Wisconsin
Tampa, Florida
Raymond James Stadium
January 01
Noon
ESPN2
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Michigan State vs. Baylor
Arlington, Texas
AT&T Stadium
January 01
12:30 PM
ESPN
Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual
College Football Playoff Semifinal

Oregon vs. Florida State
Pasadena, California
Rose Bowl
January 01
5:00 PM
ESPN
Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff Semifinal

Alabama vs. Ohio State
New Orleans
Mercedes-Benz Superdome
January 01
8:30 PM
ESPN
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston vs. Pittsburgh
Fort Worth, Texas
Amon G. Carter Stadium
January 02
Noon
ESPN
TaxSlayer Bowl
Iowa vs. Tennessee
Jacksonville, Florida
EverBank Field
January 02
3:20 PM
ESPN
Valero Alamo Bowl
Kansas State vs. UCLA
San Antonio
Alamodome
January 02
6:45 PM
ESPN
TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Washington vs. Oklahoma State
Tempe, Arizona
Sun Devil Stadium
January 02
10:15 PM
ESPN
Birmingham Bowl
East Carolina vs. Florida
Birmingham, Alabama
Legion Field
January 03
1:00 PM
ESPN or ESPN2
GoDaddy Bowl
Toledo vs. Arkansas State
Mobile, Ala.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium
January 04
9:00 PM
ESPN
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T
TBD vs. TBD
Arlington, Texas
AT&T Stadium
January 12
TBD
ESPN

Sports News   141226

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►   Bulldogs eye up Illini in Heart of Dallas Bowl

The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs look to take down a power five conference team when they take on the Big Ten’s Illinois Fighting Illini in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which will be held at the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 26.

The Bulldogs finished as the top team in Conference-USA’s West Division this season, going 8-5 overall and 7-1 in conference play. LaTech had a chance for the C-USA outright title, but lost to Marshall in the championship game, 33-26, back on Dec. 6.

Illinois, meanwhile, is coming into the game thanks to a win in its regular- season finale against Northwestern, 47-33. The victory made the Illini bowl eligible at 6-6 and improved the team’s conference mark to 3-5, which was fifth best in the Big Ten.

LaTech sits in a good spot to pick up just its third bowl win in its seventh try (2-3-1). The Bulldogs recorded four more wins in 2014 than they did in head coach Skip Holtz’s first season at the helm in 2013.

The Bulldogs ranked fourth in most-improved scoring offense with a 102.1 percent improvement, going from an average of 19.2 points per game in 2013 to a current average of 37.5 points per game this season.

Running back Kenneth Dixon leads the Bulldog offense. He rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns against Marshall to improve his season total to 1,238 yards and 21 touchdowns. For his career, Dixon has amassed 3,347 rushing yards with 52 touchdowns on the ground in 35 games.

As a team, the Bulldogs offense averages 403.8 yards per game, going for 151.2 on the ground and 252.6 through the air. Redshirt senior quarterback Cody Sokol threw for 3,189 yards with 29 touchdowns and 13 picks this season. He was named the C-USA’s Newcomer of the Year after transferring in from Iowa.

“It all starts with Cody Sokol,“ said Holtz. “He came in and did a great job of getting players to buy in, setting a real example as a leader with his toughness and the way he plays the game.“

Sokol’s favorite target was sophomore wide receiver Trent Taylor, who hauled in a team-high 62 catches for 814 yards with nine scores.

On the defensive side of the ball, Louisiana Tech is the national leader in points off of turnovers. With 14 points off of turnovers in the Marshall game, the Bulldogs have scored 164 points off turnovers in 13 games this season (12.6 points per game). Last season, Louisiana Tech scored only 64 points off turnovers the entire year (5.3 points a game).

This will be a nice opportunity for starting defensive end Houston Bates, who transferred to the Bulldogs from Illinois. A fifth-year transfer to the Bulldog program, Bates is a previous All-Big Ten Conference selection. He started all 13 games for the Bulldogs with 28 total tackles to his credit including 10.5 tackles for a loss of 55 yards, 5.5 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, two pass break-ups and a team-leading 12 QB hurries.

The Bulldog’s last bowl win came in 2008 when they defeated Northern Illinois in the Independence Bowl.

Illinois had to win three of its last five games to even become bowl eligible and the program had a real gut check to get there.

“There came a point in time right before we played Minnesota where we gathered up as a team and had to go one direction or the other,“ said Illinois head coach Tim Beckman. “We could either step forward, meet the challenge and attack the Minnesota Golden Gophers or we could just give in. This football team was not going to do that.“

It was important for Beckman’s squad to earn its first bowl bid since 2011, despite the lack of overall success this season.

“We needed to get to a bowl game, our program needs those types of things to move forward,“ Beckman added. “I cannot tell you the excitement that is in Champaign and in our facility with our athletic department to earn a bowl game down here in Dallas.“

Offensively, Illinois boasts one of the top passing offenses in the Big Ten, ranking third in the conference in passing yards per game (243.2) and completion percentage (61.2 percent) and fifth in passing efficiency. Beckman has done it with a QB competition approach.

Senior Reilly O’Toole was under center for the last two games, both wins, but Wes Hunt and Aaron Bailey are also getting action in practices leading up to the bowl game.

O’Toole finished the season completing 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,049 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions in 12 games. Lunt completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 1,729 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven games.

Despite who plays under center, wideout Mike Dudek appears to be everyone’s favorite target, hauling in a team-best 69 catches for 965 yards with six TDs.

The Illini averages 26.6 points per game with Josh Ferguson leading the way on the ground. He has run for 685 yards and eight scores. Donovonn Young has added five TDs on the ground.

This is a rematch of a 2012 meeting between the two schools that saw Louisiana Tech roll to a 52-24 win in Champaign, Ill. Louisiana Tech is 2-2 all-time against the Big Ten and has won its last two meetings against Big Ten opponents. Prior to Tech’s 52-24 win over Illinois in 2012, the Bulldogs topped Michigan State, 20-19, in East Lansing on Sept. 13, 2003.

These school have a common opponent this year in Western Kentucky. Louisiana Tech dismantled the Hilltoppers, 59-10, on Nov. 1, while Illinois beat WKU, 42-34, on Sept. 6 in Champaign.


►   Rutgers and North Carolina clash in Quick Lane Bowl

A pair of middle-of-the-pack power five conference teams meet up at Ford Field for the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl when the Big Ten’s Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the ACC’s North Carolina Tar Heels.

Rutgers, in its first season in the Big Ten, went 7-5 overall and 3-5 in conference play. While the transition from the American Athletic Conference was a little rough for the Scarlet Knights, it didn’t stop them from earning their ninth bowl appearance in 10 years, thanks in part to four non-conference wins.

“I like the idea of playing another ‘power five opponent,‘“ said Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. “I like the idea of playing another power five school. I love the opportunity to play at a great stadium; and to play at Ford Field in a controlled environment, it’s a great stadium. I think all those things enhance the Bowl experience.“

Flood is the first coach in school history to lead Rutgers to a bowl game in each of his first three seasons, while the 2014 senior class is appearing in a bowl for the fourth consecutive season. The only other senior classes in school history to play in four straight bowls were members of the 2008 and 2009 senior classes.

The Scarlet Knight won two of their last three games to end a three-game losing streak and earn a spot in a bowl. In their season finale, Gary Nova completed 28-of-42 passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns, as Rutgers came from behind to defeat Maryland, 41-38.

Nova, Rutgers’ team MVP, completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,667 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season. He leads an offense that averages 25.6 points per game.

Nova’s favorite target is Leonte Carroo, who has a team-best 53 catches for 1,043 yards with 10 touchdowns.

Caroo, a First Team selection, led a group of four Rutgers players to earn all-conference honors. Defensive linemen Darius Hamilton and Kemoko Turay, and offensive lineman Kaleb Johnson were also named all-conference.

Hamilton and Turay combined to have 12.5 sacks for a Rutgers defense that yielded 30.9 points per game this season and allowed 439.5 yards of offense.

North Carolina, the third place finisher in the ACC’s Coastal Division, went 6-6 overall this season and 4-4 in conference play.

The offensive output of the Tar Heels should be tough for the Scarlet Knights to contain. North Carolina finished third in the ACC, averaging 34.3 point per game, and are led by second-team All-ACC quarterback Marquise Williams.

The Charlotte, N.C., native leads the team in both passing (2,870) and rushing yards (737). This year, he set UNC single-season record for total offense (3,607), most touchdowns responsible for (32) and most touchdowns rushing by a quarterback (12).

Williams, however, is coming off a sub-par performance in the Tar Heels’ regular-season finale against NC State. Williams and fellow QB Mitch Trubisky combined to hit on 17-of-35 passes for 177 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and four sacks in a 35-7 setback.

On the defensive side, the Tar Heels fired defensive coordinator Vic Koenning after the regular season and Dan Disch will now get a shot to lead a unit that allowed 38.9 points per game and yielded 495.7 yards per game.

“He’s very energetic. He’s a little out there, but it’s something we need,“ linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said of Disch. “He’s more aggressive.“

Aggressiveness might play into Carolina’s favor against the pro-style offense that Rutgers runs with Nova, a prototypical pocket-passer who doesn’t have much mobility.

The Scarlet Knights are 5-4 all-time in bowl games after last season’s 29-16 loss in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

For Carolina, this will be Fedora’s sixth bowl appearance as a head coach. Last year, he guided the Tar Heels to a 39-17 victory over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. The Quick Lane Bowl is Carolina’s 31st all-time bowl game, but first in the state of Michigan. Carolina has won two of its last three bowl games.

Rutgers and North Carolina have met six times in series history - the last time at North Carolina in 2011 (24-22 UNC victory). It marks the first time the two schools have met in a bowl and it will be Rutgers’ third bowl versus an ACC opponent (2012 Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Virginia Tech; 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl vs. NC State).


►   NC State and UCF tangle in St. Petersburg Bowl

The Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl is the nightcap on the day after Christmas, as the NC State Wolfpack tangle with the Knights of UCF at Tropicana Field.

NC State went 7-5 during the regular season, which included a 3-5 record in the ACC, giving the team a fifth-place finish in the Atlantic Division. A four-game losing streak from Sept. 27-Oct. 18 had the Wolfpack in a precarious position as far as bowl consideration was concerned. But coach Dave Doeren’s club responded to win three of its last four games, including the final two over Wake Forest (42-13) and North Carolina (35-7).

The Wolfpack have appeared in 27 bowl games in their history, going 14-12-1, They missed out on last year’s postseason, snapping a three-year run. This is the 10th time NCSU has been invited to a bowl since 2000, and it is the team’s 10th bowl game all-time in the state of Florida.

Speaking of the Sunshine State, UCF had long taken a backseat to bigger brothers, Florida State, Florida and Miami with regard to notoriety in the state, but things have been on the upswing for the Knights recently. In fact, since 2012, UCF has won 31 games, which is tied for the seventh-most in the FBS. Coach George O’Leary’s squad went 9-3 this season, and finished with a 7-1 ledger in the American Athletic Conference, which tied both Cincinnati and UCF for the top spot. Since the formation of the AAC prior to last season, the Knights are an astounding 15-1 against league foes.

UCF’s first bowl appearance was in 2005, and it lost its first three postseason ventures before finally getting into the win column with a 10-6 triumph over Georgia in the 2010 Liberty Bowl. Last season, the Knights reached a BCS bowl for the first time in history, as they outlasted Baylor in a wild Fiesta Bowl, 52-42. This is UCF’s third trip to Tropicana Field in Tampa for a bowl game, with the last time being in 2012 against Ball State, a game in which the Knights prevailed in a 38-17 final.

This game, which came in to existence in 2008, was originally called the St. Petersburg Bowl before changing to the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. It switched back to the original moniker last season, and East Carolina beat Ohio University in that tussle, 37-20.

This bout marks the third meeting between NC State and UCF on the football field, with the series knotted at 1-1. The first meeting took place in 2007, with the Knights winning, 25-23. The Wolfpack got even three years last with a 28-21 triumph.

NC State was certainly productive on offense during the regular season, putting up just shy of 30 ppg behind a balanced attack that generated 206 ypg on the ground and 196 ypg via the pass. The team converted 46 percent of its third-down opportunities, and featured three guys who rushed for at least 495 yards, and four who had a minimum of 319 receiving yards.

Shadrach Thornton led the backs with 811 yards and nine TDs, while Bo Hines was the top down-field threat with 42 receptions for 537 yards, but only one score. Matt Dayes and David Grinnage caught five TD passes each from QB Jacoby Brissett, who completed roughly 60 percent of his throws for 2,344 yards, 22 TDs and only five INTs.

From a defensive standpoint, the Wolfpack allowed the opposition to put up 27 ppg, with 175.6 ypg coming on the ground and another 197.5 ypg through the air. Foes actually converted their third-down chances at an even 50 percent, and the NC State defense came up with only 19 turnovers.

Linebacker Jerod Fernandez stood his ground to the tune of a team-high 76 tackles, and he added two picks for good measure. Safety Josh Jones intercepted three passes, while DE Art Norman led the club with 6.5 sacks. Fellow bookend Mike Rose was credited with 14 of the Wolfpack’s 85 TFL.

Doeren, who is putting the wraps on his second season in Raleigh, spoke with pride after his team accepted the bid to play in this game.

“We are both excited and thankful for the opportunity to play in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl,“ he said. “This is a great reward for our young team that has continued to improve over the course of the season, especially for the 12 current players from Florida who will be able to be home for the holidays.“

UCF had similar success with regard to putting points on the board this season, doing so for 28.2 ppg. The Knights did it a bit differently however, utilizing the talents of first-time starter Justin Holman under center. Taking over for former star Blake Bortles, Holman hit 59 percent of his passes for 2,661 yards, 20 TDs and 13 INTs.

Rannell Hall led the team with 42 receptions, but he did not catch a TD pass and his 422 yards were less than half that of Breshad Perriman who caught one fewer ball but logged 906 yards and a team-high nine TDs. JJ Worton tallied 36 grabs for 514 yards and five scores, while Josh Reese added 33 catches for 477 yards and three TDs. As for the UCF rushing attack, which generated only 3.2 ypc, William Stanback was high man with 659 yards and 10 TDs.

The UCF defense stood tall against nearly all comers this season, yielding a mere 17.9 ppg behind typical outputs of 97.4 ypg rushing and 185.4 ypg passing—all three ranking the team in the top-11 of the 125 FBS teams charted by the NCAA. The defense allowed the enemy to move the chains only 37 percent of the time on third-down conversion attempts, while logging 33 sacks and 27 turnovers.

Defensive back Jacoby Glenn picked off seven passes (tied for third-most in the country), while LB Terrance Plummer led the unit with 92 tackles. Defensive linemen Thomas Niles and Jaryl Mamea each had 6.5 sacks.

“After a 9-3 season we are very happy to go to the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl,“ O’Leary said after accepting the bid. “Obviously a bowl game is a great reward for the players, the program and the fanbase. We are very anxious to get to St. Petersburg and enjoy the bowl and its festivities. It will be a great experience for our players and fans.“



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Bengals’ Green misses practice

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green did not participate in practice Wednesday due to bruised biceps, but he’s hoping to play in Sunday’s big game in Pittsburgh.

The primetime contest at Heinz Field will determine the AFC North champion, although both the Bengals and Steelers are already assured of playoff spots.

“I think A.J. Green’s arm is coming along fine,“ Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. Lewis added that Green has a shot at playing Sunday night.

Green had a career-best 224 receiving yards on 11 catches and a touchdown in Cincinnati’s 42-21 loss to the Steelers on December 07.

Lewis also revealed quarterback Andy Dalton didn’t practice Wednesday due to the flu. Tight end Jermaine Gresham, safety Reggie Nelson, and cornerback Terence Newman also didn’t practice due to illness.


►   Manziel formally put on IR

The Cleveland Browns have officially ended Johnny Manziel’s rookie season by placing the rookie quarterback on injured reserve Wednesday.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine had already stated during his Monday press conference that Manziel would miss Sunday’s season finale at Baltimore with a hamstring injury the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner sustained in Cleveland’s Week 16 loss to Carolina.

Manziel wasn’t able to meet expectations in his NFL debut, as the first-round pick was beaten out by journeyman Brian Hoyer in the preseason and served as the backup for the Browns’ first 13 games. He got his chance to start in Cleveland’s game against Cincinnati on December 14, but managed just 80 passing yards and was intercepted two times in a 30-0 loss to the Bengals.

The former Texas A&M star was 3-for-8 for 32 yards before exiting late in the first half of Sunday’s 17-13 setback to the Browns.

Hoyer replaced Manziel but hurt his throwing shoulder during the Carolina game and did not take part in Wednesday’s practice. His status for Sunday’s contest remains uncertain.

If Hoyer cannot play, either newly signed Tyler Thigpen or undrafted rookie Connor Shaw would draw the starting assignment at quarterback. Thigpen was just signed by the Browns on Tuesday, while Shaw is currently still on the team’s practice squad.

Nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen was also put on IR Wednesday due to a leg injury, while fellow defensive lineman John Hughes was activated from injured reserve/designated to return.

Hughes has been sidelined since spraining his right knee against Oakland in Week 8. The third-year pro had 10 tackles in four games (two starts) prior to the injury.


►   NFL Rankings - As of December 23, 2014

TeamRecordPrevious RankNext Up
1.  SEATTLE SEAHAWKS11-4  1 STL
      The rest of the NFC is shaking. The champs are back.
2.  NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS12-3  2 BUF
      The AFC runs through Foxborough.
3.  GREEN BAY PACKERS11-4  4 DET
      NFC North on the line at Lambeau. Have to like GB’s chances.
4.  DALLAS COWBOYS11-4  6 at WAS
      No December collapse this year.
5.  DENVER BRONCOS11-4  3 OAK
      O-Line could be the Achilles’ heel.
6.  PITTSBURGH STEELERS10-5  11 CIN
      Playoff football in back in Pittsburgh.
7.  CINCINNATI BENGALS10-4-1  12 at PIT
      Exorcised some demons on Monday night.
8.  DETROIT LIONS11-4  8 at GB
      Have been winning ugly.
9.  INDIANAPOLIS COLTS10-5  5 at TEN
      Didn’t show up in Texas. Not the way you want to enter the playoffs.
10.  ARIZONA CARDINALS11-4  7 at SF
      Logan Thomas, you’re up.
11.  SAN DIEGO CHARGERS9-6  15 at KC
      Win and they’re in—amazing comeback by Rivers.
12.  BALTIMORE RAVENS9-6  10 CLE
      Lost to a 4th string QB so don’t rule out Connor Shaw.
13.  HOUSTON TEXANS8-7  18 JAC
      Still alive despite using their 4th QB.
14.  PHILADELPHIA EAGLES9-6  9 at NYG
      Philly fans are still wondering what happened.          .
15.  KANSAS CITY CHIEFS8-7  14 SD
      You might want to get the ball to Jamaal.
16.  BUFFALO BILLS8-7  13 at NE
      At least they played .500 football.
17.  MIAMI DOLPHINS8-7  19 NYJ
      Bringing Philbin back is a surprise.
18.  SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS7-8  16 ARI
      The final game of the Jim Harbaugh era.
19.  CAROLINA PANTHERS6-8-1  22 at ATL
      Could be first team to win NFC South in back-to-back years.
20.  NEW YORK GIANTS6-9  24 PHI
      The OBJ legend continues.
21.  ATLANTA FALCONS6-9  25 CAR
      Julio Jones is a beast.
22.  NEW ORLEANS SAINTS6-9  17 at TB
      Strange Superdome woes cost them.
23.  MINNESOTA VIKINGS6-9  21 CHI
      The Vikings have something in Teddy.
24.  ST. LOUIS RAMS6-9  20 at SEA
      Bradford siren’s song is fool’s gold.
25.  CLEVELAND BROWNS7-8  23 at BAL
      A rookie season can’t go worse than Manziel’s.
26.  CHICAGO BEARS5-10  26 at MIN
      Back to Cutler.
27.  NEW YORK JETS3-12  27 at MIA
      Rex is fighting until the end.    .
28.  OAKLAND RAIDERS3-12  28 at DEN
      Manning and Rodgers couldn’t handle Bills D but Carr could.
29.  WASHINGTON REDSKINS4-11  29 DAL
      Spoiled Philly’s season.
30.  JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS3-12  31 at HOU
      This season was all about getting Bortles’ feet wet.
31.  TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS2-13  30 NO
      In line for the first pick.
32.  TENNESSEE TITANS2-13  32 IND
      A real live slump buster.


<The Gilmer Free Press

►   Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, December 25)


Final Score: George Washington 60, (11) Wichita State 54

Yuta Watanabe and Kevin Larsen hit the back-to-back 3-pointers late in the second half to catapult George Washington to a 60-54 upset of 11th-ranked Wichita State in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic. Kethan Savage had 12 points, while Larsen and Watanabe each scored 10 for the Colonials (9-3), who finished the contest on a 13-2 run. GW smashed Ohio in its tournament opener before edging Colorado on Tuesday. Fred VanVleet had 11 points for Wichita State (10-2), which handily beat Loyola Marymount in its first game at this tournament, then got by Hawaii in overtime on Tuesday. The Shockers shot just 34.4 percent from the field.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   NBA Game Results

(Thursday, December 25)


Final Score: Washington 102, New York 91

John Wall supplied 24 points and 11 assists in leading the Washington Wizards to a 102-91 win over the New York Knicks on Christmas Day. Wall made a dazzling move late in the third quarter, hitting a reverse spinning layup, and then was involved in fourth-quarter scuffle. He took exception to a hard foul from Quincy Acy, retaliating with a shove. The New York forward swung his right arm as if to throw a punch before holding up. Acy received a Flagrant-2 foul and was ejected with 5:31 remaining. Wall received a technical foul. Bradley Beal had 17 points and Kris Humphries scored 14 off the bench on 7-of-9 shooting for the Wizards, who snapped a two-game losing streak with a win in their first game on Christmas since 2008. Washington earned its fourth straight win at Madison Square Garden and fifth overall against the Knicks, who have dropped eight consecutive home games, the longest streak in a single season in team history. Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points and Jose Calderon added 16 for New York, which has lost 16 of its last 17 games overall.


Final Score: Oklahoma City 114, San Antonio 106

Russell Westbrook turned in another dominant performance and the Oklahoma City Thunder, minus Kevin Durant, beat the San Antonio Spurs 114-106 on Christmas Day. Westbrook totaled 35 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and five steals for the Thunder, who were without the reigning MVP Durant for a fifth straight game. Durant sprained his right ankle late in the first half of a loss to Golden State on Dec. 18. Westbrook scored 20 in the second half, helping Oklahoma City hold off a pair of Spurs rallies. Serge Ibaka added 21 points and Steven Adams donated 16 points and a career-high 15 boards. The Thunder were plus-27 with Westbrook and Adams on the floor. Seven Spurs reached double figures, with Matt Bonner’s 17 points leading the balanced attack. Tim Duncan scored 15, Cory Joseph and Tiago Splitter had 14 apiece and Manu Ginobili tallied 11 with a game-high 13 assists.


Final Score: Miami 101, Cleveland 91

Cheers quickly turned to boos once Michael Baiamonte announced the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ starting lineup. Dwyane Wade then went and shot the lights out in the first half. Literally. And once LeBron James finally helped put the Cavs in front early in the fourth quarter, the Miami Heat had one last surge in them. Wade netted 24 of his 31 points in the first half and the Heat spoiled James’ return to South Beach with a 101-91 win over the Cavaliers. James, who helped the Heat to a quartet of NBA Finals appearances and a pair of titles during his four-year stay with Miami, was the first Cleveland player introduced out of its starting five. He was greeted with a standing ovation with a scattering of boos, but James wasn’t able to fully sink in the reaction as Baiamonte quickly went through the rest of Cleveland’s lineup. The cheer was more elongated midway through the opening frame when the Heat played a video tribute. James acknowledged the applause by waving to the crowd. James finished with 30 points and eight assists.


Final Score: Chicago 113, LA Lakers 93

Pau Gasol faced his former team for the first time, but a showdown with Kobe Bryant will have to wait. Gasol had 23 points and 13 rebounds as the Chicago Bulls routed the Los Angeles Lakers 113-93 on Christmas Day. Gasol signed with the Bulls during the offseason after spending his previous six-plus seasons with the Lakers, winning a pair of NBA titles. The 36-year-old Bryant cited “old age” and “sore knees” as his reasons for sitting out Thursday night’s game against Chicago during a pregame session with reporters. Jimmy Butler posted 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Derrick Rose added 20 points and six assists for Chicago, which has won five straight and eight of its last nine games. Wesley Johnson supplied 19 points and nine boards and Ed Davis provided 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who have dropped four of their last five contests.


Final Score: LA Clippers 100, Golden State 86

Jamal Crawford scored half of his 24 points in the final quarter, and the Los Angeles Clippers overcame a sluggish start to beat the Golden State Warriors, 100-86, at Staples Center. The Clippers went 4-of-24 from the field in the opening quarter and shot 27.7 percent over the first 24 minutes, but went ahead for good with nearly 4 1/2 minutes left in the third and dominated the fourth. Chris Paul provided 22 points, and Blake Griffin chipped in 18 with 15 rebounds and six assists for the Clippers, who began a franchise-record nine-game homestand by snapping a two-game skid. They’ve won eight in a row at home. DeAndre Jordan scored 14 to go with 12 rebounds in the win. The Warriors, who lost back-to-back games for only the second time this season and fell to 23-5, received 14 points, nine boards and seven assists from Stephen Curry. Golden State suffered a 10-point defeat at Staples Center to the Lakers on Tuesday.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


FRIDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2014


National Basketball Association
Brooklyn at Boston, 1:00 PM - YES, CSN-New England, DSS
Cleveland at Orlando, 7:00 PM - FS-Ohio, Florida, DSS
Milwaukee at Atlanta, 7:30 PM - FS-Wisconsin, SportSouth, DSS
Indiana at Detroit, 7:30 PM - FS-Indiana, Detroit, DSS
Charlotte at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Oklahoma, NBA TV, DSS
San Antonio at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, New Orleans, DSS
Houston at Memphis, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Southwest, SportSouth, DSS
LA Lakers at Dallas, 8:30 PM - Time Warner, FS-Southwest, DSS
Minnesota at Denver, 9:00 PM - FS-North, Altitude, DSS
Phoenix at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - FS-Arizona, CSN-California, DSS
Philadelphia at Portland, 10:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, KGW, DSS


College Football
Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech (Heart of Dallas Bowl), 1:00 PM - ESPN
Rutgers vs. North Carolina (Quick Lane Bowl), 4:30 PM - ESPN
NC State vs. UCF (St. Petersburg Bowl), 8:00 PM - ESPN


International Soccer
Chelsea vs. West Ham, 7:40 AM - NBCSN
Premier League Soccer, 9:55 AM - NBCSN
Watford FC vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, 12:25 PM - beIN Sport
Arsenal vs. QPR, 12:25 PM - NBCSN

Sports News   141225

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►   WKU survives late CMU surge in Bahamas Bowl

Brandon Doughty threw for 483 yards and five first-half touchdowns as Western Kentucky rolled out to a huge lead then shook off a shocking final series of plays to a 49-48 victory over Central Michigan in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl.

Doughty completed 31 of his 42 tries for the Hilltoppers (8-5), with Anthony Wales and Leon Allen adding a rushing score apiece.

Willie McNeal led his club with 153 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, while Jared Dangerfield, Mitchell Henry Antwane Grant and Joel German each contributed a TD grab.

Cooper Rush tossed seven TDs—four of them to Titus Davis including an improbable score with one second remaining—and 497 yards on 28-of-45 attempts for the Chippewas (7-6).

Davis ended up with seven catches for a game-high 202 yards, Courtney Williams recorded touchdowns on two of his three receptions and Anthony Garland added a scoring grab. Martez Walker totaled 69 yards on nine carries.


►   Rice routs Fresno State at Hawaii Bowl

Driphus Jackson had three touchdown passes, including two in a 19-second span in the opening quarter, to guide Rice to a 30-6 rout of Fresno State at the Hawaii Bowl.

Dennis Parks piled up 109 receiving yards and a TD for the Owls (8-5), who lost their first three games, but bounced back to post an eight-win season for only the ninth time in school history.

Jackson finished 15-of-24 for 318 yards, and also ran the ball 13 times for 41 yards. Jordan Taylor and Mario Hull each had scoring grabs for Rice, which amassed 463 yards of offense.

Brian Burrell threw a pair of interceptions for the Bulldogs (6-8), who suffered their first loss to Rice in seven all-time meetings. Fresno State, which also began the season 0-3, has lost its last six bowl games.

Burrell was 10-of-20 for 44 yards, and Zack Greenlee ended 7-of-18 for 49 yards in defeat.

James Hairston kicked a 21-yard field goal to cap the game-opening offensive series.

Fresno State stopped Jackson on a 4th-and-2 run, and the Bulldogs tied the contest on Kody Kroening’s 44-yard field goal.

Jackson connected with Parks on a 53-yard gain, and two plays later Taylor caught a 14-yard pass in the middle portion of the end zone. Hairston pushed the extra point try wide right to leave Rice with a 9-3 lead with 23 seconds left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing play from scrimmage, J.T. Blasingame picked off Burrell’s long pass at the Rice 31. Hull then made an adjustment on an underthrown ball from Jackson at the Fresno State 30 and raced to the end zone for a 69-yard TD and a 16-3 cushion.

Kroening’s 40-yard field goal had the Bulldogs within 10 with 8:53 remaining in the half, but Fresno State failed on a 4th-and-1 from the Rice 18 later in the period. Greg Watson was stuffed for a 3-yard loss on a reception as he was met hard by Bryce Callahan.

Rice’s defense continued to shine when Brian Nordstrom blocked Kroening’s 44- yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter.

The Owls expanded their lead to 23-6 on Jackson’s 40-yard TD pass to Parks with 6:18 left in the third. Parks fought off two defenders down the left sideline.

Callahan picked off Burrell at the Rice 12 to end Fresno State’s next drive; and the Bulldogs failed on a 4th-and-4 from the Rice 41 early in the fourth when Greenlee threw incomplete under heavy pressure from Nordstrom.

On the next play, Jackson found Darik Dillard down the left sideline for a 58- yard gain. Dillard was rewarded with a 1-yard TD run up the middle on the next play to expand the difference to 30-6 with 10:07 remaining.

Game Notes

Jowan Davis had 46 yards rushing for Rice, while Marteze Waller gained 76 yards for Fresno State ... The Owls have won 25 games since the start of the 2012 season (25-15), the most over a three-season stretch in school history ... Rice head coach David Bailiff matched Jess Neely for the most seasons with eight or more wins with three. Bailiff won 10 games in both 2008 and 2013 ... Rice kept an opponent out of the end zone for the first time since a 28-6 victory over Memphis on October 08, 2011.


►   College Football Bowl Game Resuts

(Wednesday, December 24)


Final Score: Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48

Brandon Doughty threw for 486 yards and five first-half touchdowns as Western Kentucky rolled out to a huge lead then shook off a shocking final series of plays to a 49-48 victory over Central Michigan in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl. Doughty completed 31 of his 42 tries for the Hilltoppers (8-5), with Anthony Wales and Leon Allen adding a rushing score apiece. Willie McNeal led his club with 155 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, while Jared Dangerfield, Mitchell Henry, Antwane Grant and Joel German each contributed a TD grab. Cooper Rush tossed seven TDs—four of them to Titus Davis including an improbable score with no time left—and 493 yards on 28-of-45 attempts for the Chippewas (7-6), who scored the final five touchdowns of the game in a 34-0 fourth quarter. That included a 75-yard wild sequence on the final play where there were three laterals. CMU then failed on the two-point conversion.


Final Score: Rice 30, Fresno State 6

Driphus Jackson had three touchdown passes, including two in a 19-second span in the opening quarter, to guide Rice to a 30-6 rout of Fresno State at the Hawaii Bowl. Dennis Parks piled up 109 receiving yards and a TD for the Owls (8-5), who lost their first three games, but bounced back to post an eight-win season for only the ninth time in school history. Jackson finished 15-of-24 for 318 yards, and also ran the ball 13 times for 41 yards. Jordan Taylor and Mario Hull each had scoring grabs for Rice, which amassed 463 yards of offense. Brian Burrell threw a pair of interceptions for the Bulldogs (6-8), who suffered their first loss to Rice in seven all-time meetings. Fresno State, which also began the season 0-3, has lost its last six bowl games. Burrell was 10-of-20 for 44 yards, and Zack Greenlee ended 7-of-18 for 49 yards in defeat.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Extra Points: O-Line remains Broncos’ Achilles’ heel

The quarterback is the epicenter in every NFL city, the first player commented on and evaluated, be it positive or negative.

And when that signal caller happens to be Peyton Manning, any blip, no matter how slight, in a career defined by consistency is going to be overblown.

To be fair to those currently questioning Manning, he is obviously far closer to the end of his brilliant career than the beginning with a medical record that includes four neck surgeries so it’s not exactly out of bounds to be on the lookout for what is the inevitable decline for every player.

Manning has looked mortal in recent weeks, almost like an actual 38-year-old man with Monday’s four-interception implosion in Cincinnati serving as the main course for the haters.

“Nobody’s worried about him, he’s fine,“ wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said of Manning. “If he wasn’t fine, he wouldn’t be playing.“

Fine is a relative term in the NFL.

The 38-27 setback against the Bengals was Manning’s first quadruple INT game since 2010 and helped assure that the road to AFC championship would go through Foxbrorough and not the Rocky Mountains, a potential death blow when it comes to the fairytale ending of Manning walking off stage left with the Lombardi Trophy.

Manning finished 28-for-44 for 311 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati, but his four picks resulted in a terribly poor and unManning-like 61.8 passer rating.

“We have to find a way to learn from this,“ a dejected Manning said.

All four of Denver’s losses have come on the road this season and 11 of Manning’s 15 interceptions have come away from Mile High. Meanwhile, six of those 11 picks came at the hands of the Bengals and Patriots, two teams the Broncos may have to beat if they plan on being in Glendale come February.

John Elway overhauled his defense following the Super Bowl XLVIII collapse against Seattle last season and bringing in players like DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib and T.J. Ward has certainly helped on that side of the ball as evidenced by Denver’s current standing as the third-ranked stop unit in all of football.

What Elway didn’t address, however, was the offensive line, the team’s real Achilles’ heel against both the Seahawks and Cincinnati on Monday night.

“We gave up two sacks and we lead the whole National Football League in sacks per pass (play),“ Broncos coach John Fox said when discussing his much- maligned OL on Tuesday. “We did not coach well enough and we did not play well enough. They had a better night than we did.“

The thought in Denver was the return of star left tackle Ryan Clady, who missed most of the ‘13 campaign with a Lisfranc injury would be enough. The plan was for Chris Clark, who replaced Clady at LT last season, to bump over to the right side with Orlando Franklin moving inside to left guard opposite solid right guard Louis Vasquez.

And if the ‘12 version of Clady, who allowed just one sack the entire season, showed up this time around all of that might have worked but the former All- Pro has been average at best this season despite the reputation-generated Pro Bowl nod he received on Tuesday night.

The ‘14 Clady has been playing at a level nowhere near the AFC’s best left tackles—Cleveland’s Joe Thomas and the Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth—and one high-profile, scouting-based website has him rated as the 45th best tackle in the NFL.

Clark, meanwhile, couldn’t carry his own water at right tackle before being replaced by Paul Cornick, who also faltered, leaving the Broncos to make wholesale changes, kicking Vasquez outside, moving Manny Ramirez from center to right guard and inserting veteran pivot Will Montgomery.

The lack of consistency has hurt but the bigger issue has been the athleticism or lack thereof, as the Denver O-Line has trouble getting to the second level in the running game, and Vasquez struggles mightily against speed on the outside as evidenced by Carlos Dunlap’s big game on Monday night.

No one covers for a mediocre offense line better than Manning, a signal caller who possesses a lightning-quick release as well as a football IQ that is off the charts.

Manning can and does vary his snap count better than just about any other QB who has ever played the game but eventually a defense is going to get its chances against a stationary target and the lack of consistent pass protection has left Manning a battered and bruised mess with the playoffs looming.

Perhaps no team ticketed for the postseason needs a first-round bye more than the Broncos and they can lock that up with a Week 17 win as a two-touchdown favorite over 3-12 Oakland or a Bengals loss at Pittsburgh.

A rested and relatively healthy Manning is the difference between a deep playoff run and one-and-done.

“I learned a long time ago it doesn’t matter how you start the race it’s how you finish,“ said Fox. “We’ll step back from (Monday night), we’ll learn from it, we’ll analyze and decipher went wrong and hopefully get it fixed.“

WEEK 17 (All Times Eastern)

Cleveland (7-8) at Baltimore (9-6) (-9), Sunday, 1 PM - An awful Week 16 loss in Houston against a Texans team playing its fourth quarterback this season left the Ravens in desperate straits, needing a win along with a San Diego loss at Kansas City to reach the postseason. The Browns have shut down Johnny Manziel for the season due to a hamstring injury and could also be without Brian Hoyer (shoulder) leaving rookie Connor Shaw and the recently- signed Tyler Thigpen as the options at the QB position.

Ravens 23, Browns 10


Jacksonville (3-12) at Houston (8-7) (-10), Sunday, 1 PM - The Texans are still alive after upsetting Baltimore last week behind Case Keenum after the Texas native was brought back off the St. Louis Rams’ practice squad when injuries befell Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Tom Savage. Houston needs to beat the Jags and hope the Chargers lose at Kansas City and the Ravens lose at home to Cleveland.

Texans 17, Jaguars 13


San Diego (9-6) at Kansas City (8-7) (-2 1/2), Sunday, 1 PM - Both the Chargers and Chiefs remain alive for the final playoff berth in the AFC. San Diego controls its own destiny and will advance to the postseason with a win, while Kansas City can qualify for the playoffs with a win along with losses by both Baltimore and Houston.

Chiefs 20, Chargers 17


Dallas (11-4) (-6 1/2) at Washington (4-11), Sunday, 1 PM - The Cowboys are the NFC East champions and will attempt to earn a first-round bye in Week 17. Dallas will secure the week off with a win combined with losses by both Seattle and Arizona.

Cowboys 31, Redskins 17


New York Jets (3-12) at Miami (8-7) (-6), Sunday, 1 PM - It was in Sun Life Stadium last December when Woody Johnson surprised most observers by giving Jets coach Rex Ryan a reprieve after a meaningless 20-7 Week 17 win over Miami. Fast forward one year and New York is 3-12 entering Week 17 and Ryan has already filed his change of address form and is deciding between Mayflower and Atlas. The Dolphins, meanwhile, haven’t played postseason football since the 2008 season and last Sunday, on the day they were officially eliminated for the sixth straight season, Ross decided to bring back lame-duck coach Joe Philbin for another year despite a tenure that defines mediocrity.

Dolphins 24, Jets 14


Chicago (5-10) at Minnesota (6-9) (-6 1/2), Sunday, 1 PM - The two afterthoughts in the NFC North finish their seasons and a battle to avoid the cellar of the division. The Vikings can at least hang their hat on the development of rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, who has an impressive 105.7 passer rating over his previous fours starts. The embattled Jay Cutler will be back under center for the Bears after a concussion ended Jimmy Clausen’s one-game tenure. Despite all his troubles, Cutler always plays well against Minnesota, winning seven of his past eight starts against the Vikings with 20 TD passes in those games.

Vikings 20, Bears 17


Buffalo (8-7) at New England (12-3) (-4), Sunday, 1 PM - The Pats have already earned the No. 1 spot in the AFC but history says Bill Belichick will still use his starters at times in the regular-season finale. This is the fourth time under Belichick that the Pats’ seed was set going into Week 17 and he has rested a few starters and taken others out early in the past.

Patriots 26, Bills 21


Philadelphia (9-6) at New York Giants (6-9) (-3), Sunday, 1 PM - The Eagles’ December collapse was completed last weekend when a loss at Washington eliminated them from the NFC playoff picture. The Giants continue to enjoy the talents of star rookie wideout Odell Beckham, Jr., who has 79 catches, the most ever by a player in his first 11 NFL games. Despite missing four contests, OBJ leads all rookies with 1,120 receiving yards and is tied for the rookie lead with 11 receiving TDs.

Giants 30, Eagles 24


New Orleans (6-9) (-4) at Tampa Bay (2-13), Sunday, 1 PM - The biggest and perhaps only storyline here is the Bucs’ ineptness. One more loss and Tampa Bay will secure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Saints 24, Buccaneers 13


Indianapolis (10-5) (-7) at Tennessee (2-13), Sunday, 1 PM - The Colts are on the verge of finishing perfect in the AFC South for a second consecutive season and need to recapture a little mojo after a 42-7 drubbing at the hands of Dallas last weekend. Overall Indy has won six straight over the 2-13 Titans and both head coach Chuck Pagano and QB Andrew Luck have never lost to Tennessee.

Colts 27, Titans 14


St. Louis (6-9) at Seattle (11-4) (-13), Sunday, 4:25 PM - Seattle has the edge in the NFC with one week to play. With a win, the Seahawks will lock up the NFC West and a first-round bye. Meanwhile, as long as the Detroit-Green Bay game does not end in a tie, the Seahawks will secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs for the second year in a row.

Seahawks 20, Rams 13


Arizona (11-3) at San Francisco (7-8) (-6), Sunday, 4:25 PM - Arizona has secured a playoff berth and can still win the NFC West and earn a first-round bye with a win and a Seattle loss. If that scenario comes to fruition and Green Bay also loses, Arizona will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

49ers 23, Cardinals 10


Oakland (3-12) at Denver (11-4) (-14 1/2), Sunday, 4:25 PM - Denver has already clinched the AFC West and can earn a first-round bye with a win. The Broncos can also secure a first-round bye with a Cincinnati loss.

Broncos 30, Raiders 13


Carolina (6-8-1) at Atlanta (6-9) (-4), Sunday, 4:25 PM - The NFC South will be decided when the Falcons host the Panthers. The winner advances to the postseason, becoming only the second team to win a division with a record under .500 (Seattle, 2010), while the loser’s season comes to an end. Carolina is attempting to become the first team to repeat as NFC South champions since the division was established in 2002.

“We have a game at home and if you win, you’re in,“ said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. “We are where we are and we’re excited about our chances.“

“We’re prepared for this moment,“ Carolina quarterback Cam Newton countered, “and hopefully we’ll seize it.“

Falcons 24, Panthers 16


Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4) (-7 1/2), Sunday, 4:25 PM - The Lions and Packers are both in the postseason but the NFC North is still up for grabs. The winner here will claim the division title and also earn a first-round bye. The NFC North champion can also secure the No. 1 seed with some help—Green Bay would need a Seattle loss, and Detroit would need both Seattle and Arizona to lose. This game will also mark the first time since the 1993 season in which two teams with at least 11 wins will play each other in the regular- season finale to determine a division champion (Dallas at New York Giants, January 2, 1994).

“I think playing in a playoff-type game is exactly how you want to go into the playoffs,“ said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. “It’s great that we’re playing for the division title. I think this is exactly how you’d want it. I know this is the way I’d prefer it.“

Packers 33, Lions 20


Cincinnat1 (10-4-1) at Pittsburgh (10-5) (-3 1/2), Sunday 8:30 PM - The final game of the 2014 regular season will decide the AFC North division. Both the Bengals and Steelers have already clinched a playoff berth but the division crown along with an all-important home playoff game are at stake.

“They know us and we know them,“ said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “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.“

Steelers 27, Bengals 21


►   Wilson, Matthews, Bosher claim NFC’s best of Week 16

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and Atlanta punter Matt Bosher were chosen as the NFC’s top players for Week 16 of the NFL season.

Wilson was the top offensive player for the second time this season and the fourth time in his career, leading the Seahawks to a 35-6 win at Arizona that has the defending Super Bowl champions in position for the top seed in the NFC playoffs. He threw for 339 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 88 yards with a score, leading a Seahawks offense that generated a franchise-record 596 total yards.

Matthews claimed the defensive award for the fourth time in his career, helping the Packers claim a playoff spot in a 20-3 win at Tampa Bay. He notched six tackles, four of which resulted in losses, and 2 1/2 sacks, leading a Green Bay defense that limited the Buccaneers to just 109 total yards.

Bosher picked up the special teams honor after four of his five punts finished inside the 20-yard line in Atlanta’s 30-14 win at New Orleans. He averaged 44.2 yards per punt and the Falcons allowed zero punt return yards in the dominating victory that has them a win away from the NFC South title.

Other offensive nominees included Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who had 15 catches for 115 yards in a loss to Washington; San Francisco running back Frank Gore, who had 158 rushing yards with a touchdown in an overtime loss to San Diego; and Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who completed 18-of-20 passes for 218 yards with four touchdowns in a 42-7 romp over Indianapolis.

Defensive consideration went to Giants defensive end Kerry Wynn, who had a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and three tackles in a victory over St. Louis; and Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who had a sack, six tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the win over the Eagles.

Redskins kicker Kai Forbath was considered for the special teams award after his 26-yard field goal with five seconds to play gave Washington a win over the Eagles.


►   Rivers, Kirkpatrick, Bullock earn AFC weekly honors

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and Houston kicker Randy Bullock were selected as the AFC’s top players for Week 16 of the NFL season.

Rivers earned the offensive award for the sixth time in his career with 356 yards passing and four touchdowns in San Diego’s 38-35 overtime win against San Francisco. He helped the Chargers overcome a 21-point deficit, tying for the largest comeback in franchise history.

Kirkpatrick claimed the defensive honor, helping Cincinnati secure a playoff spot with two interceptions of Denver’s Peyton Manning in the Bengals’ 37-28 win over the Broncos on Monday. He picked off Manning on each of Denver’s final two drives, returning the first interception 30 yards for a touchdown while the second came with just over a minute left to seal the victory.

Bullock converted each of his six field goal tries in Houston’s 25-13 win over Baltimore to nab the special teams award. The victory kept the Texans alive in the AFC playoff race.

Other offensive nominees included Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed 35-of-47 passes for 396 yards with four touchdowns in a 37-35 win over Minnesota; Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill, who rushed for 147 yards with a touchdown against the Broncos; and Houston’s Arian Foster, who compiled 119 scrimmage yards and threw a touchdown pass in the win over the Ravens.

Defensive consideration went to Jacksonville linebacker Khalil Mack, who recorded 15 tackles in a 21-13 win over Tennessee; and Houston’s J.J. Watt, who notched eight tackles and a sack against Baltimore.

Miami’s Terrence Fede was up for the special teams award after his blocked punt resulted in a safety and the winning points against the Vikings.


►   9 Broncos selected to Pro Bowl

The Denver Broncos had an NFL-high nine players named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday night, while four teams were shut out among the initial selections.

For the second year in a row the two teams will be selected via a draft, a setup that replaced the old AFC-NFC format.

Hall of Fame wide receivers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin were selected in July as alumni captains for the game, which will be held January 25 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, site of the Super Bowl a week later.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and Tennessee Titans did not have a player named among the initial selections.

Quarterback Peyton Manning led the nine Broncos selected, making the Pro Bowl for an NFL-high 14th time.

Two of Manning’s favorite targets, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, also were named. Another, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, did not make it despite a career season.

Among the other apparent snubs were Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

New England quarterback Tom Brady was named to his 10th Pro Bowl, leading five Patriots who were selected.

The four other quarterbacks picked were Dallas’ Tony Romo, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.

Romo’s Cowboys garnered six selections, second-most behind Denver. Green Bay, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Seattle joined New England with five players picked.

It will be the third Pro Bowl played in the same city as the Super Bowl and first since 2010.

It’s only the second time since the Pro Bowl was first played at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii in 1980 that the game will be held elsewhere.

The game will return to Hawaii in 2016.

In January, Jerry Rice’s team beat the one captained by fellow Hall of Famer Deion Sanders 22-21 in Honolulu.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Rockets award McHale three-year extension

The Houston Rockets have agreed to a three- year extension with head coach Kevin McHale that will run through the 2017-18 season.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey relayed the news via Twitter Wednesday morning, with the Rockets confirming the agreement shortly afterward.

“Very excited about Coach McHale’s extension,“ Morey tweeted. “He is the winningest coach in Rockets history and knows what it takes to win championships.“

Though the Rockets did not reveal financial terms of the new contract, Yahoo! Sports reported the pact to be worth close to $13 million.

McHale was in the final season of the original four-year deal the Hall of Fame player signed to become Houston’s head coach in June of 2011.

The 57-year-old’s long-term status with the organization had been unclear entering this season, with the Rockets losing in the first round of the playoffs in each of the previous two years. However, Houston got off to a 9-1 start and ranks among the Western Conference’s top teams with a 20-7 overall record.

McHale owns a 153-104 record in his three-plus seasons with the Rockets and guided the team to a 54-win campaign in 2013-14, the franchise’s largest victory total since 2007-08. His .595 winning percentage is the highest in club history.

“Kevin is an integral part of the Rockets family,“ said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “He embodies the leadership, passion, knowledge, and team-first qualities we need as we continue our pursuit of bringing another NBA Championship to the City of Houston and Rockets fans all over the world.“

A three-time NBA champion, McHale previously spent two separate stints as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ head coach, compiling a 39-55 record with that franchise.


►   Josh Smith signing with Rockets

Former Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith said Wednesday that he will sign with the Houston Rockets, according to a report by the Houston Chronicle.

The Pistons waived Smith on Monday, less than two years into a four-year, $54 million contract. According to the Chronicle, the Rockets are expected to announce the signing either Thursday or Friday, once they are able to clear a roster spot.

Smith averaged 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds this season for the 5-23 Pistons, who hold the league’s third-worst record.

The 29-year-old will once again play with Dwight Howard, who is one of Smith’s closest friends and a former AAU teammate.

The Pistons acquired Smith as a free agent after the 2012-13 season. During his time with Detroit, Smith averaged 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

For his career, Smith has averages for 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds in 781 games with the Atlanta Hawks and Pistons.


►   Pistons obtain Tolliver from Suns

The Detroit Pistons have acquired veteran forward Anthony Tolliver from the Phoenix Suns in a 1-for-1 trade announced by both teams on Wednesday.

The Suns will receive second-year forward Tony Mitchell in the swap.

Tolliver’s acquisition comes two days after the struggling Pistons surprisingly waived forward Josh Smith, the team’s second-leading scorer, with nearly three years remaining on his contract.

The 29-year-old Tolliver’s strength is his perimeter shooting, having made 102 shots from 3-point range in 247 attempts (41.3%) with Charlotte last season. He averaged 6.1 points over 64 games with the then-Bobcats in 2013-14, but has seen just 11.3 minutes per game of playing time over 24 contests since signing with the Suns in the offseason.

Tolliver averaged 3.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and made 38.7% of his 3- point tries during his brief time with Phoenix.

Mitchell was a second-round pick (37th overall) of Detroit in 2013 and appeared in 21 games with the Pistons as a rookie, scoring 22 points and grabbing 26 rebounds.

The 22-year-old North Texas product did not play for Detroit this season, but averaged 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in six games for Grand Rapids of the NBA Development League.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Braves come to terms with RHP Grilli

The Atlanta Braves have come to terms with right-handed pitcher Jason Grilli on a two-year contract with a club option for 2017.

Grilli has 45 saves over the last two seasons, including 33 for the Pirates in 2013. The 38-year-old had a combined 1-5 mark with a 4.00 ERA and 12 saves in 62 appearances for Pittsburgh and the Angels this past season.

He was dealt to the Angels on June 27 for pitcher Ernesto Frieri.

In 12 seasons, Grilli has compiled a 22-32 mark with a 4.16 ERA and 50 saves playing for the Marlins, White Sox, Tigers, Rockies, Rangers, Pirates and Angels.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Stricker recovering from back surgery

Steve Stricker, who has battled a balky back for several years, had outpatient back surgery on Tuesday and is home recovering.

The surgery was to “relieve issues stemming from acute and chronic L5 radiculopathy’ according to a statement on PGATour.com.

Stricker, a 12-time PGA Tour winner, has played just 24 official events over the past two seasons. That was by design so he could spend more time with his family.

He skipped the FedExCup playoffs due to the bulging disc in his back.

Stricker returned to play in Tiger Woods’s Hero World Challenge and the Franklin Templeton Shootout. After playing those two events, doctors told Stricker that he would continue to have hip and quad pain if he did not undergo the surgery.

The 47-year-old will rest and rehab his back over the next six weeks. After that time, Stricker will be able to begin practicing and doctors expect all restrictions will be lifted after eight weeks.

“I’m very excited to get back to practicing and competing in 2015 and expect to be 100% physically, which really excites me,“ said Stricker, whose last win was at the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions. “I’ve been limited the last several years and I’m confident the procedure will allow me to perform at the level I expect from myself.

“I don’t have a target date for a return to the PGA Tour at this point, that will very much depend on how my body responds to the surgery and rehab.“

Prior to scaling back his schedule the last two years, Stricker had eight victories from 2009-12. He finished inside the top-20 on the FedExCup points standings each year from 2007-14.

The Gilmer Free Press


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


THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2014


National Basketball Association
Washington at New York, 12:00 PM - CSN-DC, MSG, ESPN
Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 2:30 PM - ABC
Cleveland at Miami, 5:00 PM - ABC
LA Lakers at Chicago, 8:00 PM - TNT
Golden State at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - TNT


College Basketball
Diamond Head Classic, 1:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Diamond Head Classic, 4:00 PM - ESPN U
Diamond Head Classic, 6:30 PM - ESPN 2
Diamond Head Classic, 8:30 PM - ESPN 2

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results - 12.23.14

The Gilmer Free Press

2014-15 College Football Bowl and Playoff Results

Bowl Winner Score
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Nevada vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
The Gilmer Free Press Louisiana-Lafayette 3-16
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Utah State vs. UTEP
The Gilmer Free Press Utah State 21-6
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah vs. Colorado State
The Gilmer Free Press Utah 45-10
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
The Gilmer Free Press Air Force 24-38
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
The Gilmer Free Press Bowling Green 28-33
Miami Beach Bowl
BYU vs. Memphis
The Gilmer Free Press Memphis 48-55
Boca Raton Bowl
Marshall vs. Northern Illinois
The Gilmer Free Press Marshall 52-23
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy vs. San Diego State
The Gilmer Free Press Navy 17-16

Sports News     141224

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►   Cato caps career with rout of Northern Illinois

Rakeem Cato finished off his illustrious career at Marshall by leading his team to a win in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl.

Cato threw for 281 yards with three touchdowns and also rushed for two scores in the Thundering Herd’s 52-23 win over Northern Illinois.

“I was out there playing football, trying to execute the calls the best I can,“ Cato said.

The Miami Central High School product continued his stellar play for Marshall (13-1) and pushed his NCAA-record streak of games with a touchdown pass to 46 straight.

“That’s just him, when he’s on the biggest of stages he rallies,“ Marshall coach Doc Holliday said of Cato. “I’ve won national titles and I’ve been around a lot of future NFL quarterbacks and he’s the most competitive quarterback I’ve ever coached.“

Tommy Shuler, Cato’s longtime friend and teammate at Miami Central, hauled in 18 passes for 185 yards and a score, while Deon-Tay McManus and Angelo Jean- Louis had a touchdown grab apiece in the win. Shuler ended his career with 321 catches, a Conference USA record.

“(Shuler’s) a good player,“ Holliday added. “He’s one of the best receivers I’ve coached because he’s got that it factor.“

Devon Johnson rumbled his way to 131 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown for the Herd, who bounced back from their lone loss of the season against Western Kentucky to win the Conference USA championship game before their lopsided win on Tuesday.

Drew Hare went 15-of-27 through the air for 225 yards and a touchdown for the Huskies (11-3). He also added 50 yards on the ground.

Cameron Stingily rushed for a score and Christian Hagan went 3-of-4 on his field goal attempts in the loss.

“I told the seniors, great season, bad game,“ Huskies coach Rod Carey said according to the team’s website. “It was a terrible ending, but this game doesn’t overshadow the season or take away the MAC Championship.“

A pass interference penalty set up the first score of the game, a 19-yard pitch-and-catch from Hare to Juwan Brescacin. It was the 10th straight game Northern Illinois scored first.

Deandre Reaves got it right back, though, as he returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a score.

Marshall got the ball back at the NIU 42 after a three-and-out for the Huskies. Shuler made three catches for 38 yards on the drive before Cato took a quarterback keeper and rushed for a 5-yard TD to give the Thundering Herd a 14-7 lead with under four minutes to play in the opening quarter.

The Huskies moved deep into Marshall territory on the following drive, but Hagan missed a 32-yard field goal attempt,

Johnson flipped the field with a 47-yard run to the NIU 14 which led to Justin Haig’s 28-yard field goal.

Northern Illinois again moved the ball into its opponents’ territory, but Joel Bouagnon was stuffed on three straight plays from inside the 5 to set up a 19- yard field goal from Hagan that summed up NIU’s night in the red zone.

Marshall went 6-for-6 on its red zone opportunities and the Huskies converted 4-of-5 chances, but Hagan was the beneficiary of most of those trips.

Shuler’s 42-yard catch-and-run on the Thundering Herd’s next touch preceded Johnson’s 2-yard TD run two plays later for a 24-10 margin.

Hagan booted a 30-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the half to cut the deficit to 24-13 at the break.

The Huskies recovered an onside kick to begin the second half and moved the ball to midfield prior to turning it over on downs.

Shuler hauled in a 6-yard TD from Cato later in the third to push the margin to 31-13.

“We just give a head non and he knows I have his back and to throw me the ball,“ Shuler said of his relationship with Cato.

NIU answered with two big plays. On the fourth play of the march, Hare hooked up with Aregeros Turner for a 30-yard gain, then Stingily rushed for a 24-yard score on the following play.

Marshall continued to move the ball as Cato capped an 11-play, 68-yard drive with an 11-yard TD toss to Jean-Louis to regain an 18-point cushion with two minutes left in the third. Cato put the game away early in the fourth with a 27-yard yard TD strike to McManus.

The Huskies moved into the red zone and settled for yet another field goal from Hagan, then Cato capped the scoring and his career with a 4-yard TD run.

Game Notes

Shuler entered the game needing three receptions to set the school record, breaking Josh Davis’ mark of 306 set from 2001-04. He also moved into fourth on Marshall’s all-time receiving yards list, passing Randy Moss (3,467) ... This was the only bowl that featured two conference champions ... Marshall has won three straight in the series ... The Herd had a 505-425 advantage in total yards ... Bouagnon rushed for 82 yards in the loss.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Navy edges SDSU in Poinsettia Bowl

Navy and San Diego State played sloppy football throughout the fourth quarter of the Poinsettia Bowl, but it was a missed field goal that sealed the Midshipmen’s victory.

Austin Grebe’s 24-yard field goal with 1:27 remaining moved Navy in front, and the Midshipmen survived a missed 34-yard attempt by Donny Hageman with 20 seconds left in Navy’s 17-16 triumph.

The teams combined for seven turnovers, including four in the final quarter, but Navy (8-5) overcame four from its side on the night to win a bowl game in back-to-back years for just the second time in school history. Last year, the Midshipmen dealt Middle Tennessee State a 24-6 loss at the Armed Forces Bowl.

Keenan Reynolds had just nine yards rushing, but ran for two scores for the Midshipmen.

“I have no idea how we won the game. Our defense didn’t flinch. They played phenomenal,“ Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said.

Donnel Pumphrey had 21 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown for the Aztecs (7-6), but his fumble set up Navy’s winning kick. Pumphrey had the ball stripped by Chris Johnson at the Navy 47 with 5:54 left. The Midshipmen then converted a 4th-and-1 at the SDSU 44 when Chris Swain rushed for 13 yards.

A facemask penalty set Navy back, but Ryan Williams-Jenkins rumbled down the right sideline 28 yards to the SDSU 13 to set up the go-ahead kick.

Quinn Kaehler found Eric Judge over the middle for a 32-yard gain. The ball was jarred loose and the play was originally ruled a fumble, which would have given Navy the ball at its 37. The call was overturned after a video review as Judge’s back hit the ground with the ball in his possession.

A 16-yard pass to Pumphrey helped to set up Hageman’s kick, but the junior, who made his first three attempts, was wide right to seal the outcome.

“Our field goal kicker is really good from any spot once you get inside about the 35-yard line he makes them from anywhere anytime. Honestly we were trying to score a touchdown and we thought if we didn’t make the touchdown he would kick the field goal and we would still win, but he didn’t kick it quite right,“ San Diego State coach Rocky Long said.

Williams-Jenkins and Reynolds fumbled on the first two Navy drives of the final quarter, while George Jamison picked off Kaehler for the other turnover of the period.

SDSU faced a 4th-and-5 from the Navy 12, but instead of kicking a field goal, Kaehler’s pass to Mikah Holder fell incomplete near the goal line with 8:45 left.

Reynolds came into the game with 1,182 rushing yard on the season, but was bottled up all night. He also completed just 3-of-7 passes for 17 yards. Swain had 72 yards on eight carries.

Kaehler finished 11-of-27 for 141 yards.

Reynolds came into the game off three straight games with at least 100 yards on the ground, but he was limited to minus-five yards on nine carries in the first half.

Kaehler was picked off to set up the Midshipmen at the Aztecs 42 less than three minutes into the game. Reynolds cut inside and scored on a 1-yard run midway through the opening quarter. Navy converted a 4th-and-3 from the SDSU 35 on a 10-yard run from Geoffrey Whiteside.

Pumphrey tied the game two minutes later on a 5-yard rush, and the Aztecs turned a Reynolds fumble into a 43-yard field goal from Hageman. A 37-yard kick extended the margin to 13-7 with 6:34 left in the half.

Navy pushed ahead 14-13 with 8:28 left in the third thanks to a 6-yard TD run from Reynolds up the middle after he faked a handoff. That finished a 92-yard march with rushes on every down of the 13-play drive.

DeBrandon Sanders fumbled when calling for a fair catch to set up the Aztecs at the Navy 18. It resulted in a 30-yard field goal from Hageman with 4:16 left in the third.

Game Notes

Pumphrey (1,867) surpassed George Jones’ (1,842) 1995 mark as the highest single-season rushing total in SDSU history ... The other time Navy won back- to-back bowl games was when the Midshipmen topped New Mexico, 34-19, in the 2004 Emerald Bowl and defeated Colorado State, 51-30, in the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl. Long was the head coach of that 2004 Emerald Bowl New Mexico team ... The Aztecs had won eight straight games against Service Academy foes ... San Diego State had its eight-game home field winning streak broken.


►   College Football Bowl Game Results

(Tuesday, December 23)


Final Score: Marshall 52, Northern Illinois 23

Rakeem Cato finished off his illustrious career at Marshall by leading his team to a win in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl. Cato threw for 281 yards with three touchdowns and also rushed for two scores in the Thundering Herd’s 52-23 win over Northern Illinois. The Miami Central High School product continued his stellar play for Marshall (13-1) and pushed his NCAA-record streak of games with a touchdown pass to 46 straight. Tommy Shuler, Cato’s longtime friend and teammate at Miami Central, hauled in 18 passes for 185 yards and a score, while Deon-Tay McManus and Angelo Jean- Louis had a touchdown grab apiece in the win. Shuler ended his career with 321 catches, a Conference USA record. Devon Johnson rumbled his way to 131 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown for the Herd, who bounced back from their lone loss of the season against Western Kentucky to win the Conference USA championship game before their lopsided win on Tuesday. Drew Hare went 15- of-27 through the air for 225 yards and a touchdown for the Huskies (11-3). He also added 50 yards on the ground.


Final Score: Navy 17, San Diego State 16

Navy and San Diego State played sloppy football throughout the fourth quarter of the Poinsettia Bowl, but it was a missed field goal that sealed the Midshipmen’s victory. Austin Grebe’s 24-yard field goal with 1:27 remaining moved Navy in front, and the Midshipmen survived a missed 34-yard attempt by Donny Hageman with 20 seconds left in Navy’s 17-16 triumph. The teams combined for seven turnovers, including four in the final quarter, but Navy (8-5) overcame four from its side on the night to win a bowl game in back-to-back years for just the second time in school history. Last year, the Midshipmen dealt Middle Tennessee State a 24-6 loss at the Armed Forces Bowl. Keenan Reynolds had just nine yards rushing, but ran for two scores for the Midshipmen. Donnel Pumphrey had 21 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown for the Aztecs (7-6).


►   Chippewas meet Hilltoppers in inaugural Bahamas Bowl

Entering postseason play with identical 7-5 records, the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will take part in the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl a day before Christmas at Thomas Robinson National Stadium.

Central Michigan enjoyed a strong 2014 campaign, finishing 5-3 in Mid-American Conference play. This is Central Michigan’s sixth bowl game appearance in program history, with the latest postseason contest for the Chippewas occurring in the 2012 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, which coincidentally was against WKU and resulted in a 24-21 win over the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky got things started on the right foot in 2014 with a resounding 59-31 victory over Bowling Green. The team finished it off by taking down previously unbeaten Marshall, 67-66, in overtime. This is only the second bowl game for WKU since moving up from the Division I-AA (now FCS) level. The other bowl game was the loss to CMU in 2012.

That clash in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in 2012 has served as the only time Central Michigan and Western Kentucky have met on the football field.

Although Central Michigan is entering this clash coming off a loss to Western Michigan, 32-20, the Chippewas should be fired up after the success the team was able to sustain this season, especially on the offensive end. Quarterback Cooper Rush was much improved, leading his team to a 25.2 ppg average by throwing for 2,664 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

It’s been Central Michigan’s run game, though, that has surprised at 158.7 ypg. Thomas Rawls is at the center of that core groups of backs, averaging 122.6 rushing ypg with 10 touchdowns in just nine games played. Rawls is probable to play in the Bahamas Bowl after dealing with leg issues for a good portion of the season. Either way, Devon Spalding (four touchdowns) and Saylor Lavallii (four touchdowns) will be ready to provide assistance if necessary.

Rush was boosted by the return of several top targets this season, including that of senior receiver Titus Davis. Davis missed time in the season due to injury, but still hauled in 54 passes for 843 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games played. Jesse Kroll provided a nice secondary threat for Rush if Davis was swallowed up by an opposing defense, catching 32 passes for 473 yards and four touchdowns, though he did most of his damage early on in the year.

Defensively, the Chippewas came together at certain points during the season, but it wasn’t as cohesive and smooth as coach Dan Enos probably would have liked. The Chippewas averaged 23.2 ppg allowed to opponents, which is a respectable number. But 144 points for the opposition this season came off of Central Michigan turnovers, something Enos would naturally like to eliminate moving forward into next season.

Linebacker Justin Cherocci led Central Michigan with 107 tackles this season, adding in decent numbers in tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (four). Linemen Joe Ostman (10 tackles for loss, three sacks) and Blake Serpa (11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks) were much more disruptive in opponents’ backfields over the course of the season. Tony Annese (three interceptions, 10 pass breakups) and Brandon Greer (three interceptions) will try to lock things down against a strong WKU passing game.

“I want to thank the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl for the invitation to be a part of its inaugural game,“ Enos said. “Playing in our sixth bowl game in the past nine seasons is a great accomplishment for this program. Western Kentucky is a great team and I expect a hard fought game when we face off on December 24.“

The Chippewas will have their work cut out for them defensively, as they prepare to take on the nation’s top statistical quarterback in Brandon Doughty of Western Kentucky. Doughty leads the FBS with 4,344 passing yards and 44 touchdowns, which is six more than Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who won the Heisman Trophy. Doughty is the main reason the Hilltoppers average 44.0 ppg and 525.2 total offensive ypg.

The team’s running game hasn’t been too shabby either, even following the loss of Antonio Andrews to the NFL. Leon Allen paces the Hilltoppers this season with 1,490 yards and 12 touchdowns out of the backfield for a WKU offense averaging 160.2 rushing ypg. Anthony Wales contributed four touchdowns on the ground during the season as well.

Doughty had a strong year passing the football. Jared Dangerfield led the Hilltoppers with 64 receptions and 10 touchdowns, though his 738 receiving yards fell just short of Taywan Taylor’s 739-yard mark. Willie McNeal and Taylor each hauled in seven touchdown catches, and Antwane Grant caught five.

While WKU did a steady job burying teams offensively to the point where the opposition simply couldn’t keep pace, the team’s defense appeared capable of taking some time off. The Hilltoppers allowed opponents to score 39.2 ppg this season and gain over 500 yards of total offense per outing. Nine times this year Western Kentucky surrendered 31 points or more in a game, and four of those opponents scored at least 50 points.

Nick Holt registered a team-best 103 tackles this season with seven tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries. Though he led the team in the tackle category, the real brightest stars on WKU’s defense were Branden Leston (four interceptions), Bryan Shorter (5.5 sacks) and Wonderful Terry, who had several game-clinching turnovers. The WKU defense allows 229.7 rushing ypg to opponents, so Central Michigan will really be hoping for Rawls to be healthy in this one.

“It is a tremendous reward and opportunity for our players and coaches who have worked incredibly hard this season,“ said WKU head coach Jeff Brohm. “A bowl game is one of our goals at the beginning of every season, and to be able to realize and achieve that goal is a credit to their attitude and willingness to put in the effort to get better each and every week.“


►   Fresno State tangles with Rice in Hawaii Bowl

The Fresno State Bulldogs find themselves in familiar surroundings on Christmas Eve, as they take on the Rice Owls in the 13th annual Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium.

The Bulldogs, who compete against the University of Hawaii in this same facility during Mountain West Conference play, are no strangers to the lay of the land in Honolulu, but this time around they’ll be focusing their attention on a non-conference foe in the Owls. Unlike last season when Fresno State was a threat to disturb the delicate balance of the BCS by running the table, this time around the Bulldogs were built on small streaks that both helped and hindered their prospects of making it to the postseason.

The Bulldogs registered a series of four three-game win streaks and skids over the course of the regular season. Luckily, the team played just well enough to win the tiebreaker in the West Division of the MWC to claim the regular-season title over San Diego State and take part in the conference title game against Boise State. However, the squad came up short against the nationally-ranked Broncos, 28-14, but because they were already bowl eligible prior to the defeat they were still invited to Hawaii.

“We are thrilled to be playing in the Hawaii Bowl against Rice,“ Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter notes. “Having been to the Hawaii Bowl just two years ago, our staff and players know that we are in for a fantastic week.

“I am extremely proud of this year’s team, who battled and persevered all season long. We now look forward to competing against a highly respected Rice Owls team and look to send this special senior class out the right way with a victory.“

The Bulldogs, who have a record of 12-14 in bowl games, lost that most recent appearance in the Hawaii Bowl to SMU and former Hawaii head coach June Jones, by a score of 43-10. Last season, the team was crushed by USC in the Las Vegas Bowl as well, 45-20.

As for the Owls, they are appearing in a bowl game for the third straight year, the first time that’s happened in school history. Like the Bulldogs, Rice got off to a shaky start to the regular season, but rebounded to register a six-game win streak between the end of September and the start of November. However, the final game of the regular season for a team that finished 7-5 overall, saw the Owls being blown away by Louisiana Tech, 76-31.

Nevertheless, head coach David Bailiff has gotten beyond that excruciating defeat and is looking forward to being in Hawaii.

“This is a great day for Rice Football and one that is a great reward for all the hard work that our players and staff have put into this program,“ Bailiff noted when the Owls accepted their invitation. “I know they are very proud to be the first team to earn a third straight bowl berth and they have the longest active bowl streak in Conference USA, but they are not going to be satisfied with a bid.“

The Owls took part in the Liberty Bowl last season where they bowed to Mississippi State, 44-7, snapping what had been a two-game, bowl win streak that now has the program sitting at 6-5 in the postseason.

In terms of the all-time series between these programs, this is the seventh meeting and all six previous encounters were won by the Bulldogs. The most recent battle between the former Western Athletic Conference foes took place in 2004 when Fresno State thoroughly beat down Rice, 52-21.

Both of these programs began the season 0-3 making them just the 20th and 21st programs since 1980 to drop three in a row to begin the season and still be heading to a bowl game.

Obviously, with their inconsistent play this season, the Bulldogs have some kinks to work out before they hit the field in Hawaii, although the offense is slightly better off than the defense currently. Quarterback Brian Burrell had an up-and-down campaign as he completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 198.2 ypg and a total of 22 touchdowns, but at the same time he tossed 16 interceptions which killed promising drives time and time again.

By far his favorite target was all-conference wideout Josh Harper who caught a staggering 86 passes, 55 more than his closest teammate, leading to 1,072 yards and seven touchdowns. Greg Watson made the most of his 31 catches in 12 games by reaching the end zone five times, the same going for Chad Olson who recorded four TDs on a mere 12 grabs.

Coming out of the backfield, Marteze Waller gave Burrell another option as the running back carried the ball 210 times for 1,292 yards and 11 TDs, while Josh Quezada supplied support with 473 yards and five scores as well.

Defensively, the Bulldogs were in complete disarray early on, surrendering no less than 52 points to the first three opponents on the schedule. It’s been difficult to recover from those awful efforts from a statistical standpoint, which is why Fresno State ranks 108th in the country with 455.5 ypg allowed and 102nd in run defense (206.9 ypg). Kyrie Wilson had a decent season as he led the program with 88 tackles, logged six stops for loss, intercepted a pair of passes and forced two fumbles, but still it was a rough campaign for the unit.

Rice, which lost to Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Old Dominion coming out of the gate this season, is led on offense by quarterback Driphus Jackson who needs just 116 more yards to reach 3,000 yards of total offense and become just the third player in program history to produce such a number in a single season. Jackson completed 57.3 percent of his attempts for 210.3 ypg and 21 TDs, against eight INTs. He was also third on the squad in rushing with 360 yards, trailing only Jowan Davis (910 yards, six TDs) and Darik Dillard (651 yards, 10 TDs).

Despite missing three games, wide receiver Jordan Taylor was still head-and- shoulders above the rest of the receiving corps as he caught 49 passes for 781 yards and six touchdowns, although Mario Hull, with his 29 grabs for 539 yards, had one more score to his credit.

Over on the other side of the ball, the biggest stumbling block for the Owls was their pass defense as it ranked 105th in the nation with an efficiency rating of just 141.26. The biggest issue for the group was that it registered a mere seven interceptions, with Ryan Pollard the only player with multiple picks (two). However, at the very least the team has a beast attacking the line of scrimmage in Brian Nordstrom who registered 18.5 of his 43 stops behind the line of scrimmage and was second on the unit with 7.5 sacks. Zach Patt, who set a school record with five sacks and added three forced fumbles in the meeting with FIU, led the program with 8.5 sacks overall.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Redskins LB Murphy to miss season finale

Washington Redskins rookie linebacker Trent Murphy will not play in Sunday’s season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.

Murphy was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after breaking his hand in Saturday’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles. He fractured the third metacarpal in his right hand.

A second-round pick out of Stanford, Murphy started the last eight games and registered 2 1/2 sacks and 32 tackles this season.

The Redskins filled the spot on the active roster by signing offensive lineman Rishaw Johnson from the New York Giants’ practice squad. The team also signed wide receiver Colin Lockett to its practice squad.


►   Browns sign QB Thigpen

The Cleveland Browns signed quarterback Tyler Thigpen on Tuesday.

Thigpen, who spent time with the Browns in training camp before being released, was added to the mix because rookie Johnny Manziel will sit out Cleveland’s season finale against Baltimore with a hamstring injury and Brian Hoyer is dealing with a shoulder injury.

Undrafted rookie Connor Shaw is an option for the Browns, but Thigpen has more experience.

A seventh-round pick by Minnesota in 2007, the 30-year-old Thigpen has played in 29 games but none since 2012. He started 11 games for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008.

The Browns waived fullback Ray Agnew to open a spot on the active roster for Thigpen, who has passed for 3,222 yards with 21 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

The team also re-signed defensive lineman Christian Tupou to the practice squad.


►   Ravens place OT Wagner on IR

The Baltimore Ravens placed Rick Wagner on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season.

The second-year offensive tackle suffered a foot injury in Sunday’s loss at Houston. He started each of the Ravens’ 15 games this season.

Baltimore promoted defensive end Steven Means from the practice squad to fill Wagner’s spot on the active roster.

The team also signed offensive linemen Nate Menkin and Joe Unga to the practice squad and waived defensive end Zach Thompson.

The Ravens remain in the hunt for a wild-card berth. They will secure a playoff spot if they beat the visiting Cleveland Browns in Sunday’s regular- season finale and the San Diego Chargers lose at Kansas City.


►   Falcons shut down Moore for season

The Atlanta Falcons placed safety William Moore on injured reserve Tuesday.

Moore had been placed on injured reserve/designated to return on September 30 after he separated his shoulder in a Week 4 loss at Minnesota.

The 2012 Pro Bowl selection missed seven games then returned on November 30 against Arizona, played one more game before sitting out on December 14 against the Steelers, and suffered a shoulder injury in last Sunday’s 30-14 win in New Orleans.

A sixth-year pro out of Missouri, Moore finishes the 2014 season with 25 tackles in seven appearances.

Atlanta signed safety Sean Baker to the active roster and inked running back Ronnie Wingo to the practice squad.


►   Vikings waive Tate a month after picking him up

The Minnesota Vikings waived running back Ben Tate on Tuesday.

Tate was waived by the Browns in mid-November and quickly picked up by the RB- needy Vikings. He only played three games for Minnesota and gained 38 yards on 13 carries.

The Auburn product signed with the Browns as a free agent in March after spending his first three seasons with Houston. He started six games and rushed for 333 yards with a 3.1-yard average and four touchdowns with the Browns.

Tate, 26, ran for 771 yards with four touchdowns and caught 34 passes for 140 yards in 14 games last season and has accumulated 2,363 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 51 NFL games.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   NFL Fantasy Player of the Week - Week 16

Championship Week. When the cream rises to the top and the winners grab the brass ring.

But in a one-and-done situation, it’s the ultimate “crapshoot.“

Just ask Andrew Luck’s owners. For 14 games the Indianapolis Colts third-year quarterback had carried them, leading the league in fantasy points. He still does, but with fantasy titles on the line he came up with a rare clunker in Dallas.

Oh, the humanity!

The following players were the best at their positions in Week 16.


Quarterbacks -

Russell Wilson, Seattle - When Wilson is “on” it’s an impressive sight. Sunday night against a supposedly very good Cardinals defense, he was at his best. Wilson threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 88 yards and one touchdown and makes Seattle look like the strongest challenger to hold the Lombardi Trophy for a second consecutive year.

Eli Manning, New York Giants - Great players raise the game of those around them and rookie Odell Beckham Jr. is proving that theory in New York. Manning has been a much better quarterback since the rookie appeared in Week 5. Sunday was Eli’s best game of the season, throwing for 391 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover worth 31 fantasy points.


Running Backs -

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle - Lynch’s 79-yard touchdown run wasn’t quite as good as the 2010 playoff run against New Orleans, but it was close. He finished the day with just 10 carries, but 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Frank Gore, San Francisco - Gore had gone nine games without reaching triple digits, but fantasy owners who stuck with him were rewarded in Championship Week with his best game of the season - 158 yards and a touchdown worth almost 27 fantasy points.


Wide Receivers -

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants - Beckham Jr. has become a regular in this column over the second half of the season. He had eight catches for 148 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Sunday against the Rams and over the past eight games he’s amassed 1,014 yards (126.7 ypg) and eight touchdowns. He’s even making Eli look good.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver - Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders shook off the flu to catch six of seven passes for 70 yards and two scores. He has been one of the best surprises of 2014, taking over the “Eric Decker role” in the Broncos’ offense and posting better numbers (95-1,331-9) than his predecessor.


Tight Ends -

Luke Willson, Seattle - Injuries to Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy and Tony Moeaki allowed Willson some playing time and Sunday night Wilson used Willson to his advantage. The tight end caught two touchdown passes, one of 80 yards to amass 30 fantasy points.

Antonio Gates, San Diego - Gates can’t run anymore, but he’s still Philip Rivers’ favorite target. On Saturday, he caught seven passes for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns worth 24 fantasy points.


Kickers -

Randy Bullock, Houston - Bullock’s shaky first season is a thing of the past and he’s much improved in 2014. Sunday he went 6-of-6 for a position-leading 19 fantasy points.


Defense/Special Teams -

Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons came up with a big game at a most unexpected moment. In the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Atlanta sacked Drew Brees five times, intercepted him two times and forced two fumbles, including a Osi Umenyiora 86-yard touchdown return.

And the winner of the TSN Fantasy Player of the Week for Week 16 is ... Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. His 427 yards of offense came at the perfect time for fantasy owners.


►   Ten best ways to celebrate a championship

The regular season has one week remaining, but the fantasy season for a vast majority of leagues has concluded.

For those who brought home the hardware, it’s time to celebrate.

Trash talking is always the “go-to” celebration move, but a milestone nearly as meaningful as say, marriage or the birth of your children (note to future wife, I’m kidding), needs further commemoration than that.

For the purposes of the kiddies and my job, we will be keeping it PG, but here are ten creative ways to celebrate your 2014 fantasy football championship.


Seek out the doubters

There is such a thing as winning with class, however, occasionally it’s necessary to remind those who said you couldn’t win that they were, once again, wrong.

Every league has that guy in Week 11, who said he would end your season. Then on “Monday Night Football”, Le’Veon Bell dropped 30 points and rallied your team to a two-point victory.

If all else fails, Adam Sandler’s “Who’s laughing now clown,“ is always an appropriate thing to shout to a beaten opponent.


Pop the “root beer”

Jerome Bettis said his kiss of the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl XL was the sweetest kiss he ever had. Now, I’m not suggesting breaking out the Chapstick to pucker up, although there is absolutely no shame in that, breaking out a nice 20 ounce Barqs Root Beer bottle to drink from the trophy is more my style.

The french vanilla just smells like victory.


Carve name in trophy

Although the NHL has done its best to mess up the game of hockey, the sport does something better than every other major American sport: the championship trophy.

A 35-pound fantasy trophy is probably a little excessive mostly because that likely won’t fit as the center piece at Christmas dinner. A 10-pound trophy is more than efficient and more importantly, get a professional to carve your name in it.


Work desk banner

Owners can never forget to thank the fans who supported them all season long.

What fans you ask? Well, why else would fantasy leagues post home and away records. One of my teams went 7-0 at home, so I must have had some type of home-field advantage because ESPN would never post an irrelevant statistic.

Without a true home field to raise a championship flag, maybe a banner at the work desk or cubical is appropriate. All the co-workers you beat this season will love it.


Championship T-shirts

They will also love the championship T-shirt and DVD combination commemorating your winning season. Just don’t forget to send the runner-up’s championship T-shirt to Africa.


New football jersey

Where do the diehard fantasy owners true loyalties lie? If Aaron Rodgers carried an owner to the fantasy promise land, can he wear his jersey even though he is a Bears fan?

That combined with the trophy centerpiece would really make for an interesting family Christmas.


Championship ring

Thought a big trophy with your name on it was over-the-top? Fantasy championship rings and belts are also for sale.


Update the twitter bio

Don’t bother with a job description or a list of interests. A short and sweet bio stating “six-time fantasy football champion” is all people really need to know.


Nike commercial deal

This can be a bit dicey. Owners don’t want your players getting too upset that you are getting all the attention with Nike and Gatorade deals.

Make sure in all your press conferences you allocate the proper credit to the players and the rest of the coaching staff.


Start preparing for next season

Do you think Bill Belichick bothers with twitter bios and championship gear? Have you ever seen him in a commercial?

That’s why he is the best and if owners want to remain the best, success can’t go to their heads. Yes, I’m comparing myself and other owners to Belichick, though, I look better in a sweatshirt.

Congratulations to the 2014 fantasy champions. Enjoy it.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Boys Area High School Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, December 23)

#10 Gilmer County 48     #9 Charleston Catholic 46

Braxton County 62     South Harrison 53

Lewis County 51     Buckhannon-Upshur 44

#6 Fairmont Senior 55     #1 Robert C. Byrd 54


►   Girls Area High School Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, December 23)

Lewis County 62     Liberty 29

Lincoln 64     Robert C. Byrd 41

Roane County 58     Webster County 44

Clay County 45     Poca 28



The Gilmer Free Press

►   MEC Men’s Basketball Player of The Week Honors

Shepherd’s Morgan McDonald is the Mountain East Conference Player of the Week after helping the Rams to a pair of non-conference wins last week.

McDonald, a senior from Inwood, WV, averaged 27.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games. He shot 71% (17-of-24) from the floor, including 78% (7-of-9) from behind the arc as the Rams improved to 7-3 on the year. He matched his career high with 31 points in a 91-79 victory over Davis & Elkins, and followed it up with 24 points in limited action in a win over Penn State Mont Alto.


Other Top Performances

Tanner McGrew (WVWC) had 19 points and 16 rebounds in a non-conference victory over Shaw ...

Lawrence DeArmond (NDC) had 27 points, including 17 in the second half, in a victory over Malone ...

Seger Bonifant (WLU), the nation’s leading scorer, added 28 points in West Liberty’s lone game last week ...

Rob Reed (CU) had a career-high 25 points as the Mountain Lions handed Bluefield State a loss.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November17 Seger Bonifant (WLU)
November 24 Donte Morales (GSC)
December 01 Mike Boyd (CU)
December 08 C.J. Hester (WLU)
December 15 Devin Hoehn (WLU)
December 22 Morgan McDonald (SU)


►   MEC Women’s Basketball Player of The Week Honors

Notre Dame’s Martha Nagbe has been named Player of the Week after leading the Falcons to a 2-0 record last week.

Nagbe, a junior from Lakewood, Ohio, averaged 23.5 points, four assists and 2.5 steals as NDC picked up wins over Ursuline and Cedarville. She netted 21 points in a win over the Arrows, and then went for 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting as the Falcons handed the Yellow Jackets just their second loss of the season.


Other Top Performances

Liz Flowers (WLU) averaged 34.5 points in a 1-1 week, including a 40-point performance against Cedarville ...

Melea Smith (CU) averaged 15.5 points in two games ...

Hailey Garrett (FSU) filled the stat sheet with 22 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in a win over Bluefield State.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November17 Hallie Gunnoe (FSU)
November 24 Hailey Garrett (FSU)
December 01 Nichole Perry (UC)
December 08 Jacqueline Kestner (CU)
December 15 Cara Mason (SU)
December 22 Martha Nagbe (NDC)


<The Gilmer Free Press

►   Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, December 23)


Final Score: UNLV 71, (3) Arizona 67

No. 3 Arizona had won 39 consecutive non- conference games in the regular season, the longest active streak in Division I men’s basketball. That run is now over thanks to a 71-67 loss to UNLV on Tuesday. Christian Wood scored a career-high 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Runnin’ Rebels (8-3).


Final Score: (4) Louisville 80, CS-Northridge 55

Wayne Blackshear stepped up in Montrezl Harrell’s absence and scored a career-high 31 points to help No. 4 Louisville take down Cal State-Northridge, 80-55, in its final tune-up before Saturday’s showdown with Kentucky. Blackshear was given a larger role on Tuesday with Harrell, a preseason All- American, serving a one-game suspension and the senior delivered in a big way. Blackshear shot 11-for-17 from the floor, made six 3-pointers and pulled down six rebounds. Terry Rozier added 16 points for the Cardinals (11-0), who will look to stay unbeaten when they host No. 1 Kentucky at the KFC Yum! Center this weekend. Stephen Maxwell and Stephan Hicks posted 20 and 19 points, respectively, for Northridge (3-10).


Final Score: (7) Villanova 92, NJIT 67

Dylan Ennis led six players in double figures with 17 points, as No. 7 Villanova subdued NJIT by a 92-67 count at the Pavilion in a game which was much closer than the score indicated—or the matchup might suggest—for quite some time. Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 for the Wildcats (12-0), who trailed by as many as seven early in the second half but who used a surge shortly thereafter which ultimately led them to victory. Phil Booth contributed 14 points and Daniel Ochefu picked up 13 points with 10 rebounds for Villanova, which hadn’t won 12 games to begin a season since 1961-62. Damon Lynn provided 13 points for the Highlanders (5-8), who fell short in their bid for a second shocking road victory against a ranked opponent this year. Tim Coleman poured in 12 and Winfield Willis had 10 before fouling out.


Final Score: Stanford 74, (9) Texas 71 (OT)

Anthony Brown scored a season-high 25 points, including the go-ahead layup with 1:08 remaining in overtime, as Stanford upset No. 9 Texas 74-71 at the Erwin Center. Chasson Randle added 22 points and combined with Brown to go 7-of-12 from 3- point range to help the Cardinal snap a 15-game win streak for the Longhorns on their home court. Stanford (7-3) shot 43.3 percent from the field, the highest percentage by any Texas opponent this season, and received a career-best 14 rebounds from freshman Reid Travis to earn their first true road win in 2013-14. Javan Felix finished with 19 points for Texas (10-2), but missed a contested 3-point try with time winding down in overtime that sealed the outcome. Jonathan Holmes and Kendal Yancy each had 14 points in the loss.


Final Score: (11) Wichita State 80, Hawaii 79 (OT)

Rashard Kelly scored a career-high 12 points and sent Wichita State into the finals of the Diamond Head Classic with a tip-in late in overtime. Ron Baker scored 17 points, Fred VanVleet had 13 and the 11th-ranked Shockers survived a scare from Hawaii in Tuesday’s semifinals, edging the host Rainbow Warriors 80-79. Wichita State trailed by three with a minute remaining in the extra session. Darius Carter made 1-of-2 from the foul line and VanVleet hit from deep, giving the Shockers a one-point lead. Roderick Bobbitt then slashed to the rim and dropped off to Michael Thomas, who restored Hawaii’s lead with a layup. But out of a timeout, Kelly played the role of hero for the Shockers. VanVleet put up a triple from the right wing, and Kelly timed his offensive rebound perfectly and got his tip to fall with 3.8 seconds showing. Out of timeouts, Bobbitt pushed the ball and found Thomas, whose off-balanced jumper missed as time expired. Wichita State (10-1) will meet George Washington in the finals.


Final Score: (14) Utah 80, South Dakota State 66

Brekkott Chapman had 22 points, Delon Wright scored 17 and No. 14 Utah beat South Dakota State 80-66 on Tuesday. Dakarai Tucker added 11 points for the Utes (9-2), who have won two in a row since falling to No. 10 Kansas two Saturdays ago. Cody Larson scored 13 points and Reed Tellinghuisen chipped in 12 to lead the Jackrabbits (9-4), who had a seven-game winning streak snapped.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Nothin’ but Net: Sizing up Smith suitors

We have had 24 hours to absorb the shock.

When the Detroit Pistons released Josh Smith, it was a jaw-dropper, not from a basketball perspective, but from a financial one. Smith has A LOT of money left on his contract and Stan Van Gundy just decided this disaster he inherited wasn’t worth the $30-$40 million.

The Smith/Greg Monroe/Andre Drummond trio has been a disaster somewhere ranging between new Coke and the Exxon Valdez. The last Motown trio to do this poorly, the federal government bailed it out.

So, applaud Van Gundy and the Pistons for putting basketball decisions over financial ones. The Pistons are terrible and jettisoning Smith won’t move the radar significantly either way. They won’t improve and Monroe and Drummond can work on chemistry in the hope that Monroe re-ups this summer.

But, where does Smith land?

Make no mistake, Smith was bad for the Pistons. Smith’s offensive numbers have been in decline and he shoots too many 3’s, but he can make some from long range. Smith is a stretch four who can still defend a little and, since he’s only 29, although a long-tenured 29, he’s got years left.

Any future employer needs to know that Smith will be motivated. He’s not a locker room cancer, but Smith’s enthusiasm has come in question. There are a few factors that might shed some light where Smith might be headed.

First, no team will claim him off waivers. The Philadelphia 76ers are the only squad with the cap room to do it, but with their allergic reaction to veteran talent, Smith doesn’t make sense. Nor should the 76ers look at Smith.

It’s possible, I guess, that some team like the Sacramento Kings, who have had a serious crush on Smith for over a year and tried to trade for him several times, might claim him. Personally, with the amount of money and two years left on that contract, if a team claims him, that team should have its charter revoked.

So, after Smith clears waivers, where are we at?

The Kings seem like a fringe candidate at best, despite their unfettered yearning. They can’t offer more than the minimum and don’t have a strong enough roster to contend, assuming title contention is something that interests Smith. The only reason Sacramento makes the list of suitors is because of how badly it wants to be on the list. Does Smith do them a solid for showing that love? Probably not, the NBA is a business, not a high-school courtship.

The Los Angeles Lakers are a team that I thought at first made a lot of sense, however, I’m cooling. Smith is going to be in a position to hand-select his next team, so why does a Lakers’ squad strapped for cash because of Kobe Bryant’s contract, and absent shot attempts because of Bryant’s selection, appeal to Smith?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be attached to any available talent, but Smith doesn’t help them. Backup power forward, (and to be clear, Smith is a power forward, no more flirting with this small-forward thing) is actually a position of strength for Cleveland with Tristan Thompson.

Serious candidates only, please.

The Miami Heat are ones, according to reports. Their prize offseason addition, Josh McRoberts, is done for the season. Miami applied for a Disabled Player Exemption, which, presumably, it would use on Smith. If the NBA grants the Heat this exemption, they can offer more than anyone else for Smith’s services. Miami is lovely, although warm. Playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh isn’t hell and Smith’s presence could help. His adequate long-range ability is a plus for the Heat, as is his athleticism in Miami’s traps. Are they contenders enough to peak Smith’s interest?

The Dallas Mavericks have been mentioned a lot as contenders for Smith’s services. One of Smith’s closest friends in the world is Rajon Rondo. You may have heard he was recently traded to the Mavericks. Like most in this bidding war, Dallas can only offer the minimum and it would seem like a good fit considering the Mavs traded most of their frontcourt depth. I don’t think it is a good fit. The Mavs need true big-man depth. Someone like Jermaine O’Neal is a better match. Dallas can play plenty of guys to back up Dirk Nowitzki as stretch fours like Chandler Parsons, Richard Jefferson and, of course, Charlie Villanueva (no kidding, he went 4-for-6 from long range on Monday). Smith is obviously a better option, but if I was Mark Cuban, I’d buy an island. Sorry, if I was Mark Cuban, I’d try to spend what little money available under the cap on a more pressing need.

That leaves us with our final two.

The Los Angeles Clippers need some frontcourt help badly on the second unit. Spencer Hawes is sidelined with a bruised knee and frankly, he hasn’t been any great shakes out there this season. Smith is an upgrade over Glen Davis and pairing him with Hawes off the bench could work as both have solid universal skill sets. However, the Clippers have very little financial wiggle room. Minimum is the maximum offer, but otherwise, LA fits the bill nicely for what Smith should be looking for in a franchise. He’ll contend, play in a nice climate and for a well-run, professional organization.

But the Clippers don’t offer as much as Smith’s next employer.

The Houston Rockets can offer Smith more than the veteran’s minimum. The Rockets can give Smith the biannual exception which could net Smith $500,000 more than the minimum. (He will, and has, made a lot of money from Detroit, so is that half a mil worth it?)

If the friendship factor is a pressing issue for Smith, then Houston is in great shape there, too. Smith and Dwight Howard are tighter than some jeans and according to reports, Howard is pressing hard for Smith.

The Rockets have a decent climate and are contenders. That’s appealing, plus, Houston has a need for Smith’s skill set. The Rockets have been without Terrence Jones for some time and Smith’s stretch-ability at the four could be valuable. (Remember how badly Houston wanted Chris Bosh?) Defense is a priority in Houston these days and Smith won’t kill them on that front.

Houston makes the most sense. I wanted this to end with a darkhorse candidate swooping in, but the Rockets just make too much sense. You can check off every box and Houston fits best.  ~~  Jim Brighters ~~


►   NBA Game Results

(Tuesday, December 23)


Final Score: Cleveland 125, Minnesota 104

Kevin Love scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in his first game against his former team, as the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 125-104, at Quicken Loans Arena. The win may have been costly for the Cavaliers, who lost center Anderson Varejao to a left foot and ankle injury in the third quarter. Kyrie Irving scored 29 and LeBron James totaled 24 points for the Cavaliers, who have won three in a row and 12 of their last 15 games. That includes nine wins in their last 10 at home. Love, who played his first six NBA seasons for the Timberwolves, was dealt to Cleveland as part of a 3-team deal in the offseason. Minnesota acquired Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two No. 1 overall picks in the draft. Wiggins scored 27 and Gorgui Dieng had a season-best 20 to go with 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have lost six in a row and 12 of their last 13 games to fall to 5-22 on the season.


Final Score: Indiana 96, New Orleans 84

George Hill was in the Indiana lineup for the first time all season and helped the Pacers to a 96-84 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. Hill, who missed Indiana’s first 28 games due to a right knee contusion sustained in the preseason, scored a team- high 15 points off the bench in 21 minutes of action. Roy Hibbert supplied 14 points, while Solomon Hill and David West each posted 13 points in the win, the Pacers’ second straight. Anthony Davis led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. Jrue Holiday scored 16 points with five rebounds and five assists, while Tyreke Evans netted 14 points with 11 rebounds for the Pelicans.


Final Score: Orlando 100, Boston 95

Tobias Harris scored 19 points, Kyle O’Quinn and Nikola Vucevic each recorded double-doubles, and the Orlando Magic fended off the Boston Celtics, 100-95, on Tuesday. The Magic won despite nearly blowing a 27-point lead in the fourth quarter. They were held to 15 points over the last 10 minutes, but did just enough to snap a four-game slide. O’Quinn and Vucevic each provided 18 points and combined for 25 rebounds. Tyler Zeller scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to pace the Celtics, who have dropped two in a row on the heels of a three-game winning streak. Jameer Nelson, playing his first game as a visitor in Orlando, finished with nine points and 11 assists and was vital in Boston’s near comeback.


Final Score: Chicago 99, Washington 91

Derrick Rose scored 25 points and the Chicago Bulls picked up another key road win, 99-91, over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. Rose shot a combined 12-for-35 in the two games before missing two with an illness. Since his return, the former MVP has been lights out in a pair of crucial wins over two Eastern Conference contenders. Rose scored 29 points on 12-of-19 shooting against Toronto on Monday and hit 10-for-17 in Washington on Tuesday. His personal 6-0 run late in the game helped the Bulls extend the best road record in the East to 13-4. Pau Gasol had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, winners in four straight games and seven of eight. Washington lost its second straight game on the heels of six consecutive wins despite John Wall’s 18 points and nine assists. Marcin Gortat posted a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double in defeat.


Final Score: Atlanta 107, LA Clippers 104

DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high 25 points and the Atlanta Hawks closed out a tough five-game stretch with their fifth straight win, rallying from 13 down in the second half to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 107-104 on Tuesday night. Al Horford added 20 points and Paul Millsap scored 17 for the Hawks, who took the lead for good on Kyle Korver’s 3-pointer a minute into the fourth quarter and held on down the stretch to post their 14th win in 15 games. Blake Griffin scored 21 points to lead Los Angeles, but missed an off-balance 3-pointer as time expired after the Clippers bumbled an inbounds pass with 6.4 seconds remaining. DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 22 rebounds in the loss, the Clippers’ fifth in their last eight games.


Final Score: Brooklyn 102, Denver 96

Joe Johnson scored 27 points to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 102-96 triumph over the Denver Nuggets at Barclays Center. Mason Plumlee added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Jarrett Jack supplied 17 points and eight assists for the Nets, who have won two in a row following a three-game skid. Brook Lopez (lower back strain) returned from an eight- game absence and had six points in over eight minutes of court time for the Nets. Ty Lawson scored 29 to go with nine assists for the Nuggets, who lost for the fifth time in seven games. They’ve also dropped six straight on the road. Kenneth Faried had 20 points and 14 rebounds for Denver.


Final Score: Philadelphia 91, Miami 87

Don’t tell the Miami Heat the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t playing to win. The Sixers, despite having just eight healthy bodies, rallied from a 23-point deficit in Miami and stole a 91-87 decision away from the Heat to earn back-to-back victories for the first time this season. Michael Carter-Williams scored 20 points, handed out five assists and recorded six steals for Philadelphia, which was coming off Sunday’s win over Orlando and earned just its fourth win in 27 games. Luc Mbah a Moute donated 19 points and K.J. McDaniels added 13 off the bench for the victors. The Heat, perhaps looking ahead to a Christmas Day-showdown with LeBron James and the Cavaliers, took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half, as they shot just 27.8 percent from the field after the break. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 23 points, while Shawne Williams netted 17 in the loss, Miami’s third in its last four games.


Final Score: Charlotte 108, Milwaukee 101

Kemba Walker poured in 27 points to lead the resurgent Charlotte Hornets to a fourth straight victory, a 108-101 decision over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center. Five other Charlotte players finished in double figures as the Hornets extended their season-best win streak, which followed a 2-14 stretch. Gerald Henderson chipped in 20 points, Al Jefferson had 12 along with nine rebounds and Marvin Williams went 4-of-5 from 3-point range in a 12-point effort off the bench. The Bucks dropped a seventh straight game to Charlotte despite a season-high 34 points from Brandon Knight. Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 12 and 11, respectively, in the loss.


Final Score: Portland 115, Oklahoma City 111 (OT)

Damian Lillard poured in 40 points on 11-of-21 shooting to go along with 11 assists, and the Portland Trail Blazers stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder, 115-111, in overtime on Tuesday. LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 25 points with nine rebounds and Wesley Matthews checked in with 22 points for the Blazers, who overcame a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to win for the sixth time in seven contests. Russell Westbrook also went for 40 points with 10 rebounds and six assists in the loss. But unlike Lillard, it took him a career-high 34 shot attempts to do it. Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka had 21 and 16 points, respectively, for Oklahoma City, which played without star Kevin Durant for a third straight game due to a sprained right ankle. The Thunder have lost three of their last four entering their showdown with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Christmas Day.


Final Score: Phoenix 124, Dallas 115

Eric Bledsoe picked up his second career triple-double to help the Suns hold off the Dallas Mavericks, 124-115, on Tuesday. Bledsoe scored 16 points, handed out 11 assists and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in Phoenix’s fourth straight win. Goran Dragic paced the Suns with 25 points and Gerald Green added 22 off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Tyson Chandler netted 22 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki also scored 22 as Dallas dropped its second in a row.


Final Score: LA Lakers 115, Golden State 105

Not even former Lakers great Vlade Divac could miss as Los Angeles, playing without a resting Kobe Bryant, handed the Golden State Warriors their most unlikely loss of the season, 115-105, on Tuesday. The Warriors, an NBA-best 23-3 coming in, were shell-shocked at a lively Staples Center, as the Lakers built a huge lead by shooting 56.5 percent over the first three quarters and held on for a surprising win. Carlos Boozer led seven Los Angeles players in double figures with 18 points and added nine rebounds. Ronnie Price contributed 17 points and eight assists, Nick Young added 15 points, and Wesley Johnson and Ed Davis chipped in with 14 apiece to help snap LA’s three-game slide. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 22 and 18 points, respectively, but both sharpshooters were on the bench long before the final buzzer with the outcome never in question.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Giants finalize deal with Peavy

The reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants officially announced on Tuesday that they have re-signed veteran pitcher Jake Peavy to a two-year contract.

Financial terms were not disclosed by the team, though ESPN reported that Peavy will earn $7 million in 2015 and $13 million in 2016 in addition to receiving a $4 million signing bonus. The deal also includes a full no-trade clause.

Peavy flourished with the Giants after being acquired from Boston just prior to the July 31 trade deadline, posting a 2.17 earned run average and a 6-4 record over 12 regular-season starts. The 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner also made four postseason starts for San Francisco, going 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA.

The 33-year-old right-hander had been having a rough season with the Red Sox, winning just one time in 20 starts while pitching to a 4.72 ERA.

A three-time All-Star, Peavy owns a 139-111 career record with a 3.53 ERA over 13 major league seasons.


►   Cardinals strike deal with Walden

The St. Louis Cardinals and reliever Jordan Walden avoided salary arbitration, agreeing to terms on a two-year contract Tuesday.

The deal includes a club option for 2017.

St. Louis acquired the right-hander along with outfielder Jason Heyward in a trade with the Atlanta Braves last month.

Walden, 27, had a 2.88 ERA and struck out 62 batters in 58 appearances this past season. The Texas native is 12-13 with 38 saves and a 3.10 ERA in 231 career games for the Angels and Braves.


►   Twins ink P Stauffer

The Minnesota Twins signed pitcher Tim Stauffer to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

Stauffer, 32, will make $2.2 million next season, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The right-hander went 6-2 with a 3.50 earned run average over 44 games (three starts) last season with the Padres.

Over nine seasons with San Diego, Stauffer has compiled a 32-34 record with a 3.87 ERA and 435 strikeouts in 183 games (73 starts).

Minnesota also outrighted catcher Eric Fryer and outfielder Chris Parmelee to Triple-A Rochester.


►   Orioles’ claim Lavarnway off waivers

The Baltimore Orioles claimed Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.

The Cubs had claimed the catcher off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers last week.

Lavarnway, 27, played in 97 games for Boston over the past four years. The Red Sox designated him for assignment in late November after he batted .283 with three homers and 20 RBI over 62 games for Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

The Orioles released outfielder Quintin Berry to make room for Lavarnway on the 40-man roster. The 30-year-old Berry hit .285 with 25 stolen bases in 112 games for Triple-A Norfolk in 2014.


►   Cubs reach deal with C Ross

The Chicago Cubs continued to overhaul the catcher’s spot by agreeing to terms with veteran David Ross on a two-year contract.

Ross has caught nearly 700 games over 13 major league seasons, the last two of which were spent with the Boston Red Sox. The 37-year-old hit just .184 in 50 games last season, but had seven home runs in 171 at-bats.

Over 744 career games, Ross owns a .233 average with 95 homers and 273 RBI.

Ross is expected to serve as a right-handed hitting complement to Miguel Montero, whom the Cubs acquired from Arizona at the recent Winter Meetings. Chicago also still has last season’s starter, Welington Castillo, currently on the roster.

Tuesday’s signing reunites Ross with new Cubs ace Jon Lester, as the two were teammates on the Red Sox prior to Lester’s trade to Oakland last July.


►   Mets farmhand Mazzilli suspended 50 games

New York Mets minor leaguer L.J. Mazzilli has been suspended 50 games without pay for violating the Minor League Drug and Prevention Treatment Program.

This is the second positive test for Mazzilli, who is the son of former major leaguer Lee Mazzilli.

L.J. Mazzilli is currently on the roster for the Mets’ Single-A team in St. Lucie of the Florida State League. He has a career average of .293 with 15 homers and 113 RBI in 201 minor league games, mostly at the Single-A level.


►   Marlins nab P Claiborne off waivers

The Miami Marlins have claimed reliever Preston Claiborne off waivers from the New York Yankees, the team announced Tuesday.

Claiborne was designated for assignment by New York on Friday when the Yankees acquired fellow relief pitcher Gonzalez German from the Mets.

The 26-year-old right-hander appeared in 44 games as a rookie for the Yankees in 2013, compiling an 0-2 record with a 4.11 earned run average. Claiborne spent the majority of last season in Triple-A but did pitch in 18 games for the Bronx Bombers, going 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA over 21 innings.

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 24, 2014


College Football
Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky (Bahamas Bowl), 12:00 PM - ESPN
Fresno State vs. Rice (Hawaii Bowl), 8:00 PM - ESPN

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

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