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A feed of articles for Sports

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    "One hundred percent," he said. "I would vote for myself, yes."

    Wednesday night, Price found out the 28 voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America agreed. In the closest voting in the history of the AL Cy Young Award, Price finished with 14 first-place votes to finish ahead of finalists Justin Verlander (13 first-place votes) of the Tigers and Jered Weaver of the Angels.

    Price, 27, was at Tropicana Field for the announcement. He is the first Rays player to win the award, considered second only to the MVP award in significance. Joe Maddon has won two AL Manager of the Year awards, and Evan Longoria and Jeremy Hellickson have been Rookies of the Year.

    Price said leading up to the announcement that he would be honored and humbled to win. Though he wasn't the kind of kid who kept track of Cy Young winners growing up, he is well versed now in the significance of the honor.

    "It probably wasn't until I was in high school or college that I really knew what that award was," Price said. "But to win that award would be very special, to be voted the best pitcher for your league that year."

    Price had solid credentials, a 2.56 ERA that was best in the AL and second in the majors, and a 20-5 record, matching Weaver for most wins in the league.

    But Verlander was 17-8, 2.64, and threw more innings than Price (238 1/3 to 211), struck out more batters (239-205) and finished more games (6-2). Weaver, though pitching less, allowed the lowest average against, .214, and had the best WHIP (walks and hit per innings pitched), 1.02.

    The keys for Price were the degree of difficulty and the consistency with which he performed.

    Consider:

    * He was 10-2, 2.51 in 16 starts against AL East teams, representing four of the league's top eight offensive teams by OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

    * He was 13-3, 2.27 in 19 games (and 62 percent of his innings) against teams that finished .500 or better, matching Weaver for the most such wins. (Verlander was 8-4, 2.63.)

    * He faced hitters with the highest aggregate OPS, as compiled by Baseball Prospectus, of the finalists, .763 (fifth among AL starters), compared to Verlander, .758 (15th) and Weaver .749 (29th).

    * He went seven or more innings in 23 of his 31 starts, the most in the majors. (Verlander did so in only 21 of his 33, Weaver in 16 of 30).

    * He allowed two earned runs or fewer in 23 starts, most in the AL.

    * He had a 1.62 ERA in his six no-decisions, including two starts when he threw eight shutout innings.

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.


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    By Rod Gipson, Times Correspondent
    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    CARROLLWOOD — The regular season skirmishes have been waged. And three North of Tampa teams managed to exit the fray with playoff berths.

    In Class 8A, Wharton (8-2) travels to Orlando to face unbeaten Dr. Phillips, a nemesis from last season's playoffs. In Class 7A, Gaither, the 7A-7 district champs, hosts Newsome. And in Class 2A, Carrollwood Day School hosts Moore Haven in a contest being played at Alonso High School.

    Gaither, which earned its district title thanks to a wild 35-32 win against Tampa Bay Tech on Nov. 2, could face the Titans again. A Cowboys' win would send Gaither to the second round of the playoffs to face the winner of the Tech-Durant playoff opener.

    Meanwhile, Wharton has the tough task of going to Orlando to face the 10-0 Dr. Phillips Panthers, the top-ranked team in Class 8A and the same program that sent Wharton home 35-14 in the opening round of last season's playoffs.

    And Carrollwood Day opens its first-ever playoffs "at home" against Moore Haven, a standout program located just west of Lake Okeechobee. To accommodate an expected larger crowd, the Patriots are hosting their playoff game at Alonso.

    All games are scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

    Wharton (8-2) at Orlando Dr. Phillips (10-0)

    Last week: Wharton defeated Spoto 42-13; Dr. Phillips defeated Orlando Freedom 27-14.

    Why you should go: To see what could be the final game for a couple of Wharton standouts. Defensive back Vernon Hargreaves and linebacker Rocky Enos will try to slow down the Panthers, who aren't flashy but do a lot of things well. Led by tailback Eric Harrell, Dr. Phillips totaled more than 30 points in six contests this year. Wharton will counter on offense with QB Chase Litton (18 TD passes this season) and RB Jeff Keil (600 yards, seven TDs). Wharton enters the playoffs with five consecutive wins.

    Newsome (6-4) at Gaither (8-2)

    Last week: Gaither defeated Riverview 34-24; Newsome defeated Bloomingdale 41-7.

    Why you should go: To see which kind of offense can prevail in playoff football: Gaither's pass attack or Newsome's churn-it-out ground attack. Gaither, which advanced to the region finals last season and is 17-6 over the past two seasons, is led by quarterback Alex McGough (1,541 yards passing in 2012 with 20 TDs and four interceptions). Throw in offensive weapons Shug Oyegunle and Vu Le, a duo with a combined 1,300-plus yards of offense and 18 touchdowns, and McGough has weapons to light up the scoreboard.

    But the Wolves may be one of the hotter teams in the county entering the playoffs, as evidenced by their last three games (all wins): 42-6, 40-7, 41-7. Quarterback Will Worth led Newsome in passing (700 yards), rushing (1,000) and scoring (21 touchdowns). He also plays a pretty mean linebacker.

    Moore Haven (9-1) vs. Carrollwood Day School (9-1)

    (at Alonso High)

    Last week: Moore Haven defeated LaBelle 13-8; CDS was off.

    Why you should go: How about to welcome the CDS program to the postseason? Or to watch tailback Robert Davis go for the Hillsborough County career rushing record? Or just to see how the Patriots will respond of the bright lights of playoff prep football.

    CDS is playing in its first playoff game since beginning 11-man football in 2008. Davis, with 1,875 yards on the season, needs another 92 to pass Avious Steadman's record total (5,320), amassed from 1998-2001 at Riverview. In the Terriers, CDS is facing a dominant running squad that hasn't lost a game since the first week of the regular season. The Moore Haven defense has been solid as well with three shutouts this season.


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    By Capt. Mike Gore, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    November to remember: Fishing should bring a phenomenal bite this month. The water is cooling off nicely and the fish are becoming more aggressive. It is getting into the time of the year where the low fronts start to make their way out of the north. Of course when this happens, the winds start to blow a little stronger. You will always want to have an alternate plan to find some fishing spots where you can take cover from the wind, although a little wind can make for a good and comfortable fishing day. When there is a ripple on the water, it enables you to sneak up on fish without spooking them.

    Redfish roll out: The redfish are here and in nice-size numbers. The big bull reds are also starting to show up. These fish seem to be eating everything I throw at them. I have been catching them on scaled sardines, cut up ladyfish, and pinfish. They have also been hitting artificial bait. The Top Dog Jr. has worked well in the early morning and a soft plastic sinking minnow in camo pattern has been deadly. There is nothing more exciting than to be able to site cast to a fish and have them explode on your bait. Most of these fish are being caught on the outside flats of shorelines.

    Snook should increase: The snook fishing has been just as hot as the redfish. While the numbers and the size of the fish caught haven't been as strong as the redfish, I expect that to change this month. The big snook are starting to show back up and getting them to chew this month should be pretty easy. Make sure to stick with your lighter gear and use your angling skills to bring the big linesiders to the boat. You may have a few break-offs, but this will increase your bite as the water starts to get clearer.

    Mike Gore charters out of Tampa Bay. Call him at (813) 390-6600 or visit tampacharters.com.


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    By Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    SEFFNER — The lights of Friday night will shine brightly around Hillsborough County this evening as the opening round of the Florida High School Athletics Association playoffs begin.

    But for Seffner Christian, it's all about Saturday.

    The Crusaders will play at 6 p.m. for the Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship at Master's Academy in Oviedo. Seffner Christian reached the title game of the non-FHSAA affiliated conference by defeating First Academy 41-11 last Friday.

    "To win in the fashion they did is pretty exciting," Seffner Christian athletic director Andy Holmes said. "We're looking into getting some fan buses to go over there (Saturday). The program's just grown leaps and bounds in a short time."

    It was the first postseason win for Seffner Christian in school history. The Crusaders, in just their third year of football, will enter the FHSAA next season. With a 5-4 record, they finished above .500 for the second straight year.

    "We've come a long way and I think it all starts in the weight room," Holmes said. "Coach (Steve) Lewis has had great support from out assistant coaches and we've been able to get guys into the system for a few years now."

    Seffner Christian and Master's Academy haven't played each other this season, but the Crusaders defeated the Eagles 23-3 last year. The Eagles also beat the Crusaders semifinal opponents, First Academy, 32-14 this season. All this bodes well for a Crusaders' team looking to pull off another first — a conference championship.

    "I think the matchup favors us," Holmes said. "Even though it's only been three years, sometimes it feels like forever ago because of how far this program has come."

    Armwood (7-3) at Largo (10-0)

    Last week: Armwood defeated King 19-8 on Nov. 2; Largo defeated Gibbs 37-14.

    The team: Armwood has had a tough season by its lofty standards, losing three regular season for the first time since 2002. … That was also the last time the Hawks didn't advance past the region semifinals. … Florida recruit Alvin Bailey had 40 catches for 658 yards and nine TDs, all team highs. … Leon McQuay III leads the team with four INTs and teams with Kyle Gibson to give the Hawks an excellent pair of safeties. … Senior Zeric Coleman leads the Hawks with five sacks.

    The opponent: Largo is ranked No. 6 in 6A and finished with a perfect regular season. … The Packers pose a difficult first-round matchup for Armwood with a balanced offensive attack. … Juwan Brown finished the season 100-of-138 for 1,610 yards and 22 TDs. Brown also went the entire season without throwing an interception and added 389 yards rushing. The Packers can also run the ball, led by Jarvis Stewart's 1,186 yards and 16 TDs. … The Packers' defense has only given up more than 14 points once this season.

    Seffner Christian (5-4) at Oviedo Masters Academy (6-3)

    Last week: Seffner Christian defeated Leesburg First Academy 41-11; Masters Academy defeated Seven Rivers Christian 41-0.

    The team: Seffner Christian has reached the Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship game in its first year in the conference. In only its third season, the team has managed to finish over .500 twice. … The Crusaders are paced by quarterback Skyler Clark and running back Seth Lewis on offense. … Lewis also plays on defense and gets substantial help from Nate Smith, the team's leading tackler.

    The opponent: Oviedo Masters should have played unbeaten Landmark Christian in the conference semifinal last week, but Landmark was disqualified after scheduling too many regular season games. That pushed Seven Rivers into the conference semifinal. … Masters is averaging more than 44 points a game during its three game winning streak.

    Tampa Bay Tech (7-3) at Durant (10-0)

    Last week: Tampa Bay Tech defeated Plant City 28-13; Durant defeated King 31-0.

    The team: Durant, ranked No. 6 in the state in 7A, ran the regular-season table for the first time in school history. … The Cougars had just one win decided by less than 10 points (a 13-12 victory against Wharton on Sept. 28). … Durant topped the 30-point mark six times on the season and pitched four shutouts on defense. … Senior defensive back Randy Baker led the Cougars with 71 tackles and tied for the team lead with two INTs while Dontriel Perry collected a team-best five sacks.

    The opponent: Antonio Guerad led the Titans with six sacks while Micah Tucker added five. … TBT has an excellent secondary and totaled 15 INTs on the year, led by four each from Justin Akins and Benjamin.

    Newsome (6-4) at Gaither (8-2)

    Last week: Newsome defeated Bloomingdale 41-7; Gaither defeated Riverview 34-24.

    The team: After dropping their first three games of the season, the Wolves went 6-1 the rest of the way out and returned to the postseason after missing out last year. … Although Newsome primarily runs, Worth is a capable thrower and especially effective on play action if the running game is working. Worth finished the regular season 51-of-102 for 816 yards and eight TDs. … Worth, who doubles as a linebacker, also led Newsome with 82 tackles. … Jacques Braggs paces Newsome with three sacks and Aaron Wade leads the team with three INTs.

    The opponent: Gaither will look to air the ball out behind quarterback Alex McGough (99-of-171 for 1,541 yards, 20 TDs and four INTs). … McGough has a trio of options — Marcus Brown, Vu Le and Shug Oyegunle — who have at least 20 receptions on the season. … Gaither's Matthew Williams, Logan Marshall and Jamari Cord all have more than 100 tackles on the season but will be tested by the Wolves' running game.


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    By Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    LITHIA — It must be incredibly frustrating to know something is coming, but not be able to do anything about it.

    That's precisely what defenses facing Newsome have dealt with all season.

    Here comes the wing T — good luck.

    "We pride ourselves on our preparation and blocking schemes," quarterback Will Worth said. "We like to punish people. It's the Wolves way."

    Newsome's ground-and-pound throwback offense has yielded some impressive results.

    After beating Plant City 40-7 a week ago, Newsome secured a spot in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, missing out last season, with a 40-7 win against Plant City Nov. 2.

    It boosted its record to 6-4 with a 41-7 victory over Bloomingdale, setting the stage for tonight's Class 7A playoff battle at Gaither.

    "We had something to prove after last year," running back John Hendricks said of missing the postseason in 2011.

    And it's the relentless ground game that serves as the main reason the Wolves are returning to the playoffs. While most teams have switched to a pass-heavy approach, Newsome has remained successful keeping the ball on the ground.

    "It's what we do best," coach Ken Hiscock said.

    After losing their first three games — two against playoff-bound Tampa Bay Tech and Hillsborough — Newsome has won six of its last seven. In all six wins, the Wolves topped the 30-point mark and have only scored fewer than 23 points once all year.

    Newsome, which runs the ball about 90 percent of the time, has a variety of run weapons.

    Hendricks (87 carries, 579 yards), a quick-footed bruiser, mainly operates between the tackles but has the ability to break a big one.

    "I'd much rather give the punishment than receive," he said.

    Clint Carnell (77 carries, 629 yards) typically gets the call on sweeps.

    "He's fast as lightning," Worth said of Carnell.

    One play in particular is Carnell's signature carry. With Worth in the shotgun, Carnell starts in motion and once the ball is snapped, Worth has the option to hand it to him as he runs parallel to the line of scrimmage or keep it himself. With all the moving parts involved, it's a play that requires impeccable timing.

    "We probably do that one particular play 100 times at practice," Carnell said.

    And then there's Worth, the unquestioned boss of the team.

    "He gives us pep talks before games, at halftime and after games," Hendricks said. "He's our leader on and off the field."

    Hiscock agreed.

    "When Will speaks, they listen," he said. "He's just an awesome kid to be around."

    Worth leads the team in rushing attempts (195), yards (1,139), and TDs (16).

    "He's the quarterback, but I consider him a running back," Carnell said.

    The Wolves' old-school approach has them thinking a deep playoff run is possible.


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    By Darek Sharp, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    PLANT CITY — It's hard to be 10-0 and still relatively unnoticed, but the Durant High football team has pulled it off — outside of East Hillsborough, that is.

    "Slowly we're getting more respect," said Durant head coach Mike Gottman, emphasis on the first word. Gottman's team just finished its first undefeated regular season, and some feel is geared for a deep playoff run.

    And yet the Cougars aren't getting as much postseason consideration as Plant, Robinson or Hillsborough.

    "We're not studded-out like some of the (Tampa) schools," Gottman said. "We don't have that big Division 1 prospect. But being under the radar a little is fine with me."

    Under the radar? Maybe. Undermanned? Not at all. Durant's dual running attack of Jamarlon Hamilton (1,089 yards) and Chris Atkins (731 yards) provides reliable production, while quarterback Ty VanDeGrift (716 yards passing) lends a steady hand when called upon to throw the ball. He has completed nearly 80 percent of his passes.

    Throw in a stingy defense (84 points allowed in 10 games) and you have the makings of a team that can earn respect with a big postseason run.

    If the Cougars can string a couple of playoff victories together, they'll be on everyone's radar. But for now, Gottman will be happy with just taking care of a challenging Tampa Bay Tech team.

    The Titans (7-3) were favored to win District 7A-7 but faltered in the final week of league play, losing 35-32 to Gaither. It was actually down 35-10 before managing to get down to the 5-yard line with a chance to at least force overtime.

    But TBT fumbled and the settled for district runner-up status.

    Titans sophomore quarterback Deon Cain (1,383 yards passing) has led the Titans away from their run-oriented offense and is averaging a fairly lofty 20 attempts per game. Cain threw it 41 times in the Gaither game.

    The Titans' Richard Benjamin holds the rare spot of leading the team in rushing (666) and receiving (286) yards. Another senior, Deon Thompson, has right around 500 yards on the ground.

    "They're very talented, I think our guys have a good understanding of that," Gottman said. "We're not overlooking this game at all. Message number one this week was, putting the 10-0 season behind you and focusing on this game. It's all about practicing and preparing."

    One note from recent history should help get the Cougars on alert. The Titans had never won a playoff game in the school's existence before breaking through 2008, but in that year and each playoff since has won its first-round contest (before losing in the next round).

    Durant athletic director Todd Long, who knows a little about leading a talented team into the playoffs from his days at Plant City High, likes the Cougars' approach.

    "We've got some good athletes but, this is really a blue-collar team," Long said. "Not blessed with a lot of natural talent. They had to work hard to get to where they are."

    Gottman credited his team's senior leaders — Patrick Frazier and Alex Wood on offense, Zach Hoffman, Chris Smith and Randy Baker on defense — for keeping the troops from looking past the Titans.

    And while Gottman wouldn't bring up something like this to his team, here's something Cougar supporters will want to keep in mind: Durant, if it keeps winning, could very easily have home field advantage right up until the state finals.


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    By Darek Sharp, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    TAMPA — It's playoff time, folks.

    It's no surprise that the field includes Plant, Robinson and Hillsborough. And Tampa Bay Tech has grown accustomed to making the postseason in recent years.

    Add a very sound Tampa Catholic to the mix, and you have five central/south Tampa squads that all have hopes of going deep.

    All kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

    Class 8A: Orlando Freedom (7-3) at Plant (9-1)

    This one might look like a cakewalk based on the teams' respective playoff histories, but Freedom is talented. While Plant has a stunning stretch of four state titles in the last decade, Freedom is beginning just its second trip to the postseason.

    But this season's Freedom team won seven straight at one point, and gave top-ranked Dr. Phillips a decent contest before falling 27-14.

    The Panthers come in buoyed by last week's 26-24 win against Robinson, where quarterback Aaron Banks rallied Plant for a go-ahead drive.

    Plant fans who also happen to pull for USF will want to watch for Bulls' commit Jeff Badet, Freedom's all-county receiver. Senior Kevin Maurice is the defensive standout and Lee Grant is a danger from both the receiver and defensive back positions.

    Speaking of Dr. Phillips, that's the team Plant would likely meet next week if it wins. Dr. Phillips (10-0) is taking on Wharton in the opposite region quarterfinal.

    Class 7A: Tampa Bay Tech (7-3) at Durant (10-0)

    The Titans face a very like-minded team in the Cougars. Both teams love to pound the ball right at you. Durant's fullback, Jamarlon Hamilton, has surprising breakaway ability, while Chris Atkins is the speedster who generally gets the ball on the edges.

    However, it would be unfair to label TBT a one-dimensional offense, as sophomore Deon Cain averages around 140 yards passing per contest.

    Richard Benjamin is the rarity for the Titans, a player that leads his team in both rushing and receiving yards.

    Durant went undefeated for the first time in school history, and some predict the Cougars can surpass their best year, a state semifinal performance in 2003.

    Class 6A: Osceola (7-3) at Hillsborough (8-1)

    Hillsborough has put together one of the most solid campaigns of any area team, but for some reason have slipped under the radar. Again this week, the opponent is really more of a "story" because of how the Warriors got into the playoffs.

    Osceola started off the season 1-3, but then, admittedly against a weak schedule, piled up six wins in a row. With a wing T offense, the Warriors average nearly 40 points a game. And Hillsborough won't be able to key in on one running back due to the Warriors' rotation. Then again, Hillsborough's defense is stout, boasting a shutout of Armwood to its credit.

    And Dwayne Wilson has quietly become a steady leader at quarterback for the Terriers, who should win even if it means enduring some frustrating moments.

    Should it advance, Hillsborough's second-round matchup will a barn-burner either way. The Terriers would host either Armwood or undefeated Largo.

    Class 5A: Port Orange Atlantic (8-2) at Robinson (9-1)

    So, is it possible that the Knights could suffer their first loss after a 9-0 start, and have that loss be the most impressive result of their 10 games?

    Absolutely. Head coach Mike DePue, going into his final playoff stretch, surely doesn't want to hear it, but a last-minute 26-24 loss to Plant should be reason to get excited. That's because, theoretically, Robinson won't play as good a team in the 5A playoffs.

    Atlantic got pulled into a three-way tiebreaker when it lost to Lake Nona in Week 9, but then three days later dominated the same team 14-0 in the quarter that sent the Sharks to the postseason. In that quarter, they intercepted Tucker Israel, central Florida's leading passer, twice.

    Does that give Robinson cause for concern? A little, but the only concern here would be overconfidence. The Knights are, plain and simple, a better team. And as long as they aren't looking ahead to what they expect will be a second-round showdown with district rival Lakewood, they should win comfortably.

    Alex Bell is Atlantic's dual-threat quarterback, throwing for 180 yards and running for 105 more in a tuneup win last week.

    Class 3A: Tampa Catholic (7-3) at Fort Meade (8-2)

    Tampa Catholic enters the playoffs on a bit of a down note, having lost to rival Jesuit 17-3 last week. Then again, that makes 13 straight defeats in the series, so Tampa Catholic should at least be accustomed to it.

    And, of course, they left that game knowing their season would continue while the Tigers were done.

    Tampa Catholic fans no doubt have their eyes on a possible second-round rematch with Clearwater Central Catholic, which humbled the then-undefeated Crusaders 27-7 in early October.

    As for tonight's opponent, the Miners' 8-2 record was legitimate, with a narrow loss to Class 7A team Ridge Community. And if rankings mean anything, the Miners were seventh in the most recent 3A poll.

    Fort Meade is not spectacular, just very good. And it's balanced, with quarterback Jay Smith throwing for about 100 yards a game and D.J. Clark (725 yards) and sophomore Ryan Fulse (484) behind him. Fort Meade certainly has history, winning the 1A state title in 2004 and making the finals as recently as four years ago.

    If Tampa Catholic can avoid getting rattled by the unique environment at Frank S. Battle Field, the Crusaders should advance and likely head to CCC.


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    GAINESVILLE — Shortly after Florida's win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, the players gathered to discuss the game, and one phrase was repeated over and over:

    "Man down, man up."

    Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel sprained his right ankle in the third quarter, and backup Jacoby Brissett came in to help the Gators rally for a victory.

    Brissett's teammates said they never doubted the sophomore's ability to do so because he had been practicing and preparing for just that moment, as has the entire team. It's not a matter of if, but when. Brissett is just the latest Gator this season to find himself thrust into a pivotal role after another was injured.

    "Man down, man up," senior nose tackle Omar Hunter said. "That's how we've been playing it the whole year. Someone goes down, someone has to step up, and I think he stepped up pretty well. Jacoby did a great job preparing every day in practice like he was going to be the starter. So if that situation ever did occur, he was going to step up in that situation nicely, and he did."

    Having reserves ready isn't unusual in football. But Florida coach Will Muschamp's oft-repeated motto has been more than a catchphrase. Multiple starters have been injured this season, but it's the way other players have responded that has helped the Gators to a 9-1 record.

    It is, Muschamp said, a tough lesson learned from last year's disappointing season, when injuries derailed the Gators because there were few players ready to fill those positions.

    "I've emphasized all along, knowing how our season went a year ago, we had injuries, and I felt like at times we used that as an excuse," Muschamp said. "I went into this season with the mentality of our football team that is not going to be an excuse."

    Brissett will start Saturday when the Gators host Division I-AA Jacksonville State, not exactly an SEC-caliber opponent. Brissett has played about the equivalent of two quarters this season.

    Still, offensive coordinator Brent Pease said he won't make any drastic changes to the offense.

    "I still think we stay within our philosophy," Pease said. "To get to 9-1 and work toward getting to 10-1 and hopefully 11-1, I think we've got a pretty good recipe. Is it totally what you want it to be in the big picture? No. There's things we've got to improve on. There's pieces you can put in. Jacoby has a great opportunity, and what he does to improve us and do a good job for himself, as well as his teammates, hey, it's his stage for this game. Step up and do what you've got to do. You're number's called, go carry the flag."

    And what obstacles will the Gators face going from a run-oriented quarterback to a less mobile passer in Brissett?

    "Not a thing," senior receiver Frankie Hammond said. "Driskel is more of a mobile guy. He can get out of the pocket a little faster. But I don't think that will close anything as far as our offense is concerned. Jacoby does just as a good a job as Driskel does."

    Muschamp said he's unsure of Driskel's status for the Nov. 24 showdown with Florida State in Tallahassee, saying he expects him to be able to play, "but who knows?" Ankle injuries are hard to predict, Muschamp said. If Driskel can't go, Muschamp believes the man-down, man-up philosophy will continue to thrive.

    "Injuries are a part of the game," he said. "And in the SEC, as physical of a league as it is, you are going to have injuries. When a guy goes down, the other guy has to step up and play at a high level, and we're not going to use that as an excuse to say we had an injury. That's part of the game, and you have to move on. It's something I came up with: just said, 'Man down, man up.' You need to man up in this league and when you have an injury, somebody else needs to step forward and play well for you."

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.


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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Rays ace David Price picked up one of the greatest honors in sports on Wednesday, winning the American League Cy Young Award, handed out annually to the league's best pitcher.

    Counting the Bucs, Lightning and Rays, there have been 70 total seasons dating to 1976. In that time, Price's Cy Young is only the 13th major regular-season or postseason award won by a Tampa Bay player in one of the big North American sports. (No, we don't consider the NHL's Lady Byng to be a major award.)

    So where does Price's Cy Young rank on the list of major awards won by Tampa Bay athletes? Here's one opinion.

    1. Marty St. Louis, Lightning

    Hart Trophy, 2003-04

    Picking the greatest individual award in Tampa Bay sports history is a no-brainer. You can't do better than the best player in the league. Not only was St. Louis the best player and leading scorer on the league's best team during the 2003-04 season, he was awarded the Hart Trophy, given to the MVP in the NHL. St. Louis remains the only Tampa Bay player to be named his sport's regular-season MVP.

    2. Derrick Brooks, Bucs

    NFL defensive player of the year, 2002

    This was the crowning year of Brooks' marvelous career. The 2002 Bucs were the NFL's No. 1 defense, and that Super Bowl-winning defense was led by the linebacker out of FSU. Brooks set an NFL record for linebackers with five touchdowns — three off interceptions and two off fumbles. I thought about putting Price at No. 2, but there's more competition for this award.

    3. David Price, Rays

    AL Cy Young, 2012

    The fact that this is third isn't meant to diminish what Price did or the Cy Young Award itself, but it's merely a testament to just how impressive the accomplishments of St. Louis and Brooks were. And, well, you do have to consider this: There are two Cy Young Awards each season. Price won his award against half of Major League Baseball's pitchers. St. Louis and Brooks had to win against their entire leagues. Still, a Cy Young is a special award and rarely does it ever go to a less-than-elite pitcher.

    4. Joe Maddon, Rays

    AL manager of the year, 2008

    I hesitated to put Maddon this high because, after all, he didn't swing a bat or throw a pitch during the 2008 season. But the Rays' turnaround from worst-to-first was due, in large part, to the masterful managing and leadership of Maddon. The Rays had never won 70 games in a season and were coming off a 66-96 campaign when Maddon skippered the Rays to 97 victories and a trip to the World Series. Don't forget just how stunning that 2008 season was.

    5. Lee Roy Selmon, Bucs

    NFL defensive player of the year, 1979 6. Warren Sapp, Bucs

    NFL defensive player of the year, 1999

    The choice to put Selmon's one slot ahead of Sapp's was simple. Selmon didn't have as many great players around him as Sapp did.

    7. Brad Richards, Lightning

    Conn Smythe Award, 2004

    Because of the gruelling two-month marathon that is the Stanley Cup playoffs, no trophy in sports is tougher to win. To be the best player of that two-month grind is an exceptional accomplishment and traditionally reserved for only the game's star players.

    8. Evan Longoria, Rays

    AL rookie of the year, 2008

    9. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays

    AL rookie of the year, 2011

    Some of the all-time great players have won rookie of the year awards, such as Cal Ripken, Frank Robinson and Willie Mays. But it has also been won by forgettable players such as Jerome Walton, Ben Grieve and Pat Listach. Here's the thing about rookie of the year awards: The competition isn't that deep. There aren't that many rookies to begin with and only a handful make the kind of impact worthy of consideration.

    10. John Tortorella, Lightning

    Jack Adams Award, 2003-04

    A respectable award, to be sure, given to the NHL's coach of the year. But Tortorella's best work was the season before, taking the Lightning to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. The Stanley Cup year was merely a continuation of a job well done.

    11. Joe Maddon, Rays

    AL manager of the year, 2011

    Maddon leading the Rays back from an 0-6 start and nine-game deficit in September was impressive, but he already had a pretty good team and had won this award just three years earlier.

    12. Cadillac Williams, Bucs

    AP offensive rookie of the year, 2005

    Why so low? Honestly, how many offensive rookies of the year can you name in NFL history? I debated even counting this as a major award.

    13. Matt Garza, Rays

    ALCS MVP, 2008

    Garza's ALCS MVP was well-deserved — 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA, including a Game 7 victory — but he is last on this particular list because his award was won for just two games.


    JAMES BORCHUCK   |   TimesJAMES BORCHUCK | Times

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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Joe Smith's AL Cy Young ballot 1. David Price, Rays 2. Justin Verlander, Tigers 3. Fernando Rodney, Rays 4. Jered Weaver, Angels 5. Felix Hernandez, Mariners

    The decision to pick Rays left-hander David Price the American League Cy Young winner was, for me, an easy one. Price led the league in ERA (2.56) and won 20 games for an offensively challenged club while pitching in arguably the toughest division in baseball (going 10-2 with a 2.51 ERA against the AL East). And Price was the most consistent of the other starting candidates (AL-best two earned runs or fewer in 23 starts). Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young and MVP, was worthy as well, leading the league in strikeouts (239) and innings (238?). You could also make a case for Angels right-hander Jered Weaver, a 20-game winner with the AL's best WHIP (1.02), but he pitched just 188? innings due to injury. The toughest part was where to put Rays closer Fernando Rodney on my ballot. Nine relievers have won a Cy Young (four in the AL), and Rodney had arguably the best season of them all, including a record 0.60 ERA. Putting him third ahead of Weaver wasn't due to anything the Angels ace lacked; I believed Rodney's historic year merited special consideration.


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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    TAMPA — The football from his first NFL touchdown still sits in his locker, the one linebacker Adam Hayward scooped from the turf at Raymond James Stadium after a blocked punt and carried 29 yards into the end zone Sunday against the Chargers.

    Already a prized keepsake, Hayward was even more geeked that it was a commemorative football specially designed for Veterans Day.

    "I like the little camouflage ribbon on there and everything," Hayward said.

    It's fitting for Hayward, whose concealment on the Bucs roster has been almost a matter of pride for the sixth-year pro from Portland State.

    Undetectable to many, Hayward always has been one of the most valued players for the Bucs because of his ability on special teams and to play all three linebacker positions.

    With Quincy Black being placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a neck injury he suffered against the Chargers, Hayward will be counted on to start at strongside linebacker.

    "Being unselfish is the only thing that's kept me around," Hayward said. "I play all three spots and can go in.

    "I feel like I play well enough to be a linebacker on this team or any team. The way the situation is right now, that's my role. In case something happens, I go in for anybody at the drop of a dime."

    The Bucs will use Dekoda Watson in some situations, including his current role as an edge rusher on passing downs.

    "We have some flexibility, but Adam would be the most prepared, so that's probably how we'll go," coach Greg Schiano said Wednesday. "We have some different personnel groupings, different things. So there will be some other guys that play as well.

    "(Hayward is) a professional. He works very hard. He stays up to speed on all three linebacker positions, and that's why I say we'll have flexibility where guys will move around. So it won't be just exclusive Adam for Quincy. There will be some other things that play out."

    Black and Hayward share a bond as the only remaining members of the Bucs' 10-player draft class of 2007. Black went in the third round, Hayward three rounds later.

    That's what made watching Black being carted off Sunday after a collision with Chargers running back Ryan Mathews so tough for Hayward, who doesn't care to relive the incident.

    Schiano said he's confident Black will eventually return to football, but it will be several weeks before doctors can administer tests to determine the cause of the nerve damage affecting his left arm.

    "What Quincy has is not like your normal thing," Schiano said. "It's not like you go to the normal doctor. You have to go see the specialist for what he has. And our doctors have been awesome in that they've been on the phone all over the country — really all over the world — talking to people about what is the best course of action here.

    "I think we're all confident that he's going to eventually get back. The shame of it is he played his best game of the year on Sunday. When I talked to (linebackers coach Bob) Frazer, I had to pick him up a little because he said, 'Finally, he looked like what we know he can be.' "

    Meanwhile, both Hayward and Watson played enormous roles in Sunday's win. Watson, a former FSU standout, blocked the second-quarter punt that Hayward collected and sprinted away with like a jewel thief.

    Hayward hates that his opportunity to start came at the expense of Black. But he will make the most of it.

    From the time he arrived in Tampa Bay, Hayward knew he'd have to learn to produce in a backup role playing mostly behind perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks. But he set career highs in special teams tackles in each of his first four seasons and was named captain of the unit in 2011.

    "You don't start over a guy like Derrick," Hayward, 28, said. "But I learned a lot from him. That's my role right now, and I've got to step in and be a starter. And the best part is showing people this defense is not going to skip a heartbeat."

    Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.


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  • 11/14/12--16:21: Who is David Price?
  • By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    David Taylor Price

    Ht: 6-6

    Wt.: 220

    Throws: Left

    Hits: Left

    Born: 8-26-85, Nashville

    High School: Blackman, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

    College: Vanderbilt, Nashville



    Who is David Price?

    . A frequent user of Twitter — @DAVIDprice14 —with nearly 118,00 followers and more than 7,700 tweets.

    . Has a famously popular French bulldog named Astro, who occasionally accompanies him to the Trop. An Astro figurine was include with a Price Superhero Figurine giveaway last season, and Price often puts a toy dog atop the dugout when he pitches.

    . Has dates sewn into his glove marking the dates two of his closest high school friends passed away.

    . Started the Project 14 Foundation which supports youth programs in his native Tennessee and the Tampa Bay area; hosts a golf outing, bowling event and a banquet.

    Fast facts

    His notable accomplishments

    . Led AL with 2.56 ERA (2nd in majors) and shared lead with 20 wins.

    . Selected to third consecutive All-Star team.

    . Went 10-2, 2.51 in 16 starts vs. AL East teams.

    . Had 12 wins vs. teams that finished .500 or better, second in MLB to Jered Weaver (no other pitcher had more than 9).

    . Had MLB-most 23 starts of 7 IP or more, including 22 of last 26.

    . Had 23 starts allowing 2 ER or fewer, most in AL, and allowed 1 or 0 in 11 of last 23 starts.

    . Compiled a 1.62 ERA in six no-decisions, including two with eight shutout innings and three or fewer hits. (Rays were shut out in 3 of his starts.)

    . Had most difficult "Quality of Opponents" of any MLB starter, according to SABR.

    Other major Rays awards

    Manager of the Year

    Joe Maddon 2008, 2011

    Rookie of the Year

    3B Evan Longoria 2008

    RHP Jeremy Hellickson 2011

    ALCS MVP

    RHP Matt Garza 2008

    All-Star Game MVP

    OF Carl Crawford 2009

    Executive of the Year

    Andrew Friedman 2008

    Gold Glove

    1B Carlos Peña 2008

    3B Evan Longoria 2009, 2010

    OF Carl Crawford 2010

    RHP Jeremy Hellickson 2012


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  • 11/14/12--17:27: Getting to know him

  • Wednesday, November 14, 2012


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    .ncaa soccer

    Men's tournament

    Round 1: USF vs. Florida Gulf Coast

    When/where: 7 tonight; Corbett Stadium, Tampa

    Notable: USF didn't make the Big East tournament, but its strength of schedule got the Bulls (8-5-4) in the NCAA field for the sixth year in a row. … USF scored a season high in goals in a 3-0 win vs. FGCU on Sept. 25… USF and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission have made general-admission tickets free for the game. … If the Bulls win, they host Tulsa, which gets a first-round bye, in the second round Sunday afternoon. The Bulls also beat Tulsa in the regular season.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer


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    By Pat Damico, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    What's hot: Early starts have found slow fishing, but from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., shallow-water fishing has been great. The latter period coincides with lower tides and skinny water for the next few days. Some of our best locations have been around river mouths protected from wind. Marbled bottoms with a combination of grass and sand holes will hold fish. Finding warmer water has been the key to success lately with trout, reds and snook. Your boat temperature gauge should be carefully observed. A pool thermometer placed in your live well or over the side of a kayak is very effective if you don't have electronics.

    Tips: Casting a baitfish or a crustacean imitation with a fly rod to a fish you see and getting a solid take are a thrill. Pick days that are cloudless and water that is clear. Long, accurate casts with minimum false casting will improve your chances. To establish accuracy, cast off to the side rather than vertically, then make a soft delivery. A hat with a dark, wide brim and good Polaroid glasses in an amber color are necessary. Tilting your head from side to side will often reveal fish that are not seen otherwise.

    Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.


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    0 0

    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Tonight

    Dolphins (4-5) at Bills (3-6)

    When/where: 8:20; Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo

    TV/radio: NFL Network; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

    Line/OU: Bills by 1½; 45½

    Hard to know what to make of the Dolphins' 37-3 home loss to the Titans on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Bills gave the Patriots all they could handle in a 37-31 loss at Foxborough. Given the short week and being the road team, the Dolphins are the underdog. But lingering doubts about the way they played Sunday probably have something to do with that, too.

    Stephen F. Holder's pick: Bills 24, Dolphins 20


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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    TAMPA — The depth of the Bucs' offensive line is already razor thin because of injuries.

    "We don't have that many more moves left," coach Greg Schiano said.

    That made the sight of starting RG Jamon Meredith leaving the locker room on crutches Wednesday afternoon concerning. He was limited at practice after rolling an ankle. The severity of the injury was unknown.

    Meredith, 26, who has played for four teams over four seasons, has started the past five games in helping replace Davin Joseph. Roger Allen, who has appeared in only three games over his four seasons and was promoted from the practice squad last month, is listed as Meredith's backup.

    "If he's down, I guess it's 'next man up,' " RT Demar Dotson said. "That's been the motto of this team since we've been here. We've got a revolving door on this offensive line."

    The "revolving door" has included sliding C Jeremy Zuttah to left guard after the season-ending injury to G Carl Nicks. But after a couple of physical games, including shutting down Raiders DT Richard Seymour, Zuttah was kept out of Wednesday's practice to rest. Schiano said he hopes Zuttah can return to practice today.

    "He got bumped a little bit, his shoulder," Schiano said. "We've got to make sure to keep him healthy and get him to Sunday."

    WITH HONORS: Ronde Barber is having a strong season in his first season at a new position, and it's not going unnoticed.

    Barber is first among free safeties in fan voting for the Pro Bowl, the NFL announced Wednesday.

    The former cornerback has played in five Pro Bowls, his most recent after the 2008 season. Pro Bowl rosters are chosen based on voting by fans, coaches and players. Players and coaches vote in December, and rosters are revealed Dec. 26.

    Barber, 37, leads the Bucs in interceptions with three, including one returned 78 yards for a touchdown. He also has 50 tackles, fourth on the team. Fan balloting continues through Dec. 17 at nfl.com/probowl.

    CATCHING ON: With rain in the forecast for Sunday's matchup in Carolina, Bucs receivers coach P.J. Fleck is doing his best to prepare his wideouts.

    WR Mike Williams said Fleck dipped balls in water before throwing them — and the receivers couldn't use gloves.

    "It (helps) actually," Williams said. "The balls are actually going to be that wet when you play in the rain."

    ON TRACK: The team got encouraging news on the injury front as CB Eric Wright (Achilles) practiced. Wright aggravated the injury early in Sunday's game and did not return. Also back was WR Arrelious Benn, who was sidelined Sunday with a shoulder injury. DE Michael Bennett (shoulder) did not practice.

    Roster moves: The team promoted DE Markus White from the practice squad. White, a seventh-round pick by the Redskins out of Florida State in 2011, saw action in two games as a rookie and one this season. He takes the roster spot of LB Quincy Black, who went on injured reserve with a neck injury. LB Joe Holland, an undrafted rookie out of Purdue, was signed to the practice squad.

    Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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  • 11/14/12--18:54: Golf on TV
  • Times staff
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    This week on pro golf tours

    LPGA: Titleholders, today-Sunday, TwinEagles Club, Naples. TV: Today-Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Golf Channel

    PGA Europe: Hong Kong Open, Hong Kong Golf Club. TV: Today-Sunday, 1:30 a.m., Golf Channel

    PGA Australasia: Australian Masters, today-Saturday, Kingston Heath Golf Club, Melbourne. TV: Today-Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Golf Channel

    . fast facts

    This week on the golf tours

    LPGA: Titleholders, today-Sunday, TwinEagles Club, Naples. TV: Today-Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Golf Channel

    PGA Europe: Hong Kong Open, Hong Kong Golf Club. TV: Today-Sunday, 1:30 a.m., Golf Channel


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  • 11/14/12--19:06: Dickey's knuckler Cy-worthy
  • Times wires
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    NEW YORK — The last missing piece from this fairy-tale run — a crown to pair with his glass slipper — wormed its way into his wardrobe a few minutes before 7 p.m. Wednesday. R.A. Dickey, the 38-year-old Mets knuckleballer who spent so many seasons toiling along baseball's fringes, completed his pauper-to-prince transformation by winning the 2012 National League Cy Young Award.

    Dickey was chosen over Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw and Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. He received 27 of the 32 first-place votes. All 32 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who voted on the award had Dickey either first or second on their ballots.

    He finished with 209 points. Kershaw was second with 96 and Gonzalez third with 93.

    "It just shows you that there's not just one way to do it," Dickey said. "And it gives hope to a lot of people, because they see … you don't have to take the conventional way to get to a certain place or a certain height or to reach a certain goal. With imagination, hard work, people who love you, you can do it."

    He did it by escaping the horrors of sexual abuse from his Tennessee childhood. He did it by turning to a pitch no player had ridden this masterfully. He did it by convincing an organization that his right arm still had shelf life.

    His persistence culminated in a magical summer. Dickey went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts (230), innings pitched (2332/3), shutouts (three) and complete games (five). In June, he threw back-to-back one-hitters against the Orioles and Rays.

    Dickey became the third Mets pitcher to capture the award, joining franchise legends Dwight Gooden (1985) and Tom Seaver (1969, 1973, 1975). He also is the first knuckleballer to win.

    Dickey said his victory "brings a real legitimacy to the knuckleball fraternity."

    "(The voters) didn't see the knuckleball as a trick pitch," Dickey said. "They saw it as a legitimate weapon that has one purpose and that's to get big-league hitters out consistently."

    Kershaw (14-9, 2.53) and Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA) are a pair of hard throwers who put together compelling cases of their own.

    Voters decided that neither held a candle to Dickey, who opened the season 13-1 for a Mets team that lost its footing after the All-Star break. He finished 14 games above .500 on a team that finished 14 games below .500.

    HUNTER TO TIGERS: OF Torii Hunter agreed to a two-year, $26 million deal with Detroit, pending a physical. Hunter, 37, a four-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner, hit a career-best .313 last season for the Angels, along with compiling a .365 on-base percentage and a .451 slugging percentage in 140 games.

    FUENTES DONE: Left-hander Brian Fuentes will retire after a 12-year career, the Merced Sun-Star of California reported. Fuentes, 37, had a 3.62 career ERA and 204 saves.

    EYEING U.S.: Right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa of the Hanshin Tigers, one of the Japan League's top closers, was one of four Japanese professional players who became unrestricted free agents in hopes of moving to Major League Baseball. The other players were Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, Nippon Ham Fighters infielder Kensuke Tanaka and Orix Buffaloes catcher Takeshi Hidaka.

    A'S: Right-hander Bartolo Colon will be welcomed back by manager Bob Melvin, who said he is happy Colon will return after his 2012 season ended with a 50-game suspension Aug. 22 for testing positive for testosterone.

    GIANTS: Left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt and the club completed an $18 million, three-year contract.


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  • 11/14/12--19:26: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Swimming

    OlympiC Star pranks Cal coach on pick

    Missy Franklin had a little fun with California women's swimming coach Teri McKeever, leading her U.S. Olympic coach into thinking she had lost out on the five-time London Games medalist, who was announcing her choice of college Wednesday.

    "My heart sank for about 30 seconds until she cleared it up," McKeever said after Franklin, 17, signed a national letter of intent to swim for the Golden Bears in September instead of cashing in as a pro.

    Franklin will purse a degree and swim for two years for the two-time defending NCAA champs. Then she will train with their post-graduate ranks and go pro before the 2016 Rio Games.

    "Does Missy Franklin have the ability to make millions? Yes, I think she does," the coach said. "If she earns a degree and broadens her 17-year-old person, she's going to be more marketable and make a bigger difference in the world."

    Gymnastics

    Injury-plagued Memmel retires

    Chellsie Memmel, the 24-year-old three-time world champion and 2008 Olympic team silver medalist, announced her retirement from competitive gymnastics. Her career was hampered by a series of injuries, and her latest comeback ended in May when she failed to qualify for the U.S. championships.

    "I'm proud of everything that I was able to accomplish," said Memmel, who will continue the process of becoming a gymnastics judge she started last year. "I had some untimely injuries, obviously."

    Memmel was part of the 2003 squad that won the country's first team title at worlds and tied for gold on uneven bars that year. She missed the Athens Olympics with a foot injury, but came back in 2005 to become the third U.S. woman to win the world all-around title.

    ET cetera

    Autos: Roush Fenway Racing is making more changes to its crew chief lineup, moving veteran Jimmy Fennig to work with Carl Edwards next season. Fennig has been paired with Matt Kenseth, who is leaving at the end of the season. Kenseth's replacement, Ricky Stenhouse, will be paired with crew chief Scott Graves, who has been working in the Nationwide series.

    Skiing: Lindsey Vonn was released from a Vail, Colo., hospital two days after being admitted for intestinal pain. Publicist Lewis Kay said Vonn was "resting comfortably at home." He was not sure when the four-time overall World Cup champion would return to skiing. Doctors were trying to determine what caused her illness.

    Soccer: Mix Diskerud, a 22-year-old whose mother is from Arizona and who grew up in Norway, scored his first international goal in the third minute of injury time, giving the United States a 2-2 tie against host Russia in an exhibition.… Pele, 72, is having physiotherapy after surgery to restore proper function to his right hip in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is in good condition and already walking around his room. He could be out of the hospital this week.

    Times wires


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