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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Texans (9-1) at Lions (4-6)

    12:30 p.m., Ch. 10

    Texans by 3½, 50½

    Houston is 4-0 on the road, so it won't be fazed by an energetic crowd. Add the 527 passing yards of Matt Schaub (above) last week and the consistency of RB Arian Foster and it's hard not to pick the Texans. But there's something troubling about the 37 points and 458 yards they gave up to the Jags on Sunday; enough to make you wonder what Lions WR Calvin Johnson might do.

    Texans 28, Lions 23

    Redskins (4-6) at Cowboys (5-5)

    4:15 p.m., Ch. 13

    Cowboys by 3½, 48

    The playoffs are within reach for Dallas, even as poorly as it has played at times. But it can't afford letdowns. This will be the first time the Cowboys have faced rookie QB Robert Griffin III (above), and he'll be confronted with a defense that's seventh in yards allowed. Meantime, Cowboys QB Tony Romo is undefeated on Thanksgiving, and that streak looks likely to stay intact.

    Cowboys 26, Redskins 21

    Patriots (7-3) at Jets (4-6)

    8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

    Patriots by 7, 48½

    Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (above) is out several weeks with a broken arm, which only means Tom Brady must find someone else to throw to. Like, say, TE Aaron Hernandez, back from an ankle injury that has left him in and out since Week 3. New England has averaged 47 points over its three games, including 59 on Sunday. Don't expect a letup with the Texans and 49ers looming.

    Patriots 30, Jets 18

    Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer


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    By Coley Harvey, Orlando Sentinel
    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State brought its New York mojo back south Wednesday night when it earned a 75-67 win over North Florida in its first game at the Tucker Center since winning the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic last weekend.

    Senior guard Michael Snaer continued to be the offensive spark plug for FSU (4-1) with 21 points and eight rebounds.

    "Michael Snaer does something that very few guys like him do, and I told him this after the game," North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. "He never let his bad game allow him to be a bad player. He let the game come to him."

    Snaer was best in the second half when he went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. In all, the Seminoles scored 19 from the line in the final 20 minutes.

    FSU coach Leonard Hamilton was proud to see his team draw fouls after having struggled to do so earlier this season.

    "We have not been getting to the foul line as much as we did" Wednesday, Hamilton said. "We are not posting up in the lane with the consistency that we're going to have to. We're big enough, we're strong enough and skilled enough inside. That's part of our game that we still need to be developed."

    The Seminoles had several turnovers as they tried to get the ball to their big men in the low post. In all, they had 17.

    Former Clearwater High standout Okaro White had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Seminoles.

    With 40 seconds left in the game, the Ospreys (1-4) had a chance to strike. Two free throws by guard Parker Smith cut the FSU lead to 70-65. But five free throws later and the Seminoles had pulled away for the win.


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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    TAMPA — From his new spot at safety, Ronde Barber has a bird's-eye view of the Falcons' three-headed passing attack. But no matter the vantage point, the Bucs' 16-year veteran is impressed.

    Julio Jones has the speed and length to go deep. Roddy White runs precise routes and always seems to be open. Ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez is too physical for most defensive backs and too fast for most linebackers.

    It's a given quarterback Matt Ryan will test the Bucs' last-ranked pass defense Sunday, and Barber expects feathers to fly.

    "They're the best in the league, all three of them; numbers-wise and just skill sets," Barber said. "They've got a quarterback who gets them the ball. The guy is efficient. I look at it as our biggest challenge yet; not only because it's our next one, but because they're really good."

    The Bucs have given up 47 pass plays of 20 yards or more and are allowing 312.6 passing yards per game. Since trading up to draft Jones in 2011, the Falcons have become air-centric, throwing the ball 63 percent of the time.

    "We're going to have to put pressure on the quarterback," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "I think the perimeter pass coverage is getting better. Now we're going up in class, for sure. It's going to be some challenge."

    White, 31, who has been named to four consecutive Pro Bowls, was second in the league in receiving yards with 1,389 in 2010. Jones, 23, is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound beast. Gonzalez, 36, needs 12 yards to be the first tight end with 14,000.

    They ride the Ryan Express. The quarterback has a league-high 3,072 passing yards.

    "He has the ability to throw the ball into coverage," Bucs defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. "He doesn't get spooked out of trying to put the ball on the spot even if you might think you have it pretty well covered. He's very confident in his arm strength.

    "In addition to that, they never shy away from throwing the ball down the field, no matter what coverage you're in. You could take your corner and have him run straight back. They think their guys can just go up and get it, and they do."

    Three factors give the Bucs' pass defense hope.

    First, it's coming off one of its best games pressuring the quarterback. Helping matters is Ryan, while athletic, wants to stay in the pocket.

    Second, Ryan is human, throwing five interceptions Sunday (several tipped at the line of scrimmage). "Not a good day offensively and for me, specifically," Ryan said. "It's something that as an offense and as a team we talk about it all the time trying to win the turnover differential and protecting the football on offense. And we did a really poor job with that last week, myself specifically. But you have to move on and go forward."

    Finally, for all their youth and inexperience, the Bucs have a sticky-fingered secondary, even without cornerback Aqib Talib (traded) and Eric Wright (slowed by an Achilles injury). Barber and undrafted rookie Leonard Johnson have three interceptions, and the Bucs' plus-nine turnover margin is sixth in the league.

    "A lot of these guys have an uncanny ability to forget about the yardage and just go out and do their job on the next play," Barber said. "So they're always competing. It's just a new breed of player. You know teams are going to throw the ball all over the yard, so you're going to get some opportunities. Take advantage of them when they come, and we've done that."


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    By Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    CLEARWATER – Jacki Wachtel kept waiting for the top contenders to challenge her.

    The past two women's champions of the Tampa Bay Times 10K Turkey Trot were nowhere to be found. It wasn't until this discovery that Wachtel realized she had a legitimate chance to win what has been an elusive road race.

    Wachtel won in 32 minutes, 28 seconds Thursday morning, beating Adrienne Curtis, who finished in 39:07.

    "I didn't even realize I was in first for the longest time," Wachtel said. "After the first mile or two I kept looking around to see if there were other women near me. After about the fourth mile, a biker came up and asked for my name. I figured then I must be at least near the lead and have a shot at this."

    Everything was upside down. Two-time defending champion Sara Petrick did not enter the race. Neither did Christa Stephens, a five-time champion from 2005-09.

    Wachtel, 33, a former standout at River Ridge High and current cross country coach at Pasco-Hernando Community College, has won plenty of races in her career. But she had never finished first in the 10K Turkey Trot.

    Many thought she had too many miles in her legs for another important victory. Plus, she was competing just a year after giving birth to her son, Eli. She went into labor less than 24 hours after running in last year's 5K Gobbler.

    Wachtel tested her endurance by running in all three races (the 1-mile Wingding, the 5K and the 10K). She finished second in the 5K.

    "I kind of wish I had saved some energy from the first two races, especially after knowing I had a shot to win the 10K," Wachtel said. "I might have had a better time, but I still had plenty left in me. It was such a great feeling to win that 10K because I've been running this race for so long."

    The men's 10K also had a first-time champion. Jon Mott, a former standout at Northeast High and Webber International, won in 32:57, outlasting Hank Campbell (33:52).

    Mott, 25, who was still recovering from a cold, did not know if he would even compete until Thursday morning.

    "I was real sick," Mott said. "I hadn't been running at all. I felt fine this morning, but I thought it would be tough because I wasn't able to get in a lot of training for this race."

    Mott and Campbell were part of a lead pack that went off at blistering pace, completing the first mile in under 5 minutes. After the first three miles, the race had whittled itself to front-runners, Mott and Campbell. They stayed within striking range of each other until Mott was able to pull away with a comfortable lead into the backstretch.

    "There were a couple of runners who tried to go out really fast, which isn't always the brightest thing to do," Mott said. "Hank and I stayed with them and broke free after the first mile. We kept a really fast pace and I was just able to have enough to win."

    In the 5K, Ryan Ripley was men's champion in 15:07 and Briane Whaley won the girls race in 17:09. The 1-mile winners were Daniel Wehunt and Alyssa Stevens.


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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    TAMPA — Despite having the league's fourth-best scoring offense, a four-game win streak — and five victories in their past six — playing a division rival with the best record in the NFC and a holiday weekend with cool temperatures forecast, the Bucs' game Sunday against the Falcons will be blacked out, the team said Thursday.

    Monday, the Bucs said they needed to sell about 7,400 nonpremium seats to reach the league's 85 percent threshold (about 44,000) to lift the blackout. They did not say how short they fell.

    The game becomes the 18th of the past 21 at home not to be shown within a 75-mile radius of Raymond James Stadium. The exceptions are Oct. 21 against the Saints and last season's national TV games against the Cowboys and Colts.

    The Bucs have tried to increase attendance by reducing prices on 80 percent of tickets and offering half-season plans and a 12-month payment option for season-ticket buyers.

    BENN ON IR: WR Arrelious Benn's season again has ended with an injury.

    Benn went on injured reserve after re-injuring his right knee Sunday against Carolina. Benn, slowed earlier this season by a shoulder injury, played the entire game, including covering kicks, and felt pain afterward. The Bucs don't believe the injury is serious — possibly a slightly torn medial collateral ligament. He's expected to recover after arthroscopic surgery.

    The Bucs signed WR David Douglas from the Giants' practice squad.

    "I'm disappointed because he was helping in a lot of ways," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "But on special teams, he had a really good performance. He had three tackles in Carolina."

    Benn missed all the preseason and the season opener with a sprained right MCL sustained on the first day of camp when he collided with CB E.J. Biggers (who broke his left foot.)

    In eight games, Benn caught four passes for 26 yards and rushed three times for 16. He eventually was replaced in the slot by Tiquan Underwood.

    Benn tore his left ACL in Week 16 of 2010, his rookie season, and sustained a neck injury in Week 14 last season.

    More Injuries: CB Eric Wright (Achilles/ankle) and S Cody Grimm (hamstring) did not practice.

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


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, November 22, 2012


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, November 22, 2012


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  • 11/22/12--16:25: Outdoors gift guide
  • By Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    The weather's perfect, so why waste your time inside a store when you could be enjoying the great outdoors? If you're like me, you'd rather be surfing than shopping. But Christmas is only a month away, so why not get the shopping over with and get back to what is really important, like hitting the trail on a cool November's morning. Here are several gift ideas for that special outdoors lover:

    Powertraveller Powermonkey Discovery

    Now you can recharge iPads, smartphones, e-readers, GPS units, MP3 players and more on the go. Encased in aluminum and compatible with most popular portable electronics, this device is a must for the tech-savvy traveler. Price: $80.

    Powertraveller Powermonkey Extreme

    Similar to the Discovery, but this charger is waterproof for 30 minutes up to 1 meter, shock-resistant and can be recharged via solar power. Price: $200.

    Grower's Cup Coffeebrewer

    Enjoy freshly brewed gourmet coffee anywhere, anytime, just add hot water. The Coffeebrewer is basically a hybrid between a filter and a French press. Price: $3.50.

    Bison Survival Pod Zipper Pull

    When you're stranded in the Everglades, you'll be happy grandma stuffed this in your stocking. Comes with paracord, sharp eye knife, firestarter flint, tinder, duct tape, knife sheath and key ring. Price: $14.95.

    iSeries E-Case iPad

    Play it safe with this submersible protection that allows for touchscreen functionality. Price: $34.95.

    iSeries E-Case iPhone

    That phone costs too much to drop in the water. This case keeps it safe in the kayak or boat. Price: $24.95.

    Aryca Rock Dry Case for iPad

    Waterproof up a depth of 3 feet, this dry case offers excellent protection for your iPad. The adjustable support stand is also helpful. Price: $79.99

    Grand Trunk Parachute Nylon Hammock Double

    After a long hike, this hammock is a quick and easy setup, and it includes a hanging kit. Maximum weight: 400 pounds. Price: $64.99.

    Hitch Safe Key Storage

    No more hiding those car keys on top of a tire. Now you can secure your valuables in your trailer hitch when surfing, paddling, swimming or just strolling the beach. Set your own combination. Dust cover conceals and protects. Price: $69.95.

    Women's Kuhl Bandita Convertible pant

    With a UPF rating of 40 and super-quick dry, nylon rich fabric that feels like cotton, these pants are well-suited for the adventurous woman. Price: $89.

    Men's Kuhl Revolver pant

    Uberstrong, uberlight, and dries uberfast. Technical features you love and durability you can appreciate. Price: $69.

    Darn Tough Socks Women's Light Crew

    They come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. Need we say more. Price: $19.

    Darn Tough Socks Men's Boot Sock

    Ditto. Price: $21.

    Vasque Mantra 2.0 Hiking Shoe for men and women

    Stability-providing midsoles, Vibram outsoles and durable nubuck and mesh uppers, these shoes will work for a walk in the park or an expedition into the wild. Price: $125.

    Products courtesy of Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure, Pinellas Park, www.billjacksons.com.

    Meopta Meopro Binoculars

    The excellent resolution makes these binoculars a great choice for viewing birds and butterflies. The iScoping adapter allows you to use them with an iPhone. Price: $299.


    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    TAMPA — A persuasive argument can be made that the Bucs' most consistent defensive lineman during the past two seasons isn't the 2010 third overall pick and consensus All-American. It's not the guy who once led Division I-A in sacks. Nor is it the team's 2011 first-round choice.

    While Gerald McCoy, Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn have seen promising careers interrupted by injuries, a teammate who wasn't drafted then was waived by his first team has quietly made a rapid ascent. And, as he sees it, there's much more to come.

    End Michael Bennett leads the Bucs in sacks and, perhaps, big plans. Some never saw him as a solid NFL starter on the verge of a sizable free agent payday.

    But the fourth-year player views himself as only scratching the surface of a great career.

    "I'm proud of what I've done, but I'm not satisfied," Bennett said. "I want to go to the Pro Bowl. There are a lot of other things I want to do."

    Maybe that's why Bennett plays at such a blinding, breakneck pace, never letting up until after the whistle. He has things to do, people to disprove.

    "My philosophy is to just be relentless in everything," he said. "I just keep coming."

    It's a common story line, players wanting to prove something to teams that passed them over. But for Bennett, 27, the fact so many overlooked him out of Texas A&M in 2009 truly is a source of motivation. He ultimately was picked up by the Seahawks and made their final roster. But when injuries forced abrupt roster moves, they let him go.

    His name appeared on the NFL's waiver wire that day, and it pretty much sparked no interest. Only the Bucs, impressed by his preseason performance and dealing with an anemic pass rush, made a claim.

    "We were very excited because we saw the potential," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "But Michael's done a lot of work to get to this point. And he's still working hard to get better, and the coaches have done a good job with him. It's been a good combination. I think Michael knows he's not a finished product, and that's encouraging."

    It was a detour he hadn't planned, but Bennett's arrival in Tampa Bay also was an opening.

    "Mark Dominik and (former coach) Raheem Morris gave me an opportunity," Bennett said. "I might not be here otherwise."

    Dominik said he and the former coaching staff saw signs Bennett could tap into his potential within his first few practices.

    But it has been a process. Bennett first had to work his way into the rotation then prove he was worthy of starting. He wasn't even projected to start this season until Bowers tore his Achilles in the offseason, keeping him off the field until October.

    No matter. Bennett used the latest opportunity to kick-start his best season. His seven sacks are one more than his total entering the season. He also has been a consistent run stuffer and presence in the backfield. His 11 tackles-for-loss rank second on the team, and his three forced fumbles rank first.

    Bennett has displayed growth off the field, too. A sentiment in NFL circles that he lacked maturity helped lead to him going undrafted. Bennett was suspended for one game during his senior season at Texas A&M for an undisclosed violation. Whether that violation was disclosed to NFL personnel is unclear.

    But as Bennett stands in front of his locker and proudly points to photos of his family, crediting them as his inspiration, he seems to have his priorities in the right place. His wife, Pele, and daughters, Blake and Peyton, keep him focused.

    "I'm playing for them," Bennett said. "It's not for me. I have bigger things going on, and that keeps me going."

    So when you see Bennett coming off the edge with uncommon abandon, you know why.

    "He's a great effort player," Bucs defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. "That's where he makes his money. He falls into a lot of plays just because he's active and instinctive and hustles."

    "He's played awesome. He's been relentless," said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, preparing to meet the Bucs on Sunday.

    It's the only way Bennett knows. It's more than just a mind-set. It also has been his meal ticket.

    "You only get so many opportunities to change your life," Bennett said.

    "This is my opportunity. I'm not going to let that go to waste."

    Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com.


    DANIEL WALLACE   |   TimesDANIEL WALLACE | Times

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    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    WATCH OUT FOR …

    Cincinnati has a solid runner in George Winn (1,015 yards, nine touchdowns), while USF got a good game in the loss to Miami from senior RB Demetris Murray, who went for 108 yards and a team-high six catches. USF should benefit from getting WRs Andre Davis and D'Vario Montgomery healthy; they each had one catch for 4 yards against Miami, limited by ankle and shoulder injuries, respectively. Can USF force turnovers with pressure against an inexperienced QB? The Bulls still have only two interceptions all season, both in the fourth quarter of their win against Connecticut.

    USF's offense hasn't scored a touchdown in seven quarters, with redshirt freshman Matt Floyd stepping in now for injured QBs B.J. Daniels and Bobby Eveld. Cincinnati struggled last week, held scoreless until a last-minute field goal in a 10-3 loss to Rutgers. The Bearcats, too, have a new QB, switching from Munchie Legaux to Brendon Kay two weeks ago. Kay, right, injured his non-throwing elbow last week but is expected to start. The fill-in starter who commits fewer mistakes should be in good position to win.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer

    USF at Cincinnati, 7, ESPN, 98.7-FM


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    By Matt Santiago, Times Correspondent
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    What's hot: As the water continues to cool, fishing in the rivers continues to improve. The fish that were roaming the flats and estuaries are now on a mission to find warmer water and eat up for winter.

    Bait switch: While there is some whitebait around, they have thinned and are not nearly as thick as a few weeks ago. This will continue as water temps drop, but as they get harder for you to find, the same is happening for the game fish and they will begin to switch their attention to shrimp and small crustaceans. Over the last week, I've seen shrimp gradually begin to outproduce whitebait, and artificial jigs have been productive.

    What else: Snook, redfish and trout are in the rivers, but the flounder and sheepshead bite has also improved. For sheepshead, focus your attention on docks, riprap and rock piles. Small shrimp freelined with a split shot about a foot up the leader has been producing well, but if you have access to fiddler crabs, they are also an excellent option and are rarely turned down.

    Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2327, CaptainMattSantiago@gmail.com and online at FishingGuideTampa.com.


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    Times wires
    Thursday, November 22, 2012


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    By Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    CLEARWATER — Jacki Wachtel kept waiting for the top contenders to challenge her.

    The past two women's champions of the Tampa Bay Times 10K Turkey Trot were nowhere to be found. It wasn't until this discovery that Wachtel realized she had a legitimate chance to get a win that had eluded her.

    Wachtel, of New Port Richey, won in 38 minutes, 29 seconds Thursday morning, beating Adrienne Curtis of Lutz, who finished in 39:07.

    "I didn't even realize I was in first for the longest time," Wachtel said. "After the first mile or two, I kept looking around to see if there were other women near me. After about the fourth mile, a biker came up and asked for my name. I figured then I must be at least near the lead and have a shot at this."

    Two-time defending champion Sara Petrick did not enter the race. Neither did Christa Stephens, a five-time champion from 2005-09.

    Wachtel, 33, a former standout at River Ridge High and the current cross country coach at Pasco-Hernando Community College, has won plenty of races. But she had never finished first in the 10K Turkey Trot.

    Many thought she had too many miles in her legs for another important victory. Plus, she was competing a year after giving birth to her son, Eli. She went into labor less than 24 hours after running in last year's 5K Wingding.

    Wachtel tested her endurance this year by running in all three races: the 1-mile Gobbler, along with the 5K and 10K. She finished second in the 5K.

    "I kind of wish I had saved some energy from the first two races, especially after knowing I had a shot to win the 10K," Wachtel said. "I might have had a better time, but I still had plenty left in me.

    "It was such a great feeling to win that 10K because I've been running this race for so long."

    The men's 10K also had a first-time champion. Jon Mott, a former standout at Northeast High and Webber International, won in 32:51, outlasting Hank Campbell (33:33).

    Mott, 25, who was recovering from a cold, did not know if he would compete until Thursday morning.

    "I was real sick," Mott said. "I hadn't been running at all. I felt fine (Thursday) morning, but I thought it would be tough because I wasn't able to get in a lot of training for this race."

    Mott and Campbell were part of a lead pack that went off at a blistering pace, completing the first mile in under 5 minutes. After the first 3 miles, the race had been whittled to front-runners Mott and Campbell. They stayed within striking range of each other until Mott pulled away with a comfortable lead into the backstretch.

    "There were a couple of runners who tried to go out really fast, which isn't always the brightest thing to do," Mott said. "Hank and I stayed with them and broke free after the first mile. We kept a really fast pace, and I was just able to have enough to win."

    In the 5K, Ryan Ripley of Tampa was men's champion in 15:07, and Briana Whaley of Clearwater won the women's race in 17:09. The 1-mile winners were Daniel Wehunt of Tampa and Alyssa Stevens of Naperville, Ill.

    A record 17,753 runners hustled out on a chilly morning to participate in the 34th annual event. That's up from 16,519 who registered last year, race director Skip Rogers said.


    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   TimesWILL VRAGOVIC | Times

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    TAMPA -— Ask Matt Floyd's father about his favorite game in his son's career and he recalls 400 yards passing in his final game at Milton High in the Panhandle. Ask his mother, and she remembers the game where it all got started, as Floyd came off the bench as a sophomore and threw for three touchdowns in a 49-48 double-overtime win against rival Choctawhatchee.

    "He's always been real poised as a kid, even playing pee-wee football for me growing up," said David Floyd, a Pensacola native who returned to the Panhandle from California after he retired from the Air Force when Matt was 2 and has lived there ever since. "He doesn't seem to get rattled at all."

    Floyd has a chance for another auspicious beginning tonight. The redshirt freshman quarterback makes his first career start, leading USF at Cincinnati as the Bulls try to close a disappointing season with momentum to carry over to 2013. He is starting after injuries to senior B.J. Daniels and junior Bobby Eveld, giving him a chance to establish himself as the quarterback to beat next season.

    "I like the headiness, the poise, the way he handled himself, especially starting with a little adversity," coach Skip Holtz said. "I think Matt is a gutsy performer."

    Eveld started last week at Miami, suffering a separated shoulder in the opening quarter. Floyd, USF's last healthy quarterback, threw two early interceptions, but got settled and looked comfortable, throwing for 175 yards in a lopsided Hurricanes win.

    Floyd's calm coming off the bench reminded USF coaches of a similar arrival in April 2011, what would have been the end of his senior year of high school had he not enrolled in college a semester early. On the opening play of the spring game at Raymond James Stadium, Eveld took a shot to the jaw and was done for the day, and Floyd showed poise, going 6-for-7 for 75 yards on that first drive. He threw for 233 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown, and that memory still sticks with his coaches.

    "He gives you the impression that's he's unflappable," said assistant Peter Vaas, Floyd's first quarterbacks coach with the Bulls. "All hell is breaking loose around you, and he just sits there very calmly and goes about his job. Matt has always had the ability to play better, the higher the stakes. In scrimmages, he played better than a normal practice. Whether it's more focus, more intensity, whatever that reason is, it's something we've noticed."

    USF has a history of freshmen taking over at quarterback due to injury and not giving up the reins until they're seniors. Daniels did that in 2009, just as Matt Grothe did in 2006 and Pat Julmiste in 2003. If Floyd is to have an extended run leading the Bulls, it will start tonight, guiding a young team that has struggled with close losses and will miss bowl play for the second year in a row.

    Floyd is the second-oldest of four children, and his family won't be at tonight's game. They'll gather with friends and relatives at their house in Milton (pop. 8,984) to watch a hometown hero. His father, now the freshman football coach at Milton, said there's been a buzz around town this week. The Floyds lived in Niceville until Matt was in fifth grade, then moved to Milton, which he thinks of as home.

    "Small, little town. Everybody knows everybody," he said. "It's a great little country Southern town. A faithful town."

    Matt Floyd has shown only glimpses of his personality. He's a quiet, smart leader who takes pride in his faith. Win or lose, he will kneel in prayer at midfield tonight in a small circle of teammates and opponents. He's a political science major with a great interest in politics; linebacker Sam Barrington said he's a proud Republican.

    Perhaps the best purpose for the end of this season is to generate optimism for next season, and Floyd is one of many young players stepping in for seniors as an early transition to the future.

    "He's a pretty smart guy," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "Makes quick decisions, is able to process information fast. … A quarterback has to make a decision probably on average about every two seconds. The guys that can process it and make a decision correctly, I don't care how big, tall, strong you are, those are the guys who are going to be pretty successful. I think he has that knack of doing that."


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    Times wires
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves' Brandon Roy, who Monday had his seventh knee surgery dating to his junior year of high school, says his knees have reached Level 3 arthritis out of four. "Level 4," Roy, 28, told the Portland Oregonian, "is when you get a knee replacement."

    A three-time All-Star with the Trail Blazers and the 2007 rookie of the year, Roy retired in December 2011 because of his arthritic knees. He decided to make a comeback last spring after receiving Regenokine treatments, which involve spinning out and heating part of a patient's blood and then reinjecting it. The Lakers' Kobe Bryant is among the pro athletes who have had them.

    Roy signed a two-year deal with Minnesota in July. He banged his right knee with a Bucks player in the last preseason game and aggravated it Nov. 9 against the Pacers. The injury and surgery aren't related to the arthritis, he said. He is expected to be out at least a month.

    league: officials goofed: Officials Ed Malloy, John Goble and Violet Palmer missed a foul by Charlotte's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist against Toronto's Andrea Bargnani on a jumper in the final seconds of the Bobcats' 98-97 win Wednesday, the league said. Bargnani should have received two free throws and the clock stopped with 2.4 seconds left.


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    Times wires
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    DETROIT — Jim Schwartz held the challenge flag, certain Houston's touchdown wouldn't count. Justin Forsett was clearly down. Then the Lions coach threw the flag — and cost his team a touchdown.

    Schwartz's mistake was only the start. Detroit let a 10-point third-quarter lead slip away and lost 34-31 in overtime on Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal with 2:21 left on Thursday.

    The Lions led 24-14 in the third when Forsett took a handoff. His elbow hit the ground, meaning he should have been called down. Lions players slowed up, believing the play was over. Instead, Forsett got up and made it an 81-yard score.

    All touchdowns are reviewed. But if a coach throws a challenge flag, the review is negated and a penalty assessed. So the touchdown stood.

    "That's all my fault," Schwartz said. "I overreacted."

    Said Forsett: "I know now that I was down, but I didn't think I was during the play. There was no whistle, so I kept going."

    Detroit still led 31-24 late. But Arian Foster's 1-yard run with 1:55 left capped a 15-play, 97-yard drive that included a conversion on fourth and 7.

    "There should be no blame on Schwartz or the coaches," Detroit defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "There's enough plays left out there."

    One play was Jason Hanson's 47-yard field goal that hit the upright with 4:32 left in OT.

    The Texans have won five straight. Sunday, they beat the Jaguars with 2:01 left in OT.

    "Ten quarters in five days, it's draining physically and mentally," said defensive end J.J. Watt who had three sacks. "But our team persevered."

    Suh kick: A year after he kicked a Packer on Thanksgiving, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's cleat connected with the groin of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Suh, who was suspended two games, was taken down by an offensive lineman when he extended his left foot. It wasn't clear if it was intentional, and Suh didn't talk after the game. Said Schaub: "I really don't have anything to say about that play or that person."


    Associated PressAssociated Press

    0 0
  • 11/22/12--19:07: FSU out for respect, ranking
  • Associated Press
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State would like nothing better than to win respect at the hands of rival Florida this weekend.

    While both teams have one loss, the Gators are No. 6 in the media poll while the Seminoles are four spots lower at No. 10. The difference, apparently, is the teams they've played.

    The Gators, whose lone loss is to No. 3 Georgia, will be hunting for their third win this season over a top 10 team. Florida (10-1, 7-1 SEC) defeated LSU at home and won at Texas A&M, one of its three SEC road wins.

    Florida State (10-1, 7-1 ACC) has a marquee win over 12th-ranked Clemson while suffering its lone loss on the road at North Carolina State, which has lost five games and surrendered 62 points last week at Clemson.

    FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said his team doesn't need to worry about anything other than Florida.

    "It's nothing about the BCS or rankings or anything else," Fisher said. "To play, compete and do well against Florida … that's our sole purpose."

    Fisher was more than a bit steamed last week at the way his team has been evaluated by the computers that figure into the BCS rankings. The computers give a low grade to the Seminoles' body of work, which includes wins over lower-division Savannah State and Murray State from Division I-AA.

    "We can't control what the computers are doing or what they have to say about Florida State," senior receiver Rodney Smith said. "You hear people talk about it around the team that they feel it's disrespectful."

    But, Smith added, they can quiet at least some doubters Saturday.

    "We just have to keep playing football and beat the next person that's in front of us," he said. "If Florida so happens to be that team, we have to beat those guys."

    Florida, meanwhile, looks to snap a two-game losing streak in the series. They've been outscored 52-14 in those defeats.

    "Obviously we haven't come up with the 'W' the past two years," Florida linebacker Jonathan Bostic said. "But it's another year, so we're going to go in, preparing the best we can and try to come out with the 'W'."

    Although Florida has struggled on offense, it's a far different team than the one that showed up last year.

    "Night and day," Gators coach Will Muschamp said when asked to compare this year's model with the 2011 one. "Offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff are all included."

    The Gators have gone 11-1 since last year's loss to Florida State, starting with a bowl victory over Ohio State. A 17-9 loss to Georgia in the annual showdown in Jacksonville last month is the only slip-up.

    Fisher's teams are already 3-0 against Miami and would love to be the same against the Gators.

    And for some reason the Seminoles seem to perform better in the big games, with wins over not only their top rivals but Notre Dame and South Carolina since Fisher's arrival. They've also lost to heavy underdogs such as Wake Forest and Virginia last season and another at N.C. State last month that may have destroyed any chances for FSU getting to the national championship game.

    But that's all forgotten for a few hours Saturday.

    "We want to finish strong," FSU quarterback EJ Manuel said. "We don't want to come all this way and let up at the end."

    Manuel has a chance to join Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and Chris Rix as starting Seminole quarterbacks with successive wins over the Gators during the past 20 years. And while Manuel is unlikely to win the Heisman Trophy like Ward and Weinke did, he'd be satisfied just the same. And while he didn't say it, maybe win more respect for his team.

    "It will be a great opportunity," he said.


    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times (2011)WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2011)

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  • 11/22/12--19:26: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    golf

    donald takes lead; mcilroy one shot back

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Luke Donald shot 7-under 65 on Thursday to lead Rory McIlroy and two others by one stroke after the opening round of the PGA European Tour's season-ending World Championship.

    "It was a nice, solid start," said Donald, who made six of his seven birdies in the first 10 holes. "I gave myself a lot of opportunities."

    Donald fended off a challenge from McIlroy at the tournament last year to become the first player to win the European and PGA Tour money titles in the same season. McIlroy repeated the feat this year, and he surged into contention at the $8 million event with three birdies on the back nine. He could have matched Donald, but his tee shot on 18 went into a creek.

    I got it together on the back nine," said McIlroy, who had one birdie on the front nine. "It's a great way to start."

    soccer

    Seven fans hurt in Rome mob attack

    Police were investigating whether anti-Semitism was behind a brutal attack on Tottenham fans drinking at a pub ahead of the English team's Europa League match against Lazio in Rome.

    At least one person was stabbed and seven were hospitalized after approximately 50 masked people wielding cobblestones, metal bars and knives attacked the fans and trashed the pub, police said.

    Tottenham supporters are often called the "Yid Army," and the team has a large Jewish fan base in north London. Lazio fans are traditionally right-wing and often use fascist salutes and slogans. Witnesses said the masked attackers shouted "Jew."

    Fifteen attackers were identified and searches were under way at their homes, police said.

    europa league: Defending champion Atletico Madrid, Lazio and 11 other teams advanced to the knockout stage. Lazio advanced with a 0-0 tie with Tottenham, which can advance by winning its next game.

    english premier league: Referee Mark Clattenburg was cleared by the Football Association of using racist language toward a Chelsea player during a match. Chelsea midfielder Ramires said he heard Clattenburg tell teammate John Obi Mikel, who is black, "Shut up you monkey" during an Oct. 28 match against Manchester United. The Football Association decided there was no evidence to support the accusation.

    Times wires


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    Times wires
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos corner Tracy Porter practiced fully Thursday and will travel to Kansas City on Sunday.

    Porter, whose status hasn't been made official, has not played since Oct. 7 as doctors tried to regulate his medication after experiencing symptoms similar to those he felt before a seizure over the summer.

    Porter said he has felt fine for about three weeks and is grateful to be practicing and traveling.

    "I looked at it as a lesson, trying to teach me something," he said; "open my eyes to something new."

    Bills: Corner Leodis McKelvin will not dispute a $75 fine for failing to follow orders during a flight Tuesday. He refused to turn off his phone and refused to buckle his seat belt.

    Falcons: Receiver Julio Jones was limited at practice while linebacker Sean Weatherspoon sat. Jones did not practice last week because of a sore right ankle but played Sunday. Weatherspoon, who missed three games with a sprained right ankle, previously said he will play Sunday against the Bucs.

    49ers: Quarterback Alex Smith, who sustained a concussion Nov. 11, has been cleared to play but Colin Kaepernick will start Sunday, ESPN.com reported.

    Vikings: Receiver Percy Harvin will miss his third consecutive game with a sprained ankle, NFL.com reported.

    Streak ends: Lions left tackle Jeff Backus sat with a hamstring injury. He had started 186 consecutive games, the NFL's longest active streak for a lineman and the third-longest overall.

    Blackout: The Chargers' home game against the Ravens won't air in San Diego, their second blackout this season.


    0 0
  • 11/22/12--19:47: RG3's 4 TDs lead 'Skins
  • Times wires
    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Welcome back to Texas, RG3.

    Robert Griffin III threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns, helping the Redskins beat the Cowboys 38-31 on Thursday.

    The rookie Heisman winner from Baylor threw three during a 28-point second quarter. Griffin got help, including a leaping grab and long run by Pierre Garcon and nifty footwork in the end zone by Santana Moss.

    "Any time you have a guy like (Griffin), you never worry about him," said Washington corner DeAngelo Hall, whose interception set up the quarter's final touchdown. "You worry about the guys around him being able to keep up with the pace."

    Tony Romo lost for the first time in six Thanksgiving starts despite a career-high 441 passing yards and three second-half touchdowns. They included the longest of his career, an 85-yarder to Dez Bryant. Romo ran it for two after a touchdown pass to Felix Jones and threw another touchdown to Bryant to make it 35-28 with 8:24 left.

    "I thought we had a good chance," Romo said.

    But Griffin answered — twice.

    After Bryant's first score, he hit Niles Paul for a 29-yard score. After Dallas pulled within seven, Griffin completed three passes for first downs and ran 5½ minutes off the clock before Kai Forbath's 48-yard field goal made it 38-28 with 3:03 left.

    "I told the guys that was probably the drive that saved our season," Griffin said. "You have a huge lead. The other team's roaring back. They have all the momentum, and then you go out there and you convert."

    After a Dallas field goal, Hall picked up the onside kick and ran untouched before sliding short of the goal line.

    Griffin, the second overall pick in April, is the first Redskin to throw four touchdown passes in consecutive games.

    "That quarterback is, obviously, a very good player, and they use him well," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "It was challenging for us to slow those guys down.

    "We didn't do enough offensively to keep up with them in the first half."


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