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  • 12/01/12--14:26: Around the NFL
  • By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Fab five

    1. Texans 2. Falcons

    3. 49ers 4. Broncos

    5. Ravens

    Best bet

    Cowboys (5-6) over Eagles (3-8)

    The Eagles are in a free fall, and Andy Reid might be in his swan song as their coach.

    Number of the week

    95 Games, among 176, decided by eight points or fewer, the most through 12 weeks in NFL history.

    Record watch

    With a win today over the Lions, the Colts' Andrew Luck, above, will become the first quarterback drafted No. 1 overall in the Super Bowl era to win eight games as a rookie. The Rams' Sam Bradford won seven games in 2010.

    Say what?

    It is odd enough that Adderall is all the rage in the NFL, with cornerback Eric Wright the second Buc this season to say he got suspended four games by the NFL for using the performance-enhancing drug. Since the start of last season, more than 10 players have publicly blamed their suspensions on the stimulant.

    But Bears receiver Brandon Marshall went a step further, saying athletes might be using a certain blue pill for an energy boost.

    "I've heard of guys using Viagra. Seriously," Marshall told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Because the blood is supposedly thin; some crazy stuff. So it's kind of scary with some of these chemicals that are in some of these things. So you have to be careful."

    Sliding Steelers

    Coming off consecutive losses, the Steelers are suddenly seeing their playoff hopes slipping away. And as they travel to play first-place Baltimore today, that slope gets a little steeper as the team, again, will be without QB Ben Roethlisberger.

    Roethlisberger has a sprained throwing shoulder, a dislocated rib and a torn tendon that protects the rib, which makes for a dangerous situation. And even though he is throwing again, he has been ruled out of today's game.

    Pittsburgh needs Big Ben badly, having seen Charlie Batch struggle last week. The Steelers are 0-5 against the Ravens without Roethlisberger and have committed 11 turnovers over the past two games after just nine over the first nine.

    "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the game," Steelers receiver Mike Wallace said. "So obviously, when he's not in there, things are going to be different."

    The 'hot hand'

    Turns out, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is making coach Jim Harbaugh, left, look like a savant. Kaepernick, in his second NFL start last week, continued to be the talk of the NFL after leading a 31-21 win over the red-hot Saints — in the Superdome.

    Harbaugh's much-debated — and sometimes-criticized — decision to start the second-year pro over a medically cleared Alex Smith worked out perfectly. Harbaugh will go with the "hot hand" today and start Kaepernick, and we wonder if Smith will ever get his spot back.

    As SI.com's Jim Trotter writes, "If Kaepernick's first two starts are the floor, it begs the question of where the ceiling is with him. Get ready, we're about to find out."

    Times wires contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

    Enough already

    Believe him or not, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, left, says he didn't intentionally kick Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin on Thanksgiving. The league still fined him $30,000. Suh's reputation — he has been voted the NFL's dirtiest player two years in a row by his peers — doesn't earn him much benefit of the doubt. And Schaub made it clear that as talented as Suh is, he wouldn't want him on his team. "The stuff that he stands for and the type of player he is, that's not Houston Texan worthy," Schaub told 610-AM in Houston. "That's not what we're about." Responded irked Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham: "What is a Texan, anyhow?"

    Hail to the Redskins

    Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, right, is approaching uncharted territory.

    On Thanksgiving, the ex-Baylor star probably became the first opponent to hear his name chanted at a Cowboys stadium.

    The No. 2 overall pick already has made a name for himself in D.C. Teammates recently voted him captain, the first time coach Mike Shanahan can remember a rookie earning such an honor.

    Now Griffin has gotten into the head — and bed — of Giants defensive end Justin Tuck.

    "Until I exit stage right, it seems like he's going to be a fixture in my dreams and nightmares," Tuck said.

    That's because the Giants are charged with stopping Griffin on Monday. Don't look now, but Washington, seemingly ready to throw in the towel a few weeks ago, has won two straight and is in prime position to make a run at the NFC East title.

    "I feel as if something is building," Griffin said.

    The Redskins beat division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas in a five-day stretch and can pull within one game of the Giants with a win Monday in the nation's capital.

    Considering it took an Eli Manning 77-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes to beat Washington on Oct. 21, the defending Super Bowl champions know they're in for another fight.

    "(Griffin) is one of the best dual threats in our game today," Tuck said. "And we're going to have our hands full trying to stop that guy."

    The Giants also have a tougher schedule with matchups against New Orleans and Philadelphia and trips to Atlanta and Baltimore. The Redskins, meanwhile, have matchups against Baltimore and Dallas and trips to Cleveland and Philadelphia.

    Several teams battling for the wild card, including the Bucs, have a better record. So the Redskins' playoff ticket might need to be punched with a division title.

    But that possibility — a long shot a few weeks ago — is within reach.

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    By Rob Gorta, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    What's hot: Winter low tides combined with cold fronts passing through can lead to rewarding fishing. It takes winds blowing 20-plus mph out of the northeast combined with an extremely low tide around the new moon and full moon phases, but the result is a tide that empties out the bay and exposes every nook and cranny that redfish and trout will get caught in.

    Tips: Steer the boat down the edge of the sand bar and look for cuts that lead into the flat. Strong outgoing tides form channels in the sand bar that the water flows through. Redfish and trout will use those same channels to travel on and off of the flat. Anchor your boat far enough away from the channel so you don't block the path the fish want to travel.

    Tackle: Air temperatures are usually cold. I have neoprene waders, gloves, boots and a belt that makes it possible to fish in the cold weather. I use a 7-foot rod rigged with 10-pound braid and a 25-pound leader. Soft-plastic baits on a red quarter-ounce jig head are my favorite. Any eel type or grub plastic tail will work. I throw the jig in the sandy areas and let it hit the bottom every time, creating a poof of sand, imitating a crab or shrimp.

    Rob Gorta charters out of St. Petersburg. Call him at (727) 647-7606 or visit captainrobgorta.com.

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    FORT WORTH, Texas — Landry Jones threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Damien Williams ran untouched 66 yards for a score to help No. 12 Oklahoma beat TCU 24-17 and earn at least a share of the Big 12 title on Saturday.

    The Sooners' only conference loss came in their opener, 24-19 at home to Kansas State on Sept. 22. They win the title outright if Kansas State lost to Texas late Saturday.

    Even if the Wildcats won, the Sooners, whose only other loss came to No. 1 Notre Dame, are in good shape for an at-large BCS berth. Kent State's double-overtime loss to Northern Illinois in Friday's MAC championship likely ended any chance for that league to get into the BCS.

    "In the end, it's just great to be in this position and to be a winner again," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "For these guys, Big 12 champs or co-champs, they're recognized as champions."

    This is Oklahoma's eighth Big 12 title. Seven have come in even-numbered seasons — 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 — with the other coming in 2007.

    Jones, coming off the first consecutive 500-yard passing games in school history, went 22-of-40. Williams had his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, finishing with 115.

    Just a minute into the second half, Williams took a handoff, shot through a gap on the left side of the line and sprinted undeterred to the end zone for a 21-7 lead. TCU still had a chance when Oklahoma's Mike Hunnicut missed a 42-yard field goal with 2:49 left. Freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin appeared to score on a 12-yard run. But a holding penalty nullified the touchdown. Soon after, Hunnicut threw an incompletion on fourth and 12.

    "We like to make them interesting around this place," Jones said. "Unfortunately, we didn't finish it the way we wanted to offensively, but the defense did."

    TCU, a two-time BCS buster while in the Mountain West, lost all four of its Big 12 home games (while going 4-1 in the road games) in its first season in the league. The four-game home losing streak is its longest since five spanning 1996 and 1997. Before this season, TCU hadn't lost consecutive home games in the same season since 1998.

    "We had a chance to win the game; simple as that," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "We gave up an easy touchdown when a couple of freshmen blew an assignment."

    Baylor 41, No. 24 Okla. St. 34: Lache Seastrunk rushed for 178 yards, including a late 76-yard touchdown, for the host Bears. Baylor has won at least seven games in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1949-51. One play after the Cowboys cut it to 34-27 with 5:30 left, Seastrunk burst through the middle. He slowed about 25 yards shy of the end zone, stumbled and fell with a cramp in his right leg as he scored. "In order to be a good football team like we've been the last few years … you have to be able to win on the road," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "That comes with experience and maturity. We didn't really have that (Saturday)."

    West Va. 59, Kansas 10: Geno Smith tied a Division I-A record by completing 95.8 percent of his passes for the host Mountaineers. He went 23-of-24 for 407 yards and three touchdowns, matching Tennessee's Tee Martin against South Carolina in 1998. West Virginia scored touchdowns on five of its six first-half possessions to lead 35-7.

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    As Rays officials head to Nashville for the annual winter meetings, the predominant issue given the multiple holes in their lineup and surplus of starting pitching is will they or won't they make a trade.

    But, really, the better question is when.

    If not in the vast biosphere known as the Opryland Resort this week — and Rays officials make a point of saying they feel no pressure to do deals at the meetings — then sometime thereafter.

    The Rays have no one on their roster to play first base and no one to DH, and they really could use another outfielder (to join Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce in whatever alignment), and another catcher (so Jose Molina can be a backup), and another reliever or two (with Burke Badenhop traded, and Kyle Farnsworth and J.P. Howell unsigned), and maybe a middle infielder (though maybe not after retaining Ryan Roberts).

    Given their usual budget constraints, and with early returns indicating free-agent prices may be even higher than projected, and with some of the second-tier-type players who typically might fall to them being snagged preemptively by other teams, it doesn't seem realistic to think they can fill all their needs without making a big deal.

    Executive VP Andrew Friedman still maintains it's not definite that they will trade a starter, suggesting there are scenarios where they can patch and fill from the marketplace and/or make trades that involve other players or prospects.

    Maybe, though in either of those cases it's hard to imagine them getting the impact bats they need. (Or maybe they don't and instead press their advantage the other way and look to be as strong pitching-and-defensively as possible.)

    To now, much of their focus seems to be on sorting through the trade possibilities, and Friedman said that winnowing alone could make the week a success, "to sift through things that are more real vs. less real." (Kansas City's Wil Myers, Arizona's Justin Upton, Washington's Michael Morse, Chicago's Alfonso Soriano, just to rumor a few.)

    It's only logical to not do too much until they get a sense of what the best return could be for James Shields, or Jeremy Hellickson, or Wade Davis, or Chris Archer. Less likely to be dealt would be Cy Young winner David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb or coming-off-injury Jeff Niemann.

    To some degree, their moves to complete the lineup will be linked — getting this first baseman means getting that DH, etc. So at some point they have to decide which holes to best fill by trade and which with free agents, then actually start doing it. In years past, they've been more liberal with their money than their players.

    "I don't know how to assess the chances (of trading a starter)," Friedman said. "We're obviously having conversations, and that … does play a role in which road we go down, and figuring that out. We certainly don't have to trade one. If we do, it's going to be because we feel like it makes our organization better."

    It's a complicated process overall, made even more so by the number of players they need and the fluidity of the inventory — a player may no longer be available or the price may change.

    So, what to do?

    "There are certain areas we can focus on irrespective of the trades, and there's certain areas we can't move as quickly in until we sort that out," Friedman said. "But we have enough areas to address that they're not mutually exclusive. I would expect we fill some of our needs via trade, and not necessarily for one of our starting pitchers, and some via free agency. And obviously I don't know the breakdown yet."

    For updates from the meetings check tampabay.com/blogs/rays and follow @TBTimes_Rays on Twitter.

    Rays-ing possibilities As the Rays decide a course of action, we look, and guess, at some options:

    First base

    The field: There are not a lot of good free-agent choices, especially since the Rays would prefer a smooth fielder. James Loney could be one, non-tendered Mark Reynolds another. Otherwise, the return of Ty Wigginton? Casey Kotchman? Even Carlos Peña? In trade, Kansas City's Eric Hosmer, or Miami's Logan Morrison?

    Wild guess: Reynolds


    The field: Rays have had trouble finding steady power producers, and preferably one who can also play the field. Most free-agent options come with questions, such as Lance Berkman, Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, even Delmon Young. Or the Return of Luke (Scott). In trade, Kansas City's Billy Butler or Chicago's Alfonso Soriano might be it.

    Wild guess: Soriano


    The field: Desmond Jennings' athleticism allows them to look for either a corner guy or centerfielder, so they have lots of options. The trade market is topped by Justin Upton, Michael Morse and Dexter Fowler. Affordable free agents may start with Cody Ross, Scott Hairston, Ichiro Suzuki and Ryan Ludwick and include the likes of Andruw Jones and injury-plagued Jason Bay.

    Wild guess: Ludwick


    The field: Slim free-agent pickings after A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli, with the "top" choices non-tendered Geovany Soto or Jesus Flores, or, could it be, ex-Ray Kelly Shoppach? If they'd trade intra-division, Toronto has at least one — J.P. Arencibia or John Buck — to spare.

    Wild guess: Flores

    Rays rumblings

    RHP Jeff Niemann, sidelined by shoulder issues in his Sept. 1 return from a broken leg, said he's "feeling great" and definitely will be ready for the start of spring training. … Though he'll turn 38 shortly after his newly extended contract ends in 2023, 3B Evan Longoria said he wouldn't rule out signing on to play longer. … Much of the talk was that the Marlins' big trade hurt the Rays by reducing their chances for a new stadium, but principal owner Stuart Sternberg said, "The Blue Jays have a lot of really good players, so I think that's the main effect." … Jeff Keppinger's broken leg could be a break for the Rays, if it scares off other free-agent suitors and lowers his price. … Ex-Ray/new Braves CF B.J. Upton didn't hide his glee when asked about getting off the Trop's artificial turf. … Manager Joe Maddon tweeted his thanks to Upton: "We couldn't have become the Rays without you."

    Rays offseason so far …

    • Picked up 2013 options on RHP James Shields ($10.25 million), RHP Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million), C Jose Molina ($1.8 million).

    • Declined option on DH Luke Scott, paying $1 million buyout

    • Re-signed free-agent RHP Joel Peralta (two years, $6 million)

    • Extended 3B Evan Longoria, above, for 10 years, $100 million with 2023 option

    • Lost CF B.J. Upton, who signed with Braves

    • Non-tendered OF Ben Francisco

    • Traded RHP Burke Badenhop to Brewers for minor-leaguer

    • Remaining free agents: RHP Kyle Farnsworth, Francisco, LHP J.P. Howell, INF Jeff Keppinger, 1B Carlos Peña, Scott

    • Arbitration eligible: OF Sam Fuld, OF Matt Joyce, RHP Jeff Niemann, LHP David Price, INF Ryan Roberts, INF Sean Rodriguez

    National perspective

    Top free agents

    OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers Likely '13 team: Rangers

    RHP Zack Greinke, Angels Likely '13 team: Dodgers

    OF Michael Bourn, Braves Likely '13 team: Phillies

    1B/OF Nick Swisher, Yankees Likely '13 team: Red Sox

    Big deals so far

    • SS Jose Reyes, LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Josh Johnson, INF Emilio Bonifacio, C John Buck acquired by Blue Jays in mega-trade with Marlins

    • CF B.J. Upton signed 5-year, $75.25 million deal with Braves

    • OF Torii Hunter signed 2-year, $26 million deal with Tigers

    • LHP Andy Pettitte ($12 million), RHP Hiroki Kuroda ($15 million and Mariano Rivera ($10 million) re-signed by Yankees

    • CF Denard Span (Tampa product) traded to Nats from Twins.

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    Times staff
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Five things we learned Friday night

    1. No chinks in the armor: Robinson's 49-21 victory over Pasco showed it has no glaring holes that Tallahassee Godby, its state semifinal foe, can expose. We knew about the Knights' speed, assertiveness up front and opportunistic defense, but the kicking game caught us off guard. Senior Cody Hodgens had at least four touchbacks, nailed all seven point-afters and averaged 44.5 yards on two punts.

    2. East Lake needs a running game: With QB Pete DiNovo, WRs Artavis Scott and George Campbell and OL Mason Cole, East Lake had the weapons for a prolific passing attack. But the Eagles rushed the ball just six times in the first half in its 31-21 loss to Orlando Dr. Phillips, and the longest gain was 8 yards on a draw by Weston Fordham. Without the threat of a running game, Orlando Dr. Phillips was able to focus on getting to DiNovo in the second half.

    3. Third and a long night: Newsome had trouble moving the ball on first and second down, which put the Wolves in long-yardage situations during its 21-18 loss at Kissimmee Osceola. In the first half the Wolves gained 5 or more yards on first down on only four of 12 attempts.

    4. Armwood relied too heavily on its defense: Moving Alvin Bailey to quarterback never really solved the Hawks' problems on offense and, down the stretch, only seemed to worsen them. Bailey replaced Darryl Richardson, a 6-foot-5 senior, in the fourth quarter of a 3-0 loss at Hillsborough and started the rest of the season. The Hawks scored 67 points over their final five games, including two defensive touchdowns. Before that stretch, Armwood had been averaging 36 points a game with Richardson as the starter and Bailey as his top receiver, albeit against weaker competition. But in Friday's 42-10 loss to Gainesville, the Hawks' offensive limitations were exposed by the top-ranked Hurricanes.

    5. Expect a quarterback battle at CCC next season: Junior Blake Gomez was yanked, except for a few plays, in the second half of a 42-0 loss to Fort Lauderdale University School in favor of sophomore Jeff Smith. Neither did well, but the Suns brought constant pressure. Smith looked more mobile and had just as strong of an arm.

    Notable performances from Friday night

    Robinson offensive line: Powered by the veteran quintet of LT Connor Rafferty, LG Bruce Hector, C Chris Duvall, RG Ted Kelly and RT Brooks Lovely, the Knights churned out 289 rushing yards and seven TDs. "They were stronger than I thought," Pasco sacks leader Morgan Flournory said.

    East Lake's Artavis Scott: The junior receiver had a team-high nine catches for 128 yards and a touchdown against Orlando Dr. Phillips. He also returned a kickoff 57 yards in the first half.

    Newsome's Will Worth: In his final high school game, the two-way senior amassed 204 total yards, including 109 on the ground, in the Wolves' 21-18 loss at Kissimmee Osceola.

    Pasco's Nate Craig-Myers: The freshman broke up a pass on defense and was one of the Pirates' lone bright spots on offense. He totaled 102 receiving yards and both of his team's offensive touchdowns.

    Compiled by staff writers Joel Anderson, Matt Baker, Joey Knight, Rodney Page and Bob Putnam.

    By the numbers

    42 Rushing yards for East Lake (counting yards lost in sacks) on 16 carries in its 31-21 loss to Orlando Dr. Phillips.

    72 Career victories for Robinson's Mike DePue, who became the program's winningest coach Friday night. In his ninth season, DePue is 72-42. Holland "Luke" Aplin, the first coach in Knights history (1959-67), previously held the mark.

    6.5/42 Average points allowed through 12 games by Clearwater Central Catholic, and points given up to University School on Friday.

    8 Years since Pasco had given up as many points (49) or lost by as many (28) as it did Friday night. It was the Pirates' worst loss since a 49-13 first-round exit to Jefferson in the 2004 playoffs.


    "The Newsome Wolves still are beating Osceola. … The Armwood Hawks still are losing to Gainesville. … and the Plant Panthers still are not playing tonight. Their season is over." — Scott Burkett, Robinson High public address announcer, giving halftime local score updates

    "You would like to be as good as that football team, but I don't know that I'll ever have that many athletes." — John Davis, CCC coach, after being shut out by Fort Lauderdale University School

    "The future's okay." — Tom McHugh, Pasco coach, on losing three Division-I recruits but returning at least three other prospects

    "A lot of it came down to situational football. We didn't have great field position in the second half. We were in a lot of third and longs. We dropped some interceptions. We left a lot of plays out there." — Bob Hudson, East Lake coach

    "Anyone who was going to beat us, they should've done it this year. Next year we'll be back here and we're going to win." — Byron Cowart, Armwood sophomore LB, after the Hawks' 42-10 loss to Gainesville

    Did you know?

    • Armwood suffered its worst playoff loss in school history against top-ranked Gainesville, a 32-point rout that was over early in the third quarter. The only one that comes close is a 41-15 loss at Belle Glades Central in 2000.

    • Pasco's Janarion Grant and David Emmanuel combined for more than 130 TDs in their high school careers. But for the second time in the past three years, neither scored in a game in which both were healthy. Land O'Lakes shut them out as sophomores.

    Looking ahead

    5A state semifinal: Tallahassee Godby (12-1) at Robinson (12-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday

    This is, quite simply, Robinson's most significant game in 35 years. Godby, coached by former FSU assistant Ronnie Cottrell, has an offense averaging more than 430 yards. Junior dual-threat QB J.T. Bradwell has more than 2,500 total yards and is among five Cougars with at least 300 rushing yards. "But guess what, we're back here (at Jack Peters Field) again," Robinson coach Mike DePue said.

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  • 12/01/12--16:37: NFL Week 13
  • By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    49ers (8-2-1) at Rams (4-6-1)

    1 p.m.

    49ers by 7½, 40½

    Not sure what to think of 49ers coach Jim Har­baugh's quarterback decision. He's sticking with Colin Kaepernick, above, despite solid starter Alex Smith being cleared after a concussion. Smith is admittedly upset. Teammates likely don't know what to think. Kaepernick played well, but so, too, has Smith. The bottom line? This team better not lose focus on what matters, like today's game against a team it tied last month. Not the time for distractions.

    49ers 23, Rams 20

    Texans (10-1) at Titans (4-7)

    1 p.m.

    Texans by 6½, 47

    The Titans have allowed a combined 68 points over their past two games despite having the likely defensive player of the year in DE J.J. Watt and a secondary that's quite good. Thing is, Houston won both games. It did need a break against Detroit with a botched call that led to RB Justin Forsett's touchdown. But against Tennessee, it will need no such luck. Watch out for Arian Foster, above, who is really starting to heat up and leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns.

    Texans 31, Titans 20

    Steelers (6-5) at Ravens (9-2)

    4:25 p.m., Ch. 10

    Ravens by 8, 35

    If injured QB Ben Roethlisberger doesn't make it back soon, you have to start having serious doubts about the Steelers' playoff hopes. He won't play today, meaning the Ravens, with Joe Flacco, above, have a decisive edge at the most important position. That said, Baltimore's defense isn't good enough for the offense to be inconsistent. Plus, against this Pittsburgh defense, there probably won't be many fourth-and-29 conversions, unlike last week at the Chargers.

    Ravens 21, Steelers 17

    Browns (3-8) at Raiders (3-8)

    4:25 p.m.

    Browns by 2, 38½

    This probably isn't in contention for anyone's game of the week, but we will be subjected to it anyway. Maybe something really unusual will happen, like the Browns winning on the road or the Raiders defense — which has given up 127 points over the past three games — actually, you know, stopping someone. Look for Browns rookie RB Trent Richardson, above, to have a nice day against the team that allowed 251 rushing yards to Tampa Bay's Doug Martin.

    Browns 26, Raiders 23

    Bengals (6-5) at Chargers (4-7)

    4:25 p.m.

    Bengals by 2, 46

    The Bengals are quietly making a push for a second straight playoff berth. They've won three straight, and none were close. This is a tougher assignment given the length of the road trip and the fact San Diego's talent is not reflective of its record. But the Chargers seem like they've checked out, and the Bengals' momentum is real. Cincinnati has balance with QB Andy Dalton, above, playing efficiently and RB Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis moving the chains.

    Bengals 24, Chargers 20

    Giants (7-4) at Redskins (5-6)

    8:30 Monday, ESPN

    Giants by 2½, 51

    The last time these clubs met, it took a 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run by WR Victor Cruz with less than two minutes left for the Giants to squeak out a victory. This time, playing in Washington and with playoff hopes still flickering, the Redskins look to finish the deal. Thing is, something tells me the Giants defense will adjust and won't let QB Robert Griffin III run for 89 yards like it did in the first meeting. Can RB Alfred Morris, above, offset that?

    Giants 27, Redskins 23

    Eagles (3-8) at Cowboys (5-6)

    8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

    Cowboys by 10½, 43

    Look, the Cowboys have issues. Such as their lack of a running game and the 15 interceptions thrown by Tony Romo, above. But the Cowboys aren't nearly as dysfunctional as the Eagles are right now. They're firing assistants and cutting Pro Bowl defensive ends. Pretty soon, there will be nothing left to do besides blow the whole thing up. Eagles QB Michael Vick and RB LeSean McCoy are out again with concussions. To which I say: Does it even matter?

    Cowboys 29, Eagles 21

    Jaguars (2-9) at Bills (4-7)

    1 p.m.

    Bills by 6, 44½

    After what QB Chad Henne has done over the past two games (615 yards, six touchdowns), this pick really requires some thought. The Jaguars have been more productive on offense over those two games than at any point this season, and that's a huge indictment of 2011 first-round pick and former starter Blaine Gabbert. Still, given this is on the road and the Jaguars have the 31st-ranked defense, they seem unlikely to stop RB C.J. Spiller, above, and the Bills' play­makers.

    Bills 26, Jaguars 23

    Seahawks (6-5) at Bears (8-3)

    1 p.m.

    Bears by 3½, 37½

    Both teams have remarkable defenses. But which offense can better handle the opposing defense? The Bears are plenty capable, except they've shown they can't protect QB Jay Cutler from even the slightest pass rush. Don't underestimate the impact of Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, above. Over the past three games, Arian Foster (Texans), Frank Gore (49ers) and Adrian Peterson (Vikings) have combined for 288 rushing yards against Chicago.

    S'hawks 23, Bears 21

    Colts (7-4) at Lions (4-7)

    1 p.m.

    Lions by 6, 51½

    The Lions' slow start left them practically out of any reasonable playoff conversation with five games left. You almost wonder what ownership thinks of the job coach Jim Schwartz, above, has done. He's one of only two remaining hires from the 2009 class of new coaches (Jets' Rex Ryan), and this season has not been good for the resume. But with the likes of QB Matt Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson and DT Ndamukong Suh, they have the talent to pull this one out.

    Lions 29, Colts 24

    Vikings (6-5) at Packers (7-4)

    1 p.m.

    Packers by 8½, 46

    That was quite the stinker for the Packers last week against the Giants. After all, when was the last time you saw Green Bay lose by 28 points? But when you can't protect QB Aaron Rodgers, above, and you play teams with good pass rushers (such as the Giants), bad things happen. The Vikings have their own top-notch pass rusher in DE Jared Allen, but either the Packers are going to turn it on or they're not. Giving them the benefit of the doubt — for now.

    Packers 24, Vikings 18

    Panthers (3-8) at Chiefs (1-10)

    1 p.m.

    Panthers by 3, 40½

    The Chiefs defense is not as bad as their record suggests, considering the offense can't sustain drives and the poor excuse for quarterbacks. LB Justin Houston (nine sacks) will be a pain in the rear for Cam Newton, above, and the pass defense is solid, too. Just consider that the Broncos had to pull off a second-half rally behind Peyton Manning to win at Arrowhead last week. Still, the Chiefs' woeful offense and minus-21 turnover margin seem insurmountable.

    Panthers 23, Chiefs 21

    Cardinals (4-7) at Jets (4-7)

    1 p.m.

    Jets by 5, 37

    As much as the Jets are a disaster, the Cardinals might be the bigger train wreck. They seemingly are on their 17th starting quarterback with a rookie sixth-round pick named Ryan Lindley, above, now under center. And Arizona lost another offensive lineman last week from a unit that's already among the league's worst. If the Jets show up, just maybe embattled coach Rex Ryan can keep fans and the New York media machine at bay — for this week, at least.

    Jets 26, Cardinals 20

    Patriots (8-3) at Dolphins (5-6)

    1 p.m., Ch. 10

    Patriots by 7½, 51½

    The Patriots have quietly won five straight, and the only thing preventing them from sweeping their AFC East competition is two games against the Dolphins. New England faces the Texans and 49ers in the next two weeks, so now is the time to handle its business. We know QB Tom Brady is having his requisite big season, but not enough credit goes to Stevan Ridley, above. He's the NFL's seventh-leading rusher and is keeping defenses honest.

    Patriots 31, Dolphins 20

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Giants might have to play without two of their defensive starters Monday against the Redskins — and elusive rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III — New York's Daily News reported Saturday.

    Former USF star end Jason Pierre-Paul missed his second straight practice with a sore back and is questionable. Safety Kenny Phillips is doubtful after making it through only two days of limited practice last week because of an sore right knee. Friday, Phillips said he was confident he would play.

    Neither the players nor Giants coach Tom Coughlin were made available for comment.

    Two other defensive starters, end Justin Tuck (foot) and safety Antrel Rolle (illness), also missed practice Saturday but are listed as probable.

    The Giants, however, declared tight end Travis Beckum out. He missed the season's first eight games after tearing his right ACL during the Super Bowl. He returned to play three but felt pain in the knee after last week's game against the Packers.

    Harvin out: A day after listing him as doubtful, the Vikings said receiver Percy Harvin will miss his third consecutive game with a sprained left ankle.

    Panthers: Starting running back Jonathan Stewart, who had been doubtful with a high left ankle sprain after not practicing last week, did not make the trip to Kansas City.

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Gary Bettman has been called an idiot by one player, and many others have heaped scorn on the NHL commissioner, whom players see as the bad guy of a lockout threatening to wipe out the season.

    But Bettman is employed by the 30 owners, including Tampa Bay's Jeff Vinik. As such, he is carrying a message of which they apparently approve. And that brings up an interesting question. How do Lightning players feel about Vinik? How, if at all, do they separate him from the hard-line the league has taken in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement?

    A check of some veterans after a recent skate at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon indicated — for now, at least — they have Vinik's back.

    "Mr. Vinik has done so much for this community, it's two different things," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "I know for a fact not all the owners are involved in the process, so it never came to my mind to associate him with what's going on."

    Said wing Marty St. Louis: "Because of everything he's done in the past few years, I have a hard time believing Mr. Vinik doesn't want to play."

    It would be easy to say players are being careful because Vinik pays their salaries. But Vinik has built up some goodwill.

    Unlike teams that reacted to the lockout by laying off employees and cutting salaries, Vinik did neither. That might change if the season is lost, but right now there are no such plans.

    He has kept his commitment to donate $2.05 million through his Community Hero program, which distributes $50,000 to specific charities on days the Lightning was to play at home. And his $42 million renovation of the Tampa Bay Times Forum includes North America's largest center-hung scoreboard.

    It also is believed Vinik is a moderate who won't mind the payroll reductions and expanded revenue sharing that will come with a new labor deal but also wants some sort of season to celebrate the organization's 20th anniversary and continue the effort to overcome the damage left by the previous owners.

    Still, Vinik has been silent through the lockout, not that he has much choice given Bettman's threat of hefty fines for owners who speak to the media.

    Even hard-liners — reporter Elliotte Friedman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. speculates they include owners from Boston, Anaheim, Columbus, Florida, Long Island, Washington, Dallas and St. Louis — have zipped their lips.

    It is that gag order — and that Bettman changed the rules so he needs votes from only eight owners to continue the lockout — that keeps the onus on the commissioner.

    "I'm not sure. Does he work for all the owners or just a couple?" wing Ryan Malone said. "Can all the owners come to meetings and talk to the media? Players can go to any (Players Association) meeting and talk to the media whether they're on our side or not."

    Ultimately, though, Vinik is part of a group the league said voted unanimously for a lockout.

    Even so, "I'm sure there are a lot of owners who want to play," St. Louis said. "I feel bad for Mr. Vinik. He's done a great job in this community, and right now it's all going backwards."

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  • 12/01/12--17:10: FSU21 GEORGIA TECH15

  • Saturday, December 1, 2012

    More online: seminoles.tampabay.com

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    ATLANTA — As the final seconds ticked off an instant classic — a literal SEC power struggle — No. 2 Alabama celebrated. Fireworks exploded as players sprinted onto the field, their triumph over No. 3 Georgia not assured until the clock struck triple zeros. Hands were shaken, fists bumped, flags and towels waved.

    The 32-28 victory earned Alabama a spot in the BCS title game Jan. 7, opposite Notre Dame in Miami, a matchup likely to shatter television records. First, though, the Crimson Tide needed to dispatch Georgia in the conference championship game, which it did — barely — as the Bulldogs ended the game 5 yards from the end zone and out of timeouts in the Georgia Dome.

    Alabama secured one championship and moved closer to its second consecutive national title and third in the past four seasons.

    For all of college football's fancy passing, for all its spread offenses and Saturday shootouts, the two highest-ranked teams at season's end — the Irish and the Tide — proved they could do something as simple as hand the ball off, push defenders backward, play great defense, throw occasionally and still win.

    AJ McCarron threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Crimson Tide a 32-28 lead. Alabama forced a punt, then punted it back after Georgia used all of its timeouts.

    The Bulldogs started from their 15 with 1:16 remaining. After an apparent clinching interception by Alabama's Dee Milliner was overturned on a video review, Georgia's Aaron Murray, a former Plant High standout, completed a 15-yard pass to Arthur Lynch, a 23-yarder to Tavarres King and a 26-yarder to Lynch, who was hauled down at the Alabama 8 as the clock continued to run.

    Instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock and gather themselves, the Bulldogs snapped the ball with nine seconds to go. Murray attempted a pass into the corner but it was deflected at the line, winding up in the arms of receiver Chris Conley in the right flat.

    Surprised to get the ball, he slipped down at the 5. Georgia couldn't get off another play and the Bulldogs collapsed on the field, stunned they had come so close to knocking off Alabama.

    "It came down to one play to win the SEC championship and play for the national championship," Murray said.

    "I'm ready to have a heart attack here," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

    For the Bulldogs, the consolation prize will likely be a spot in the Capital One Bowl, though they looked deserving of a BCS bid. Georgia coach Mark Richt said his team had the play it wanted at the end, but Alabama ruined it by getting a hand on the ball. And if it had fallen incomplete instead of going to Conley, who instinctively caught it, the Bulldogs could have tried another play.

    "I told the guys I was disappointed, but I'm not disappointed in them," Richt said. "They're warriors. We had a chance at the end."

    In a back-and-forth second half, the Crimson Tide trailed 21-10 after Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the third quarter.

    Alabama rallied behind a punishing run game, finishing with 350 yards on the ground, an SEC Championship Game record. Eddie Lacy — the game's MVP — rumbled for 181 yards on 20 carries and freshman T.J. Yeldon added 153 yards on 25 carries,.

    "It would be a crying shame if Georgia doesn't get to go to a BCS bowl game," Saban said, concurring with Richt's opinion. "That was a great football game, by both teams."

    Murray said: "We're a great team. We've worked extremely hard. I feel for our guys. It probably would have been the greatest comeback in Georgia history. It was exciting, that's for sure."

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer, and Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — Reliever Burke Badenhop anxiously waited out Friday's midnight non-tender deadline, relieved the Rays offered him a contract for next season.

    Then he got up Saturday and found out he was traded to Milwaukee for a minor-leaguer.

    "I was definitely surprised, especially right after the tender date," Badenhop said via text message. "I was pleased to wake up this morning as a Ray, but that didn't last long."

    The Rays saved his projected $1.6 million salary (up from $1.075 million), but also must have felt they could upgrade his middle relief spot. In a career-high 66 appearances, Badenhop was 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA after being acquired from the Marlins in a similar deal last year.

    "I couldn't have been more appreciative to have spent time with Tampa Bay," Badenhop said. "It's tough to leave but I'm happy to land with a great team like Milwaukee. Spending a year with (manager) Joe Maddon, (pitching coach) Jim Hickey and (executive vice president) Andrew Friedman was a great experience."

    In return, the Rays got outfielder Raul Mondesi Jr., a 20-year-old who played at rookie-level Helena last year, hitting .231 with five homers and 32 RBIs in 68 games. He is the son of the former NL All-Star.

    The Rays have Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee back in their bullpen, plus Wade Davis if he is not traded or moved back to the rotation. Other internal candidates are Cesar Ramos, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke and whichever other starters don't make the rotation.

    The Rays let outfielder Ben Francisco become a free agent at the deadline but hung on to infielder Ryan Roberts, who projects to make around $3 million. Roberts would look to be the starting second baseman, though the Rays are going to remain open to other options and could use him at a number of positions.

    Around the majors

    CUBS ADD JAPANESE PITCHER: Right-handed reliever Kyuji Fujikawa agreed to a two-year deal with Chicago that has a vesting option for a third year and includes a guaranteed $9.5 million, FOX Sports reported. Fujikawa, 32, is expected to be the Cubs' closer.

    D'BACKS, HUFF TALK: The Diamondbacks have contacted former Ray Aubrey Huff, 35, and may look at him as a backup corner infielder.

    GIANTS CLOSER ON MARKET: The Giants elected to non-tender Brian Wilson on Friday, meaning the former All-Star closer is now a free agent. A key figure during the club's run to the 2010 World Series title, Wilson made two appearances this season before having reconstructive elbow surgery for a second time.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report. Marc Topkin be reached at topkin@tampabay.com

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    TAMPA — Courtney Williams and Andrell Smith had 13 points each and Inga Orekhova added nine as USF rolled past North Florida 66-44 on Saturday and improved to 6-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

    Williams, a freshman guard, added seven rebounds in her third game action this season.

    "Courtney Williams is playing better offensively," coach Jose Fernandez said.

    "It was a team effort and I was just happy that I could help," Williams said. "I don't put to much pressure on myself; I just go out there and have fun."

    Leading 22-18 after a sluggish first half, the Bulls opened the second with a 6-0 run and continued to pile on, leading by as much as 28.

    "Our kids came out at halftime and answered the bell," Fernandez said.

    Overall, USF shot 32.1 percent from the field but compensated by forcing 30 turnovers and picking up 15 steals.

    Guard Fabiola Josil had 12 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Ospreys (2-5).

    The Bulls next face Florida Gulf Coast at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Sun Dome.

    MICHIGAN 59, UF 53: Kate Thompson had 21 points for the host Wolverines, who rallied from an eight-point second-half deficit and handed the Gators (5-3) their second straight loss.

    Florida shot 21.6 percent (8-of-37) in the second half and season-worst 30.3 percent (20-of-66) overall. Michigan controlled the tempo, holding onto the ball until fewer than 10 seconds remained on the shot clock on seemingly every possession.

    "That's typically how they play," UF coach Amanda Butler said. "They like a low-possession ballgame, and we didn't do a good job defensively of maintaining our focus. I felt like we would put a lot of pressure on them and then we would have a breakdown with 10 seconds left. It's got to be the other way around."

    ECKERD 68, ROLLINS 67: Taylor Bestry hit two free throws with 1.6 seconds left as the visiting Tritons (4-2) won their Sunshine State Conference opener. Liga Vente and Annie Armstrong scored 18 each for Eckerd.

    TAMPA 68, P.B. ATLANTIC 60: Illyssa Vivo had 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting for the visiting Spartans (7-0), off to their best start since the 2009-10 squad opened at 9-0.

    SAINT LEO 73, NOVA SE 69: Chelsea Williams had 25 points and 12 rebounds and Kinnara Lewis added 21 points, including five 3-pointers, as the host Lions (5-2) rallied from a nine-point deficit in their SSC opener.

    Top 25

    NO. 15 OHIO ST. 78, EVANSVILLE 33: Tayler Hill scored 20 for the Buckeyes (5-2), who opened the second half with a 25-0 run and won their 27th straight home game.

    BOSTON U. 66, NO. 17 ST. JOHN'S 49: Chantell Alford scored 22 and sank six 3-pointers for the host Terriers, who snapped a four-game winning streak by the Red Storm (4-2).

    NO. 18 OKLA. ST. 91, TEXAS SO. 49: Liz Donohoe and Lindsey Keller scored 18 each for the host Cowgirls (6-0), who have won 12 in a row dating to last season's WNIT title, the nation's longest winning streak.

    NO. 21 NEBRASKA 60, IDAHO ST. 51: Jordan Hooper scored a season-high 29 and became the 16th player in school history to reach 1,200 points for her career, leading the host Cornhuskers (6-2).

    NO. 23 DAYTON 82, UNLV 58: Sam MacKay had 18 points and a career-high eight rebounds for the Flyers (8-0) in the first round of the ASU Classic in Tempe, Ariz.

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  • 12/01/12--18:03: Duo keys Cincy victory
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Brendon Kay threw two touchdowns to tight end Travis Kelce, and caught one from Kelce on a trick play, as Cincinnati beat Connecticut 34-17 on Saturday.

    The Bearcats earned a share of its fourth Big East championship in five years, along with Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse, all of which ended with 5-2 conference records. Cincinnati lost to the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights and was not in the running for the Big East's BCS bowl berth, but will go to its sixth bowl in seven years.

    "I don't care if it's a share, it's a championship," Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. "Four out of five of the last years we've either won or shared a conference title. I don't know if there is anybody in the United States of America that has done that."

    Chandler Whitmer threw for 264 yards and a touchdown for UConn, leaving after hitting his head on the turf and blacking out in the third quarter. He said he wanted to return, but was held out as a precaution.

    The Huskies finished their second consecutive losing season since Paul Pasqualoni took over.

    "We worked hard these last couple of weeks trying to make sure we were eligible for a bowl game, and came up a little bit short," UConn cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson said. "That's what's been happening all season."

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  • 12/01/12--18:26: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Alpine skiing

    vonn wins back-to-back downhills

    LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — Lindsey Vonn raced to her 13th World Cup victory at Lake Louise on Saturday, leading another 1-2 U.S. finish in the second downhill at the Canadian resort.

    Vonn finished in 1 minute, 52.9 seconds, to edge Stacey Cook by 0.52 seconds. In the season-opening downhill Friday, Vonn beat Cook by 1.73 seconds.

    Switzerland's Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden was third in 1:53.52.

    Vonn nearly skidded into safety nets rounding a corner halfway down the course. "A lot of people make mistakes in a lot of races, but if you don't think you're going to win after a mistake, then you're not," the four-time overall Cup winner said. "I kept charging. I knew I could make up some time if I skied well on the bottom, and thankfully my skis were fast and I had a good line and I was able to make it up."

    Vonn's win was her 55th in the World Cup, tying her with Switzerland's Vreni Schneider for second all time on the women's list, seven behind the record of Austria's Annemarie Moser-Proll.

    Vonn races today in the super-giant slalom in a bid to sweep the three-race event for the second straight year.


    Hundreds mourn Camacho at funeral

    Hundreds mourned Hector Camacho in the East Harlem, N.Y., church the former world champion attended as a boy, and hundreds more cheered and shouted "Macho" when his coffin was carried out and loaded into a hearse afterward. Burial followed at St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx. Camacho, 50, a native of Puerto Rico who moved to East Harlem as a child, was shot Nov. 20 in a car outside a bar in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He died Nov. 24.

    More boxing: Austin "No Doubt" Trout (26-0) won a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto (37-4) at Madison Square Garden to retain his share of the 154-pound title.


    McDowell keeps lead in Tiger's tournament

    Graeme McDowell kept bogeys off his card to keep the lead in the World Challenge, Tiger Woods' charity tournament, at Thousand Oaks, Calif. McDowell shot 4-under 68 for a two-shot lead at 13-under 203 over Keegan Bradley (67) in the 18-player field. Bradley said he heard one man in the gallery call him a "cheater" for using a belly putter. Woods (69) and Bo Van Pelt (70) were third at 8 under.

    et cetera

    nhl: The players association executive board authorized payment of a $10,000 stipend to each player, media reports said. The players have missed four paychecks as a result of the league-imposed lockout.

    Autos: Team owner Roger Penske has offered Tony Stewart, the three-time Sprint Cup champion, a ride in next year's Indianapolis 500.

    soccer: Manchester United twice came from behind to beat Reading 4-3, and its English Premier League lead grew to three points with Manchester City's 1-1 tie with Everton.

    swimming: Missy Franklin won the 200-yard backstroke for her third title and Kevin Cordes set an American record of 1 minute, 50.73 seconds in winning the 200 breaststroke on the final day of the U.S. Winter Nationals in Austin, Texas.

    greyhounds: Flying Spectator, Four Onthe Floor, Kiowa Jordan Doc and Tmc's Roxslide won in the first round of the $75,000 Holiday Distance Challenge at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. Qualifying resumes Wednesday night.

    Don Jensen, Times correspondent; Times wires

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It began like any other Saturday morning for the Chiefs, their general manager and coach putting the final touches on a game plan for today's matchup against the Panthers. Then they got a call to hurry to the parking lot.

    The men rushed through the doors of the team's headquarters and came face to face with linebacker Jovan Belcher, who was holding a gun to his head.

    Belcher already had killed his girlfriend, police said, and sped about 5 miles to Arrowhead Stadium, past a security checkpoint at the entrance. Upon finding his bosses, Belcher thanked GM Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel for giving him a chance in the NFL. Then he turned away and pulled the trigger.

    Authorities did not release a possible motive other than noting Belcher, 25, and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, 22, had been arguing frequently. The investigation was ongoing.

    The two left behind a 3-month-old daughter. She was being cared for by family.

    The team said it would play its home game today "after discussions between the league office, (Crennel) and Chiefs team captains."

    An argument apparently started about 1 a.m. Saturday, when Perkins returned home from a Trey Songz concert at the Midland arena and drinks afterward with friends. Belcher, her boyfriend, lived with her and was mad that she had stayed out so late, the Kansas City Star reported. The disagreement ended tragically about seven hours later, when Belcher killed Perkins by shooting her multiple times, witnessed by his mother and the couple's daughter.

    Belcher went undrafted in 2009 out of Division I-AA Maine, where he received a degree in child development in 31/2 years and participated in an anti-domestic-violence initiative, Male Athletes Against Violence. He signed with the Chiefs and played four seasons. He had started all 11 games in this 1-10 season.

    "The entire Chiefs family is deeply saddened … and our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy, thoughts and prayers for the families and friends affected by this unthinkable tragedy," Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement.

    The NFL released a statement expressing sympathy.

    Kansas City police reported receiving a call Saturday morning from a woman who said her daughter had been shot multiple times. The call came from Belcher's mother, who referred to the victim as her daughter, leading to initial confusion.

    "She treated Kasandra like a daughter," police spokesman Darin Snapp said.

    Belcher's mother, who is from West Babylon, N.Y., on Long Island, recently moved in with the couple.

    Less than an hour later, police received a call from the Chiefs' facility. "Pioli, Crennel and another coach or employee were standing outside and appeared to be talking to him," Snapp said. "The suspect began to walk in the opposite direction of the coaches and the officers. And that's when they heard the gunshot."

    Crennel and Pioli told police they never felt in danger. "They said the player was actually thanking them for everything they'd done," Snapp said.

    At Belcher's childhood home in West Babylon, his family turned the yard into a shrine with a large poster of him and an array of his trophies, jerseys and jackets from the Chiefs, Maine and West Babylon High.

    "The guy always had a smile on his face. He would just wrap his arms around you," said Belcher's uncle, Willis Miles, 53, of West Babylon. He is the brother of Belcher's mother.

    Relatives of Perkins declined to comment.

    Belcher is the latest current or former player to die from a self-inflicted gunshot wound over the past few years. Former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau shot himself in the chest in May. His family donated his brain tissue to determine if head injuries he sustained while playing might be linked to his death.

    Belcher did not have an extensive injury history. He showed up on the injury report Nov. 11, 2009, with a head injury. He played four days later against the Raiders.

    "He's a very quiet kid, a nice guy, a hard-working kid," said former Bucs tight end Anthony Becht, who played for the Chiefs last season and whose locker was a few stalls away from Belcher's. "I would never — if I'd try to think of someone who would do this, I wouldn't have ever thought it was this kid."


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    Chicago Tribune
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    LOS ANGELES — Outspoken, humorous and a basketball tactician, longtime college coach Rick Majerus died Saturday night from a heart condition. He was 64.

    "No one saw the game like he saw it," said Loyola of Chicago coach Porter Moser, a protege and former Majerus assistant at Saint Louis. "All of the people who will be talking about him, they didn't have the luxury of being in a room filled with dry erase boards and preparing for a game with Rick Majerus, watching him dissect how we're going to stop an opponent. He was a basketball guy through and through."

    Moser said Mr. Majerus was taken off of life support after dealing with a heart condition that caused him to take a leave of absence from Saint Louis. The school announced on Nov. 16 that he would not return this season.

    Mr. Majerus was 517-215 in 25 years of coaching, with only one losing season and a trip to the NCAA Tournament championship game in 1998. He guided 12 teams to the NCAA Tournament, including the Billikens last season.

    He was known most for guiding Utah to the NCAA title game, where the Utes lost to Kentucky.

    Mr. Majerus started his career with his alma mater, then-independent Marquette in 1983. He moved on to coach at Ball State and Utah.

    After a three-year absence from the game, he returned to coaching to take on the job at Saint Louis in 2007. He had accepted a job in 2004 at USC but for health reasons instead returned to his role as an ESPN analyst.

    He ended the Billikens' 12-year NCAA Tournament drought last season with a 26-win season.

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    TAMPA — The boos really didn't come until the fourth quarter Saturday, when USF coach Skip Holtz, trailing 27-0 and nearing the end of the worst season in team history, called for his field goal unit on fourth and goal from the Pittsburgh 8.

    Maikon Bonani's 26-yard field goal was good and helped the Bulls avoid the shutout in a 27-3 loss. But the smallest crowd of the season made its frustration apparent in a familiar theme: too little, too late.

    For the third game in a row, USF's offense struggled to move the ball — let alone score — without quarterback B.J. Daniels. Starter Matt Floyd committed three turnovers on his first three drives, and the Bulls (3-9, 1-6 Big East) entered the fourth quarter with just 55 yards of offense and finished with 115, resetting the program's all-time low.

    The boos came again as Holtz ran off the field after the loss, not looking up as he ran into the tunnel after the game ended with Pitt near the USF goal line.

    The loss completes the Bulls' worst season and leaves them alone at the bottom of the conference standings. The question now is if the downward spiral was bad enough to make USF's administration fire Holtz, which would require a buyout of $2.5 million over the five years remaining on his contract.

    Injuries have hurt USF's offense down the stretch, but the game showed many of the flaws that have haunted it all season.

    The defense continued its inability to force turnovers. The Bulls finished the season with two interceptions, both during the fourth quarter against Connecticut. Over the past six seasons, no Big East team has finished with fewer than seven.

    The Bulls compounded the lack of big plays with costly mistakes.

    After Floyd's first interception, it looked as though the Bulls had stopped Pittsburgh (6-6, 3-4) on third and goal. But senior cornerback Kayvon Webster was flagged for illegal hands to the face, giving Pittsburgh a first down. Ray Graham scored on a 1-yard run on the next play.

    All five of Pitt's scoring drives were 50 yards or fewer, taking advantage of short fields created by USF turnovers and special teams woes. Victor Marc opted not to field two punts that were downed at the 2, not making things any easier for Floyd.

    Floyd finished 12-of-25 for 93 yards (40 of those yards came on three completions). The Bulls were held to 8 yards rushing.

    Floyd now enters the spring as USF's quarterback to beat for 2013 but has shown little in his 2012 audition, leading the Bulls to a single touchdown drive over his 11 quarters.

    Holtz has lost 14 of his past 16 Big East games, finishing this season with the worst record in school history and missing a bowl for the second year in a row after the Bulls had gone to bowls in six consecutive seasons.

    The final four games were the lowest-scoring four-game stretch in school history. The 35 points were 15 fewer than the next lowest, set in 2008.

    USF athletic director Doug Woolard has held firm to his policy of not commenting on coaches during their season. But with the season over, fans now will wait to see if he will fire what is just the second coach in USF history or whether Holtz will be given a pardon to return in 2013 with hopes of turning things around.

    Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com.

    WILLIE J. ALLEN JR.   |   TimesWILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

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  • 12/01/12--19:02: PITT27, USF3

  • Saturday, December 1, 2012

    More online: tampabay.com/blogs/bulls

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    Associated Press
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    CARSON, Calif. — David Beckham stood on the podium with his three sons, an oversized Union Jack knotted around his Los Angeles jersey. With a practiced lift and a broad smile, he raised the sparkling silver cup over his head to a raucous ovation amid a confetti blizzard.

    Beckham wrapped up his MLS career as a two-time champion Saturday, with Landon Donovan's tie-breaking penalty-kick goal in the 65th minute propelling the Galaxy to a 3-1 victory over Houston for its second straight title.

    For the second straight year, Beckham, 37, raised a trophy that stands as evidence of the English midfielder's impact on American soccer during his six seasons in Los Angeles.

    "It's been a successful six years here, and now that we've won the second one, it's even more satisfying," he said. "I just hope people have enjoyed me playing here. It's what I always hope for when I step on the field."

    With a three-goal second half capped by Robbie Keane's penalty-kick goal in injury time, Los Angeles won its fourth MLS Cup, tying D.C. for the league record.

    Beckham will play elsewhere next year before eventually returning to MLS as an owner. With rumors linking him to teams from Sydney to Paris, he hasn't disclosed his plans beyond a Christmas vacation in England with his family, which also includes wife Victoria (Posh Spice of the Spice Girls) and a daughter.

    After Calen Carr put Houston up 1-0 in the 44th minute, Los Angeles systematically broke down the defense of the Dynamo, which lost the Cup 1-0 on the same field last year.

    Omar Gonzalez tied it at 1 in the 61st minute with a long header. Moments later, Donovan redeemed himself for missing an open net in the 13th minute by burying a penalty kick after a Houston handball in the box. The U.S. star, who is contemplating a departure from soccer, won his record-tying fifth MLS title while scoring his fifth career MLS Cup goal and the record 22nd goal of his postseason career.

    "It's a little surreal," Donovan said. "In any sport, to repeat is really hard to do. … For me personally, this felt more satisfying (than last year). We could enjoy it a little bit more."

    After Keane's goal, Beckham left the game to a raucous standing ovation from the packed stadium of 30,515 amid chants of "Thank you, David!"

    Associated PressAssociated Press

    0 0

    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    RALEIGH, N.C. — Less than 24 hours after coaching Northern Illinois to a win in the MAC title game, Dave Doeren was hired to take over at N.C. State on Saturday.

    Doeren, who takes over for the fired Tom O'Brien, led the Huskies to conference titles in both of his seasons as coach and went 23-4. He will not coach their bowl game.

    Doeren "is a highly motivated overachiever who shares our goals to pursue aggressively a high level of achievement in the classroom and on the field of competition," N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement the school released. A news conference is scheduled for today.

    Doeren, who turns 41 on Monday, came to Northern Illinois in December 2010 after five seasons as Wisconsin's defensive coordinator. He replaced Jerry Kill (now at Minnesota) and led the Huskies to an 11-win season in 2011 capped by a win over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

    This season, Northern Illinois won a school-record 12 games, including Friday over Kent State in double overtime in the MAC title game, and currently is ranked No. 19.

    Once again, Boise State reaches 10 victories

    RENO, Nev. — Joe Southwick threw two touchdowns to lead No. 25 Boise State to a 27-21 victory over Nevada. His 52-yard touchdown to Matt Miller made it 24-7 4:08 into the second half.

    The Broncos have won at least 10 games in a national-high seven consecutive seasons. They finished tied for first in their final season in the Mountain West before moving to the Big East. They, Fresno State and San Diego State went 7-1 in league play and share the title because each went 1-1 against the other two.

    Boise State gave itself a slim chance to reach the BCS. However, it needs to finish among the top 16 and ahead of Big East champion Louisville. It probably will have to settle for a smaller bowl.

    "I know we'll play somebody good," coach Chris Petersen said.

    "There are no bad teams going to bowl games."

    No. 16 Oregon St. 77, Nicholls St. 3: Storm Woods ran for two first-quarter touchdowns as the host Beavers set a school record for points. The game was postponed from Sept. 1, when Hurricane Isaac bore down on the I-AA Colonels' campus in Thibodeaux, La. Oregon State's previous high was a 76-0 win over Willamette in 1931.

    La.-Lafayette 35, FAU 21: Alonzo Harris ran for three touchdowns for the host Rajin Cajuns. Terrance Broadway hit James Butler for 15 yards with 35 seconds left in the first half to put Lafayette up 21-14, and Harris' 2-yard run made it 28-14 midway through the third. Owls sophomore William Dukes caught nine passes, two for touchdowns, for a school-record 204 yards.

    Arkansas St. 45, Mid. Tenn. 0: Ryan Aplin went 19-of-21 for 238 yards and three touchdowns as the Red Wolves clinched their second straight Sun Belt title. Both teams entered with one conference loss.


    Independence: Louisiana-Monroe will play in its first bowl after accepting a bid to the Dec. 28 game in Shreveport, La. The Warhawks, a Sun Belt team that beat Arkansas in overtime, lost to Auburn in overtime and lost 47-42 to Baylor, are supposed to face an ACC team. But it likely will take on an at-large because the ACC doesn't have enough bowl-eligible teams.

    New Orleans: East Carolina accepted an invitation to meet Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 22.

    Late Friday: Cardinal wins Pac-12 title over UCLA

    STANFORD, Calif. — Kevin Hogan took Stanford where Andrew Luck didn't. The sophomore passed for 155 yards and a score and ran for 47 yards to lead the No. 8 Cardinal past No. 17 UCLA 27-24 in the Pac-12 title game.

    Stanford now heads to the Rose Bowl, a game Luck, the star quarterback who was taken first overall by the Colts in April, never played in.

    As a defender barreled into him, Hogan threw a 26-yard tying touchdown to Drew Terrell on third and 15 early in the fourth. Jordan Williamson made a 36-yard go-ahead field goal with 6:49 left to seal Stanford's first conference title since 1999.

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