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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    Even now, you can hear the quiver in their voices as they speak of memories a decade old.

    Even now, they speak around the lumps in their throats as they remember the players who were their legends, their champions and, yes, their neighbors. They talk of the game, that game of all games, and every precious moment of it. They remember how they drove aimlessly through the streets afterward, blowing horns, looking for someone to share their joy, and somehow winding up in the parking lot at Raymond James Stadium.

    Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers speak of Jan. 26, 2003, as if it were a living thing, a favorite relative who still stops by to visit from time to time. Maybe it is. In some ways, it is as if Derrick Brooks is still running up the sideline with the clinching interception, and Simeon Rice is still loose in the backfield, and Warren Sapp is still controlling the middle. Squint, and you can still see Keenan McCardell in the end zone. Listen, and you can hear the sound of Jon Gruden.

    So many players, so many memories. There was John Lynch and Joe Jurevicius and Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott and Keyshawn Johnson and Monte Kiffin, Dexter Jackson and Dwight Smith and Brad Johnson. Even now, fans speak of those Bucs as if they were Tampa Bay's founding fathers, which, in a way, they were.

    There never has been a team like that, and there has never been a day like that. Not before. Not since. Maybe not ever again.

    That was the day Tampa Bay arrived.

    That was the day Tampa Bay conquered the world.

    That was the day Tampa Bay will never forget.

    Today, as the Bucs play against the Eagles (who else?), Tampa Bay will remember. After all, it was Philadelphia that the Bucs beat in the NFC Championship Game to get to the Super Bowl, and some will tell you they enjoyed that game even more than the title game. And why not? It was the Eagles who were responsible for the Bucs' worst playoff losses.

    A decade has rushed past, and young fans have turned into old ones. The greatness of the Bucs didn't last long enough. Who knows when another Super Bowl victory will come again? Three more years? Five more years? Ten?

    In the meantime, we have the Bucs of '02. To Tampa Bay, they are our '72 Dolphins, our '85 Bears, our '68 Jets. Around here, Jan. 26 will always be a holiday, and those players will always be local icons.

    They put each other on the map, that team and this town. A decade ago, there seemed to be less distance between the Bucs and Tampa Bay. The franchise wasn't quite as guarded, and the players seemed as if they were more tied to the community.

    As a result, Tampa Bay fans knew those guys. They knew the faces, the personalities, the background stories. They knew how the players sounded, and often, how they felt.

    They knew Brooks was quiet and Sapp was loud and Lynch had an internal fire that most other Boy Scouts lack. They knew about Alstott's relentlessness and Keyshawn's ego and Jurevicius' strength as he played despite the failing health of his newborn son. They knew about Rice's wonderful weirdness and about Barber, who returned an interception from Philadelphia's 8-yard line all the way to San Diego.

    At the time, Gruden was Tampa Bay's favorite son. Kiffin was everyone's kindly uncle. On a team that touched a community, everyone else was a member of the family.

    After all, these guys had suffered, too. The wretched past of the franchise was not that far behind. This was the Bucs, that lost franchise of Culverhouse and 0-26, of Leeman Bennett and Keith McCants and Charles McRae and Eric Curry. They were the team Doug Williams left, and the one Bo Jackson rejected, and the one Bill Parcells left at the altar.

    This 2002 team changed all of that, and it changed perception along with it. When the Bucs won it all, Tampa Bay won along with them.

    To an outsider, that might sound trite. To the cynical, sports is illusion, and the millionaires who play it often have little in common with those who cheer their names. Rarely does a team alter the community it represents.

    This one did. It reached a deeper part of Tampa Bay than most teams do, even the most successful ones. The Bucs were suddenly a cool team to see, and Tampa Bay was a cool place to be.

    As the years have gone by, many fans across the country seem to have forgotten. Every year, someone rates the Super Bowl winners, and every year, a lot of other teams seem to be appreciated more fondly than the Bucs. People seem to have forgotten how fierce that defense was — for 100 games, that defense stacked up favorably with almost every other defense the league has seen.

    Perhaps the perception of that team would be different if the Bucs had won two or three Super Bowls. They certainly had the talent to do so. A little more offense in '99 and 2000, and history would have a better memory of the Bucs.

    On the other hand, there is something to be said for being a one-and-only team, too. Nothing fades success quite like more success. If the Bucs had won more Super Bowls, perhaps we wouldn't appreciate what this team meant to Tampa Bay as much as we do.

    Remember what Tampa Bay was like a decade ago. It was a different place. It was known for its heat and its humidity, and for its strip malls and strip clubs, and for its tourism and its tan lines.

    As far as sports, Tampa Bay was a wasteland. The Bucs, once defined by how often they lost, had become stuck on a plateau and, frankly, the offense needed a push. The Rays had played five seasons, and along the way, they had lost 490 games. The Lightning was in the middle of its 10th season, and it still hadn't won a playoff series. Each of the three had been called the worst franchise in pro sports, and each time, it fit.

    One season changed that. One championship changed the way the nation felt about Tampa Bay, and the way Tampa Bay felt about itself.

    It didn't last. Neither did the Mings or the Romans or any other dynasty you wish to name. Great players went away, and none came in to replace them. The Bucs still haven't won a playoff game since that Super Bowl.

    For one night, however, greatness came to Tampa Bay. There for a while, we were tough like Alstott, and we were smart like Gruden, and we were sleek like Brooks. We were powerful like Sapp, and we were dangerous like Lynch, and we were kind of groovy like Rice. The current players of the Bucs could find worse players to emulate.

    After all, today is Jan. 26 all over again.

    In one part of our hearts, isn't it always?

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.

    Times file (2003)Times file (2003)

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Saturday, December 8, 2012


    The atmosphere changed at USF on Saturday afternoon.

    Suddenly, the air crackled with energy and confidence. Willie Taggart, the new guy in charge, stood in front of the room, his voice bouncing off the wall like a preacher in the middle of a revival.

    He smiled and he shouted and he promised, and at the moment, it was impossible to doubt him.

    Yes, he was going to recruit.

    Yes, he was going to lead.

    Yes, he was going to win.

    This is the easy part, of course. A new coach has never lost his introductory news conference. Everyone uses the same phrases, and everyone hits the same bullet points, and everyone thinks the future glitters in the distance. On Day 1, everyone sounds the same.

    And yet, there was something about Taggart that invited you to believe. He is young, 36, and his career is only three years old. But he sees the USF program the same way that the faithful see it, as a place where the right coach, with the right players, can build success.

    He talked about recruiting. He talked about winning championships. He talked about being ranked. He talked about filling Raymond James Stadium. He talked about hard work and tough kids and building something special.

    Do you believe him yet?

    "I've won all my life," Taggart said. "I won in high school. I won in college. I've won in life. I'm a winner. I don't believe in that losing stuff. Winning is not that complicated. There is no reason for us not to be successful.

    "We're not going to bow down to anyone, not any man and not any program."

    By this time, the packed room was cheering and whooping. If someone had brought a blocking sled, the crowd would have pushed it through the plate glass windows.

    He had them now, and Taggart paused. He grinned.

    "What we have to do is put everyone on the bus, put them in the right seat, and let Coach T drive this bus."

    If things go right, who knows? Maybe Taggart can drive it over the rest of the Big East.

    Say this for Taggart. He makes a fine first impression. His voice can go from funny to fiery in about 11 seconds. His personality boils out of him, and it is easy to imagine how it will affect 18-year-old linebackers and running backs.

    Granted, you do not judge a coach by the way he says what his fans want to hear. Even given his reputation for toughness, for organization, for leadership, it will take a lot of recruiting and a lot of winning before it can be decided whether Taggart is indeed the right coach.

    In the meantime, there is a trusted voice in his corner. If you want to know about Willie Taggart, why not ask Tony Dungy?

    Dungy, a self-professed fan of USF, sat in on some of USF's interviews during its six-day coaching search. He liked what he heard from Taggart.

    "I think he's going to be a great fit," Dungy said. "He's special. His personality and his drive will rub off on other people. He has a vision of how to win.

    "One thing that attracted me to Willie … he reminds me a lot of myself at that age. There isn't a lot of flash, not a lot of glitter. He's not going to wow you with this, that or the other. I can see the commitment to his style of play. He's going to be very businesslike. In terms of substance over style, that's what I saw."

    Can he recruit? If he can fill the room the way he did Saturday, if he can make heads nod, you bet he can. Most of the people in the room would have signed whatever scholarship was available. There is risk with every coaching hire at every school, but yeah, it is easy to like Taggart's chances.

    Forty-five minutes later, Taggart sat in a conference room. The introduction was not a performance, he said. It was who he is. The enthusiasm is real. The belief, too.

    So you ask him: Should USF win Big East titles?

    "No doubt about it," he said. "I look at this program being a top-25 program every year. Every year. Including next year. There is no reason we shouldn't. We're going to set our expectations high."

    And should USF get into the top 10?

    "No doubt about it," he said again. "I always said I wouldn't leave Western Kentucky unless it was for a place where we could win the national title. I think you can do that here.'

    And should USF be able to compete with Florida and FSU and Miami?

    "We should work to get there. It's not just going to happen overnight. We have the resources. We have the recruiting base. We have all the things we need to get there.

    "One thing I'm excited about: Now I have pretty much the same stick as everyone else. I don't have the switch anymore. That switch will hurt a little bit, but it will end up breaking."

    Today, Taggart says, the recruiting starts. He needs offense. He needs defense.

    Along the way, perhaps he will recruit a few more believers. Listen to him, and you might become one yourself.

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 98.7-FM the Fan.

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky had raised "sufficient private funds" to put together a contract offer in October that would have made Willie Taggart the highest-paid football coach in the Sun Belt Conference, Hilltoppers athletic director Todd Stewart said Saturday.

    Taggart was hired as USF's coach on Friday and held a news conference Saturday in Tampa.

    "He felt announcing a new contract during the season would be a distraction to the team and wanted to keep the focus on football," Stewart said. "We respected that statement and mutually agreed to wait until the end of the regular season to discuss a new contract. This past week we again extended a term sheet that offered him a contract for him to become the highest paid coach in our conference. We were proactive and thorough in our efforts to retain him."

    Taggart was making a base salary of $475,000 at WKU. Per stipulations of his contract, USF must play WKU in a home-and-home series in the future and Taggart owes WKU $500,000, the Bowling Green Daily News reported.

    The Hilltoppers named defensive coordinator Lance Guidry interim coach for their first bowl game, Dec. 26 against Central Michigan at the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit.

    WKU defensive tackle Jamarcus Allen said players were set to leave practice Friday when Taggart called a team meeting to reveal his plans. "He (said) he had to do what was best for him and his family," Allen said. "We completely understand that.

    "I was shocked, and I really hurt for the young guys because it's probably hard for them to transition."

    "Pretty much, it's going to be up to the seniors to lead this team to a bowl," senior safety Kareem Peterson told the Daily News. "We still have a bowl game. We've still got to make history. We can't let one person — like (Taggart) even told us — not one individual is bigger than this team or university."

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    Times staff
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

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    By Jay Mastry, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    What's hot: A week of easterly winds let the nearshore waters along our gulf beaches clear, and the annual invasion of silver trout has begun. Each year at about this time, they settle into the rocky bottom areas just off the shore from St. Petersburg to Clearwater. My first choice is the area of natural hard bottom about a half-mile north of Redington Long Pier.

    Tactics: Start just outside the swim buoys and drift out. Your bottom recorder might reveal their whereabouts. They often appear as a mass, similar to bait schools. Diving birds pounding the glass minnows also is a sign.

    Tackle: Store-bought tandem rigged jigs work great, or make your own. I like a length of 30-pound leader with a jig head of an eighth-ounce on the top and quarter-ounce on the bottom. The combination allows for longer casts and gets down quicker. Experiment with a variety of colored tails. Conditions often dictate which work best. In clear water, pale pink curly tails are among my favorites. Take extra tails because the soft, rubber tails are no match for the sharp teeth of mackerel and bluefish that gorge themselves on the glassies and fry-baits in the same area.

    Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.

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  • 12/08/12--17:27: Cowboy dies in wreck
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    IRVING, Texas — Dallas practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a one-car accident and Dallas nose tackle Josh Brent charged with intoxication manslaughter Saturday.

    The Cowboys-Bengals game will be played as scheduled today.

    Irving police said the accident happened at about 2:20 a.m. in the Dallas suburb. Brent was speeding when the car hit a curb and flipped at least once, it said. There were no witnesses. Brent was being held without bond.

    "We are deeply saddened," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement the team released. "Our hearts and prayers and deepest sympathies are with the members of Jerry's family and all of those who knew him and loved him."

    Dallas signed Brown, 25, to its practice squad Oct. 24. Brent, 24, in his third season, has played in every game of 2012 and recorded 35 tackles and 11/2 sacks.

    Brown and Brent were teammates at Illinois. Brent was arrested in 2009 near campus for DUI, driving with a suspended license and speeding. He pleaded guilty to DUI and was sentenced to 60 days in jail while an aggravated DUI charge was dropped.

    Belcher case: Kansas City police released dashboard camera video showing Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher asleep in his car at about 3 a.m. Dec. 1, a few hours before killing his girlfriend and himself. Police said he was cooperative and told officers he was visiting his girlfriend. Police didn't identify the woman beyond saying she wasn't Kasandra Perkins, whom Belcher shot.

    Jets: Tight end Dustin Keller won't play today because of a sprained left ankle. He had been listed as doubtful.

    Saints: Tailback Chris Ivory is doubtful with a sore hamstring, the team said. He had not been listed on the injury report.

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  • 12/08/12--17:34: Week 14 NFL games
  • By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    Jets (5-7) at Jaguars (2-10)

    1 p.m.

    Jets by 3, 38½

    You know, if the Jets can put together a couple more stirring 7-6 wins (like last week's against the Cardinals), they could avoid a losing record. Their remaining opponents are not exactly intimidating: Jaguars, Titans, Chargers and Bills. As for their quarterback situation, that might still be murky in four weeks. Greg McElroy, above, needs playing time to be adequately evaluated, but no one would be surprised if they stubbornly stick with Mark Sanchez.

    Jets 21, Jaguars 17

    Chargers (4-8) at Steelers (7-5)

    1 p.m.

    Steelers by 8, 40

    The Steelers say injured QB Ben Roethlisberger, above, will be back today, and that changes things in a major way. There's still time to make a run at a playoff spot and, depending on what the Ravens do, have a shot at the AFC North title. Meanwhile, time appears to be running out for Chargers coach Norv Turner. For all the heat he has been under in recent years, he has never finished worse than 8-8 with San Diego. That's about to change.

    Steelers 24, Chargers 18

    Dolphins (5-7) at 49ers (8-3-1)

    4 p.m., Ch. 10

    49ers by 10½, 39

    The best thing about this game for the 49ers is they aren't playing the Rams. After their loss at St. Louis last week, the 49ers are 0-1-1 against the Rams this season. Instead, they host a competitive Dolphins team that is just a little short on talent. This sets up as almost a sure thing for several reasons: The 49ers are angry, have never lost two straight games under coach Jim Harbaugh, above, and have the NFC's top-ranked defense.

    49ers 26, Dolphins 14

    Cardinals (4-8) at Seahawks (7-5)

    4:25 p.m.

    Seahawks by 10, 35½

    Did you hear the news? The Cardinals are going back to John Skelton, above. Then again, does a quarterback change in Arizona still qualify as news? Probably not when the guy being benched is someone named Ryan Lindley. Anyway, the Seahawks are in the driver's seat for the final wild card. They need to handle their business here and keep chugging. At this rate, Russell Wilson might be just one of several rookie quarterbacks in the postseason.

    S'hawks 23, Cardinals 14

    Saints (5-7) at Giants (7-5)

    4:25 p.m., Ch. 13

    Giants by 5, 53

    The inconsistency of the Giants has got to be exasperating for their many fans. One week, they blow out the Packers 38-10. The next, they score just 16 points in a one-point loss to the Redskins. Did we mention their 31-13 loss to the Bengals last month? The good news: The Saints have an abysmal defense that can be exploited. More good news: Ahmad Bradshaw, above, ran for 103 yards last week against Washington, his most in six weeks.

    Giants 30, Saints 24

    Texans (11-1) at Patriots (9-3)

    8:30 Monday, ESPN

    Patriots by 3½, 51

    In a matchup of arguably the AFC's best teams, footballs will be flying frequently. Who does a better job probably decides this matchup. The Texans' pass defense has been pedestrian against elite quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Peyton Manning), and it faces one of the best today in Tom Brady, above. As much as Houston DE J.J. Watt is having an incredible season, it's hard to affect Brady when he trusts his protection.

    Patriots 31, Texans 29

    Lions (4-8) at Packers (8-4)

    8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

    Packers by 6½, 49

    Lions QB Matt Stafford, above, has thrown for 3,742 yards, more than Aaron Rodgers and tops in the NFL. Stafford throws to Calvin Johnson, perhaps the best receiver in the game. Rodgers has had a revolving door at receiver because of injuries. Is there any question which guy most people would want on their team? Rodgers makes the most of his opportunities as evidenced by his 29 touchdowns and league-best 105.0 rating.

    Packers 28, Lions 24

    Rams (5-6-1) at Bills (5-7)

    1 p.m.

    Bills by 3, 42½

    How good are the Rams? Well, at 5-6-1 they certainly have flaws. But they are solid defensively, and that's no accident. Coach Jeff Fisher has made the Rams a tough out, and they have been among the best at preventing big plays. Only two teams, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, have yielded fewer long passing plays than St. Louis. What's the point? It will take long, methodical drives for the Bills to win. That makes it tough.

    Rams 21, Bills 20

    Cowboys (6-6) at Bengals (7-5)

    1 p.m.

    Bengals by 3, 45½

    Here come the Bengals. They've won four straight, including a solid win last week at San Diego, and frankly, they look more like a playoff team than the Cowboys. But Dallas WR Dez Bryant, above, has been doing damage of late, and the Bengals give up a few too many deep balls. Can they keep him and QB Tony Romo in check? Cincinnati's pass rush is strong. Plus its own star wideout, A.J. Green, offsets things at bit.

    Bengals 26, Cowboys 24

    Chiefs (2-10) at Browns (4-8)

    1 p.m.

    Browns by 7, 38

    Let's call this the Brady Quinn Redemption Bowl. Quinn, above, was traded by the Browns in 2010 after going 3-9 as a starter. Now he and the Chiefs will try to capitalize on a strong showing last week in an emotionally charged situation. After LB Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself, some of the most poignant words came from Quinn. Unfortunately for him, Cleveland is surging — well, if you call a two-game win streak a "surge."

    Browns 21, Chiefs 20

    Titans (4-8) at Colts (8-4)

    1 p.m.

    Colts by 5½, 46½

    The Titans spent many years looking up at the Colts in the AFC South and probably figured that would change with Peyton Manning gone. Along comes QB Andrew Luck, above, and, for the Titans, it's deja vu. What's happening in Indy is not only unexpected, it's unfathomable. While there were other personnel changes and a new coaching staff, the single biggest difference between this team and last season's 2-14 club is, well, Luck.

    Colts 27, Titans 20

    Bears (8-4) at Vikings (6-6)

    1 p.m.

    Bears by 3, 39

    That was a bad loss by the Bears last week; bad enough to make you seriously question their defense. To let a rookie QB (Seattle's Russell Wilson) drive 97 yards in the fourth quarter, then allow him to lead the winning drive in overtime is disturbing. But it's hard to have that kind of faith in Vikings QB Christian Ponder. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is on fire, but so is Bears WR Brandon Marshall, above. Also, the Bears can still win the NFC North.

    Bears 23, Vikings 20

    Falcons (11-1) at Panthers (3-9)

    1 p.m.

    Falcons by 3½, 48

    The Falcons pulled off the impossible in the last meeting to remain undefeated. On Sept. 30, Atlanta needed a 59-yard completion to Roddy White from the 1-yard line and a last-second field goal. QB Matt Ryan, above, was sacked a career-high seven times that day. That close call coupled with the chance to lock up homefield throughout the NFC playoffs over the next few weeks should keep the Falcons focused enough to win this one.

    Falcons 27, Panthers 23

    Ravens (9-3) at Redskins (6-6)

    1 p.m.

    Redskins by 2½, 47½

    Remember how the Ravens began the season looking like an offensive juggernaut? Lately, not so much. Baltimore has averaged 13 points over its past three games. Somehow, it won two of those. But neither of those teams had Robert Griffin III, above, at quarterback. He has been so dynamic this season, he has made the decision on offensive rookie of the year a major conundrum. How is he not every bit as worthy as Andrew Luck?

    Redskins 24, Ravens 23

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    One smart-aleck take on Tampa's plans to give AL Cy Young Award winner LHP David Price a key to the city Tuesday was that he'd need permission from St. Petersburg officials to say thanks. The other was that it was a parting gift for when the Rays — whether this winter, in July or next offseason — inevitably deem Price too expensive and trade him.

    But what about a long-term deal — however unlikely — to keep him beyond his 2016 free agency?

    Price, 27, has said repeatedly he would love to stay, and agent Bo McKinnis has said that while "it becomes increasingly difficult" at this stage of Price's career, "it's not too late."

    But, McKinnis also suggested, it's going to take quite some creativity. And lots of money.

    Price, McKinnis noted, is driven to be the best in everything from pitching to golf to video games to Twitter.

    "So in a similar sense," McKinnis said, "he wants to have the best contract in baseball, however that may be defined. He expects to be the best in everything that he does. So hopefully we're able to make that marriage between the Rays and that best contract. But we also recognize the economics of the game may not allow that."

    Though it appeared the Rays made a choice when they recently gave 3B Evan Longoria a $100 million extension, principal owner Stuart Sternberg said it was possible — "in theory" — to also sign Price.

    But they would force him to decide how much he really wants to stay because, like their deals with Longoria and others, it would have to be at somewhat of a discount, certainly off the top-tier dollars — $20 million-plus a year — Price could get on the open market. For the next three seasons, he is arbitration eligible, with a likely 2013 salary of $8 million to $10 million. McKinnis said there have been only general talks of a long-term deal.

    "Although it would break his heart to ever have to leave the Rays," McKinnis said, "he also recognizes that the economics have to come into play at some point."

    WHAT'S NEXT: The off-season is about half over, and there is still a lot we don't know about the Rays' plans, topped by whether they will make a big deal to trade James Shields to the Royals, Rangers (more likely after missing out on Zack Greinke?) or elsewhere; a lesser one involving Jeremy Hellickson or Wade Davis; or go to spring training with all eight starters. But here are things we think we do know:

    The biggest need at this point is power, as a DH, outfielder or swing guy. Free agents include Raul Ibanez, Travis Hafner, Delmon Young; trade possibilities Juan Francisco, Michael Morse, Josh Willingham. … If they don't get an outfielder, look for Matt Joyce in left, Desmond Jennings in center and Ben Zobrist in right. … LHP Cesar Ramos, who is out of options, is slotted for a bullpen slot, as is at least one of RHPs Dane De La Rosa, Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke. … Davis is ticketed to start, somewhere. … Sean Rodriguez could end up the right-handed hitter sharing first base with James Loney and/or at times in the outfield. … There's interest in upgrading at catcher, but it's not the priority. … If Shields is traded, with payroll commitments already exceeding $60 million, it won't be for another $10 million player.

    RAYS RUMBLINGS: TV pre-/postgame host Todd Kalas is in the mix for radio play-by-play jobs in Houston and Seattle. … 1B/OF Henry Wrigley, whom the Rays let go despite 20 homers at Double and Triple A, signed a minor-league deal with Colorado. … Manager Joe Maddon serves his Thanksmas meals at Tampa Bay area Salvation Army shelters this week. … Chuck Ricci (formerly with Cleveland) was hired as a national scouting cross-checker, Bobby Heck (Houston) a special assignment scout, former minor-leaguers Ronnie Merrill (Florida) and Josh Arhart (southern California) as area scouts.

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

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    By Andy Warrener, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    BRANDON — The annual Jim Graves Wrestling Invitational once again drew teams from around the state and once again host Brandon soared to an easy victory Saturday.

    The Eagles scored 655 points, far ahead of second-place Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (422) to win the 11-year-old event for the 10th time.

    The Eagles placed 10 wrestlers in the finals and eight of them won titles, including senior Kevin Norstrom who is going for his fifth individual state title this season. Norstrom overpowered Henry Powell of Miami Christopher Columbus for a 3-0 win in his final at 138 pounds. Norstrom was named outstanding wrestler.

    Coach Russ Cozart was uncharacteristically quiet during Norstrom's match.

    "He's (Norstrom) pretty experienced, there's not much to tell him," Cozart said. "I've had him for a long time, back to kids club wrestling."

    Senior Jonathan Summit (195), senior Travis Berridge (170), senior Jacob Haydock (160), sophomore Dylan Lucas (126), junior James Flint (120), freshman Kyle Norstrom (113) and freshman Geoff Doback (106) all took individual titles.

    Lucas won the state title in the spring at 106 pounds but has jumped three weight classes.

    "It's been great moving up; I have more energy because I'm not dead tired from cutting weight," Lucas said.

    Flint beat Alex Velez of Kissimmee Gateway, who he wrestled in the finals of the Gateway tournament just last week, notching a 3-1 overtime victory.

    "I pushed the pace and got him tired," Flint said. "Once I got that takedown and got away I just played it smart the rest of the match."

    Armwood's state champion at 106 pounds from last season, sophomore Donoven Hough, won his third-place match at 113 pounds via pin. Senior Robert Witte (160) and sophomore Kyre Kelly (106) won their fifth-place matches.

    Jerry Mita: East Bay's Nissan Anderson won the 170-pound final at the Jerry Mita Invitational at Pinellas Park. The Indians placed third with 155 points, behind winner Palm Harbor U.

    Kiwanis: Lennard scored 122.5 points to finish fourth at the invitational hosted by Hernando and won by Springstead.

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  • 12/08/12--18:21: Around the NFL
  • By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    Fab five

    1. Texans 2. Falcons

    3. Broncos 4. Patriots

    Turner toast?

    Chargers coach Norv Turner, below, seems to be on the hot seat every year. But it sounds like it might not be his seat for much longer. Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will be fired after this season, the U-T San Diego newspaper reported last week.

    It's not that Turner has been awful. He has made three playoff appearances (and one AFC title game) over his six seasons. But in what could be labeled the most successful and the most disappointing era in team history, the Chargers need a spark. San Diego has lost six of seven and is poised to miss the playoffs for a third straight season. Turner is 21-23 since 2009, and considering his talent, including quarterback Philip Rivers, much more was expected.

    Shortest leash

    One week after getting benched, Jets QB Mark Sanchez has held on — barely — to his starting job. Coach Rex Ryan, who replaced 2009's fifth overall draft pick with Greg McElroy vs. the Cardinals, said Sanchez gives them a better chance to win today at Jacksonville. Considering McElroy, the new fan favorite, is untested and everyone's favorite backup, Tim Tebow, is hurt, Ryan had little choice. And there's the $8.25 million Sanchez is guaranteed in 2013. Given a second chance, Sanchez will be on a short leash. "Hopefully, you learn from it and move on and never look back," he said. "It definitely was the worst, but it could turn around and be one of the best things that's ever happened."

    Best bet

    Giants (7-5) over Saints (5-7)

    Should be a high-scoring affair, but Eli Manning & Co. pull out a close one.

    Return of the week

    Big Ben is back. The Steelers will be boosted today by the expected return of QB Ben Roethlisberger, who missed three games with a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib. He'll have extra armor: a custom-fit rib chest compression shirt and a layer of Kevlar-lined composite in his shoulder pads.

    Roethlisberger won't be 100 percent, but his presence is huge for Pittsburgh, which lost two of the three games without him and is 7-5, right in the thick of the AFC wild card race.

    "He looks like himself, for the most part," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "Now I don't know what he's feeling when he's doing some of those things, but it looks like he's moving around pretty good."

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


    Houston's big test

    The Texans are, by record, the best team in the AFC.

    At 11-1, Houston, which has clinched a playoff spot, is primed for a potential top seed in the franchise's second postseason trip.

    The offense is very balanced, led by quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson. The defense is one of the league's toughest.

    But as the Texans brace to face the Patriots in Foxborough on Monday night, some believe they still have something to prove. New England has been the class of the AFC for more than a decade. To be the best, you have to beat the best, and the Texans — whose only loss this season is to the Packers — believe this is a huge test.

    "You know how big it is?" Johnson told the Houston Chronicle. "The biggest game in the history of this franchise. As long as we keep winning, every game is going to get bigger and bigger. When you've been somewhere you've never been, everything gets bigger."

    Moving on

    It's hard to imagine what the Chiefs went through last week in the wake of linebacker Jovan Belcher committing suicide in the team parking lot Dec. 1 after fatally shooting his girlfriend, leaving their infant daughter an orphan. Many Chiefs attended the funeral of Belcher, 25, on Wednesday and are trying to find answers for why such a horrible event occurred. "A lot of guys are still hurting," cornerback Travis Daniels said. The games go on as Kansas City is at Cleveland today. "We have to deal with the events of the last few days, and it's not over, and it may not be over for some of us for most of our lives," said coach Romeo Crennel, left, who along with general manager Scott Pioli witnessed Belcher's suicide. "But time heals all wounds, and so we're going to start working on the time thing."

    Milestone watch

    Calvin Johnson's goal is to be the best receiver of all time. "No doubt," the Lions star, left, said. Johnson is chasing Jerry Rice, who set the standard at the position. Though Johnson has an impressive blend of talent and athleticism —they don't call him "Megatron" for nothing — he has a ways to go to match the Hall of Famer. But Johnson is getting close to Rice's season NFL record of 1,848 yards, set in 1995. Johnson, who is 420 yards shy, needs to average 106 over his final four games to pass Rice. He is averaging 119. "I was telling Calvin, this record he's chasing, if you want it, you've got to eat it, you've got to live it, you've got to breathe it — everything about it," Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson told Sports Illustrated. "If you do that, you can get it. Jerry Rice, when he broke it, he lived it."

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    PHILADELPHIA — Navy can hook an anchor to the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and bring it home.

    Keenan Reynolds extended Navy's dominance against Army, scoring the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter in a 17-13 victory in the 113th rivalry game Saturday.

    Navy (8-4) beat Army for the 11th straight time and won the trophy for the best record in games among the three service academies. Army and Navy each beat Air Force. "It means everything," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "That's our No. 1 goal, to get the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. I'm just so happy for these guys."

    Army (2-10) hasn't hoisted the trophy since 1996. The Black Knights came close, but Navy recovered a late fumble after Reynolds' 8-yard rushing score gave it a 17-13 lead. On the winning drive, Reynolds found Brandon Turner down the sideline for a 49-yard gain. The freshman quarterback then escaped a rush and followed with the touchdown run with 4:41 left.

    The Cadets had driven to the Navy 11-yard line when fullback Larry Dixon fumbled on a sloppy exchange and Navy recovered.

    Cincinnati picks Tuberville

    CINCINNATI — Tommy Tuberville wasn't expecting a call from an old acquaintance. A few hours later, he was headed north for a new job.

    Tuberville left Texas Tech to become Cincinnati's coach. Athletics director Whit Babcock had Tuberville, with whom he had worked for three years at Auburn, at the top of his candidate list. So he called Tuberville on Saturday morning.

    "I was perfectly satisfied," Tuberville said. "I had a great home in Lubbock, Texas. … But there was something when Whit called that I thought, 'You know, let me think about this.' "

    Tuberville's final season at Tech was marred by a sideline outburst Nov. 10 during a win over Kansas. He lost his temper with graduate assistant Kevin Oliver and appeared to strike him. Tuberville said he grabbed Oliver's headset.

    I-AA PLAYOFFS: Sam Ojuri and Zach Vraa had touchdowns for host North Dakota State (12-1), which beat Wofford 14-7 in the quarterfinals. The Bison face Georgia Southern (10-3), which rushed for 602 yards in defeating host Old Dominion 49-35.

    SWAC TITLE GAME: A 95-yard touchdown pass from Benjamin Anderson to Willie Young with two minutes left in regulation forced overtime, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff went on to beat Jackson State 24-21 in Birmingham, Ala., for its first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.

    Elsewhere: Tampa loses in volleyball title match

    The Tampa volleyball team lost in the Division II final to Concordia (Minn.), which won its sixth consecutive title in five sets at Pensacola. Tampa (32-4) had a 15-match winning streak broken. Concordia rallied to win 27-29, 17-25, 25-23, 25-23, 16-14. Holly Reschke led the Spartans with 26 kills, and Danielle Selkridge, named last week the national Division II player of the year, had 24.

    SOCCER: Georgetown and Indiana meet today (2 p.m., ESPNU) for the men's national title in Hoover, Ala. No. 3 seed Georgetown (20-3-2), in its first final, beat Maryland in penalty kicks Friday night after a 4-4 tie in regulation. No. 16 Indiana (15-5-3) defeated Creighton 1-0; the Hoosiers seek their eighth title.

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    TAMPA — There were ample proven, established, veteran college football coaches eager to take over at USF, so Judy Genshaft was asked Saturday what gave her the confidence to hand her school's program over to Willie Taggart, 36 years old.

    "That's what we are as an institution," USF's president said after an energetic introduction by the Bulls' new coach, hired from Western Kentucky last week. "We're a young institution that surprises people about how fast we can move and how much we can achieve. I see that in Coach Taggart. I think he's going to be very surprising."

    USF's reputation as a young up-and-comer has taken a hit in the past two seasons, as the Bulls struggled while finishing last in the Big East, leading to the firing of coach Skip Holtz a week ago today. As USF enters its 17th season in 2013, it has a coach young enough to have beaten the Bulls as a quarterback at Western Kentucky in 1997, in the USF program's first month on the field. The enthusiastic Taggart said he is committed to giving USF the kind of ascent his career has had.

    "I always said I wouldn't leave WKU unless I had a chance to go win a national championship. I truly believe that can get it done here," Taggart said in a room packed with family and friends from his hometown, Palmetto. "It wasn't too long ago where USF was No. 2 in the country. It's been proven we can get there. … My vision for our football program is to win multiple championships in a first-class manner."

    It's an emotional homecoming for Taggart, who won a state title at Bradenton Manatee in 1992 and left home in 1994 to play at WKU, where he stayed as an assistant coach, then returned in 2010 for three seasons as head coach. Accustomed to seeing his parents only a few times a year, he's excited to now have his family an hour from home.

    "Now I get to see them whenever I want to … very, very excited to be back home," said Taggart, who has two young boys, Willie Jr. and J.T., with his wife, Taneshia. "It's been a long, long time."

    Taggart's contract is $1.15 million a year for five years, considerably less than the $2 million Holtz would have made but also more than double the $475,000 he was making at WKU. USF also will reimburse him for his $500,000 buyout, and he'll have $1.9 million to build a staff, using his connections from WKU, current USF assistants and young coaches from the Harbaugh family coaching tree, which helped him blossom.

    "We've got a winner in Willie Taggart," said athletic director Doug Woolard, who needed only six days to find USF's third head coach. "He's young, dynamic, driven, innovative and successful. He does things the right way, and he cares about the student-athletes under his leadership. When we began the search, we were looking for a man with just those qualities."

    In the interview process, Woolard turned to former Bucs coach Tony Dungy, who sat in on all candidate interviews and said he appreciated parallels drawn between Taggart and Taggart's mentor and friend 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who had Taggart on his staff at Stanford for three years. (Harbaugh's brother John is the Ravens' coach.)

    "Working for Jim, some of those philosophies have rubbed off, so I see a lot of the same things," Dungy said. "Willie, he's special, and you just get that feeling being around him of that ability to rub that off onto other people. … His personality and drive will rub off on his team."

    Taggart is the only African-American head football coach among Florida's seven Division I-A programs, and with Stan Heath coaching men's basketball, USF becomes one of five current I-A programs in the nation with African-Americans in both positions, along with Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), New Mexico State and Stanford.

    Taggart spoke with emotion and confidence, citing a career of turning programs around. WKU's program was close to being shut down when he started playing there, and he helped it win a I-AA national title as an assistant. After helping Harbaugh build a winner at Stanford, he returned to WKU, which had lost 20 in a row when he took over as coach. His team will play in its first bowl game this month, fresh off its second straight 7-5 season.

    "It's not a marathon. It's a sprint," he said, setting expectations for a quick path to success in a new Big East lineup next fall.

    Taggart comes with a reputation as a tireless recruiter, believing "recruiting is like brushing your teeth and combing your hair. As soon as you stop, you start to look bad. … There's no reason for any kid in the (area codes) 813, 941, 863, whatever, no reason for you not to come here and play football."

    That apparently works for the 954 as well. Taggart picked up his first commitment Saturday, from Mike White, a 6-foot-5 quarterback who earlier in the day led Fort Lauderdale University High to a comeback victory in the Class 3A state title game.

    Daniel Wallace   |   TimesDaniel Wallace | Times

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    By Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    PINELLAS PARK — Given how thoroughly Palm Harbor University dominated Saturday's Jerry Mita Invitational — the Hurricanes crowned six champions and all 14 wrestlers placed — it is no surprise that the team also will be the dominant topic of conversation heading into the conference meet next month.

    Buoyed by a fifth-place finish at last week's Cougar Invitational, PHU easily won the Jerry Mita, scoring 299.5 points to beat runnerup Bradenton Manatee by 99.5. It was the second straight season the Hurricanes have won the tournament.

    "We had a good showing at Durant last week and that gave the kids a lot of confidence," PHU coach Brad Sakevich said. "I thought we could do well at this tournament. We had a goal of having six champions, and we got that."

    With a handful of nationally ranked wrestlers, the Hurricanes had the star power, particularly in the lower weights. But PHU showed it also has depth. No other team had an answer for those kinds of numbers.

    The Hurricanes had 13 wrestlers advance to the semifinals with 10 making the finals. The Hurricanes champions were: Tim Sakow (106 pounds), Jared Prince (120), Connor Prince (126), Tucker Hardwick (138), Aaron Hartman (145) and Tyler Modlin (220).

    Jared Prince was named the tournament MVP after pinning each of his each four opponents.

    "I basically just went out there and stuck to do I do best," Prince said. "I wanted to wrestle solid and pick up as many points and wins as I could."

    The Hurricanes were so strong in the finals that Connor Prince, Hardwick and Hartman each pinned their opponents in less than a minute. It was the second straight season Connor Prince, Jared Prince and Hartman each won individual titles.

    There were only three other champions from Pinellas County: St. Petersburg's Thomas Moser (160) and Kenny McGhee (285) and Northside Christian's Alex Kruklinski (195).

    Hillsborough County had one champion: East Bay's Nissan Anderson at 170 pounds. Anderson helped the Indians place third with 155 points, the highest finish among Hillsborough County teams.

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    Times staff, wires
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    JACKSONVILLE — USF matched the best start in program history and set a season high in points, routing Jacksonville 92-52 Saturday to improve to 8-0.

    Five players scored in double digits for the Bulls, led by Andrell Smith with 15 points. She also led USF in assists with six. Inga Orekhova scored 14 for the Bulls, who held the Dolphins (3-5) to 30.4 percent shooting (21-for-69) and scored 30 points off turnovers.

    Guard Queen Alford scored 21 for Jacksonville.

    NO. 23 MIAMI 67, DAVIDSON 35: Morgan Stroman had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the host Hurricanes (7-1), who blocked 10 shots. Miami opened with a 10-0 run over the first five minutes and led 27-18 at halftime. The Wildcats shot just 25.4 percent (16-for-63) from the field.

    NO. 25 NEBRASKA 78, NO. 24 FSU 77: Jordan Hooper had a career-best 36 points and 12 rebounds as the host Cornhuskers handed the Seminoles their first defeat. Florida State (7-1) trailed 78-77 and had the ball with 22 seconds left after two free throws by point guard Lindsey Moore for Nebraska (7-3). FSU missed two shots, and Natasha Howard was fouled on a third with 1.3 seconds left, but she missed both free throws. Leonor Rodriguez scored 24, including 4-of-4 on 3-pointers, for FSU.

    Top 25

    NO. 5 NOTRE DAME 109, UTAH ST. 70: Natalie Achonwa had 23 points and 12 rebounds, and the host Irish (6-1) had three players with double doubles for the first time in seven years.

    NO. 8 LOUISVILLE 96, VALPARAISO 40: Antonita Slaughter and Sara Hammond scored 13 to lead five players in double figures for the host Cardinals. Louisville (9-1) bounced back from a 48-47 loss to Kentucky on Dec. 2.

    NO. 9 Maryland 90, GEORGE MASON 40: Alyssa Thomas recorded 11 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for the host Terps' first triple double since Marissa Coleman in 2006. Maryland (6-2) led 18-0 7:28 in.

    NO. 17 UCLA 62, NO. 12 TEXAS 42: Alyssia Brewer had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and the Bruins (5-1) held Texas to 24 percent shooting (15-of-63) at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Showcase in Houston. Nneka Enemkpali had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Longhorns (5-1). The game was at Reliant Stadium, home to the NFL's Texans, as part of a Texas-UCLA men's and women's doubleheader.

    NO. 19 DAYTON 60, MICH. ST. 53: Cassie Sant had 19 points, five rebounds and four assists as the host Flyers (10-0) snapped the Spartans' nine-game winning streak.

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    By Derek LaRiviere, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    BROOKSVILLE — Despite a new coach and many new wrestlers, the train kept rolling for Springstead at Saturday's 31st annual Kiwanis Invitational at Hernando.

    The two-time defending state champion Eagles (215.5 points) captured their eighth consecutive team title in the tournament, well ahead of Lake Gibson (166).

    Led by first-year coach but longtime assistant Sal Basile, Springstead placed nine individuals in the top four, including four champions.

    "We've set the bar so high that second place is no longer good enough," Basile said. "It's definitely different being the head coach now, but I'm just doing the same thing I always did."

    Sophomores Mike McDonald (113 pounds) and Conor Ross (170) captured their second consecutive individual Kiwanis crowns with finals wins over Wiregrass Ranch junior Jarred Lanier (pin in 3:49) and Lake Gibson senior Dorian Spradlin (3-2 decision), respectively.

    "There's a big difference this season because me and the other guys have been asked to take over a leadership role," McDonald said. "… We're working as a team to get back where we were last year."

    Matt Landgraff (106) improved his runnerup finish of a year ago, winning 6-0 in his final over Pasco senior Kevin Tipton.

    Junior Jordan Rivera (138) captured his third Kiwanis title in three years with a pin of Pasco senior Niko DeAugustino in 2:37.

    The biggest upset was at 160 pounds, as Nature Coast senior Brandon Vovan knocked off Gulf's state placer, Spencer Baxter, with a 2-1 decision. Vovan is 12-0 and serving notice that he will be a contender in February after defeating the wrestler who won this tournament last year.

    Wesley Chapel senior Tony Ruggiero (120), who placed fifth at state last season, beat a fellow state placer in Nature Coast senior Sean Nguyen, 7-5 in overtime. Nguyen is expected to compete at 106 pounds when the postseason rolls around.

    Hernando senior Jesse Gaudin (220) moved to 9-0 with his 9-6 decision over Lake Gibson junior David Rudd. For Gaudin, it's his second straight win at the Leopards home tournament.

    Pasco senior Skyler White (132) improved to 8-0 with a 16-1 technical fall.

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  • 12/08/12--19:24: Sports in brief
  • Times staff, wires
    Saturday, December 8, 2012



    The Dodgers were closing in Saturday on signing the top free agent pitcher on the market, Zack Greinke, ESPN reported. The deal is worth approximately $147 million over six years, it said.

    In total dollars, the deal would be the second-most lucrative in history for a pitcher, trailing the original $161 million deal signed by CC Sabathia in 2009.

    The Dodgers had been viewed as the favorite to sign Greinke, 29, the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner with the Royals, until recent days, when the Rangers emerged as an equally strong suitor for the right-hander.

    Yankees: Alex Rodriguez will have surgery on his left hip in mid January and could be sidelined until the All-Star break. "I'm not concerned," Rodriguez, 37, said of his injury.

    Phillies: Infielder Michael Young accepted a trade from the Rangers, waiving his no-trade clause, ESPN said. Philadelphia will ship reliever Josh Lindblom and minor-league pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla to Texas.

    Reds: Free agent outfielder Ryan Ludwick reached agreement on a two-year, $15 million contract, pending a physical, ESPN said.

    Winter sports

    Vonn in expletive brouhaha after win

    Lindsey Vonn's rivalry with Alpine skiing World Cup leader Tina Maze heated up when the Slovenian's coaches accused the American defending overall Cup champion of hurling an insulting expletive after winning a super-G at St. Moritz, Switzerland.

    Vonn edged Maze to remain perfect in four speed races this season. On crossing the finish line and realizing she had taken the race lead from Maze, Vonn acknowledged she cursed as an expression of relief.

    The Slovenians alleged Vonn deliberately aimed an insult at Maze and filed a protest for "unsportsmanlike behavior."

    "I would never say anything bad about another athlete at the finish," Vonn, clearly stunned, said.

    World Cup women's race director Atle Skaardal viewed TV footage of Vonn's reactions and said "We could not find any abuse whatsoever and the protest was, of course, rejected."

    "(The problem) is finished after today," said Andrea Massi, Maze's trainer and boyfriend.

    Figure skating: Japan's Mao Asada won the Grand Prix Final, topping American Ashley Wagner in Sochi, Russia. Daisuke Takahashi of Japan won the men's gold, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White the ice dancing, and Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov the pairs.

    Et cetera

    Horses: Action Andy won the $60,000 Pelican Stakes for the second consecutive year and set a stakes record at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. Ridden by Daniel Coa for trainer Carlos Garcia, Action Andy ($3.80) clocked 6 furlongs in 1 minute, 9.14 seconds. Indiano and Black Belt were next.

    golf: Shanshan Feng won the Dubai Ladies Masters by five strokes after shooting 3-under 69 for a 21-under 267 total in the Ladies European Tour finale. Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse (72) was 10 strokes back.

    Soccer: Lionel Messi has recovered from a knee bruise and will attempt to surpass Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old record for most goals in a calendar year, 85, when Barcelona plays Real Betis today. Messi (84 goals) collided with the opposing goalkeeper in Barcelona's 0-0 draw against Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday.

    Don Jensen, Times correspondent; Times wires

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  • 12/08/12--19:47: Hoyas sputter to victory
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    WASHINGTON — The first time it was kind of funny. Win a game with 37 points? Hadn't seen anything like that since elementary school.

    The second time, Georgetown coach John Thompson III was more defensive about the offensiveness of his offense.

    He said he was concerned about the No. 15 Hoyas' lack of scoring in Saturday's 46-40 win over Towson but not overly concerned. He insisted he has "good offensive players" but he said they are "immature offensively" and "have a lot of growing up to do."

    "We have a lot of guys that are thinking, trying to figure out where to go, what to do, what reads to make," he said. "It's something we have to work on."

    Eight days after setting the school record for scoring futility in the shot clock era with a 37-36 win over Tennessee — a game Thompson compared to one he played when he was 8 years old — the Hoyas (7-1) made it back-to-back home clankfests by scoring 17 and shooting 17 percent in the first half.

    They shot 29 percent for the game and won by getting to the free-throw line in the second half and with defense, forcing 22 turnovers and pulling away — if it could be called that — with a 4-0 game-ending run over the final 4½ minutes.

    "It was one of those games where we said, 'Let's try to make it as ugly as possible,' " Thompson said.

    "This group, we can win a lot of different ways. We can win at a fast pace. We can win at a slow pace. We can win what purists may call pretty. But we can also win ugly, and I thought that in the second half, we had to win ugly."

    NO. 1 INDIANA 100, CENTRAL CONN. ST. 69: Christian Watford scored 21, Cody Zeller had 19 points and 19 rebounds, and the host Hoosiers (9-0) dominated on both ends of the floor.

    NO. 2 DUKE 90, TEMPLE 67: Seth Curry scored 23 and hit 5 of 9 3-pointers for the Blue Devils (9-0) at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

    NO. 3 MICHIGAN 80, ARKANSAS 67: Jordan Morgan scored a season-high 12 and matched a season high with 10 rebounds for the host Wolverines (9-0), off to their best start since their 1988-89 national championship season.

    NO. 4 SYRACUSE 108, MONMOUTH (N.J.) 56: Michael-Carter Williams had 15 points and a career-high 16 assists for the Orange (8-0), which won its 28th straight home game.

    NO. 5 LOUISVILLE 99, Missouri-K.C. 47: Russ Smith had a career-high 31 points to lead the host Cardinals (8-1) in scoring for the sixth time this season.

    NO. 7 OHIO ST. 89, LONG BEACH ST. 55: Deshaun Thomas had 18 points, including a 3-pointer in an 11-point first-half run for the host Buckeyes (6-1).

    NO. 8 ARIZONA 66, CLEMSON 54: Mark Lyons scored a season-high 20 for the visiting Wildcats, who improved to 7-0 for the first time in 14 years.

    NO. 9 KANSAS 90, COLORADO 54: Ben McLemore scored 24, and the host Jayhawks (7-1) rolled over their former Big 12 rival for their seventh straight win.

    NO. 13 ILLINOIS 85, NO. 10 GONZAGA 74: Brandon Paul had 35 points as the Illini (10-0) pulled away from the Bulldogs (9-1) for their first nonconference road win over a top 10 foe since 1986.

    NO. 11 CINCINNATI 92, MD.-EASTERN SHORE 60: Point guard Cashmere Wright had a career-high six 3-pointers for the host Bearcats, who are 9-0 for the 10th time.

    NO. 12 MISSOURI 68, TENN. ST. 38: Stefan Jankovic scored all of his 14 in the second half, helping the host Tigers (8-1) overcome a sloppy first half.

    NO. 18 NEW MEXICO 65, VALPO 52: Alex Kirk scored 11 of his 12 in the second half, and the host Lobos (10-0) overcame a sluggish start.

    NO. 19 MICH. ST. 73, LOYOLA of CHICAGO 61: Gary Harris scored 20 for the host Spartans (8-2), who broke away with a 22-9 second-half run.

    NO. 20 UNC 78, ETSU 55: Leslie McDonald scored 14, and the host Tar Heels (7-2) held East Tennessee State to 12 points in the first half.

    NO. 22 NOTRE DAME 84, BROWN 57: Freshman Cameron Biedscheid had a career-high 17 points for the host Fighting Irish (8-1).

    NO. 23 OKLA. ST. 62, MISSOURI ST. 42: Markel Brown had 15 points for the host Cowboys (7-1), who opened with a 14-2 run and cruised.

    NO. 24 WICHITA ST. 80, N. COLO. 54: Cleanthony Early had 16 points for the host Shockers (9-0), who matched the best start in school history.

    NO. 25 N.C. STATE 80, CLEVELAND ST. 63: Richard Howell had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the host Wolfpack (6-2) in its annual return to its former on-campus home, Reynolds Coliseum.

    PLAYER TIRED, RELIEVED: Danny Berger said it was a "miracle" to be back watching his Utah State teammates play four days after he collapsed on the court and was revived by an assistant trainer. Berger, 22, who was released earlier in the day from a Salt Lake City area hospital, said the earliest he could return to the court would be six weeks.


    B-CU 85, WEBBER 72: Adrien Coleman had 18 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists for the first triple double in school history for host Bethune-Cookman (4-6).

    FAMU 109, ALLEN 59: Jamari Bradshaw had 14 points to lead six players in double figures for the host Rattlers (4-6).

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    NEW YORK — Johnny Football just got himself a way cooler nickname: Johnny Heisman.

    Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, taking college football's top individual prize after a record-breaking debut season.

    Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o finished a distant second, and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was third in the voting. In a Heisman race with two nontraditional candidates, Manziel broke through the class barrier and kept Te'o from becoming the first purely defensive player to win.

    Manziel drew 474 first-place votes and 2,029 points from the panel of media members across the country and former winners.

    "I have been dreaming about this since I was a kid, running around the back yard pretending I was Doug Flutie, throwing Hail Marys to my dad," Manziel said after hugging his parents and younger sister.

    Manziel seemed very calm after his name was announced, hardly resembling the guy who dashes around the football field. He simply bowed his head. Later he gave the trophy a quick kiss.

    "I wish my whole team could be up here with me," he said.

    Te'o had 321 first-place votes and 1,706 points, and Klein received 60 firsts and 894 points. Te'o earned the most points in history for a purely defensive player.

    A few days after turning 20, Manziel proved times continue to change in college football and experience can be really overrated.

    For years seniors dominated the award named after John Heisman, the pioneering Georgia Tech coach from the early 1900s. In the 1980s, juniors started becoming common winners. Florida's Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win in 2007, and two more won it in the next two seasons.

    Manziel, a redshirt freshman, is the second Texas A&M player to win, joining John David Crow (1957). Growing up, Manziel thought he was going to be the next Derek Jeter, hence his No. 2 jersey. Instead he became the biggest football star in College Station since Crow.

    And he did so without the slightest hint of preseason hype. Manziel didn't even win the job of replacing Ryan Tannehill as starter until two weeks before the season.

    With daring runs and elusive improvisation, Manziel broke 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton's SEC record with 4,600 total yards, led the Aggies to a 10-2 record in their first season in the SEC and orchestrated an upset at then-No. 1 Alabama in November.

    He has thrown for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, and run for 1,181 yards and 19 more scores to become the first freshman, first SEC player and fifth overall to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season.

    Manziel has one more game this season, when the No. 10 Aggies play Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4 in Arlington, Texas.

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Rick Stroud, Times staff writer
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    TAMPA — The legends of the fall were roaming the sideline at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, running out of the tunnel to blasting cannons and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

    Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Simeon Rice — they all stood shoulder-to-shoulder as part of a 10-year anniversary of the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII championship team.

    But on a day when the Bucs honored greatness, the men of the moment could not even rise to mediocrity.

    Tampa Bay blew a 10-point lead to the Philadelphia Eagles in the final 3:55 and lost when rookie quarterback Nick Foles hit Jeremy Maclin on a 1-yard touchdown pass as time expired, the 23-21 defeat delivering a crushing blow to the Bucs' playoff hopes.

    It was the third straight loss (by a total of 11 points) for the Bucs (6-7), who fell two games behind Seattle (8-5) and a game behind Dallas, Washington and Minnesota (7-6) for the final NFC wild card.

    Foles, making his fourth start, passed for 381 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while snapping the eight-game losing streak of the Eagles (4-9).

    Perhaps Bucs coach Greg Schiano got caught up in the nostalgia Sunday.

    Leading 21-16 and facing third and 8 at the Tampa Bay 33-yard line with 2:55 left and the Eagles with one timeout, Schiano took the game out of the hands of quarterback Josh Freeman and into those of his 32nd-ranked pass defense.

    Playing it safe, rookie Doug Martin — who rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown — gained nothing on a run up the middle, forcing a punt and setting up the winning touchdown march.

    "There's two ways to play it," Schiano said. "You can try to throw the ball. We decided to run the ball and make them use their timeout or let it tick. My thinking was if we can punt the ball away and we get a stop, the game is over and they've got no timeouts."

    Instead of a game-sealing interception by Lynch, as Bucs fans came to expect in 2002, unheralded cornerback Danny Gorrer dropped a pick three plays before the winning touchdown that would have sealed the win.

    'It seemed like it was right there and I kind of got excited, you know, I didn't look it all the way in," Gorrer said. "I've got to make that play."

    Instead of Sapp collapsing the pocket on fourth and 5 from the Tampa Bay 23, Foles — who was sacked six times — stepped up and drilled a dart to Jason Avant to the 1-yard line, then spiked the ball to kill the clock with two seconds left.

    Foles came to the sideline insisting on a sprintout pass to Maclin, which worked to perfection.

    "Well listen, he wanted that last play," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He called it, he wanted it, he executed it. It was a play we had put in the game plan, in that situation, but that's the one he liked the best. He was feeling it."

    Not feeling it most of the day was Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who had a poor first half, completing 5 of 16 passes for 61 yards. He finished 14-of-34 for 189 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

    "It just seemed like he wasn't himself, he wasn't in synch," Schiano said of Freeman.

    "I don't think we were tense," Freeman said. "Whatever it was, we were just a hair off."

    The Bucs trailed 10-0 at halftime, then got a gift to start the third quarter. Damaris Johnson muffed Michael Koenen's punt and the Bucs took over on the Eagles 5. Three plays later, Freeman hit wide receiver Mike Williams in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

    In the fourth quarter, Freeman got more of a hot hand and receiver Vincent Jackson took over the game. Jackson, who finished with six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown, beat cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to the inside for a 13-yard scoring pass. And his 28-yard reception on the next series set up Martin's 4-yard touchdown and gave the Bucs a 21-10 lead with 7:21 left in the game.

    But Foles led a pair of touchdown drives on the final two possessions.

    "It's not easy to keep your poise when you're getting hit all day as a rookie," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who had a Sapp-like two sacks, three tackles for a loss and three hits on Foles.

    "This a special game … it's a big win for us," Foles said. "The emotions are going crazy right now.''

    The Super Bowl XXXVII champions could not help the Bucs, not even safety Ronde Barber, the only member of that team still playing.

    "It was nice to see all those guys, but it had nothing to do with the product on the field," Barber said. "So it doesn't hurt more or less. It's 2012, and that was 10 years ago. They celebrated, rightfully, but it has nothing to do with this 2012 team."

    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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    By Neil Taylor, Times Correspondent
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    What's hot: The big trout of winter have invaded. Catching dozens of slot to overslot trout is a daily occurrence. The trout are fat, aggressive, dependable light-tackle fun.

    Tackle: Use light leader with light jigs or topwater lures rigged on rods that have some bend to them. Because of the soft mouths of trout, anglers will lose fewer fish if they use rods with give in the tip. Topwater lures will work in shallower areas. But in the deeper troughs or grass flats, use a sinking lure. Run lures near the bottom.

    Watch out: With 3- to 5-inch plastic jigs, you might catch one of the 20-inch flounders that have arrived.

    Neil Taylor charters kayak fishing trips in the Tampa Bay area and can be reached at strikethreekayakfishing.com and (727) 692-6345.

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