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    Times staff
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    2013 NFL draft order

    In case of ties, the team with the lower strength of schedule gets the higher pick.

    1. Chiefs2-14

    2. Jaguars2-14

    3. Raiders4-12

    4. Eagles4-12

    5. Lions4-12

    6. Browns5-11

    7. Cardinals5-11

    8. Bills6-10

    9. Jets6-10

    10. Titans6-10

    11. Chargers7-9

    12. Dolphins7-9

    13. Bucs7-9

    14. Panthers7-9

    15. Saints7-9

    16. Rams7-8-1

    17. Steelers8-8

    18. Cowboys8-8

    19. Giants9-7

    20. Bears10-6

    Spots 21-32 to be determined in playoffs.

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    By Dave Mistretta, Times Correspondent
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    Cold weather: Strong winds and cold temperatures change species' eating habits. Venturing out between cold fronts is key for inshore and offshore species. We call this "fishing on the back side of a front." Once high pressure settles in, it takes about 48 hours to get back to normal. When the wind blows out of the northwest, stay home. Out of the northeast, opportunity opens.

    Another tip: Don't rush to use equipment that was a holiday gift. Let things warm up. Maybe start at 9 or 10 a.m. The days are short, so picking the highest sunlight angles increases your catch.

    Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 439-2628 or visit jawstoo.com.

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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    TAMPA — One day after their season ended, the Bucs started looking ahead to next season, excited about the return of three key starters from injuries.

    Doug Martin, who rushed for 1,454 yards as a rookie, talked about reaching 2,000, buoyed by the fact Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph (knee) and Carl Nicks (toe) will be blocking for him.

    DT Gerald McCoy believes the pass rush will be better with DE Adrian Clayborn (knee) coming off the edge.

    However, there is still uncertainty about LB Quincy Black. Black suffered a neck injury against the Chargers on Nov. 11, carted off the field after tackling RB Ryan Mathews.

    Bucs coach Greg Schiano said at the time Black didn't suffer spinal damage and had "full function" with the exception of a problem with his left arm. Black has been seeing specialists, but there are still no answers.

    "They are still not sure what they're doing medically," Schiano said. "He's been to some different places in the country, the finest people there are."

    Black's agent, Harold Lewis, said the injury, which involved nerve damage, is not considered career-threatening.

    "If in six months nothing has changed, then maybe there's a different answer," he said.

    But Lewis said the recovery will be lengthy.

    "The pain has gone down," Lewis said. "He's not in excruciating pain anymore. But the doctor says it just takes time to heal."

    IN A RUSH: DE Michael Bennett had a career year at the best time considering he can become an unrestricted free agent. But Bennett, 27, who had a team-high nine sacks, hopes he'll return for his fifth season with the Bucs.

    "I want to see what's going to happen when (Da'Quan) Bowers gets healthy, (Clayborn) gets healthy, just to see where we can be as a group," he said. "I want to be back because I've been here a long time and grown with the Bucs."

    Bennett, playing with a right shoulder injury, didn't have a sack over the last three games. He said he'd prefer a long-term deal and he'd like to play with his brother, Giants TE Martellus Bennett, who also can be a free agent. He has a fan in McCoy, who said it "should be one of the first priorities" to re-sign Bennett.

    "It'd be huge in us getting to where we want to be," he said.

    WRIGHT update: CB Eric Wright packed up his locker, and the question remains if it was for the last time as a Buc.

    Wright, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal last offseason, admittedly had an "up-and-down" year, which included a four-game suspension for what he said was a one-time use of Adderall. Wright was eligible to return Sunday and said he was healthy but was inactive. His suspension enables the Bucs to void $7.5 million in guaranteed salary for next season.

    "I can't tell you what his future is … because that hasn't been determined yet," Schiano said.

    Said Wright: "I'm under contract. So mentally, that's the way I'm going into the offseason."

    MISCELLANY: McCoy said he got "emotional" in the locker room following Sunday's game, which marked the first time in three seasons he played all 16 games. "It's been a long journey," he said. "To a lot of people, it might not mean anything. But if you've never been through what I've been through, then you wouldn't understand." … WR Mike Williams plans to go up north to work out with former receivers coach P.J. Fleck, who recently took the head coaching job at Western Michigan.

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

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    NEW ORLEANS — Despite the party atmosphere associated with New Orleans for New Year's Eve, the Gators approached the day as the equivalent of just another Thursday during game week.

    "It's not New Year's Eve, it's Thursday practice," coach Will Muschamp said after Monday's practice at the Superdome. "It's a normal game week. We had a good day, we'll have walk-through (today), we're ready to go."

    No. 4 Florida (11-1) will play No. 22 Louisville (10-2) at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Sugar Bowl. Muschamp said his Gators have prepared and behaved themselves during the trip.

    "Very well," he said when asked how the team has fared in a city known for its parties. "They've been on time to everything; everybody's been at everything they're supposed to be at. I've been very pleased with them. They've acted like a mature football team, which they are."

    departing Soon: Graduate assistant Bush Hamdan, who took over as interim receivers coach for the Gators after Aubrey Hill abruptly resigned in August, was hired at the same position coach at Arkansas State. Hamdan will coach in the Sugar Bowl.

    FOLLOWING TRADITION: The media had a rare opportunity to watch about 15 minutes of Florida's practice Monday, and early on it was a bit confusing. That's because the Gators were following a tradition of jersey-swapping: the practice of wearing other teammates' jerseys on Thursday practice of game week.

    "We've done it everywhere I've been on Thursday," Muschamp said. "I don't really understand it, or know (why). We didn't do it when I played. But I've got no problem with it as long as they practice hard, and practice smart and focus in on what they are supposed to do. If they want to have a little fun, that's fine with me."

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

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    NEW ORLEANS — Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson tried his best to answer the question without letting his emotions get the best of him, but ultimately it just wasn't possible.

    The discussion was about sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his gritty performance against Rutgers, and it caused the 30-year veteran coach to choke up as he talked about his rising star.

    Playing with a sprained ankle, a fractured left wrist and what he described this week as "the worse pain ever," Bridgewater came off the bench and went 20-for-28 for 263 yards and two touchdowns to lead Louisville to a 20-17 come-from-behind win that earned the Cardinals their second BCS bowl berth.

    "He's just done so much, and he really played his heart out," Watson said. "We went into that game thinking we weren't going to be able to play him. And there came a time when he just — I think it was our third series — he got on the headset and said: 'Coach, I can do this. I can go.'

    "He gave it up for those guys because he knew the importance of that game. It was going to put us into this situation we're in today. That's just the kid he is. He has great character. That's what people don't know about him. And I just appreciate him. I do."

    Bridgewater's performance all season is what has the Gators' attention. Florida has faced outstanding quarterbacks this year: Georgia's Aaron Murray, South Carolina's Connor Shaw, Missouri's James Franklin and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Yet, several Florida players said this week that this will be their greatest challenge.

    "I feel like hands down he's the best quarterback we've faced this year," junior safety Matt Elam said. "He can move around, he can throw the ball. … He rarely makes bad decisions."

    And that, Bridgewater said, is what separates him from many college quarterbacks.

    "It comes easy because I'm not the kind of guy who's going to force anything; I just take what the defense gives me," said Bridgewater, the Big East offensive player of the year. "If my primary progression isn't there, I check it down. And that's what it's all about: completions and managing. If they give me nothing, then I'll just have to burn the ball or tuck it and run."

    Bridgewater ranks eighth in Division I-A in passing efficiency (161.6) and has thrown for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. His teammates say his success is a product of his dedication and hard work, not just pure talent.

    "I could tell Teddy was special when he came in as a freshman," junior receiver Damian Copeland said. "He wasn't an ordinary freshman. He was like an upperclassman. He stayed in the film room and he stayed in his playbook. He read coverages very well."

    Bridgewater could easily have been on the other sideline in Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl. The Miami native grew up a Florida fan and was recruited by the Gators. He nearly committed to Florida as a wide receiver, he said, and did commit to Miami before former coach Randy Shannon was fired.

    Louisville coach Charlie Strong convinced him Louisville was the place for him. And he has no regrets.

    "Some coaches just sell the program, but these coaches here, they sell you dreams about life," Bridgewater said. "They want you to be successful in life, not just as an athlete. And that right there caught my eye and caught my mom's eye. Pretty much, I prayed about it and it was a tough decision leaving home, but it was worth it."

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    TAMPA — The clock inside the locker room at One Buc Place that ticks down the days, hours and minutes to the next Bucs game was shut off Monday morning. But that doesn't mean the Bucs have all the time in the world to fix their problems before next season.

    There's plenty to do when you go 7-9 and miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Know who else missed the playoffs the past five seasons? The Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Raiders and Rams. That's the sorry company the Bucs are keeping these days.

    So, yeah, the Bucs have work to do. The mission for GM Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano this offseason is to turn this mess into a playoff team.

    "We got to be honest with ourselves and say, 'How are we going to get better?' '' Schiano said Monday. "And there are so many ways to do that. I think any organization that just resets the clock and starts again doesn't evaluate. Without evaluation there is no progress. We really have to do that and that's the big step that I'm really looking forward to.''

    What exactly do Dominik and Schiano have to do in the offseason? Here are the first five things that come to mind.

    1. Get the best cornerback available in the draft

    The Bucs had one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history and it was headed in that direction well before they traded Aqib Talib and lost Eric Wright to injury and suspension. When you have a secondary with names like Gorrer and Gaitor and Biggers, you're going to give up 300-yard passing games as a matter of routine.

    Getting cornerbacks through free agency can get rather pricey and this offseason's free-agent cornerback pool is not expected to be deep anyway. That means the Bucs need to address corner in the draft.

    The Bucs have the No. 13 pick and early indications are that no cornerback is worth taking that high. Doesn't matter. The Bucs need to reach for a Dee Milliner from Alabama or a Johnthan Banks from Mississippi State or Xavier Rhodes from FSU.

    Either that or go into next season relying on names such as Gorrer, Gaitor and Biggers again.

    2. Re-sign defensive end Michael Bennett

    Bennett led the Bucs in sacks this season with nine and has 13 in the past two seasons. He's a free agent, but because Da'Quan Bowers' health is always a question, the Bucs need to do what they can to re-sign their best pass rusher, as well as a player who takes pressure off defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

    "I think that should be one of the first priorities,'' McCoy said about re-signing Bennett. "He was great for us this year. It would be huge to us getting to where we want to be.''

    Bennett won't come cheap, but he sounds like he wants to be here.

    "I want to be back,'' Bennett said. "I've been here a long time and I want to be back.''

    3. Find a backup to challenge QB Josh Freeman

    Dan Orlovsky was Freeman's backup this season and, let's face it, Orlovsky was never a threat to take Freeman's job. Considering Freeman's somewhat sluggish development, maybe it's time for the Bucs to consider bringing in a quarterback to give Freeman some competition.

    No, not a Michael Vick or Alex Smith, neither of whom would be interested in starting off as a backup to Freeman. But maybe another veteran or perhaps a mid-round draft pick. This already seems like it could be in Schiano's plans.

    "I do believe in competition at every spot including the quarterback,'' Schiano said. "I want to have as many good football players on our football team as we can at every single position. As much competition as we can create throughout the football team rises the level of everything. It's human nature when there is competition the level rises.''

    4. Find a slot receiver

    Tiquan Underwood played for Schiano back at Rutgers. He seems like a nice enough guy. And he has the coolest hair in Tampa Bay. But the Bucs need an upgrade here. Underwood, only 6-1 and 183 pounds, just didn't make enough big third-down plays in heavy traffic.

    5. Spend some more money

    Don't be afraid to spend up to the salary cap, Glazers. The Bucs won 10 games in 2010 and then spent zippo in the offseason. That turned into a four-win season in 2011. Then the Bucs spent more than $50 million in free agency last offseason and the result was seven wins.

    Spend some dough this offseason, fix the defense, and maybe when you turn on the clock next fall, you'll be looking forward instead of dreading the moment it reaches all zeroes.


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    Times wires
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    The Bears reached the Super Bowl under coach Lovie Smith and won 10 games this season. But they missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. As a result, he became one of seven coaches and five general mangers fired Monday.

    Smith went 81-63 over nine seasons. He led them to the February 2007 Super Bowl (losing to the Colts) and two NFC title games (losing to the Packers in January 2011). But in 2011, a 7-3 start gave way to an 8-8 finish. This season, a 7-1 start gave way to a 10-6 finish.

    Smith was unavailable for comment. But kick returner Devin Hester was so upset, he said he was considering retirement: "I've got my workers' comp papers in my pocket."

    Is he hurt?

    "Not physically," he said. "But mentally."

    The Bears will interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, the Associated Press reported.

    • In Philadelphia, owner Jeffrey Lurie fired Andy Reid, saying it was time "to move in a new direction." In 14 seasons, Reid reached four straight NFC title games and the February 2005 Super Bowl, a loss to the Patriots. But after making a big splash in free agency, the Eagles went 8-8 last season. This season, they went 4-12. Reid, who was unavailable for comment, met with his players, who gave him a standing ovation. "I feel we personally let him down," receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "It's a sad day."

    • In San Diego, Norv Turner and A.J. Smith were fired after a third consecutive nonplayoff season. Fan anger and apathy over this season, which finished 7-9, led to four home games being blacked out. Turner went 56-40 in six seasons. Smith had been GM since 2003. "They both clearly understood why the decision was being made," owner Dean Spanos said. "At the beginning of this year, I really knew that if we did not get to the playoffs and at least win some games in the playoffs, I was most likely to make the change."

    • In Kansas City, Mo., not only is Romeo Crennel out as coach, there is a new organizational structure. Owner Clark Hunt, son of founder Lamar Hunt, said he will hire the next coach. He added he hasn't decided the status of GM Scott Pioli. Crennel replaced the fired Todd Haley last season and went 2-1. But this season, the Chiefs went 2-14 to earn the top overall pick. "The NFL is a performance-based league," Crennel said in a statement he released. "And we weren't able to win."

    • In Orchard Park, N.Y., the Bills fired Chan Gailey after three losing seasons as coach. The season started with high hopes after signing star defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million contract. But they missed the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, the NFL's longest active drought. Gailey's eyes welled with tears when he credited Bills fans for their loyalty and Buffalo for being a passionate football city: "This will probably be … the first place that's ever fired me that I'll pull for."

    • In Cleveland, new owner Jimmy Haslam previously hinted Pat Shurmur (9-23 in two seasons) and Tom Heckert (GM for three seasons) would be fired. The Browns' next coach will be their sixth since 1999. "We're well aware that this has been a carousel," Haslam said. "It's our job to … bring stability long term for the organization."

    • In Tempe, Ariz., Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves are out as coach and GM, respectively, less than three years after reaching the Super Bowl. Of the Cardinals' three winning seasons over the past 28 years, two came under Whisenhunt, who went 45-51 in six seasons. This season, Arizona lost 11 of 12 after a 4-0 start. Graves had been part of the organization for 16 years and GM since 2007. President Michael Bidwill, son of owner Bill Bidwill, cited a 28-36 record since losing to the Steelers in February 2009. "It came down to wins and losses," he said, "and the direction I felt like the team was going." Bidwell said he will talk to McCoy about the coaching job and has reached out to Reid.

    • In Florham Park, N.J., Mike Tannenbaum is out after seven seasons as Jets GM but Rex Ryan will remain the coach. The Jets reached two AFC title games under Tannenbaum but were in turmoil from the moment they acquired quarterback Tim Tebow in March. They lost their final four games to finish 6-10. "My goal every year as owner is to build a team that wins consistently," Jets owner Woody Johnson said. "This year, we failed to achieve that goal."

    • In Jacksonville, Gene Smith is out after four years as GM. He had been with the team since its inception in 1994, working his way up from regional scout. But the Jaguars went 22-42 with him as GM. "Our fans have been remarkably loyal over the years," said owner Shad Khan, who will decide coach Mike Mularkey's fate after he hires a GM. "We simply must do better for our fans."

    Browns: Running back Trent Richardson said he played nine games with two broken ribs sustained Oct. 14. He sat out Sunday with a sprained left ankle.

    49ers: Brandon Jacobs, suspended for the final three games after complaining about his playing time, was waived. He had five carries for 7 yards in two games. Even if claimed, Jacobs is ineligible for the playoffs.

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  • 12/31/12--18:11: Ga. Tech thumps USC
  • Times wires
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    EL PASO, Texas — Southern California was ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, and Matt Barkley was a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy. The year ended with Barkley on the sideline as the Trojans lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

    Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 21-7 victory on Monday in front of 47,922.

    Washington's 1-yard touchdown run in the third made it 14-7, and he passed to Orwin Smith for a 17-yard touchdown in the fourth.

    Barkley (right shoulder) was not cleared to play.

    Max Wittek tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Silas Redd, but also threw three interceptions.

    The Trojans (7-6) struggled to contain Georgia Tech's triple-option attack. The Yellow Jackets (7-7) rushed for 294 yards on 63 carries to end a seven-bowl skid.

    David Sims had 99 yards on 17 carries, Zach Laskey added 60 yards on six carries, Lee had 52 on 10 carries and Washington had 16 attempts for 46 yards for the nation's No. 4 rushing team.

    Lee and Washington combined to go just 5-for-10 passing, but two completions went for TDs and two more covered 26 and 49 yards to key two scoring drives.

    USC finished with 10 first downs and eight punts.

    "I'm really proud of our football team," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "I thought that they played with a lot of heart and a lot of determination, and I know Southern California has some really good players."

    Wittek had four passes deflected at the line. His second interception came in the Tech end zone with 6:22 to go and the last came inside the Tech 10-yard line in the game's final minute. He was 14-for-37 for 107 yards.

    "It was a really surprising day," Southern California coach Lane Kiffin said. "Turning the ball over, and with third-down efficiency, we really found no rhythm on offense. I thought we'd play much better on offense. The storyline really came down to our inefficiency on offense, and obviously it starts with the head coach."

    USC is the first preseason No. 1 team to lose six games and will be the first to enter the season on top of the Associated Press poll and finish unranked since Mississippi in 1964.

    Kiffin said he took responsibility for the lost season.

    "All of it," he said. "We can't be 7-6. That's not USC, and that's not our expectations. That's not why we came here. Obviously, we have some work here to get that fixed.

    "Even if we'd won this game, we'd still be very disappointed in this season."

    Asked if he thought the loss could cost him his job, Kiffin answered flatly, "No."

    music city bowl: Jordan Rodgers threw two touchdowns and ran for one as Vanderbilt beat N.C. State 38-24 in Nashville.

    The Commodores (9-4, their best record since 9-1 in 1915) won nine games for the third time and finished with seven straight wins, their longest streak since eight in 1948.

    "When you're throwing out dates like 1915, you know that's a very, very, very long time," Vandy coach James Franklin said. "Talk about these guys great-great grandparents.''

    Vanderbilt forced a season-high five turnovers, including four in the first half, and turned those into 17 points.

    The Wolfpack (7-6) had its fifth game with at least four turnovers, which negated a 424-225 advantage in total offense.

    liberty bowl: Trey Watts rushed for 149 yards, Alex Singleton ran for three scores and Tulsa beat Iowa State 31-17 in Memphis, avenging a season-opening loss to the Cyclones.

    The Golden Hurricane (11-3) posted the second 11-win season in school history. Tulsa was 11-3 in 2008.

    Iowa State (6-7) was seeking its second winning season in the past seven years.

    AUBURN: Defensive end Corey Lemonier will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

    nevada: Running back Stefphon Jefferson will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft. He ranked second nationally in rushing yards per game (144.9) and points (11.5).

    rutgers: Cornerback Logan Ryan, a two-time All-Big East selection, will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

    texas: An attorney representing linebacker Jordan Hicks, one of the two players suspended before the Alamo Bowl, said a sexual assault allegation against Hicks is "completely false" and that Hicks says conduct under investigation by San Antonio police was "consensual by everyone involved." Backup quarterback Case McCoy is reportedly the other player suspended.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Monday, December 31, 2012

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Michael Carter-Williams got his game back on track and moved his coach up the wins ladder.

    Syracuse's point guard had a career-high 18 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds Monday to lead the No. 7 Orange (12-1) to a 96-62 victory over Central Connecticut State, giving coach Jim Boeheim his 902nd career win, which ties Bob Knight for second all time among Division I men's coaches. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski has 939.

    Boeheim's first chance to pass Knight comes Wednesday at home against Rutgers (9-2), which has won five in a row.

    "They're off to a great start and we're looking forward to that challenge," Boeheim said of the Big East opener.

    After hitting only 5 of 26 shots in the three previous games, Carter-Williams was 6-for-10 from the floor, including 3 of 4 from behind the 3-point arc.

    No. 5 Indiana 69, Iowa 65: Cody Zeller scored 15 of his 19 in the second half and the Hoosiers (13-1, 1-0) opened Big Ten play by holding off the host Hawkeyes (11-3, 0-1). Indiana ended a four-game losing streak in Iowa City.

    No. 9 Minn. 76, No. 18 Michigan St. 63: Andre Hollins scored 22 as the host Gophers (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten), who moved into the top 10 for the first time in 16 years, beat the Spartans (11-3, 0-1), who had won 13 of the last 15 meetings.

    No. 10 Gonzaga 69, No. 22 Okla. St. 68: Kevin Pangos scored 23 and hit the clinching free throws with 4.3 seconds left as the Zags (13-1) completed a five-game sweep of Big 12 competition in nonconference play. Marcus Smart led the host Cowboys (10-2) with 23 points.

    No. 14 Cincy 70, No. 24 Pitt 61: Cashmere Wright scored 18 as the Bearcats (13-1, 1-0 Big East) used a 14-2 second-half run to beat the host Panthers (12-2, 0-1), who were 0-for-10 on 3-pointers.

    No. 23 N.C. State 89, UNC-Greensboro 68: C.J. Leslie scored 21 and the host Wolfpack (11-2), the nation's most accurate-shooting team, shot 53 percent.

    No. 25 K-State 70, S. Dakota 50: Nino Williams scored 16 for the Wildcats (11-2).

    Temple hits 1,800 wins: The host Owls became the sixth Division I men's basketball program to reach 1,800 wins by beating Bowling Green 75-57. Temple is 1,800-982 in 115 seasons and joins Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse.

    Fla. Gulf Coast 68, Kennesaw St. 59: Sherwood Brown scored 19 as the Owls (1-12) rallied to win their Atlantic Sun opener over the host Eagles (9-5).

    USF women's coach reaches 200-win milestone

    Senior guard Inga Orekhova scored a career-high 25 as the host Bulls (11-2) beat Detroit-Mercy 74-60 to give coach Jose Fernandez his 200th career win.

    "I've been fortunate to coach some great kids since the year 2000 and to be at a place for 13 years," Fernandez, already the all-time winningest men's or women's Bulls basketball coach, said in a news release. "Not many people get that opportunity to do that now with the amount of changes in men's basketball, women's basketball and football."

    No. 1 UConn 95, Oregon 51: The Huskies (12-0) moved atop the Top 25 for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season and got 19 points from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to rout the host Ducks.

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    TAMPA — Josh Freeman always has been effective directing an offense with the clock winding down. Those skills will be put to full use next season because time might be running out for the enigmatic quarterback in Tampa Bay.

    Freeman likely will play out the final year of his contract without a new offer from the Bucs, who could use the franchise tag on him after 2013. Coach Greg Schiano said he believes Freeman can win Super Bowls but plans to provide more competition next season.

    Freeman became the first Buc to pass for more than 4,000 yards and set a franchise record with 27 touchdown passes. But he struggled down the stretch, throwing nine of his 17 interceptions over the final three games.

    The Bucs started 6-4 but lost five in a row before beating the Falcons 22-17 on Sunday to finish 7-9 in Schiano's first season. He plans to begin an evaluation of all coaches and players. Asked if he was "all in'' with Freeman, Schiano stopped short of an iron-clad endorsement.

    "I'm not all in with myself yet. So how could I be all in with Josh Freeman or any other player?" Schiano said. "I'm not sidestepping (the question), but I need to evaluate. What I can say is he's a 4,000-yard passer, a touchdown record — there's a lot of things you say, 'Wow.' Are there things that frustrate you? Yeah. There's things that frustrate him, too. I really like Josh Freeman. But I want to make sure I don't get ahead of my skis at all here and really evaluate every single thing for what's best for this organization.

    "Do I think Josh Freeman is going to win Super Bowls in this league? I do. But again, I have to evaluate everything before I can say that's what we're doing. The one thing I do believe in is competition at every spot, including the quarterback."

    Freeman, 24, never has been pushed since the first-round pick from Kansas State started the final nine games of his rookie season in 2009. This season, he was backed up by Dan Orlovsky, who has four career starts.

    Freeman had a strong supporting cast that included Vincent Jackson, who led the Bucs with 1,384 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Mike Williams had 996 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Doug Martin set a franchise rookie record with 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, and his 1,926 yards from scrimmage were third in the NFL.

    "It was an up-and-down year. But you look at 4,000 yards, records all over the place, there's a lot of positives there," Schiano said of Freeman. "Certainly, when the expectation level is what we make it and then you don't reach that, then there's also disappointment. Josh is probably his own toughest critic. So I don't know if anything I'm going to tell him is going to shock him."

    Schiano said while the season was a "disappointment,' he's encouraged by the Bucs' future.

    "We didn't win the Super Bowl, and I'm very disappointed about that,'' Schiano said. "Did I think that we could? Yeah. You look at the Super Bowl champs from last year (the Giants), they were 7-7. They were playing the final week to get into the playoffs. They did, and then they went on a run. People say why you? Well, why not us? That didn't happen.

    "Am I a silver lining guy? Yes. There were a lot of positives that give me motivation and encourages me, our fans, our team and everybody involved with the Buccaneers that, hey, there are brighter days ahead."

    Seven Bucs losses were by one score, and they blew fourth-quarter leads in four of them. Fielding a more competitive team was a good sign for general manager Mark Dominik, but he said he expected more wins.

    "I'm encouraged by the progress and direction of the franchise," Dominik said. "I think the most exciting thing about the 2012 season was the competitive level of our football team and the leadership that came to this football team; specifically from our head coaching position and Coach Schiano.

    "Now certainly, 7-9 is not where we want to be as an organization. That's not the expectations we have. I know Greg has, and I share the same feeling, that we're in this to win. And that's really at the bottom line how we're all judged. But I'm encouraged and excited about the direction of our football program and where it's headed in 2013.''


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 31, 2012


    So much about Jadeveon Clowney seems impossible, like the way he came to South Carolina two years ago as the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit, yet he has somehow managed to exceed expectations.

    The 6-foot-6, 256-pound sophomore defensive end, an imposing, physical force with a blur of a first step, already has established himself as the elite pass rusher in college football, taking home the Hendricks Award (top defensive end) and being named a unanimous All-American after leading the SEC with 13 sacks.

    He leads the No. 11 Gamecocks against No. 19 Michigan in today's Outback Bowl, but it's easy for talk to drift to his limitless future. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has him pegged as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. And after finishing sixth in this year's Heisman Trophy balloting, Clowney is talking about a historic goal: winning the Heisman as a defensive lineman.

    "That hasn't happened a lot," says teammate Byron Jerideau, a senior defensive tackle who recognizes the understatement. "He understands that. … He's not thinking about it right now. But that's his goal. If you talk to him, he'll tell you he wants to go to New York."

    Asked this week in Tampa about his Heisman hopes, Clowney downplayed the comments he made at the national awards ceremonies in Orlando last month, saying his focus is simply on helping his team win.

    "All the awards are out there for pretty much anybody who wants them," said Clowney, admitting that he heard that another Heisman winner, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, had him on his ballot. "I wouldn't mind getting it. If I don't, it's not a big deal to me. I'm going to play like I've been playing, and if it comes out that I win the Heisman, then I win the Heisman. If I don't, I don't."

    Spurrier beat out Alabama and Clemson in signing the instate phenom, who had a showcase game against the Tigers, piling up 4 1/2 sacks in the Gamecocks' victory. Spurrier said the end consistently draws extra attention from opposing offenses, which leave a running back or tight end on his side as an extra buffer between Clowney and the quarterback.

    "He's been our star player. He's pretty good one-on-one," Spurrier said. "I don't know what (Michigan coach Brady) Hoke's got planned for him. I guess we'll find out. We've got ways of moving him around."

    Clowney will often go directly up against another elite talent in Michigan junior tackle Taylor Lewan, an All-American who could be playing his final college game today as another projected high first-round pick. His defensive linemates have confidence in Clowney being able to make plays against any level of competition.

    "He has the ability to do stuff that's amazing, but he's humble," Jerideau said. "Most people who have talent like that, they're cocky and big-headed. He's a humble guy. He just makes outstanding plays. We sit there and watch film and we're like 'Wow.' His speed? You don't see a guy like that who runs a 4.6 or 4.7. It's amazing."

    As much as he will try to deflect attention away from the potential of next season, ask Clowney about the history of defensive players and the Heisman, and he has done his homework. Mention the only previous winner, Michigan's Charles Woodson, who won the 1997 Heisman while playing primarily as a defensive back, and Clowney will remind you that the Wolverine starred on returns and made cameos as a receiver.

    "He played both sides though," Clowney said. "It'd be pretty big if I won as a defensive player. It'd make a statement."

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    Times wires
    Monday, December 31, 2012

    Boise State backed out of a commitment to join the Big East in order to stay in the Mountain West on Monday. San Diego State could be next to reverse course, and that could start yet another shake-up for the conference.

    "The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue and national exposure have to be balanced against the changing circumstances of conference realignment," Boise State president Robert Kustra said in a statement released by the school.

    Boise State still must pay the exit fee of $5 million. (TCU had to do the same when it backed out of a commitment to join in order to go to the Big 12). But the Mountain West said it will help do so.

    The Big East had been set to have 12 football schools, including USF, enough to stage its first title game. And while not releasing a schedule, the conference had announced who would play in each of its two divisions.

    "We are disappointed," commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement the league released.

    Boise State and San Diego State were scheduled to leave the Mountain West for the Big East next season for football only. They joined because the Big East's champion, unlike the Mountain West's, automatically played in a BCS game.

    But under the four-team, six-game playoff system that debuts after the 2014 season, the Big East's champ does not earn a spot in a big-money game. Instead, one team from among the Big East, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt earns a spot.

    In addition, recent defections, including Louisville to the ACC and the seven basketball-only schools to a conference to be formed later, further hurt the Big East's prospects of a big TV contract. Both factors made Boise State reconsider its future.

    As a result, the Broncos reached a deal with the Mountain West that lets them cash in on their popular and perennially powerful program.

    The Mountain West recently restructured its deal with CBS Sports Network to allow the conference to sell games to other networks. The deal, which runs through 2015-16, will net a $300,000 bonus for schools that appear on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, CBS or Fox and an additional $200,000 if those games take place on a Saturday.

    But under its deal with the Mountain West, Boise State home games will not be part of the current or future conference TV deals. They will be sold separately.

    Also, Boise State will keep 50 percent of any revenue from the BCS or playoff system instead of the conference sharing it equally. And Boise State can wear its blue uniforms while playing on its blue turf field. The Mountain West previously prohibited that.

    For the Big East, Boise State's reversal is another blow, and more could come.

    Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said there have been no formal talks with San Diego State but members of the conference have reached out and there is mutual interest.

    "We will continue to evaluate the situation and make decisions based on the best interest of the San Diego State athletic department and the university overall," San Diego State athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement released by the school.

    And the Mountain West, which has 11 schools after Boise State's rejoining, might not stop with the Aztecs. Three Texas schools — UTEP, SMU and Houston — have shown interest in joining, cbssports.com reported. SMU and Houston are set to join the Big East this fall. UTEP is in C-USA.

    Thompson sees his league having as many members as his board of directors wants.

    "I think everything is on the table," he said. "Long term is relative."

    Central Florida and Memphis also are still set to leave C-USA for the Big East in 2013. In 2014, Tulane is set to join for all sports and East Carolina for football only. In 2015, Navy is set to join for football only.

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  • 12/31/12--19:31: Bobcats end 18-game skid

  • Monday, December 31, 2012

    CHICAGO — Squandering a lead is nothing new to the Bobcats, but hanging onto one is.

    Kemba Walker had 18 points and eight rebounds, and the Bobcats ended an 18-game losing streak with a 91-81 win over the Bulls on Monday.

    Gerald Henderson added 16 points and reserve Ben Gordon had 15 to help Charlotte end the second-longest skid in team history. It was the Bobcats' first win in their last 10 road games.

    "We're a desperate team right now," Henderson said. "This losing streak has been very tough on us."

    Charlotte fended off several rallies by the Bulls to win for the first time since Nov. 24.

    Tied at 65 heading into the fourth quarter, Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap decided to try something different. "I put the playbook in the freezer and just let our guys go at them," he said.

    Charlotte went on a 10-0 run to pad its lead as Bulls fans booed their inconsistent team and await the return of former MVP Derrick Rose.

    Heat turns back Magic

    ORLANDO — LeBron James had 36 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, and the Heat slipped by the Magic 112-110 in overtime.

    James scored eight in overtime, including two free throws that clinched it with 1.5 seconds left. Dwyane Wade had a dunk with 6.2 seconds to go to help Miami avoid what could have been its first three-game losing streak this season.

    "They had some guys on the court that half the NBA never heard of, but those guys did an unbelievable job," Wade said.

    Arron Afflalo scored 28 for the Magic and Nikola Vucevic set a team record with 29 rebounds as Orlando lost its sixth straight. The previous record was 28 rebounds by Shaquille O'Neal in 1993.

    Game highlights: The host Spurs held the Nets to five points in the third quarter en route to a 104-73 win.

    Bobcats 91, Bulls 81

    CHARLOTTE (91): Taylor 2-3 0-0 5, Warrick 3-10 2-5 8, Biyombo 1-4 3-8 5, Walker 6-13 5-6 18, Henderson 6-11 3-5 16, Sessions 5-9 4-4 15, Gordon 7-12 1-2 15, Haywood 0-3 0-2 0, Adrien 3-5 3-6 9. Totals 33-70 21-38 91.

    CHICAGO (81): Deng 9-19 2-4 20, Boozer 7-18 5-8 19, Noah 1-2 0-0 2, Robinson 2-11 0-0 5, Hamilton 5-11 0-0 11, Belinelli 3-12 0-0 8, Gibson 3-9 2-4 8, Mohammed 1-3 0-0 2, Teague 2-7 0-0 4, Butler 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 33-94 11-18 81.

    Charlotte 28 19 18 26— 91

    Chicago 18 24 23 16— 81

    3-Point GoalsCharlotte 4-10 (Sessions 1-2, Taylor 1-2, Walker 1-3, Henderson 1-3), Chicago 4-16 (Belinelli 2-7, Hamilton 1-3, Robinson 1-4, Butler 0-1, Deng 0-1). Fouled OutBelinelli. ReboundsCharlotte 63 (Biyombo 11), Chicago 59 (Boozer 14). AssistsCharlotte 14 (Walker 6), Chicago 24 (Robinson 7). Total FoulsCharlotte 19, Chicago 31. A21,986.

    Heat 112, Magic 110, OT

    MIAMI (112): James 10-22 15-16 36, Haslem 1-3 0-0 2, Bosh 10-15 2-2 22, Chalmers 1-3 0-0 3, Wade 9-20 3-10 21, Allen 6-9 2-2 17, Anthony 2-3 4-5 8, Battier 0-3 0-0 0, Cole 0-3 0-0 0, Miller 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 40-85 26-35 112.

    ORLANDO (110): D.Jones 2-6 2-2 6, Nicholson 5-10 0-1 10, Vucevic 9-17 2-4 20, Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Afflalo 9-19 8-9 28, Redick 9-13 0-0 23, Turkoglu 4-11 0-0 9, O'Quinn 0-0 0-0 0, McRoberts 3-8 6-6 12. Totals 42-88 18-22 110.

    Miami 31 17 22 29 13— 112

    Orlando 22 32 23 22 11— 110

    3-Point GoalsMiami 6-21 (Allen 3-4, Chalmers 1-3, Miller 1-3, James 1-6, Cole 0-1, Battier 0-2, Wade 0-2), Orlando 8-23 (Redick 5-9, Afflalo 2-6, Turkoglu 1-5, D.Jones 0-1, McRoberts 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsMiami 47 (James 8), Orlando 57 (Vucevic 29). AssistsMiami 24 (James 11), Orlando 24 (Turkoglu 8). Total FoulsMiami 17, Orlando 24. TechnicalsOrlando defensive three second. Flagrant Fouls—Turkoglu. A19,311.

    Pacers 88, Grizzlies 83

    MEMPHIS (83): Gay 3-17 5-8 11, Randolph 7-18 7-8 21, Gasol 6-10 1-1 13, Conley 3-9 2-2 9, Allen 5-8 1-2 11, Bayless 0-4 1-1 1, Speights 2-6 1-2 5, Ellington 2-4 0-0 6, Arthur 3-6 0-0 6. Totals 31-82 18-24 83.

    INDIANA (88): George 7-16 3-4 21, West 3-6 7-8 13, Hibbert 3-11 3-4 9, Augustin 4-9 5-6 17, Stephenson 3-7 2-2 10, Green 2-5 0-0 4, T.Hansbrough 3-6 0-0 6, Young 0-0 0-0 0, Mahinmi 1-5 0-0 2, B.Hansbrough 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 28-70 20-24 88.

    Memphis 19 22 26 16— 83

    Indiana 19 19 22 28— 88

    3-Point GoalsMemphis 3-11 (Ellington 2-4, Conley 1-4, Bayless 0-1, Randolph 0-1, Gay 0-1), Indiana 12-25 (Augustin 4-7, George 4-10, Stephenson 2-3, B.Hansbrough 2-3, Green 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsMemphis 56 (Randolph 15), Indiana 47 (West 9). AssistsMemphis 17 (Conley 7), Indiana 21 (Augustin 6). Total FoulsMemphis 22, Indiana 19. TechnicalsIndiana Coach Vogel. A14,979.

    Rockets 123, Hawks 104

    ATLANTA (104): Korver 1-3 0-0 3, J.Smith 5-12 5-6 17, Horford 9-16 0-0 18, Teague 4-17 0-0 10, Williams 9-16 0-0 21, Pachulia 1-3 0-0 2, Stevenson 3-6 0-0 8, Jenkins 6-9 1-1 15, Johnson 2-4 0-0 4, Scott 3-4 0-0 6, Tolliver 0-0 0-0 0, Petro 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 43-90 6-7 104.

    HOUSTON (123): Parsons 2-9 0-0 4, Morris 6-9 0-0 15, Asik 5-7 1-4 11, Lin 6-11 3-3 16, Harden 7-17 12-13 28, G.Smith 3-6 0-0 6, Douglas 4-8 1-2 10, Delfino 8-10 0-0 22, Patterson 3-5 0-0 8, Machado 0-0 0-0 0, Motiejunas 1-2 0-0 3, Aldrich 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 45-84 17-22 123.

    Atlanta 27 19 29 29— 104

    Houston 26 38 26 33— 123

    3-Point GoalsAtlanta 12-23 (Williams 3-6, J.Smith 2-2, Jenkins 2-3, Stevenson 2-3, Teague 2-5, Korver 1-3, Johnson 0-1), Houston 16-29 (Delfino 6-8, Morris 3-4, Patterson 2-3, Harden 2-6, Motiejunas 1-1, Lin 1-3, Douglas 1-3, Parsons 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsAtlanta 43 (Horford 13), Houston 49 (Asik 17). AssistsAtlanta 24 (Teague 9), Houston 30 (Delfino, Lin 8). Total FoulsAtlanta 16, Houston 11. A18,160.

    Spurs 104, Nets 73

    BROOKLYN (73): Bogans 0-2 0-0 0, Evans 2-4 0-0 4, Lopez 4-11 3-4 11, Williams 3-11 1-1 8, Johnson 5-12 1-1 12, Humphries 2-2 3-4 7, Brooks 7-12 1-1 16, Stackhouse 1-5 0-0 3, Watson 1-2 1-2 3, Blatche 1-6 3-4 5, Teletovic 0-1 0-0 0, Shengelia 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 28-74 13-17 73.

    SAN ANTONIO (104): Leonard 4-5 0-0 10, Duncan 7-12 1-1 15, Splitter 5-7 0-0 10, Parker 9-13 1-2 20, Green 1-1 1-2 3, Diaw 3-5 0-0 6, Ginobili 3-4 2-3 8, Jackson 1-6 4-4 6, De Colo 4-7 2-2 11, Bonner 4-6 0-0 10, Blair 0-2 1-2 1, Mills 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 43-73 12-16 104.

    Brooklyn 22 25 5 21— 73

    San Antonio 31 24 30 19— 104

    3-Point GoalsBrooklyn 4-17 (Brooks 1-2, Stackhouse 1-3, Williams 1-3, Johnson 1-4, Teletovic 0-1, Watson 0-1, Blatche 0-1, Bogans 0-2), San Antonio 6-14 (Bonner 2-3, Leonard 2-3, Parker 1-1, De Colo 1-1, Ginobili 0-1, Mills 0-2, Jackson 0-3). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsBrooklyn 40 (Evans 9), San Antonio 44 (Diaw 6). AssistsBrooklyn 14 (Johnson, Bogans, Blatche, Lopez, Watson 2), San Antonio 25 (Parker 6). Total FoulsBrooklyn 18, San Antonio 16. A18,581.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    NEW ORLEANS — For the historical college football programs, the best years are like the best players. They are past you before you can blink. They are gone before you can fully appreciate their impact.

    It is that way at the University of Florida, too. There have been seasons about championships, and seasons about awards, and yes, seasons about disappointment. There was the year Steve Spurrier won his Heisman, and the year Danny Wuerffel won his, and the year Tim Tebow won his. There was the season Spurrier won his national title as coach, and the two years that Urban Meyer won his.

    Then there was 2012.

    That was the year the Gators (11-1) learned to ball their fist again.

    More than anything, that's what this season meant for the Gators. These were not the slickest Gators, or the most elusive, or the fastest. They were not particularly ballyhooed. They did not make scouts drool as they approached.

    On the other hand, they were as tough as a day's work. They were hard, and they were relentless, and they didn't mind a little blood on their knuckles. They were scrap iron and barbed wire and lunch pails.

    As legacies go, that isn't a bad one.

    They brought the tough back. This Gators team didn't win a title, and they didn't have a player who captured the fancy of a nation. If you are to remember this season at all, and you should, it will be because of the way the identity of this team changed. From now on, this is who they are. They believe in the power run. They believe in being strong in the final quarter. They believe in wearing down their opponents.

    From the sound of it, they believe the SEC might as well get used to it.

    It was just over a year ago when Will Muschamp, the Florida coach, looked at his team and decided it was, well, cuddly. Congenial, even. Understand, the last thing a team wants to hear from its coach is that it is soft, because even the softest teams think they are carved from granite.

    "You can't talk about being physical," Muschamp said Wednesday morning. "You can't convince yourself you're physical. You've got to practice that way.

    "Last year, we were so lacking in depth, especially in the offensive line, that one or two injuries could have put us in a really tough situation. When we went into practice last year for the Gator Bowl, I said 'the heck with it. If we have an injury, we have an injury, but we're going to practice physical.' "

    Over the offseason, Muschamp drove his players crazy — and into the weight room — by reminding them just far they were from being tough enough. Say this for Muschamp: No one has accused him of being too subtle to get his message across.

    "I felt like I was challenged," said safety Matt Elam. "So I had to show him. You understand. I had to show him I wasn't soft to prove a point."

    It took hold. Florida came from behind eight times to win, including three in the final quarter. In the Gators' biggest victories this season — LSU, South Carolina, FSU — the Gators were by far the better team in the late going.

    Somewhere along the line, the Florida players started to believe they were the tougher team, and that in the end, it was going to pay off. Somewhere along the line, opposing teams believed it, too.

    That's what physical teams do. They grind away the energy, and the will, of the opposing team. By the fourth quarter, the offensive line begins to open holes, and the running backs find daylight, and the defense seems to have the offense outnumbered. Turnovers happen. Big plays happen. Victory happens.

    "Aside from the wins, the really pleasing thing to me is winning the fourth quarter," Muschamp said.

    For Florida fans, it has been some time since they have seen this sort of toughness. Spurrier's best teams were about the Fun 'N' Gun, and no one was better at making sure his receivers got behind the other team's defensive backs. Meyer's best days were about daring someone to stop Tim Tebow.

    Oh, there have been a lot of tough players at Florida over the years. Kevin Carter. Carlos Dunlap. Brandon Spikes. But to find this sort of collective toughness, you might have to go back to the Wilbur Marshall-and-company days of the 1980s.

    As for next year? Who knows? Odds are, Muschamp finds new buttons to push. Maybe he'll wonder aloud if the team will grow complacent. Maybe he'll leave teddy bears in every locker.

    Just a hunch, but odds are that next year's Florida team will be tough, too.

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    Times staff
    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    Backup quarterback Dylan Thompson completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds remaining as South Carolina stunned Michigan 33-28 in the Outback Bowl this afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.

    The Gamecocks converted a fourth-and-3 on the drive when starting quarterback Connor Shaw found Ace Sanders for 6 yards to the South Carolina 43. Sanders, a former Bradenton Manatee High School star, scored three times.

    The victory gave South Carolina back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history and head coach Steve Spurrier a victory in his first-ever meeting against Michigan.

    Michigan, which trailed for much of the game, took a 28-27 lead on Jeremy Gallon's 17-yard touchdown reception from Devin Gardner with 3:29 remaining. An attempted two-point conversion run failed.

    Earlier in the game, Sanders scored on a 63-yard punt return and 4-yard reception as the Gamecocks built a 21-10, second-quarter lead.

    Michigan rallied with 12 straight points to take its first lead, 22-21, on Gardner's 10-yard pass to Gallon with two seconds remaining in the third quarter.

    Michigan had the ball again before Jadeveon Clowney forced and recovered a fumble at the Wolverines' 31, setting the stage for Shaw's touchdown pass to Sanders on the next play. The score put South Carolina back ahead, 27-22, with 8:06 to play.

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    NEW ORLEANS — Florida's preparations for tonight's Sugar Bowl the past several days have included adjusting to the subtle changes they expect to encounter playing in the Superdome.

    "Adjusting to the lights," coach Will Muschamp said. "We've worked it all week, as far as seeing the punt catchers and kickoff and receivers working and catching the football. Because it's a little different with the lights in the stadium there. We've worked on that. And the kicking environment for (Caleb) Sturgis is good for us. We can probably be at the 38-yard-line and be in range for a 55-yard, 56-yarder, maybe 40."

    Sophomore P Kyle Christy said he believes the dome will be an advantage for him.

    "There's no wind, it's perfect conditions," Christy said. "You couldn't ask for anything better than that. It's a cool atmosphere, and the dome is really cool."

    CELEBRITY COIN TOSS: Former quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel and former running back great Emmitt Smith will represent the Gators in tonight's coin toss. Former linebacker and ESPN NFL analyst Tom Jackson and former boxing great Muhammad Ali will represent Louisville, and the four will join the current team captains on the field for the opening toss.

    MEMORIES, OLD AND NEW: Louisville coach Charlie Strong said he hadn't given it much thought until Tuesday, but he suspects he will be a little nostalgic, albeit briefly, before tonight's game. Strong is a former Florida defensive coordinator who recruited several of the current Gators.

    "I guess it really hasn't hit me yet, I haven't seen many of the (UF) players," Strong said. "So probably when I walk into the stadium for the first time (tonight) and look across the sideline, you see a lot of those players you were able to recruit. Then it kind of hits you. Once you hear the band rev up and play the different songs that you're so familiar with, and we had a function last night and I saw a lot of the (UF) administrators. So it will be something special. … But I've got to get refocused and get my team going also."

    PERSONNEL UPDATE: Look for Marcus Roberson to return punts for UF, while Loucheiz Purifoy and Andre Debose will return kicks.

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, January 1, 2013


    USF at Central Florida

    When/where: 8, UCF Arena, Orlando.

    TV/radio: CBS Sports Network, 98.7-FM.

    Records: USF 8-3, UCF 9-3.

    Notable: USF could be very shorthanded — PG Anthony Collins is "a little questionable or doubtful," says coach Stan Heath, because of a neck sprain and F Victor Rudd (concussion) could also be out; both were injured in Saturday's win over George Mason. Guards Shaun Noriega and JaVontae Hawkins are out, and F Kore White is limited by turf toe. All that means USF will have its hands full against a team it lost to by 18 in the season opener in Tampa. The Knights stars of that game were 6-9 F Keith Clanton (17 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and 6-5 G Isaiah Sykes (14.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5 apg). USF wraps up its nonconference schedule, with Big East play starting Sunday at home against Syracuse.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer

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    By Doug Hemmer, Times Correspondent
    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    Mackerel: Cooler water temperatures will push mackerel and kingfish into deeper water, so target reefs in 40 feet of water. The deeper parts of the reef will be warmer than the shallow waters closer to the beach. The fish will stay in 40 to 60 feet until the water temperature drops into the 50s.

    Snook: These game fish will move into the rivers and deep residential canals in the upper parts of Tampa Bay. The best action will be in the canals that feed the east side of the bay. A cream- or white-colored jerkbait worked slowly across the bottom will draw strikes from these slow-to-react feeders.

    Trout: These fish will stay in 3 to 4 feet of water until a front drops the water temperature into the 50s. When this happens, the trout will move to the drop-off closest to the area they were hanging in. The flats north of the Dunedin Causeway are good areas to target. Work the spoil islands and the potholes close to the navigation channel. Try live shrimp, topwater plugs and jigs worked close to the bottom. They feed best during a fast-moving tide.

    Sheepshead: They're moving from inside the bay to the areas close to the beach, a migration to spawn along the structure that lines the nearshore areas.

    Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.

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    Times wires
    Tuesday, January 1, 2013


    FSU at Auburn

    When/where: 7, Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.

    TV/radio: Sun Sports, 1040-AM

    Records: FSU 8-4, Auburn 5-7

    Notable: The Seminoles won their last outing, 82-63 vs. Tulsa on Saturday, for their fourth straight victory. Auburn leads the series 22-8, but last season FSU rolled to an 85-56 home victory. Auburn is coming off an 81-79 road loss to Illinois, when it committed 20 turnovers. The Seminoles are led in scoring by 6-5 senior guard Michael Snaer (16.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 2.4 apg). Former Clearwater High standout Okaro White, a 6-8 junior forward, averages 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds, and 6-8 junior F Terrance Shannon averages 9.2 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Seminoles, who have played well in the second half. G Frankie Sullivan leads the Tigers in scoring at 17.2. Auburn G Chris Denson (15.2 ppg) said FSU's strong guard play presents a challenge.

    Times wires

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    TAMPA — The lead would still change three more times, but the play that fans may remember most from Tuesday's Outback Bowl came with eight minutes to play, immediately after Michigan had converted a fake punt on a questionable call for a first down with a one-point lead.

    South Carolina's All-America defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, destroyed Michigan running back Vincent Smith — "It was like two cars hitting, I promise you ... the hardest hit I've seen in my coaching career," Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward would say — with a crushing hit that knocked Smith's helmet off and forced a fumble that Clowney would pick up one-handed for the recovery.

    On the very next play, before Michigan could even collect itself, South Carolina went deep, with quarterback Connor Shaw connecting with receiver Ace Sanders for his third touchdown and a 27-22 lead. The Gamecocks would go on to win 33-28, but even in a game where the winning touchdown was scored with 11 seconds left, there was more talk about Clowney's hit.

    Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, asked if Clowney comes up with plays like that in practice, said he could, but he doesn't. "We have a rule: Don't clobber teammates," Spurrier said. "He's got that one little slip move, and they get nothing but air when they go at him."

    South Carolina was motivated by what Spurrier called a "questionable" spot and ruling for a first down when Michigan gambled with a fake punt from its 37, upheld after a Gamecocks challenge. On the sideline, Clowney told his defensive teammates: "We have to step up. We can't leave it in the refs' hands anymore. We have to take over."

    He did, with perhaps the most incredible play in a promising career that could lead to him being the top pick in the NFL draft in 2014. The play was upheld upon review, as were all three plays in the game-changing sequence.

    "I said it's going to be open all day if they keep doing that zone blocking, Clowney said. "I'm going to go inside and kill him one time."

    After a momentum-changing turnover, Clowney said he wasn't surprised to see Spurrier go for the end zone right away, remembering one field goal had been blocked and another missed and also knowing a little about Spurrier's personality.

    "I told the guys on the sideline, 'They're not going to score a field goal. They're going to score a touchdown,' " Clowney said. "They (did), and everybody's looking at me: 'How do you know all this about football?' I was like, 'Hey, I'm out here praying with y'all.' … I knew he's going for it all. That's how he is."

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