Saturday, January 24, 2009

No. 15 Xavier outlasts LSU, 80-70, wins eighth straight

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Game played Jan. 24, 2009

Derrick Brown scored 22 points as the No. 15 Xavier Musketeers stepped out of conference play for an 80-70 victory over LSU, their eighth consecutive win.

Trailing 47-46, the Musketeers put together a 16-5 run down the stretch to take control of the game. B.J. Raymond scored six points, with one 3-pointer, while Jason Love chipped in four points, Terrell Holloway hit a 3, Brown made a layup and C.J. Anderson made a free throw, to give Xavier a 62-52 lead.

Xavier took a 12-4 lead out of the box, as Brown scored three points and Raymond nailed a 3, while Holloway, Love and Kenny Frease each contributed two points.

Down 20-10, the Tigers came back to tie the score with a 10-0 run. Terry Martin and Marcus Thornton each hit 3-pointers, while Bo Spencer and Tasmin Mitchell added two points apiece, and LSU took a 37-36 lead into intermission.

In the second half, the Tigers cut their deficit to five points at 68-63 after an 8-2 spurt, with Thornton scoring seven of those points, with a 3, and Spencer adding a free throw. LSU remained within 72-67 with 1 minute left, but Raymond made six free throws down the stretch and Brown nailed two more, while the Tigers could muster only a Spencer 3, to win, 80-70.

Raymond scored 21 points for Xavier, while Frease added 12 and Love chipped in 10. Brown and Anderson each had nine rebounds.

Thornton led all scorers for LSU with 30 points. Mitchell added 12 and Spencer poured in 10.

NOTES: The game was each team’s final regular season out-of-conference matchup … LSU’s 17-game home winning streak was snapped … The Musketeers now lead the teams’ all-time series, 2-1 … Xavier (17-2, 5-0 Atlantic 10) is tied with 4-0 St. Joseph’s atop the A-10, while the Tigers (15-4, 3-1 SEC) are second in the SEC West, behind Mississippi State at 4-1 … The Musketeers resumes their conference schedule against Charlotte Wednesday night, while LSU returns to league play at Tennessee Wednesday night.

Video credit – ESPN2

Monday, January 19, 2009

2008-09 NFL PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – SUPER BOWL XLIII PREVIEW

Super Bowl XLIII is finally nigh. In one corner, the five-time-Super-Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers, tied for the most in NFL history. Their opponent – the Arizona Cardinals, making their first-ever Super Bowl appearance despite being an NFL charter member.

Pittsburgh reached Tampa, Fla. as the AFC North champion and the conference’s two-seed, defeating San Diego in the divisional round and knocking off hated rival Baltimore, 23-14, for the third time this season in the AFC title game.

Meanwhile, NFC West champion and fourth-seeded Arizona had only won two playoff games in 88 years entering the postseason but has reeled off three postseason victories in three weeks, beating Atlanta, dominating heavily-favored NFC two-seed Carolina and holding off upstart Philadelphia 32-25 to advance to football’s biggest game.

As usual, storylines are all over the place for this title tilt. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Cardinals signal-caller Kurt Warner, seemingly at opposite ends of their respective careers, each sport Super Bowl rings. Warner will lead the league’s third-ranked offense against Pittsburgh’s second-rated defense, while the Steelers’ rushing game is fifth-ranked in the NFL, directly behind Arizona.

Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt just happens to be Pittsburgh’s former offensive coordinator and was on the scene when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL 21-10 over Seattle. He reportedly was also passed over for the Pittsburgh head coaching job when Bill Cowher retired and Mike Tomlin was brought in.

Speaking of the miffed, Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin is reportedly not thrilled about having been benched for a large chunk of the later portion of the game. Boldin already requested a trade in August and has stated that he will not re-sign with the Cardinals when his contract ends two years from now.

Pittsburgh defender Ryan Clark will certainly be asked in the coming days about his bone-jarring hit on Baltimore tailback Willis McGahee, going over the middle to catch a pass. Clark appeared to attempt to lead with a shoulder but made helmet-to-helmet contact with McGahee, who was carted off the field and suffered a concussion but is expected to make a full recovery. Clark himself was momentarily dazed but managed to walk off the field, with some assistance. Meanwhile, some in the media are questioning whether the hit was dirty or not.

At any rate, there are plenty of reasons why Super Bowl XLIII, despite the early grumblings of some, should not be immediately chalked up as a potential dud.

The game is slated for Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. ET.

Some information used in this report from ESPN.com and NFL.com.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No. 13 Georgetown dominates rival Syracuse, 88-74

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Game played Jan. 14, 2009

DaJuan Summers led all scorers with 21 points as the No. 13 Georgetown Hoyas took a 21-point first-half lead and held it for an 88-74 home victory over eighth-ranked Syracuse.

The Hoyas immediately took the lead with a 10-2 run out of the gate. Chris Wright scored five points, including a 3-pointer, while Summers hit a 3 and Jessie Sapp added two.

Leading 16-14, Georgetown took control for good with a 21-4 run. Nikita Mescheriakov hit two 3-pointers, Summers scored four points, including a dunk, and Jason Clark and Austin Freeman each made 3s. Henry Sims dunked and hit a free throw, while Greg Monroe added two points, as the Hoyas took a 37-18 lead. Austin Freeman later made a 4-point play, as Georgetown posted a 50-32 halftime advantage.

The Orange made a 13-3 run to begin the second half. Rick Jackson scored six points, including two dunks, while Paul Harris scored four points and Jonny Flynn hit a 3 to cut the Syracuse deficit to 53-45.

Georgetown then immediately embarked on a 14-4 run to reassert control. Summers scored five points, with a 3-pointer, while Omar Wattad hit a 3 and Monroe, Clark and Julian Vaughn each scored two to give the Hoyas a 67-49 edge.

Freeman scored 19 points for Georgetown, while Clark added 12 and Monroe chipped in 10.

Eric Devendorf led Syracuse with 20 points, while Jackson scored 17, Harris netted 15 and Flynn scored 14. Arinze Onuaku had 11 rebounds and Harris pulled down 10 boards.

NOTES: Syracuse’s Andy Rautins did not return after banging his left knee on the floor in the first half … The Orange, who had won eight of the last 10 games in the series, saw their seven-game wining streak end … Syracuse’s previous largest halftime deficit of the season was 11 points … Orange coach Jim Boeheim moved past Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp into 14th place all-time by coaching his 1,067th Division I game … Georgetown (12-3, 3-2 Big East) is tied with Notre Dame for seventh in the conference standings, while 16-2 Syracuse is fourth in conference play at 4-1, trailing 4-0 Pittsburgh and Marquette and 3-0 Louisville … The Hoyas travel to Duke for a non-conference tilt Saturday afternoon. The Orange host Notre Dame Saturday afternoon.

Video credit – ESPN2

Meeks’ record 54 helps Wildcats crush Tennessee, 90-72

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Game played Jan. 13, 2009

Jodie Meeks scored a school-record 54 points to give the Kentucky Wildcats a 90-72 win over No. 24 Tennessee. Meeks surpassed Dan Issel’s 53-point effort against Ole Miss Feb. 7, 1970, as Kentucky ended the Volunteers’ 16-game home conference winning streak.

With the Wildcats already leading 86-70, Meeks scored his final points of the night on a pair of free throws with 1:31 to play.

Tennessee led 20-16 when the Wildcats went on a 12-0 run to take the lead for good. Meeks hit two 3-pointers and another basket, while Michael Porter and Kevin Galloway each added two more points to give Kentucky a 28-20 lead.

The Volunteers drew to within four points of Kentucky at halftime, thanks to nine points from Tyler Smith in the final 2 ½ minutes of the half, including a 3 on the Vols’ final possession of the half.

Tennessee then cut its deficit to two on a Wayne Chism layup early in the second half before Kentucky asserted control for good with a 10-0 run. Meeks his two 3-pointers and a jumper, while Perry Stevenson dunked, as the Wildcats took a 53-41 lead.

Kentucky’s next run, an 8-1 job, included several short shots. Stevenson scored twice in transition, with a dunk, while Darius Miller and Patrick Patterson each also dunked, for a 66-50 edge.

The Volunteers had cut the Wildcats’ lead to 71-64 before Kentucky embarked on a final 19-6 run to seal the victory. Meeks scored 11 points, including two 3-pointers and the record-setting free throws, Ramon Harris scored four, including a dunk, and Patterson and Miller each contributed two more points.

Meeks hit 10 3-pointers in the game, also a school record, and finished 14-for-14 from the free throw line. Patterson pulled down 12 rebounds and chipped in nine points in the win.

Smith led Tennessee with 19 points. Chism scored 18 and Bobby Maze added 11.

NOTES: The victory was Kentucky’s first over a ranked team this season … Tennessee’s last conference home loss was March 1, 2006, to the Wildcats … Meeks’ previous high was 46 points, set against Appalachian State Dec. 20 … Meeks’ 54 points was the highest individual performance in SEC play since LSU’s Chris Jackson scored 55 against Ole Miss in 1989 … Kentucky (13-4, 2-0 SEC) leads the SEC East, while Tennessee (10-5, 1-1) is in fourth place, behind Florida and South Carolina, each 1-1 in conference play … The Wildcats are back in action at Georgia Sunday afternoon, while Tennessee hosts South Carolina Saturday night.

Video credit – ESPN

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Parker, Steelers put together 35-24 win over San Diego

2008-09 NFL PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
Game played Jan. 11, 2009

The Pittsburgh Steelers booked a date in the AFC championship game with a hard-fought 35-24 divisional victory over San Diego. Willie Parker ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the snow, as the Steelers took a 28-10 fourth-quarter lead and held on for the win.

The Chargers scored the afternoon’s first points on their first possession. Philip Rivers hit Antonio Gates for 21 yards and Darren Sproles for 12 on a screen. Vincent Jackson then hauled in a 41-yard touchdown on play-action, and Nate Kaeding’s extra point gave San Diego a 7-0 lead.

Pittsburgh first got on the board due to its special teams. Santonio Holmes returned Mike Scifres’ punt 68 yards, leaping over the Chargers’ Legedu Naanee en route to the end zone. Jeff Reed hit the point-after to tie the game.

San Diego then retook the lead thanks to its own special-teams play. Pittsburgh upback Ryan Clark took the snap on a fake punt but was brought down by the Chargers’ Antwan Applewhite short of the first-down marker, giving the offense possession at the Steelers 44-yard line. Gates caught a pass for 15 yards on third-and-11, and Kaeding kicked a 42-yard field goal.

However, the Steelers then went ahead for good the next time they had the ball. Holmes caught a Ben Roethlisberger pass for 15 yards, Gary Russell ran for 3 yards on third-and-1 and Hines Ward made a reception for 13. Parker punched in a 3-yard touchdown, and Reed’s kick gave Pittsburgh a 14-10 halftime edge.

Pittsburgh extended its lead on its first possession of the third quarter. Parker ran for 13 yards before Holmes pulled in a pass for 10 on third-and-7. Nate Washington hauled in a throw for 19 yards on third-and-11, and Heath Miller caught a pass for 18 on third-and-8. Miller then made an 8-yard touchdown reception, and Reed made the score 21-10.

The Steelers began the fourth quarter by attempting to punch home another touchdown on fourth-and-goal from inside the San Diego 1, but Carey Davis was stopped short of the end zone. However, that flipped field position, and Pittsburgh took over after a San Diego punt on the Chargers 49.

San Diego defender Eric Weddle was flagged for pass interference, placing the ball at the Chargers 1. Russell then ran for a touchdown, and Reed’s boot extended the Pittsburgh advantage to 28-10.

The Chargers came right back. Brandon Manumaleuna caught a pass for 14 yards on third-and-10, Sproles made a reception for 11 and Chris Chambers hauled in a pass for 15 on third-and-10. Chambers then made a reception for 25 yards, with a roughing-the-passer penalty on the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu added to the play, to set up a four-yard touchdown pass to Naanee. Kaeding hit the point-after to cut the Steeler lead to 28-17.

Pittsburgh wasted no time in answering with its final touchdown of the game. Ward caught a pass for 9 yards on third-and-3, Parker ran for 27 and Moore picked up 4 yards and a first down before Parker finished off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run. Reed made the score 35-17, Pittsburgh.

San Diego scored its final points of the year later in the fourth period. Chambers caught a pass for 20 yards before Sproles caught a pass and ran for a 62-yard touchdown on third-and-13. Kaeding hit the point-after to close the scorebook at 35-24. The Steelers’ Russell recovered the ensuing onside kick to effectively end the game.

Roethlisberger, recovering from a concussion suffered Dec. 28 against Cleveland, completed 17 of 26 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown, while Ward had four receptions for 70 yards.

Rivers hit 21 of 35 throws for 308 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Sproles caught five passes for 91 yards and a touchdown, while Gates also made five receptions for 59 yards. Chambers had four receptions for 72 yards, and Jackson caught two passes for 49 yards and a score.

NOTES: LaDainian Tomlinson was inactive for San Diego, due to a groin injury he suffered in the regular-season finale against Denver Dec. 28; Sproles made his first career NFL start in Tomlinson’s stead … The Steelers have won 14 of their last 16 games at home against the Chargers, including their 11-10 win Nov. 16 … San Diego only ran one offensive play in the third quarter, a Rivers interception to Larry Foote … The Chargers’ five-game winning streak was snapped … The temperature was 25 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff … Pittsburgh will host hated AFC North rival Baltimore for the teams’ third meeting of the season Jan. 18 in the AFC title game, for a Super Bowl berth.

Video credit – CBS

Cardinals’ Fitzgerald, defense maul Carolina, 33-13

2008-09 NFL PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
Game played Jan. 10, 2009

OK, so the Cardinals can win on the road. They can win in the Eastern time zone. They can win without Anquan Boldin, they can win by shutting down a prolific offense and they can win in less-than-favorable weather conditions.

Arizona, the NFC West division champion, is advancing to its first NFC title game after defeating NFC South champ Carolina 33-7 in a rainy divisional playoff contest. Larry Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, the Cardinals defense intercepted Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme five times and Arizona scored 23 points off turnovers.

Now, the Cardinals, who had won only two playoff games in 88 years, have posted two postseason victories in two weeks after defeating Atlanta 30-24 Jan. 3.

The beginning was inauspicious for Arizona after Carolina scored the game’s first points on its first possession. Mark Jones returned the opening kickoff 39 yards. Brad Hoover pulled in a Delhomme pass on third-and-7 and ran through four Cardinals to get 7 yards. DeAngelo Williams ran for 31 yards before Jonathan Stewart finished off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run. John Kasay hit the extra point for a 7-0 Panthers lead.

After the teams traded punts, Arizona scored its first points of the night. Fitzgerald leapt for a 41-yard reception, splitting two Carolina defenders, on third-and-1. Tim Hightower caught a 3-yard touchdown out of the backfield from Kurt Warner on third-and-goal, and Neil Rackers booted the point-after to tie the game.

Delhomme was stripped by Antonio Smith on the Panthers’ next possession, and Smith fell on the ball to give the Cardinals possession on the Carolina 13-yard line. Edgerrin James ran for a 4-yard touchdown, and the Rackers kick gave Arizona a 14-7 lead it would not relinquish.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted Delhomme at the Cardinals’ 1-yard line the next time Carolina had the ball. Panthers defender Damione Lewis committed an encroachment penalty and Richard Marshall received an unnecessary roughness penalty before Rackers’ 49-yard field goal extended the Cardinals’ lead to double digits at 17-7.

After a Panthers punt, Fitzgerald caught a pass for 25 yards and made a reception for 17 on third-and-7 before Rackers booted a 30-yard field goal.

Delhomme threw another interception to Arizona’s Gerald Hayes, who returned it to the Panthers 44. Hightower ran for 14 yards before a 29-yard touchdown catch by Fitzgerald. Rackers’ kick gave the Cardinals a 27-7 halftime lead.

Antrel Rolle intercepted a Delhomme throw that ricocheted off Rodgers-Cromartie and Carolina’s Steve Smith and returned it 47 yards to the Panthers’ 26, setting up another Arizona score in third-quarter play. Fitzgerald gained 9 yards on a screen to set up a 33-yard Rackers field goal, stretching the Cardinals’ edge to 30-7.

Carolina failed on a fourth-down conversion attempt and Delhomme threw two more picks, one each to Ralph Brown and Roderick Hood, before the Cardinals put together a 13-play drive to consume over 7 and a half minutes to effectively salt the game away. Hightower picked up 3 and 5 yards on consecutive third-and-1 carries, and then gained 17 on third-and-9. Rackers hit a 20-yard field goal, ending a 33-0 run.

The Panthers closed the scorebook, scoring the night’s final points. Muhsin Muhammad caught a pass for 11 yards on third-and-1, and Stewart hauled in a pass for 18. Muhammad made a reception for 20 yards and Williams ran for 7 yards before an 8-yard touchdown completion to Smith, who emphatically ran through Brown on his way to the end zone. Delhomme threw incomplete on the 2-point conversion attempt, and Fitzgerald recovered the onside kick for the Cardinals to end the night.

Warner completed 21 of 32 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Hightower ran 17 times for 76 yards, while James picked up 57 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

Delhomme hit on 17 of 34 attempts for 205 yards with a touchdown and five picks on his 34th birthday. Williams ran for 63 yards on 12 carries, Muhammad caught five passes for 55 yards and Smith, who did not catch a pass until there were less than 40 seconds remaining in the third period, made two receptions for 43 yards and a score.

Arizona is slated to face the winner of Sunday’s Eagles-Giants contest Jan. 18, with the game to be played in Glendale, Ariz. if Philadelphia wins, or back on the East Coast in Giants Stadium if the NFC’s top seed, New York, is victorious.

NOTES: Boldin was inactive after straining his hamstring last week against the Falcons … The Cardinals had lost 20 of their last 22 games played in the Eastern time zone, and all five this season, including a 27-23 loss at Carolina Oct. 26 … The Panthers came into the game 8-0 at home this season, the only time to finish the regular season undefeated at home.

Video credit – FOX

Friday, January 9, 2009

Gators beat Oklahoma for second title in three seasons

2008-09 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SPECIAL COVERAGE – BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Game played Jan. 8, 2009

The top-ranked Florida Gators won their second national championship in three years and their third in school history with a 24-14 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma in the BCS title game. Tim Tebow threw for 231 yards and ran for 109 more, while Percy Harvin returned from an ankle sprain to post 171 all-purpose yards.

With the score tied at 14 in the fourth quarter, Florida took the lead for good. Harvin ran for a gain of 52 yards, then ran for 12 more. Jonathan Phillips kicked a 28-yard field goal to take a 17-14 lead.

The Sooners were driving on their next possession when Florida’s Ahmad Black ripped the ball away from Oklahoma receiver Juaquin Iglesias’ hands for an interception.

The Gators then finished the Sooners off. Tebow shoveled a pass to Aaron Hernandez for 13 yards, and Riley Cooper caught a pass for 16 yards on third-and-12. David Nelson hauled in a throw for 29 yards, and Tebow hit Hernandez again for 9 on third-and-6. Tebow hit Nelson for a 4-yard touchdown with his patented jump pass, and Phillips’ extra point gave Florida a 24-14 lead.

Oklahoma’s final drive ended when Sam Bradford’s pass was batted away by the Gators’ Joe Haden on fourth-and-4 with just under 2:30 to go.

Florida scored the game’s first points early in the second period on a 12-play, 86-yard drive. Hernandez caught a pass for 7 yards on third-and-5, Harvin made a reception for 15 and Tebow ran for 10 yards before hitting Hernandez for 21 on third-and-3. Louis Murphy pulled in a 20-yard touchdown pass on third-and-9, and Phillips’ boot made it 7-0.

The Sooners then evened the score on their next possession. Chris Brown ran for gains of 16, 14 and 15 yards on successive plays. Quentin Chaney caught a pass for 13 yards before Bradford hit Jermaine Gresham for a 6-yard score. Jimmy Stevens’ extra point knotted the count at 7-7.

Tebow was intercepted by the Sooners’ Gerald McCoy on the Gators’ next possession, but Oklahoma could not capitalize when Brown was stuffed for a loss of 2 on fourth-and-goal from the Florida 1-yard line. Then, on the Sooners’ next possession, Bradford’s pass at the Florida 6 was deflected several times and intercepted by Major Wright with 3 seconds to go in the half.

Florida then took the lead back early in the third quarter. Cooper caught a pass for 11 yards before Tebow ran on the option for 13 and then picked up 15 on third-and-4. Jeffery Demps took an option pitch 11 yards, and a personal foul face-mask penalty on Oklahoma’s Nic Harris set up a Harvin 2-yard touchdown run on a direct snap. Phillips’ kick made the score 14-7, Gators.

Oklahoma was denied again on its next possession when Stevens’ 49-yard field goal attempt was deflected by Florida’s Carlos Dunlap. The play was the Gators’ ninth blocked kick of the season, a school record.

The Sooners did even the score on their first possession of the final frame. Brown ran for 3 yards and a first down and a personal foul was assessed on Florida before Brown caught a Bradford pass for 25 yards down the sideline. Gresham caught a pass for 9 yards on third-and-8, then made an 11-yard touchdown reception, despite losing a shoe. Stevens’ kick tied the score at 14.

Tebow completed 18 of 30 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, running 22 times for 109 yards. Harvin ran nine times for 122 yards and a touchdown, while Hernandez caught five passes for 57 yards, Harvin made five receptions for 49 yards and Murphy caught two balls for 44 and a touchdown.

Bradford hit 26 of 41 throws for 256 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first game after winning this season’s Heisman Trophy. Brown carried the ball 22 times for 110 yards, Gresham made eight receptions for 62 yards and two touchdowns and Iglesias hauled in five passes for 58 yards. Iglesias returned five kicks for 118 yards.

NOTES:
Florida finishes the season with a 10-game winning streak, while the Sooners lost for the first time in their last eight games … Oklahoma has five losses in BCS games in six seasons and has dropped three straight title games, after falling to LSU in the 2004 Sugar Bowl and USC in the 2005 Orange Bowl … This was Tebow’s first multiple-interception game in his college career … Florida finished 13-1, while the Sooners enter the offseason with a 12-2 final mark.

Video credit – FOX

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

No. 23 Louisville wins Big East opener over Bulls, 71-57

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Game played Jan. 7, 2009

The No. 23 Louisville Cardinals won their conference opener for the first time in five years, defeating South Florida 71-57. Earl Clark scored 22 points for the Cardinals to lead all scorers.

Trailing 11-9, Louisville put together a 19-4 run to take the lead for good. Clark scored nine points, Reginald Delk poured in five, Edgar Sosa added three and Terrence Jennings scored two during the run, as Delk, Clark and Sosa all hit 3-pointers, to take a 28-15 lead.

South Florida outscored the Cardinals 11-4 to end the first half to keep the game competitive. Chris Howard scored four points, Jesus Verdejo hit a 3-pointer, and Augustus Gilchrist and Dominique Jones each added two more to bring the Bulls within 32-26 at halftime.

Already leading 49-41, the Cardinals went on a backbreaking 12-2 run midway through the second half to put the game out of reach. Terrence Williams scored four points, Clark hit a 3, Sosa and Samardo Samuels each added two points and Andre McGee made a free throw to give Louisville a 61-43 edge.

The Bulls scored 10 of the game’s final 13 points to make the final result respectable. Eladio Espinosa and Gaby Belardo each scored five points, both posting a 3-point play.

Sosa contributed 12 points for Louisville, while Jones and Gilchrist tied for the South Florida team lead with 11 apiece.

NOTES: Louisville has beaten the Bulls eight straight times and leads the all-time series 22-3 … South Florida has lost eight of its last 10 games … The Bulls are 7-45 in conference play since joining the Big East four years ago … The game was the Cardinals’ first road test of the season … Louisville is one of five Big East teams unbeaten in league play, joining 3-0 Syracuse and Providence and 2-0 Pittsburgh and Marquette … Louisville (10-3, 1-0 Big East) is back in action at Villanova Saturday afternoon, while South Florida (5-9, 0-2) travels to DePaul Saturday afternoon.

Video credit – ESPN2

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Adams, Hurricane storm past No. 23 Ball State, 45-13

2008-09 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SPECIAL COVERAGE – GMAC BOWL
Game played Jan. 6, 2009

When the heavy rain began, Tulsa and Ball State were embroiled in a competitive contest. After the weather cleared, Tarrion Adams and the Golden Hurricane had washed away the No. 23 Cardinals’ dreams of a 13-win season and their first bowl victory.

Adams set school records for career rushing yards and single-season rushing yards and tied the all-time mark for career rushing touchdowns, running for 207 yards and three touchdowns during Tulsa’s 45-13 victory, its second blowout win in the 10th GMAC Bowl in as many seasons after beating Bowling Green 63-7 last year.

The win victory the Hurricane’s 11th, a single-season school record.

Heavy rain began during halftime and continued intermittently during the rest of the game. Wind gusts were reportedly expected to reach 45 miles per hour, while a tornado watch was in effect for the area, expiring early during the game.

With Tulsa leading 24-13 at halftime, the Golden Hurricane scored on their first possession of the half. Adams ran for 14 yards, and quarterback David Johnson hit Damaris Johnson for 27 yards and 22 on a screen. Slick Shelley caught a 15-yard touchdown pass on third-and-7, and Jarod Tracy hit the extra point for a 31-13 lead.

Neither team scored again during the third period, with five punts, before Tulsa punched in another score to open the fourth quarter. Adams ran for 9 yards and a first down before picking up 26. Jamad Williams ran for 6 yards and a first down before Adams dove into the end zone on an 11-yard score. Tracy’s point-after extended the Hurricane advantage to 38-13.

After a Cardinals punt, the Golden Hurricane scored the final points of the night. Damaris Johnson ran for 62 yards before a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Frank. Tracy’s kick set the final count at 45-13.

Tulsa scored the game’s first points after Ball State quarterback Nate Davis was stripped by the Hurricane’s Tanner Antle, and Moton Hopkins recovered the fumble for Tulsa. Adams caught a pass for 9 yards to set up a 30-yard touchdown toss to Damaris Johnson, and Tracy’s boot gave the Hurricane a 7-0 edge.

Davis fumbled again on the ensuing possession, but the Cardinals defense forced a Tulsa punt, and Ball State then cracked the scoreboard. B.J. Hill returned the punt 22 yards to begin the drive. Briggs Orsbon caught a Davis pass for 33 yards on third-and-3 before Davis ran up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown. Ian McGarvey hit the extra point to knot the score at 7-7.

Tulsa then retook the lead for good. The Hurricane began the drive at its own 41-yard line after Damaris Johnson’s 26-yard kickoff return. Adams made a reception for 12 yards on third-and-9 and David Johnson scrambled for 31 yards. Tracy kicked a 31-yard field goal, giving Tulsa a 10-7 advantage.

The Golden Hurricane opened up a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Damaris Johnson caught a pass for 22 yards in the flat, then made a reception for 21 on third-and-12. Adams ran for 17 yards before punching in a 1-yard touchdown, and Tracy made it 17-7.

Ball State cut the deficit back to seven points after a big special-teams play. Tulsa’s Michael Such’s punt was blocked by the Cardinals’ Robert Eddins, and Jeremy Hill recovered for Ball State on the Hurricane’s 23-yard line. McGarvey hit a 40-yard field goal to bring the Cardinals within 17-10.

Tulsa answered immediately. David Johnson ran for 12 yards on third-and-12, Damaris Johnson caught a pass for 13 and Adams ran for a 56-yard score down the sideline. The extra point made the score 24-10, Tulsa.

The Cardinals kept the game competitive going into halftime, scoring the second quarter’s final points. Madaris Grant caught a pass for 24 yards, and Davis ran for 20 yards on fourth-and-5. McGarvey booted a 22-yard field goal with 29 seconds to go in the half, cutting the Ball State deficit to 24-13.

David Johnson connected on 15 of 25 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Damaris Johnson caught six passes for 135 yards and a touchdown, while running for 76 yards on three carries and picking up 63 kick-return yards. Aaron Johnson ran eight times for 57 yards, Williams picked up 55 yards on 12 carries and David Johnson put up 53 yards on 12 carries.

For the Cardinals, Davis completed 9 of 29 passes for 143 yards, with an interception. Orsbon caught three passes for 46 yards, and MiQuale Lewis ran 17 times for 40 yards. Torieal Gibson returned seven kicks for 141 yards.

Ball State, which finished the regular season undefeated before losing the MAC championship game to Buffalo, did not accomplish a first down in the second half.

Adams topped Michael Gunter’s career rushing and single-season rushing marks, while finishing with 32 rushing touchdowns, tying the school all-time mark.

Tulsa amassed 634 total yards, to Ball State’s 224. The Golden Hurricane out-rushed the Cardinals, 441 yards to 81.

NOTES:
Tracy also set Tulsa’s all-time scoring record, finishing with 286 points … The game was Stan Parrish’s head-coaching debut for Ball State, after Brady Hoke left to take the San Diego State job … The Cardinals are 0-5 all-time in bowl games … MAC teams have lost 10 straight bowl games, dating back to 2006 … Tulsa finishes the season with an 11-3 mark, while Ball State comes in at 12-2.

Video credit – ESPN

McCoy, Cosby, Texas come back, 24-21 over Buckeyes

2008-09 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SPECIAL COVERAGE – FIESTA BOWL
Game played Jan. 5, 2009

Quarterback Colt McCoy and receiver Quan Cosby hooked up for two touchdowns, including a 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds to play as the third-ranked Texas Longhorns came back to hold off No. 10 Ohio State 24-21 in the Fiesta Bowl.

Trailing 17-15 late in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes set the stage for Texas’ comeback by reclaiming their first lead since early in the third period. Daniel Herron ran for 6 yards and a first down, Todd Boeckman hit Jake Ballard for 21 yards and Brian Robiskie caught a pass and broke a tackle for a 22-yard gain. Then, with 2:05 to play, Herron busted a 15-yard touchdown run. Rory Nicol dropped starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s throw on the 2-point conversion, leaving the count at 21-17, Ohio State.

Texas then put together an 11-play drive within the final two minutes to seize the lead back. Cosby caught a pass for 7 yards and a first down and Brandon Collins hauled in a McCoy pass for 13 yards on third-and-8 before James Kirkendoll caught a pass for just what he needed on fourth-and-3 to keep the drive going. Collins then made a reception for 14 yards, and McCoy hooked up with a wide-open Cosby behind the Ohio State defense for a 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds to play. Hunter Lawrence hit the extra point, giving the Longhorns a 24-21 lead.

The Buckeyes were given one final chance, beginning on their own 45-yard line after a Texas unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. However, Boeckman was sacked by the Longhorns’ Brian Orakpo for a loss of 10 yards, and Boeckman’s desperation throw on the final play was batted down just shy of the end zone as time expired.

Ohio State drew first blood on its second possession. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor hit Robiskie for 16 yards and a first down. Boeckman spelled Pryor and ran for 1 yard and a first down on third-and-1. Chris Wells ran for 22 yards before Aaron Pettrey booted a 51-yard field goal to give the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead.

After Texas punted, Pettrey missed another 51-yard attempt badly wide left, and the Longhorns tied the score to open the second quarter. James Kirkendoll hauled in a Colt McCoy pass for 13 yards, and Cosby caught a pass and ran for 15 yards. Cody Johnson ran for a yard and a first down and Cosby made a reception for 19 on third-and-10 before Lawrence’s 27-yard field goal.

The Buckeyes reclaimed the lead immediately. Wells ran for 10 yards and caught a pass for 20. DeVier Posey caught a pass for 4 yards on third-and-4, and Wells ran for 24 more before Ryan Pretorius kicked a 30-yard field goal to take a 6-3 advantage.

Ohio State’s defense then made a stand to end the first half and prevent Texas from scoring. Anderson Russell intercepted McCoy’s pass on the Buckeyes’ 1-yard line with 3 seconds to play in the half, preserving a 6-3 halftime lead.

Texas did come out and take its first lead of the game on its first second-half possession. Kirkendoll made a catch for 9 yards on third-and-8 and Ohio State’s Chimdi Chekwa was flagged for pass interference on third-and-11, giving the Horns a first down. Rashad Bobino ran for 2 yards as the up-back on a fake punt on fourth-and-1, and Johnson ran for 2 yards on another fourth-and-1.

An interesting roughing-the-passer call on Ohio State’s Thaddeus Gibson, his second of the night, then set up McCoy’s 14-yard rushing touchdown, spinning away from a Buckeye tackler, and Lawrence’s extra point finished off the 15-play, 80-yard drive to give the Longhorns a 10-6 edge.

Texas looked as though it was beginning to pull away after scoring another touchdown to close the third quarter on another long drive. Cosby caught a pass for 15 yards before Jordan Shipley made successive receptions for first downs of 7 and 20 yards. Foswhitt Whitaker ran for 7 yards and Chris Ogbonnaya picked up 12 off an option pitch. Cosby made a 7-yard touchdown reception in the back of the end zone, and Lawrence’s boot made it 17-6, Texas.

However, the Buckeyes cut their deficit to one possession to begin the fourth period. Boeckman hit a diving Robiskie for 47 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter, and Pettrey drilled a 43-yard field goal to cut the Texas lead to 17-9.

Ohio State then forced a Longhorns punt and scored again, with some help from Texas penalties. Pryor hit Robiskie, who made another diving catch that was confirmed by replay, for 16 yards. Pryor ran for 15- and 26-yard gains. Then, Texas’ Deon Beasley was penalized for pass interference, and Ryan Palmer was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the same play. Boeckman then hit Pryor, split as a wide receiver, on a fade for a 5-yard touchdown. Pryor’s throw for Robiskie was short and incomplete on a 2-point conversion attempt, leaving the score at 17-15, Longhorns.

McCoy threw two touchdown passes, with one interception, and ran for a score. Jordan Shipley caught 10 passes for 78 yards, Collins made seven receptions for 60 yards, Ogbonnaya caught four passes for 46 yards and Kirkendoll hauled in five passes for 41 yards. Ogbonnaya racked up 42 yards rushing on 11 carries.

Boeckman and Pryor rotated under center for most of the night, with Boeckman throwing for 110 yards and a touchdown on 5-for-12 passing. Pryor completed 5 of 13 passes for 66 yards, rushing 15 times for 78 yards.

Chris Wells ran 16 times for 106 yards, despite missing much of the second half. Robiskie caught five passes for 116 yards.

NOTES: Texas has won five straight bowl games … Ohio State has now lost its last three BCS games, while the Big Ten has lost six straight, including Penn State’s loss to USC in the Rose Bowl Jan. 1 … The Buckeyes were playing in the Fiesta Bowl or the BCS national championship game in Arizona for the fifth time since 2002 … The Longhorns finished the season 12-1, while Ohio State ends the year 10-3.

Video credit – FOX

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Defense pilots Ravens to 27-9 road win over Dolphins

2008-09 NFL PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – AFC WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
Game played Jan. 4, 2009

Baltimore has been known for its outstanding defense ever since its Super Bowl XXXV victory. The Ravens lived up to that reputation again, tying a team playoff record by forcing five Miami turnovers, including four interceptions of Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington, in a 27-9 road wild-card victory.

With the score tied 3-3 midway through the second quarter, Baltimore’s special teams and defense combined to force a Miami miscue and turn it into points. Punter Sam Koch’s kick was downed on a team effort by Daren Stone and Brendon Ayanbadejo at the Dolphins’ 6-yard line.

Miami was then stuck in a third-down situation on its own 19 when Pennington’s deep throw was intercepted by the Ravens’ Ed Reed, who returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. Matt Stover kicked the extra point to give Baltimore a 10-3 lead.

After a Dolphins punt, Baltimore opened up a double-digit lead just before halftime. Quarterback Joe Flacco ran for 2 yards and a first down and Derrick Mason caught a pass for 31 to set up a 31-yard Stover field goal with 16 seconds to go in the half.

The Ravens added to the margin after another takeaway in the third quarter. Miami’s Patrick Cobbs was stripped of the ball by Marques Douglas, and Terrell Suggs recovered on the Dolphins’ 19. Mark Clayton caught a pass for 6 yards on third-and-5, and Le’Ron McClain punched in an 8-yard score. Stover’s kick made the score 20-3, Baltimore.

Miami scored its first touchdown in 12 playoff quarters early in the fourth period. The Ravens’ Fabian Washington was penalized for pass interference on third-and-10. Davone Bess caught a pass for 45 before Ronnie Brown made an impressive fingertip 2-yard touchdown catch. Dan Carpenter’s extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the score 20-9.

The Dolphins forced a Ravens punt and were driving toward more points when a critical mistake pushed them out of scoring range. On second down from the Baltimore 25-yard line, Ted Ginn Jr. dropped Pennington’s handoff on an end-around, losing 19 yards before recovering. Miami was then forced to punt, and Derek Smith was penalized 15 yards for kick catch interference.

Baltimore blew the game open immediately. Lorenzo Neal caught a pass for 7 yards out of the backfield on third-and-2 before Willis McGahee stiff-armed and ran his way to a gain of 48. Flacco finished off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal, and Stover made it 27-9.

Miami’s final possession ended when Pennington hit Brandon London for only 9 yards on fourth-and-11, resulting in a turnover on downs.

The Dolphins took the first lead of the contest in the first quarter after forcing a turnover of their own. McClain was stripped by Paul Soliai, and Joey Porter recovered for Miami at the Dolphins’ 49.

Cobbs then caught passes for 11 and 30 yards before Carpenter booted a 19-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

The Ravens knotted the score on their next possession. Miami’s Andre’ Goodman committed illegal contact on third-and-8, giving Baltimore a fresh set of downs. Mason caught a pass for 11 yards and Flacco ran for 2 on third-and-1 before Stover’s 23-yard field goal.

Reed picked off two passes for Baltimore, while Jim Leonhard and Washington each recorded one more. Suggs posted one fumble recovery.

Flacco completed 9 of 23 passes for 135 yards. McClain ran 19 times for 75 yards and a touchdown, while McGahee added 62 yards on seven carries. Mason made four receptions for 71 yards.

Pennington hit 25 of 38 attempts, completing eight straight throws at one point, for 252 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions, a team playoff record. Cobbs caught four passes for 55 yards, Bess made two catches for 54 and Brown had six receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown.

The Ravens will now travel to face the Titans Saturday evening in the divisional round of the playoffs.

NOTES: Baltimore has won 10 of 12 games, while the Dolphins’ five-game winning streak was snapped … The win was the Ravens’ second at Miami this season, after posting a 27-13 victory there Oct. 19 … Baltimore’s five takeaways and four interceptions both tied team playoff records, which were set in the Ravens’ wins over Oakland and the New York Giants in the 2000-01 playoffs, in the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XXXV.

Video credit – CBS; Audio credit – Westwood One

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Collins, Aldrich pace Kansas to 92-85 win over Vols

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Game played Jan. 3, 2009

Needing a marquee victory before beginning conference play, the Kansas Jayhawks did what they have done the last 32 times they have taken the Allen Fieldhouse floor – win.

Behind 26 points from Sherron Collins and 22 points in a double-double for Cole Aldrich, Kansas knocked off No. 14 Tennessee 92-85 to extend the nation’s fourth-longest home-court winning streak to 32 games.

The Jayhawks never once trailed in the game, opening up a 22-9 lead on nine straight made field goals. Aldrich dunked on a follow-up, Collins made a layup despite being on the short end of a 1-on-4 fast break, Collins scored again, Marcus Morris hit a basket, Tyshawn Taylor made a back-door layup, Aldrich scored, Morris hit a free throw, Collins’ 3-pointer from the corner went around the rim and in, Aldrich hit a jumper and Taylor made another layup in transition. A Brady Morningstar 3 capped the 17-4 run to make the score 25-9, Kansas.

Trailing 35-20, Tennessee posted an 11-5 run to end the first half to keep the game competitive. Tyler Smith scored six points, including two free throws after Kansas coach Bill Self drew a technical foul, and Scotty Hopson scored five points to cut the Volunteers’ halftime deficit to 40-31.

Kansas gradually added back to their lead behind several 3-pointers and Aldrich slams, until the Jayhawks led by 17 points, 72-55. Tennessee then put together a 15-5 run to make things interesting down the stretch. Smith hit a free throw and missed his second try, but Bobby Maze hit a 3 off the rebound. Hopson and Wayne Chism each hit 3-pointers, Smith hit two more from the charity stripe and Cameron Tatum drilled a 3 to make it a 77-70 game.

However, the Volunteers drew no closer, as Collins and Aldrich scored 10 combined points down the stretch to salt the game away.

For Kansas, Morningstar and Taylor each netted 12 points, with Aldrich recording 10 rebounds.

Smith led Tennessee with 21 points, while Chism added 17, Maze scored 14 and Hopson poured in 11.

NOTES: This was the first meeting between Kansas and Tennessee … Chism was back in action one game after suffering a bruised spine and elbow in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette Dec. 29 … The Volunteers are 4-7 in their last 11 games against Big 12 opponents … The Jayhawks have not lost at home since a Feb. 3, 2007 loss to Texas A&M; Kansas’ streak is surpassed only by those of BYU, Notre Dame and Tennessee … 10-3 Kansas faces Siena Tuesday night, while the Volunteers host Gonzaga Wednesday night in their final tune-up before SEC play begins. The Jayhawks will have one more non-conference tilt before beginning the Big 12 season – Michigan State.

Video credit – ESPN

Friday, January 2, 2009

2008-09 NFL PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – PREVIEW

The road to Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla. begins Saturday with two wild-card matchups, as Atlanta travels to Arizona at 4:30 p.m. ET and Indianapolis faces San Diego at 8 p.m. Baltimore and Miami go at it Sunday at 1 p.m. before Philadelphia and Minnesota face off at 4:30 p.m.

Four teams have received first-round byes by virtue of strong regular seasons and will host games the following weekend – Tennessee and Pittsburgh out of the AFC and Carolina and the New York Giants representing the NFC.

So, which teams will emerge from the jungle to do battle in Tampa Feb. 1? Last season, one team everyone expected to reach the Super Bowl – then-18-0 New England – and a team which had been forced to win three road playoff games just to reach the title contest, the 12-point-underdog Giants, faced off in the biggest game of the season. Everyone remembers how that one turned out.

Who will pull the surprise this year? Not the Patriots – they missed out on the playoffs despite finishing 11-5, and erstwhile Super Bowl contender Dallas (ZSN’s preseason pick – yes, we’re blushing) also will stay home after losing three of four down the stretch, including a 44-6 humiliation at Philadelphia in the season finale. The Giants? This season, they enter the playoffs as the team to beat, after posting a 12-4 mark and earning the NFC’s top seed. The Titans finished 13-3, while the Panthers, Steelers and Colts all won 12 games.

If last year proved anything, it was this – any team can beat any other team under the bright lights of postseason football.

In the AFC, the big story was the top-seeded Tennessee Titans, who won their first 10 games and finished with a 13-3 mark, winning the AFC South title. Among playoff opponents, they defeated Minnesota and Pittsburgh, won at Baltimore, and split two games with Indianapolis, including a loss in the all-but-meaningless season finale. Quarterback Kerry Collins threw for nearly 2,700 yards and 12 touchdowns, with 7 interceptions, while Chris Johnson rushed for over 1,200 yards and nine scores, with LenDale White punching in 15 touchdowns. Justin Gage led the team in receiving with over 650 yards and 6 scores. They boast a physical defense, led by Keith Bulluck and his 98 tackles. They have a number of injured players that will have a bye week to rest and heal before taking on the lowest-seeded AFC wild-card winner Jan. 10.

The Pittsburgh Steelers took the conference’s No. 2 seed and the AFC North after a loss at Tennessee Dec. 21 in the battle for the AFC top seed. Pittsburgh finished 12-4, losing at Philadelphia, falling to the Giants and Indianapolis, knocking off San Diego and beating Baltimore twice. Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 3,300 yards, 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Willie Parker ran for nearly 800 yards to lead the team in rushing, while Hines Ward posted over 1,000 yards receiving and 7 touchdown catches. James Farrior had 133 tackles and James Harrison added 101, while Troy Polamalu intercepted 7 passes. Pittsburgh will host the higher-seeded wild-card victor Jan. 11.

The Miami Dolphins won the AFC East a season after finishing 1-15 and will host Baltimore, a team they lost 27-13 to back on Oct. 19, Sunday. Miami began 0-2, including a loss to Arizona, but beat San Diego and won five straight to end the season, culminating with a division-clinching win over the Jets in the season finale, to finish with an 11-5 mark. NFL comeback player of the year Chad Pennington, acquired just before the season after the Jets cast him off as an after-effect of winning the Brett Favre sweepstakes, threw for over 3,600 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Ronnie Brown ran for over 900 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Ted Ginn Jr. had 790 yards receiving and Anthony Fasano caught 7 touchdowns to lead the team.

The San Diego Chargers, who host Indianapolis Saturday, thrashed Denver 52-21 Dec. 28 in the season finale in what was essentially a playoff game to determine the AFC West champion. The Chargers were 4-8, with tough losses to Carolina and at Denver to begin the season and other defeats at the hands of Miami, Pittsburgh, the Colts and Atlanta. However, they won their final four games, including the payback win over the Broncos, to finish 8-8 and claim the division title. Philip Rivers passed for over 4,000 yards, 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while LaDainian Tomlinson ran for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. Vincent Jackson amassed nearly 1,100 yards receiving, and Antonio Gates caught 8 touchdown passes. Eric Weddle led the defense with 127 stops.

The 2006 champion Indianapolis Colts started the season 3-4, with a loss to Tennessee and wins over Minnesota and Baltimore, before reeling off nine consecutive wins to end the season, including conquests of Pittsburgh, San Diego and the Titans. Peyton Manning threw for over 4,000 yards, with 27 touchdowns and 12 picks. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes each ran for at least 530 yards and at least 5 touchdowns. Reggie Wayne has over 1,100 yards receiving and 6 scores, and Dallas Clark also has 6 touchdown receptions. Freddy Keiaho and Antoine Bethea each have over 100 tackles, and Gary Brackett and Clint Session are both over 90. The Colts travel to San Diego Saturday.

The 11-5 Baltimore Ravens play at Miami Saturday after a season that included wins over the Dolphins and Philadelphia and losses to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, the Giants, falling twice to Tennessee. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco threw for nearly 3,000 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while Le’Ron McClain ran for over 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. Derrick Mason posted over 1,000 yards receiving. Ray Lewis led the defense with 117 tackles, and Ed Reed intercepted 9 opponents’ passes.

In the NFC, the defending champion New York Giants are back and figure to have a much easier path to the Super Bowl, after claiming the conference’s top seed, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the NFC East title with a 12-4 mark. The Giants started 11-1 and claim wins over Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Arizona, splitting with Philadelphia and losing at Minnesota in the finale. Their overtime win over Carolina Dec. 21 locked up the conference’s No. 1 seed. Eli Manning threw for over 3,200 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward each ran for over 1,000 yards, with Jacobs rushing for 15 scores. Domenik Hixon led the team with nearly 600 yards receiving, and Antonio Pierce totaled 95 tackles. New York will host the higher-seeded NFC wild-card winner Jan. 11.

The Carolina Panthers finished 12-4 and won the NFC South to clinch the conference’s No. 2 seed and a bye, setting them up to host the lower-seeded wild-card conqueror Jan. 10. Carolina defeated San Diego and Arizona, losing to Minnesota and the Giants and splitting with Atlanta. Jake Delhomme threw for nearly 3,300 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while DeAngelo Williams ran for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, with Jonathan Stewart chipping in over 800 yards and 10 scores. Steve Smith posted over 1,400 yards through the air, and Jon Beason made 138 tackles, with Thomas Davis adding 113.

The 10-6 Minnesota Vikings claimed the NFC North with a 20-19 win over the Giants on a last-second Ryan Longwell field goal in the season finale. The Vikes will host Philadelphia Sunday and beat Carolina and Arizona, losing to Indianapolis, Tennessee and Atlanta. Gus Frerotte threw for over 2,100 yards, 12 scores and 15 picks, while Tarvaris Jackson passed for over 1,000 yards, 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Adrian Peterson rushed for over 1,700 yards and 10 touchdowns, fumbling 9 times in the process. Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe each caught 7 touchdown passes, with Berrian posting over 900 yards receiving. Chad Greenway made 115 stops and Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin each had over 90 tackles.

Arizona’s Cardinals clinched the title of the very-mediocre NFC West early and coasted to a 9-7 finish, preparing for their first home playoff game the then-Chicago Cardinals did so in 1947 and their first postseason berth since 1998, when they won at Dallas in the wild-card round. Arizona will host Atlanta after beating Miami and losing to Carolina, the Giants, Philadelphia and Minnesota. Kurt Warner threw for nearly 4,600 yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald led the team with over 1,400 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns, while Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston each had over 1,000 yards receiving and Boldin made 11 touchdown catches. Edgerrin James ran for over 500 yards to lead the team and Tim Hightower punched in 10 touchdowns. Karlos Dansby totaled 119 tackles to lead the defense.

The Atlanta Falcons, who finished 4-12 last season, came in 11-5 under first-year coach Mike Smith and will play at Arizona Saturday. Atlanta knocked off San Diego and Minnesota and lost to Philadelphia, splitting with Carolina. Rookie Matt Ryan passed for over 3,400 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while Michael Turner ran for nearly 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. Roddy White has nearly 1,400 yards receiving, with 7 touchdown catches. Keith Brooking has 102 tackles, and Erik Coleman, Curtis Lofton and Lawyer Milloy all have over 90 stops.

The Eagles of Philadelphia finished 9-6-1, tying Cincinnati, and needed plenty of help on the season’s final day to clinch the NFC’s final spot. However, after Tampa Bay and Chicago lost, Philadelphia hammered Dallas 44-6 Dec. 28 to enter the postseason and set up a date at Minnesota Sunday. The Eagles also beat Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Arizona, losing to Baltimore and splitting two with the Giants. Though Donovan McNabb infamously didn’t know NFL games can end in a tie before the season, he did throw for over 3,900 yards and 23 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Brian Westbrook ran for over 900 yards and 9 touchdowns, while rookie DeSean Jackson has over 900 yards receiving. Stewart Bradley made 108 tackles, while Quintin Mikell has 93 stops.

Super Bowl XLIII Prediction: From the AFC, we’re sticking to our preseason pick from that conference, the Steelers, with a revenge win over the Titans in Nashville, Tenn. In the NFC, it’s hard to pick against the Giants … but we will. Look for Carolina to beat Atlanta for the second time this season and take care of New York in the Meadowlands. Then, in the Super Bowl, we’ll give an edge to the Panthers for their first league title.

But hey, we picked Dallas to win it all back in September, so don’t take our word for it…

Some information used in this report from ESPN.com, NFL.com and CBSSports.com.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Trojans dismantle Penn State, win third straight Rose

2008-09 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SPECIAL COVERAGE – ROSE BOWL
Game played Jan. 1, 2009

The fifth-ranked Southern California Trojans became the first team to win three straight Rose Bowls with a 38-24 win over No. 6 Penn State in the 95th edition of the game. USC’s Mark Sanchez threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns as the Trojans took a 31-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

With the score knotted at 7 apiece early in the second quarter, USC took the lead for good. Sanchez hit Ronald Johnson for 15 yards and Patrick Turner for a gain of 26. Anthony McCoy made a reception for 36 yards before Sanchez scrambled for a 6-yard touchdown on third-and-3, and David Buehler’s extra point gave the Trojans a 14-7 edge.

After a Nittany Lions punt, USC extended its lead by three. Damian Williams caught a pass for 10 yards, with a 15-yard personal foul on Penn State’s Anthony Scirrotto tacked onto the end of the play. Williams made another reception for 35 yards before Buehler’s 30-yard field goal made it 17-7, USC.

The Lions punted once more to set up another Trojans score, on a 10-play drive. Williams hauled in a pass for 14 yards on play-action on third-and-2, then made another reception for 15 and caught a pass for 17 on third-and-13. Johnson caught a 19-yard touchdown pass, and Buehler kicked the point-after to extend the lead to 24-7.

USC punched in a final score before the half ended after Penn State’s Stephfon Green fumbled and the Trojans’ Will Harris recovered. On third-and-1, Sanchez ran for 5 yards. Williams caught a pass for 10 yards, with a face-mask penalty on the Lions’ A.J. Wallace added to the gain. Then, with 36 seconds left in the half, C.J. Gable caught a 20-yard touchdown on a screen, and the kick gave USC a 31-7 halftime lead.

Penn State scored the game’s next points early in fourth-quarter play. Brandon Beachum ran for 8 yards and a first down before Deon Butler hauled in a Daryll Clark pass for 27. USC’s Taylor Mays was flagged for 15 yards on a helmet-to-helmet hit to the Lions’ Jordan Norwood. Dan Lawlor ran for 4 yards and a first down, and on third-and-goal, Clark hit Derrick Williams for a 2-yard touchdown. Kevin Kelly’s point-after cut the Nittany Lions’ deficit to 31-14.

The Trojans answered immediately. Damian Williams caught a pass for 16 yards and Turner made a reception for 27 before a 45-yard touchdown toss to Johnson. Buehler widened the gap back to 38-14.

Penn State scored the final 10 points of the night, making the score look closer than the game seemed. Andrew Quarless hauled in a pass for 11 yards on third-and-6, Butler made a reception for 35 and Green evaded a tackler in the backfield and ran for 26 before Kelly’s 25-yard field goal made the score 38-17, Trojans.

Then, after a Southern Cal punt, Derrick Williams ran for 14 yards and Quarless hauled in a pass for 11. Norwood caught a pass for 17 before making a 9-yard touchdown reception on third-and-8, and Kelly’s boot set the final margin at 38-24.

Penn State had two more chances to put points on the board, but Will Harris and Cary Harris each intercepted Clark, the latter coming with 1 second to play in the game, to defuse the Lions’ final efforts.

The game’s first three possessions ended in punts before USC drew first blood. Gable ran for 9 yards on third-and-2 and Joe McKnight picked up 4 and a first down before the Trojans fortunately escaped a jam – Sanchez was sacked and fumbled, and Penn State recovered; however, the Lions’ Aaron Maybin, who stripped Sanchez, was flagged for an offsides penalty, giving USC the ball back. McKnight ran for 5 yards and another first down and Stafon Johnson ran for 13 on third-and-2 before Damian Williams’ 27-yard touchdown catch. Buehler booted the point-after.

Penn State evened the score on its next drive. Derrick Williams ran for five yards off an option pitch on third-and-2. He then caught a pass for 11 yards and Green made a reception for 15. After Butler caught a pass for 27 yards, Clark ran a draw 10 yards up the middle to the end zone, and Kelly knotted the count at 7-7.

Sanchez hit 28 of 35 attempts, with no interceptions. Damian Williams caught a career-high 10 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown, while Ronald Johnson made four receptions for 82 yards and two scores, Turner had four catches for 74 yards and McCoy caught five balls for 48 yards. Stafon Johnson picked up 63 yards on 15 carries.

Clark completed 21 of 36 passes for 273 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Butler made four receptions for 97 yards, while Green caught five passes for 67 and ran 10 times for 57 yards.

NOTES: USC extended its winning streak against Big Ten opponents to nine, including a 35-3 win over Ohio State Sept. 13 … The Trojans end the season on a 10-game winning streak, going back to their only loss of the season, 27-21 at Oregon State Sept. 25 … Southern Cal was playing in its fourth straight Rose Bowl and its seventh consecutive BCS bowl, while Penn State was in its first Rose Bowl in 14 years … This was the Trojans’ 33rd Rose Bowl, the most in the country, while the Nittany Lions were in the game for the fourth time … Penn State’s Evan Royster suffered a left-knee injury in the first half and did not return … Sanchez became the third player to throw for 400 yards in the Rose Bowl, joining Oregon’s Danny O’Neil, who threw for 456 yards in 1995, and Wisconsin quarterback Ron Vander Kelen, who amassed 401 yards through the air in the 1963 game … Lions coach Joe Paterno coached from the press box after undergoing hip-replacement surgery Nov. 23 … The game was USC’s 50th in the Rose Bowl Stadium; the Trojans are 32-18 all-time in the venue … USC leads the all-time series with Penn State, 5-4 … The 12-1 Trojans finished the season with 11 or more wins for the seventh-straight season, an NCAA record, while Penn State ends the year 11-2.

Video credit – ESPN on ABC