Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thornton, No. 18 LSU clinch SEC over Kentucky, 73-70

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Game played Feb. 28, 2009

Marcus Thornton poured in 23 points as the No. 18 LSU Tigers took a big lead, fell behind by double digits and came back to clinch the Southeastern Conference regular-season title outright with a 73-70 victory over Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. Saturday afternoon.

The win was LSU’s 10th straight victory and 13th consecutive conference win. LSU also won in Lexington fir the first time since 1989, breaking an 11-game losing streak in Rupp Arena.

Trailing 56-46, LSU scored 24 of the next 34 points to regain the lead. Thornton scored 15, including two 3-pointers and two more 3-point plays. Bo Spencer scored five points, with a 3, while Terry Martin and Tasmin Mitchell each added a basket to claim a 70-66 lead.

The Wildcats did not fold. Kentucky’s Kevin Galloway hit the first of two free throws, but missed the second. However, Patrick Patterson pulled down the rebound, and Darius Miller hit a 3 with 27 seconds to play to knot the count at 70.

LSU found its game-winner from an unlikely source. Mitchell nailed just his 10th 3-pointer of the season with 9.8 seconds remaining to claim a 73-70 lead.

On Kentucky’s final possession, Jodie Meeks airballed a contested 3-pointer with some contact from his defender but no foul called, ending the game.

The Tigers found themselves behind 8-3 at the game’s outset but then went on a 21-4 run to take control early. Mitchell scored 10 points, while Martin and Spencer hit 3s, Thornton and Chris Johnson added baskets and Garrett Temple made a free throw to give LSU a 24-12 lead. The Tigers, after a late Meeks 3, led 36-28 at halftime.

Trailing 38-30, the Wildcats put together a 24-6 run early in second-half play to temporarily take command. Meeks scored nine points, with one 3-point play. Patterson scored six and Miller chipped in five, with Galloway and Perry Stevenson adding baskets to take a 54-44 lead.

Mitchell scored 21 points for LSU, and Spencer chipped in 16.

For Kentucky, Patterson led all scorers with 28 points. Meeks added 24.

NOTES: Kentucky has lost three of its last four games … LSU’s conference winning streak is its longest since dispatching 17 straight SEC foes from 1980-81 … The Wildcats still lead the series 39-5 at home and have won 18 of 21 overall in the series … LSU (25-4, 13-1 SEC) stands alone atop the SEC, while Kentucky (19-10, 8-6) trails 9-4 South Carolina in fourth in the SEC East … The Tigers close out the home portion of their schedule against Vanderbilt Wednesday night, while Kentucky hosts Georgia Wednesday night.

Audio credit – Yahoo! Sports/Big Blue Sports Network

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sun Devils survive late rally, sweep Arizona, 70-68

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Game played Feb. 22, 2009

The No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils knocked off rival Arizona for the second time in as many meetings this season, 70-68, in Tempe, Ariz. Sunday night. Arizona State’s James Harden led all scorers with 18 points.

Arizona State’s Jeff Pendergraph scored the final points of the night, two free throws with 26 seconds to go, to break a 68-68 tie.

Arizona had a couple of opportunities to score in the final seconds, but failed to convert. The Wildcats’ Zane Johnson missed a layup with 9 seconds remaining. Then, after the Sun Devils’ Derek Glasser put up a rare miss on the front end of a one-and-one with 5 seconds left, Arizona’s Nic Wise lost the handle, ending the game.

Leading 29-26, the Sun Devils took control with a 15-8 run to end the first half. Rihards Kuksiks hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions, Harden added two points on a dunk and Pendergraph hit a free throw before Glasser nailed a 3 to end the half with a 44-34 Arizona State lead.

Arizona State then put together a 10-0 spurt early in the second period to extend its lead to 17. Harden scored six points on a 3-pointer and an old-fashioned 3-point play, Glasser added a basket in transition and Pendergraph dunked for a 54-37 edge.

However, Arizona soon embarked on a 23-4 run to take a late lead. Wise led the charge with eight points and two 3-pointers, while Horne chipped in five with a 3, Kyle Fogg and Johnson each hit 3s and Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill added two points each. Horne’s 3 from the corner with just over 4 minutes to go gave Arizona a 62-60 advantage, its first lead since approximately the 16-minute mark in first-half play.

Arizona State did not fold. Harden put back a follow shot to tie the score. Kuksiks then hit two more 3-pointers down the stretch, while Wise made a pair of free throws and Hill scored twice, his final put-back tying the score at 68.

Kuksiks netted 17 points for Arizona State, while Pendergraph posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Wise led Arizona with 17 points. Fogg and Hill each scored 14, and Budinger contributed 13.

NOTES: Arizona State has now won four straight in the series, including a 53-47 win at Arizona Jan. 21. It is the longest such streak since ASU put the finishing touches on a nine-game run in 1983 … The Sun Devils extended their overall winning streak to five games, while the Wildcats’ seven-game streak came to an end … Arizona’s Garland Judkins and D.J. Shumpert were suspended for the game for failing to meet team obligations … Arizona State is 11-2 at home this year, while Arizona is 2-7 in road play … The meeting was the 215th of the series … Arizona State (21-5, 10-4 Pac-10) is in second place in league play and returns to action Thursday night at first-place Washington, which is 11-4 in the conference. The Wildcats (18-9, 8-6) man fifth place in the league and travel to Washington State Thursday night.

Audio credit – Yahoo! Sports/Arizona Wildcats Sports Network

Saturday, February 21, 2009

UNLV rides six-run inning to 9-5 victory over Maine

COLLEGE BASEBALL
Game played Feb. 21, 2009

The UNLV Rebels clinched at least a split of their season-opening series with Maine with a 9-5 win in the opener of a doubleheader in Las Vegas Saturday afternoon.

Trailing 5-3 after the Black Bears plated two runs in the top of the seventh inning, UNLV sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs to take control. Maine reliever Justin Latta allowed back-to-back singles to the first two Rebels he faced, Anthony Morel and Bryan Resnick, and walked J.J. Sferra to load the bases before giving way to pitcher Alejandro Balsinde.

UNLV’s Scott Berke then greeted Balsinde with a bases-clearing double to center field, giving the Rebels a 6-5 lead. Berke later scored on a Balsinde balk, and Drew Beuerlein hit a two-run, two-out double to the center field wall, scoring Jesse Wight, who had walked, and Ryan Thornton, who had reached on an infield single off Maine third baseman Jarrett Lukas’ chest. At the end of the inning, UNLV led, 9-5.

The Rebels drew first blood in the third inning. Maine starter Matt Jebb hit Resnick with a pitch to begin the frame, and Berke singled with one out to left. Rance Roundy then tripled to left past a diving Taylor Lewis, and Resnick and Berke came around to score. Roundy crossed the plate on a Wight groundout, giving UNLV a 3-0 edge.

The Black Bears dented the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. Myckie Lugbauer led off with a single to center off UNLV starter Andrew Beresford and scored on a Kyle Stilphen sacrifice fly. Kevin McAvoy walked and came around on a wild pitch, cutting the Maine deficit to 3-2.

Maine then drew even in the top of the fifth. With the bases loaded, Rebels reliever Matt Hutchison issued a free pass to Joey Martin, forcing in Billy Cather to tie the game.

The visitors looked poised to win their first game of the season after a seventh-inning rally. Danny Menendez drew a leadoff walk, took second on a Cather bunt single and scored when Roundy misplayed Lugbauer’s single to the outfield. Cather then scored on McAvoy’s double-play ball, taking a 5-3 advantage the Maine bullpen proved unable to hold.

Berke led the 10-hit UNLV attack with a 3-for-4 afternoon, with three RBI. Beresford, a freshman making his college debut, went 4 2-3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits, with three walks and four strikeouts. Hutchison (1-0) pitched 4 1-3 frames out of the bullpen to get the win, yielding two runs on five hits with three punchouts and two walks.

Lugbauer had three of Maine’s 10 hits, while Cather also provided two base knocks. Jebb pitched six innings, with three runs on five hits, two walks and two strikeouts. Latta (0-1) did not retire any of the three batters he faced and took the loss, allowing three runs on two hits and a walk. Balsinde and Ryan Forrest each also worked an inning out of the bullpen.

The second game of the double-header ended too late for this edition.

NOTES: UNLV now leads the all-time series 5-0, after sweeping Maine in a three-game set last season … The Rebels open the year with 14 straight home games, while the Black Bears are in the midst of an 18-game stretch away from home … After Saturday’s nightcap, the four-game set ends with a Sunday afternoon contest.

Audio credit – Yahoo! Sports/Black Bears Sports Network

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2009 COLLEGE BASEBALL SPECIAL COVERAGE -- SEASON PREVIEW

Could it possibly already be that time again?

The 2009 NCAA Division I college baseball season will get underway tomorrow, nearly eight months after Fresno State pulled huge upset after huge upset on its way to winning the College World Series title.

So though many northern campuses are still subject to snow and ice, it’s time to play ball.

Texas A&M is the nation’s top-ranked team in the Baseball America preseason polls and is joined by three other Big 12 teams in the top 10, tying the Southeastern Conference for most overall selections with five. LSU, North Carolina, Texas and Cal State Fullerton round out the top five in the poll.

But if last year taught college baseball fans anything, none of that will matter once the chips are down in late June in Omaha, Neb.

1. Texas A&M – The Aggies top the nation’s preseason poll one year after finishing 46-19 and winning their home regional before falling to rival Rice in the Houston Super Regional. Senior first baseman Luke Anders, senior outfielder Kyle Colligan, senior reliever Kyle Thebeau and junior reliever Travis Starling were each named to the preseason All-Big 12 team. Anders hit .349 with 16 homers last season, while Colligan batted .317 with 14 dingers. Thebeau posted a 2.12 ERA last season, and Starling finished with an 8-2 record and nine saves. Barret Loux returns a year after recording 81 strikeouts.

2. Louisiana State – The Tigers will open the new Alex Box Stadium a season after posting a 49-19-1 record and finishing on a near-miraculous tear just to make the conference tournament, then parlaying that run all the way through their home regional and a comeback series victory over UC Irvine in the Baton Rouge (La.) Super Regional to the College World Series. Eight of the 10 Tiger position players who started at least 30 games return, including junior outfielder Blake Dean, who hit .353 with 20 home runs, and junior infielder Ryan Schimpf, who batted .320 with 12 jacks. Senior Louis Coleman returns on the mound after going 8-1, largely in relief, with a 1.95 ERA.

3. North Carolina – The Tar Heels will begin their time at the new Boshamer Stadium and look to make their fourth consecutive trip to Omaha after sweeping through the Cary (N.C.) Regional and Super Regional and finishing 54-14. Junior first baseman/outfielder Dustin Ackley was named the ACC preseason player of the year after hitting .417 last season, and junior Alex White is the preseason pitcher of the year a season after posting a 13-3 mark with a 2.83 ERA, over 100 innings pitched and 113 punchouts. Sophomore pitcher Matt Harvey and junior infielder Kyle Seager are also preseason all-ACC after Harvey went 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA and 80 strikeouts and Seager hit .347 with 75 RBI.

4. Texas – The Longhorns will try to return to national prominence a year after finishing 39-22 and being eliminated by Rice in the Houston Regional. They do not return much offensive power, but junior outfielder/designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer, who hit .355, and senior infielder Michael Torres, who batted .354, are back. Sophomore Chance Ruffin will lead the staff a year after finishing 8-3 with a 1.96 ERA and 82 strikeouts, while senior Austin Wood returns after leading the staff in innings last year and going 7-3.

5. Cal State Fullerton – The Titans look to get back to the College World Series after winning their host regional but getting swept at home in the Fullerton (Calif.) Super Regional by Stanford and posting a 41-22 mark. Junior outfielder Josh Fellhauer hit .335 last year, while sophomore infielder Christian Colon batted .329. Sophomore Daniel Renken is the lone returning member of Fullerton’s starting weekend rotation and finished 5-5 last year with 80 strikeouts.

6. Mississippi – Ole Miss is back a season after posting its sixth straight tournament appearance, falling to Miami (Fla.) in the Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional championship and finishing 39-26. Senior pitcher Scott Bittle is a preseason all-American a year after posting a 7-1 mark with a 1.78 ERA and 130 strikeouts, also leading the team in saves with eight. Senior outfielder Logan Power hit .329 last year, while sophomore first baseman Matt Smith knocked 14 homers for the Rebels in 2008.

7. Rice – The Owls posted a 47-15 record last season, winning the Houston Regional and sweeping Texas A&M in the Houston Super Regional en route to Omaha. Bespectacled junior staff ace and preseason all-conference pitcher Ryan Berry is back a season after finishing 8-5 with a 3.63 ERA and leading the team in strikeouts (86) and innings pitched (104). Also representing Rice on the all-C-USA team is junior catcher/infielder Diego Seastrunk, who led the team with a .353 batting average last season and 61 RBI, and sophomore infielder Rick Hague, who was a freshman all-American and hit .348.

8. Baylor – The Bears find themselves with their highest preseason ranking in program history, despite missing the 2008 tournament altogether with a 32-26 record. Junior infielder Shaver Hansen led the team with a .326 average last season, while senior first baseman Adam Hornung hit .320. Junior Willie Kempf and sophomore Shawn Tolleson tied for the team lead with six wins apiece last year.

9. UC Irvine – The Anteaters followed up their stunning 2007 run to Omaha with a victory over Oral Roberts in the Lincoln (Neb.) Regional and a hard-fought loss to host LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional to finish 42-18. Junior infielder Jeff Cusick returns after batting .363 last season, and senior infielder Ben Orloff hit at a .344 clip. Junior Daniel Bibona went 9-3 with a 3.08 ERA, 97 strikeouts and 102 innings pitched, while junior Eric Pettis recorded 17 saves with a 4-3 mark and a 2.62 ERA.

10. Missouri –
Mizzou went 39-21 last season and was eliminated by Ole Miss in the Coral Gables Regional. Junior outfielder Aaron Senne hit .347 with 13 homers and 67 RBI last season, while senior outfielder Ryan Lollis batted .339. Junior Kyle Gibson returns to lead the pitching staff after finishing 9-4 with a 3.84 ERA and 96 strikeouts last year.

11. San Diego – The Toreros finished 44-17 last season, falling to Fresno State in the Long Beach (Calif.) Regional. All-American junior closer A.J. Griffin posted a 1.96 ERA with 14 saves and 49 strikeouts in 49 innings, while second-team all-American Kyle Blair went 8-4 with 99 punchouts. Junior infielder James Meador led the team in average and RBI by hitting .374 with 57 RBI, while senior infielder Jose Valerio hit .336 and sophomore third baseman Victor Sanchez cranked 12 homers.

12. UCLA – The Bruins will try to reach the postseason for the fourth consecutive season for the first time in school history after finishing 33-27 and falling twice to Cal State Fullerton by a total of four runs to lose the Fullerton Regional. Junior infielder Casey Haerther hit .324 with 12 long balls and 52 RBI, while junior pitcher Charles Brewer, who went 9-4 to lead the team in wins, returns on the mound, where Gavin Brooks was 6-3.

13. Arizona State – The Sun Devils won their host regional but fell to Fresno State in the Tempe (Ariz.) Super Regional, posting a 49-13 mark. Junior outfielder/infielder Jason Kipnis returns after hitting .371 with 14 homers and 73 RBI, while junior infielder Raoul Torrez batted .341. Junior Mike Leake will be expected to lead the staff after going 11-3 with a 3.49 ERA, over 120 innings pitched and 104 strikeouts last year.

14. Georgia – The Bulldogs are coming off their third trip to Omaha in five years, finishing 45-25-1 after winning their home regional, knocking off North Carolina State in the Athens (Ga.) Super Regional and finishing as the national runner-up to Fresno State in the CWS championship series. Junior infielder Rich Poythress, who batted .374 with 15 home runs and 75 RBI, and junior reliever Alex McRee, who went 7-1 with 65 strikeouts in 61 innings, are preseason all-Americans. Senior catcher/infielder Bryce Massanari hit .325 with 11 home runs and 65 RBI, and senior Trevor Holder was 8-4 to lead the staff in wins.

15. Stanford – The Cardinal won its home regional and swept Cal State Fullerton in the Fullerton Regional on its way to the College World Series and a 41-24-2 final record. Senior outfielder Joey August is back after hitting .323 last season, and senior first baseman/catcher Brent Milleville batted .289 with 11 homers. Junior Jeffrey Inman was 7-2 last season, while sophomore Drew Storen returns after posting a team-high eight saves and going 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA.

16. Oklahoma –
The Sooners went 36-26-1 last season, parlaying a run in the Big 12 tournament to a bid in the Tempe Regional, where it fell to Arizona State in the final contest there. Sophomore outfielder Casey Johnson hit .346, and junior outfielder Jamie Johnson batted .344. Junior Andrew Doyle led the team in wins with a 9-4 record and just over 99 innings pitched, while sophomore Ryan Duke posted a 3.77 ERA with a 7-5 mark.

17. Pepperdine – The Waves finished 2008 at 38-21 after falling to Stanford in the championship of the Stanford (Calif.) Regional. Senior infielder Bryce Mendonca hit .332, while junior infielder Ryan Heroy batted .309. Senior Nathan Newman went 8-4 with a 3.46 ERA and a team-high 70 strikeouts, and sophomore Scott Alexander posted a 7-4 record. Senior closer Nick Gaudi saved 15 games, went 5-1 and put up a 2.68 ERA.

18. Kent State – The Golden Flashes open the season in the top 25 after having missed tournament play last season with a 36-21 record, falling as the top seed to Eastern Michigan in the MAC tournament. Senior infielder Chris Tremblay hit .359, while senior infielder Greg Rohan batted .355 with a team-leading 20 homers and 61 RBI. Junior Kyle Smith went 9-1, while sophomore reliever Justin Gill was 5-0.

19. Clemson – The Tigers missed tournament play last year after putting up a 31-27-1 mark. Junior infielder Mike Freeman hit .332, while preseason third-team all-American Ben Paulsen batted .310 with 13 homers. Sophomore Graham Stoneburner posted a 6-5 record, and senior Matt Vaughn recorded 11 saves and struck out 43 over 40 innings with a 3.15 ERA.

20. Georgia Tech –
The Yellow Jackets were in the driver’s seat of the Athens Regional last season but fell to bitter rival Georgia in the championship, finishing with a 41-21 record. Sophomore outfielder Jeff Rowland hit .335, and sophomore shortstop Derek Dietrich batted .332 with 14 long balls and 66 RBI. Sophomore Deck McGuire was 8-1 with a 3.46 ERA, and junior Zach Von Tersch went 7-5.

21. Alabama – The Crimson Tide was blown out by East Carolina to end its season at 35-28 in the Conway (S.C.) Regional last year. Sophomore infielder Ross Wilson is a preseason all-American after batting .295 with 15 jacks, while sophomore infielder Josh Rutledge led the team in hitting at .369 last year. Senior Austin Hyatt went 5-4 with 80 strikeouts last season, and junior Austin Graham posted a 6-2 mark and saved four games, striking out 63 batters over 61 2-3 innings.

22. Arkansas – The Razorbacks went 34-24 last season en route to losing their only two games in the Stanford Regional, being eliminated by the host Cardinal. Senior infielder/outfielder Chase Leavitt hit .366, while senior infielder Ben Tschepikow batted .301 Junior Dallas Keuchel will return after going 4-3 last year for the Hogs, while junior reliever Mike Bolsinger went 4-1 with a 3.73 ERA and 39 strikeouts in just over 31 innings.

23. Louisville –
The Cardinals were swept out of the Athens Regional, knocked out by host Georgia, last season, and finished 41-21. Junior third baseman and preseason all-American Chris Dominguez hit .365 with 21 homers and 75 RBI, and senior shortstop John Dao batted .356. Junior Justin Marks went 9-2 with a 2.37 ERA and 89 punchouts, while junior Matt Lea was 5-0, mostly in relief, with a 2.72 ERA.

24. Florida State –
The Seminoles won their home regional and took out Wichita State in the Tallahassee (Fla.) Super Regional, advancing to Omaha, where they were eliminated by bitter rival Miami (Fla.), finishing 54-14. Sophomore infielder Stuart Tapley hit .383, and senior infielder Tommy Oravetz batted .361. Sophomore pitcher/outfielder Mike McGee went 7-1 on the mound, while senior Bo O’Dell was 5-1, mostly in relief.

25. Oregon State – The Beavers missed the tournament last season after winning two straight national titles, posting a 28-24 final mark. Junior catcher/first baseman Ryan Ortiz hit .351 with 55 RBI last year, and senior outfielder John Wallace batted .326. Junior Jorge Reyes was 4-3 last season on the hill a year after being named the CWS’ most outstanding player, while sophomore closer Kevin Rhoderick saved 12 games, posted a 2.39 ERA and struck out 32 batters over 26 1-3 frames.

Harris, Anderson, Cowboys hold off Texas Tech, 92-82

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Game played Feb. 18, 2009

Terrel Harris scored a career-high 27 points and James Anderson added 24 as the Oklahoma State Cowboys held off a furious Texas Tech rally to win 92-82 in Lubbock, Texas Wednesday night.

With the score tied at 11, Oklahoma State took control with a 34-17 first-half run. Harris scored 13 points during the run, hitting two 3-pointers. Obi Muonelo added nine with two 3s, Anderson tossed in seven with a trey, Keiton Page drilled a 3 and Nick Sidorakis added a basket to give the Cowboys a 45-28 lead.

The Cowboys then seemingly put the game out of reach with a 19-7 run beginning early in the second period to stretch their advantage to 25. Anderson and Harris each scored six points, with Anderson dropping in two 3-pointers, Muonelo hit a 3 and Marshall Moses and Byron Eaton each scored a basket to make it a 66-41 contest.

However, Texas Tech then turned it on to the tune of a 25-6 run to cut its deficit to six points. Mike Singletary scored 14 points during the spurt, including a 3-point play. Nick Okorie added seven, with a 3, and John Roberson and Michael Prince each contributed two points to cut the Cowboy lead to 74-68 with over four minutes to go.

The squads then began to trade baskets, running the count to 81-75, before Anthony Brown, Anderson and Eaton hit seven straight free throws for Oklahoma State while holding the Red Raiders scoreless to take back a 13-point edge, ultimately winning by a 92-82 margin.

Muonelo chipped in 16 points for Oklahoma State, while Eaton scored 14. Moses pulled down 12 rebounds.

Singletary led Texas Tech with 24 points. Okorie added 17, and Robert Lewandowski and Alan Voskuil each netted 12.

NOTES: Voskuil eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career in the game. His career total now stands at 1,010 … Oklahoma State is 12-0 this season when out-shooting its opponent from the field … The Cowboys swept the regular-season series after taking an 81-80 home decision Feb. 4 … Oklahoma State now leads the all-time series, 31-13 … The Cowboys (16-9, 5-6 Big 12) are now seventh in the conference standings, chasing 11-0 Oklahoma, while the Red Raiders (12-14, 2-9) are tied with Iowa State for 10th in the league … Oklahoma State hosts Baylor Saturday afternoon, while Texas Tech returns to action against Texas A&M Saturday night.

Audio credit – Yahoo! Sports/Cowboy Sports Network

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Late Holmes touchdown give Steelers sixth title, 27-23

2008-09 NFL PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – SUPER BOWL XLIII
Game played Feb. 1, 2009

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes for a 6-yard touchdown with 35 seconds to play as the Steelers won their NFL-most sixth Super Bowl with a 27-23 victory over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla. Sunday.

Trailing 23-20 after Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner led a furious Arizona comeback, Roethlisberger hit Holmes for 13 yards on third-and-6 to get Pittsburgh’s final drive rolling. Nate Washington made a reception for 11 yards and Holmes caught a pass for 40 before catching the scoring toss on second down, in the back corner of the end zone while being shoved by Cardinals defender Aaron Francisco. The play was upheld by review, and Jeff Reed’s extra point gave Pittsburgh a 27-23 edge.

The Cardinals, making their first Super Bowl appearance, began to drive again, with Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Arrington each catching Warner throws for first downs, but with 15 seconds to play, Warner was stripped of the ball by the Steelers’ LaMarr Woodley, and Brett Keisel recovered the ball for Pittsburgh with 5 seconds left to end the game.

The Steelers struck first on their first possession of the night. Hines Ward caught a pass for 38 yards, Willie Parker ran for 1 and a first down and Heath Miller made a reception for 21. Roethlisberger then ran for what appeared to be a 1-yard touchdown, but Arizona challenged the ruling and the call was overturned, eventually forcing Pittsburgh to settle for an 18-yard Reed field goal to break on top, 3-0.

After an Arizona punt, Pittsburgh took a double-digit lead to open the second period. Holmes caught a pass for 25 yards before Miller made a reception for 11 on third-and-10 and then caught a pass for 11 more. Holmes snagged a pass for 7 yards and a first down to set up a 1-yard Gary Russell touchdown run. Reed’s boot gave Pittsburgh a 10-0 lead.

The Cardinals got on the board on the ensuing possession. Warner hit Edgerrin James for 10 yards, Steve Breaston caught a pass for 7 and James made another reception for 11. Anquan Boldin then broke deep for a 45-yard reception before Warner tripped but still found Ben Patrick for a 1-yard touchdown catch, his first of the season, and Neil Rackers cut the Steeler lead to 10-7.

A Roethlisberger throw was deflected by Arizona’s Bryan Robinson and intercepted by Karlos Dansby to give Arizona a late-first-half opportunity, and the Cardinals were driving when the Steelers’ defense stepped up and made a huge play. From the Pittsburgh 1-yard line, Warner threw and interception to James Harrison on the goal line, who returned it 100 yards for a touchdown, the longest play in Super Bowl history, on the final play of the half. Reed’s extra point gave Pittsburgh a 17-7 advantage at the half.

Pittsburgh looked to take control for good by extending its lead on its first possession of the third quarter. Arizona’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie committed a face-mask personal foul penalty, giving the Steelers a first down. Ward caught a pass for 5 yards on third-and-1, then Dansby was flagged for roughing the passer, giving Pittsburgh another first down. Holmes made a reception for 15 yards and Parker ran for 15 when Adrian Wilson drew another Arizona personal foul by running over Steelers holder Mitch Berger on a reed field-goal attempt. Reed eventually hit a 21-yard field goal to make the score 20-7, Pittsburgh.

Arizona began its comeback early in the fourth period. Breaston made a reception for 13 yards, Jerheme Urban caught a pass for 18 and Arrington hauled in a pass for 22. Warner then hooked up with Fitzgerald for 18 yards before a 1-yard touchdown to Fitzgerald on a jump ball on third-and-1. Rackers’ boot cut the Cardinal deficit to 20-14.

After the Pittsburgh defense stopped Arizona with just under 3 and a half minutes to play, the Cardinals elected to punt, and the move paid off. Ben Graham’s punt was downed by Michael Adams at the Steelers’ 2, and a personal foul on Harrison pushed the ball back to the 1.

Then, on third-and-10, Pittsburgh offensive lineman Justin Hartwig was penalized for holding in the end zone, an automatic safety, cutting the Steeler lead to 20-16 and giving the Cardinals possession.

Arizona took the lead on its second play of the drive. Warner hit a wide-open Fitzgerald, who simply outran the defense for a 64-yard score with 2:37 to play. Rackers’ boot made the score 23-20, Cardinals.

Roethlisberger completed 21 of 30 passes for 256 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Holmes, named the game’s MVP, caught nine passes for 131 yards, with a touchdown, while Miller made five receptions for 57 and Ward, playing after spraining his knee against Baltimore in the AFC title game, made two catches for 43. Parker ran 19 times for 53 yards.

Warner, who was attempting to become the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different teams after a victory with St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXIV, hit on 31 of 43 attempts for 377 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Fitzgerald extended his NFL record for NFL receiving yards in a single postseason with 127 yards on seven catches, with two touchdowns. Boldin made eight receptions for 84 yards, and Breaston caught six passes for 71 yards.

NOTES:
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, 36, became the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl and the second black coach to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy, after the recently-retired Tony Dungy did so with Indianapolis after Super Bowl XLI … The game was the Steelers’ seventh Super Bowl; only Dallas, with eight, has more appearances, with five victories … Fitzgerald posted 546 receiving yards during the postseason and, with his Super Bowl effort, became the first NFL receiver with four straight 100-yard receiving playoff games … Graham became the first Australian-born player to appear in a Super Bowl … The Super Bowl win was Pittsburgh’s second in four season, after defeating Seattle to win Super Bowl XL … Arizona’s four-game winning streak ended with the loss.

Video credit – NBC