Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kentucky ends Notre Dame’s perfect start, 72-58


After Kentucky’s two-point loss at North Carolina last Saturday and a sluggish first half against Notre Dame, the Wildcats looked like they might be in line for their first two-game losing streak of the John Calipari era.

But after holding the Fighting Irish (No. 23 AP) to one field goal over a 15 ½-minute stretch, Kentucky (No. 17) ended Notre Dame’s undefeated start on the way to a marquee win.

Terrence Jones scored 27 points and snagged 17 rebounds and Brandon Knight added 20 points as the Wildcats beat the Irish 72-58 in Louisville, Ky., in the SEC/Big East Invitational Wednesday night.

Ben Hansbrough led Notre Dame with 21 points. He hit five of his first six 3-pointers, including the 200th of his career, but cooled off along with his teammates in the second half, missing his final three treys.

After Kentucky (6-2) erased Notre Dame’s 11-point lead with a 13-2 run to close the first half, the Wildcats took advantage of an Irish offensive drought to open up a big lead. Jones scored on the first possession of the second half and Knight canned two free throws and a jumper. Darius Miller, Knight and DeAndre Liggins all sank treys to put Kentucky up 56-46 with about 9 minutes left.

Meanwhile, during the 15 ½-minute stretch ending with 9:30 left in the second half, Notre Dame (8-1) was 1-for-13 from the field, which didn’t knock the Irish out of contention but crippled their chances to win.

Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott cut the Kentucky lead to 62-57 with a putback jumper with just over 3 minutes left, but the Irish could get no closer. Jones sank a 3 in the corner and added a pair of free throws. Miller canned one from the charity stripe and Knight and Jones added two more apiece down the stretch to win going away.

The only possible downer for the Wildcats came when Knight hobbled off with 31.5 seconds to go after going down in a pile under the Notre Dame basket, appearing to favor his left leg. He appeared to be receiving treatment for a cramp in front of the Wildcats bench.

The Irish put together the first run of the game, using a 12-2 spurt to take an early lead. Hansbrough drained a pair of 3s and Scott made a thunderous dunk, then hit a layup during the run to give Notre Dame a 27-20 lead.

Notre Dame then opened up a double-digit lead when Hansbrough hit a jumper and a 3-pointer and Tim Abromaitis made a jumper and two free throws, putting the Irish ahead 38-27 with about 4:45 to go in the first half.

But the Wildcats made a 13-2 run to close the half to tie the score at the break. Jones dunked, Stacey Poole Jr. hit a 3, Knight made a layup, Doron Lamb sank a baseline jumper and two free throws and Knight drove the lane and made a floater to tie the score at 40.

Scott scored 10 points for Notre Dame.

NOTES: Kentucky is 42-18 all-time in this series. The Wildcats have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Irish. Their lone loss was in the 2009 NIT quarterfinals, the final game of coach Billy Gillispie’s tenure. … Kentucky is 59-18 all-time at Freedom Hall, the former home of their archrival Louisville. Notre Dame is 11-35 in that building. … This game marked the first time this season the Irish have been outrebounded. Kentucky pulled down 40 boards to Notre Dame’s 33. … The 8-0 start was Notre Dame’s best since 1973-74. … The Irish had won five straight games against SEC opponents, including a victory over Georgia in the Old Spice Classic this season. … Kentucky hosts Indiana Saturday evening. Notre Dame returns to action Saturday night against Gonzaga.


Photo above: Terrence Jones (3) alters Ben Hansbrough's layup attempt Wednesday. (Clay Jackson/Danville Advocate-Messenger)

Video credit – ESPN

Monday, December 6, 2010

Brady hits 250, Patriots deliver beatdown to Jets, 45-3


The AFC’s two best teams couldn’t have looked more different on Monday night, and it appears the New England Patriots aren’t ready to pass on the mantle of AFC East champions to the New York Jets quite yet.

Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, including the 250th of his career, and moved into 13th place all-time as the Patriots turned their date with a fierce division rival into a 45-3 laugher in Foxborough, Mass.

The Patriots (10-2) were never even seriously challenged after scoring on their first three possessions. For the Jets (9-3), nothing went right.

Brady carved up their vaunted defense. The New England backs and receivers broke nearly countless tackles. New England’s pass defense, ranked dead last in the NFL, forced quarterback Mark Sanchez into three interceptions in a span of six passes. The special teams units couldn’t get on track, with an early missed field goal and a couple of poor punts that gave the Patriots strong field position.

Kicker Shayne Graham capped New England’s first drive with a 41-yard field goal into a stiff wind, and after the Jets’ Nick Folk missed a 53-yard try woefully wide left, the Patriots took a two-possession lead. Wes Welker caught a pass for 14 yards on third-and-7 and the Jets’ Eric Smith was flagged for pass interference in the end zone to set up BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1-yard touchdown run.

Jets punter Steve Weatherford then uncorked a 12-yard punt to his own 32-yard line, and on fourth-and-3, the Patriots elected to go for it instead of trying a 43-yard field goal.

Smart choice. Brady found Deion Branch with a short pass left, and Branch took it 25 yards to the end zone for a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Folk and New York broke into the scoring column early in the second quarter. After Braylon Edwards dropped a pass that would have given the Jets a first down on third-and-3 when hit by New England’s Kyle Arrington, Folk hit a 39-yard kick.

New England responded by augmenting its lead on the next possession. Danny Woodhead, who was cut by the Jets this season, caught a pass out of the backfield for 35 yards, Brady ran for the first down on third-and-2 and Green-Ellis picked up 13. Brady rolled left and found a leaping Brandon Tate in the end zone for a touchdown for a 24-3 halftime lead.

Things only got worse for the Jets to begin the second half, with a couple of interceptions turning into long touchdown drives. Patriots rookie Brandon Spikes snuffed out a promising New York drive, picking Sanchez at the New England 2 for his first career interception.

Brady then hit Rob Gronkowski for 12 yards on third down, Aaron Hernandez for 35 and Welker for an 18-yard touchdown down the sideline, capping the 93-yard drive.

Rookie Devin McCourty intercepted a deep Sanchez throw on the Jets’ ensuing drive, and New England marched 94 yards to yet another touchdown. Brady flipped the ball to Woodhead, who ran for 50 yards. Green-Ellis broke several tackles for a gain of 11 before Brady and Hernandez hooked up for a 1-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 38-3 edge.

James Sanders intercepted one more Sanchez throw and returned it 28 yards to the Jets 28 to set up the Patriots’ final points. Green-Ellis ran for 10 yards on fourth-and-inches and finished off the drive, powering into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. Graham’s extra point capped the scoring at 45-3.

The Patriots tied the Falcons (10-2) for the best record in the NFL, while the Jets’ eight-game road winning streak came to an emphatic end.

NOTES: Brady passed Drew Bledsoe to move into 13th place on the all-time touchdown pass list, finishing with 252. … Folk has missed six of his last 12 field goal attempts. … The Jets were playing their first game without safety Jim Leonhard, who is out for the season. … New York has not scored a first-quarter touchdown in the last eight games, the longest drought in the league. … Brady and coach Bill Belichick have won 107 games together, tied for second in NFL history for wins by a quarterback-coach tandem, with Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll. … Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson passed Eric Dickerson to move into sixth place on the all-time rushing list. … The Patriots have won 26 straight home games with Brady under center, the longest streak for a quarterback. … The Jets beat New England 28-14 at home in Week 2. … New York hadn’t trailed by 42 points since losing 45-3 to Miami on Nov. 24, 1986. … New England travels to Chicago Sunday afternoon. The Jets host the Dolphins Sunday.


Photo above: Tom Brady throws Monday night. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Video credit – ESPN

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jags keep pace atop South with 17-6 win at Titans


The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 17-6 victory over the Tennessee Titans was hardly aesthetically appealing, but it made the muddled AFC South playoff picture a bit clearer.

Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a career-high 186 yards, over 100 for the fifth straight game and surpassing the 1,000-yard mark on the season, for the Jaguars in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday.

The Jacksonville (7-5) defense kept Kerry Collins’ Tennessee offense out of the end zone again. The Titans (5-7) haven’t reached paydirt in 13 quarters, the longest such stretch in franchise history.

The Jaguars’ victory ensures they will retain at least a tie atop the AFC South with Indianapolis (6-5), which hosts Dallas later Sunday.

Jacksonville took the lead for good with a pounding first-quarter touchdown drive. Eleven of the 12 plays on the drive were runs – quarterback David Garrard handed Jones-Drew the ball seven times, and Rashad Jennings turned his fourth carry on fourth-and-1 into an 11-yard scoring burst up the middle. Josh Scobee connected on the point-after.

The Jaguars continued to control time of possession and were rewarded when a 13-play second-period drive culminated in another touchdown. Garrard found Greg Jones for 11 yards on third-and-1, Jennings picked up three on third-and-2 and Marcedes Lewis caught a pass for 10 yards to convert third-and-9. Garrard then ran a bootleg left for a 4-yard touchdown.

After Collins threw incomplete for Randy Moss on fourth down, Jacksonville scored once more before the half. Scobee was true from 26 yards out on the final play of the second quarter to give the Jaguars a 17-0 halftime lead.

Tennessee finally got on the board on its first possession of the second half. Collins hit Justin Gage for 25 yards on third-and-10 and Chris Johnson broke free for 21 yards. After a wide-open Bo Scaife dropped a third-down pass inside the Jaguars’ 5, Rob Bironas kicked a 37-yard field goal.

The Titans’ Jacob Ford then blocked a Scobee 49-yard field goal attempt, and Tennessee marched back into scoring range. Jaguars cornerback William Middleton committed pass interference on fourth down to give the Titans a free first down and Jared Cook caught a pass for seven yards on fourth-and-6 before Bironas’ 30-yard boot cut the Tennessee deficit to 17-6.

But, given two more chances with the ball, the weak Tennessee offense couldn’t make anything happen. Collins threw incomplete for Nate Washington on fourth down with about 7 minutes left.

With about 2:50 to go, Collins’ pass was tipped by Daryl Smith and intercepted by Middleton.

Jacksonville was able to run out the clock from there, with Jones-Drew providing a signature play by stiff-arming safety Michael Griffin near the sideline and running for 37 yards.

Johnson also passed the 1,000-yard milestone for Tennessee. He finished with 53 yards on 13 carries.

The Jaguars have won four of their last five games. The Titans’ losing streak, which knocked them out of first place in the division, is up to five.

NOTES: Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was in the booth in what the team called an “advisory role” after undergoing chemotherapy treatment Wednesday. … Collins, who returned from missing two weeks with a right calf injury, was Tennessee’s third starting quarterback in three weeks. Vince Young, who is out for the season with a right thumb injury, and rookie Rusty Smith started the previous two games. … Jacksonville had lost five straight road December games. … Tennessee beat the Jaguars 30-3 in Jacksonville Oct. 18. … The Jaguars’ Mike Sims-Walker was out with a right ankle sprain. … Jacksonville hosts Oakland Sunday. The Titans continue their stretch of three straight home division tilts when the Colts come to town.


Photo above: Maurice Jones-Drew (32) carries the ball as Michael Griffin tries to tackle him. (Frederick Breedon/AP)

Video credit – CBS

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Auburn dominates S. Carolina 56-17 for SEC title


Everyone’s been talking about Auburn quarterback Cam Newton all week, mostly for the wrong reasons.

That talk isn’t likely to decrease. But after the SEC championship game Saturday, it may take on a different tint: Heisman hype.

Game MVP Newton became the second player in NCAA history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season, guiding BCS top-ranked Auburn to an emphatic 56-17 win over South Carolina in Atlanta.

With the win, the Tigers (13-0, No. 2 AP) likely clinched a berth in the national championship game in Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 10. They are projected to face Oregon, which capped a 12-0 regular season with a win over Oregon State Saturday.

As for Newton, who was briefly ineligible this week due to an amateurism violation before the NCAA reversed course and reinstated him for this game? He threw for 335 yards and four scores and ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns and will attempt to ride a strong SEC title game performance to the Heisman Trophy, similar to Alabama’s Mark Ingram’s course to the Heisman last year.

Auburn was up just one touchdown in the last 15 seconds of the second quarter before seizing momentum for good with a stunning play to end the first half. Newton scrambled to the right sideline and flung the ball into the end zone from 51 yards away. South Carolina’s DeVonte Holloman tipped it in the air and the Tigers’ Darvin Adams snagged it for a touchdown as time expired. Wes Byrum’s extra point gave Auburn a 28-14 lead.

South Carolina (9-4, No. 18 AP) took possession to begin the second half, but Spencer Lanning missed a 42-yard field goal wide right, and the Tigers made everything look easy from there out. Newton scrambled left for 25 yards to convert third-and-2 and lofted a pass to Emory Blake for 39 yards up the sideline before finishing off the drive himself with a 1-yard touchdown run.

On the Gamecocks’ ensuing possession, pressured quarterback Stephen Garcia threw the ball right into Auburn’s T’Sharvan Bell’s arms. Bell practically waltzed the 10 yards to paydirt, and Byrum’s boot put the Tigers up 42-14.

One offensive possession later, Auburn put together a grind-it-out-style drive for seven more points. Michael Dyer ran for three first downs, Onterio McCalebb gained 22 yards on a sweep, Dyer and Newton picked up first downs on the ground and Newton hit Blake on a fade for a 7-yard touchdown pass.

After a 33-yard Lanning field goal, Newton and most of the Tigers’ offensive starters came off the field to an ovation, but the Auburn offense wasn’t finished. Backup quarterback Barrett Trotter ran for 34 yards two plays before Mario Fannin ran six yards for a touchdown with 5:26 to go.

Earlier, Auburn opened things up offensively on its first possession to take the first lead of the game. Newton found Adams on play-action on the second play from scrimmage for 62 yards, and a wide-open McCalebb came out of the backfield and caught a 12-yard touchdown pass.

South Carolina evened the score when Garcia found fullback Patrick DiMarco on play-action for a 25-yard touchdown. Newton responded with a 5-yard touchdown run to regain the lead, and after a Gamecock punt, Newton hit Adams, running free up the sideline with a 7-yard lead on defender Stephon Gilmore, for a 54-yard touchdown and a two-touchdown lead.

Lanning and Byrum traded missed field goals before South Carolina made a sustained drive to cut its deficit in half. Marcus Lattimore caught a pass for 26 yards on third-and-9 before Garcia and Alshon Jeffery hooked up for a 1-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half.

Of course, then Auburn took control for good on its way to its seventh SEC title.

Adams caught seven passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers.

NOTES: Newton was declared ineligible by Auburn on Tuesday and reinstated by the NCAA on Wednesday. The NCAA determined Newton’s father solicited payment from Mississippi State during Newton’s recruitment, but that Newton himself knew nothing of the matter. … South Carolina was seeking its first SEC title. It has only won one conference title ever, the ACC crown in 1969. … Auburn leads the all-time series 8-1-1 and has won five straight. … This was Auburn’s sixth game with 50 or more points this season, a school record. … Auburn gained 589 yards, holding the Gamecocks to 349.

Photo above: Cam Newton celebrates Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Video credit – CBS