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    Ezekiel Elliott will return from suspension to a Dallas Cowboys team still in the playoff hunt thanks to a first down gained by the width of an index card and a fumble just shy of the end zone.Dan Bailey kicked the go-ahead, 19-yard field goal after Dak Prescott converted a fourth-down sneak by the slimmest of margins and the Cowboys survived a last-minute drive by Oakland when Derek Carr fumbled just short of the end zone to give Dallas a 20-17 victory Sunday night in their final game without Elliott.After losing the first three games with Elliott sidelined for his domestic violence suspension, the Cowboys (8-6) have won three straight to get back into contention heading into the final two-game stretch against Seattle and Philadelphia.'He gives us an extra boost because of his personality and who he is,' receiver Dez Bryant said. 'He gets guys going with his attitude, the passion and love for the game. Just seeing him back will make us play that much more harder. Can't wait.'Dallas is in a three-way tie for seventh place in the NFC, a half-game behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot. The Falcons, who play at Tampa Bay on Monday night, beat the Cowboys head-to-head.Elliott's return wouldn't have been nearly as meaningful if not for a crazy final five minutes that gave Dallas the win over Oakland (6-8).The first key play came when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 39 with about five minutes left in a tie game. Prescott ran into a pile that took officials time to untangle.Referee Gene Steratore then called for the chains to come out, but even that wasn't clear. He then tried to slide an index card between the tip of the ball and the end of the chain. When the card didn't slide through, Steratore signaled a first down for Dallas (8-6). He said he had decided it was a first down before the odd measurement and said the card only was a 'reaffirmation of what was visually done.'I had a different viewpoint. I saw air,' Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. 'It was pretty obvious. Again, they do the best they can with a tough job.'Prescott then hit Bryant with a 40-yard pass that set up Bailey's short kick with 1:44 to play that gave the Cowboys the lead.But the game was far from over. The Raiders (6-8) got a gift when Jourdan Lewis committed a 55-yard pass interference penalty on a fourth-and-10 from their own 30. Carr then scrambled on third-and-3 from the 8 and reached out for the end zone. But the ball came loose before crossing the goal line and went out of the end zone for a touchback that all but ended Oakland's playoff hopes . The Raiders are tied for ninth in the AFC.'I tried to hold onto it,' Carr said. 'It wasn't like I didn't try. But there's obviously a lot of different things, throw it away, kick a field goal, run out of bounds. OK, cool. But in that moment I was just trying to win for my teammates.'Here are some other takeaways:SAME REF, DIFFERENT RESULT: Steratore was part of another famous call that went against the Cowboys. In a playoff game in Green Bay following the 2014 season, Bryant appeared to catch a fourth-down pass that would have put Dallas in position for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. Steratore ruled on replay that Bryant didn't complete the process of the catch and Cowboys lost the game.'I know he still thinks about that (call) when he goes to sleep at night,' Bryant said of Steratore. 'But we got that 'W' tonight so I guess that replaces that. Well, nothing replaces that.'MISSING CRAB: Michael Crabtree caught two TD passes and drew the key pass interference penalty on the final drive but wasn't on the field for Oakland's final play. The officials pulled Crabtree out because of suspicion that he might have a concussion. That forced Oakland to change its play and left Crabtree upset after the game when he was cleared of any potential concussion.'I just don't understand why they took me out of the last play of the game,' he said. 'They put me in concussion protocol like two plays after the pass-interference call. I don't know. I'm lost. I don't understand.'DAK'S STRUGGLES: Prescott was far from sharp, throwing two interceptions no touchdowns and posting a 59.5 passer rating that was his lowest ever in a win. The last time Dallas won a game where the offense threw for no touchdowns and had at least two interceptions was Dec. 3, 2006, at the Giants with Tony Romo at quarterback.___More AP NFL: pro32.ap.org and twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers still can't figure out how to cover Rob Gronkowski. The AFC East still can't figure out how to catch up with the New England Patriots. And now any AFC team that wants to do it in the playoffs will likely have to do it in Foxborough.Good luck with all that.The defending Super Bowl champions remain a tough out regardless of circumstance. The proof came to life in a 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in which they rallied from an eight-point deficit to score twice in the final 4 minutes to lock up their record ninth straight division title.Six days removed from an ugly loss in Miami, the Patriots (11-3) ended Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak with a late goal line stand and a dive into the NFL rule book by referee Tony Corrente that overturned Pittsburgh's apparent game-winning touchdown.And no, New England head coach Bill Belichick insists, as the years pass and the Patriots remain above the fray, luck has nothing to do with it.'Just keep competing,' Belichick said. 'Just keep competing for 60 minutes. That's what you do. Just keep competing.'Nobody does it better than the Patriots (11-3). Having Gronkowski helps. The superstar tight end continued his career-long domination of the Steelers. He came in averaging 99 yards receiving against Pittsburgh and was even better in front of the largest crowd to watch an NFL game at soggy Heinz Field, finishing with nine receptions for 168 yards , including three on New England's game-winning drive.'I love getting in that zone,' Gronkowski said. 'It feels good. I wish I could be like that 24-7, every week and every day.'Pittsburgh safety Sean Davis spent New England's final possession lined up across from Gronkowski and nearly sealed the victory but let a potential game-clinching interception smack off his fingertips. Given a second chance, Brady just kept lobbing the ball to Gronkowski. Each time, Gronkowski, who has five inches and 60 pounds on Davis, came down with it.'I battled man that whole game with them,' Davis said. 'We came up short that last drive. That's pretty much it.'Some takeaways from what the Steelers hope is the first of two meetings with the Patriots this season:SURVIVING THE GROUNDThe Steelers (11-3) still haven't beaten New England since 2011 but appear to be much closer to the Patriots than they were a year ago when they feel to New England twice by an average of 15 points. Pittsburgh had a chance to win it late after a 69-yard catch-and-run by rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster put the ball at the New England 10. Ben Roethlisberger found tight end Jesse James wide open over the middle and James caught the ball, put one knee on the ground and stretched across the goal line.One problem: the ball moved when James' hands hit the ground and the score was overturned on replay.'You have to survive the ground, which means you have to maintain control of the football,' Corrente said.Something Corrente said James didn't do. James begged to differ.'I thought it was a touchdown for sure,' James said.A WELCOME RETURNPittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier made a surprise appearance in a private suite at Heinz Field less than two weeks removed from spinal stabilization surgery. Cameras cut to Shazier sitting in a private box just before New England's first offensive series, and the 25-year-old responded by waving a Terrible Towel.Shazier is out for the season and his football future remains uncertain after his helmet struck Cincinnati's Josh Malone in the back on Dec. 4. Doctors said earlier this week that Shazier has begun physical rehabilitation but neither the team nor the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has released any specifics on the nature of Shazier's injury.Still, the sight of Shazier smiling from above sent a jolt through his teammates.'We didn't know,' Davis said. 'It was a great feeling man having him out there.'HURTINGThe Steelers lost wide receiver Antonio Brown to a left calf injury in the first half. The NFL's leading receiver was attempting to haul in a catch in the end zone when his feet became tangled up with a pair of New England defenders. He didn't put any weight on the leg as he was helped off the field and later went to the hospital for further evaluation.Pittsburgh's offense thrived anyway, with Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers scoring touchdowns and Smith-Schuster racking up 116 yards receiving.'I thought a lot of guys did some good things,' Roethlisberger said. 'But that's what we expect.'HERE FOR ITRoethlisberger attempted to the old fake spike on Pittsburgh's last snap. Rather than clock it to set up a field goal, instead he tried to hit Rogers in the end zone. The Patriots were right on top of it. Roethlisberger's pass caromed into the hands of New England safety Duron Harmon on a play New England practices at least a half-dozen times a season.'We seen it before, everybody didn't panic,' Harmon said. 'Nobody was out there acting like they didn't know what to do. We just played our roles, played good football and it turned into a big play for us.'UP NEXTPatriots: Hosts Buffalo next Sunday.Steelers: Play in Houston for the first time since 2011 on Christmas.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Dallas kept its playoff hopes alive by the slimmest of margins.Dak Prescott converted a fourth-down sneak by the width of an index card to set up Dan Bailey's go-ahead 19-yard field goal, and Derek Carr fumbled the ball inches from the goal line with 31 seconds left to give the Cowboys a 20-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night.'We know where we're at, our season is on the line as far as going to the playoffs,' tight end Jason Witten said. 'It's good to just see us find a way to get the result that we did. ... Good to get lucky and see the football gods help you out a bit. I've certainly been on the other end of it over the course of my years.'The first key play came when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 39 with about five minutes left in a tie game. Prescott ran into a pile that took officials time to untangle.Referee Gene Steratore then called for the chains to come out, but even that wasn't clear. He then tried to slide what appeared to be an index card between the tip of the ball and the end of the chain. When the card didn't slide through, Steratore signaled a first down for Dallas (8-6). He said he had decided it was a first down before the odd measurement.'The final decision was made visually. The card was used nothing more than a reaffirmation of what was visually done,' he told a pool reporter. 'My decision was visually done based on the look from the pole.'That explanation didn't satisfy Raiders coach Jack Del Rio.'I had a different viewpoint. I saw air,' Del Rio said. 'It was pretty obvious. Again, they do the best they can with a tough job.'Prescott then hit Dez Bryant with a 40-yard pass that set up Bailey's short kick with 1:44 to play that gave the Cowboys the lead.But the game was far from over. The Raiders (6-8) got a gift when Jourdan Lewis committed a 55-yard pass interference penalty on a fourth-and-10 from their own 30. Carr then scrambled on third-and-3 from the 8 and reached out for the end zone. But the ball came loose before crossing the goal line and went out of the end zone for a touchback that all but ended Oakland's playoff hopes. The Raiders are tied for ninth in the AFC.'I tried to hold onto it,' Carr said. 'It wasn't like I didn't try. But there's obviously a lot of different things . throw it away, kick a field goal, run out of bounds. OK, cool. But in that moment I was just trying to win for my teammates.'Dallas is in a three-way tie for seventh place in the NFC, a half-game behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot. The Falcons beat the Cowboys head-to-head.The Cowboys got their third straight win without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who returns from a six-game suspension next week. But Dallas' three straight losses at the start of the suspension created a hole the team is still trying to escape.'We continue to scratch, we continue to claw,' coach Jason Garrett said. 'It wasn't our most perfect performance in any phase of our football team, but the fight was there.'FAKE IT OUTThe Cowboys took a risk in the third quarter on a fourth-and-11 from their own 24. Punter Chris Jones kept the ball and ran 24 yards for a first down. Dallas then drove down the field and took a 17-10 lead when Prescott ran in from 5 yards out and then was given a shower of drinks thrown by fans in the Black Hole.MILESTONE THROWCarr set up Oakland's first TD with a 32-yard scramble that was his longest run since his rookie year. That led to a 2-yard TD to Michael Crabtree that gave Carr 100 career touchdown passes. He joined Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck as the only players with at least 100 TD passes in their first four years in the NFL. Carr added a second TD pass to Crabtree in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 17.TAKE IT AWAYSean Smith intercepted two passes for the Raiders, doubling the team's total from the first 13 games. Smith got his first on the opening drive of the game and then added another just moments after Oakland got on the board for the first time. Bruce Irvin hit Prescott on the throw and Smith came up with the floater . He was initially given a TD return on the play but was ruled down by contact on replay and Oakland settled for a game-tying field goal from Giorgio Tavecchio.INJURIESThe Raiders lost LT Donald Penn (foot) and DT Treyvon Hester (ankle) to injuries in the first half. ... Dallas LT Tyron Smith left in the second half with a knee injury.UP NEXTCowboys: Host Seattle on Sunday.Raiders: Visit Philadelphia on Dec. 25.___More AP NFL: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown left the team's highly anticipated matchup against New England in the second quarter Sunday with a left calf injury. Brown left in obvious pain after getting his left leg tangled up with a pair of New England defenders. He was helped to the medical tent, then taken to a hospital for further examination. Brown, the NFL's leading receiver, had two catches for 24 yards before leaving the game. Pittsburgh rookie running back James Conner left with a sprained knee in the fourth quarter. The Patriots lost running back Rex Burkhead with a knee injury in the first half. He did not return as the Patriots rallied to beat the Steelers 27-24. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lost one of his top wide receivers when Davante Adams left in the third quarter because of a concussion. Adams took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis on an interception return by Colin Jones. As Adams was running to make the tackle on Jones, Davis appeared to launch himself at Adams with a peel-back block, immediately sending the wide receiver to the ground and out of the game. Davis was flagged for a 15-yard penalty. Also, Packers linebacker Nick Perry suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return. Panthers wide receiver Russell Shepard left the game in the second half with a shoulder injury and did not return. 49ers wide receiver Aldrick Robinson suffered a concussion in the first quarter. He went to the locker room with head and wrist injuries after he was hit hard by Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson along the Tennessee sideline. Robinson was stretching out trying to make a catch when he got slammed and went down for several minutes with 5:24 to go in the opening quarter. Titans cornerback Logan Ryan sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter against San Francisco. Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, whose interception set up his team's field goal late in the first half, left in the third quarter against New Orleans with concussion symptoms. Saints tight end Michael Hoomanawanui left in the first half with concussion symptoms. Right guard Larry Warford went out with concussion symptoms late in the first half after he tried to make a tackle on Williams' interception. The Giants had safety Landon Collins and linebacker B.J. Goodson leave after aggravating ankle injuries. King suffered a concussion on his 57-yard TD catch which ended with a dive into the end zone. Eagles nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson left in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion. Eagles tight end Trey Burton, who caught a TD pass, was limited in the second half by cramps. Texans center Nick Martin (ankle) and right guard Jeff Allen (concussion) left in the second half against Jacksonville. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney injured a shoulder making a touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return. Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee injured his right ankle in the first quarter and was later ruled out. Cardinals wide receiver Brittan Golden broke his right arm on a punt return against Washington. Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche left with a wrist injury. Linebacker Karlos Dansby suffered a calf injury. Redskins rookie linebacker Ryan Anderson suffered a sprained knee in punt coverage. Anderson came in dealing with an ankle injury. Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines was carted off in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Dolphins cornerback T.J. McDonald left in the fourth quarter against Buffalo with a shoulder injury. The list of missing Bengals starters grew when left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (shoulder) left in the first quarter against Minnesota. Right tackle Andre Smith limped off in the fourth quarter. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (knee) and DT Carl Davis (lower leg) will undergo MRIs on Monday, but he doesn't think either injury is serious. ___ For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • LeBron James made a statement during an NBA game with his shoes — one black, one white, with the word 'equality' in capital gold letters on the back of each.Then, after the game, James made a statement about President Donald Trump, saying: 'This is a beautiful country and we're never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are.'The four-time NBA MVP was asked about his choice of footwear for the first half of his Cleveland Cavaliers' 106-99 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday night at an arena about a mile from the White House.'Obviously, we know where we are right now,' James began. 'And we know who's at the helm here.'He continued, speaking about the importance of 'having equal rights and being able to stand for something and speak for something and keeping the conversation going.'James then referred to his past discussions of Trump, saying: 'Obviously, I've been ... very outspoken and well-spoken about the situation that's going on at the helm here. ... Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men and as women, black or white or Hispanic. It doesn't matter your race.'Earlier this year, James called Trump 'a bum' on Twitter and also said at Cleveland's preseason media day: 'He doesn't understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the president of the United State for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement. He doesn't understand that, and that's what makes me more sick than anything.'Then, for Cleveland's first regular-season game, James donned a pair of black sneakers with the 'equality' message. But this was the first time James chose to wear one white and one black shoe.At halftime Sunday, he changed into other sneakers. James finished the game with 20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds.'I didn't play well in the first half, and I'm very superstitious, so I took 'em off,' James explained, before joking: 'I didn't play well in the second half, either, so if there was a third half, I would have took those off.'___Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich___More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Facing a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he will sell the NFL team after the season.The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.'I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership,' Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn't begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, are in playoff position again.'I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl,' said Richardson, 81.Richardson's letter did not directly address the investigation or allegations against him.The NFL awarded Richardson, a former player with the Baltimore Colts, an expansion franchise in 1993, and he has been the team's only owner.'There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought an NFL franchise to Charlotte,' Richardson wrote. 'The obstacles back then were significant and some even questioned whether or community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance the Carolina would rise to the occasion. And you have.'Richardson attended Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his wife Rosalind in his luxury box.He did not speak to reporters.The NFL had no comment on the upcoming sale of the Panthers.'While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan,' Richardson's letter said.The Panthers are tied to Charlotte through June 2019.The city of Charlotte and the Panthers reached agreement on improvements for the team's stadium in 2013. The plan called for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year hard tether to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.The money is less than what the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium, which opened in 1996. Forbes estimates the Panthers worth at $2.3 billion. The Buffalo Bills sold in 2014 for $1.4 billion following the death of owner Ralph Wilson.Richardson and his ownership group paid $206 million in 1993 for an expansion team.Richardson's announcement comes after a Sports Illustrated report Sunday that cited unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct. Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation for 'transparency reasons.'Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called the situation surrounding Richardson 'very sad.'I'm saddened by any of the stories of the things that might have incited this at this time,' Jones said after Dallas' win at Oakland on Sunday night. 'He took what he made in his short time in pro football and turned it into a great business and then used that to get the Carolina franchise.'The Panthers began play in 1995 but have never delivered on Richardson's promise of winning a Super Bowl. They lost after the 2003 and 2015 seasons.Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney said he had never seen any evidence of Richardson displaying any sexual or racial misconduct in the workplace.'If this (sale) happens I think it is a significant loss for the NFL,' Hurney told The Associated Press. 'I have the utmost respect for him as an owner. Our employees have the utmost respect for him. I came back because of the respect I have for him and for the organization he started and developed.'Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said after Sunday's win over Green Bay that Richardson has served as a father figure to him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago.'For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson,' Newton said. 'But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of.'Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game it is important to let the process play out.'The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned,' Rivera said. 'A lot of you know I had a house fire, and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed, and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that.'Richardson was hospitalized 2008, one month after receiving a pacemaker for heart problems. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2002 and was placed on a donor waiting list for a new heart. He received the new heart on Feb. 1, 2009, and has not had any known setbacks since.It has been a wild year for the Panthers organization.Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with Hurney on an interim basis.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • LeBron James joked that he changed out of his shoes — one black, one white, with 'equality' in gold capital letters — at halftime because he was playing poorly.'If that's a bad game,' teammate Kevin Love said, 'then sheesh!'James finished with 20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Washington Wizards 106-99 on Sunday night for their 18th victory in 19 games, and then said afterward his choice of footwear was related to the game being played about a mile from President Donald Trump's White House.'This is a beautiful country and we're never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are,' the four-time NBA MVP said.James had his fourth triple-double in the past five games despite being called for four fouls in the final quarter.Still, he offered a scathing self-critique.'I actually played pretty bad tonight. I wasn't as strong with the ball: I had six turnovers. Kind of lazy with the ball, at times,' James said. 'And my teammates did a great job bailing me out.'Love led Cleveland with 25 points and added nine rebounds. Jeff Green added 15 points, and Kyle Korver scored 11.'He just affects the game in so many ways and makes a lot of plays for other guys, too,' Love said about James. 'He's just setting us up and getting us into our spots. That's what he does. He's our leader.'The last time these teams played, at Washington on Nov. 3, Cleveland won thanks to 57 points from James.That prompted Wizards coach Scott Brooks to joke before tipoff Sunday that holding the four-time league MVP to '56 would be pretty good tonight.' He also cracked, 'I have a lot of respect for Coach (Tyronn) Lue, but I think he's making a bad decision if he doesn't sit LeBron tonight. Back-to-back games, right? Our fans saw 57. They don't need to see any more.'This time, James was more of a facilitator.'His IQ is the highest I've ever been around,' Brooks said afterward. 'Just the way he sees the floor.'Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points, and John Wall had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes in his third game back after missing nine with an injured left knee.In a matchup of Eastern Conference division leaders, neither team led by more than seven until Wall turned the ball over, leading to a fast break for James, who was fouled at the other end and completed the three-point play for a 103-94 lead.That was part of a 23-16 edge for the Cavs in the fourth quarter, which began with the teams tied at 83.'Against a great team like that, you have to be sharp the whole game,' Wizards forward Mike Scott said. 'In the fourth, we weren't sharp on the offensive end, and they made plays.'TIP-INSCavaliers: G Dwyane Wade was rested on the second half of a back-to-back. ... The Cavs finished with 24 assists, ending their streak of three consecutive games with at least 30. ... Cleveland made 14 3-pointers, its 20th game in a row with at least 10. ... The Cavs scored at least 100 points for the 24th straight game.Wizards: F Otto Porter Jr. sat out with an injured right hip. ... His replacement in the starting lineup, Kelly Oubre Jr., had 11 points and eight rebounds. ... F Markieff Morris missed the start of the second half because he was getting an X-ray on his neck. 'Everything came back clean,' Brooks said.MOVING ON UPIf it seems as if James climbs up some career list each and every night, well, that's because he pretty much does. This time, he overtook Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth-most made field goals in NBA history and tied Nick Van Exel for 24th-most 3-pointers. ... Wall's 3 shortly before halftime moved him up to No. 5 on Washington's franchise scoring list. He began the night at No. 7, but surpassed Phil Chenier and Gus Johnson in the second quarter.UP NEXT:Cavaliers: At Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The Cavs have beaten the Bucks the last five times they've played.Wizards: Host New Orleans on Tuesday night.___Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich___More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • As his ecstatic teammates rushed Robbie Gould to celebrate the kicker's game-winning field goal, Jimmy Garoppolo slowly walked the other way despite his own spectacular first home start and pulling off a wild December win against a playoff contender.He shared a quick hug near the sideline with Marquise Goodwin, who had quite a day of his own after losing his father last week.Garoppolo led one final scoring drive in the closing seconds to cap a fantastic first full game at Levi's Stadium, Gould kicked a 45-yard field goal as time expired, and the San Francisco 49ers topped the Tennessee Titans 25-23 on Sunday.'We're a young team, we're learning how to win,' Garoppolo said. 'I think these close games will pay off in the long run, I think for next year and everything.'Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown during a dominant day to give the 49ers (4-10) a three-game winning streak in a lost season — and three straight comeback victories. And Tom Brady's former understudy showed he could do it at home as well as on the road — and against a playoff contender, no less — outdueling Marcus Mariota down the stretch as the teams traded field goals.Gould kicked three of his six field goals over the final nine minutes: 50, 48 and 45 yards and has now gone 20 consecutive without a miss.He put the Niners out front on a 48-yarder with 3:08 remaining. Mariota then drove the Titans (8-6) to a lead as Ryan Succop kicked a 50-yard field goal with 1:07 to play.Then, Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense got one last shot.It took three tries this season, and first-year coach Kyle Shanahan finally found his reliable, playmaking quarterback after acquiring Garoppolo from New England at the October trade deadline.'He's been just as good as advertised, if not better,' Shanahan said.Garoppolo showed that in 67 seconds — the same amount of time he had left Sunday — when forced into late action in a loss to Seattle three weeks ago at Levi's Stadium, then in back-to-back road games before shining again.'I think the 49ers got a quarterback,' Titans safety Kevin Byard said. Goodwin, who already dealt with the death of his premature son last month, made 10 catches for 114 yards and Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 passes to go over 300 yards passing for the second straight game after last week's win at Houston.Mariota put Tennessee ahead on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews early in the fourth as the Titans rallied back from an early 13-point deficit.The 49ers were in good position the ensuing possession before Garoppolo was sacked by Wesley Woodyard for a 10-yard loss. Then, Gould converted a 50-yarder.Tennessee came out of intermission a new team, totaling 22 offensive plays to San Francisco's five in the third quarter.Garoppolo became the first 49ers quarterback since the merger in 1970 to win each of his first three starts and just the second QB to do so in franchise history. Y.A. Tittle did so spanning the 1951-52 seasons.He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to tight end Garrett Celek — whose great play in recent weeks has earned the nickname of 'Celek Time.' Celek later had a 41-yard catch.'Yeah, Celek Time. That guy, he always finds a way,' Garoppolo said.Garoppolo didn't even have Trent Brown to block for him after the right tackle went on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury that will require surgery. Mariota threw a 4-yard TD pass to former 49er Delanie Walker late in the first half to keep the Titans close.Garoppolo was 5 of 6 passing on his opening possession as San Francisco mixed its play calls well to catch the stingy Titans defense off guard. Gould's 38-yarder capped the 12-play, 64-yard initial drive. Gould hit a 48-yarder late in the first and then kicked one from 28 yards just before halftime.The Titans dropped back-to-back road games against the NFC West after losing last week to the Cardinals and staying in Arizona for the week of practice. It could affect their playoff chances.Their first visit to Levi's Stadium — Tennessee last played the Niners on the road at Candlestick in November 2009 — began slowly, the team's second straight week playing a stadium for the initial time.Mariota, in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his three-year career, threw for 241 yards while completing 23 of 33 passes.DEFENSIVE FLOPTennessee's typically tough defense was a far cry from that dominant unit in the first half.Garoppolo threw for 189 yards and the Niners outgained the Titans 219-136 in the first half. The 49ers didn't punt until more than midway through the third quarter.Last week, the Titans allowed only four field goals, the second time this season they'd done so.INJURIESTitans: CB Logan Ryan sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter.49ers: WR Aldrick Robinson suffered a concussion in the first quarter. He went to the locker room with head and wrist injuries after he was hit hard by Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson along the Tennessee sideline. Robinson was stretching out trying to make a catch when he got slammed and went down for several minutes with 5:24 to go in the opening quarter.UP NEXTTitans: Host Rams next Sunday and home the final two weeks.49ers: Host Jaguars next Sunday.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • The New England Patriots have built a dynasty on second chances. Miss an opportunity to bury the Super Bowl champions and they will find a way to find a way, usually behind a mix of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and defensive playmaking at just the right time.It's a lesson the Pittsburgh Steelers have learned through the years, one they were determined to finally learn from this time around. Instead, more of the same.Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds remaining, securing New England's 27-24 comeback victory Sunday built on more Brady and Gronkowski magic.Another AFC East title, a record ninth in a row.Another shot at home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.This one came with an assist from the NFL rule book that will add 'surviving the ground' to the league's ever-expanding and ever-perplexing lexicon.Plus, the risky decision by the Steelers quarterback not to spike the ball and set up a tying field goal, which could reverberate well into January.'It was a tight game,' said Brady, who fed Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis' go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining. 'We just made one more play than they did.'Same as it ever was.The Patriots (11-3) can make sure they don't have to leave Foxborough in January if they finish up the regular season with wins over Buffalo and the New York Jets. Brady finished with 298 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including three on the winning drive.That drive, by the way, started with Pittsburgh safety Sean Davis letting a tipped pass slip off his fingertips. Instead of a game-sealing interception, the Steelers gave New England another shot. Brady responded by finding Gronkowski for gains of 26, 26 and 17 yards.'I think they were trying to challenge us and he made a lot of good plays,' Brady said. 'Other guys make a lot of good plays, too, but when he's open, he gets it.'It briefly looked like it wouldn't be enough.The Steelers (11-3) played most of the game without star wide receiver Antonio Brown, who left in the second quarter with a left calf injury. Still, the AFC North champions gamely hung in and appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to go.The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente explaining that because the ball shifted as James twisted his way into the end zone , it did not 'survive the ground' and therefore wasn't a catch.'He lost complete control of the football,' Corrente told a pool reporter.That decision that left James stunned.'I guess I don't know a lot of things about football,' James said. 'I can't call it, obviously. They think they made the right call. I'm sure we'll see it over the next couple days.'Probably far longer than that.Roethlisberger hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a short gain on the next snap, but Heyward-Bey was tackled in bounds. With the clock running and no timeouts, Roethlisberger hurried to the line. Rather than spike it to set up a short kick, Roethlisberger tried to win it.Instead, he lost it.His pass to Eli Rogers was batted into the air, and New England safety Duron Harmon came down with it. The Patriots had their fifth straight victory in a series that would feel more like a rivalry if the outcome wasn't always the same.'We're not going to look back and second-guess anything or anybody,' Roethlisberger said. 'We lost a game and I threw a pick in the end zone at the end of the game to lose it.'Roethlisberger completed 22 of 30 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns and the pick. Le'Veon Bell ran for 117 yards and added another 48 receiving. Still, it did little to take away the sting of a near miss.'I'm not into moral victories right now,' Roethlisberger said. 'We just lost a game. It doesn't sit well. But the season is not over.'SHAZIER STOPS BY Pittsburgh received an early emotional jolt when cameras cut to injured linebacker Ryan Shazier sitting in a private box less than two weeks removed from spinal stabilization surgery. The crowd at rainy Heinz Field roared as Shazier, who appeared to be seated, waved a Terrible Towe l. The 25-year-old is recovering from spinal stabilization surgery on Dec. 6, two days after leaving a Monday night victory over Cincinnati on a stretcher following a routine hit on Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone.'We had no idea he was going to be here,' Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree said. 'We were excited. It was good to see him smiling and cheering.'INJURIESThe Patriots lost running back Rex Burkhead with a knee injury in the first half. Burkhead did not return. Pittsburgh rookie running back James Conner exited with a sprained knee in the fourth quarter.UP NEXTNew England: Host the Bills on Christmas Eve. The Patriots handled the Bills 23-3 earlier this month in Buffalo.Pittsburgh: Visits Houston on Christmas Day.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • B.J. Johnson scored 25 points, Pookie Powell scored 24 and La Salle beat Mercer 95-85 on Sunday.La Salle (6-6) made 16 of 29 3-pointers (55 percent) and were two made 3s away from the school record set on three occasions. The Explorers finished shooting 54 percent (31 of 57) overall.Isiah Deas made back-to-back 3s, Johnnie Schuler added a 3 and Johnson scored the next seven points with a 3 and four free throws as the Explorers built an early 24-13 lead.Ria'n Holland countered with back-to-back 3s and Stephon Jelks added one to reduce Mercer's deficit to 27-22, but La Salle broke it open with a 22-7 run to close the half and never looked back.Johnnie Shuler scored 13 points and Saul Phiri and Isiah Deas each scored 11 for La Salle. Amar Stukes had 10 assists.Holland scored a career-high 33 points — was 6 of 9 from 3-point range — and Jelks scored 22 for the Bears (6-5).

Latest Bulldog News

  • NORMAN, Okla. – You never know who you might see at Switzer Wine and Spirits here on West Lindsey Avenue. You might even run into the owner himself. “I’m around all the time,” said Barry Switzer, whose name one might recognize for coaching the Oklahoma Sooners, or the Dallas Cowboys. “Everybody knows me here.” You might bump into Barry Switzer anywhere around Norman, Okla. (Chip Towers/DawgNation) Actually, most everybody everywhere knows who Switzer is, or at least those who have any knowledge or interest in sports. And he is around the OU program a lot, but not in a hands-on way, I’m told. He just remains a very interested fan who happens to live only a half-mile away from campus and, based on his past accomplishments at the school, tends to get unfettered access. So, one is liable to run into him any time, like I did upon stepping into OU’s Memorial Stadium for the first time ever on Thursday. I was headed into the Red Room for a Rose Bowl news conference involving Oklahoma players. About 50 feet inside Gate 1, here comes Switzer in a blue plaid sports jacket,headed the other direction. He said he was simply trying to find another way around the practice fields. “I usually just walk right across them, but the gate was locked today,” he said. Shocked he didn’t have a key. As for the small, nondescript package store bearing his name down the street, Switzer confirmed that it belonged to him. “Yeah, I bought that a long time ago,” said Switzer, who coached the Sooners to three national championships between 1973 and ’88 and the Cowboys to a Super Bowl. “I bought it for reason. It’s the only commercial street corner in that area around the university. Everything else there is residential. I can do anything with that property. It’s two lots. I could build a convenience store, a neat little restaurant that would fit right there on campus. It’s right there around all the fraternities and sororities.” Good money-maker, for sure. But does he ever actually go in? “Well, yeah, if I want a bottle of pinot noir or something I do,” he said with a laugh. Fitting for the son of a bootlegger. The interest around here at the moment is not on the Sooners of Switzer, however. It’s on the Sooners of Lincoln Riley. He’s the first-year head coach and longtime offensive coordinator who was handed the keys to OU’s program after Bob Stoops suddenly stepped down this past summer. You could say Riley has handled that ride quite well, seeing how OU won the Big 12 championship, is ranked No. 2 and is in the College Football Playoffs. The Sooners will meet No. 3 Georgia (12-1) in the Rose Bowl semifinal on New Year’s Day. Amazingly, it’s the first time the two storied football programs have ever played. It will also be only the second time each school has played in the Rose Bowl. The Sooners played there in 2003 and defeated Washington State. The Bulldogs haven’t played there since Charley Trippi led them to a 9-0 win over UCLA on Jan. 1, 1943, to claim the national championship for the 1942 season. Speaking with the Sooners’ players and coaches this week in Norman, there is no shortage of admiration and respect for Georgia, champions of the Southeastern Conference. To a man, everybody in the OU camp spoke glowingly of the Bulldogs and the challenge that will await them in the New Year’s Day matchup. Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews led all tight ends this season with more than 900 yards receiving. (DawgNation/Chip Towers) “Georgia’s a tremendous, tremendous football team,” said Riley, at 34 the youngest FBS head coach in the country. “Clearly when you get to this point everybody’s pretty good. They certainly are. … It ought to be a great challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it.” Of the Bulldogs’ defense, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, winner of the Jim Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end, said: “They’re a fast, physical defense that going to fly around. Obviously, they’ve got some very good players on that side of the ball and they’re very well coached. We haven’t done too much game-planning in terms of schemes and what we’re going to do. But I’m sure we’ll get after it and get something good for them.” Of the Bulldogs’ offense, senior defensive end Ogbonnia “Obo” Okoronkwo, one of four OU players named All-Americans this season, said: “Very physical. They’re going to try to out-will you and challenge you. The challenge is just not getting enough bodies on bodies in the run game. They seem to find a way to get an extra guy in there. They can pass the ball, too, so it’s a lot of things.” OU’s fans aren’t quite as respectful. Like Athens, Ga., Norman, Okla., is a small town built around the university. A little over 120,000 people live here, including a fall enrollment of 28,541 students. And all of them love their Sooners. Friday featured fall semester graduation, and there was a big men’s basketball game scheduled for Saturday afternoon against Wichita State. So there were a lot of people milling around the city, particularly in the area known as Historic Campus Corner. There you can find several landmark food and beverage destinations like O’Connell’s Irish Pub on Asp Avenue and Othello’s Italian Restaurant on Buchanan, which Switzer liked to frequent before a fire earlier this year put it out of business until recently. Oklahoma fans Sheppard McConnell (L) and Brendan Klein enjoy some football talk and a few cold ones Friday at Louie’s Grill & Bar in Historic Campus Corner. (Chip Towers/DawgNation) There’s also Louie’s and Louie’s Too, sister grill-and-pubs sitting side-by-side on West Boyd right across from the famous Parrington Oval on North Campus. Bob Stoops is one of the owners of the joint, named after an uncle, and it’s a popular game-day hangout. Inside, the confidence is running high for the Sooners. “I think it’s a great matchup for us,” said Brendan Klein, an IT specialist and OU grad sitting at the bar in Louie’s Friday afternoon. “I think SEC teams have a hard time with spread offenses like we run. It will be interesting to see an offense of our caliber go against a respected SEC defense like Georgia has.” Sheppard McConnell, Klein’s buddy, was in the OU marching band when the Sooners last traveled to the Rose Bowl in 2003. He, too, believes his team drew the easier of the semifinalists. “They have a young quarterback, a freshman I think,” McConnell said of Georgia’s Jake Fromm. “I think we’re going to get after those running backs and make that kid throw the ball. Let’s see how he does 2,000 miles from home.” That’s how Switzer sees it, too. Nobody appreciates a good run game more than he does. He stockpiled NFL-caliber backs like cordwood back when he had the Sooners running the triple option in the 1970s and ‘80s. But Switzer has come to appreciate the way OU throws the ball around and scores points with Riley’s fast-moving spread offense and its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. “Baker Mayfield is for real,” said Switzer, who’s 80 now but feeling “good as ever” and looking fit. “He’s a great player and a great competitor. Great arm, quick release, great velocity. His receivers are great speed guys, has a big tight end that’s a big target, scrambles well enough to be concerned about him. And we’ve got three or four backs, too.” Switzer is a little less confident about the Sooners’ defense. “Well, the Big 12 is different,” he said with a bit of a sigh. “You can score half a hundred on someone and still get your ass beat, as OSU can tell you. They score 52 on us and get beat. The worst coaching job in football is a defensive coordinator in the Big 12.” Like a lot of other folks, Switzer is somewhat mystified that Oklahoma and Georgia have never played in football. He was sure they would run into each other back in the 1970s and ‘80s when both schools were heading to big bowls almost every year and he and his good friend Vince Dooley were winning conference championships. Switzer said they never discussed playing in the regular season because the Sooners were playing Texas every year back then as a non-conference opponent, as well as Pitt and either UCLA or USC. But he wishes they could have. “I know Vince well,” he said. “He and I retired the same year. We both left in ’88. I think a lot of Vince and Barbara. We’ve been to a lot of places through the years with the Nike family. They’re a wonderful couple and really have a lot of respect for them on and off the field.” That said, Switzer has to call this one for his Sooners. He believes it is OU and not UGA that will advance to the national title tilt in Atlanta. The Bulldogs won’t be able to score with them, he predicts. “Georgia’s defense is really good; I know that,” he said. “But a lot of those guys aren’t going to be able to play. They’re gonna have to put six and seven defensive backs and some hybrids out there. Their guys better be able to cover in space because Oklahoma’s going to spread ‘em out and get the ball out.” If that proves true, Switzer might just have him some pinot. Word is he knows where to find some. The post OU fans — including one named Switzer — like the Sooners’ matchup against Georgia appeared first on DawgNation.
  • OKLAHOMA CITY – Anybody still wondering about what to get Owen Condon for Christmas, he has a suggestion. “I’d love some Rose Bowl tickets,” the 6-foot-7, 315-pound offensive lineman said. Condon will be able to accompany the Georgia Bulldogs to bowl games free of charge soon enough. He has been committed to them since last summer and will sign with the Bulldogs on the first day of the new early period next Wednesday. In the meantime, he’s just a huge Georgia fan, literally and figuratively. He proved as much two weeks ago when he and his mom traveled to Atlanta to watch the Bulldogs play Auburn in the SEC championship. It was then, after the Bulldogs’ 28-7 victory, that the craziest thought first occurred to Condon. “Georgia and Oklahoma could actually end up playing each other in the College Football Playoffs.” And, of course, they did. The nation’s No. 2- and No. 3-ranked teams will meet in the semifinals in Pasadena on Jan. 1. You have to visit Condon in his hometown to really understand how cool that is to him. The young man lives in the heart of Sooner country. Bishop McGuiness Catholic High School, where Condon grew into a major college football prospect, is located just 27.1 miles from Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium. Nevertheless, everybody around here knows full well that Condon is fully committed to the Bulldogs. So he heard it from them when he returned to school on Monday following the College Football Playoffs selection show. “He got a lot of ‘Boomer Sooners’ in the hallways,” Bishop McGuiness head coach Justin Jones said with a laugh. “That’s the big rally cry around here. Oklahoma is very passionate about their Sooners. It’s pretty cool to see Georgia meet them in the College Football Playoffs.” Condon thinks so, too. “Obviously, I’m really good friends with a lot of diehard OU guys, so there’s some friendly trash talking there,” Condon said. “But I think it’s going to be a really good game, a really good matchup. They both have two young, up-and-coming coaches. They’re two good programs with fans that are really passionate and travel well. It’d be really fun to go out there and see that.” Alas, Condon said he probably won’t make the trek to Pasadena. He’d like to, but he has a lot of work to do here in his little hamlet just northeast of downtown Oklahoma City. At the moment, his primary focus is rehabilitating the knee injury that snuffed out his senior season. Condon actually got hurt in his school’s first game of the season but didn’t realize how badly. He said he knew he “tweaked it” but played through that game and the second one as well. But it was after Game Two that Condon realized he may have a problem. The pain finally got to him and he broke down and asked to see a doctor. An MRI revealed a torn meniscus. His season was senior shut down at that point and Condon underwent surgery 11 weeks ago. “The surgery was a success,” he said. “It was in an area that had vascular to it, so they were able to stich it up rather than just scope it out. I should be good to go soon.” In the meantime, though, Condon had to stand on the sidelines as Bishop McGuiness continued you through the season. His team’s season didn’t end untl that lost to Carl Albert High School in the Class 5A state championship game. “That hurt,” Condon said of not being able to play. “I feel like I could have made a difference.” Condon feels like he can make a difference at Georgia, and obviously the Bulldogs do, too. They offered him in the middle of his first unofficial visit to Athens last spring. Condon and his parents are actually in Athens this weekend on his official visit. They flew out early Friday morning. As for Oklahoma, the Sooners never came forth with an offer for Condon. They probably would have eventually, according to his high school coach, but Condon wasn’t interested in waiting to find out. “OU’s always slow to offer local kids,” Jones said. “Texas is just down the road and they spend a lot of time recruiting there. They feel like they can come in late on the locals because they’re the home school. OSU will recruit guys a little earlier, but OU’s always slow to offer. And Owen is a transplant Oklahoman, so he wasn’t willing to wait.” Condon’s father, Bill, is originally from Pensacola, and his mother, Sheri, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but was raised in Atlanta and attended UGA. So he said he grew up more of an SEC fan and always followed the Bulldogs. When the family ended up touring schools last spring, they ended up primarily in the South. Florida, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Oklahoma State ended up being the main competition for Georgia. But he said it was never really close. “I just fell in love with Georgia when I visited,” Condon said. “The campus is great. And Georgia offers a really good combination of academics and athletics. Behind Vandy they’re probably next in line academics-wise in the SEC. Obviously, their football is where it is right now; they’re in the playoffs. You can’t beat that. So the combination of the two really put it together for me.” As for the snub from Oklahoma, Condon said it only serves as motivation for him going forward. He visited the school numerous times his sophomore and junior years and attended several games last year. Oklahoma line coach Bill Bedenbaugh called him and came to some of his game his junior season but never stepped up with an offer. “They were just kind of slow-playing me. They have kind of a history of slow-playing in-state guys, for whatever reason. But I wasn’t waiting around to see if I could get an offer. So I started exploring other options.” The end result is Condon is a Bulldog and there will be nothing even close to divided loyalties when the two teams play on New Years Day. Whether Condon watches the game at home here or finds some way to Pasadena, he’ll be red-and-black all the way. And he likes the way the game matches up for UGA. “I think a big storyline people aren’t talking about is if Georgia can control the ball and run the ball well and keep Baker (Mayfield) off the field, I think that will frustrate them,” Condon said. “Out here in the Big 12, they’re used to just running-and-gunning all day; they’re all offense.  They haven’t seen the backs like Georgia has in Chubb and Michel and Swift. I don’t think they’ve seen teams that play offense like Georgia does. I think if Georgia can generate can generate some of those long drives and keep Oklahoma’s offense off the field, I think that’ll be a big key to the game.” Spoken like a true Bulldog. The post In the heart of Sooner Country resides one loyal Georgia Bulldog appeared first on DawgNation.
  • The Georgia Bulldogs are one win away from playing for the National Championship. If the Dawgs defeat the Oklahoma Sooners in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, they’ll head to the College Football Playoff National Championship. Just the possibility that Georgia could reach the big game played at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium has driven prices dramatically higher on secondary ticket marketplaces since the four-team playoff field was set Dec. 3. Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are your home for everything Rose Bowl. Make sure to follow @WSBTV and @AJCSports for updates on Twitter & LIKE the official WSB-TV Facebook page! For much more on the Georgia Bulldogs, CLICK HERE to download and listen to Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein & AJC's Jeff Schultz on the ‘We Never Played the Game’ podcast. The current asking prices on secondary markets range from a low of $1,639 for an upper-level seat to a high of $15,807 for a club seat. If Georgia manages to beat Oklahoma, ticket demand would be off the charts whether they face Alabama or Clemson. Imagine UGA playing for a National Championship in the heart of Bulldog Nation. CLICK HERE to read myAJC’s full report.
  • NORMAN, Okla. — Back in the team meeting room they call the Red Room, underneath Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium, quarterback Baker Mayfield on Thursday met with the local press for the first time since accepting the Heisman Trophy in New York on Saturday. Asked who was the most intriguing person he met during his whirlwind postseason award tour, Mayfield did not hesitate. “Herschel Walker,” the Sooners’ superstar said. Then he gushed. “He looks like he could still play right now,” Mayfield said of Georgia’s greatest tailback of all time. “That’s just impressive. You meet so many special guys, but a guy like that is like a once-in-a-century type of athlete. It was pretty neat.” Reminded that Walker played for the team his Sooners are about to meet in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs, Mayfield laughed. “That’s OK,” he said. “It’s Herschel Walker. I don’t have to play him, so it’s all right.” That exchange offered a nice glimpse into the persona of Oklahoma’s record-setting quarterback. The dude knows how to work a room and is quite comfortable at a lectern. And he knows how to butter-up an opponent. Mayfield nsists he wasn’t just trying to endear himself to the Bulldog Nation by offering effusive praise about their greatest player of all time. But one started to wonder when he began to gush about the Georgia defense he’ll face when No. 2 Oklahoma faces No. 3 Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Mayfield was asked if the Sooners’ had faced a comparable defense to Georgia’s this season “They’re the best defense; you can’t compare them to anybody,” he said. “They’re in a league of their own and that’s the reason they’re in the playoffs. They follow behind that defense. You can’t compare them to other people because they’re so talented and they play so well together. To say they’re like anybody else would be downplaying how good they are.” And so it went. If there is going to be any trash-talking in the first-ever meeting between these two powerhouse programs, it wasn’t coming out of the Red Room on Thursday. Led by Mayfield, the Sooners come into the Rose Bowl No. 1 in the nation in total offense at 583.3 yards per game and No. 3 in passing at 367.4. Georgia will counter with the No. 2-rated passing defense (158.3 ypg), tied for third against the score (13.2 ppg) and fourth in total defense (270.9 ypg). Something’s got to give. But that’s what makes it one of the most exciting matchups of the postseason. It’s especially exciting for Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown. The Sooners’ starting left tackle happens to hail from Duluth, where he attended Peachtree Ridge High School. “A lot of those guys in high school tore me up,” said Brown, a consensus All-American as a redshirt junior. “I’m not the same player I was then, so I’m just ready. … I always play with a chip on my shoulder but I’m excited about that. These are guys I’ve known for a long time.” Asked what Georgia players specifically “tore him up” in high school, Brown mentioned Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. The two seniors start at outside linebacker for the Bulldogs and definitely will get matched up against Brown on occasion if not constantly. “Obviously I played against 7 in high school, Carter,” Brown said. “I think I saw Bellamy at one point at a camp. It’s going to be competitive. They’re great. They play a lot of good ball. Very instinctual, very well-coached. You can tell they make a lot of scheme-related plays and a lot that are not scheme-related. They’re in the playoffs for a reason.” Brown and running back Trey Sermon are the only Sooners who hail from Georgia. Sermon, a freshman from Marietta’s Sprayberry High, rushed for 710 yards and two touchdowns while playing in all 13 games as Rodney Anderson’s backup. Sermon as named to the Big 12’s all-freshman team. Like Georgia, Oklahoma does not allow freshmen to be interviewed. The Sooners certainly don’t need many other voices with Mayfield front and center. The fifth-year senior from Austin, Texas, is as comfortable before cameras and microphones as he is behind that big offensive line that allowed him to throw for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions this past season. It’s understandable considering he and Herschel Walker are the only players to have been invited to three consecutive Heisman Trophy Award ceremonies. The third time was the charm for both. Asked what was the best advice he got from his fellow award winners, Mayfield said it was that the national championship remains the better prize. “It was kind of common theme for the guys who were able to win it and play for a national championship,” Mayfield said. “I got the same advice from all of them: This is a special deal but if you can do anything you need to win the big one at the end. I talked to Chris Weinke about that and he’s a guy who lost to OU. So he was speaking from the heart.” So was Mayfield, he’d have you believe. The post Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield gushes about Herschel Walker, Georgia’s defense appeared first on DawgNation.
  • NORMAN, Okla. – The marijuana charges against Natrez Patrick were dropped, we learned Thursday. That’s certainly good for him. It may be good for Georgia football, too, in terms of its pursuit of wins and championships. Ultimately, we don’t know yet exactly what it means. On the surface, one’s left to believe that the Bulldogs’ starting inside linebacker will be reinstated and play against No. 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl in three weeks. But we don’t know that because coach Kirby Smart has yet to weigh in on it. And it’s a bit of a tricky situation when closely evaluated. In the meantime, some charges were dropped out here in Boomer Sooner territory on Thursday, too, and they were much more serious than what Patrick faced. A rape allegation levied against OU running back and leading rusher Rodney Anderson did not result in charges by the local district attorney. The news was shared with local media in a rare news conference by a prosecutor to explain why he wasn’t going to prosecute a case. In a nutshell Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn told reporters that, “after a thorough investigation” that include polygraph tests, interviews of friends of both the accused and the alleged victim and examinations of phone records and texts, “charges are not warranted.” “There are certainly cases where we just simply can’t prove something, so we decline due to insufficient evidence,” Mashburn said. “In this case, I think it’s important for us to tell the whole story so people understand that facts were presented to us through the Norman P.D.’s investigation.” Earlier in the day Thursday, before the D.A.’s announcement, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley had said that Anderson was “still fully on the team” while authorities continued to investigate the allegations. Riley didn’t issue any other statements after the charges were dropped, and Anderson was not made available after the Sooners’ practice he participated in Thursday. But those in the OU camp expect Anderson to be play against Georgia in the Rose Bowl. “Good for him; he’s a great person,” said Sooners left tackle Orlando Brown, a junior from Duluth. “Hopefully he’ll be able to play in the game.” Likewise, the assumption in Georgia’s camp is that Patrick will be able to play in the Rose Bowl. Smart probably won’t weigh in on this latest development until the Bulldogs’ Rose Bowl media day Monday. Georgia has yet to begin its Rose Bowl preparations, and there won’t be any interview access until then. But it might not be as cut-and-dried as it seems. While we know that Patrick doesn’t face any legal ramifications, we don’t know for certain that there won’t be any team repercussions. Patrick already had violated UGA’s marijuana-use policy twice due to previous marijuana arrests, hence his four-game suspension in the middle third of the regular season. A third calls for dismissal from the team. We do know from the body-cam footage provided by police that Patrick was in a car with a teammate who was was either actively smoking or had just smoked marijuana. Jayson Stanley, also a starter as a wide receiver, had DUI charges against him dropped  Thursday but is still charged with misdemeanor possession. So we assume he’ll be subjected to UGA’s first-strike pot policy, which is a one-game suspension in football. That the one game is the College Football Playoff and the Rose Bowl makes it particularly painful. What we don’t know is whether Patrick had to undergo any kind of testing as a result of the encounter. Usually a student-athlete who has had more than one violation is subject to counseling and intensified drug-testing. Perhaps Patrick already has successfully cleared that, or he could be awaiting results. We can’t be sure. We’ll know for sure in 18 days when Georgia and Oklahoma kick off in the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, these off-field issues have been the one downside to an otherwise magical season. While they’ve been piling up wins and points this year, they also have been piling up arrests and disciplinary issues. Duly noting that this latest charge against Patrick was dismissed, there are still 14 known arrests of Georgia football players going back to last season. The latest came earlier this week when freshman defensive back Latavious Brini was jailed on a first-degree forgery charge. It was for an incident that allegedly occurred back in July, or shortly after he arrived from Miami. He hasn’t played this season and is therefore set to be redshirted, but neither Georgia nor Smart has commented on his status just yet either. Generally, UGA student-athletes charged with a felony are immediately suspended on a temporary basis until their legal matter is worked out. The arrest ledger also counts the case of D’Antne Demery, a signee who had his scholarship revoked after he was charged with battery/domestic violence against his girlfriend in April. I don’t know why Demery wouldn’t be included in such an accounting since he already had signed his national letter-of-intent two months before he was jailed in Athens. Most of the other arrests seem relatively trivial, depending on your personal sensibilities. Most of them involve pot. Tailback Elijah Holyfield and wide receiver Riley Ridley also were arrested earlier this year and subsequently suspended for single games for misdemeanor marijuana possession. But 14 is a high number of legal run-ins no matter how one slices it. That begs the question: Does Georgia have a discipline problem on this team? I know that last sentence makes you cringe. It does me, too. There is so much good going on for UGA, nobody wants to throw water on it. But that question bears asking. It’s only fair. Former Georgia coach Mark Richt came under sharp criticism for a perceived lack of discipline during his UGA tenure. It reached a peak when the Bulldogs incurred 11 arrests from March to October of 2010. Then he cracked down. Georgia had only one arrest in 2011 when Cornelius Washington was charged with DUI. There were some isolated incidences and some serious offenses that followed, but they were dealt with harshly. Bulldogs fans don’t need to be reminded that several dismissals occurred from 2012 to 2015. Smart is a coach who preaches discipline on the first line of his mission statement. He expends a lot of time and energy talking about poise and composure. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs were flagged for nine personal fouls in their two games against Auburn (they seem to have a thing for face masks in particular, don’t they?). Georgia enters the postseason as the fourth-most penalized team in the SEC. Is there a connection there? Who knows. Certainly most good football players are aggressive by nature. Arrests numbers and penalty numbers are facts, but the assertion that Georgia is an undisciplined team is not. That’s subjective and speculative at this point. And what has been going on here at Oklahoma proves that UGA is not alone in fighting that perception. It’s not just what proved to be false accusations against the Sooners’ current running back. Lest we forget, quarterback Baker Mayfield, who accepted the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, was arrested in February in Fayetteville, Ark., for public intoxication, disorderly conduct and fleeing police. But the Bulldogs need to do better. Obviously, Georgia is a very, very good football team under Smart. Based on recruiting, it appears that will continue if not get even better. But the disciplinary issues need to trend in the other direction, even if you care about nothing other than what happens on the football field. The post Natrez Patrick gets good news, but Georgia needs to tighten up on discipline front appeared first on DawgNation.