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    It's been three years since Serena Williams won a Grand Slam championship. Her drought without a title of any sort just ended, though, right before the start of the Australian Open. Williams got back on the board a week ago at the hard-court event in Auckland, New Zealand, and her reaction upon clinching the victory -- head back, mouth open, arms held aloft -- indicated just how much it meant to someone who already owned 72 singles trophies, including a professional-era record 23 from majors. 'You could see,' Williams said, 'the relief on my face.' It felt like a significant development with main-draw play at the year's first major tournament beginning Monday (Sunday EST) at Melbourne Park. Williams, who is seeded eighth, is scheduled to face Anastasia Potapova of Russia in the day's second match in Rod Laver Arena, after defending champion Naomi Osaka takes on Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, and before Roger Federer meets Steve Johnson of the U.S. The 38-year-old Williams had lost her previous five finals, including four at Slams -- at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2019. Maybe getting all the way to the finish line in Auckland will put her more at ease the next time she plays with a trophy at stake. In addition to her first title of any sort since setting a professional-era record with her 23rd major at the 2017 Australian Open -- one more would equal Margaret Court for the most in tennis history -- it was also Williams' first since becoming a mother later that year. And it made her the first woman in the professional era with at least one title in four decades: the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. A year ago in Australia, Williams held match points in the quarterfinals against Karolina Pliskova before twisting her ankle and eventually losing. 'She's going to be, always, tough,' the second-seeded Pliskova said, “no matter which ranking she is, no matter, I think, which age she is.” Here are other things to know about the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam tournament: AIR QUALITY The high heat of the Australian summer is always a factor in Melbourne, but this time more attention will be paid to the air quality because of the wildfires that have been burning in the eastern parts of the country, including about 100 miles away. Smoke that reached the tournament site affected some players during qualifying last week, but has been dissipating. Rain in the forecast at the start of the main draw could help further, BIG THREE Top-ranked Rafael Nadal, defending champion Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have won 55 of the past 66 Grand Slam titles, including 12 in a row and 14 of the most recent 16 in Australia. If Nadal, last year's runner-up, wins his second Australian Open trophy (the other came in 2009), he would match Federer's men's record of 20 Grand Slam titles. Djokovic sits third with 16. YOUNG RUSSIANS Eventually, the Big Three's grip on tennis will subside. And eventually, some younger player will assert himself. Tennis' great guessing game right now is when those things will happen — and who'll be the first of the kids to win a Grand Slam title. Right now, there is a trio of young Russians pushing their way into the conversation: No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev, who is 23 years old; No. 16 Karen Khachanov, also 23; and No. 17 Andrey Rublev, 22. Medvedev pushed Nadal to five sets in last year's U.S. Open final; Khachanov was a 2019 French Open quarterfinalist; Rublev's trophies this month at Doha and Adelaide made him the first man since 2004 with two tour-level titles before the Australian Open. OSAKA'S DEFENSE Naomi Osaka's first Grand Slam title defense ended with a fourth-round loss at the U.S. Open. Now comes her second such effort and this one will come with a new coach at her side — and her fourth in the past year — Wim Fissette, who has worked with players such as Kim Clijsters and Angelique Kerber in the past. “She learns a lot from mistakes, and it's normal at her age to make some mistakes,” Fissette said about the 22-year-old Osaka. “But she is a very quick learner with everything she does. She has her eyes open and her ears open. ... From what she told me, I believe she learned a lot from that experience at the U.S. Open.” WOZNIACKI'S EXIT Caroline Wozniacki is playing what she says will be the final tournament of a career that includes the 2018 Australian Open title and time at No. 1 in the WTA rankings. She's 29. “I'm sure once the last ball is hit,” she said, “it's going to be a bit emotional.” YOU SAY HELLO, I SAY GOODBYE The Australian Open doubles competition will see some notable comings and goings. Bob and Mike Bryan, 41-year-old American twins who own a record 16 Grand Slam championships in men's doubles, are competing in Melbourne for the final time; they've announced 2020 is their last year on tour. And Sania Mirza, a 33-year-old from India with a total of six major titles in women's or mixed doubles, is back in Grand Slam action for the first time in two years after having a baby. ___ Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich ___ More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Conor McGregor's opening punch bloodied Donald Cerrone's nose. He then floored Cerrone only 20 seconds into the bout with a perfectly placed kick to the head, and he mercilessly finished on the ground. When he paraded around the ring with an Irish flag on his shoulders to celebrate, the mixed martial arts world knew McGregor is back with a big bang. The Irish former two-division champion came out of a three-year stretch of relative inactivity and outside-the-cage troubles with a welterweight performance in UFC 246 on Saturday night that echoed his greatest fights during his unparalleled rise. “I feel really good, and I came out of here unscathed,' McGregor said. 'I'm in shape. We've got work to do to get back to where I was.” After hurting Cerrone (36-14) with his first punch, McGregor (22-4) dropped him with a sublime kick to the jaw. McGregor pounced and forced referee Herb Dean to save Cerrone, delighting a sellout crowd of 19,040 at T-Mobile Arena. McGregor’s hand hadn’t been raised in victory since November 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously. With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought only his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018. “I wasn’t committed,” McGregor said afterward while speaking to reporters with a bottle of his Proper Twelve whiskey on the table before him. “I just felt like I disrespected the people that believed in me and supported me. That’s what led me to re-center myself and get back to where I was at.” After a year spent out of competition and in repeated trouble with the law, McGregor got back into training and vowed to return to elite form. This dramatic victory over Cerrone indicated he's well on his way, and McGregor has vowed to fight multiple times in 2020. Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and veteran brawler Jorge Masvidal watched UFC 246 from cageside. Either man could be McGregor's next opponent, but UFC President Dana White is pushing for a rematch with Nurmagomedov, who first fights Tony Ferguson in April. “Any one of these mouthy fools can get it,” McGregor yelled into the microphone. “Every single one of them can get it. It does not matter. I’m back and I’m ready.” McGregor also wants to make up for his loss to Nurmagomedov, but he doesn't want to wait until the champion is ready to fight again in late summer. McGregor wants an earlier fight, and he predicted that the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fight will be scrapped, as it already has four times during those fighters' careers. Cerrone is the winningest fighter in UFC history with 23 victories, a mark that reflects both his durability and commitment to an uncommonly busy schedule. Cerrone, who also holds the UFC record with 16 stoppage wins, had fought a whopping 11 times since McGregor's win over Alvarez, and he was in the cage for the 15th time since he lost his only UFC title shot in December 2015. But Cerrone’s last two fights were stopped when he took too much damage, and he couldn't block McGregor's decisive kick or recover from the punishment on the ground. “I'd never seen anything like that,” Cerrone said. “He busted my nose, it started bleeding, and he stepped back and head-kicked me. Oh, man. This happened this fast?” Although many observers have scoffed, the 31-year-old McGregor believes he can reclaim the fearsome form he showed during his meteoric rise to unprecedented MMA success. He won 15 consecutive fights during a five-year run from low-profile shows in Dublin to the world’s biggest MMA events, stopping five straight elite UFC opponents with punches on the way up. After his latest victory ended, McGregor peeled away briefly to celebrate, but quickly returned to comfort the disoriented Cerrone. When Cerrone’s grandmother, Jerry, entered the cage after the fight to hug her grandson, McGregor also hugged Jerry and got a kiss on the cheek. Even after his prolonged absence — or maybe because of it — McGregor's return was a huge seller on pay-per-view, according to White. The UFC said it made more than $11 million in ticket sales at T-Mobile Arena for the fourth-biggest gate total in the promotion's history. “This guy is such a huge superstar,” White said. “I put him up there with (Mike) Tyson, (Sugar Ray) Leonard, all of them. He’s got the biggest pay-per-view in history, and how many of the top 10 does he have? I don’t know. Coming up in his career, he’s been doubted for his talent, and he proves them wrong every time.” An eager Vegas crowd showed up in person, with celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Renner and Dave Bautista, along with NFL stars Tom Brady, Christian McCaffrey, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Jon Gruden. Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm beat Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision in the penultimate bout of UFC 246. The 38-year-old Holm (13-5) had lost five of her seven fights since she memorably knocked out Ronda Rousey in November 2015. On the undercard, 37-year-old flyweight Roxanne Modafferi pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC history with a one-sided decision victory over previously unbeaten 21-year-old Maycee Barber, the UFC's top 125-pound prospect. Barber (8-1) injured her left knee during the bout, but Modafferi (24-16) was already dominating with the superior jiu-jitsu she has been practicing for Barber's entire life. Modafferi was the biggest betting underdog on the UFC 246 card, facing 10-to-1 odds at some sports books. Aleksei Oleinik, a 42-year-old heavyweight who made his pro debut in 1996, also beat Maurice Greene by submission in the second round. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The Los Angeles Lakers were determined to start the second half of their season on a high note following a loss that snapped a nine-game winning streak. They were able to do that by riding a big third quarter to a 124-115 win over the Houston Rockets. LeBron James had 31 points and 12 assists for the Lakers, who lost to Orlando on Wednesday night. “We hated the loss that we had the other night against Orlando,' James said. “So we had a couple of days to kind of just reshape, refocus and start the second half of the season the right way, and we did that tonight.' The loss was the third straight for the Rockets, which tied a season high, and they have dropped four of five. “We're just not playing well right now,' coach Mike D'Antoni said. “We haven't played well for a couple of weeks. And the only way you can get out of it is play hard, keep your head down and just go forward.' Kyle Kuzma scored 23 points, and Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each had 20 for the Lakers. Russell Westbrook scored 35 points for his fourth straight 30-point game and James Harden had 34 for the Rockets, who also lost three in a row in late November. Harden is confident the Rockets can break out of their funk. “Everybody throughout the course of your career has been through some tough times and the only way you can get through them is continue to work and continue to go hard and mentally lock in and just try to be as solid as possible,” Harden said. James was impressed with the work Kuzma did against Westbrook in the second half when he was held to 13 points. “Kuz just kept his body in front of him and made him take tough shots,' James said. “He made a couple but Kuz made it tough on him, so that helped changed the game for us.' Los Angeles didn't lead in the first half but used a 32-point third quarter to take a nine-point lead into the fourth. Houston used a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 10 with about seven minutes left, but the Lakers scored the next six points to extend it to 110-94 midway through the quarter. That sent many Rockets fans streaming for the exits and caused a large contingent of Lakers fans to start chanting, “Let's go Lakers.” The Rockets did not get closer than seven points the rest of the way. The Lakers opened the second half with a 10-3 run to take their first lead of the game, 69-68, with about eight minutes left in the third quarter. James capped that run by making a basket and then added another one seconds later after JaVale McGee blocked a dunk attempt by Clint Capela. McGee beat his chest and screamed after in Capela's direction after the play and received a technical foul for taunting. “We picked up our intensity,' Dwight Howard said. “Then JaVale got some big blocks, which got us out in the open court. So we've just got to make sure we continue to do that.' There were about seven minutes left in the third when Westbrook and Anthony Davis, who missed the game with an injury, both received technical fouls for jawing at each other. The Lakers led by three later in the third when Kuzma scored the first four points of a 9-2 run that stretched the lead to 85-75. Houston had a chance to cut the deficit at the end of the third quarter, but Westbrook missed two free throws to leave the Lakers up 91-82 entering the fourth. TIP-INS Lakers: Davis missed a fifth straight game with a bruised backside. ... Howard received a technical foul early in the third quarter for yelling at Houston players from the bench. ... Kuzma went to the locker room briefly in the third quarter to get his left ankle re-taped and returned to start the fourth. Rockets: Westbrook is the first Rocket besides Harden to score 30 points in four straight games since Tracy McGrady did it in six games in a row in the 2006-07 season. ... Eric Gordon had 13 points. ... Capela had 12 rebounds. HE SAID IT James on what it meant to have so many Laker fans in Houston on Saturday night: “It's very humbling. And it's something that you really can't explain unless you're involved in it.' UP NEXT Lakers: Visit Boston on Monday. Rockets: Host Oklahoma City on Monday. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Georgia basketball is going to have to grow up in a hurry if it has any chance of becoming an NCAA tournament team this season. Coach Tom Crean's young squad came apart on the road at Mississippi State on Saturday night, falling 91-59 in a battle of SEC Bulldogs. Crean's concerns about Mississippi State's size and rebounding prowess became a reality. The maroon-and-white clad Bulldogs entered the night as the SEC's top rebounding team. They proceeded to show why, posting a commanding 40-22 advantage on the glass over UGA. 48 of State's 91 points were scored in the paint. Georgia dropped to 11-6 overall and 1-3 in the SEC with the loss, while Coach Ben Howland's team improved to 11-6 and 2-3 in league games. UGA freshman Anthony Edwards got off to a rough start at the so-called 'Hump.' Edwards was held to 3 points in the first half and made only 1 of his first 9 shots. Edwards finished with 19 points on 5-of-16 shooting, including 1-of-8 marksmanship beyond the 3-point line. Georgia, coming off an 80-63 home win over Tennessee, kept things close throughout much of the first half in Starkville. Freshman Toumani Camera scored all 10 of his points in the opening half, including a dunk that made it 32-28. But Mississippi State closed the first half on a 10-3 run to take a 42-31 lead to intermission. Georgia couldn't get any closer than 11 points the remainder of the game. Junior Rayshaun Hammonds, UGA's top interior threat, scored 8 of his 10 points and grabbed 3 of his 4 rebounds in the first half. Hammonds scored just one basket on 1-of-6 shooting and grabbed just one rebound in the 15 minutes he played in the second half. The home team went on a 17-3 run late in the game, stretching the lead out to 30 points with four minutes left. UGA point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who suffered an ankle injury last Wednesday, started and played 21 minutes. Wheeler had 2 points on 1-of-2 shooting, and 1 assist. The Bulldogs return to action at 7 p.m. at Kentucky on Tuesday. DawgNation Georgia Basketball Anthony Edwards puts the squeeze on Tennessee in blowout win Georgia falls in first SEC road game of season at Auburn Anthony Edwards says UGA didn't play tough enough vs. Kentucky Georgia basketball delivers signature Top 10 win at Memphs Freshman Anthony Edwards discloses injury, status Sahvir Wheeler on clutch game-winner, 'been there a ton of times' Tom Izzo on Georgia: 'That was an incredible comeback' Anthony Edwards lights up Michigan State for 37 in 93-85 loss Rayshaun Hammonds wrecks Georgia Tech Anthony Edwards draws standing ovation in opener Georgia freshman already making basketball history The post Mississippi State blasts Georgia in battle of SEC Bulldogs, Anthony Edwards struggles appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Devin Booker sure loves playing in TD Garden. His near triple-double effort was just barely enough for the Phoenix Suns to overcome Boston guard Marcus Smart’s performance. Booker had 39 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and the Suns withstood a franchise-record 11 3-pointers by Smart and beat the Celtics 123-119 on Saturday. “You know, Book is — Book’s Book,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “It’s something I don’t take for granted to have a guy that can get buckets like that.” Deandre Ayton had 26 points and 15 rebounds and Mikal Bridges added a career-best 26 points for the Suns, who have won four of their last five games. Smart shot 11 for 22 from 3-point range and finished with a career-best 37 points. His performance marked the first time in NBA history that a player made 11 or more 3-points in a losing effort, according to Stats. “He obviously was shooting confidently, made some big shots late into the game and into the (first) half,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s a tough guy and he got a lot of good looks and took advantage of it.” Jayson Tatum scored 26 points and Gordon Hayward added 22 for Boston, which has lost three straight and six of eight. Three years ago, Booker scored 70 points in a loss to the Celtics in TD Garden. He finished an assist shy of his first career triple-double. The Celtics were missing two of their top three leading scorers — Kemba Walker (team-best 22.1 per game), out with left knee soreness, and Jaylen Brown (20.0), sidelined for the second straight game with a sprained right thumb. But Smart kept them in it. “Right now, it means nothing,” Smart said. “I’d trade all that in for a win, especially the way the team has been playing.” Boston cut its deficit to 90-85 early in the fourth, but Dario Saric and Bridges answered with consecutive 3s. The Celtics had it down to 114-111 on Daniel Theis’ breakaway dunk with about a minute left, but Bridges hit a jumper in the lane with 37 seconds to play. Booker’s two free throws sealed it with 4.8 seconds left. “I feel like there were times where we could’ve put them away, but (an) experienced team that has been in this situation before is never gonna give up,” Booker said. The Suns led 60-51 at halftime and answered — mainly behind Booker and Ayton — any surge by Boston. The lead never fell below seven in the quarter, with Booker scoring nine points and Ayton getting eight. The loss of two key players showed for the Celtics in the first quarter when the Suns broke in front 26-10 before Boston’s bench helped spark a 15-0 run. TIP-INS Suns: Ayton took an inadvertent elbow from Smart to mouth in the first quarter. After a brief stoppage to get checked, the 7-foot-1 center stayed in the game. … Booker also went to the floor hard after a collision with Smart in the second, but remained in after getting up slowly, and Ricky Rubio took a shot to the face in the fourth. Celtics: Tatum was taken out early after missing his first three shots. … Grant Williams started at forward and Hayward at guard. Stevens joked before the game that he didn’t know who was starting and said: “I think I told six guys and you can only have five.” TRYING EVERYTHING Stevens even used a different type of defense — a box-and-one on Booker — but that didn't work. “We played a little bit of a zone and we were going to take our chances with other guys,” he said. “I think we played a triangle-and-two my second year (in Boston) in the playoffs against (Kyrie) Irving and (LeBron) James. That was probably the last time, but he was killing us.” EXTRA CHEERLEADERS Walker, dressed in jeans with a white hooded sweatshirt and a beige sports coat, offered any support he could, talking to the team on the bench during a timeout while the coaches were huddling off to the side after Boston fell behind early in the game. He was off the bench, clapping numerous times and patting teammates when they came out. Brown joined him, at times, offering encouragement. ACROBATIC On one of his baskets, Booker was fouled driving to his right, and, while in midair, shifted and flipped a shot in over shoulder across his body. UP NEXT Suns: Host the Spurs on Monday night. Celtics: Host the Lakers Monday night. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Louisville's big lead was all but gone, leaving the 11th-ranked Cardinals clinging to a slim margin while the fans packed into Duke's famously hostile home arena were roaring at ear-ringing levels. Chris Mack's squad proved they were tough enough to punch back in those critical moments to secure a huge win against a fellow Atlantic Coast Conference heavyweight. Freshman David Johnson had a season-high 19 points and the Cardinals hung on down the stretch to beat No. 3 Duke 79-73 on Saturday night, winning a key matchup in the league's regular-season title chase. “We never got rattled,' said Malik Williams, who had 12 points and a couple of big late-game plays. “Things got tough for us, they tied the game, we kept playing, kept fighting.” “Fighting” is probably a good word for it, too. It was a physical game with plenty of players bumping each other to the floor and powering into the paint through contact, one that left Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski calling it “the most physical game we’ve been involved with in years, really.” “The term of freedom of movement was not alive and well tonight,” Krzyzewski said, adding: “They played great, I don't want it to take away from them.” The Cardinals — who improbably blew a 23-point lead in the final 10 minutes of a home loss to Duke last year — hung on despite finding themselves in a tight finish after leading by 15 in the first half and 10 at halftime. Leading 71-70, Louisville (15-3, 6-1 ACC) got two free throws from Dwayne Sutton with 3:11 remaining and then got five consecutive defensive stops during the critical game-clinching sequence. That included a missed drive and an airballed 3-pointer from Duke freshman Cassius Stanley, who was otherwise was the best player on the floor for either team on the way to season highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds. Williams added two free throws with 16 seconds left to make it 75-70 and followed immediately with a transition dunk off a turnover. It was a sequence that all but ensured the Cardinals would claim the only regular-season meeting between the teams, not to mention put themselves in a tie with No. 9 Florida State atop the league standings. “If you’re going to win here, especially with them coming off a loss, you’re going to have to figure out a way to be the tougher team for 40 minutes,” Mack said. By those final seconds, the Cardinals had done just that, even allowing Sutton to tell Duke’s “Cameron Crazies” to “Go home” as Louisville began its celebration. The Blue Devils (15-3, 5-2) shot 37% for the game and made only 6 of 25 3-pointers. The struggles included freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. finishing with just 12 points after sitting a long stretch of the second half with four fouls. “We got hit first,” Stanley said. “But I think we responded very well. But when you get hit first like that, it’s a lot to get back.” BIG PICTURE Louisville: The Cardinals picked the perfect way to close a three-game road swing. They first won at Notre Dame by three, then beat Pittsburgh by five in overtime before going 3-0 with the win at Cameron. They’re now tied with No. 6-1 in the ACC, though FSU beat Louisville earlier this season. Duke: The Blue Devils had been rolling before stumbling at Clemson on Tuesday to end a nine-game winning streak and suffer their first league loss this season. They’ve now dropped consecutive games for the first time since losing to St. John’s and North Carolina in February 2018. One big culprit in this one: Duke finished with 16 turnovers, 10 coming in a mistake-filled first half that staked Louisville to its lead. QUIET NIGHT The Cardinals won despite Nwora, the league's leading scorer at 20.4 points, finishing with a season-low six points on 3-for-12 shooting. JOHNSON'S PLAY Johnson, a 6-foot-5 point guard, had 17 points in the first half to surpass his previous season high of 11 points at Pitt. He finished 8 of 12 from the floor with seven assists before leaving late with a banged-up shoulder. TESTY There was an early bit of spice added when Louisville’s Darius Perry fell to the floor after a miss and tried to get up with Stanley standing and straddling him. That led to Perry and Stanley getting tangled, prompting Duke’s Joey Baker to run over and exchange words with Perry before they were separated. Each received technical fouls. UP NEXT Louisville: The Cardinals host Georgia Tech on Wednesday. Duke: The Blue Devils host Miami on Tuesday. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25 ___ Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
  • Mission accomplished for Florida International's James Morgan, Charlotte's Benny LeMay and Navy's Malcolm Perry in the East-West Shrine Bowl. The trio shined for the East in a 31-27 victory, with Morgan leading two first-quarter touchdown drives and LeMay rushing for a pair of TDs, including the game-winner. Perry took a direct snap from center and sprinted 52 yards for a TD on his only carry. “It was really a nice week,' said Morgan. “I just wanted to come in, work as hard I could, learn as much as possible and go out and compete. It was quite an experience.' LeMay and Perry, a quarterback in college who's eyeing a pro career as a receiver, felt good about what they accomplished before scouts in town to evaluate prospects playing in the nation's longest running college football all-star game. LeMay’s 9-yard TD run with just under two minutes remaining sealed offensive MVP honors for the 5-foot-8, 216-pound running back, who finished with 80 yards on 16 carries. “The offensive line did a great job,' LeMay said. “It's really nice to come out here and have a good game.' Morgan started at quarterback for the East and shared playing time with Princeton’s Kevin Davidson and Mississippi State’s Tommy Stevens, who led his team downfield for the winning TD after the West took a 27-24 lead on James Robinson’s 63-yard scoring run. Robinson, who rushed for 1,899 yards and 18 touchdowns for Illinois State this season, finished with 80 yards rushing on seven attempts. He gained an additional 56 yards on two receptions, one a 46-yarder that led to a field goal. Utah’s Tyler Huntley threw a 7-yard TD pass to San Diego State tight end Parker Houston and North Texas’ Mason Fine tossed a 36-yard scoring pass to Ohio State’s Binjimon Victor to help the West wipe out an early two-touchdown deficit and make it 17-all heading into the fourth quarter. Morgan, meanwhile, continued to state his case as a potential pick in the NFL draft by going 9 of 14 for 116 yards, including a 9-yard TD throw to Louisiana’s Ja’Marcus Bradley to finish the East’s game-opening drive. Versatile UCF running back Adrian Killins Jr. had only one rushing attempt but led the East with seven catches for 91 yards, including a 37-yard reception on the winning drive. Stevens also had an 18-yard completion to Rhode Island's Aaron Parker to set up LeMay's second touchdown. Illinois State's Kirk Luther was voted defensive MVP. ___ More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • Andrew Landry and Scottie Scheffler broke away Saturday at The American Express. Landry shot a 7-under 65 at PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to join Scheffler atop the leaderboard at 21-under 195, four strokes ahead of third-place Rickie Fowler. Scheffler had a 66 on the adjacent Stadium Course, also the site of the final round Sunday. “It's a tough course. It's a good track,' Scheffler said. “If you're not on your game, you can really struggle. There's a lot of trouble out there, so you've got to hit a lot of quality shots to keep the ball in play. Good test.' Fowler, tied with Scheffler for the second-round lead, overcame two front-nine bogeys to shoot 70 at the Stadium Course. At the event for the first time in six years, he played the Pete Dye-designed course for the time Saturday after only taking a quick scouting drive early in the week. “I was actually surprised by the green speed early on,' Fowler said. “They were a bit slower than what I've seen the last two days, so adjusting to that, really didn't have anything go in early on until the ninth hole. But I thought I did a good job of hanging around, not getting too far behind.' Ryan Moore and Chase Seiffert were five strokes back at 16 under. Moore had a 67 at the Stadium, and Seiffert shot 67 on the Nicklaus layout. Tournament host Phil Mickelson missed the cut by six strokes. The 49-year-old Hall of Famer finished three rounds at 3 under. He eagled the par-5 16th on Saturday in a 71. Landry lost a playoff to Jon Rahm two years ago at PGA West. The 32-year-old Texan has found something in the desert after missing the cuts in seven of eight starts this season. “It's been a heck of a week so far with my ball-striking,' Landy said. “Just kind of one day's ball-striking, the next day's putting and putting's just been here all week. So, we'll just keep riding it out and see what happens tomorrow.' The 2018 Texas Open winner closed with a 12-foot par save on the par-4 ninth after bogeying the par-3 eighth. He birdied six of his first eight holes. Scheffler got a break on his final hole, escaping with par on the par-4 18th after his drive bounced out of the rocks along the left-side water and into the fairway. “I was just trying to hit a little draw 3-wood — and I drew it a lot,' Scheffler said. “I'm not sure if it would have crossed up there, so it was a great break bouncing off the rocks like that. I guess you take them where you can get them.' The 23-year-old former University of Texas star is in his first season on the PGA Tour after winning twice and topping the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and overall points lists. “I think winning is pretty similar at all levels of the game, and I feel like I've gone a good job of closing tournaments out, especially last year on the Korn Ferry Tour,' Scheffler said. “So, looking back on that experience should definitely help. It should be a fun day.' The leaders became friends when Scheffler was in college. “I live in Austin,' Landry said. “I've kind of watched his career, because I work with Chuck Cook out at UT Golf Club, so I've known Scottie for a little while. ... I'm going to feel super comfortable out there with him. And hopefully he doesn't hit it too far by me.' Tony Finau, at No. 15 the top-ranked player in the field, followed a second-round 62 on the Nicklaus Course with a 71 at the Stadium alongside Mickelson. He was seven strokes back. “I shot a 62 this week already,' Finau said. “It looks like I might need that tomorrow.' ___ More AP golf: https://apnews.com/apf-Golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • ATHENS Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has yet to call his first play, but it's safe to say the 53-year-old already knows he's walking into a better situation than a year ago. RELATED: Todd Monken a Statement hire' by Kirby Smart Monken's differences on the Cleveland Browns' staff with first-year coach Freddie Kitchens were well-documented from the onset. Many close to Kitchens have said Monken was not even the head coach's choice for the job. It's no wonder Monken was quoted as referring the Cleveland franchise a 'total mess.' It was an accurate description. Receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry were a handful. The Myles Garrett helmet swing incidentreached epic proportion. Georgia football is anything but a total mess. Monken arrives in Athens knowing he was Kirby Smart's top choice. Smart hasn't announced it, but it's a good bet Monken will assume the playcalling duties. It's something Monken has said before is important to him. RELATED: Why Todd Monken is a proven OC, and the Smart choice The best-case scenario for Georgia and Monken next season is a national championship. At the very least, a fourth-straight trip to the SEC Championship Game. The Georgia defense is that good. Nine of 11 Sugar Bowl starters return. It was a unit that led the nation in scoring defense and run defense, and finished third in the country in total defense and 8h in pass efficiency defense. Smart will be looking for an offense that makes more explosive plays while maintaining a reliable run game. But the bottom line for Smart was and is offensive efficiency and consistency. If Monken's offense can score 24 points in each game next season, it's hard to project the Bulldogs losing a game. That said, Georgia has its share of challenges on offense. Chief among those hurdles are growing an inexperienced receiving corps, and developing and scheming for a new quarterback. Georgia rising sophomore George Pickens is the key to the receiving corps. He's coming off a Sugar Bowl MVP performance, making 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 26-14 win over Baylor. Pickens, however, was hit with two suspensions his freshman campaign. The first involved an unspecified violation of team rules. The second came by NCAA rule after his well-publicized tangle at Georgia Tech. RELATED: Pickens apologizes to team for costly SEC title game suspension Pickens' growth and development as a person and potential leader will factor into Monken's future game plans where skill position players are concerned. Georgia has other receiver options returning and promising incoming freshmen. But none appear to have the game-changing dynamic Pickens presents. Georgia is also green in the backfield. Zamir White enters spring drills battling Kenny McIntosh for first-team reps. Rising junior James Cook and incoming freshman Kendall Milton have breakout talent. To this point, none of the backs have shown the dynamic game-breaking ability departing back D'Andre Swift flashed his first two seasons. It doesn't mean they won't, but expectations should be kept in check, Swift was special. The ultimate challenge, however, is at quarterback. Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is considered the favorite to win the job in spring drills. Newman is coming to Georgia to throw more, and the Bulldogs are excited to have a quarterback who can run and scramble effectively. The two sides will meet somewhere in the middle, with Newman gaining experience in an offense that can transition into the NFL. Georgia also has redshirt junior Stetson Bennett, redshirt freshman D'Wan Mathis and incoming freshman Carson Beck in the quarterback room this spring. The final piece for Monken's success is the fit in the offensive meeting room, and the trust and chemistry he builds with Smart. Unlike Cleveland, Monken will be handed the keys, and he'll be surrounded by an all-star staff that includesJames Coley, Matt Luke and run game coordinator Dell McGee. Georgia football, unlike the NFL's Cleveland Browns, doesn't mess around. Georgia football offseason Kirby Smart lands Air Raid guru Todd Monken LSU DC Dave Aranda reveals UGA offensive game plan Mark Richt gives scout on FSU grad-transfer Tre Mckitty UGA provides status update on James Coley Numbers game: Comparing Jamie Newman to Jake Fromm Bulldogs' safety headed for Ole Miss RELATED: Cade Mays makes stunning Rocky Top Hop Projected starting Georgia lineman returning from injury PODCAST: Brandon Adams discusses Todd Monken addition The post New Georgia OC Todd Monken trades total mess' for championship quest appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Nick Richards and No. 10 Kentucky could have wilted after coach John Calipari was ejected in the second half. They had another idea. Richards had 17 points and nine rebounds, and the 10th-ranked Wildcats held off Arkansas for a 73-66 victory Saturday. Kentucky (13-4, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) had five players score in double figures. Ashton Hagans had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Immanuel Quickley finished with 13 points and 10 boards. Mason Jones scored 19 points for Arkansas (14-3, 3-2), which has dropped nine straight in the series. Jimmy Whitt Jr. added 14 points. The game was tied at 44 with 8:19 left when Calipari became upset after forward EJ Montgomery was whistled for an offensive foul for an illegal screen. He received two technical fouls as the sellout crowd at Bud Walton Arena cheered wildly. “I think it happened so fast we couldn’t really react to it,” assistant coach Kenny Payne said when asked about getting between Calipari and the officials. “Unfortunate for me especially, sitting there having to coach the game in the end in a critical point in the game where it’s turning in their favor. But these kids are resilient.” Jones then made three free throws to give the Razorbacks their first lead since the opening minutes. But the Wildcats stepped up their defensive effort and put together a 17-2 run. Quickley made a 3-pointer and Keion Brooks Jr. scored to make it 61-49 with 2:44 left. “It’s an execution game (at that point),” Payne said. “The last thing they’re expecting us to do is rebound and push the ball up the court. Well, that’s what we did. By doing that, we got a couple layups, we got a wide-open 3 and it opened the game up for us and gave us a cushion.” Arkansas shot just 33.3% (19 for 57) from the field. Isaiah Joe went 3 for 11 from 3-point range and finished with 13 points. “I thought their defense during the scoring drought, they went zone and kept the lane compact. I thought we forced some shots,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “I thought in the second half we settled in a lot better up until that scoring drought. But look, this one hurts.” POLL IMPLICATIONS Kentucky was coming off an 81-78 loss at South Carolina on Wednesday night. It likely will drop a few spots when the next poll comes out. BIG PICTURE Kentucky: Led by Richards, the Wildcats showed off their balance. Tyrese Maxey had 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting, and Brooks finished with 10 points and seven boards. Arkansas: The Razorbacks played just seven players, and the lack of depth hurt in the second half. They were outrebounded 47-29 for the game. UP NEXT Kentucky hosts Georgia on Tuesday. Arkansas visits Mississippi State on Wednesday. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Georgia Sports News

  • Georgia basketball is going to have to grow up in a hurry if it has any chance of becoming an NCAA tournament team this season. Coach Tom Crean's young squad came apart on the road at Mississippi State on Saturday night, falling 91-59 in a battle of SEC Bulldogs. Crean's concerns about Mississippi State's size and rebounding prowess became a reality. The maroon-and-white clad Bulldogs entered the night as the SEC's top rebounding team. They proceeded to show why, posting a commanding 40-22 advantage on the glass over UGA. 48 of State's 91 points were scored in the paint. Georgia dropped to 11-6 overall and 1-3 in the SEC with the loss, while Coach Ben Howland's team improved to 11-6 and 2-3 in league games. UGA freshman Anthony Edwards got off to a rough start at the so-called 'Hump.' Edwards was held to 3 points in the first half and made only 1 of his first 9 shots. Edwards finished with 19 points on 5-of-16 shooting, including 1-of-8 marksmanship beyond the 3-point line. Georgia, coming off an 80-63 home win over Tennessee, kept things close throughout much of the first half in Starkville. Freshman Toumani Camera scored all 10 of his points in the opening half, including a dunk that made it 32-28. But Mississippi State closed the first half on a 10-3 run to take a 42-31 lead to intermission. Georgia couldn't get any closer than 11 points the remainder of the game. Junior Rayshaun Hammonds, UGA's top interior threat, scored 8 of his 10 points and grabbed 3 of his 4 rebounds in the first half. Hammonds scored just one basket on 1-of-6 shooting and grabbed just one rebound in the 15 minutes he played in the second half. The home team went on a 17-3 run late in the game, stretching the lead out to 30 points with four minutes left. UGA point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who suffered an ankle injury last Wednesday, started and played 21 minutes. Wheeler had 2 points on 1-of-2 shooting, and 1 assist. The Bulldogs return to action at 7 p.m. at Kentucky on Tuesday. DawgNation Georgia Basketball Anthony Edwards puts the squeeze on Tennessee in blowout win Georgia falls in first SEC road game of season at Auburn Anthony Edwards says UGA didn't play tough enough vs. Kentucky Georgia basketball delivers signature Top 10 win at Memphs Freshman Anthony Edwards discloses injury, status Sahvir Wheeler on clutch game-winner, 'been there a ton of times' Tom Izzo on Georgia: 'That was an incredible comeback' Anthony Edwards lights up Michigan State for 37 in 93-85 loss Rayshaun Hammonds wrecks Georgia Tech Anthony Edwards draws standing ovation in opener Georgia freshman already making basketball history The post Mississippi State blasts Georgia in battle of SEC Bulldogs, Anthony Edwards struggles appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has yet to call his first play, but it's safe to say the 53-year-old already knows he's walking into a better situation than a year ago. RELATED: Todd Monken a Statement hire' by Kirby Smart Monken's differences on the Cleveland Browns' staff with first-year coach Freddie Kitchens were well-documented from the onset. Many close to Kitchens have said Monken was not even the head coach's choice for the job. It's no wonder Monken was quoted as referring the Cleveland franchise a 'total mess.' It was an accurate description. Receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry were a handful. The Myles Garrett helmet swing incidentreached epic proportion. Georgia football is anything but a total mess. Monken arrives in Athens knowing he was Kirby Smart's top choice. Smart hasn't announced it, but it's a good bet Monken will assume the playcalling duties. It's something Monken has said before is important to him. RELATED: Why Todd Monken is a proven OC, and the Smart choice The best-case scenario for Georgia and Monken next season is a national championship. At the very least, a fourth-straight trip to the SEC Championship Game. The Georgia defense is that good. Nine of 11 Sugar Bowl starters return. It was a unit that led the nation in scoring defense and run defense, and finished third in the country in total defense and 8h in pass efficiency defense. Smart will be looking for an offense that makes more explosive plays while maintaining a reliable run game. But the bottom line for Smart was and is offensive efficiency and consistency. If Monken's offense can score 24 points in each game next season, it's hard to project the Bulldogs losing a game. That said, Georgia has its share of challenges on offense. Chief among those hurdles are growing an inexperienced receiving corps, and developing and scheming for a new quarterback. Georgia rising sophomore George Pickens is the key to the receiving corps. He's coming off a Sugar Bowl MVP performance, making 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 26-14 win over Baylor. Pickens, however, was hit with two suspensions his freshman campaign. The first involved an unspecified violation of team rules. The second came by NCAA rule after his well-publicized tangle at Georgia Tech. RELATED: Pickens apologizes to team for costly SEC title game suspension Pickens' growth and development as a person and potential leader will factor into Monken's future game plans where skill position players are concerned. Georgia has other receiver options returning and promising incoming freshmen. But none appear to have the game-changing dynamic Pickens presents. Georgia is also green in the backfield. Zamir White enters spring drills battling Kenny McIntosh for first-team reps. Rising junior James Cook and incoming freshman Kendall Milton have breakout talent. To this point, none of the backs have shown the dynamic game-breaking ability departing back D'Andre Swift flashed his first two seasons. It doesn't mean they won't, but expectations should be kept in check, Swift was special. The ultimate challenge, however, is at quarterback. Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is considered the favorite to win the job in spring drills. Newman is coming to Georgia to throw more, and the Bulldogs are excited to have a quarterback who can run and scramble effectively. The two sides will meet somewhere in the middle, with Newman gaining experience in an offense that can transition into the NFL. Georgia also has redshirt junior Stetson Bennett, redshirt freshman D'Wan Mathis and incoming freshman Carson Beck in the quarterback room this spring. The final piece for Monken's success is the fit in the offensive meeting room, and the trust and chemistry he builds with Smart. Unlike Cleveland, Monken will be handed the keys, and he'll be surrounded by an all-star staff that includesJames Coley, Matt Luke and run game coordinator Dell McGee. Georgia football, unlike the NFL's Cleveland Browns, doesn't mess around. Georgia football offseason Kirby Smart lands Air Raid guru Todd Monken LSU DC Dave Aranda reveals UGA offensive game plan Mark Richt gives scout on FSU grad-transfer Tre Mckitty UGA provides status update on James Coley Numbers game: Comparing Jamie Newman to Jake Fromm Bulldogs' safety headed for Ole Miss RELATED: Cade Mays makes stunning Rocky Top Hop Projected starting Georgia lineman returning from injury PODCAST: Brandon Adams discusses Todd Monken addition The post New Georgia OC Todd Monken trades total mess' for championship quest appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Former Georgia football safety Otis Reese announced on Twitter that he's headed for Ole Miss after entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal two weeks ago. Reese, a 2018 signee, has three years of eligibility remaining. He would have to sit out a season unless granted an NCAA waiver. Reese a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Leesburg, Ga., saw action in all 14 games for the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs last season. Most all of Reese's opportunities were on special teams, however, as he finished with just three tackles. It has been a busy offseason of comings and goings by way of transfer for the Bulldogs. Georgia has scored big additions with Wake Forest QB graduate transfer Jamie Newman and Florida State TE grad transfer Tre' Mckitty. Cade Mays has been the biggest departure, shunning a starting spot with the Bulldogs' championship contender to return to his hometown of Knoxville where his father player. RELATED: Cade Mays makes stunning Rocky Top Hop Reese's situation is clearly about playing time and opportunity. Georgia's elite defense was stacked in the secondary last season with Thorpe Award finalist J.R. Reed at one safety position, and rising star Richard LeCounte at the other. Freshman safety Lewis Cine, like Reese a top 100 prospect in high school, won the starting job for the Sugar Bowl when Reed pulled out of bowl preparation with a foot injury. WATCH: Lewis Cine knows his time is coming, putting in the hard work Cine had six tackles in the 26-14 win over Baylor and appeared to be the perfect partner to the playmaking LeCounte. Christopher Smith was also competing for reps at safety during bowl prep New Orleans. Rising sophomore Tyrique Stevenson figures to fit into the mix moving forward. Reese entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal after LeCounte made it public that he planned on returning to the Bulldogs. Reese was ranked the No. 87 player in the nation by the 247Sports composite coming out of Lee County High School. He chose UGA over Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Auburn, among others, per his recruiting profile. Georgia is expected to start offseason conditioning next week with spring drills likely to begin after UGA's spring break. The Bulldogs open next season playing Virginia in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Monday Sept. 7. Even in my darkest times, I have always believed, the light would shine & it's TIME!!! @OleMissFB , @Lane_Kiffin , @CoachCPartridge COMMITTED pic.twitter.com/NkFdvkKxPo O Dog.. (@otisreese13) January 18, 2020 The post Former Georgia football safety Otis Reese announces he's headed for Ole Miss appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia coach Tom Crean always talks to his team about 'taking what the game gives you,' but on Saturday night at Mississippi State, UGA might need a different approach. Indeed, Crean's young and undersized team will have to take even when the game isn't giving them any breaks or advantages. Coach Ben Howland's maroon-clad Bulldogs lead the SEC in rebounding margin, the very area Crean's vertically challenged canines are most often challenged to measure up. 'I mean, every game we come in here talking about how important the rebounding is and now we're playing the league leader,' said Georgia coach Tom Crean, who has just two players 6-foot-9 or taller. 'That part of it is tough.' Mississippi State features two starters who are even taller, center Abdul Ado (6-11, 255) and power forward Reggie Perry (6-10, 250). The teams tip off at 8:30 p.m. (TV: SEC Network) at the so-called 'Hump.' Officially known as Humphrey Coliseum, Mississippi State's arena which some say resembles a cake from the outside has a smaller, intimate setting similar to Stegeman Coliseum with a capacity of 10,575. Georgia brings an 11-5 overall mark and 1-2 SEC record into the action. Mississippi State is 10-6 and 1-3 in league play. UGA is looking for what would be its first consecutive league wins under Crean, who is now in his second season. Georgia is also looking to play its way into NCAA tournament contention, and it will likely take a .500 record in league play or better for that to happen. It's Crean's first trip to Starkville, and he may be forced to make it without the playing services of Sahvir Wheeler, who fellow freshman Anthony Edwards refers to as 'the heart of the team.' Wheeler suffered an ankle injury in the second half of Georgia's resounding 80-63 blowout win over Tennessee. Crean made it clear on Friday that Wheeler is questionable, having just managed to walk through the Thursday workout. 'You just have to deal with it, and if he can't it is what it is,' Crean said. 'You just go. Right? That's why you try to develop and try to get multi-dimensional versatile guys. Obviously he's a huge factor.' If Wheeler is out, Georgia will rely more heavily on senior graduate transfer Donnell Gresham along with Edwards at the point. Edwards, named a second-team, mid-season All-American by the Sporting News earlier this week, is averaging 19.1 points per game this season, second in the SEC. Georgia, with its size deficiency, will also need another signature performance from 6-9, 245-pound junior Rayshaun Hammonds. Hammonds is averaging 14.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and he's coming off a 21-point, 5-rebound in the win over the Vols. Mississippi State represents UGA's fifth-straight game against teams that played in the NCAA tournament last season. The Bulldogs are 2-2 in the past four, winning on the road against then-No. 9 Memphis 65-62 on Jan. 4 and hammering Tennessee in Athens on Wednesday night. The losses were to No. 13 Kentucky (78-69) and then-No. 5 Auburn (82-60). Last year's home loss to Mississippi State featured one of the most bizarre endings in Stegeman Coliseum history. WATCH: Stuffed bulldog triggers decisive technical foul in UGA home loss A small stuffed bulldog toy was thrown on the court in the final moments, resulting in a technical foul that helps swing the game State's way, 68-67. Georgia had rallied from 17 down to tie the game at 67-67. DawgNation Georgia Basketball Anthony Edwards puts the squeeze on Tennessee in blowout win Georgia falls in first SEC road game of season at Auburn Anthony Edwards says UGA didn't play tough enough vs. Kentucky Georgia basketball delivers signature Top 10 win at Memphs Freshman Anthony Edwards discloses injury, status Sahvir Wheeler on clutch game-winner, 'been there a ton of times' Tom Izzo on Georgia: 'That was an incredible comeback' Anthony Edwards lights up Michigan State for 37 in 93-85 loss Rayshaun Hammonds wrecks Georgia Tech Anthony Edwards draws standing ovation in opener Georgia freshman already making basketball history The post Georgia basketball looks to get over the hump at Mississippi State appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia football is the No. 1 topic every day on DawgNation Daily the daily podcast for Georgia Bulldogs fans. Catch up on everything happening with UGA athletics with host Brandon Adams and the DawgNation experts as they break down the latest Georgia football recruiting news and discuss coach Kirby Smart's quest to return the Bulldogs to the top of the SEC. On episode No. 1,112 (Jan. 17, 2020) of the podcast, Georgia fans can hear a discussion about Georgia's new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Georgia football podcast: What the Todd Monken hire means for UGA Beginning of the show: News of Todd Monken's hiring broke right as DawgNation Daily began Friday. I'll discuss my thoughts on Monken on the show including how his recent stops as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Bucs and as a head coach at Southern Miss could influence his play calling at UGA. 10-minute mark: DawgNation's Connor Riley joins the show to react in the moment, and I take comments from DawgNation Daily listeners and viewers. 20-minute mark: DawgNation's recruiting insider Jeff Sentell joins the show to react to Monken's hiring and preview a major UGA recruiting weekend including a visit by five-star quarterback Brock Vandagriff. 45-minute mark: I take a look at other SEC headlines including LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda leaving the Tigers to become Baylor head coach, more fallout from Odell Beckham Jr.'s dreadful post-national championship celebration and Tennessee hyping former UGA offensive lineman Cade Mays' presence on campus. 50-minute mark: I preview a busy weekend for UGA athletics beyond football. End of show: I share the Gator Hater Updater. The post Georgia football podcast: What the Todd Monken hire means for UGA appeared first on DawgNation.