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Royals rout Giants 10-0 to force Game 7 in Series

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) Lorenzo Cain hit a two-run single and Eric Hosmer lined a two-run double over shortstop in a seven-run second inning as the Kansas City Royals battered the San Francisco Giants 10-0 Tuesday to force a decisive Game 7 in the World Series. Yordano Ventura, a 23-year-old rookie pitching with a heavy heart and the initials of late St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras on his cap, allowed three hits over seven stifling innings as the Series drew level at three games each. "This is what we all prepared for. This is why we play the game," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. As bouncers rolled by infielders and bloops dropped in front of outfielders, the raucous roar at Kauffman Stadium swelled with every hit in the second and then got louder the rest of the night. Lorenzo Cain looped a two-run single - one of eight Royals to get hits in the seven-run burst - and Hosmer chopped a two-run double over shortstop. "Guys stepped up in a big way tonight," Cain said. Jeremy Guthrie starts Wednesday night for Kansas City and Tim Hudson for San Francisco in a rematch of Game 3, won by Kansas City 3-2. Hudson, 39, will become the oldest Game 7 starter in Series history. "We're confident," the Royals' Billy Butler said. "Jeremy, every time out, gives us a chance to win." Lurking is Madison Bumgarner, ready to pitch in relief after suffocating the Royals on a total of one run in winning Games 1 and 5. Giants manager Bruce Bochy elected not to start him on two days' rest. "This guy is human. I mean, you can't push him that much," Bochy said. "He'll be available if we need him, but to start him, I think that's asking a lot." Kansas City can be comfortable in this bit of history: Home teams have won nine straight Game 7s in the Series since Pittsburgh's victory at Baltimore in 1979, including the Royals' 11-0 rout of St. Louis in 1985. And the Giants have lost all four of their World Series finales pushed to the limit. "I had a very, very strong feeling that whoever won Game 6 was going to win Game 7," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We have to wait until tomorrow to see if my theory's correct." Teams with the home-field advantage have won 23 of the last 28 titles, including five in a row. This Series has followed the exact pattern of the only other all-wild card matchup in 2002, when the Giants won the opener, fell behind 2-1, took a 3-2 lead and lost the last two games at Anaheim. "I can't wait to get out there tomorrow and have some fun," Hudson said. There was a moment of silence before the game in honor of Taveras, the 22-year-old killed in an automobile accident Sunday in the Dominican Republic. Ventura wrote "RIP O.T (hash)18" in silver marker on the left side of his cap and brought a Dominican flag to his postgame interview. "From the minute that I found out about Oscar, I said this game was going to be dedicated to him," Ventura said through a translator. "I prepared myself mentally and physically for this game, and I'm very proud to be a Dominican, and that's why I brought the flag." He escaped his only trouble in the third, when he walked the bases loaded with one out and got Buster Posey to ground a fastball into a double play. Ventura threw fastballs on 81 of 100 pitches, reaching up to 100 mph (160 kph). Yost was able to rest the hard-throwing back of his bullpen: Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis enter Game 7 with two days off and closer Greg Holland with four. Kansas City out-hit the Giants 15-6 in another blowout in the first Series in which five games were decided by five runs or more. All nine Royals had hits by the third, matching the mark set by Arizona against the Yankees in Game 6 in 2001. Cain drove in three runs and was among six Royals with two hits each. Mike Moustakas homered in the seventh against Hunter Strickland, ending a 36-inning homerless streak in the Series, the longest since 1945. Peavy was charged with five runs and six hits in 1 1-3 innings, leaving with a career Series record of 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA in three starts. His record at Kauffman Stadium is 1-7 with a 7.28 ERA. "It's hugely disappointing. It's as disappointing as it can get," he said. San Francisco had scored 15 straight runs entering the night, but the Royals rocked Peavy and Yusmeiro Petit in the 32-minute bottom of the second. Moustakas grounded an RBI double over the first-base bag, past Brandon Belt and down the right-field line. Alcides Escobar hit a one-out bouncer to Belt. With Peavy yelling "Home!" Belt checked Salvador Perez at third and then tried to out-race Escobar to first base rather than throw to second baseman Joe Panik, who already was at the base. Escobar slid past Belt's failed tag attempt and into first to reach on the infield hit. "It's a play you can definitely learn from," Belt said. "Unfortunately, it happened in the World Series."

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 02:05:00 +0000
Mississippi State, Florida State top first playoff list

GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) The College Football Playoff selection committee has spoken - and it likes the SEC. At least for now. Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Mississippi are the top four teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings. The first of seven Top 25 rankings compiled by a 12-member selection committee was released Tuesday night. The selection committee will ultimately pick the four teams to play in the national semifinals and set the matchups for the other four big New Year's Day bowls that are part of the playoff rotation. "It was extremely difficult, more difficult than any of us had expected having gone through our mock selections before," Arkansas athletic director and committee chairman Jeff Long said. "There are 18 one-loss teams in FBS at this point in time, and the difference between many of them is very slim." Oregon was fifth and Alabama was sixth, giving the Southeastern Conference's West Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining matching those SEC West rivals, starting with Saturday's matchup of Auburn and Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi. The final rankings will be released Dec. 7, the day after the most of the conference championships are decided. "Everyone on the selection committee recognized that our rankings will change over the next six weeks," Long said. "I think that's important for us to emphasize. We expect our rankings to change over the next six weeks. One week's rankings won't influence the next week's rankings." TCU was seventh, Michigan State was eighth, Kansas State ninth and Notre Dame was 10th. Mississippi State and defending national champion Florida State are the only undefeated teams left among the Big Five conferences. "It's cool," Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott said. "That's something you can never take away from the university or this program. First-ever ranking, first team to be No. 1, so that's pretty cool for the university." The Bulldogs and Seminoles also hold the first two spots in the AP Top 25. No. 3 was where the differences started between the playoff rankings and the media poll. The AP voters had Alabama at No. 3 and Auburn at No. 4. Oregon was fifth, Notre Dame was sixth and Ole Miss was seventh after losing for the first time this season at LSU on Saturday. Ole Miss beat Alabama at home earlier this month. This is the first year for the playoff format in college football, and the list is the first indication of how the committee is evaluating teams' playoff potential. While Ole Miss received a better ranking than Alabama, head-to-head victories weren't always the deciding factor for the committee. Arizona, which won at Oregon, is 12th. Baylor, which beat TCU, is 13th. Long said in both cases the head-to-head loser had the better overall resume. Long said Oregon's victories against Michigan State and UCLA stood out. And Baylor's lack of quality opposition so far held back the Bears. "They have not had a strong schedule outside of their win against TCU," Long said. The committee creates small groups of teams, debates their merits and ranks the teams using as many votes as needed to come up with a consensus. Members are given reams of data on each FBS team and each member is allowed to judge those numbers however they determine is best. The committee members gathered Monday at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine, Texas, just outside of Dallas, and did most of their work on Day 1. Long said the committee worked for about 10 hours total on the rankings. By the time the rankings were released on ESPN at 7:30 EDT, most of the committee members were already on their way home.

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 01:02:00 +0000
Rockets rout Lakers 108-90 in Kobe's return

LOS ANGELES (AP) After Lakers rookie Julius Randle left his NBA debut strapped to a wheeled stretcher with a broken right leg, every player at Staples Center gained a sober perspective on the season opener. Even ex-teammates Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard realized their shouting match was particularly inconsequential in the final minutes of the Houston Rockets' blowout win. James Harden scored 32 points, Howard added 13 points and 11 rebounds before getting into an exchange with Bryant, and the Rockets spoiled Bryant's return to the Lakers with a 108-90 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Bryant's comeback game and the Lakers' return from a 55-loss season went from bad to miserable when Randle broke his right leg in the fourth quarter. The seventh overall pick out of Kentucky collided with two Rockets under the basket and landed awkwardly, collapsing to the court in agony. After his own Lakers debut ended somberly, coach Byron Scott described the scene as "heartbreaking." "The last three or four minutes, obviously we weren't thinking a whole lot about basketball," Scott added. "We were just thinking about Julius, and hoping he's OK." Randle's injury cast a pall over the night for the Lakers, who are banking on the 19-year-old power forward to become a solid player - perhaps their next star. His right leg was immobilized before his teammates lifted him onto the stretcher, obvious pain on his face, with Bryant squeezing his hand. "We'll help him through this, and he'll come back a better basketball player," Bryant said. "That's the goal, is to try to find a silver lining in this. He'll use the time to come back and be stronger." Bryant scored 19 points in his first game back at Staples Center after missing most of the Lakers' worst season in a half-century with two major injuries. A few moments before Randle's injury, Howard and Bryant received matching technical fouls when Howard elbowed Bryant in the face after grabbing a rebound in the fourth quarter, setting off a lengthy stretch of shouting and finger-pointing between the former teammates. Although teammates stepped between them, Bryant appeared to yell "Try me!" at Howard, who wore his usual broad grin while responding. "There's no need to go into it. We won the game," Howard said. "It's over with. It's about basketball. I'm not even focused on it." Howard spurned Bryant and the Lakers after one season in 2013 to take roughly $30 million less as a free agent in Houston. Scott said the two superstars "don't like each other," a notion that made Bryant laugh. "You can't help but like him," Bryant said with a straight face. "He's a teddy bear. I really mean that. He's a nice kid." Howard got a flagrant foul for the elbow, and Bryant got a personal foul in addition to their technicals. Both veterans were pulled from the blowout immediately afterward. Trevor Ariza and Terrence Jones scored 16 points apiece, while Harden hit three 3-pointers and 15 free throws. Ariza hit five 3-pointers for the Rockets, who took an 18-point lead in the first half and weren't threatened. "We looked pretty good," Harden said. "It was just a matter of time for everybody to get on the court together and execute, and tonight, we did a pretty good job." Jeremy Lin scored seven points against his former teammates in his Lakers debut, struggling to score against Patrick Beverley. Lin is the Lakers' starting point guard after Steve Nash's latest season-ending injury. Bryant extended his franchise record just by stepping on the court for his 19th season with the Lakers, tying Utah's John Stockton for the most seasons with one team in NBA history. That 19th season is likely to be rocky, although he relishes the chance to play for Scott, the longtime Lakers shooting guard and Inglewood, California, native who got his self-described dream job this summer. Bryant played just six games last season due to two major injuries, and the Lakers won just 27 games in their worst performance since moving to Los Angeles. Carlos Boozer added 17 points in his Lakers debut. Rockets: Rookie Tarik Black scored two points and Kostas Papanikolaou had four in their NBA debuts. Black made the roster as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas. Papanikolaou spent last season with FC Barcelona. ... Jason Terry scored eight points off the bench in his Houston debut. Lakers: Randle scored two points and second-round pick Jordan Clarkson had eight in their NBA debuts for the Lakers. ... Xavier Henry and Ronnie Price both played despite injuries. Henry missed the entire preseason. ... Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Will Ferrell, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Yasiel Puig, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Gerard Butler, Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo attended the game. The Lakers left shortly afterward for their road opener in Phoenix on Wednesday. The Rockets flew to Utah for another road game Wednesday.

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 05:47:00 +0000
Parker helps Spurs edge Mavs 101-100 in opener

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tony Parker scored 23 points, including a big 3-pointer late in the game as the San Antonio Spurs opened their title defense with a thrilling 101-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. Manu Ginobili added 20 points for San Antonio, which shot 53 percent from the field. Tim Duncan had 14 points and 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double in a season opener, the most by any player in NBA history, according to Elias Sports. Monta Ellis scored 26 points for Dallas, and Dirk Nowitzki had 18. Devin Harris finished with 17 points. Following a video recap of the 2014 season narrated by actor and Spurs fan Samuel L. Jackson, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver presented San Antonio's staff and players with their championship rings. The inscription inside the ring was "Good to Great," which was coach Gregg Popovich's mantra last season. After Nowitzki gave Dallas a 100-98 lead with a fadeaway jumper over Boris Diaw with 1:37 remaining, Parker drained a 3 in front of the Mavericks' bench off a feed from Diaw. Parker was 4 for 4 from long range, matching a career high for 3s in a game. Houston's James Harden scored 32 points, and Dwight Howard added 13 points and 11 rebounds before getting into a shouting match with Kobe Bryant as the Rockets spoiled Bryant's return to the Lakers with a 108-90 victory. Bryant's comeback game got even worse when Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle seriously injured his right leg in the fourth quarter, leaving his NBA debut on a wheeled stretcher. The seventh overall pick out of Kentucky collided with two Rockets under the basket and landed awkwardly. Bryant scored 19 points in his first game back at Staples Center after missing most of the Lakers' worst season in a half-century with two major injuries. Trevor Ariza and Terrence Jones scored 16 points each for Houston. At New Orleans, Anthony Davis had 26 points, 17 rebounds and nine blocks to lead the New Orleans Saints to a 101-84 season-opening win over the Orlando Magic. Ryan Anderson, coming back from surgery on a herniated disk that cost him more than half of last season, scored 22 points. The Pelicans' new 7-foot (2.13-meter) center, Omer Asik, had a double-double with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Tobias Harris scored 25 points for Orlando, while Nikola Vucevic added 15 points and 23 rebounds.

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 02:45:00 +0000
Champ Bailey calls it a career after 15 years in NFL

DENVER (AP) Former teammate Brian Dawkins called Champ Bailey "a great conserver of energy," a rare superstar who was never in a rush to get anywhere "unless it was on a football field." In that dawdling, you can count retirement. That finally came Tuesday, 60 days after Bailey was released by the New Orleans Saints when a nagging foot injury prevented him from displaying the speed and skills that led to his cornerback-record dozen Pro Bowl berths in Washington and Denver. He had workouts with the Lions and Ravens and interest from other teams but decided to pursue a new chapter, possibly in broadcasting. "Every professional athlete knows and understands that at some point his career will end and it will be time to move on to another phase in life. For me, that time is now," Bailey said in a statement released by the Broncos, for whom he played from 2004-13. "I have been truly blessed. I have been able to play this NFL game I love for 15 seasons and yet, it seems like only yesterday that my dreams came true when I received the call from Charley Casserly letting me know the Redskins had made me their first pick in the 1999 draft," Bailey said. The seventh overall pick that year, the University of Georgia star spent five seasons in Washington before the Broncos traded star running back Clinton Portis to the Redskins for the game's premier shutdown cornerback. Bailey was the most decorated defender in franchise history with eight Pro Bowl berths while with the Broncos. When GM John Elway returned to his beloved franchise, his first order of business was signing Bailey to an extension. "Champ was the pillar in this organization for a long, long time," Elway said. "He brought great stability to the Broncos not only as a player but as a person through his ability and leadership. When I came here in 2011, he was the guy that we were going to build around and we were fortunate to have him for three more years to get this team back on track. He was a big part of that turnaround." Peyton Manning paid him the ultimate compliment, saying Bailey "had unbelievable cover skills and unbelievable ball skills. He caught the ball like a wide receiver did. Going all the way back to my days playing against him in college, he was truly a great competitor with talent and work ethic. That's what made Champ such an incredible player." Bailey took many a young cornerback under his wing, among them Chris Harris Jr, who tweeted, "Blessed to be able to learn and play opposite Champ for 3 years," and added the hashtags HOF and TBE for the surefire Hall of Famer. Although quarterbacks usually avoided throwing in his direction, Bailey still found a way to get involved and make an impact. He had 52 interceptions, more than any active cornerback. He prided himself on his technique and tackling abilities. In 215 regular season games, Bailey had 983 tackles, three sacks, nine forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. "The thing about Champ was he had great ability as a shutdown corner while also not being afraid to stick his nose in there and be a part of the run game," Elway said. "He was a complete corner with tremendous toughness and ability to cover." About the only thing that eluded Bailey in his stellar career was a Super Bowl ring. The closest he came was the Broncos' trip to the Meadowlands in February when they were blown out by Seattle. With a $10 million salary looming for this season, the Broncos released him in March after Bailey decided he wanted to give a 16th season a try. He later signed with the Saints, but the left foot injury that sidelined him for 11 games last season continued to bother him during training camp and for the first time in his life he didn't make the cut. His last NFL season was a bittersweet one, missing 11 games with the foot injury before returning to action down the stretch and finally getting to play in a Super Bowl, which proved both the apex and nadir of his career. "He had a significant part to do with them getting there based on his play in the AFC championship, where he gave up one pass for 4 yards on one foot," said his agent, Jack Reale. "He has a tremendous amount to be proud of and really tried to get it done last year when lesser players wouldn't have even tried." It's a safe bet Bailey will end up talking football now that he's done playing it. "Media makes a lot of sense for a guy like him," Reale said.

Wed, 29 Oct 2014 00:10:00 +0000
Giants, Royals ready for wild World Series finish

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Buster Posey was annoyed. Playfully so. The Giants catcher wanted Madison Bumgarner to do more than barely break a smile after a brilliant pitching performance put San Francisco one win from another World Series title. No way, Buster. Because in this postseason full of stars and surprises, who knows? Heck, Bumgarner might still have more work to do. Baseball took its final break Monday before the Giants and Royals settle things. Holding a 3-2 edge, San Francisco will try to claim its third championship in five years Tuesday night when the wild-card matchup resumes at Kansas City. "We're trying to grind this thing out, the way we have for what feels like forever now," Jake Peavy, who starts Game 6 for the Giants, said before Monday night's workout at Kauffman Stadium. "Not even sure of the date, the day. Doesn't matter." The day off gave fans a chance to savor what they'd already seen in the past month, and there was plenty - the success of Bumgarner, Lorenzo Cain and Yusmeiro Petit, the struggles of Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Detroit's aces, a rack of tight games and one that went 18 innings. "Clayton who? MadBum!" one man yelled as he exited AT&T Park after the Giants won 5-0 Sunday night. Could be a lot more cooking in this October oven, too. Maybe Ned Yost even had it right. "Oh, man, somewhere inside of me, secretly I had hoped that it would go seven games for the excitement and the thrill of it," the Kansas City manager said after a loss in Game 4. "Sure looks that way." Perhaps it's only fitting this Fall Classic ends at Kauffman Stadium, a place hosting playoff baseball for the first time in 29 years. The Royals started this pulsating postseason at home with a 9-8 comeback win in 12 innings over Oakland in the AL wild-card game, a thriller that began on the last day of September and nearly stretched into October. That captivating night in Kansas City set the stage for a month to remember: dramatic finishes, favorites falling and underdogs overachieving, stars slipping and new ones shining. What happens next is anybody's guess. After all, the last time Game 6 of the World Series came to Kansas City, one of the most surreal scenes in baseball history unfolded: first base umpire Don Denkinger's botched call serving as the signature moment of the 1985 World Series won by the Royals over St. Louis. "We know we can do it," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We're a confident group. But we can't do anything without winning Game 6. We're excited to get back home where we feed off the fans and that energy." Royals rookie Yordano Ventura starts against the veteran Peavy - not exactly the matchup many would've predicted in April. But the majors' most notable names during the regular season - Dodgers ace Kershaw and Angels slugger Trout - flamed out fast in the Division Series. A trio of Cy Young winners didn't do enough for Detroit. Injuries slowed down former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. Even playoff-proven starter Jon Lester looked lost under October's bright lights for the one-and-done Athletics. Plus up-and-coming starter Stephen Strasburg showed he still has to polish his postseason poise for the Nationals. Instead, these playoffs bred a new batch of baseball darlings: Cain and the running Royals, starter-turned-reliever Petit and a pair of blazing bullpens no longer overlooked in the World Series. Of course, no star has burned brighter than a 25-year-old lefty from North Carolina, the one who peeved Posey with his tempered postgame reaction. Bumgarner's dominant performances in Game 1 and Game 5 - not to mention in every previous round of the playoffs - has put San Francisco one win away from another parade down Market Street, something Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and generations of Giants fans had dreamed of for so long. Now it's becoming an every-other-year tradition. And if the Giants don't win Game 6, there's always a chance Bumgarner could emerge from the bullpen to help out in Game 7. Royals rookie Brandon Finnegan might understand the topsy-turvy nature of these playoffs better than anyone. Only four months after he pitched in the College World Series, the 21-year-old reliever got two key outs in the seventh inning as Kansas City won Game 3. A night later, Finnegan failed to bridge the gap to the back end of the bullpen, allowing five runs in an 11-4 loss to San Francisco. "Baseball can pick you up quickly," Finnegan said, "and hit you in the gut quickly."

Tue, 28 Oct 2014 00:06:00 +0000
Cardinals stunned by Taveras' death

Mike Matheny needed some time to figure out what to say. Like the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals, the manager was leveled by the sudden death of Oscar Taveras. The Cardinals are grieving the loss of an active player for the third time in 12 years after the 22-year-old Taveras died Sunday in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Matheny, general manager John Mozeliak and pitcher Carlos Martinez were part of a group from the organization with plans to attend a private burial service Tuesday in Taveras' country. "I was asked last night to give some words regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, but I just simply couldn't," Matheny said Monday in a statement. "To say this is a horrible loss of a life ended too soon would be an understatement." Taveras was a teenager when he signed with St. Louis as an international free agent in 2008. He was regarded as one of baseball's top prospects and homered in his major league debut May 31. He also had a big solo drive in the seventh inning of Game 2 in the NL Championship Series against San Francisco. "He was someone that became an identity of our organization to some degree," Mozeliak said in a conference call with St. Louis media before a visitation Monday night. "When you think about how much has been written about him and how much has been talked about him, he never truly got a chance to show it at the major league level." Mozeliak said he took a connecting flight from Miami with Taveras' father. "Clearly, he was shaken by these events," the GM said. Taveras was driving a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro at the time of the accident on a highway between the beaches of Sosua and Cabarete in Puerto Plata, about 215 miles north of the capital of Santo Domingo. Edilia Arvelo, Taveras' 18-year-old girlfriend, also died in the crash. A funeral for Arvelo was held Monday in her hometown of Moca. Highway police spokesman Col. Diego Pesqueira said the road was wet from a recent rain but the cause of the crash is under investigation. An autopsy was done Monday but results weren't available. Moises Rodriguez, the international scouting director for the Cardinals, called Mozeliak with the news Sunday night. "My very first thought was `Is this true? Is this possible?"' Mozeliak said. The Cardinals had just finalized plans for Taveras to spend most of November at the team's spring training facility in Jupiter, Florida, and then head to the Dominican Winter League. Taveras lost the regular right fielder job to fellow rookie Randal Grichuk, but that did not diminish the organization's long-term view that Taveras could be a star. Taveras hit .239 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 80 games in his only season in the majors. "In my opinion, the word `love' is the most misused, and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word, and even less popular for athletes," Matheny said. "But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men share a deep and genuine concern for each other. We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar." Matheny was a catcher for the Cardinals when pitcher Darryl Kile died of a heart problem in June 2002. St. Louis also lost Josh Hancock in a fatal car crash in April 2007. Each of those deaths occurred during the season, but the accident for Taveras happened with his teammates at home after losing to San Francisco in the NL Championship Series. Many of them took to Twitter to express their condolences. "Last 30 minutes I've been sick to my stomach. Keep thinking about Oscar's big smile in the dugout whenever we made a big play/got a big hit," All-Star reliever Pat Neshek posted Sunday night. --- Dionisio Soldevila contributed to this report from Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic.

Mon, 27 Oct 2014 23:58:00 +0000
Michael Vick to start for Jets against Chiefs

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) It's Michael Vick's turn. Even though it's probably too late to save the New York Jets' season. Rex Ryan announced Monday that Vick will start at quarterback over Geno Smith in the Jets' road game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. "I think this is the right decision at this time," Ryan said, adding that it isn't "any long-term deal or whatever." The Jets are mired in a seven-game skid that has them at 1-7 after a 43-23 loss in which both Smith and Vick turned the ball over three times against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. "I think it's a great opportunity," the 34-year-old Vick said. "Any time you get named to be the starter, in any profession, in professional sports, it's a great thing. You have to relish it, but also at the same time take it extremely serious and understand what's at stake and what needs to be done." Smith, in his second season, was benched in the first quarter Sunday after throwing interceptions on three consecutive possessions. Vick took over and provided a spark, leading the Jets to a touchdown on his first drive, but also committed three turnovers of his own. "My focus is just on Kansas City and trying to find a way to get a win," Ryan said. "That's why this decision was made." Vick was 18 of 36 for 153 yards against the Bills, and also ran for a team-leading 69 yards on eight carries. But he threw one interception - and nearly had another that was ruled incomplete after being overturned by video review - and lost two fumbles. His first start with the Jets will come against Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who helped revive the quarterback's career in Philadelphia after he served nearly two years in prison for his role in a dogfighting ring. Vick called it "kind of ironic" and added that it isn't exactly what he wanted, but is happy to be starting - regardless of the opponent. "I love Andy Reid for the man that he is," Vick said. "As far as the football game, football is football. I just want to go out there and do what's best for the team and hopefully try to get a win." Smith injured his right shoulder during the game when he made a touchdown-saving tackle on his final interception, but both he and Ryan said it isn't serious. Ryan did acknowledge Smith's shoulder isn't 100 percent, and Matt Simms could be activated from the practice squad if Smith isn't available. "They said it was minor soreness," Smith said. The Jets have been searching for a franchise-type quarterback since the days of Broadway Joe. Vick will become the 27th quarterback to start a game for New York since Joe Namath's last game with the team in 1976. A few have had some good moments - Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington, Brett Favre and even Mark Sanchez - but none was able to sustain any level of dominance or postseason success. Smith was given every opportunity to prove he could be that type of player after being thrust into the job when Sanchez was lost for the year during the 2013 preseason. He finished his shaky rookie season with 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, but had a solid final month to give the Jets some hope. New York signed Vick in the offseason to provide some competition for Smith, but it was clear early that it was the second-year quarterback's job all along. Still, Smith did little to reward the Jets' faith in him as he had seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in eight games. "Have there been guys that took a step back and then took a leap forward? There have been guys like that," Ryan said. "Hopefully that's what happens to Geno, but I don't think anybody in this organization is looking at him differently right now." Smith believes he "without a doubt" can still be a franchise quarterback. The quarterbacks found out about the decision from Ryan after the team meeting Monday. Smith said he initially had no reaction when he was told, but added that he was frustrated and a little surprised to not be the starter this week. He also said he needed no explanation from the coach. "That's something that you have to expect, especially with the way I performed in the previous game," Smith said. "It was definitely not (a performance) fitting of what I believe is the caliber of a starting quarterback. It's something that I've got to work on." --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Mon, 27 Oct 2014 23:58:00 +0000
Jets' Idzik says his performance 'unsatisfactory'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) John Idzik blames himself for the mess that has become the New York Jets' season. No, the general manager isn't happy with the job he has done. And, no, this isn't what he envisioned in his second year in charge of the franchise. "There are no excuses: My performance to date is unsatisfactory," Idzik said Monday during his annual state-of-the team address. "It's a direct reflection of our record." At 1-7, the Jets are mired in a seven-game skid that has some fans and media calling for wholesale changes. Idzik understands the frustration and he empathizes with a fan base that hasn't seen its team reach the Super Bowl since 1969. "It's gut-wrenching," he said, struggling to find words for the team's start. "It's brutal. You feel like you've been punched in the face. It's painful." Idzik opened with a 19-minute statement during which he raised his voice at times, rambled through other moments while talking about the players' resilience and highlighting stats, and appeared uncharacteristically emotional before taking any questions from reporters. While he took accountability for the lousy start, Idzik didn't offer many concrete answers on how the team would turn things around. "Ultimately, I'm responsible for the performance of our team, the product that we put on the field," he said. "That lies with me. The buck stops here." Idzik said the team's struggles are "very personal for me," and alluded to the fact that his father John Sr. was the team's offensive coordinator in the late 1970s. "The Jets are my team," he said. "The Jets are our team." He praised coach Rex Ryan as the team's leader, saying he spends more time with him than his own family. "Our commitment extends to Rex Ryan and our coaching staff," he said. "The last time I checked, all the traits that make Rex Ryan our leader, our head coach, are still intact. He's an excellent football mind. He's a teacher, he's a coach, he's a motivator, he's a mentor." But Idzik also wouldn't commit to keeping Ryan as his coach for the final two months of the season or beyond - saying it's not the Jets' policy to evaluate jobs in season. Idzik also wouldn't say whether Geno Smith, benched in the first quarter of Sunday's 43-23 loss to Buffalo, or Michael Vick would start at Kansas City. Smith threw interceptions on consecutive possessions before giving way to Vick, who had three turnovers of his own in the blowout loss. Ryan said later in the day that Vick would start on Sunday. "We know we need more consistent quarterback play," Idzik acknowledged. Idzik addressed the media for 38 minutes, but the first 10 minutes - maybe more - sounded like a direct appeal to the fans, many of whom have taken to social media and sports talk radio to declare their disgust with the Jets. The GM glanced down at two sheets of paper in front of him at times, hitting his talking points while talking about how his game plan - to build through the draft and build for the future - will work because he saw it happen during his previous stops in the front offices of Tampa Bay and Seattle. "I have every bit of confidence that our plan works here in New York," he said. "It's not manifested by our win-loss column right now. We have seen splashes, but we need to see consistency. There are signs there in our play, to our fans, but we don't need signs. "We need to show them wins, and I think that will come." One big criticism of Idzik has been the fact the Jets had more than $20 million in salary cap space when they entered the season, despite having major needs at key positions, including at cornerback. Idzik defiantly said the space was indicative of the young team the Jets have and that they need the money for flexibility to sign players in the future or sign current players to extensions rather than spend carelessly. "Spending in this league does not translate into winning," he said. "Wise spending translates into winning." He refused to speculate about his own future, and wouldn't say whether owner Woody Johnson has expressed anger to him about the dismal start. "It hurts us to be 1-7," Idzik said. "More importantly, it hurts our fan base. We vow to give them what they deserve. They don't deserve this." --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Mon, 27 Oct 2014 22:57:00 +0000
NCAA's Emmert calls N. Carolina report troubling

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) NCAA President Mark Emmert said Monday that findings from a recent investigation into academic fraud at the University of North Carolina are troubling, disturbing and shocking. While Emmert said he would withhold final judgment until the NCAA completes its own investigation, the usually cautious former university president was downright blunt during a 20-minute interview with The Associated Press at its Indianapolis headquarters. "Just based on the (Kenneth) Wainstein report, this is a case that potentially strikes at the heart of what higher education is about," Emmert said Monday. "Universities are supposed to take absolutely most seriously the education of their students, right? I mean that's why they exist, that's their function in life. If the Wainstein report is accurate, then there was severe, severe compromising of all those issues, so it's deeply troubling. ... It's absolutely disturbing that we find ourselves here right now." North Carolina athletic department spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school would not comment on Emmert's remarks. The report, authored by a former Justice Department official who conducted an internal investigation into the NCAA's own enforcement department scandal in 2013, was released last week. It detailed how academic fraud in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department went on for nearly two decades. According to Wainstein, the "shadow curriculum" involved more than involved more than 3,100 students - about half of whom were athletes. The NCAA has been on the defensive as well. In August, former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon won a federal court case that could force schools to put as much as $5,000 per year into a trust fund that college athletes could collect after they leave school. NCAA attorneys are expected to appeal that decision in November. And recently, former Clemson football player Martin Jenkins went to court, seeking to eliminate the NCAA's ability to control scholarship cost controls. If O'Bannon prevails on appeal and Jenkins wins his case, Emmert said it would create an unprecedented college landscape. That may happen anyway. The NCAA's board of directors meets Thursday, less than four weeks after the five richest football conferences submitted requests seeking greater autonomy to expand scholarships to include the full cost-of-attendance, multi-year scholarships and lifetime scholarships that would allow players to return to school and finish their degrees. Emmert said he supported all three measures and a fourth, which would improve health insurance. If approved, the power-conference schools and everyone else could be competing on uneven playing fields. Then there's the divergent paths No. 9 Georgia and No. 2 Florida State have taken since their star football players were accused of receiving improper benefits from autograph sales. Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley has missed the last two games after the school suspended him indefinitely so it could investigate. The defending national champion Seminoles have allowed Winston, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, to continue playing - a distinction not lost on Emmert. While he declined to talk specifically about the Florida State case, he acknowledged other schools have been forced to vacate wins when they use ineligible players. "From the facts that we know today, publicly, Georgia's behavior has been commendable," he said. "They, apparently, saw something that concerned them, and they dealt with it directly and their athletic department seems to have handled that very, very appropriately based on what we know today. "When a school has information about inappropriate behavior that might render a student-athlete ineligible, then they're under an obligation to respond. If it turns out later that they did know and did have facts that demonstrated that someone was ineligible and they played them anyway, then sure those wins can be vacated and that's happened many times." But it was the details of the North Carolina case that drew Emmert's harshest comments. "When you look at what we all know today, the Wainstein report, and just based upon that," Emmert said, "you look at the, I look at these facts, like everyone, and I find them shocking." --- AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this report.

Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:19:00 +0000