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Packers Blow Out Bears

Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes as the Packers rolled to a 41-25 victory over the slumping Chicago Bears on Sunday night. Green Bay improved its overall record in this series to 100-95-6, including a 20-5 mark against the Bears in games Rodgers has started.

 

Green Bay (8-3) scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions and grabbed a three-game division edge over Chicago (5-6) and Minnesota. Since winning five of their first six games, the Bears have dropped five straight.

 

The Packers capitalized on mistakes by Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who was making his first start since the third week of the season. Trubisky threw three touchdown passes — including two to Allen Robinson — but also committed three turnovers that led to Packers touchdowns.

 

Darnell Savage picked off a pair of Trubisky passes for his first two interceptions of the season. After Za’Darius Smith sacked Trubisky and forced a fumble, Preston Smith picked up the loose ball and ran 14 yards for a touchdown that gave the Packers a 27-3 lead late in the second quarter.

 

Trubisky went 26 of 46 for 242 yards while starting in place of Nick Foles, who injured his glute and hip in a 19-13 loss to Minnesota on Nov. 16. Rodgers was 21 of 29 for 211 yards.

 

Chicago’s David Montgomery had 103 yards rushing — including a 57-yard burst — and also had a 3-yard touchdown catch. Green Bay’s Aaron Jones rushed for 90 yards, while Jamaal Williams ran for 73 yards and a touchdown.

 

Green Bay had struggled in its last two home games – a 28-22 loss to Minnesota and a 24-20 victory over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. The Packers also had blown a two-touchdown halftime lead last week in a 34-31 loss at Indianapolis.

 

This time, however, the Packers took command early at Lambeau Field and avoided a second-half collapse. Green Bay led 41-10 before the Bears scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

 

Rodgers’ final touchdown throw of the night enabled him to become the 11th player in NFL history with at least 50,000 career yards passing.

 

Adams’ touchdown also was his 500th reception in his 95th career game, making him the fastest Packer to reach that plateau. Lewis’ touchdown was his 400th career catch.

 

For the first time this season, the Packers played in front of spectators on their home field

The Packers invited a group of team employees and their family members to attend Sunday night’s game to help evaluate Lambeau Field’s COVID-19 protocols just in case paying fans are admitted to games later this season. There appeared to be a few hundred people in the stands.

 

The Bears played without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks due to a hamstring injury.

 

Packers center Corey Linsley left with a knee injury in the first half and didn’t return. Savage injured his back and guard Lucas Patrick hurt his toe in the second half.

 

The Bears host the Detroit Lions on Sunday while the Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles.

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No. 3 Ohio State cancels game at Illinois after virus spike

No. 3 Ohio State’s game at Illinois on Saturday has been canceled because the Buckeyes have had a spike of COVID-19 cases this week, leaving the the Big Ten’s best team precariously close to being ineligible to play for the conference title.

 

The cancelation Friday night came about seven hours after Ohio State announced coach Ryan Day tested positive and wouldn’t travel with the team to Champaign, Illinois.

 

The team did not fly to Illinois as scheduled Friday night so additional COVID-19 testing could be conducted in Columbus, Ohio. The revised plan was to fly up Saturday morning for a noon ET kickoff.

 

After returning additional positive tests, Ohio State announced the game was called. The school did not reveal how many members of the program had tested positive as has been its policy all year.

 

Ohio State paused all activities for the football team.

 

“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”

 

This is the second game of the Big Ten season Ohio State has had canceled. The first came after an outbreak at Maryland forced a postponement earlier this month. Despite playing only four games so far, the Buckeyes (4-0) were fourth in the first College Football Playoff rankings released earlier this week.

 

Big Ten rules require teams to play at least six game in this abbreviated season to be eligible to play in the conference championship game. The minimum could drop if the average number of games played by all Big Ten teams falls below six (an average above 5.0 will be rounded up to six).

 

In that case the minimum number of games required to be eligible for the championship game would be two fewer than the average.

 

The Big Ten has 18 games remaining, including four Saturday. More than half of those games would have to be canceled for the minimum number of games to qualify for conference championship to drop below six.

 

Ohio State has only two game remaining on its regular-season schedule: at Michigan State on Dec. 5 and home against Michigan on Dec. 12. The Big Ten championship game is Dec. 19.

The Big Ten started its season the weekend of Oct. 24 and scheduled no open dates for makeups in its eight-week, regular-season schedule.

 

No. 18 Wisconsin already has lost three games after Minnesota canceled earlier this week because of a COVID-19 outbreak. That will leave the Badgers, the Big Ten West favorites, with only five regular-season games at most.

 

Day is the 19th major-college football coach this year to publicly acknowledge testing positive for the virus, including Alabama’s Nick Saban earlier this week.

 

Also on Friday, the Southeastern Conference announced a series of scheduling moves to make up games on Dec. 5 that had been previously postponed, including Alabama at LSU.

 

The Tide and Tigers were scheduled to play on Nov. 14, but LSU could not because of a lack of players available due to COVID-19.

 

Arkansas at Missouri will also be made up on Dec. 5. The Razorbacks were forced to postpone their game with the Tigers this week. Missouri instead was scheduled to play a makeup game with Vanderbilt.

 

Alabama at Arkansas, Mississippi at LSU and Missouri at Mississippi State still need to be rescheduled.

 

Alabama at Arkansas could be played on Dec. 12, the week before the SEC championship game.

LSU already has a game with Florida scheduled for Dec. 12, but it could play Ole Miss on the day of the SEC championship game, which the conference is using to make up regular-season games not involving the division winners.

 

Across college football, 16 of the 58 games originally scheduled for this week have been postponed or canceled, though some replacements have been added.

 

Utah will visit Washington after its scheduled Pac-12 opponents could not play, and San Diego State will play at Colorado in a nonconference game after Southern California could not play the Buffaloes.

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Illinois Missed Three Non-Conference Games of 2020 After Big Win at Nebraska

After blowing the doors of the Cornhuskers in Nebraska last Saturday, it is pretty obvious Illinois could've used the three tune-up games of 2020 to enter Big Ten play.

 

Illini beat writer Bob Asmussen says the slate of Bowling Green, Illinois State and UConn would've been great opportunities for the Illini to clean things up ahead of a favorable Big Ten opener against Rutgers in the original 2020 schedule. As it stands, Illinois took a tough draw opening with ranked Wisconsin and Minnestoa plus Purdue to start the 2020 football season.


 

Bowl games in 2020 will be very limited and the College Football Playoff only offers an opportunity to four teams with zero-margin for error, Illinois has stayed the course nicely winning their last two contests. Asmussen says Illinois can look at its circumstances and believe it wasn't entirely their fault given COVID hit the team in week 2.

 

 

Looking to the future, 2020 is not counting against anyone's eligibility this year. With very few players likely eyeing a move to the NFL next, Asmussen says you could see nearly the entire team back next year.

 

 

With 2020 not counting against the eligibility of this year's team, Asmussen believes that puts less pressure on recruiting for next year and should allow the coaching staff to focus in on the best players they can find.

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Dosunmu, Curbelo lead No. 8 Illinois past Chicago State

Ayo Dosunmu scored 22 points, freshman Andres Curbelo added 18 and No. 8 Illinois beat Chicago State 97-38 on Thursday.

 

The Illini (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) never trailed in the game, scoring the first nine points and leading 47-17 at halftime. Big man Kofi Cockburn had 13 points and 5 rebounds at the break.

 

Adam Miller scored 15 points and Cockburn finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. It was Cockburn’s 14th double-double in 34 career games and his second consecutive one. He had one more rebound than the entire Chicago State team did.

 

Illinois shot 36 of 60 (60%) from the field and 7 of 18 (39%) from 3-point range.

 

Xavier Johnson led Chicago State (0-2, 0-0 Western Athletic Conference) with 10 points and Jordan Polynice had nine.

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Braves Fall to Xavier on Last-Second Shot

In a back-and-forth game, the Bradley men's basketball team lost on the road to Xavier, 51-50, thanks to a last-second field by the Musketeers. Bradley is now 1-1 after two games at the Xavier Invitational, while the hosts improve to 2-0.
 
Senior Elijah Childs led the Braves with 17 points, seven rebounds and four steals against the Big East foe. Sophomore Ville Tahvanainen also added 11 points for BU, making 3-of-5 from 3-point range in the contest.
 
The schools traded runs to begin before settling in for a tight contest the remainder of the game. Xavier opened a 12-4 lead just more than six minutes in before Bradley responded with a 10-0 run for its first lead of the game, 14-12. The lead would change three additional times in the opening 20 minutes of action before the Musketeers headed into the locker room with a two-point edge, 22-20.
 
Xavier quickly stretched its lead to eight points early in the second half, 31-23, but the Braves were unfazed and immediately answered with a 7-0 spurt for to pull back within one, 31-30. BU then grabbed its first advantage of the period when Childs connected on a jumper for a 34-33 edge with 12:57 remaining in the game.
 
The teams would trade the advantage a total of 10 times in the final 13 minutes of action in a tight contest throughout. Neither team led by more than four points the rest of the game and the Braves found themselves ahead by one, 45-44, with 3:33 left in the game after Tahvanainen was fouled while shooting a jumper. Xavier, however, answered with a 3-pointer on the other end before Bradley connected on two free throws for a 47-47 deadlock with 2:34 left.
 
The Musketeers went back ahead, 49-47, with 1:59 remaining, taking advantage of a couple of offensive rebounds. The Bradley defense then kept the team in the game by forcing three-straight misses by Xavier to give Bradley the ball down two with under 30 seconds remaining. For the second-straight day, Terry Nolan Jr. connected on a go-ahead shot with less than 20 seconds remaining, burying a contested 3-pointer from the corner for a 50-49 lead with just 12.5 ticks remaining. On this day, however, Xavier answered with a layup with 3.8 seconds left for a one-point edge and Bradley missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 0.4 seconds remaining as Xavier secured its second-straight victory to open the season.
 
Both defenses played a strong game on the day as Bradley shot 33.3 percent and held the Musketeers to 33.9 percent shooting. The Braves converted 6-of-16 from 3-point range, however, while holding the Musketeers to 5-of-20 but Xavier held a 47-40 edge on the glass.

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Dosunmu, Miller lead No. 8 Illinois past NC A&T 122-60

 Ayo Dosunmu scored a career-high 28 points, freshman Adam Miller also scored 28 and No. 8 Illinois beat North Carolina A&T 122-60 on Wednesday in the season opener for both teams.

 

Kofi Cockburn added 18 points and 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double in 32 games. Dosunmu had 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.

 

Miller shot 10 of 12 from the field, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range, as Illinois fell five points short of its record scoring total. Illinois hit 17 of 32 3-pointers, a program record.

 

Blake Harris scored 12 points to lead the Aggies.

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No. 23 Ohio State routs Illinois State in season opener

Justice Sueing scored 19 points and No. 23 Ohio State scored the first 22 points en route to a 94-67 win over Illinois State on Wednesday in the season opener for both teams.

 

The Buckeyes created their own energy as Sueing, making his Ohio State debut after transferring and sitting out a year, had seven points in the team’s opening surge. He was 8 of 9 from the floor in his first game since leaving California, where he averaged 14 points and six rebounds as a sophomore in 2018-19.

 

E.J. Liddell had 16 points while Duane Washington and freshman Zed Key each scored 12 for the Buckeyes. Key also had five rebounds. C.J. Walker chipped in 10 points and six assists.

 

Antonio Reeves led Illinois State with 17 points and Howard Fleming Jr. added 15 points.

 

The Buckeyes led by as many as 24 points in the first half before settling for a 42-25 halftime lead. The lead went as high as 37 points with just over six minutes left.

 

Liddell moved into a starting spot at power forward for Ohio State after serving as a backup last year. He opened the game with a jam and then completed a three-point play, scoring both off passes from his teammates. Liddell fed Sueing for back-to-back jams midway through the second half as the Buckeyes pulled away.

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Last-Second Basket Leads Bradley Past Toledo in Season Opener

Terry Nolan Jr. hit a game-winning shot with less than one second remaining to lead the Bradley men's basketball team to a 61-59 victory over Toledo in its season opener at the Xavier Invitational.
 
The Rockets tied the game at 59 with 38.5 seconds remaining. After a Bradley timeout, Nolan had a chance to put the Braves ahead with less than 20 seconds left but missed a tough inside shot as the game remained tied. The junior, however, collected the rebound and threw it out of bounds off a Toledo player, giving BU one final chance with 13.5 ticks left in regulation. Nolan would take advantage this time and his driving layup with 0.8 seconds remaining hit off the backboard and through the hoop to put Bradley in front, 61-59. Toledo's heave down the court was knocked away, preserving the opening-day victory for BU.
 
Senior Elijah Childs led four Braves in double figures, scoring 14 points to go with six boards and four blocks. Junior Ari Boya added 11 points, while Nolan and junior Ja'Shon Henry each chipped in 10 points.
 
Sophomore Sean East II also had an impressive debut for the Braves, scoring eight points to go with eight assists and six rebounds.

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Highly Ranked Illini Open 2020-2021 Season This Afternoon

Images of 2005-2006 are being rehashed for Illinois fans as the State Farm Center will feature one of the best groups to don the orange and blue in over a decade.

 

Ranked inside the top-10 to start the season, the Illinois men's basketball team features skill, size, potential, and depth. Illini beat writer Bob Asmussen says the expectations are sky-high for this year's team.

 

 

Trent Frazier enters his senior season off two down years from his Big Ten Freshman of the Year campaign. Asmussen says he and junior Giorgi Bezhanashvili, who had a terrific freshman campaign followed by a down sophomore season, need to step up for Illinois to be successful but notes the pressure on them will not be as great as it was in prior years.

 

 

Asmussen calls senior Da'Monte Williams the glue-guy for this team. He says Williams brings an unselfish style of play and the defensive leader of the team.

 

 

Illinois touts highly rated freshman Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo. Miller has received most of the attention due to his success at Chicago Morgan Park High School but Asmussen says to look for Curbelo to carve out a role with this team over the course of the season.

 

 

Illinois hosts NC A&T in each team’s 2020-21 season opener this afternoon (Wednesday) at 1 pm from the State Farm Center as a part of the Illinois multi-team tournament to kick off a COVID altered season. Wright State was set to be among the three other teams in Champaign this weekend, however, COVID has altered their plans and Chicago State takes their place. Illinois battles the Cougars on Thanksgiving Day at 11 am then concludes the tournament with Ohio on Friday at noon.

 

Illinois takes on second-ranked Baylor on Wednesday, December 2, ninth-ranked Duke on Tuesday, December 8 for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and this year's Braggin' Rights game shifts to Columbia, Missouri on Saturday, December 12 before Big Ten action kicks off on Tuesday, December 15. 

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Wrigley Field Granted Historic Landmark Status

Wrigley Field, the 106-year-old baseball shrine that’s the Chicago Cubs’ home, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

 

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced the designation Thursday, saying the ballpark has played a significant role in Chicago’s history and the history of professional sports.

 

“The historical significance of Wrigley Field is interwoven into our nation’s story and a key part of what has become America’s beloved pastime for over a century,” he said in a statement.

 

The historic landmark status will give the Ricketts family, who own the Cubs and spent about $1 billion renovating the ballpark, access to federal income tax credits on the “1060 Project” that started at the end of the 2014 season.

 

National Historic Landmarks are buildings, sites, districts, structures and objects that have been determined by the secretary of the interior to be nationally significant in American history and culture, federal officials said.

 

Wrigley Field now joins other renowned historic places, including Fenway Park in Boston, among some 2,600 other landmarks across the country.

 

Built in 1914, Wrigley Field has been the home of the Chicago Cubs since 1916. The ballpark is two years younger than Fenway Park, is the second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, and is also the National League’s oldest ballpark.

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Cubs' Hoyer Wants to Retool and Remain Competitive

While the window is just opening on Jed Hoyer’s time as the Chicago Cubs’ president of baseball operations, it’s closing on the Cubs’ championship-winning core.

 

The Cubs gave Hoyer a five-year contract on Monday that runs through the 2025 season, one week after his friend and mentor Theo Epstein stepped down as team president. The 46-year-old Hoyer was promoted from general manager to replace Epstein, who oversaw drought-busting championships with both Boston and Chicago.

 

Hoyer takes over a team in the middle of expensive multiyear deals with outfielder Jason Heyward and starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks. And four players who were essential contributors to Chicago’s 2016 World Series title — Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber — all are eligible to become free agents after next season.

 

Hoyer said Monday, quote - “You always have one eye on the present and one eye on the future. Given the service-time realities we mentioned, that eye may be more focused on the future than usual. But that doesn’t take away from the goal, and the goal is always to make the playoffs and give this organization an opportunity to go deep into October.”

 

The Cubs won the NL Central in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season but got swept by Miami in the first round of the playoffs, totaling one run in the two games. Chicago has not won a playoff series since 2017.

 

Third baseman Bryant has the highest salary among the Cubs’ potential free agents and is the most frequent subject of trade rumors. Hoyer declined to predict whether Bryant, coming off a down year, would be on the roster on opening day. But some changes are inevitable, he said.

 

Hoyer said he will search outside the organization for a new GM. And he said he believes he can retool the roster while keeping the team consistently competitive.

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Mets Alderson To Serve as GM, Abandoning Search for GM

The New York Mets have abandoned their search for a president of baseball operations and will instead focus on hiring a general manager who will report to team president Sandy Alderson.

 

In the meantime, Alderson told Luis Rojas on Monday he will return for a second season as manager.

 

Alderson returned to the team Nov. 6 when Steven Cohen completed his $2.42 billion purchase from the Wilpon and Katz families and that day fired general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

 

Alderson said then he wanted to hire a president of baseball operations but said Monday he had been thwarted in attempts to gain permission to speak with officials on other teams for lateral moves, and another possible candidate had a family issue that prevented a move.

 

He did not contact Theo Epstein, who quit Friday as the Chicago Cubs’ president of baseball operations after leading the Cubs to the 2016 World Series title, their first in 108 years.

 

Alderson, who turned 72 on Sunday, said Monday he will have a greater role in baseball operations than originally planned. Alderson initially said he planned to have a seat at the table but not at the head.

 

Alderson said he had interviewed six GM candidates and will decide whether second and third interviews are needed before presenting one or two candidates to Cohen. He hopes the new GM could grow into a president of baseball operations role.

 

John Ricco, who shifted from assistant general manager to a senior vice president when Van Wagenen was hired, will be Alderson’s “right-hand person” interfacing for Alderson with both the baseball and business departments. He is not a GM candidate.

 

Alderson was the Mets’ general manager from October 2010 until he left in July 2018 following a recurrence of cancer that no longer is a problem.

 

He said the team had much work ahead after a fourth-place finish at 26-34.

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White Sox, Yankees Field of Dreams Game Rescheduled

On Monday, Major League Baseball announced the Field of Dreams Game, featuring the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12, 2021, at the Dyersville, Iowa, site that hosted the film of the same name. The Field of Dreams game was originally scheduled for this past season, but was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Despite the pandemic, MLB constructed the temporary 8,000-seat ballpark adjacent to the property used in the film this summer, so the facility is ready to go. Here's a time lapse video of the ballpark construction:

 

The Yankees and White Sox were also scheduled to play in the original Fields of Dream Game. The White Sox are prominently featured in the film and the Yankees are the Yankees, and MLB wanted them in a nationally televised event. The Cardinals were slated to replace the Yankees under regional play before the game was canceled.

 

Under commissioner Rob Manfred, MLB made an effort to grow the sport by playing games in new places. The Little League Classic has been played annually in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, every year since 2017, and the Marlins and Braves played a game at Fort Bragg in 2016. MLB has also played games in London, Japan, Australia, and Mexico in recent years.

 

The Field of Dreams Game will be the first Major League Baseball game ever played in Iowa. Iowa is home to many minor-league teams, including the Triple-A affiliate of the Cubs, but it has never hosted a big-league game.

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Monticello Football Coach Talks Evolution of Offensive Playbook

Central Illinois football fans know there aren't many coaches with as diversified an offensive playbook as Monticello football coach Cully Welter.

 

The Hall of Fame coach indicates even in the offseason, he's still looking for something to add to his team's playbook or a new wrinkle.

 

 

The Baltimore Ravens this year has implemented an RPO (run-pass option) with a bubble screen dump-off on the quarterback run. Coach Welter's offense began doing that a few seasons ago and he indicates that is starting to become more popular at all levels of football.

 

 

Coach Welter has taken time this fall to check out football games in other parts of the midwest and indicates as we shift into the offseason, he is going to take some time away from football and be with his family.

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Colts Walk-Off Packers in Overtime

After allowing three touchdown passes and 28 first-half points, the Indianapolis Colts held one of the NFL's highest-scoring teams to three second-half points, forced a key fumble less than a minute into overtime and set up Rodrigo Blankship's decisive 39-yard field goal for a 34-31 over the Green Bay Packers.

 

Defensive leader Darius Leonard and his teammates certainly lived up to their No. 1 defensive ranking over the final 33 minutes. They forced three fumbles and an interception. They held Aaron Jones to 41 yards rushing on 10 carries. And they limited Green Bay (7-3) to 18 offensive snaps over the final two-plus quarters.

 

Indy (7-3) did it with an old-school combination: An offense that played keep-away while the defense came up with two three-and-outs in the third quarter and a fourth down stop late in the fourth.

 

Five holding penalties allowed Rodgers to get one more shot in regulation, starting at the 6-yard line with 85 seconds left. Then on third-and-10 he hooked up with Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 47 yards. Six plays later, Mason Crosby hit a 26-yard field goal to tie the score with 3 seconds left.

 

So when the Packers won the coin toss and took the ball, it seemed they had all the momentum.

The opportunity came on the Packers second play in OT when rookie safety Julian Blackmon split two blockers stripped the ball from Valdes Scantling.

 

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner recovered and Blankenship won it moments later.

 

Rodgers was 27 of 38 with 311 yards, three TD passes and one interception. Davante Adams had seven catches for 106 yards and one score while Jones rushed for another score.

 

Philip Rivers led the Colts back from a 14-point halftime deficit by going 24 of 35 with 288 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, Former Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor had 22 carries for 90 yards.

 

The Packers hope to rebound next Sunday night when they host the longtime rival Bears.

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Alabama No. 1 in Latest College Football Polls

Alabama is now a unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll, and Northwestern moved up to No. 11 on Sunday for its best ranking in 24 years.

 

For the second straight week, the top eight teams in the poll held their spots. The Crimson Tide received all 62 first-place votes after beating Kentucky 63-3, making Alabama the first unanimous No. 1 this season and the first team to do it in the regular season since 2018.

 

Notre Dame was No. 2, followed by Ohio State, Clemson and Texas A&M. Florida was No. 6, and No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 8 BYU also held their spots.

 

The rest of the top 10 was No. 9 Oregon and Miami.

 

Northwestern moved up eight spots after beating Wisconsin 17-7 to improve to 5-0. The Badgers slipped eight spots to 18th.

 

No. 12 Indiana dropped three spots after putting a scare into Ohio State in the Big Ten’s other top-25 matchup Saturday. The Buckeyes beat the Hoosiers 42-35 after leading 35-7.

 

 

 

If Georgia's Week 12 could be summed up in a text message, it would be, "new quarterback, who dis?" The Bulldogs have reentered the top 10 of the USA Today Amway Coaches Poll following their narrow 31-24 win over a short-handed Mississippi State team. The change to quarterback JT Daniels proved to be the difference as the former USC QB tossed for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his debut. 

 

It wasn't a conventional Georgia win, but it did beg the question of what the Bulldogs might have looked like if Daniels had been healthy enough to be inserted into the first-team offense earlier in the season. In any case, Georgia looks set at quarterback for the future. 

 

The Bulldogs also received help getting into the top 10 due to Indiana falling two spots after losing 42-35 to Ohio State. There's an argument that the Hoosiers deserved to stay right where they were -- or even move up -- given the way they played, but conventional tendencies within the Coaches Poll prevailed. 

 

There was little movement overall in the top 10, but Northwestern jumped seven spots up to No. 13 after defeating Wisconsin 17-7. The Badgers fell eight spots to No. 20 as a result. The only team to drop out of the rankings was Liberty after its loss to NC State on a blocked field goal. 

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Illini win 2nd in row 41-23 over turnover-plagued Huskers

Brandon Peters threw for one touchdown and ran for another in his first game in nearly a month, Illinois had two rushers go over 100 yards, and the Illini beat the turnover-plagued Huskers for their second straight win.

 

Luke McCaffrey, making his second start at quarterback, committed the first of his four turnovers on the first play from scrimmage. Wan’Dale Robinson fumbled as the Huskers (1-3, 1-3 Big Ten) tried to come back in the second half.

 

Illinois (2-3, 2-3) led 28-10 after two quarters, their most first-half points against a conference opponent in 10 years, and won its second road game in as many weeks.

 

Peters, who had been out since Oct. 24 because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the team, showed no rust in leading a balanced Illini offense that had 285 yards rushing and 205 passing.

 

Nebraska entered the game as a 16-point favorite and ran into trouble immediately.

 

McCaffrey ran 4 yards on the first snap and flung the ball into the turf — what was ruled a lateral instead of an illegal forward pass — and Illini linebacker Jake Hansen recovered at the 21.

 

Chase Brown, who ran for 110 yards on 26 carries, scored the first of his two touchdowns three plays later.

 

Peters threw to Josh Imatorbhebhe for a 28-yard touchdown for a 21-7 lead after Tarique Barnes intercepted a scrambling McCaffrey’s desperation throw along the sideline.

 

Illinois added to the lead on Mike Epstein’s 1-yard run two plays after he broke a 58-yarder down the sideline. Epstein finished with 113 yards on 13 carries.

 

McCaffrey ran 26 times for 122 yards, both career highs, and threw for two touchdowns. But he couldn’t overcome all those turnovers.

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IHSA To Revisit Winter Sports in 2 Weeks

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met for a special virtual meeting yesterday afternoon and provided additional guidance on winter sports.

 

The IHSA Board issued guidance to pause all IHSA winter sports and activities to maintain compliance with the most recent mitigations issued by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. The Board will revisit the status of winter sports at their update discussion on Wednesday, December 2nd, and again at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, December 14th if necessary.

 

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson released the following statement, “All IHSA sports and activities will cease by November 20 for what we hope is a short-term pause. Given the rising COVID-19 cases in our state and region, we support the Governor’s mitigations and believe it is imperative for everyone in the state to do their part in following them so that we can return to high school sports participation as soon as possible.,, The Board is sensitive to the scheduling difficulties these delays create for athletic directors and coaches. However, our experiences this summer and fall lead us to believe that setting arbitrary start dates hinders the process even more. We realize it may seem redundant, but we have to preach patience as we await more data and direction from the state.”

 

The IHSA Board also announced that conditioning and weight training before and after school are paused, open gyms are paused, and practices and competitions may only be conducted virtually. Outdoor workouts may be conducted in groups of 10 or less with masks and social distancing. 

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Illinois Getting Players Back, Looking to Build on Season's First Win

A couple teams trying to establish some mojo meet when Nebraska hosts Illinois on Saturday.

Both programs are in building mode, and both are coming off their first wins.

 

Illinois (1-3, 1-3 Big Ten) has played consecutive road games 10 of the last 12 seasons and hasn’t won both since knocking off Minnesota and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks in 2007.

 

Fifth-year Illini coach Lovie Smith, coming off a win at Rutgers last week, said he wants to see if his team can take the next step. Illinois has 25 seniors this season, more than the combined 21 on the rosters for the last two seasons.

 

The Cornhuskers (1-2, 1-2) beat Penn State at home last week and are expected to start redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey at quarterback again.

 

Illinois’ quarterback situation has been jumbled because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the team.

 

Senior Brandon Peters, who started the opener against Wisconsin, is available after sitting out three weeks because of the virus. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Williams started against Rutgers and ran 31 times for a school quarterback-record 195 yards and a touchdown.

 

Nebraska had to rally from 14 points down in the third quarter against a bruising Illini defense to win 42-38 in Champaign, Illinois, last year. The Huskers had 674 yards, their highest output ever in a Big Ten game.

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Packers Visit Indianapolis Sunday

On Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts face a third consecutive challenge - slowing down two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers' potent offense.

 

Ace this one, and Indy will be well on its way to claiming the title of NFL's stingiest defense.

First, they tried to contain reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. Then they contended with 2019 rushing champion Derrick Henry. 

 

At the moment, the Colts (6-3) sit at the top of the class.

 

They're No. 1 in overall defense, No. 2 against the pass, No. 3 against the run, No. 4 in scoring defense and No. 6 in turnover differential. They're tied for second in interceptions with 11, have scored three touchdowns and had two safeties. And for the first time in years, it's the defense that has helped Indy grab a share of the AFC South lead.

 

While Rodgers remains the leader of the Packers (7-2), Coach Matt LaFleur has tried to alleviate some of the burden on his quarterback. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have emerged as a dynamic duo out of the backfield, and Davante Adams is one of the league's top receivers.

 

Together, they have pushed Green Bay to the top of the NFC North and the Packers are the first team in NFL history to average 30 or more points per game while committing five or fewer turnovers through nine games.

 

The question is whether the Packers run defense will improve after allowing 337 yards rushing and two 100-yard runners over the past three games.

 

Green Bay and Indy both have strong offensive lines and it's reflected in the numbers. Indy has allowed a league-low nine sacks this season. The Packers have allowed 11, tied for the third-lowest total. And with Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari returning from a broken rib last week, both lines should be at full strength Sunday.

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Clinton Schools Superintendent Calls for Transparency in Sports Discussions

Clinton Schools Superintendent Curt Nettles was among roughly 200 school leaders around the state to sign a letter asking for cooperation between several entities in Illinois making decisions about sports.

 

The Illinois Department of Public and the IHSA seem to have been on different pages during the last several months as efforts to make sports happen in Illinois seem to hit a snag at every meaningful milestone. Nettles wants to see everyone get on the same page and sit down talk face-to-face.

 

 

There is much about this situation frustrating to Nettles. From State leadership being unwilling to answer simple questions about why the decisions are being made to continued lost opportunities for kids, he just wants to see some transparency.

 

 

According to Nettles, as all these sports continue to get pushed to later in the winter, to the spring and even the summer, there are going to be scenarios where kids are going to have to decide on one sport or another, and that to him is unfortunate.

 

 

All winter sports are now on hold until at least the first of the year. In good news for high school sports and even schools, Pfizer announced earlier in the week their vaccine has a 95-percent efficacy and anticipates being able to mass produce their vaccine for distribution in the days ahead, giving hope for a return to normal soon.

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Mets 2B Cano Suspended For Season

New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano was suspended for 162 games by Major League Baseball on Wednesday after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug for the second time in his decorated career.

 

The 38-year-old Canó will miss the entire 2021 season and lose $24 million in salary. The eight-time All-Star hit a robust .316 with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs in this year’s pandemic-shortened season.

 

Minus Canó, the Mets could give offensive sparkplug Jeff McNeil a regular spot at second base — probably his most natural position. The suspension also might prompt them to pursue free agent infielder DJ LeMahieu, an AL MVP contender the past two years with the crosstown Yankees.

 

The penalty came less than two weeks after Steve Cohen bought the Mets for $2.4 billion, a move that created an avalanche of positivity for a team that has reached the playoffs just three times in the last 20 years.

 

The commissioner’s office said Canó tested positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. He was penalized 80 games in May 2018 while with Seattle after a positive test for Furosemide, a diuretic that some athletes have used to mask other substances.

 

In a move that polarized Mets fans, the high-priced Canó and big league saves leader Edwin Díaz were acquired in a deal that sent top outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic and young pitching to the Mariners.

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Georgia Star No. 1 Pick; Bulls Take Florida State Wing

Georgia star Anthony Edwards was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 1 pick in an NBA draft delayed multiple times because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Tears flowed freely for Edwards and many more players Wednesday night when their long-awaited, months-delayed NBA dreams were finally realized.

 

Commissioner Adam Silver announced the pick from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. The draft was originally scheduled for June 25 before multiple delays caused by the virus pushed it back and out of its usual home at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Boxes of hats were shipped to the top prospects to put on the one they needed after their name was called.

 

Obi Toppin, the national player of the year last season at Dayton, struggled to speak after New York took him at No. 8, bringing the Brooklyn-born forward to his hometown.

 

The Golden State Warriors, stung by the news that Klay Thompson sustained another leg injury earlier Wednesday, took Memphis center James Wiseman with the second pick. They stumbled to the bottom of the league while Thompson missed the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

 

The severity of his injury had not been revealed as the draft began but it didn’t persuade the Warriors to take another guard. Instead they went with the 7-foot-1 center who arrived as the No. 1 recruit out of high school and averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games before he was suspended for eligibility reasons and eventually left the program to prepare for the draft.

 

LaMelo Ball then went to the Charlotte Hornets, the next stop on a lengthy basketball journey that sent the guard from high school in California to stops as a professional in Lithuania and Australia. He joined brother Lonzo, taken No. 2 by the Lakers and now in New Orleans, to give the Balls two brothers taken in the top three picks.

 

The Chicago Bulls took Patrick Williams of Florida State, the ACC sixth man of the year as a freshman, at No. 4. Cleveland followed with Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, another freshman, to round out the top five.

 

The latter half of the top 10 featured a couple of highly regarded international players in France’s Killian Hayes, taken by Detroit at No. 7, and Deni Avdija, the highest player to come from Israel when Washington picked him at No. 9.

 

The San Antonio Spurs picked in the lottery for the first time since 1997, when they drafted Tim Duncan No. 1. The Spurs picked Devin Vassell at No. 11, giving Florida State two first-round selections for just the second time in school history.

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Clinton Golf Coach Recaps 2020, Excited About the Future

A golf season that had a lot of limitations also had many positives for the Clinton High School squad.

 

Coach Clint Lichtenwalter explains they were limited in where they could play due to COVID and was very encouraged by the continued improvement of their team.

 

 

Coach Lichtenwalter indicates one of the bright spots of their team this year was a trio of freshmen that led the team in scoring. While the young players started strong, he was pleased with the overall improvement of the team as a whole throughout the season. 

 

 

The golf squad received strong senior leadership from his lone returning senior. Coach Lichtewnwalter calls Trenton Sanders a great person to be around and was very engaging with the younger players. 

 

 

Coach Lichtenwalter indicates it has been a struggle to get kids out for golf in recent years, something that is not unusual to just golf. He says interest in youth sports seems to have precipitously declined over the last several years. 

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Theo Epstein Steps Down From Cubs Front Office

Theo Epstein, who transformed the long-suffering Cubs and helped bring home a drought-busting championship in 2016, is stepping down after nine seasons as the club’s president of baseball operations, the team announced Tuesday. General manager Jed Hoyer is being promoted to take Epstein’s place.

 

Listening in on fans’ conversations during his walks home from Wrigley Field, Theo Epstein could sense their excitement as the Chicago Cubs set themselves up to capture that long-awaited World Series championship.

 

It was as if they were all in it together.

 

Epstein said after the season he anticipated remaining on the job for at least one more year, with his contract set to expire in 2021. But he said Tuesday it became apparent this past summer “for a number of reasons” it was time to move on.

 

Chairman Tom Ricketts said it was a “sad day for me personally” and called Epstein a “great partner and truly a great friend.”

 

Though the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked financial havoc on baseball, Ricketts said money “had nothing to do” with Epstein’s decision. Epstein, who won’t be paid for 2021 by the Cubs, said Ricketts did not bring up his salary when they discussed his future. He also said he was not asked to resign.

 

The 46-year-old Epstein, who grew up near Boston and helped the Red Sox break an 86-year drought with World Series championships in 2004 and 2007, is one of five executives to win titles with multiple organizations. He, Pat Gillick, John Schuerholz and Dave Dombrowski are the only ones to do so with teams in each league.

 

Epstein hopes to stay involved with baseball while he plots his next move. He plans to run a team again, though probably not next season. He would like to be part of an ownership group at some point.

 

For now, Epstein will remain in Chicago with his wife and two sons. He said he would likely become a season-ticket holder, maybe even a bleacher bum. And he vowed to buy beers for any Cubs fan he sees in a bar following the coronavirus pandemic, until the team wins a World Series under Hoyer.

 

Epstein oversaw a massive rebuild when he came to Chicago following the 2011 season. He overhauled the farm system as well as the scouting and analytics operations, helping to produce one of the most successful stretches in the franchise’s history with a big assist from Hoyer.

 

With homegrown stars Kris Bryant and Javier Báez, shrewd trades for players such as Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta, the signing of Jon Lester and the hiring of former manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs transformed into perennial contenders. They reached the NL championship series three times in Epstein’s nine seasons.

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Bears QB Foles Could be Available for Green Bay Game After Bye Week

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy on Tuesday indicated a desire to keep his offense’s play-calling in the hands of coordinator Bill Lazor even after their lowest yardage output in almost three years during a 19-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

 

Now he just needs to determine who can actually execute those plays on the field.

 

A hip and glute injury to Bears quarterback Nick Foles doesn’t seem as serious as it appeared when he was taken from the field Monday night on a cart, and it’s possible one of the Bears' two injured quarterbacks could be available in two weeks when they come off a bye weekend to face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

 

Foles completed 15 of 26 passes for only 106 yards and was sacked twice Monday night as the Bears lost for the fourth straight time after they started with a 5-1 record. The Vikings had 11 hits on quarterbacks in the game.

 

Mitchell Trubisky had been benched during the third Bears game in favor of Foles, then two weeks ago suffered a right shoulder injury running the ball on his only play since the injury. On Monday night, Nagy expressed only uncertainty over Trubisky’s availability if Foles can’t play.

 

The Bears have the bye week to wait for the quarterbacks’ health situation to improve and Nagy is willing to give Lazor a second shot at calling plays even after the offense failed Monday to score a touchdown for the second time in their past four games.

 

The Bears are off until Nov. 29 when they travel to face Green Bay (7-2) in a Sunday night game.

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Bears Activate WR Lazard from IR

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard has been activated from injured reserve after missing six games.

 

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst announced the move Tuesday.

 

Lazard had the best game of his pro career Sept. 27 when he caught six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in a 37-30 victory at New Orleans, but he suffered a core injury in that game and hasn’t played since.

 

The 2018 undrafted free agent from Iowa State has 13 catches for 254 yards and two touchdowns in just three games this season. Lazard had 35 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns last year.

 

The Packers (7-2) play at Indianapolis (6-3) on Sunday.

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NBA Draft Tonight

After multiple delays, the NBA draft finally arrives Wednesday. Like everyone else in 2020, this year’s class of players has tried to make the best of their difficult circumstances.

 

There was no dancing on the court after a March Madness victory. No bounding onto the stage in a spiffy suit to meet the commissioner in June.

 

The coronavirus pandemic wiped out the traditional end of a college career and the usual start of a pro one. Players such as Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman should be about a month into their rookie seasons by now, but their plans were put on hold.

 

Edwards, a freshman guard from Georgia, is one of the leading candidates to be picked first by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ball, a guard who skipped college to play professionally overseas, and 7-foot-1 Memphis freshman center Wiseman are the other headliners in the class.

 

The draft is usually held in June in New York, where Adam Silver announces the first-round picks.

 

The top players sit at tables in the front of the arena and when their names are called, put on a hat with the logo of the team that picked them and walk onto the stage for a handshake and a photo with the commissioner.

 

This time, Silver will be announcing the picks from the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut. Players have been shipped boxes of hats for wherever they will be watching to choose the one they need when their name is called.

 

The Golden State Warriors have the No. 2 pick, a chance to add a top young player to a team that reached five straight NBA Finals before tumbling to the bottom of the league when Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were injured. Charlotte picks third, followed by Chicago and Cleveland.

 

The teams lacked some resources to evaluate players, without the normal draft combine in Chicago or the ability to invite players to their facilities for meetings and workouts. Perhaps that’s partly the reason there is no consensus No. 1 pick this year like Zion Williamson in 2019.

 

Wiseman averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games after arriving as the nation’s No. 1 recruit, then was suspended by the NCAA for eligibility reasons and announced he was leaving the program to prepare for the draft.

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Monticello Athletic Director: We Will Continue to Follow IDPH Guidelines for Sports

IHSA member schools are hesitant about playing basketball against guidelines from state health officials.

 

Last week, Dr. Vic Zimmerman at Monticello Schools indicated it would be counterintuitive to play basketball agains the guidance of state health officials while following all their recommendations for having kids in school. Athletic Director Dan Sheehan echoed those comments and says as basketball practices open this week, they are continuing to follow the guidelines laid out by state health leaders.

 

 

Doing a deep dive of fall sports from practices of high impact sports to out of season activities, Sheehan found none of their activities were linked to any cases of COVID in their community.

 

 

According to Sheehan, he remains frustrated by the continued lack of communication between all the entities that are making these decisions.

 

 

Sheehan says the lack of opportunities for kids is something that is concerning for Monticello coaches and administrators. He notes, as students return to practices this week, they are trying to not give their athletes a sense of false hope and be up front about the situation.

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Governor Pritzker Will Not Participate in This Week's IHSA Meeting

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker was asked Monday if he would be participating in Thursday's meeting with the IHSA. He said "no" and that they've "been pretty clear" about where they stand in regard to winter sports.

 

 

As it stands now, those schools choosing to participate in an IHSA basketball season can only have "no-contact practices and trainings." The IHSA is expected to provide further direction Thursday. The Governor says he wants schools to play basketball in the spring.

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Former Cardinals Reliever Lindy McDaniel Dies at 84

Lindy McDaniel, an All-Star reliever who appeared in nearly 1,000 major league games over 21 seasons, has died. He was 84.

 

Bill Chambers, longtime friend and fellow elder at the Lavon Church of Christ in Lavon, Texas, said McDaniel died of COVID-19 on Saturday night at an acute care facility in Carrollton, a Dallas suburb.

Steady as a long man and closer, McDaniel pitched in 987 big league games, trailing only Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm when he retired in 1975.

 

McDaniel debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals as a 19-year-old in 1955 and won 15 games as a starter two years later before transitioning to the bullpen for the bulk of his career. He led the majors with 27 saves in 1960, earning an All-Star selection and tying for third in Cy Young Award balloting with Cardinals teammate Ernie Broglio behind winner Vern Law and runner-up Warren Spahn.

 

The lanky right-hander pitched eight seasons with St. Louis and six with the New York Yankees, and also appeared for the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals. He finished his career with a 3.45 ERA, 174 saves and a record of 141-119 despite playing for mostly mediocre teams. For all his success, McDaniel never appeared in a postseason game.

 

McDaniel became a Christian minister in retirement and preached in his hometown of Hollis, Oklahoma, and later in Texas.

 

Kathi Watters, his daughter, said he had been ill for about four weeks. He had been an elder at the small Lavon Church of Christ for 12 years and preached there one or two times a month.

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Vikings Drop Bears

Kirk Cousins threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns, and the Minnesota Vikings overcame a 104-yard kickoff return by Chicago’s Cordarrelle Patterson to beat the Bears 19-13.

 

Cousins won for the first time in 10 career Monday night starts. He hit Adam Thielen with a 6-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put Minnesota ahead by the final margin, and the Vikings (4-5) held on for their third straight win. They also snapped a four-game losing streak against Chicago (5-5).

 

Bears quarterback Nick Foles got taken from the field on a cart in the game’s final minute.

 

Patterson joined Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington as the only players with eight kick returns for touchdowns when he ran back the opening kickoff of the second half to give Chicago a 13-7 lead. It was the longest kickoff return in franchise history, surpassing Gale Sayers’ 103-yarder against Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, 1967.

 

Cousins completed 25 of 36 passes with two touchdowns to Thielen, who has nine on the season. His one-handed TD grab in the first quarter was particularly impressive.

 

Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook ran for 96 yards on 30 attempts. Justin Jefferson caught eight passes for 135 yards and tied Randy Moss’ club rookie record with his fourth 100-yard receiving game.

 

The defense did not allow an offensive touchdown for the first time in 20 games, including the playoffs, and the Vikings won for just the fourth time in 18 games at Soldier Field since it reopened in 2003 following renovations.

 

With offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling the plays after Nagy handed off those duties in an effort to lift a unit that ranks near the bottom of the NFL, the Bears managed 149 yards. It was their lowest total since they had 147 against San Francisco on Dec. 3, 2017.

 

Khalil Mack had his first interception since 2018. But the fading Bears came out flat again on a Monday night; they were dominated by the Rams in Los Angeles last month. 

 

The Bears have a bye, followed by a visit to Green Bay on Nov. 29.

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Packers Hold On Against Lowly Jaguars

Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score, but the Green Bay Packers needed to make a defensive stand in the final minute to eke out a 24-20 victory over the slumping Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

 

Rodgers withstood windy conditions and put the Packers (7-2) ahead for good with 9:03 left by throwing a 6-yard TD pass to Davante Adams, who had left with an ankle injury earlier in the second half. Rodgers also had a 5-yard touchdown run and a 78-yard scoring strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who caught four passes for a career-high 149 yards.

 

Green Bay’s victory wasn’t secure until the final minutes.

 

Jacksonville began its last drive on its own 47-yard line with 2:25 left after a 30-yard punt by JK Scott that followed a third-and-1 stop of Aaron Jones. The Jaguars got as far as Green Bay’s 36, but back-to-back sacks by Rashan Gary and Preston Smith pushed them back to their own side of the field before rookie Jake Luton threw incomplete on fourth-and-26 with 1:01 remaining.

 

Luton, who had thrown for 304 yards in his first career start last week, was 18 of 35 for 169 yards Sunday with one touchdown and one interception. Rodgers was 24 of 34 for 325 yards.

 

Keelan Cole scored on a franchise-record 91-yard punt return and a 12-yard reception for Jacksonville (1-8), which lost its eighth straight. Jacksonville’s James Robinson rushed for 109 yards on 23 carries.

 

The Jaguars rallied from a 17-10 halftime deficit by scoring 10 points off turnovers in the second half.

 

Jacksonville’s first takeaway came early in the third quarter. CJ Henderson knocked the ball loose from Adams, and Myles Jack returned the fumble 16 yards to Green Bay’s 16. That led to Cole’s touchdown catch.

 

Sidney Jones picked off Rodgers late in the third to set up Chase McLaughlin's 31-yard field goal, which put the Jaguars ahead 20-17 with 12:44 left in the game.

 

A holding penalty on Green Bay’s Billy Turner wiped out a 22-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Adams late in the second quarter, forcing the Packers to settle for Mason Crosby’s 39-yard field goal.

 

Jacksonville had James Robinson’s 18-yard touchdown run wiped out by a holding penalty on A.J. Cann during the fourth-quarter drive that ended with McLaughlin’s field goal. The Jaguars also had a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty on James O’Shaughnessy in the third period, though they reached the end zone a few plays later on Cole’s reception.

 

Jacksonville didn’t have wide receiver Laviska Shenault (ankle), center Brandon Linder (back) or safety Josh Jones (chest) available. Jones went on injured reserve Saturday. Running back Chris Thompson suffered a back injury in the first half.

 

Green Bay played without usual starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander (hand/concussion) and Kevin King (quadriceps). Running back/kick returner Tyler Ervin left with a rib injury in the first half.

The Packers visit Indianapolis next Sunday.

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Bears Hope to Right Ship On MNF Hosting Minnesota

The Chicago Bears are piling up losses, looking more like a team fading from contention in the NFC North than one poised to make a run at the division.

 

Despite the recent defeats, they insist they are not a beaten team.

 

The Bears get a chance to prove it in primetime and stop a three-game losing streak when they host the resurgent Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.

 

Chicago (5-4) has won four straight over the Vikings (3-5) and is 4-0 against them since coach Matt Nagy took over in 2018. The Bears have been particularly dominant at Soldier Field, winning 14 of 17 against Minnesota since the stadium reopened in 2003 following renovations.

 

The past three games have been particularly tough for Chicago.

 

The Bears got dominated in a Monday night loss to the Rams in Los Angeles, then lost in overtime to New Orleans at Soldier Field. At Tennessee last week, the Bears didn't score until the fourth quarter, and two late touchdowns made a 24-17 loss look closer than it really was.

 

The Vikings, meanwhile, got tripped up in a 1-5 start that included one-point losses to Tennessee and Seattle. But wins over Green Bay and Detroit following a bye have them in contention.

 

They can thank Dalvin Cook. The NFL's rushing leader has 478 yards and six TDs from scrimmage over the past two weeks.

 

Cook has just 86 yards on 34 carries in three career games against the Bears. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, since joining the Vikings in 2018, is 0-3 with just three touchdown passes, two interceptions and one lost fumble against the Bears with an average of 5.5 yards per attempt.

 

Nagy announced Friday he is handing play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, at least for this game. It's not clear if the change is for one week or a permanent switch.

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Packers, OL Bakhtiari Agree to Contract Extension

Green Bay Packers offensive lineman David Bakhtiari has agreed to a contract extension that will keep the Pro Bowl left tackle off the free-agent market in the offseason.

 

Bakhtiari’s contract has been set to expire at the end of the 2020 season. Bakhtiari’s agent, Mark Humenik, confirmed that his client had agreed to a four-year deal worth up to $105.5 million with a $30 million signing bonus.

 

Bakhtiari also appreciated the Packers’ investment in him. Bakhtiari said he told his agent that he wanted to know before signing the deal whether it would make him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history.

 

The 29-year-old Bakhtiari has spent his entire career with the Packers, who selected him out of Colorado in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. He has been a starter since his rookie season.

Bakhtiari earned second-team Associated Press All-Pro honors last year and eared his second Pro Bowl invitation.

 

Bakhtiari said his recent injury gave him and the Packers time to communicate a bit more on contract negotiations. Before returning to action Sunday, Bakhtiari had missed three games with what the team had described as a chest injury. Bakhtiari clarified it after Sunday’s game by saying he had a broken rib.

 

The move to extend Bakhtiari’s contract comes after the Packers already had agreed this summer to a four-year, $70 million extension with defensive tackle Kenny Clark.

 

The Packers have plenty of other difficult decisions to make. The Packers’ list of potential free agents next year includes running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, center Corey Linsley and cornerback Kevin King, among others.

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Dustin Johnson Rolls to First Masters Win

Dustin Johnson overcame a nervous start that conjured memories of past majors he failed to finish off, and then delivered a command performance that added his own touch to a Masters unlike another, polishing off his five-shot victory Sunday with lowest score in tournament history.

 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first played in November. It was the first without ropes and without roars because patrons were not allowed, only one guest for each player, coaches, Augusta National members and officials.

 

Leading by two shots heading into Amen Corner, the world’s No. 1 player got through the 12th hole — where Tiger Woods earlier hit three balls in Rae’s Creek and made 10 — and then ran off three straight birdies to pull away from Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im, the only players who had a chance.

 

Johnson closed with a 4-under 68 and finished at 20-under 268, breaking by two shots the record set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.

 

He had only four bogeys in 72 holes, another record, this one held by Jack Nicklaus and Jimmy Demaret. He missed only 12 greens all week, a record last set by Woods.

 

His five-shot victory was the largest at the Masters since Woods won by 12 in 1997.

Johnson now has two majors to go along with his 25 victories worldwide, a combination that validates him as one of the greats of his generation.

 

Johnson’s four-shot lead was reduced to one after five holes, and then he quickly restored control with an 8-iron to 6 feet on the top shelf on the right corner of the green at the par-3 sixth for birdie. That restored his lead to three shots when Im missed a 3-foot par putt. Smith was the only one who was closer than two the rest of the way.

 

The betting favorite and biggest basher in golf, Bryson DeChambeau, couldn’t even beat 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, who shot 71 and wound up one shot ahead of the U.S. Open champion.

 

The average score for the week was 71.75, the lowest ever, breaking the record from last year.

 

Smith (69) and Sungjae Im (69) were second at 15 under. Justin Thomas was fourth at 12 under.

 

Tiger needed a late rally on the back nine to avoid his worst score ever at the Masters.

 

The defending champion birdied five of the last six holes to come in at 4-over 76 on Sunday. That didn’t quite make up for his septuple-bogey 10 on the 12th hole, a par 3 where he put three balls in the water.

 

Nineteen months after winning his fifth green jacket, Woods left the course at 1 under for the tournament. At the time, he was 16 strokes behind leader Dustin Johnson.

 

Woods’ worst score ever at the Masters was a 77 in the third round of his first appearance, in 1995, when he was still an amateur.

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Indiana Breaks Top-10 in Latest College Football Polls

No. 25 Tulsa is ranked in The Associated Press college football poll for the first time in 10 years and No. 9 Indiana is set to play the first top-10 matchup in program history.

 

The AP Top 25 was mostly stagnant Sunday after four of the top five teams did not play and only one ranked team lost this weekend.

 

Alabama is No. 1 for the second straight week, with 60 first-place votes. No. 2 Notre Dame received one first-place vote and No. 3 Ohio State got the other. The rest of the top eight was unchanged: Clemson is No. 4, followed by Texas A&M, Florida, Cincinnati and BYU.

 

Tulsa moved into the rankings after beating American Athletic Conference rival SMU, knocking the Mustangs from the Top 25.

 

The Golden Hurricane were last ranked in the final poll of the 2010 season at No. 24. The last time Tulsa was ranked during the regular season was two years before that, when coach Todd Graham had the Golden Hurricane as high at No. 19.

 

Clemson has now been ranked in the top five for 50 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak in college football and the third-longest streak in the history of the AP poll.

 

 

 

The new Coaches Poll is out, and not a whole lot has changed. With so many top 25 teams not playing over the weekend, plus no major upsets, there wasn't much room for teams to maneuver. In fact, the top 11 teams remain the same as last week.

 

We don't see any movement until we get to No. 12, where we find Wisconsin. The Badgers climbed two spots in the poll after stomping Michigan 49-11 on Saturday night on the road. This week's highest climber in the poll -- among teams that were already ranked -- is Northwestern, which moved up three spots to No. 20 after a 27-20 road win against a Purdue team that entered the game 2-0.

 

The only newcomers to the poll this week are No. 24 North Carolina, which beat Wake Forest 59-53 in a glorified seven-on-seven drill, and No. 25 Louisiana is back in the rankings after beating South Alabama 38-10.

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White Sox Abreu Wins AL MVP

Chicago White Sox slugger José Abreu earned the AL MVP award, a reward for powering his team back into the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

 

Freddie Freeman easily won the NL MVP award Thursday, topping off a trying year that saw him become ill with COVID-19, receiving 28 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts got the other two firsts to finish second, and San Diego third baseman Manny Machado was third.

 

Abreu led the majors with 60 RBIs and 148 total bases, and topped the AL with 76 hits and a .617 slugging percentage. He played in all 60 games during the virus-shortened season as Chicago claimed a wild-card spot.

 

Cleveland third baseman José Ramírez finished second in the AL MVP voting and Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu was third.

 

The 33-year-old Abreu batted .317 with 19 home runs, connecting six times in a three-game series against the Cubs in late August. That barrage of longballs at Wrigley Field was part of his 22-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this year.

 

Abreu gave credit to manager Rick Renteria.

 

Abreu was the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and is a three-time All-Star. He became the fourth different White Sox player to win the AL MVP, joining Frank Thomas (1993-94), Dick Allen (1972) and Nellie Fox (1959).

 

Abreu was the third Cuban-born player to be an MVP, along with Jose Canseco and Zoilo Versalles.

This was the first time since Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau in 2006 that a pair of first basemen won the MVPs.

 

Freeman got a $185,185 bonus and Abreu received $37,037 for winning in contract bonuses prorated because of the shortened season.

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Illini Visit Rutgers Saturday

The Illinois football team will look for its first win of the season Saturday in New Jersey against Rutgers at 12 p.m. CT.

 

Illinois (0-3, 0-3) will be without quarterback Brandon Peters for a third straight game as he recovers from COVID-19. Sophomore Coran Taylor started in Saturday's 41-14 loss to Minnesota, and threw (106 yards) and ran (42) for a combined 148 yards as Illinois was outgained 541-287.

 

Isaiah Williams is expected to be available after finishing his 14-day quarantine. He was among 12 players unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols.

 

Whoever gets time at quarterback, the Fighting Illini hope to see improvement for an offense with the fewest average passing yards (162.7 per game) in the Big Ten. The offense is 13th in the conference in total yards at 325.7 a game.

 

Rutgers (1-2, 1-2 Big Ten) began Greg Schiano's second stint with the team -- the first was from 2001-11 -- with an eye-opening, 38-27 win at Michigan State on Oct. 24. The Knights followed that with a 37-21 loss to Indiana in their home opener, and then last week's 49-27 loss at Ohio State, when they trailed 35-3 at halftime.

 

Noah Vedral was 22 of 33 for 168 yards at Ohio State and has a 63.5 completion percentage for the season, with three touchdown passes.

 

The game at Rutgers has been moved to noon CT on Big Ten Network. Kickoff was originally scheduled for 11 a.m. CT. 

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Sox Address LaRussa Situation

The Chicago White Sox are sticking with new manager Tony La Russa for now, saying they understand the “seriousness” of his latest drunken driving case and will have more to say once it plays out in court.

 

The team said Thursday in a statement, quote - “Tony deserves all the assumptions and protections granted to everyone in a court of law, especially while this is a pending matter. Once his case reaches resolution in the courts, we will have more to say. The White Sox understand the seriousness of these charges.”

 

La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager who won a World Series with Oakland and two more with St. Louis, blew out a tire on the grey Lexus he was driving in a collision with a curb that left the vehicle smoking when he was arrested on misdemeanor DUI charges in February, according to an affidavit filed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

 

The case was filed on Oct. 28 — one day before his hiring — after tests taken the night of his arrest showed his blood alcohol concentration was .095 — above the legal limit of .08. He has pleaded not guilty.

The White Sox were aware of the case when they hired him. They initially declined comment Monday, saying it was “an active case.”

 

La Russa pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep inside his running sport utility vehicle at a stop light and smelling of alcohol.

 

La Russa was hired by Chicago in a surprise move after Rick Renteria was let go in what the team insisted was a mutual decision. He is friends with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and started his managing career with the White Sox during the 1979 season.

 

The White Sox made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and ended a string of seven losing seasons with a 35-25 record.

 

La Russa’s coaching staff, meanwhile, is starting to take shape.

 

The White Sox plan to hire Ethan Katz as their pitching coach, a person familiar with the situation said on Thursday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the move has not been announced.

 

The 37-year-old Katz was White Sox ace Lucas Giolito’s pitching coach at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles with a staff that also included future major leaguers Max Fried and Jack Flaherty. He replaces Don Cooper, who had been pitching coach since July 2002 and spent more than three decades with the organization.

 

Katz coached in the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners organizations before being hired by San Francisco in 2019 as as assistant minor league pitching coordinator. The Giants promoted him to assistant pitching coach last December.

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Packers Host Lowly Jaguars

The Green Bay Packers are getting healthier and guarding against complacency before opening the second half of their season Sunday as two-touchdown favorites over the slumping Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Green Bay (6-2) has withstood a series of injuries to lead the NFC North at the midway point of the season. Running back Aaron Jones (calf) came back last week after missing two games and Pro Bowl offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (chest) has practiced fully this week after sitting out three games.

 

The Packers share the NFC's best record with New Orleans and Seattle.

 

The Packers fell 28-22 to a Minnesota Vikings team that had entered Lambeau Field with a 1-5 record. 

 

Jacksonville (1-7) is struggling even more than that Minnesota team was a couple of weeks ago.

 

The Jaguars are 13 1/2-point underdogs and have dropped seven straight games since opening the season with a 27-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. They're allowing 418.1 yards per game, 6.4 yards per play and 30.9 points per game to rank 31st out of 32 NFL teams in each of those three categories.

 

James Robinson, an undrafted free agent from Illinois State, has rushed for 580 yards and has 27 catches for 225 yards. Laviska Shenault Jr., a second-round pick from Colorado, has 30 catches for 323 yards. Jake Luton, a sixth-round selection from Oregon State, made his first career start last week and threw for 304 yards with one touchdown pass and one touchdown run.

 

The Jaguars signed Chase McLaughlin from Illinois off Minnesota's practice squad Tuesday and expect him to play in Green Bay after traveling nearly 3,000 miles and not getting to practice. McLaughlin has to spend several days going through COVID-19 protocols before joining teammates for a walkthrough Saturday.

 

He is the team's sixth kicker this season.

 

Green Bay's Davante Adams is off to the fastest start of his career. Even though he missed two games with a hamstring injury, Adams is tied for second among all NFL players with eight touchdown catches, one behind Kansas City's Tyreek Hill.

 

Rodgers has thrown 24 touchdown passes with only two interceptions this season. His two interceptions both came in a road loss to Tampa Bay. Rodgers already is on the verge of surpassing his full-season touchdown pass totals from 2018 (25) and 2019 (26).

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Casey Leads, Tiger in Striking Distance at Rain Shortened Day 1 at Masters

When darkness halted play at 5:30 p.m. EST, there were 44 players still on the course and 48 who’d turned in complete scorecards, led by 43-year-old Englishman Paul Casey, with Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas (who only played 10 holes on Thursday) two strokes back. All told, there were 50 players in the red when the horn sounded at Thursday of the rescheduled Masters.

 

Casey took full advantage of a rain-softened course to fire 65 — an astounding 16 shots better than his opening round there in 2019. 

 

Five-time and defending champion Tiger Woods dropped a turn-back-the-clock round of his own, relying more on experience than current form to post a 68.

 

Woods has been a non-factor in the majors since his electrifying 2019 Masters triumph and played just six events since golf’s return. He’s still battling nagging injuries and his best finish this season is a tie for 37th at the PGA Championship. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open in September.

 

Bryson DeChambeau spent enough time in the trees and azalea bushes looking for his golf ball that depending on when you tuned in, he might have been mistaken for a member of the landscaping crew.

 

For all that, DeChambeau showed grit and patience throughout, recovering from a 2-over start after four holes to a post a 2-under 70.

 

Round 1 resumes at 7:30 a.m. and don’t sleep on the stragglers. Besides Thomas, who ran off six birdies in those 10 holes, there are at least three other players with a chance to slip past Casey on the leaderboard.

 

In pursuit at 4 under are 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott (through 10), Matthew Wolff (through 11) and Dylan Frittelli (through nine). Lurking another shot back after his first nine holes is Dustin Johnson, the world No. 1 and second-favorite to DeChambeau in pre-tournament wagering.

 

Still to be determined is how much firmer the greens and the rest of the golf course will get. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures climbing to the upper 70s, but the green jackets can’t dictate the conditions of the course in autumn as precisely as they can in springtime.

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Illinois' Dosunmu Named Preseason First Team All American

Iowa's Luka Garza Wednesday was named the lone unanimous selection to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, one of many awards the talented big man has received prior to his senior season.

 

Garza was joined on the team by Baylor senior Jared Butler, Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham and Illinois junior Ayo Dosunmu. Seniors Corey Kispert of Gonzaga and Arizona State’s Remy Martin tied for the final spot.

 

Garza was one of college basketball’s dominant players as a junior, averaging 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while shooting 54% from the floor. The 6-foot-11 forward was a first-team AP All-American and finished second to Dayton’s Obi Toppin in national player of the year voting.

 

Iowa was ranked a program-high No. 5 in the AP preseason Top 25, in large part due to Garza’s decision to return.

 

The dynamic Dosunmu also took a look at the NBA before deciding to return, a huge boost for the No. 8 Illini.

 

The 6-5 guard was the first Illinois player in 20 years to lead the team in scoring as a freshman and sophomore. Dosunmu can do a little of everything on the court, averaging 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 48% from the floor last season.

 

Gonzaga was the AP preseason No. 1 for the first time and Kispert’s decision to return was a big part of it.

 

Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn also received consideration. 

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Illinois Baseball, Basketball Make Big Splashes on Signing Day

Eight high school baseball players signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday to play at the University of Illinois. 

 

Coach Dan Hartlieb said quote - "As far as Illinois baseball, I'm excited about our group. The ones we have signed right now, there are eight incoming players. As in past years, I'm very excited about their athleticism, the type of people they are, and the type of student they are. They are well rounded. We try to bring in athletes that want to grow and have high ceilings."

 

Illinois signed right-handed pitchers Gavin Schmitt from Plainfield East High School in Bolingbrook, Isaac Siefken from Broomfield, Colorado, and Calvin Shepherd from Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis. 

 

On the three pitchers, Hartlieb said quote - "We have three right-handed pitchers that have the ability to come in and start to pitch right away. They are all high 80's, low 90's, with an out pitch already. I thought the group that was brought forward, from a pitching standpoint, is outstanding."

 

From Wauconda High School, catcher Camden Janik and Gavin Bennet from Libertyville can catch and play third base. Both bring high praise from Hartlieb, saying quote - "Catching is very difficult to come by and we have two top-line catchers. One of the catchers can also play third base."

 

The Illini also received commitments from central Illinois product Holt Geltmaker from Illinois Valley Central High School in Chillicothe. Jared Comia from Hnaover Central High School in Indiana joins this year's class.

 

Hartlieb described this group as strong athletes that come from winning programs. Adding quote - "The thing that stands out to me besides their athleticism is their strength at a young age, strength is so important when you come into the athletic world, making that jump from high school to college. This group is strong, from a physical standpoint, we've got good size. We look for winners, and we look for people who have played for winning programs, they thrive on winning. I just think we have a very well-rounded group."

 

Hartlieb also discussed the challenges COVID brought to the process, quote - "I think it's important to spread our wings and find some people around the country. It's been a difficult year from the recruiting standpoint because many weren't allowed to come onto campus and spend time with us, and we had to meet over zoom and phone."

 

 

 

University of Illinois head coach Brad Underwood announced Wednesday the signing of four-star, top-100 recruit Luke Goode (pronounced GOOD-ee) to a national letter of intent on the initial day of the early signing period.

 

Goode hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana and attends Homestead High School. He is a 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing with the versatility to play both guard and forward. Goode averaged 17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a high school junior, earning a spot on the Supreme 15 Underclass All-State Team by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association.

 

Underwood said, quote - "Luke Goode has been a top priority for us in this 2021 class for quite some time."

 

Goode is a member of the National Honor Society and has earned Distinguished Honor Roll recognition for three years. He also was a football standout at Homestead, earning Class 6A All-State Junior Team Offense honors at quarterback while setting the school record for passing yards in 2019. Goode has elected to concentrate on basketball during his senior year at Homestead.  

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Illinois, Missouri Announce 'Braggin' Rights' Game Date

Braggin' Rights is back. Both Mizzou and Illinois have worked step-by-step in coordination to ensure the historic rivalry matchup continues in 2020 in light of challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the game from occurring in St. Louis.

 

The two programs have agreed to square off on campus at either Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo., or State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday, Dec. 12. Television designations and tip times will be decided at a later date.

 

To fairly decide which venue will feature the premier matchup, national college basketball personality Andy Katz will host a Braggin' Rights On Campus: Coin Flip Special live production on Facebook, YouTube, and both schools' official athletic websites, MUTigers.com and FightingIllini.com at 6 p.m. CT on Thursday, Nov. 12. 

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The Masters Tees Off Today

The way the 2020 Masters is organized this November will be a bit different than usual. After all, it's not being played in April, and 2020 itself has been more than a bit mixed up.

 

Due to the fact that this event is being played in November and daylight will be limited late in the afternoon, Augusta National has scheduled groups to go off both the No. 1 and No. 10 tees starting at 7 a.m. ET. The last group of the day will tee off just after noon.

 

Once again, the Masters nailed this year's groups and spread interest throughout the day on Thursday for Round 1 and Friday for Round 2. Nobody creates pairings as well as Augusta National as they do a fantastic job of sprinkling stars and superstars into different groups and create a balanced viewer experience.

 

Early on Thursday, most of the attention will be paid to either the group of Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Louis Oosthuizen or the Tiger Woods, Shane Lowry, Andy Ogletree threesome. Woods, the reigning Masters champion, will play with the reigning Open champion (Lowry) and last year's U.S. Amateur winner (Ogletree). The afternoon is hot as well with the most prominent group being Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay. All are among the 10 biggest favorites to win this year. An absolute ball-striking fiesta featuring Adam Scott, Collin Morikawa and Tyrrell Hatton could put on a show with their iron play.

 

Tee No. 1

 

7:33 a.m. -- Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood, Kevin Na
7:44 a.m. -- Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak, Henrik Stenson
7:55 a.m. -- Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Abel Gallegos
11:16 a.m. -- Danny Willett, Rickie Fowler, John Augenstein
11:27 a.m. -- Phil Mickelson, Abraham Ancer, Bernd Wiesberger
11:38 a.m. -- Adam Scott, Collin Morikawa, Tyrrell Hatton
11:49 a.m. -- Justin Thomas, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Brooks Koepka
12:00 p.m. -- Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy
12:11 p.m. -- Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, Cameron Champ

 

Tee No. 10

 

7:33 a.m. -- Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen
7:44 a.m. -- Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Tony Finau
7:55 a.m. -- Tiger Woods, Shane Lowry, Andy Ogletree
8:06 a.m. -- Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland, Ian Poulter
11:27 a.m. -- Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff, Tommy Fleetwood
11:38 a.m. -- Francesco Molinari, Billy Horschel, Cameron Smith

 

Thursday and Friday CBS Sports will have online coverage until noon central time when ESPN takes over. 

 

Saturday CBS Sports will again have online coverage until noon when CBS takes over. Sunday catch coverage on CBS starting at 9 am until the tournament concludes. 

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Clinton High School Cross Country Teams Wrap Up Season with Awards Ceremony

The Clinton Maroons boys and girls cross country teams wrapped up their 2020 competitive season a few weeks ago at sectionals but officially put a bow on the year over the weekend with an outdoor awards ceremony.

 

Co-head coach Rachel Anderson-Lyons indicates the ceremony looked different this year with the event outside and everyone physically distanced. 

 

 

Coach Anderson-Lyons talks about the girl's awards for 2020....

 

 

Coach Anderson-Lysons discusses the boy's awards for the 2020 season...

 

 

Coach Anderson-Lyons can be heard this Friday night on WHOW highlighting all things Clinton cross country. Hear her in the 7 pm hour on The Big 1520 AM/92.3 FM WHOW and online at dewittdailynews.com. Also listen via the WHOW mobile app and Amazon Alexa.

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More Details Emerge in White Sox Manager La Russa's Arrest

Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa blew out a tire on the grey Lexus he was driving in a collision with a curb that left the vehicle smoking when he was arrested on misdemeanor DUI charges in February, according to an affidavit filed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

 

La Russa was charged in late October by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office after tests taken the night of his arrest showed his blood alcohol concentration was .095 — above the legal limit of .08. He has pleaded not guilty.

 

News of La Russa’s arrest broke Monday. And more details emerged on Tuesday.

 

An officer found La Russa standing next to his SUV, asked him what happened and then requested identification. The officer said La Russa reached into his right back pocket, pulled out a large amount of cash and shuffled through his credit cards and California driver’s license multiple times, according to the affidavit.

 

The officer reported he could smell alcohol on La Russa, who had been at dinner with friends from the Los Angeles Angels, and took him into custody after a field sobriety test. The affidavit said La Russa initially refused to provide a sample of his blood, urine or other bodily substance because he didn’t trust the tests. Officers obtained two tubes of blood from him after a warrant was issued.

 

According to ESPN, which obtained a more detailed incident report, La Russa appeared incoherent at times and kept mentioning he is a Hall of Famer while expressing his mistrust of blood alcohol tests. It said a breath test taken at the scene showed a blood alcohol content of .090. And as he was placed into the back of a cruiser, La Russa flashed a ring and told an officer “I’m a Hall of Famer baseball person.”

 

White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said Monday the team was aware of the arrest when the 76-year-old La Russa was hired late last month. The team had no further comment on Tuesday. 

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Illinois Superintendents Call for Governor, IDPH To Work With IHSA for Basketball

200-some Illinois Superintendents penned a letter to Democratic Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health last week calling for them to work with the IHSA to come up with a plan to play basketball this winter.

 

Surrounding states successfully completed the high school fall sports season and IHSA officials took notice and in late October announced they would be proceeding with the basketball season, leaving it up to local school leaders. Monticello Athletic Director Dan Sheehan hopes this message resonates with state leadership.

 

 

100-percent positive there will be no winter sports season is where Sheehan is at currently and has been in recent weeks. He points out the continued lack of communication between IDPH, IHSA and Gov. Pritzker and doesn't see that changing.

 

 

According to Sheehan, the decision right now is on local school districts and while some have said they will participate in basketball, he notes this is basically a decision to go against public health directives and the Illinois State Board of Education, which could compromise revenue sources for some districts.

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Dosunmu, Cockburn Named To Preseason Big Ten First Team

Illinois junior guard Ayo Dosunmu and sophomore center Kofi Cockburn have been named to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team, as voted on by a media panel covering the league and announced Monday by the conference office. Illinois joins Iowa as the only schools with two players apiece on the 10-player team, while Dosunmu and Iowa's Luka Garza are the only unanimous selections. 

 

These are the latest preseason accolades for the pair of Illini standouts. Dosunmu is on the Bob Cousy Award Watch List for the second straight year, a first-team All-America pick by CBS Sports and ranked as the nation's No. 2 returning player by Andy Katz. Cockburn, meanwhile, is on the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award Watch List and the No. 10 returning player by Katz. 

 

2020-21 Preseason All-Big Ten Team

 

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois (unanimous)
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
Luka Garza, Iowa (unanimous)
Joe Wieskamp, Iowa
Aaron Henry, Michigan State
Marcus Carr, Minnesota
Trevion Williams, Purdue
Geo Baker, Rutgers
Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin

 

2020-21 Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year


Luka Garza, Iowa

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Illinois Basketball No. 10 in AP Preseason Polls

Despite losing West Coast Conference player of the year Filip Petrusev, the Gonzaga Bulldogs received 28 first-place votes and 1,541 points from a 64-member national media panel. That was just enough to edge Baylor (24 first-place vote) by a single point for the top spot in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 heading toward the delayed Nov. 25 start of the season.

 

Villanova received 11 first-place votes and was third, followed by Virginia with the remaining first-place vote. Iowa was picked fifth behind national player of the year front-runner Luka Garza, its highest preseason ranking in school history.

 

Then came a wave of bluebloods with Kansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Duke and Kentucky completing the top 10.

 

The Jayhawks lost Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike from a team that was the likely No. 1 overall seed had the NCAA Tournament been played, but they return enough firepower to give Baylor a challenge in the Big 12.

 

Wisconsin and Illinois join the Hawkeyes in giving the Big Ten some fresh flavor atop the poll. Young and rebuilding Duke and Kentucky could take some lumps early in the season but could be championship contenders by March.

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Newly Named White Sox Manager LaRussa Charged With DUI

Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa has been charged with driving under the influence again.

 

According to the Maricopa County Justice Courts website, the arrest occurred in February, but the case was filed on Oct. 28, one day before La Russa’s hiring was announced by the White Sox.

 

There is no attorney listed for La Russa on the website.

 

White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said the team was aware of the arrest when the 76-year-old La Russa was hired.

 

La Russa pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep inside his running sport utility vehicle at a stop light and smelling of alcohol.

 

La Russa was hired by Chicago in a surprise move after Rick Renteria was let go in what the team insisted was a mutual decision. La Russa, who is friends with team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, started his managing career with the White Sox during the 1979 season.

 

The Hall of Famer hasn’t managed a big league club since 2011, when he led St. Louis past Texas in the World Series. He also won championships with Oakland in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006.

 

ESPN reported La Russa allegedly ran his car into a curb in the Phoenix area on Feb. 24. A peace officer found La Russa standing next to his SUV, according to the ESPN report, citing an affidavit filed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

 

La Russa was taken into custody after a field sobriety test. In the affidavit cited by ESPN, the peace officer described him as “argumentative.”

 

La Russa is the oldest manager in the major leagues by five years. Houston’s Dusty Baker is 71.

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Former Masters Champ Garcia Withdraws from This Weekend's Tournament After Testing Positive

Sergio Garcia pulled out of the Masters on Monday after informing Augusta National he tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the second player to withdraw following a positive test.

 

Garcia won his only major at the Masters three years ago in his 19th appearance, the most of any player before winning a green jacket.

 

In a statement Garcia said he and his family are feeling good and would be back for the next edition of the 'Tradition Unlike Any Other' next spring.

 

Joaquin Niemann of Chile announced last week that he tested positive and withdrew.

 

The field was down to 92 players, with two other former champions not playing. Angel Cabrera, who won in 2009, had surgery on his left arm and is not expected to return until January. Trevor Immelman, the 2008 winner, had his name listed on the board as not playing. He is working the CBS broadcast this week. Immelman did not immediately respond to a text message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

 

Garcia played last week in the Houston Open, which sold 2,000 tickets each day. It was the first domestic PGA Tour event that allowed limited spectators on the course. Garcia, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship last month for his first U.S. victory since his Masters win, missed the cut in Houston.

 

He said on Twitter he was driving back to his home in Austin, Texas, on Saturday night when he started feeling a sore throat and a cough.

 

He brings to 15 the number of PGA Tour players who have tested positive since golf returned in June from the COVID-19 pandemic-caused shutdown. That includes Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player, who sat out two events last month.

 

Johnson said last week there was no change to his routine when he flew to Las Vegas and he was surprised to get a positive test. Adam Scott tested positive a week later in California and also had to withdraw.

 

Under CDC guidelines, once they have recovered and are through the 10 days of isolation, they are not tested for three months.

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Bears 4th Quarter Rally Falls Short

The Chicago Bears' anemic offense provided no help Sunday as they were held scoreless through three quarters in a 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

 

The Bears can score really well in the fourth quarter.

 

Dominate even.

 

Scoring earlier than the final 15 minutes remains a big problem.

 

Nick Foles threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns as Chicago (5-4) outgained Tennessee 375-228. The Bears also held the ball for nearly 34 minutes and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.

 

Not that it mattered as the Bears turned it over on downs on their first possession, followed that with six straight punts wrapped around halftime before a fumble returned 63 yards by Titans cornerback Desmond King for a touchdown late in the third quarter.

 

Foles made his sixth straight start for Chicago after replacing Mitchell Trubisky.

 

Chicago has outscored opponents 92-33 in the fourth quarter. But that's the Bears' best quarter by far. Even the third quarter, where they're being outscored 56-7 this season, the Bears outgained Tennessee 135-12 and held the ball for nearly 13 minutes only to find themselves with no points.

 

It didn’t help that the offensive line was missing center Cody Whitehair with right guard German Ifedi back after having spent the week on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Rashaad Coward started at right tackle with Jason Spriggs testing positive earlier this week. Rookie Arlington Hambright played left guard.

 

The Bears also cost themselves scoring chances. Foles hit Allen Robinson for a 4-yard pass on third-and-5, and the receiver went out of bounds shy of the first down. David Montgomery was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 35.

 

Chicago didn't have a penalty over its first six drives. With the ball at midfield and 54 seconds left in the first half, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. moved for a false start. Then Coward was flagged for illegal use of hands. The half expired with the Bears still stuck at midfield.

 

The Bears had another chance at points to start the third quarter, driving to the Tennessee 31. The Bears wanted to go for it on fourth-and-1 except Hambright was flagged for a false start followed by a false start on veteran tight end Jimmy Graham.

 

Now the Bears face the challenge of trying to snap this three-game skid heading into a three-game stretch inside the NFC North starting by hosting Minnesota in a prime-time game on Nov. 16.

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Chase Elliot Rolls to NASCAR Championship

Chase Elliott drove from the back of the field to victory lane at Phoenix to win for Hendrick Motor Sports and Chevrolet, which had been shut out of the title race since Jimmy Johnson won his seventh and final crown in 2016.

 

The new face of NASCAR circled Phoenix Raceway for a celebratory lap of his finest achievement. Chase Elliott, NASCAR's most popular driver, was now a Cup champion, too.

 

He came upon teammate Jimmie Johnson, who banged doors with Elliott. Then the seven-time champion, in his final race, gave Elliott a fist bump.

 

Elliott's car failed pre-race inspection and the penalty cost him the pole when he was sent to the rear. But he raced his way through traffic in the first stage and then took control of the championship. Elliott led seven times for a race-high 153 laps.

 

Johnson finished fifth — his best result since August — in his final ride in Hendrick’s No. 48 Chevrolet.

 

Elliott, who turns 25 later this month, has followed his father's footsteps. Bill Elliott won the 1988 championship and 16 times was voted by the fans NASCAR's most popular driver.

 

Chase Elliott became the fan favorite in 2018 after Earnhardt Jr. retired. He's the first most popular driver to win the championship since his father won his only title.

 

Hendrick Motorsports extended its NASCAR record with a 13th championship.

 

Elliott passed Joey Logano with 42 laps remaining and pulled away in a race Elliott controlled even as the four title contenders ran 1-2-3-4 most of the afternoon. Elliott had charged through the field during the first stage to clump the four contenders in the winner-take-all season finale.

 

It was Elliott's fifth win of the season, trailing only Kevin Harvick (nine) and Denny Hamlin (seven). Elliott's win at Martinsville last week not only locked him into the final four, but eliminated regular-season champion Harvick.

 

Elliott beat Brad Keselowski, who was followed by Team Penske teammate Logano and then Hamlin, who is now 0 for 4 in title races. Hamlin is considered along with Hall of Famer Mark Martin the best driver without a Cup title.

 

Hamlin was the only driver among the final four not to lead a lap at Phoenix, where he won last November.

 

Logano led 125 laps, but most of them early.

 

The race had just four total cautions, three of them scheduled breaks. It made Elliott's coronation look easy.

 

The race completed NASCAR's frenzied 38-race schedule that was overhauled because of the pandemic. The season was suspended five days after NASCAR raced at Phoenix in March, a race won by Logano, and the engines idled for 10 weeks.

 

But facing crippling financial losses to the teams and the industry, NASCAR was one of the first sports to resume competition. NASCAR went racing again May 17 and used doubleheaders, midweek races and a massive scheduling shuffle to complete the season for all three of its national series.

 

For the finale, the first one at NASCAR's owned and remodeled Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR loosened its “bubble” and allowed families and guests for the first time since, well, the last time they raced at Phoenix. The post-race celebration was the first time Johnson had seen Rick Hendrick, his boss of 20 years, since March.

 

The 2021 NASCAR season kicks off with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 14.

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Notre Dame in Latest College Football Polls After Big Win Over Clemson

Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll for the first time this year, extending its record of consecutive seasons with at least one week on top of the rankings to 13.

 

Notre Dame moved up two spots to No. 2 on Sunday after upsetting Clemson in a dramatic double-overtime game Saturday night. Ohio State remained No. 3. Clemson gave up the top spot for the first time this season and landed at No. 4.

 

The Crimson Tide, who had an open date, received 59 of 62 first-place votes. Notre Dame, which has its best ranking since it was No. 1 at the end of the 2012 regular season, received two first-place votes. Ohio State got one.

 

Texas A&M moved up two spots to No. 5, the Aggies’ best ranking since they finished fifth to end the 2012 season.

 

Florida jumped two spots to No. 6 after beating Georgia to snap a three-game losing streak against its SEC East rival. The Bulldogs fell eight spots to a season-low 13th.

 

No. 8 BYU, No. 9 Miami and No. 10 Indiana round out the top 10.

 

The Hoosiers moved up three spots after beating Michigan to receive their best ranking since they were No. 10 in 1969.

 

No. 23 Northwestern is ranked for the first time since the Wildcats finished the 2018 season at No. 21.

 

After four Top-25 matchups this past weekend, there is none next week.

 

 

 

A decisive night in the 2020 college football season saw the No. 1 team in the country take its first regular season loss in three years and a shakeup in the top five that also included a reaction to one of the biggest wins of the year in the SEC. 

 

Clemson fell from No. 1 in the Coaches Poll top 25 after losing 47-40 in double overtime at Notre Dame. It was a defining moment for quarterback Ian Book and Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish program, and after the win the coaches have not only moved Notre Dame up to No. 2 but also collectively awarded four first-place votes. The Tigers didn't fall too far after the loss, dropping to No. 4, perhaps a reflection not only of the respect for Notre Dame but the absence of star quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the defeat. 

 

Florida was one of the big winners of the weekend, taking control of the SEC East with a streak-snapping win against Georgia in Jacksonville. Kyle Trask continued his incredible start to the year with 474 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs defense, adding his name to the list of Heisman Trophy contenders at this turning point of the season and setting the Gators on a path to play for the SEC Championship next month. Florida entered the week at No. 8 in the Coaches Poll, and after the win jumped up to No. 5 while the Bulldogs fell from No. 5 to out of the top 10 at No. 11 after the loss.  

 

Other notable movements within the rankings included Indiana up three spots, crashing the top 10 after its resounding win against Michigan, Liberty and Northwestern making big gains to enter the top 25 and a three-spot drop for Wisconsin after another week on the sidelines with its game against Purdue canceled because of positive COVID-19 tests. 

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Ibrahim's 4TDs carries Minnesota past Illini 41-14

Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 224 yards and four touchdowns and Tanner Morgan threw for one more and Minnesota beat depleted Illinois 41-14 on Saturday.

 

Ibrahim now has back-to-back games in which he has scored four rushing touchdowns for Minnesota (1-2, 1-2 Big Ten). It was his second consecutive 200-yard rushing game.

 

“I think he’s one of the most special backs in America, and when you see him walking down the street, who would think he’s a Big Ten running back?” said Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. “He’s not the biggest. He’s not the strongest. He’s not the fastest. But he’s got incredible vision.”

 

Morgan was 17 of 27 passing for 231 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception.

 

Illinois (0-3, 0-3) had 12 players out due to COVID-19 protocols and was down to fourth-string QB Coran Taylor. Starter Brandon Peters and backup Isaiah Washington were out, and third-string QB Matt Robinson remained unavailable after suffering a leg injury early in the Purdue game last week.

 

Taylor wasn’t awful, going 6 of 17 through the air for a touchdown and no interceptions. He suffered what appeared to be a hand injury on his throwing arm early in the second half but remained in the game despite obvious throwing difficulties.

 

“This was beyond disappointing,” said Illinois coach Lovie Smith. “It just came down to them being more physical than us on both sides of the ball.”

 

One bright spot for Illinois was often-injured running back Mike Epstein, who rushed for 108 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown. It was his first 100-yard rushing game since 2018 and the fourth in his career.

 

“It feels good,” Epstein said. “Although not much feels so good right now after this game.”

 

Minnesota was clicking on all cylinders most of the game. Treyson Potts scored on a 9-yard run that was set up by a 37-yard pass from Morgan to Rashod Bateman late in the first quarter. Mixing runs and passes, the Gophers methodically worked the depleted Illinois secondary.

 

Minnesota racked up 556 yards in total offense to Illinois’ 287.

 

“They dominated us on both sides of the football,” Lovie Smith said. “We had a couple of takeaways, and that was good. But not much else happened.” Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi missed the game due to COVID-19, but his defense didn’t miss a beat.

 

“This is going to be a process on defense,” Fleck said. “We’ve got a lot of inexperienced guys playing a ton of key positions that haven’t played a ton or haven’t played at all, and those guys are just going to have to be able to keep getting better by playing the game.”

In Rossi’s absence, defensive special teams coach Joe Harasymiak called the defense on against Illinois.

 

Illinois safety Derrick Smith was ejected in the second quarter due to a targeting penalty out of bounds, further weakening an Illini secondary already without starters Nate Hobbs and Marquez Beason, both unable to play due to COVID-19 protocols.

Morgan and company took advantage. Minnesota outgained Illinois 556 to 287 yards in total offense and led 28-7 at half.

 

The Illini’s only score before intermission came on a 1-yard run by Epstein, which was set up by his 63-yard run to the Gophers’ 9-yard line.

 

Morgan and Ibrahim had their way against a depleted Illinois defense and an impotent offense led by an injured fourth-string quarterback. This game was over by the end of the first quarter.

Minnesota has an opportunity to even its Big Ten record on Friday night when it hosts Iowa, which upped its record to 1-2 after beating Michigan State 49-7 on Saturday.

 

Illinois travels to Rutgers, which plays powerhouse Ohio State Saturday night, on Nov. 14.

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Packers Roll 'Niners

Rodgers threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns and the Packers overwhelmed the depleted 49ers 34-17 on Thursday night.

 

Rodgers connected on deep shots to Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and a short toss to Marcedes Lewis in the first half to get the Packers (6-2) out to a 21-3 lead over the Niners (4-5).

 

It was quite a reversal from the two meetings last season when San Francisco outscored Green Bay by a combined 50-0 in the first halves on the way to lopsided wins in the regular season and NFC title game.

 

The rematch looked nothing like those games in part because the Niners were missing almost all their key pieces from the game because of injuries and a positive coronavirus test for receiver Kendrick Bourne that also sidelined three of his teammates for “high risk” contacts.

 

That left San Francisco without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle), All-Pro tight end George Kittle (foot), NFC title game star running back Raheem Mostert (ankle), receivers Deebo Samuel (hamstring) and Brandon Aiyuk (COVID-19 list), left tackle Trent Williams (COVID-19 list) and key defenders Nick Bosa (knee), Dee Ford (back) and Richard Sherman (calf).

 

Rodgers and the Packers, who were missing three players on the COVID-19 list, took advantage of the opportunity.

 

Rodgers capped the opening drive with a 36-yard shot to Adams, who made an acrobatic catch over Emmanuel Moseley in the end zone for his league-leading eighth TD reception of the season.

 

Nick Mullens had an apparent TD throw to River Cracraft wiped out on replay for San Francisco and then threw an interception to Raven Greene after backup left tackle Justin Skule got beat for a pressure from Preston Smith.

 

That mistake led to Rodgers’ 1-yard throw to Lewis and the Packers took control when Valdes-Scantling got behind the defense for the 52-yard catch late in the first half.

 

Rodgers added a second TD pass to Valdes-Scantling and the rout was on.

 

Adams finished with 10 catches for 173 yards, making him the first Packers player with three 150-yard receiving games since Donald Driver in 2006.

 

Packers star running back Aaron Jones returned after missing two games with a calf injury. He made an immediate impact, touching the ball on the first four plays to gain 37 yards. He finished with 15 carries for 58 yards, along with five catches for 21 yards.

 

The Packers host Jacksonville next Sunday.

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Disappointing Illini, Gophers Look for Season's First Win Saturday

Minnesota has a golden opportunity to notch its first win of the season on Saturday when it travels to Illinois to face a team decimated by COVID-19 protocols.

 

Led by quarterback Tanner Morgan, the Golden Gophers (0-2) have taken a big step back from their 11-2 dream season in 2019.

 

They are last in the FBS with an average of 9.48 yards per play allowed. They were 10th nationally last season in total defense and have forced only two punts in two games, a 49-24 loss to Michigan and a 45-44 loss to Maryland.

 

Illinois coach Lovie Smith recognizes how important Saturday’s game is to Illinois (0-2). The Illini were crushed by Wisconsin 45-7 in the season opener, and lost 31-24 to Purdue last week.

 

Illinois starting QB Brandon Peters remains out after testing positive for COVID-19 prior to last week’s loss. His backup, Isaiah Washington, is also presumed out due to contact testing protocols.

 

At least 12 Illinois players are expected to miss the Minnesota game, including placekicker James McCourt.

 

Look for fourth-stringer Coran Taylor, who showed some talent against Purdue, to see considerable playing time again after Matt Robinson (third on the team’s QB depth chart) left that game early with an apparent ankle injury. Robinson’s status was unclear for Saturday.

 

Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi tested positive for this week COVID-19 and will not coach during Saturday’s game. No other members of Minnesota’s coaching staff have tested positive for COVID-19 during the team’s daily antigen testing this week, team officials said. In Rossi’s absence, defensive special teams coach Joe Harasymiak will call the defense.

 

Game time is 2:30 pm CT and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

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Bears, Titans Looking to Bounce Back Sunday

The Tennessee Titans are not happy. Their sizzling start during which they won their first five games is a distant memory with the fresh pain of back-to-back losses for the first time since December.

 

The Chicago Bears (5-3) also have lost two straight, including a 26-23 overtime loss to New Orleans last week. They are scheduled to visit the Titans on Sunday dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that included another player testing positive, forcing the Bears to close Halas Hall on Thursday.

 

The Titans (5-2) went through this themselves a month ago and had two games rescheduled.

 

The Bears have won each of Chicago’s first three trips to Tennessee. But coach Matt Nagy is busy figuring out a variety of plans for whoever's available Sunday after the positive COVID-19 tests and other injuries.

 

The Titans know they must start faster. They trailed Pittsburgh 14-0 before losing for the first time this season and fell behind last week 10-0 after Tannehill was intercepted in the end zone. The Titans lost 31-20 to Cincinnati, and Tannehill says those slow starts are keeping them from putting pressure on defenses.

 

The Bears could be missing four starters on the offensive line, with right tackle Bobby Massie (knee) placed on injured reserve after being hurt against New Orleans and right guard Germain Ifedi put on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week.

 

Center Cody Whitehair (calf) was sidelined for last week’s game against New Orleans and left guard James Daniels (pectoral) is likely out for the rest of the season after being hurt Week 5 against Tampa Bay.

 

Nagy indicated Ifedi could be cleared in time to play, though left tackle Charles Leno might be the lone starter available. Depth also is an issue with Jason Spriggs on the reserve/COVID-19 list and center Sam Mustipher (knee) hurt. Spriggs took over for Massie, and Mustipher made his first career start last week.

 

The Bears have their own offensive woes being outscored 49-7 in the third quarter.

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Brandt Snedeker Off To Hot Start in Houston

Brandt Snedeker shot a 5-under 65 in the afternoon to take a two-stroke lead in the last event before the Masters at difficult Memorial Park - top-ranked Dustin Johnson returned from the coronavirus, and fans were back, too, Thursday at the Houston Open. Snedeker is one of 37 players in the field this week set to play at Augusta National.

 

The tournament — at public Memorial Park for the first time since 1963 — is limiting ticket sales to 2,000 a day. It’s the first domestic PGA Tour event to have fans since The Players Championship on March 12.

 

Johnson had a 72 — bogeying five of the last seven holes on his front nine — in his return after a positive coronavirus test knocked him out of the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek and the Zozo Championship at Sherwood.

 

The 39-year-old Snedeker won the last of his nine PGA Tour titles in 2018. He followed a birdie on the par-4 13th with a bogey on the par-4 14th after driving into the right rough, then birdied the par-3 15th and par-5 16th.

 

Jason Day was tied for second with Scottie Scheffler, Harold Varner III, Carlos Ortiz, Michael Thompson and Cameron Davis.

 

Brooks Koepka also had a 72. He’s playing for the second time since a two-month layoff to heal injuries. Player partner Lanto Griffin, the winner last year at Golf Club of Houston, also shot 72. Jordan Spieth rounded out the morning threesome with a 72.

 

Phil Mickelson shot 76. He had two double bogeys and two bogeys.

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NASCAR Concludes 2020 With Championship Race at Pheonix

Kevin Harvick was a sure bet to make the NASCAR finale and likely close out one of the most dominant seasons of the decade.

 

Instead, he’s been eliminated and the hyped head-to-head matchup between Harvick and Denny Hamlin has been scrapped. For better or worse, NASCAR’s title-deciding format knocked the strongest team this season from contention for Sunday’s winner-take-all final four at Phoenix Raceway.

 

Harvick won a series-high nine times, had a whopping 20 top-five finishes and led nearly every statistical category this year. It was a back-and-forth between Harvick and Hamlin that most assumed would go down to the finale.

 

But Harvick had a poor third round of the playoffs and his season collapsed. He’s out of the way and Hamlin will race Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano for the Cup Series championship.

It’s a much cleaner path to the title since Harvick is a nine-time winner at Phoenix, which is hosting NASCAR’s championship weekend for the first time.

 

Hamlin, a seven-race winner this season, believes the champion has to win Sunday. But he also knows Harvick has nothing to lose.

 

Keselowski is in the championship round with a chance at his own second crown.

 

Logano raced his way into the finale as the only playoff driver with a third-round victory. Since clinching his berth three weeks ago, his Team Penske crew has been focused on a plan for Phoenix and doesn’t much care about Harvick’s fate.

 

Elliott, racing in the final four for the first time in his career, has somewhat shielded himself from the dramatics of the season and focused only on his Hendrick Motorsports effort. He’s taken a break from social media over the closing months of the season and didn’t focus on Harvick’s season.

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Clinton's Ethan Black Overcomes Adversity to Finish 88th at Cross Country Sectional

A serious situation is how Clinton High School Cross Country co-head coach Rachel Anderson-Lyons described the end of the sectional cross country race for senior Ethan Black who became severely dehydrated during the course of the competition.

 

Black, racing in the sectional last Saturday in the final event of the year, became dehydrated during his run. Anderson-Lyons points out the conditions were almost perfect and still is perplexed as to how it happened, but indicates Black ended up getting medical attention and being sent to the emergency room after the race.

 

 

Coach Anderson-Lyons gives Black a lot of credit for his determination to finish the race despite the medical issues he was facing. She also gives props to a runner from El Paso-Gridley, who in his own final race of his career, helped Black up after he had fallen.

 

 

 After the race and once Black had recovered, Coach Anderson-Lyons says Black had a great perspective on the situation, and with his plans to run in college, she hopes more success is on the horizon for him.

 

 

Even without finishing with a state final race, Coach Anderson-Lyons points out Black finished with the fifth fastest in all of Clinton High School history. 

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Packers Visit Injury Depleted 'Niners

When the San Francisco 49ers dealt Green Bay a humiliating loss last November, it was Nick Bosa controlling the line of scrimmage and George Kittle and Deebo Samuel catching long TD passes from Jimmy Garoppolo.

 

When the teams met again two months later in the NFC title game, the Niners won behind 229 yards rushing and four TDs from Raheem Mostert.

 

When they face off at Levi’s Stadium for the third time in less than a year Thursday night, the Niners (4-4) will look nothing like that juggernaut that dealt the Packers (5-2) two lopsided losses. A spate of injuries has derailed the defending NFC champions.

 

The Niners have been decimated by injuries this season, with Garoppolo and Kittle the latest to go down this week. San Francisco will also be without Mostert, Samuel, Bosa and Richard Sherman among others. Receiver Kendrick Bourne then tested positive for the coronavirus, meaning no player who gained a yard on offense for San Francisco in those two games in which the 49ers outscored the Packers 74-28 will play Thursday.

 

The Packers are dealing with their own issues, with running backs A.J. Dillon and Jamaal Williams on the COVID-19 list and leading rusher Aaron Jones (calf) a game-time decision.

 

That will put even more pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers to carry the offense.

 

Rodgers struggled against the Niners last season. His 3.2 yards per attempt in the regular-season meeting were the lowest in 181 career starts. The Packers then got down 27-0 at halftime in the NFC title game before Rodgers got going a bit in the second half.

 

The Packers may be playing without their top three running backs. Missing Jones is the most damaging.

 

The Packers’ only other running backs are Tyler Ervin and Dexter Williams, who is currently on the practice squad. Ervin has four carries and Dexter Williams has none this season.

 

The Packers gave up 285 yards rushing in that NFC championship game, and their run defense remains a concern. Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook rushed for 163 yards, caught two passes for 63 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Vikings’ 28-22 victory at Green Bay on Sunday.

 

Gametime is 7:20 PM on the NFL Network and FOX.

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Dustin Johnson Returns to PGA Field Week Ahead of The Masters

A six-week break going into the Masters was not what Dustin Johnson had in mind. He wasn’t expecting to test positive for the coronavirus, either, and still wonders how it happened.

 

Johnson did find one positive to being the most prominent golfer to recover from COVID-19. Under CDC guidelines followed by the PGA Tour, he won’t have to be tested for three months.

 

That forced him to miss the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek and the Zozo Championship at Sherwood on a course where he is a member. And it cost him time in preparing for the final major of the year. He was among those who finished one shot behind Tiger Woods last year at the Masters.

 

Johnson was coming off a strong run of being runner-up at the PGA Championship, winning by 11 shots at the TPC Boston, losing to a 65-foot birdie putt in a playoff at Olympia Fields and winning the FedEx Cup. He then tied for sixth in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot on Sept. 20.

 

That was his last competition until he tees off Thursday in the Houston Open.

 

Johnson is among 37 players at the Houston Open who are playing in the Masters — assuming they pass their tests for the coronavirus — while eight Masters champions are playing on the PGA Tour Champions in Phoenix.

 

Also playing in Houston this week are Brooks Koepka for only the second time since August because of injuries, Jordan Spieth and Tyrrell Hatton of England, who has risen to No. 10 in the world.

 

Johnson managed to keep his No. 1 ranking, just barely, and he now joins Woods, Greg Norman and Rory McIlroy as the only players to have been at the top of the ranking for 100 weeks or more.

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Clinton, Monticello Player Spotlight Interviews Now Posted as Podcasts on dewittdailynews.com

The Miller Media Group radio stations in Clinton, are now posting on-line as podcasts, their weekly Player Spotight interviews featuring student athletes and coaches from Clinton and Monticello.

 

Click on the icon labeled "Player Spotlight Podcasts" under the masthead on dewittdailynews.com, to listen to any and all interviews.  

 

The weekly "Player Spotlight" shows continue to air Friday nights at 7.  On the many WHOW platforms, Clinton Maroon players and coaches are heard, while on WEZC "Your EASY Choice!" 95.9 FM, Monticello players and coaches are featured.  

 

The "Player Spotlight" features will continue every Friday night on each respective station at 7, and streamed live at dewittdailynews.com, while high school sports in Illinois are paused due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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High School Athletic Directors Surveyed About Basketball

The Illinois Athletic Directors Association convened a Zoom meeting this week. The group discussed a survey with the key question being “How many schools will play basketball in November?”

 

 

That’s Brent Grisham, athletic director at Pleasant Plains High School. He says liability and insurance concerns remain the primary issues for those schools unsure about playing at this time.

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Chicago Sports Writer Previews Battle Ahead for High School Basketball in Illinois

As of now, the Illinois High School Association is planning to forge ahead and allow high school basketball to be played despite public health guidance from Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

 

The question now becomes, what is next? Does Gov. Pritzker and IDPH have more courses of action to keep basketball from being played? If they do, Chicago sportswriter Jon Kerr believes the IHSA is better prepared this time around than they were in the spring.

 

 

According to Kerr, the night of the IHSA's decision to proceed forward with basketball, the Illinois State Board of Education released a statement advising schools to follow the guidance of public health officials.

 

 

If you want to know how individual districts will handle a decision to play basketball, Kerr believes if your school district has proceeded forward with in-person learning, it is likely they could also make the decision to allow basketball to be played.

 

 

Novembe 16 is the target start date for basketball practices in Illinois.

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White Sox CF Robert Wins Gold Glove; Cubs 1B Rizzo, SS Baez Take NL Honors

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado won his eighth consecutive Gold Glove and right fielder Mookie Betts snared his fifth in a row on Tuesday, his first with the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers after four with Boston.

 

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon also won his eighth Gold Glove — and fourth straight — in his final major league season.

 

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo earned the honor for the third straight year in the pandemic-shortened season and fourth time overall. He was joined for the first time by Cubs shortstop Javier Báez.

 

Cincinnati catcher Tucker Barnhart won for the second time and first since 2017. St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong won for the second year in a row, six days after the Cardinals allowed him to become a free agent rather than exercise his $12.5 million option for 2021.

 

St. Louis left fielder Tyler O’Neill, Atlanta pitcher Max Fried and San Diego center fielder Trent Grisham were first-time winners in the National League.

 

Gordon and Cleveland catcher Roberto Pérez were the only players to repeat in the AL. They were joined by seven first-time winners, including Indians second baseman César Hernández. The others were Seattle first baseman Evan White and shortstop J.P. Crawford, Texas third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa and right fielder Joey Gallo, Chicago White Sox center fielder Luis Robert and Los Angeles Angels pitcher Griffin Canning.

 

The 36-year-old Gordon announced his retirement in September. He joined Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente and first baseman Wes Parker (both in 1972) as the only position players to win a Gold Glove in their last big league season, according to Sportradar.

 

Gold Gloves are presented annually by Rawlings. Because of the shortened season, the awards were based on the Society for American Baseball Research’s Defensive Index. From 2013-19, the index was about 25% of the total, with the rest voting by major league managers and up to six coaches per team.

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Packers Among NFL Teams Dealing With COVID Entering Week 8

Baltimore Ravens All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey says he has the coronavirus, and several other NFL teams reported positive tests Monday, providing new concerns for a league trying to complete the season amid a pandemic.

 

The Green Bay Packers reported that a player tested positive for COVID-19, and Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed that two Cardinals tested positive over the weekend.

 

In addition, the Browns conducted meetings remotely Monday after a player reported that he is experiencing “COVID-19-related” symptoms.

 

The NFL administers daily testing, including game day and during bye weeks. Results of the tests generally come in overnight. Tests taken the day before the game determine if the player can play on game day.

 

On game day, they have their temperatures taken by contactless thermometers, are screened for loss of smell or taste and have other symptoms checked prior to entering the stadium, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. Players and personnel also have to report any symptoms.

 

The Packers on Monday also sent out a release that said a player tested positive. According to multiple reports, that player is running back AJ Dillon, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Packers officials said all player meetings Monday would be conducted virtually. The player who tested positive has self-quarantined.

 

This marks the first time a Packers player has tested positive during the season. Green Bay (5-2) has a short week before playing at San Francisco (4-4) on Thursday night.

 

After facing Green Bay on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings moved forward after last week having two players on the COVID-19 list.

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Chicago Sports Writer Breaks Down Battle Between IHSA, Gov. Pritzker

Last week, the Illinois High School Association, or IHSA, made waves in the sports community standing up to Gov. JB Pritzker by announcing their intentions to move forward with a winter basketball season after the Governor declared basketball a high-risk sport and then announced basketball would take place in the spring.

 

The IHSA stood by their decision much to the surprise of many athletic directors and others, including Chicago sportswriter Jon Kerr who has been following and analyzing the back-and-forth between the IHSA and Governor Pritzker. Kerr points out while it's noble of Gov. Pritzker to want to keep Illinois' positivity rate of COVID infections down, there's also little evidence to suggest kids playing basketball is as dangerous as he and IDPH continue to suggest.

 

 

According to Kerr, the Wisconsin high school sports association and a state university conducted a study that concluded sports is no more dangerous in contracting the coronavirus than doing anything else throughout the day for their age group. He indicates the IHSA took note of that study and also listened to their member schools.

 

 

Going back to July, the IHSA surrendered their decision making authority to the Governor and IDPH and Kerr believes the IHSA was surprised by the decision that sports would not be allowed. 

 

 

Tomorrow on Regional Radio News Sports, we'll hear more from Kerr on what is next in the battle between the IHSA and hear from him on why the IHSA is more prepared this time around to stand up to Gov. Pritzker and the IDPH to allow a winter basketball season.

 

Also as a part of the IHSA's decision, the wrestling season was moved to the summer with track and field and baseball.

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Bears Receiver Suspended 2 Games for Fight Sunday

The NFL suspended Chicago Bears receiver Javon Wims two games Monday for punching New Orleans Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

 

Wims was ejected in the third quarter Sunday, after Allen Robinson caught a 5-yard pass from Nick Foles.

 

On the other side of the field, Wims approached Gardner-Johnson from behind and appeared to reach for his mouth or neck. He threw a right-handed punch to his helmet and then another before both teams joined the scrum, and he wound up at the bottom of a pile.

 

The penalty against Wims pushed the Bears back to a second-and-20. And Foles got intercepted by Marshon Lattimore on the next play. The Saints went on to win 26-23 in overtime.

 

Bears coach Matt Nagy said Wims was “apologetic” when they spoke Monday and understands “you can’t do what he did.” But Nagy would not say what led to the altercation.

 

“Obviously out of respect I’m going to keep that between us and internally,” Nagy said.

 

Wims has three business days to appeal the suspension, under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and players’ union.

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MLB Award Finalists Announced - Ex-Sox Manager Makes Cut for Manager of the Year

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts could become the second player to win the MVP award in each league, and New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom is in the running for his third consecutive NL Cy Young Award.

 

Betts, Freddie Freeman and Manny Machado are the top finishers for NL MVP in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. DeGrom, Trevor Bauer and Yu Darvish are the finalists in the NL Cy Young race.

 

The winners will be announced next week.

 

DeGrom could join Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux as the only pitchers to win at least three consecutive Cy Young Awards. But Bauer had an NL-best 1.73 ERA in 11 starts for Cincinnati, and Darvish went 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts for the Chicago Cubs, matching Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber for the major league lead in wins.

 

Balloting for the BBWAA awards was completed before the start of the postseason.

 

Chicago White Sox first baseman José Abreu, Cleveland Indians infielder José Ramírez and New York Yankees leadoff man DJ LeMahieu are the top three finishers in voting for the AL MVP award.

 

The top finishers in voting for AL Manager of the Year are Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo and Rick Renteria, who was let go by the White Sox after the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

 

The finalists for AL Rookie of the Year are Houston Astros right-hander Cristian Javier and center fielders Kyle Lewis of the Seattle Mariners and Luis Robert of the White Sox. Philadelphia Phillies infielder Alec Bohm, San Diego Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth and Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams are the top finishers for the NL rookie award.

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Packers Fall Short Against Vikings

Dalvin Cook gained 226 yards from scrimmage and became the first Viking in over four decades to score four touchdowns in a single game as Minnesota defeated the Green Bay Packers 28-22 on Sunday.

 

After missing Minnesota’s last game with a groin injury, Cook looked just fine while accomplishing the mission he carried to Green Bay.

 

Cook's presence gave the Vikings a major edge on a day when winds started out at 23 mph and occasionally got stronger, making it difficult to throw downfield. Green Bay didn't have leading rusher Aaron Jones, who missed a second straight game with a calf injury.

 

Minnesota (2-5) needed this victory to have any realistic hopes of competing for a second straight playoff berth. Green Bay’s inability to contain Cook brought back reminders of the Packers’ NFC championship game loss to the San Francisco 49ers, when they allowed Raheem Mostert to run for 220 yards.

 

Green Bay (5-2) happens to be visiting San Francisco on Thursday night.

 

Each of the Vikings’ first four possessions ended with Cook touchdowns. He had two 1-yard touchdown bursts plus a touchdown run from 21 yards out. He also caught a third-and-9 pass behind the line of scrimmage and turned it into a 50-yard score that put Minnesota ahead 28-14.

 

The only other Vikings to score four touchdowns in a game are Ahmad Rashad in 1979 and Chuck Foreman in 1975.

 

Minnesota withstood a three-touchdown performance from Green Bay's Davante Adams, who had seven catches for 53 yards.

 

Green Bay made it interesting at the end.

 

The Packers cut the lead to 28-22 when Adams caught a 7-yard touchdown pass and Jamaal Williams ran in a two-point conversion with 2:42 left. Williams was initially ruled down shy of the goal line before replays determined he had scored.

 

Green Bay got the ball back and reached Minnesota's 41-yard line with 12 seconds and no timeouts left, but rookie D.J. Wonnum sacked Aaron Rodgers and knocked the ball loose. Eric Wilson recovered at the 24 as time expired.

 

Green Bay played a third straight game without cornerback Kevin King (quadriceps) and a second straight without Jones and offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (chest). Reserve safeties Vernon Scott and Will Redmond left with shoulder injuries.

 

The Packers play at San Francisco on Thursday.

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Saints Walk-Off On Bears

Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes to regain the NFL’s career lead from Tom Brady, Wil Lutz nailed a 35-yard field goal in overtime and New Orleans beat Chicago 26-23 on Sunday.

 

The Bears’ Cairo Santos made a 51-yard field goal at the end of regulation to force the extra period.

The Saints (5-2) led 23-13 early in the fourth quarter after scoring 20 consecutive points, only to have Chicago rally in the closing minutes of regulation. But the three-time defending NFC South champions pulled out their fourth straight win when Lutz connected on their second possession of OT.

 

The victory was the Saints' third in a row by three points. Their only double-digit victory was when they beat Tampa Bay 34-23 in the opener.

 

The Saints had a first down at the 16 with 1:40 remaining when coach Sean Payton called on Lutz rather than run the clock down. He came through with his fourth field goal on a windy day, sending the Bears (5-3) to their second straight loss. New Orleans tied Tampa Bay for the division lead, with Brady and the Buccaneers meeting the struggling New York Giants on Monday night.

 

Chicago receiver Javon Wims got ejected for punching New Orleans safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the third quarter. Marshon Lattimore then intercepted Nick Foles, leading to a tiebreaking field goal by Lutz.

 

Brees added a 20-yard touchdown to Taysom Hill to make it 23-13 early in the fourth period. The Bears (5-3) pulled within three with 3:32 remaining on Foles’ 3-yard pass to Darnell Mooney.

 

After the Saints went three-and-out, Chicago tied it with 13 seconds left on Santos’ field goal into the wind.

 

Brees picked apart the Monsters of the Midway, completing 31 of 41 passes for 280 yards. Along with the TD to Hill in the fourth, he threw a 16-yarder to Jared Cook in the closing seconds of the first half to cut Chicago’s lead to 13-10. 

 

Alvin Kamara joined Matt Forte and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only running backs in NFL history with 50 or more receptions in each of his first four seasons. The three-time Pro Bowl pick had nine catches — giving him 55 on the year — for 96 yards. He also ran for 67 yards, and the Saints won their sixth in a row against the Bears.

 

Foles was 28 of 41 for 272 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

 

Allen Robinson, who spent most of the week in the NFL’s concussion protocol, had a sprawling 24-yard TD reception in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. Rookie Darnell Mooney added a career-high 69 yards receiving and a touchdown.

 

David Montgomery ran for a season-high 89 yards, but the Bears came up short after getting dominated by the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.

 

Michael Thomas, the 2019 AP Offensive Player of the Year, missed his sixth straight game because of two separate injuries sandwiched around a one-game suspension.

 

The Bears visit Tennessee next Sunday.

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Cubs Decline Option on LHP Lester

Jon Lester’s $25 million mutual option for 2021 was declined Friday by the Chicago Cubs, completing a $155 million, six-year contract and allowing the 36-year-old left-hander to become a free agent.

 

Lester is owed a $10 million buyout: $2 million on each Dec. 31 from 2022 through 2026.

 

Lester was 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA in 12 starts this year with 42 strikeouts and 17 walks. He earned a prorated $5,555,556 from his scheduled $15 million salary.

 

He was 77-44 with a 3.64 ERA in 171 starts over six seasons with the Cubs and was 3-3 with a 2.44 ERA and .201 opponents’ batting average in the postseason.

 

Chicago also claimed infielder Max Schrock off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals and assigned left-hander Rex Brothers outright to Triple-A Iowa.

 

The 26-year-old Schrock hit .275 for Triple-A Memphis in 2019 with 20 doubles, two homers, 31 RBs and 12 steals, then batted .176 (3 for 17) this year for the Cardinals with a home run in 11 games.

 

Brothers was 0-0 with an 8.10 ERA in three relief appearances for the Cubs.

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Chase Elliot Punches Ticket to Championship Race for First Time

Chase Elliott won the high-stakes race in a stunning upset at Martinsville Speedway to earn his first career berth in the championship four. It stopped Kevin Harvick one race short of the title round in a stunning collapse to a season spent as the favorite to win the Cup crown.

 

Harvick was on cruise control all season long, the most dominant driver in NASCAR, coasting into the championship round with a comfortable cushion that left plenty of room for error.

 

That’s how it was supposed to play out, at least, after Harvick won a Cup series-high nine races and the regular-season title.

 

Then his nearly perfect season came to a spinning and sudden halt Sunday when a mediocre run bounced Harvick from the playoffs.

 

Eight points short, to be exact, after his spinning 17th-place finish at Martinsville.

 

Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin will race Joey Logano, who had already clinched his berth, in next week’s finale at Phoenix. It’s a matchup of a pair of Fords from Team Penske against Hamlin’s Toyota and Elliott, the first Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet driver to make the finale since Jimmie Johnson won his seventh and final title in 2016.

 

Harvick was eliminated along with Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who battled for the win until a late loose wheel ended his shot.

 

Harvick noted NASCAR’s 10-race championship format is far different from the season-long points battle Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt won seven times each. The system now spans three series of three races each, with eliminations in each round, before four drivers line up for a championship shootout.

 

Harvick was racing for the fourth and final slot in the field, separated from Hamlin and Keselowski by one point on one lap, two on the next, back to one after that.

 

On and on it went, those three drivers locked into a tense fight for single-digit points because with Elliott out front, just two spots remained open for three drivers.

 

Harvick was one point below the cutline when Elliott crossed the finish line. He needed to pass one car ahead of him — Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing — to grab that point and Busch wasn’t going to make it easy.

 

Harvick tried to knock Busch out of his way in a failed desperate effort as they closed in on the finish line. Both cars spun and Harvick’s season was done.

 

Hamlin, a seven-time winner this season who went race-for-race with Harvick all year, lamented not getting a shot at his rival in Phoenix.

 

Elliott, meanwhile, scored a must-win victory that put him in the finale after three previous failures to advance. It’s a huge professional on-track accomplishment for NASCAR’s most popular driver and gave the beloved Elliott family its first Martinsville trophy grandfather clock.

 

Bill Elliott was 0 for 45 at Martinsville in his Hall of Fame career, and Chase Elliott won in his 11th try.

NASCAR this season moved Martinsville to the final elimination race in an effort to turn the .0526-mile paperclip into a short track throw-down. It made for 500 white-knuckled laps in which the contenders all showed up to win but also had in-race bobbles.

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Alabama Closing Gap on Clemson for No. 1

Clemson remained No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll on Sunday, but not by much.

 

Trevor Lawrence’s absence because of COVID-19 and the Tigers’ narrow win over Boston College created a divide among the 62 writers and broadcasters on the voting panel.

 

Clemson received 33 first-place votes — 19 fewer than last week — and has only a two-point lead over No. 2 Alabama heading into a huge ACC matchup at fourth-ranked Notre Dame this week.

 

Alabama, which handed Mike Leach his first shutout as a head coach with a 41-0 victory over Mississippi State, got the other 29 first-place votes.

 

The rest of the top five remained the same, with Ohio State at No. 3, followed by Notre Dame and Georgia.

 

The unbeaten Liberty Flames, in their third year in the Football Bowl Subdivision, entered the rankings for the first time at No. 25. Penn State is out for the first time since 2016 following consecutive losses.

 

No. 13 Indiana has its best ranking since it was as high as No. 11 in 1987.

 

No. 1 Clemson at No. 4 Notre Dame is another “biggest game of the year” — until the next one. DJ Uiagalelei takes his show on the road while Lawrence remains in the COVID-19 protocol. The Irish defense has been tough, but the Tigers are a different animal.

 

 

 

Michigan was a more than three-touchdown favorite against Michigan State on Saturday. After a 27-24 loss, however, voters in the Coaches Poll top 25 have the Wolverines barely hanging on.

 

Michigan dropped 11 spots from No. 14 to No. 25 after its stunning defeat, dropping it to 1-1 on the season. The Wolverines' next two games are against ranked opponents: No. 13 Indiana and No. 11 Wisconsin. 

 

North Carolina also fell 11 spots after its come-from-behind effort against Virginia fell short. The Tar Heels have lost two of their last three games and still have No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 10 Miami (FL) on the back end of the schedule. 

 

The top five remained the same after each team won in convincing fashion. Oklahoma State, who came into the week No. 6, fell to No. 12 after being upset at home by Texas. Cincinnati took its place following its demolition of Memphis. Kansas State and Penn State fell out of the rankings entirely following losses to West Virginia and Ohio State, respectively. Auburn and Boise State were the newest programs to join the ranks.

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