INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL BOYS BASKETBALL SCORES WEDNESDAY

WEDNESDAY’ S GAMES
Blue River 65 Cambridge City Lincoln 39
Boone Grove 62 Rensselaer Central 58
Franklin 61 Shelbyville 40
Indianapolis Washington 77 Eminence 37
New Albany 69 Seymour 67 OT
Sheridan 71 Alexandria 59
Tri-Township 57 Attica 40
Wayne Trace (Ohio) 58 Woodlan 53


Bismarck-Henning (Ill.) Tournament
Payson-Seymour (Ill.) 46 Indiana Math & Science 34
BHRA (Ill.) 78 Indiana Math & Science 18


Delta Tournament
Northeastern 55 Fort Wayne South 46
Muncie Central 55 Tippecanoe Valley 53
Delta 71 Winchester 27
Fort Wayne Concordia 52 Columbia City 47
Tippecanoe Valley 67 Fort Wayne South 52
Columbia City 71 Winchester 50
Northeastern 55 Muncie Central 54
Delta 52 Fort Wayne Concordia 33


East Noble Tournament
East Noble 63 Garrett 39
Fremont 64 John Glenn 59
John Glenn 55 Garrett 47
East Noble 56 Fremont 41


Edinburgh Tournament
Austin 68 South Decatur 48
Hauser 50 Borden 46
Edinburgh 60 Victory College Prep 28
Jac-Cen-Del 61 Union County 58
Hauser 68 Austin 50
Borden 61 South Decatur 52
Jac-Cen-Del 53 Edinburgh 33
Union County 64 Victory College Prep 17


Hebron Tournament
South Bend Career 67 Portage Christian 27
Hebron 58 Tri-County 38


Highland Tournament
Griffith 51 Kankakee Valley 29
Lafayette Jeff 52 Andrean 46
Kankakee Valley 56 Andrean 54
Lafayette Jeff 56 Griffith 48


Homestead Tournament
Hamilton Southeastern 64 Mishawaka Marian 54
Zionsville 72 South Bend St. Joseph 70
Valparaiso 62 Homestead 51
Munster 63 Carroll (Fort Wayne) 53
Hamilton Southeastern 61 Valparaiso 45
Munster 61 Zionsville 42
Mishawaka Marian 56 Homestead 43
Carroll (Fort Wayne) 68 South Bend St. Joseph 65


LaPorte Tournament
Logansport 69 Marquette Catholic 54
LaPorte 71 Lowell 47
Lowell 61 Marquette Catholic 57
LaPorte 65 Logansport 50
Miami County Invitational
Peru 93 North Miami 61
Maconaquah 78 Caston 56


Mitchell Tournment
Shoals 51 Salem 34
Mitchell 51 White River Valley 44
Franklin County 37 Salem 31
White River Valley 45 New Washington 32
Franklin County 31 Shoals 27
Mitchell 56 New Washington 33


Monrovia Tournament
South Putnam 53 Eastern Greene 49
Monrovia 75 Mooresville Christian 67
Eastern Greene 64 Mooresville Christian 38
South Putnam 75 Monrovia 62


New Castle Tournament
New Castle 48 Triton Central 44
Decatur Central 57 Norwell 45
Norwell 47 Triton Central 40
Decatur Central 64 New Castle 60


Noblesville Tournament
Crown Point 70 Castle 60
Noblesville 54 McCutcheon 25
Castle 76 McCutcheon 41
Noblesville 56 Crown Point 55 OT


Rich Twp. (Ill.) Tournament
Thornton (Ill.) 60 Hammond Noll 39
Sevierville (Tenn.) Tournament
Monroe County (Ky.) 67 South Dearborn 49


Wabash Valley Tournament
West Vigo 58 Robinson (Ill.) 52
Bloomfield 60 Northview 57
Terre Haute South 63 Sullivan 38
Parke Heritage 56 Linton-Stockton 36
Casey-Westfield (Ill.) 51 Shakamak 41
Greencastle 60 Cloverdale 47
Edgewood 67 Marshall (Ill.) 55
Terre Haute North 57 South Vermillion 47 OT

INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL BOYS BASKETBALL SCHEDULE THURSDAY

ALL TIMES EASTERN
Cannelton at Vincennes Rivet 6:30 pm
East Noble at Churubusco 2:30 pm
Fort Wayne Dwenger at Angola 6:00 pm
Franklin Central at Lawrence North 7:30 pm
Southport at Plainfield 7:30 pm
Speedway at Indianapolis Ritter 7:30 pm
Tri at Wes-Del 7:30 pm
Tri-Central at Greenfield-Central 10:00 am
Tri-Central at Waldron 4:00 pm
West Morgan (Ala.) vs. Cascade 6:00 pm
Yorktown at Anderson 7:30 pm


Batesville Tournament
Columbus North at Batesville 10:00 am R1
Indianapolis Roncalli vs. Pendleton Heights 12:00 pm R1
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 1 4:00 pm 3rd
Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 1 6:00 pm 1st


Belfry (Ky.) Tournament
Avon vs. Menifee County (Ky.) 4:00 pm R1
Bismarck-Henning (Ill.) Tournament
Indiana Math & Science vs. Danville JV (Ill.) 11:00 am Pool
Indiana Math & Science vs. Milford (Ill.) 6:30 pm Pool


Clay City Tournament
North Vermillion vs. Owen Valley 11:00 am Pool A
North Central (Farmersburg) at Clay City 12:30 pm Pool B
Tri-West vs. North Vermillion 2:00 pm Pool A
North Central (Farmersburg) vs. Riverton Parke 3:30 pm Pool B
Owen Valley vs. Tri-West 5:00 pm Pool A
Riverton Parke at Clay City 6:30 pm Pool B


Clinton Central Tournament
Carroll (Flora) vs. North Putnam 10:00 am R1
Northside HomeSchool vs. Fountain Central 11:45 am R1
Clinton Prairie vs. Tipton 1:30 pm R1
Western at Clinton Central 3:15 pm R1
Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 6:30 pm Con
Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 8:00 pm Con


Delta Tournament
Winchester vs. Fort Wayne South 2:00 pm 7th
Columbia City vs. Tippecanoe Valley 4:00 pm 5th
Fort Wayne Concordia vs. Muncie Central 6:00 pm 3rd
Northeastern at Delta 8:00 pm 1st


Edinburgh Tournament
Victory College Prep vs. South Decatur 2:00 pm 7th
Union County vs. Borden 4:00 pm 5th
Austin at Edinburgh 6:00 pm 3rd
Jac-Cen-Del vs. Hauser 8:00 pm 1st


Fishers Tournament
Lawrence Central vs. Chesterton 10:30 am R1
Jeffersonville vs. South Bend Riley 12:15 pm R1
Evansville Bosse vs. Portage 2:00 pm R1
Bloomington North at Fishers 3:45 pm R1
Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 5:30 pm Con
Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 7:15 pm Con


Hebron Tournament
Portage Christian vs. Tri-County 6:30 pm 3rd
South Bend Career at Hebron 8:00 pm 1st


Henryville Invitational
Brown County at Henryville 10:00 am R1
Southwestern (Shelbyville) vs. Springs Valley 11:45 am R1
Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 1 6:00 pm 3rd
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 1 7:45 pm 1st


Highland Tournament
Andrean vs. Whiting 11:00 am 7th
Kankakee Valley vs. Calumet 1:00 pm 5th
Griffith at Highland 6:30 pm 3rd
Lafayette Jeff vs. Morgan Twp. 8:30 pm 1st


Homestead Tournament
Mishawaka Marian vs. Valparaiso 10:30 am Pool A
Zionsville vs. Carroll (Fort Wayne) 10:00 am Pool B
Hamilton Southeastern at Homestead 11:45 am Pool A
South Bend St. Joseph vs. Munster 11:45 am Pool B
Pool B 4th place vs. Pool A 4th place 4:00 pm 7th
Pool B 3rd place vs. Pool A 3rd place 5:30 pm 5th
Pool B 2nd place vs. Pool A 2nd place 4:00 pm 3rd
Pool B 1st place vs. Pool A 1st place 5:30 pm 1st


Huntington North Tournament
South Bend Adams at Huntington North 10:00 am Pool A
Indianapolis Tech vs. Merrillville 12:00 pm Pool B
East Chicago Central vs. South Bend Adams 2:00 pm Pool A
Merrillville vs. Fort Wayne Snider 4:00 pm Pool B
East Chicago Central at Huntington North 6:00 pm Pool A
Fort Wayne Snider vs. Indianapolis Tech 8:00 pm Pool B


Kouts Tournament
Frontier at Kouts 11:30 am R1
North Judson vs. Trinity Greenlawn 11:30 am R1
Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 1 6:30 pm 3rd
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 1 8:00 pm 1st


LaPorte Tournament
Northridge vs. Fort Wayne Luers 11:00 am R1
Hanover Central vs. Hammond Morton 12:30 pm R1
Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6 6:00 pm Con
Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 7:30 pm SF


Lebanon Tournament
Mooresville vs. Indianapolis Metropolitan 11:00 am R1
University vs. Evansville North 1:00 pm R1
Gary 21st Century vs. Faith Christian 6:00 pm R1
Perry Meridian at Lebanon 8:30 pm R1


Miami County Invitational
Caston vs. North Miami 2:00 pm 3rd
Maconaquah at Peru 8:00 pm 1st
Mitchell Tournment
Salem vs. New Washington 4:00 pm 5th
Shoals vs. White River Valley 5:30 pm 3rd
Franklin County at Mitchell 7:00 pm 1st


Morristown Classic
Tri-Central vs. Greenfield-Central 10:00 am
Indianapolis Herron vs. Waldron 11:30 am
Indianapolis Chatard vs. Sheridan 1:00 pm
Monroe Central at Morristown 2:30 pm
Tri-Central vs. Waldron 4:00 pm
Indianapolis Chatard vs. Greenfield-Central 5:00 pm
Sheridan vs. Monroe Central 5:30 pm
Indianapolis Herron at Morristown 6:30 pm


North Central Classic
Lake Central vs. Pike 1:30 pm
Evansville Reitz vs. Park Tudor 3:15 pm
Evansville Harrison vs. Carmel 5:00 pm
Louisville Trinity (Ky.) at North Central (Indianapolis) 6:45 pm


Rich Twp. (Ill.) Tournament
Hammond Noll vs. Crete-Monee (Ill.) 6:00 pm


Richmond Tournament
Heritage Christian vs. Seton Catholic 9:00 am R1
Fort Wayne North vs. Indianapolis Shortridge 9:00 am R1
NorthWood vs. North Decatur 10:30 am R1
Indianapolis Tindley vs. Centerville 10:30 am R1
Greensburg vs. Indianapolis Scecina 12:00 pm R1
Bellmont vs. Bloomington South 12:00 pm R1
Indianapolis HomeSchool vs. Richmond 1:30 pm R1
East Central vs. Phalen Academy 1:30 pm R1
Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 3:00 pm Con
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 3:00 pm QF
Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 4:30 pm Con
Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 4:30 pm QF
Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6 6:00 pm Con
Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 6:00 pm QF
Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8 7:30 pm Con
Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8 7:30 pm QF


River Forest Tournament
Lake Station at River Forest 11:00 am R1
Hobart vs. Wheeler 12:30 pm R1
Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 1 6:30 pm 3rd
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 1 8:00 pm 1st


Sevierville (Tenn.) Tournament
South Dearborn vs. Claiborne (Tenn.) 4:00 pm Con
Silver Creek Tournament
Clarksville at Silver Creek 6:00 pm R1
Providence at Charlestown 7:30 pm R1


Tablenacle Christian Tournament
Crothersville vs. Legact Elite 1:30 pm
Crothersville vs. Connersville Christian 4:00 pm


Union City Tournament
Elwood vs. Southern Wells 12:00 pm Pool A
Bluffton vs. Eastern (Greentown) 1:30 pm Pool B
Southern Wells vs. Union City 3:00 pm Pool A
Eastern (Greentown) vs. Randolph Southern 4:30 pm Pool B
Elwood at Union City 6:00 pm Pool A
Randolph Southern vs. Bluffton 7:30 pm Pool B


Wabash Valley Tournament
Robinson (Ill.) vs. Northview 10:00 am Con
Shakamak vs. Cloverdale 11:30 am Con
West Vigo vs. Bloomfield 1:00 pm Con
Casey-Westfield (Ill.) vs. Greencastle 2:30 pm Con
Sullivan vs. Linton-Stockton 4:00 pm Con
Marshall (Ill.) vs. South Vermillion 5:30 pm Con
Parke Heritage at Terre Haute South 7:00 pm SF
Edgewood vs. Terre Haute North 8:30 pm SF

INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING RESULTS

https://indianamat.com/index.php?/dualresults.html/

COLLEGE BOWL GAMES

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Virginia Tech 41 Tulane 20

West Virginia 30 North Carolina 10

USC 42 Louisville 28

Oklahoma State 31 Texas A&M 23

Thursday, Dec. 28

Fenway Bowl

No. 24 SMU vs. Boston College

Boston, Massachusetts

11 a.m. | ESPN

Pinstripe Bowl

Rutgers vs. Miami (Fla.)

The Bronx, New York

2:15 p.m. | ESPN

Pop-Tarts Bowl

No. 18 NC State vs. No. 25 Kansas State

Orlando, Florida

5:45 p.m. | ESPN

Alamo Bowl

No. 12 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 Arizona

San Antonio, Texas

9:15 p.m. | ESPN

Friday, Dec. 29

Gator Bowl

No. 22 Clemson vs. Kentucky

Jacksonville, Florida

12 p.m. | ESPN

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl

No. 16 Notre Dame vs. No. 19 Oregon State

El Paso, Texas

2 p.m. | CBS

Liberty Bowl

Memphis vs. Iowa State

Memphis, Tennessee

3:30 p.m. | ESPN

Cotton Bowl

No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Missouri

Dallas, Texas

8 p.m. | ESPN

Saturday, Dec. 30

Peach Bowl

No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 11 Ole Miss

Atlanta, Georgia

12 p.m. | ESPN

Music City Bowl

Auburn vs. Maryland

Nashville, Tennessee

2 p.m. | ABC

Orange Bowl

No. 5 Florida State vs. No. 6 Georgia

Miami Gardens, Florida

4 p.m. | ESPN

Arizona Bowl

Wyoming vs. Toledo

Tucson, Arizona

4:30 p.m. | CW Network/Barstool

Monday, Jan. 1, 2024

ReliaQuest Bowl

No. 13 LSU vs. Wisconsin

Tampa, Florida

12 p.m. | ESPN2

Citrus Bowl

No. 17 Iowa vs. No. 21 Tennessee

Orlando, Florida

1 p.m. | ABC

Fiesta Bowl

No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 23 Liberty

Glendale, Arizona

1 p.m. | ESPN

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl

No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama

Pasadena, California

5 p.m. | ESPN

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Sugar Bowl

No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 Texas

New Orleans, Louisiana

8:45 p.m. | ESPN

Monday, Jan. 8

College Football Playoff National Championship Game

Houston, Texas

7:30 p.m. | ESPN

NFL WEEK-17 SCHEDULE

THURSDAY DECEMBER 28

New York Jets at Cleveland Browns, 8:15 p.m., Amazon Prime Video

SATURDAY DECEMBER 30

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+, ESPN Deportes

SUNDAY DECEMBER 31

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens, 1PM, CBS

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, 1PM CBS

Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears, 1PM CBS

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, 1PM FOX

Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts, 1 PM CBS

Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1PM CBS

Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants, 1PM FOX

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles, 1PM FOX

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1PM FOX

San Francisco 49ers at Washington Commanders, 1PM FOX

Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 PM FOX

Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos, 4:25 PM CBS

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 PM CBS

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings, 8:20 PM NBC, Universo (stream with free trial from FUBO)

MEN’S TOP 25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES

No Games Scheduled

WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25 SCORES

#5 Texas 97 Jackson State 52

NBA SCOREBOARD

Toronto 132 Washington 102

Philadelphia 112 Orlando 92

Milwaukee 144 Brooklyn 122

Phoenix 129 Houston 113

Oklahoma City 129 New York 120

Cleveland 113 Dallas 110

NHL SCOREBOARD

New Jersey 4 Columbus 3 OT

Ottawa 4 Toronto 2

NY Rangers 5 Washington 1

Florida 3 Tampa Bay 2

Pittsburgh 7 NY Islanders 0

Boston 4 Buffalo 1

St. Louis 2 Dallas 1

Minnesota 6 Detroit 3

Carolina 5 Nashville 2

Chicago 2 Winnipeg 1 OT

Arizona 5 Colorado 4 OT

Seattle 2 Calgary 1

Anaheim 5 Vegas 2

Los Angeles 5 San Jose 1

NATIONAL SPORTS RELEASES/HEADLINES

NFL NEWS

THE STARTING 11 – TEN TEAMS HAVE ALREADY IMPROVED RECORDS AS NFL PREPARES TO LIGHT UP NEW YEAR

New Year’s resolutions usually share one common thread: Be better than you were the year before.

Well, 10 NFL teams enter this week better than they were the year before, already compiling more wins than they had in all of 2022.

Included in that group are the MIAMI DOLPHINS (11-4) and BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-3), who battle for the AFC’s top seed on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Both teams have won two more games than all of last year. In fact, seven of the AFC’s 16 teams have already improved their win totals compared to last season.

One of those seven is the league’s most-improved team, HOUSTON (8-7) and rookie head coach DEMECO RYANS, who takes the Texans to TENNESSEE (5-10) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX). The Texans, who already have won a league-best five more games than in 2022, control their own destiny in pursuit of a playoff berth, which would be their first since 2019.

In 18 of the prior 20 seasons, at least one team has won its division the year after finishing last or tied for last. Houston could join that worst-to-first group this season.

No other league spawns more hope than the NFL, as evidenced by the number of turnaround teams since 2019. Ryans (plus-five in 2023) has joined BRIAN DABOLL (plus-five in 2022 with the New York Giants), MATT LAFLEUR (plus-seven in 2019 with Green Bay), KEVIN O’CONNELL (plus-five in 2022 with Minnesota), NICK SIRIANNI (plus-five in 2021 with Philadelphia) and KEVIN STEFANSKI (plus-five in 2020 with Cleveland) as one of six rookie head coaches to improve their teams’ win totals by at least five victories over the last five seasons.

Plus, in 19 of the prior 20 years, at least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs. DETROIT (11-4), which last week captured its first division title in 30 years, has already won the NFC North. NEW ORLEANS (7-8), which visits TAMPA BAY (8-7) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX), and ATLANTA (7-8), which heads to CHICAGO (6-9) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), are fighting for an NFC South title. Should either the Saints or Falcons win the NFC South, that team would join the Lions in capturing a division crown the year after missing the postseason.

Week 17 features eight matchups between teams in contention for Super Bowl LVIII, and five games between teams from the same division. So put the champagne on ice and tee up Auld Lang Syne, but before ringing in a new year, join the NFL for a full slate of New Year’s Eve games.

The Starting 11 entering Week 17…​

1.   EXTRAORDINARY ENDINGS: Only twice since the 1970 league merger has an NFL week produced six contests that featured the game-winning points in either the final minute of regulation of regulation or in overtime. Each of those individual weeks have happened in 2023, including Week 16.

  • Last week, six teams recorded the game-winning score in the final minute of regulation: BUFFALO (game-winning field goal with 28 seconds remaining), GREEN BAY (game-winning field goal with 19 seconds remaining), MIAMI (game-winning field goal with no time remaining), NEW ENGLAND (game-winning field goal with two seconds remaining), the NEW YORK JETS (game-winning field goal with five seconds remaining) and SEATTLE (game-winning touchdown with 57 seconds remaining). In Week 10 earlier this season, six teams also registered the game-winning points in the final minute or in overtime.
    • Last season, 55 games fell into this category. And including the 43 games this season decided in the final minute or in overtime, 98 of the last 511 NFL games (19.2 percent) dating to the beginning of 2022 have gone down to the wire.

2.   NUMBER OF THE WEEK – 24: The number of teams still in contention for the Super Bowl, which ties for the most with two weeks remaining over the last 20 seasons. The record with two weeks left is 26 in 2004.

3.   TOMLIN CAN SURPASS HALAS: Three individuals have held the title of Steelers head coach since 1969. In those 55 seasons, the club has gone 6-2 in Super Bowls and made 32 playoff appearances. However, what MIKE TOMLIN has accomplished since taking the reins of the team in 2007 ranks among one of the most impressive accomplishments in league annals. Over 16 straight years entering 2023, Tomlin has never coached a losing season. As early as this week, PITTSBURGH (8-7) can secure its ninth win and extend that streak to 17 when the Steelers visit SEATTLE (8-7) on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX).

  • Tomlin’s streak of 16 .500-or-better seasons is the longest to begin an NFL head-coaching career. Overall, Tomlin’s current streak trails only Pro Football Hall of Famer TOM LANDRY (21 from 1965-85) and BILL BELICHICK (19 from 2001-19) and is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer GEORGE HALAS (16 from 1933-42 and 1946-51).
    • In last week’s win, Steelers wide receiver GEORGE PICKENS caught two touchdowns and recorded a career-high 195 receiving yards, including a career-long 86-yard score, the NFL’s longest offensive play so far this season. Then, in the second half, Pickens caught a 66-yard touchdown from MASON RUDOLPH, making Pickens one of two players this season with multiple touchdown receptions of 60-plus yards in the same game (TYREEK HILL). Pickens also averaged 48.8 yards per reception. With a minimum four catches, that’s the third-highest mark by a player since the 1970 league merger, behind DESEAN JACKSON (52.5, Dec. 12, 2010) and GARY CLARK (50.8, Nov. 10, 1991).
    • During the tenure of head coach PETE CARROLL, the Seahawks have shown remarkable resiliency. Including last week’s thriller, his 2023 team is the third NFL club since 1970 with four game-winning touchdowns in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime in a season, joining the 2004 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (four) and his 2012 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (four).
    • Seahawks quarterback GENO SMITH has led four game-winning drives in 2023, tied with JALEN HURTS and RUSSELL WILSON for most in the NFL this season. Since becoming the Seattle starter in 2022, Smith has orchestrated seven game-winning drives.

4.   SPOTLIGHT – INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: Cowboys linebacker MICAH PARSONS and Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE are the only players since 1982 (when the individual sack became an official statistic) with 13-or-more sacks in each of their first three NFL seasons. Parsons, the 12th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, draws Lions Pro Bowl tackle PENEI SEWELL, the seventh overall choice in that draft, when DALLAS (10-5) hosts DETROIT (11-4) in an important NFC clash on Saturday (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC). One of the anchors on  a Lions offensive line that ranks fourth in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass attempt (5.38 percent), Sewell is a prime candidate for All-Pro honors this season.

  • Detroit, which last week clinched its first division crown since 1993, has not won a playoff game since 1991, when the Lions defeated the Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome in the Divisional round, 38-6. The Lions’ MEL JENKINS returned an interception of Pro Football Hall of Famer TROY AIKMAN for a touchdown, and Pro Football Hall of Famer BARRY SANDERS ran for a 47-yard score.
    • Dallas, the league’s only undefeated team at home (7-0), owns the NFL’s best home marks this year in points margin (plus-171), points scored per game (39.9) and turnover margin (plus-10).
    • Detroit, meanwhile, owns a share of the NFL’s second-best winning percentage in road games (.750, 6-2; tied with San Francisco). Only Baltimore (7-1, .875) has a better mark.
    • Cowboys wide receiver CEEDEE LAMB leads the NFL with 109 receptions, just three away from breaking the single-season franchise record held by Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (111 in 1995).
    • Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT leads the NFL with 30 touchdown passes. Detroit quarterback JARED GOFF is tied for third with 27.
    • The Lions have won five consecutive primetime games. Their 1.000 primetime winning percentage (5-0) since the beginning of last season is the best mark in the league over that span. Overall, Detroit has registered 20 wins over the last two seasons, a franchise-record over a two-year span.
    • Detroit wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN has 302 career receptions and is the fourth player with at least 300 in his first three seasons in NFL history, joining JUSTIN JEFFERSON (324), MICHAEL THOMAS (321) and CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY (303). St. Brown has 18 career games with at least eight receptions and surpassed ANQUAN BOLDIN (17) for the second-most such games by a player in his first three seasons in NFL history. Only JUSTIN JEFFERSON (19) has more.

5.   SPOTLIGHT – TEAM MATCHUP: As a reward for an impressive road victory over the NFC’s best team, BALTIMORE (12-3) gets a date with the AFC’s second-best team, MIAMI (11-4), on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Ravens have given up an NFL-low 16.3 points per game. The Dolphins, meanwhile, lead the league by producing 30.9 points per contest. With a victory in Week 17, the Buccaneers would clinch their third consecutive NFC South division title.

  • In franchise history, Baltimore has led the NFL in scoring defense on two prior occasions: 2006 and 2000, when the team won Super Bowl XXXV. This year, the Ravens also rank sixth in yards allowed per game (297.3).
    • The Dolphins, meanwhile, have led the NFL in both points and yards per game – something they’ve achieved so far this season – on just two prior occasions. And in each of those seasons, they went to the Super Bowl: 1972 and 1984.
    • Miami running back RAHEEM MOSTERT has 21 scrimmage touchdowns this season and surpassed AUSTIN EKELER (20 in 2021) for the second most by an undrafted player in a season since 1967. Only PRIEST HOLMES (27 in 2003 and 24 in 2002) has more.
    • Baltimore quarterback LAMAR JACKSON last week improved to 20-1 (.952) against NFC teams during his career, the best winning percentage by a starting quarterback against a conference since the 1970 league merger. Also last week, Jackson led the team with 45 rushing yards, helping the Ravens extend their streak of games with at least 100 rushing yards to 31, the longest active streak in the league.
    • On the strength of five interceptions in last week’s win, two by safety KYLE HAMILTON, Baltimore leads the NFL with 26 takeaways.

6.   STREAK SPEAKTAMPA BAY (8-7) has won four straight games entering a critical NFC South game at home against NEW ORLEANS (7-8) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX). The streak is the Buccaneers’ longest within a season since a four-game stretch in 2021. Tampa Bay hasn’t strung together five wins since an eight-game streak that included the postseason and Super Bowl LV to conclude the 2020 campaign.

  • The Buccaneers own a plus-10 turnover margin this season, tied for the NFL lead with Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
    • Tampa Bay quarterback BAKER MAYFIELD over the team’s last three games is 3-0 with eight touchdown passes, and no interceptions. Mayfield, who has 3,598 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes this season, has an opportunity to establish his single-season career bests (3,827 passing yards in 2019 and 27 touchdown passes in 2018).
    • Buccaneers wide receiver MIKE EVANS leads the NFL with 13 touchdown receptions this season. He is the fifth player in NFL history to record at least 12 touchdown receptions in five-or-more seasons, joining four Pro Football Hall of Famers: JERRY RICE (eight seasons), TERRELL OWENS (seven), MARVIN HARRISON (six) and RANDY MOSS (six).

7.   DID YOU KNOW?: Rams rookie wide receiver PUKA NACUA had nine receptions for 164 yards and one touchdown in last week’s win. Nacua has 96 receptions this season and has surpassed MICHAEL THOMAS (92 in 2016) for the third most by a rookie in NFL history. Only JAYLEN WADDLE (104 in 2021) and ANQUAN BOLDIN (101 in 2003) have more. What’s more, Nacua has 1,327 receiving yards this season and has surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (1,313 in 1998) for the fifth most by a rookie all-time. Only BILL GROMAN (1,473 in 1960), JA’MARR CHASE (1,455 in 2021), JUSTIN JEFFERSON (1,400 in 2020) and ANQUAN BOLDIN (1,377 in 2003) have more. Nacua and the LOS ANGELES RAMS (8-7) make their fourth trip to the Eastern Time Zone, traveling to face the NEW YORK GIANTS (5-10) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX).

8.   UNDER-THE-RADAR STORYLINE: This week, head coach KYLE SHANAHAN leads his SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-4) into FedExField to meet WASHINGTON (4-11) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX). Shanahan and his father, MIKE SHANAHAN, were Washington’s respective offensive coordinator and head coach from 2010-13. Earlier, the elder Shanahan held the reins of the Denver Broncos from 1995-2008, leading the team to consecutive Super Bowl championships in 1997-98. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA and his son DAVID SHULA have more wins as head coaches among father-son families.

The seven pairs of fathers and sons who’ve served as head coaches in NFL history:

FATHER-SON FAMILYTEAMSWINS
Don ShulaHOFBaltimore Colts, Miami347
David ShulaCincinnati19
Total366
Mike ShanahanL.A. Raiders, Denver, Washington178
Kyle ShanahanSan Francisco69
Total247
Bum PhillipsHouston Oilers, New Orleans86
Wade PhillipsNew Orleans, Denver, Buffalo, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston Texans83
Total169
Jim MoraNew Orleans, Indianapolis125
Jim MoraAtlanta, Seattle32
Total157
Buddy RyanPhiladelphia, Arizona55
Rex RyanN.Y. Jets, Buffalo65
Total120
Dick NolanSan Francisco, New Orleans71
Mike NolanSan Francisco18
Total89
Jim FasselN.Y. Giants60
John FasselL.A. Rams0
Total60

9.  TREND TIME: Wide receiver AMARI COOPER, who leads CLEVELAND (10-5) against the NEW YORK JETS (6-9) on Thursday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video), is the first Browns player ever with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He achieved that feat in exciting fashion during last week’s win, when he recorded 11 receptions for a single-game franchise-record 265 yards and two touchdowns. Among Cooper’s accomplishments so far:

  • He has seven career 1,000-yard seasons. Since Cooper entered the league in 2015, only MIKE EVANS (nine) and TRAVIS KELCE (seven) have as many.
    • Cooper is the fourth player all-time with three career games with at least 200 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DON HUTSON (four games), CHARLIE HENNIGAN (three) and TYREEK HILL (three).
    • Cooper is the sixth player all-time with four career 200-yard receiving games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers LANCE ALWORTH (five games), CALVIN JOHNSON (five), DON HUTSON (four) and JERRY RICE (four) as well as CHARLIE HENNIGAN (four). Cooper (Oakland, Dallas, Cleveland) joined Pro Football Hall of Famer TERRELL OWENS (San Francisco, Cincinnati, Dallas) as the only players in NFL history to record a 200-yard receiving game with three franchises.
    • Cooper has five touchdown receptions this year and is the fourth player with at least five in each of his first nine seasons in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers MARVIN HARRISON and DON HUTSON as well as MARQUES COLSTON.
    • Cleveland’s DAVID NJOKU in last week’s win reached 25 receiving touchdowns in a Browns uniform and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer OZZIE NEWSOME (47) as the only Cleveland tight ends to reach that milestone.
    • Browns quarterback JOE FLACCO has passed for 300 yards in three straight games, the first such streak of his career.
    • Jets running back BREECE HALL in last week’s win had 12 receptions, 191 scrimmage yards (96 receiving, 95 rushing) and two rushing touchdowns. Hall is the second player in NFL history with at least 10 receptions, 95 rushing yards, 95 receiving yards and two rushing touchdowns in a game, joining FRANK GORE (Nov. 25, 2007).

10.  NEXT GEN STAT OF THE WEEK: In last week’s win, Buffalo quarterback JOSH ALLEN had a 36.5-percent completion probability on his 57-yard touchdown pass to GABE DAVIS. Also on that play, Next Gen Stats determined that Allen was traveling 14.65 MPH when he released the pass, his 11th passing touchdown on the run (8-plus MPH) this season, most in the NFL.

  • Allen and the BUFFALO BILLS (9-6) host the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (4-11) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Allen has thrown a touchdown pass in 23 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Allen also has 51 career rushing touchdowns and joined CAM NEWTON (75) as the only quarterbacks with 50 in NFL history. With a career-high 13 rushing touchdowns this season, Allen is the third quarterback in NFL history with 13 in a season, joining JALEN HURTS (15 this season and 13 in 2022) and CAM NEWTON (14 in 2011). Finally, Allen (51 rushing touchdowns) has joined Pro Football Hall of Famers THURMAN THOMAS (65) and O.J. SIMPSON (57) as the only players in franchise history with 50 rushing touchdowns in a Bills uniform.

11.  AND LAST BUT NOT LEASTJORDAN LOVE is attempting to become the first Packers quarterback to lead the team to the postseason in his first full year as a starter since at least 1950, when the league began recording starts for every player.

  • Love this season has seven games with multiple touchdown passes and no interceptions, tied for the most such games in the NFL in 2023.
    • GREEN BAY (7-8) meets MINNESOTA (7-8) at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday Night Football (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). Both teams are battling for the NFC’s final Wild Card berth. A Packers win would knot Green Bay and Minnesota in overall record, head-to-head record and conference record.
    • Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON had six catches for 141 yards and one touchdown last week. Jefferson has 5,648 career receiving yards and surpassed MICHAEL THOMAS (5,512) for the most by a player in his first four seasons in NFL history. Jefferson, currently in his fourth season, has 28 career games with 100 receiving yards, tied with JULIO JONES (28) for the second-most such games by a player in his first five career seasons in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (30 games) has more.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL CAPSULE: NEW YORK JETS (6-9) AT CLEVELAND BROWNS (10-5)

DATE: Thursday, December 28, 2023 GAME TIME: 8:15 PM ET

Prime Video: Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit, Kaylee Hartung

Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Joe Thomas

SiriusXM (team name linked to SXM App) NYJ: 81 or 226 CLE: 109 or 225 National: 88

ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY

REG. SEASON: Series tied, 14-14 (NYJ won past 2)

POSTSEASON: CLE leads series, 1-0

THE LAST TIME …

REG. SEASON: 9/18/22: NYJ 31 at CLE 30

POSTSEASON: 1/3/87 NFC-DIV: NYJ 20 at CLE 23

JETS NOTES:

QB TREVOR SIEMIAN passed for 217 yards & TD last week in 1st start of season. Is 2-2 in 4 career starts on TNF. • RB BREECE HALL had 191 scrimmage yards (96 rec., 95 rush), 12 catches & 2 rush TDs last week, joining Frank Gore (11/25/07) as only players all-time with 10+ catches, 95+ rush yards, 95+ rec. yards & 2 rush TDs in a game. Has 3 career games with 190+ scrimmage yards, tied with Tyreek Hill for most in NFL over past 2 seasons. Has 125+ scrimmage yards & TD in 2 of past 3. Had 60 scrimmage yards (50 rush, 10 rec.) & TD catch in last meeting. Has 60+ scrimmage yards in each of 4 career games in primetime. Needs 31 scrimmage yards to become 1st NYJ RB with 1,300-yard season since Thomas Jones in 2009 (1,460). • WR GARRETT WILSON has 9+ catches & 75+ rec. yards in 2 of past 3. Had 8 catches for 102 yards in last meeting. Aims for his 3rd in row in primetime with 80+ rec. yards. Needs 42 rec. yards for 2nd-straight 1,000-yard season. • WR JASON BROWNLEE (rookie) had 1st-career TD catch last week. • TE TYLER CONKLIN aims for 5th in row with 4+ catches. Had 6 catches for 40 yards in last meeting. Aims for his 4th in row in primetime with 55+ rec. yards. Needs 34 rec. yards for new career high (593 in 2021 with Min.). • DL QUINNEN WILLIAMS has 0.5+ sacks in 2 of past 3 overall & in each of his past 3 on road. Had half sack in last meeting. • LB QUINCY WILLIAMS had 8 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 PD & 1st-career INT last week. Aims for 8th in row with 5+ tackles & 4th in row with PD. • CB MICHAEL CARTER had career-best 3 PD in Week 16. Has PD in 3 of past 4. • CB SAUCE GARDNER has 30 career PD, 3rd-most in NFL since 2022. • S TONY ADAMS had 2nd-career INT last week.

RESULTS

1 Sep. 11 Buffalo Bills (Mon) 8:15 PM W, 22-16 (OT) 1-0

2 Sep. 17 at Dallas Cowboys 4:25 PM L, 30-10 1-1

3 Sep. 24 New England Patriots 1:00 PM L, 15-10 1-2

4 Oct. 1 Kansas City Chiefs 8:20 PM L, 23-20 1-3

5 Oct. 8 at Denver Broncos 4:25 PM W, 31-21 2-3

6 Oct. 15 Philadelphia Eagles 4:25 PM W, 20-14 3-3

7 BYE

8 Oct. 29 at New York Giants 1:00 PM W, 13-10 (OT) 4-3

9 Nov. 6 Los Angeles Chargers (Mon) 8:15 PM L, 27-6 4-4

10 Nov. 12 at Las Vegas Raiders 8:20 PM L, 16-12 4-5

11 Nov. 19 at Buffalo Bills 4:25 PM L, 32-6 4-6

12 Nov. 24 Miami Dolphins (Fri) 3:00 PM L, 34-13 4-7

13 Dec. 3 Atlanta Falcons 1:00 PM L, 13-8 4-8

14 Dec. 10 Houston Texans 1:00 PM W, 30-6 5-8

15 Dec. 17 at Miami Dolphins 1:00 PM L, 30-0 5-9

16 Dec. 24 Washington Commanders 1:00 PM W, 30-28 6-9

BROWNS NOTES

BROWNS have won 10+ games for 3rd time since 2000 (11 in 2020 & 10 in 2007). Lead NFL in total defense (260.3 yards allowed per game). • QB JOE FLACCO completed 27 of 42 atts. (64.3 pct.) for 368 yards & 3 TDs vs. 2 INTs with 96.1 rating last week. Has passed for 300+ yards in 3 straight games for 1st time in career. Aims for 3rd in row with 350+ pass yards. Has 1,307 pass yards (326.8 per game) & 10 TD passes in 4 games this season, most pass yards & tied-most TD passes in NFL since Week 13. Is 3-1 in 4 career starts vs. NYJ. • RB JEROME FORD had rush TD last week. Needs 21 scrimmage yards for 1st-career 1,000-yard season. • RB KAREEM HUNT had rush TD last week & has rush TD in 2 of past 3. Had 74 scrimmage yards (58 rush, 16 rec.) in last meeting. • WR AMARI COOPER had 11 catches for career-high & single game franchise record 265 yards & 2 TDs last week. Is 4th player all-time with 200+ rec. yards & 2+ rec. TDs in 3+ career games. Aims for 4th in row with 75+ rec. yards & 3rd in row with 100+ rec. yards & rec. TD. Had 9 catches for 101 yards & TD in last meeting. Is 4th player ever with 5+ rec. TDs in each of 1st 9 seasons. • TE DAVID NJOKU has TD catch in 3 straight games, longest streak of career. Has 90+ rec. yards in 2 of past 3. • DE MYLES GARRETT aims for 4th in row with TFL. Has 8.5 sacks in 8 home games this season. Has 9 sacks in 5 career games vs. NYJ, with sack in each game. Is 1 of 2 in NFL (Micah Parsons) with 13+ sacks in each of past 3 seasons. • DE ZA’DARIUS SMITH had season-high 2 sacks & PD last week. Has sack & PD in 2 of past 3. Has PD in each of 2 career games vs. NYJ. • DE ALEX WRIGHT aims for 3rd in row with sack. • LB JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH aims for 3rd in row with 2+ PD & INT. Aims for 8th in row with 6+ tackles.

RESULTS

1 Sep. 10 Cincinnati Bengals 1:00 PM W, 24-3 1-0

2 Sep. 18 at Pittsburgh Steelers (Mon) 8:15 PM L, 26-22 1-1

3 Sep. 24 Tennessee Titans 1:00 PM W, 27-3 2-1

4 Oct. 1 Baltimore Ravens 1:00 PM L, 28-3 2-2

5 BYE

6 Oct. 15 San Francisco 49ers 1:00 PM W, 19-17 3-2

7 Oct. 22 at Indianapolis Colts 1:00 PM W, 39-38 4-2

8 Oct. 29 at Seattle Seahawks 4:05 PM L, 24-20 4-3

9 Nov. 5 Arizona Cardinals 1:00 PM W, 27-0 5-3

10 Nov. 12 at Baltimore Ravens 1:00 PM W, 33-31 6-3

11 Nov. 19 Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00 PM W, 13-10 7-3

12 Nov. 26 at Denver Broncos 4:05 PM L, 29-12 7-4

13 Dec. 3 at Los Angeles Rams 4:25 PM L, 36-19 7-5

14 Dec. 10 Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00 PM W, 31-27 8-5

15 Dec. 17 Chicago Bears 1:00 PM W, 20-17 9-5

16 Dec. 24 at Houston Texans 1:00 PM W, 36-22 10-5

BRONCOS BENCH QB RUSSELL WILSON AND WILL TURN TO JARRETT STIDHAM, AP SOURCE SAYS

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos are benching quarterback Russell Wilson, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Jarrett Stidham will start for the Broncos on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. It’s a remarkably similar situation to last year when Stidham started the Las Vegas Raiders’ final two games after the team benched Derek Carr and sent him home in a business decision.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team has not publicly addressed the situation. Coach Sean Payton was scheduled to meet with reporters later on Wednesday after practice.

The person said this circumstance in Denver differs from the Raiders’ situation a year ago because the Broncos will dress Wilson, who could theoretically get into the game Sunday.

If Wilson doesn’t play another down this season, however, the Broncos will have kept open their options in 2024.

His $39 million salary for next season is already guaranteed but if he’s on the roster March 17, his 2025 salary of $37 million also becomes guaranteed. Because injured players cannot be cut, the Broncos would have been on the hook for that 2025 salary were Wilson to get hurt in the final two weeks and been unable to pass a physical in the spring.

That’s the reason the Raiders sent Carr home a year ago.

The person who spoke to the AP said no determination has been made about Wilson’s future in Denver and that his benching was more of a football decision than a financial one: the offense needs a spark and Payton, who has been vocal about the team’s offensive struggles of late, wants to see what he has in Stidham.

By losing three of their past four games, the Broncos (7-8) are in jeopardy of extending their playoff drought to eight years despite a bounce-back season from Wilson, who ranks in the top 10 in almost every passing category this season.

The Broncos are 12th in the AFC standings and the top seven make the playoffs. However, there’s still a chance the Broncos could win the AFC West if they win out and free-falling Kansas City loses its last two games.

Wilson has thrown for 3,070 yards and 26 touchdowns with eight interceptions a year after he had 16 TD throws and 11 interceptions.

But he’s just 11-19 as Denver’s starter since the blockbuster trade brought him over from Seattle last year for four draft picks and a package of players.

Wilson signed a five-year, $245 million contract extension last year that kicks in next season.

GIANTS QB TYROD TAYLOR TO START VS. RAMS

New York Giants quarterback Tyrod Taylor will be under center to start Sunday’s game against the visiting Los Angeles Rams, coach Brian Daboll announced Wednesday.

Taylor replaced undrafted

Taylor replaced undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito in the second half of New York’s 33-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday.

The Giants (5-10), eliminated from postseason contention, have lost two in a row heading into the game with the Rams (8-7) in East Rutherford, N.J.

DeVito completed 9 of 16 passes for 55 yards, while Taylor finished 7 of 16 for 133 yards with one touchdown and one interception against the Eagles. Taylor connected on a 69-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton in the fourth quarter.

“I thought Ty did some good things in the second half of Philly so he earned the right to start this game,” Daboll said. “Let’s get ready for the Rams, really have nothing else to add on it. That’s where we’re at.”

Taylor, 34, has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 725 yards with three touchdowns and one pick in nine games (three starts) this season.

DeVito, 25, has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,087 yards with eight TDs and three interceptions in eight games (six starts) this season.

The Giants lost starting quarterback Daniel Jones to a torn right ACL in their Week 9 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

CARDINALS QB KYLER MURRAY (ILLNESS) NOT PRACTICING WEDNESDAY

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has a “holiday bug” and will not practice Wednesday.

Head coach Jonathan Gannon added that he was not concerned about Murray’s availability for the rest of the week.

The Cardinals (3-12) visit the Philadelphia Eagles (11-4) on Sunday afternoon.

Murray, 26, has passed for 1,305 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions in six starts this season.

The two-time Pro Bowl selection missed the first nine games while recovering from a torn ACL.

Murray’s illness means rookie Clayton Tune likely will get the first-team reps at Wednesday’s practice.

PACKERS CORNERBACK JAIRE ALEXANDER SUSPENDED 1 GAME FOR ACTIONS DURING COIN TOSS AT CAROLINA

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander has been suspended one game by the team for his actions during the coin toss preceding a 33-30 victory at Carolina on Sunday.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst announced Wednesday that Alexander was being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. The suspension means Alexander won’t play for the Packers (7-8) during their Sunday night game at Minnesota (7-8) in a matchup critical to both teams’ playoff hopes.

Although Alexander hadn’t been selected as a team captain for the game with the Panthers, he still came out for the coin toss. He nearly cost his team by initially saying the Packers wanted to be on defense first rather than saying they deferred the option. The Packers received a break when referee Alex Kemp asked Alexander to clarify.

“The decision to suspend a player is never easy and not one we take lightly. Unfortunately, Jaire’s actions prior to the game in Carolina led us to take this step,” Gutekunst said in a statement.

“As an organization, we have an expectation that everyone puts the team first. While we are disappointed, we had a good conversation with Jaire this morning and fully expect him to learn from this as we move forward together. We look forward to welcoming him back next week as he is a valued member of this team and will continue to be in the future.”

This has been an unusual season for the 26-year-old Alexander. Alexander missed three games earlier this season because of a back issue. The victory at Carolina marked Alexander’s return after he sat out six games with a shoulder problem, though he was never placed on injured reserve.

COMMANDERS TO START QB JACOBY BRISSETT VS. 49ERS

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett will start for the Washington Commanders on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

Head coach Ron Rivera made the announcement before practice on Wednesday.

Brissett replaced Sam Howell in each of the last two games, road losses to the Los Angeles Rams and New York Jets, that extended Washington’s losing streak to six games.

“It’s a good opportunity for Sam to take a break,” Rivera said. “Jacoby’s proven that he’s a very, very viable player in this league.”

Including the 2022 season finale, Howell has started 16 consecutive games for the Commanders. The 2022 fifth-round pick ranks 11th in the NFL this season in passing yards (3,624) but has offset his 19 touchdown passes with a league-high 17 interceptions — including four pick-sixes. He has also been sacked a league-high 60 times.

The Commanders (4-11) finish what could be Rivera’s final season in charge with home games against the 49ers (11-4) on Sunday and the Dallas Cowboys (10-5) on Jan. 7.

Brissett, who started 11 games last season for Cleveland, has completed 18 of 23 passes for 224 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in three games this season.

He compiled an 18-30 record as a starter for the Browns (2022), Miami Dolphins (2021), Indianapolis Colts (2017-20) and New England Patriots (2016). He has thrown for 10,574 yards with 51 TDs and 23 interceptions.

Brissett, 31, will become the 13th different quarterback to start for Washington since the beginning of the 2018 season. He follows Howell, Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz, Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, Garrett Gilbert, Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Josh Johnson and Mark Sanchez.

REPORTS: TEXANS QB C.J. STROUD (CONCUSSION) READY TO PRACTICE

Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is expected to practice Wednesday after missing the last two games while in concussion protocol, NFL Network and KPRC reported.

In his absence, the Texans (8-7) defeated the Tennessee Titans on the road in overtime in Week 15 before losing by 14 points at home against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Stroud, 22, was injured in the fourth quarter of Houston’s Week 14 loss to the New York Jets when his head bounced off the turf after a hit by defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, ranked second in the NFL in passing yards (3,631) and had the fifth-best passer rating (98.7) in the league at the time of his injury in Week 14.

The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite has completed 62.4 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions in 13 starts. Stroud has also rushed for 143 yards and three scores.

The Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars all have 8-7 records in the AFC South. Houston hosts the Tennessee Titans (5-10) on Sunday.

BENGALS DESIGNATE CB CAM TAYLOR-BRITT TO RETURN FROM IR

The Cincinnati Bengals cleared starting cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt to return to practice on Wednesday.

The team designated him for a return from injured reserve and opened his 21-day practice window.

Taylor-Britt, 24, started the first 10 games this season before landing on IR on Dec. 4 with an ankle injury.

The 2022 second-round pick recorded four interceptions, 10 passes defensed and 46 tackles before the injury.

Taylor-Britt returned an interception 11 yards for a touchdown in a 34-20 win at Arizona in Week 5.

The Bengals also re-signed defensive tackle Domenique Davis to the practice squad on Wednesday after waiving him Monday.

Cincinnati (8-7) visits the Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) on Sunday.

JULIUS PEPPERS, ANTONIO GATES HEADLINE HALL OF FAME FINALISTS

Defensive end Julius Peppers and tight end Antonio Gates — among the most prolific players at their respective positions — highlight the list of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Modern Era Class of 2024, released Wednesday.

Peppers and Gates are the only players to make the list in their first year of eligibility. Nine players who made the final list in 2023 are back on the list in ’24, while four other players are finalists for the first time though not in their first year of eligibility.

Peppers, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time first-team All-Pro, finished his 17-year career with 159.5 sacks, fifth all time and the most by any player not yet in the Hall. Taken second overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2002 draft, Peppers was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after compiling 12 sacks to go with one interception and five forced fumbles in 12 games.

After 10 seasons with the Panthers, Peppers played four years with the Chicago Bears and then finished his career by playing three seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

On the other end of the draft spectrum, Gates went undrafted after not playing football in college. Instead, he starred in basketball in his final two years at Kent State.

Combining his height (6-foot-4) with his rebounding skills, Gates first made a name for himself in the NFL as a jump-ball specialist in the end zone. He really broke through in his second season, scoring 13 touchdowns — then a single-season record for tight ends. He finished his career with 116 career TDs, seventh all time and the most ever by a tight end.

Gates made eight Pro Bowls and was a three-time first-team All-Pro in his 16 seasons. He finished with 955 receptions for 11,841 yards, spending his entire career with the Chargers (14 in San Diego and the final two in Los Angeles).

The four other players making the list for the first time are cornerback Eric Allen (in his 18th year of eligibility), safety Rodney Harrison (11th year), running back Fred Taylor (ninth) and offensive lineman Jahri Evans (second).

Punt/kick return specialist Devin Hester, who holds the single-season record for total kick-return touchdowns (six) and the career mark for punts returned for a score (14) is among those back on the list from 2023. Hester, who also made history with the first opening kickoff returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history (Super Bowl XLI), is a finalist for the third time.

Wide receivers Reggie Wayne (whose Indianapolis Colts beat Hester’s Chicago Bears in that Super Bowl) and Torry Holt (a member of the St. Louis Rams’ famed “Greatest Show on Turf”) are both finalists for the fifth time, the most of any of this year’s finalists.

The Hall of Fame selection committee will elect the Modern Era Class of 2024 the week leading up to Super Bowl LVIII, with the class announced on Feb. 8.

Up to five members can be elected to the modern class (a minimum of 80 percent of the votes is required for possible election). Finalists from the Seniors and Coach/Contributor categories may also be elected.

Modern Era Class of 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalists

(Name, position, years, teams)

Eric Allen, cornerback — 1988-1994 Philadelphia Eagles, 1995-97 New Orleans Saints, 1998-2001 Oakland Raiders

Jared Allen, defensive end — 2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings, 2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers

Willie Anderson, offensive tackle — 1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals, 2008 Baltimore Ravens

Jahri Evans, guard — 2006-2016 New Orleans Saints, 2017 Green Bay Packers

Dwight Freeney, defensive end/outside linebacker — 2002-2012 Indianapolis Colts, 2013-14 San Diego Chargers, 2015 Arizona Cardinals, 2016 Atlanta Falcons, 2017 Seattle Seahawks, 2017 Detroit Lions

Antonio Gates, tight end — 2003-2018 San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers

Rodney Harrison, safety — 1994-2002 San Diego Chargers, 2003-08 New England Patriots

Devin Hester, punt returner/kick returner/wide receiver — 2006-2013 Chicago Bears, 2014-15 Atlanta Falcons, 2016 Baltimore Ravens

Torry Holt, wide receiver — 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars

Andre Johnson, wide receiver — 2003-2014 Houston Texans, 2015 Indianapolis Colts, 2016 Tennessee Titans

Julius Peppers, defensive end — 2002-09, 2017-18 Carolina Panthers, 2010-13 Chicago Bears, 2014-16 Green Bay Packers

Fred Taylor, running back — 1998-2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009-2010 New England Patriots

Reggie Wayne, wide receiver — 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts

Patrick Willis, linebacker — 2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers

Darren Woodson, safety — 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys

BILLS ACTIVATE CB KAIIR ELAM FROM INJURED RESERVE

The Buffalo Bills activated cornerback Kaiir Elam from injured reserve on Wednesday.

The 2022 first-round pick has been out since mid-October with an ankle injury.

Elam, 22, has recorded 14 tackles in three games (two starts) this season.

The 23rd overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft has two interceptions and 55 tackles in 16 career games (eight starts).

The Bills (9-6) host the AFC East rival New England Patriots (4-11) on Sunday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS

BOWL ROUNDUP: USC BACKUP FIRES HOLIDAY BOWL-RECORD 6 TD PASSES

Miller Moss passed for a Holiday Bowl-record six touchdown passes in his first career start to lead Southern California to a 42-28 victory over No. 15 Louisville on Wednesday night in San Diego.

Moss got the start due to 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams opting out of the game and he was up to the task, completing 23 of 33 passes for 372 yards with one interception while setting the school’s bowl record for passing touchdowns.

Tahj Washington caught seven passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans (8-5), who won for just the second time in their past seven games. Ja’Kobi Lane also had two scoring receptions, Duce Robinson had one and Kyron Hudson caught one while also blocking a punt.

Isaac Guerendo rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns and also caught five passes for 42 yards for the Cardinals (10-4), getting extra work after star runner Jawhar Jordan opted out of the game. Jack Plummer completed 21 of 25 passes for 141 yards.

Texas Bowl: No. 20 Oklahoma State 31, Texas A&M 23

Alan Bowman passed for 402 yards and two touchdowns as Oklahoma State defeated Texas A&M 31-23 in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday night in Houston.

Rashod Owens caught two of Bowman’s touchdown passes and finished with 164 yards on 10 receptions for the No. 20 Cowboys (10-4), who finished with 570 total yards. Brennan Presley added 16 catches for 152 yards. Ollie Gordon II, the nation’s leading rusher and the winner of the Doak Walker Award, produced 118 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.

Aggies quarterback Jaylen Henderson injured his right arm on the first play of the game and was replaced by Marcel Reed. The freshman backup completed 20 of 33 passes for 361 yards and amassed 29 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries for Texas A&M (7-6).

Military Bowl: Virginia Tech 41, Tulane 20

Kyron Drones rushed for a career-best 176 yards and accounted for three touchdowns to lead Virginia Tech to a victory over Tulane in Annapolis, Md.

The teams combined for eight fumbles (losing five) in wet and slippery conditions. The Green Wave lost all three of their fumbles.

Bhayshul Tuten rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns as the Hokies rolled up 362 yards on the ground. Drones completed 13 of 21 passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a score.

Duke’s May Bowl: West Virginia 30, North Carolina 10

Lee Kpogba’s 12 tackles led the West Virginia defense as the Mountaineers defeated North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C.

WVU quarterback Garrett Greene was 11-of-22 passing for 204 yards and a touchdown. He also led the Mountaineers with 75 yards rushing. North Carolina lost for the fifth time in its past seven games, and UNC quarterback Conner Harrell was 18-of-27 passing for 199 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

After forcing a North Carolina punt, the Mountaineers went 78 yards in two plays to open a three-score advantage. Jahiem White ran to the end zone from 11 yards out to give West Virginia a 27-10 lead with 12:48 left in the game.

TENNESSEE QB JOE MILTON III OPTS OUT, VOLS TO START FRESHMAN

Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III has opted out of the Citrus Bowl game against Iowa on New Year’s Day, leaving 5-star true freshman Nico Iamaleava to make the start under center for the Volunteers.

Milton announced his

Milton announced his decision Tuesday on social media to skip the bowl and begin preparation for the 2024 NFL Draft.

Milton threw for 2,813 yards and 20 touchdowns against five interceptions this season. He rushed for another 299 yards and seven scores. He finishes his six-year collegiate career with 5,353 passing yards and 37 TDs for Michigan (2018-20) and Tennessee. He added 12 rushing TDs.

The 6-foot-6 Iamaleava was the No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2023, according to the 247Sports composite ranking. He has appeared in four games this season, throwing for 163 yards and a TD.

The 21st-ranked Volunteers (8-4) play No. 17 Iowa (10-3) on Monday afternoon in Orlando.

AMID CHANGE, NO. 12 OKLAHOMA AND NO. 14 ARIZONA SEEK NEW STARTS IN ALAMO BOWL

Valero Alamo Bowl: No. 12 Oklahoma (10-2, Big 12) vs. No. 14 Arizona (9-3, Pac-12), Dec. 28, 9:15 p.m. Eastern (ESPN)

Line: Arizona by 2 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Tied 1-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

It’s a chance for both teams to establish some continuity amid change. Arizona gets to prepare for its move to the Big 12 next season by facing a traditional conference power in Oklahoma, who just happens to be leaving for the SEC. The Sooners are playing in their 25th consecutive bowl game while the Wildcats are making their first appearance since 2017.

KEY MATCHUP

Oklahoma QB Jackson

Oklahoma QB Jackson Arnold vs. the Arizona defense. Arnold makes his first career start as he takes over for Dillon Gabriel in the Sooners final game of the season. Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said the plan was always for Arnold to take over the team’s offense next season, but Gabriel opted to transfer instead of declaring for the NFL Draft as expected. Gabriel passed for 3,660 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 266 of 384 passes with just six interceptions. The 2022 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year at Guyer High School in Denton, Arnold threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns while completing 18 of 24 passes. He faces an Arizona defense that allowed 229.6 yards passing per game, 72nd in the country.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Arizona: LB Jacob Manu. The 5-foot-10, 211-pound sophomore led the Pac-12 with 108 tackles. It was the first time a Wildcats player had 100-plus tackles since Colin Schooler in 2018 and was the 27th in program history.

Oklahoma: WR Nic Anderson. The 6-4 receiver led the nation with 23.4 yards per reception as a freshman. He had nine touchdowns on 31 receptions. Anderson had at least 90 yards receiving in five games this season, including three of the previous four games.

FACTS & FIGURES

Prior to Arizona’s victory over Oklahoma in 1989, the teams had not met since 1921. The Sooners won that inaugural contest 17-13. The Wildcats evened the series with a 40-yard field goal to beat the Sooners 6-3. … This is the first meeting between the teams in a bowl game. … Arizona is making its second Alamo Bowl appearance. The Oklahoma State Cowboys beat the Wildcats 36-10 in 2010 at the Alamodome. … Oklahoma is averaging 44.7 points and 581.3 yards in its last three bowl appearances and 32 points in its last seven. … Wildcats QB Noah Fifita threw for 23 touchdowns, tying USF’s Byrum Brown for the most by an FBS freshman this season. Fifita threw for 2,515 yards, including a school record 527 yards in a 59-23 rout of intrastate rival Arizona State on Nov. 25. … Oklahoma is 4-3 against the Pac-12 in bowl games. … The Wildcats enter the game having won six straight, their longest regular-season winning streak since 1998. … The Sooners are 68-32-3 against the Pac-12 all-time. … Arizona’s eight-win improvement from a 1-11 record in 2021 is the largest victory increase over two years in the program’s history. … Oklahoma is making its 57th bowl appearance in school history. The Sooners are 31-24-1 in bowl games, tied for the fourth most wins in college football history. … Arizona played six straight games against AP Top 25 teams this season. The Wildcats were 4-2 against those teams, suffering consecutive losses to then No. 7 Washington and No. 9 USC on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7. … A victory would give the Sooners their 27th season with 11 victories, the most in college football and two ahead of Alabama. … Sixth-year WB Drake Stoops, son of former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, is playing in his final game with the Sooners. Stoops tied for the Big 12 lead with 10 touchdown receptions this season.

CFP MATCHUPS: YARDS WILL BE HARD IN MICHIGAN-ALABAMA; RED-ZONE SUCCESS COULD DECIDE TEXAS-WASHINGTON

The final four-team College Football Playoff promises to be one of the closest in the 10-year history of the event.

The combined spread of the two New Year’s Day semifinals sits at six points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. No. 1 Michigan is a 1 1/2-point favorite against fourth-seeded Alabama in the Rose Bowl. No. 3 Texas is a 4 1/2-point favorite over No. 2 Washington in the Sugar Bowl.

That’s the smallest combined line for the CFP semifinals since the 2017 playoff, when Georgia beat Oklahoma in overtime at the Rose Bowl as a 2 1/2-point favorite and Alabama was favored by 3 1/2 against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl and rolled over the Tigers.

The matchups that will decide each CFP semifinal, with the winners advancing to the Jan. 8 championship game in Houston.

ROSE BOWL

Alabama’s offense and quarterback Jalen Milroe have been a work in progress this season. Recent Crimson Tide teams have paired eventual first-round draft pick quarterbacks with a bevy of star receivers to create explosive offenses.

This isn’t that. Alabama is 30th in the country in yards per play (6.36) and has allowed 43 sacks, a woeful 123rd nationally, while throwing only 302 passes (122nd nationally).

“The big question will be which Alabama offensive line shows up because the one we saw against Georgia (in the SEC championship game) was dominant. There have been times this year where they have been a flat-out liability,” Cole Cubelic, who works as an analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network, said on the AP Top 25 College Football Podcast.

Michigan doesn’t have one player up front defensively that stands out as a star — the way Alabama All-America edge rusher Dallas Turner does — but they are deep and committed to stopping the run, often with eight players close to the line of scrimmage.

Michigan will want to put the game in Milroe’s hands. Early in the season that seemed like the way to beat Alabama, whose only loss was by 10 points at home to Texas. Now, less so.

Milroe is 6-foot-2, 220 pounds with speed and a powerful arm. He is a player with difference-making skills, but his game has holes, especially as a mid-range passer. Milroe will miss some open throws, but he has thrown only six interceptions and Alabama has lost only four fumbles.

Tide offensive coordinator Tommy Rees doesn’t call many designed runs for Milroe. He might need to dip into the bag in the Rose Bowl.

“They’re going to have to do that to have some success on the ground,” said Mike Kuchar, the co-founder of the X&O Labs football research company. “I don’t see them lining up and coming downhill on Michigan’s defense at all.”

Michigan allowed 4.28 yards per play, fourth in the nation. The numbers suggest an elite defense, but beware: The Wolverines saw few potent offenses in the Big Ten.

On offense, Michigan is run-heavy and mistake-free. The Wolverines have committed only seven turnovers.

But the Wolverines’ running game fell off this season. After averaging well over 5 yards per carry the last two years, they are down to 4.27. Blake Corum scored 24 touchdowns, tops in the nation, but his average per carry was 4.72 yards after being over 5.0 the previous two season.

Michigan will also be without All-American guard Zak Zinter, who broke his left leg during the Ohio State game. The Wolverines have had some pass protection issues off the edge, too.

What coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore’s team has shown is a knack for being able to run when they needed to most in big games against Penn State and Ohio State.

Alabama hasn’t locked down the run as well as most of Nick Saban’s best teams (3.7 yards per carry against, 31st in the country), but nobody is going to bully the Crimson Tide.

“It’s going to take some creativity. It’s going to take some pre- and post-snap movement, whether that’s split-zone, jet-motion, different things like that,” Cubelic said. ”And Michigan carries some of that, but they don’t really make a living on that. What they do extremely well is formation you.”

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy is rarely asked to carry the offense. The third-year player has NFL tools, both with his arm and legs.

In a game where yards are likely to be hard to get and points at a premium (the over/under is 44.5), he will need to be at his most efficient against an Alabama secondary that features two All-America defensive backs in Kool-aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold.

PREDICTION: Alabama 23-20.

SUGAR BOWL

The nightcap of the CFP semifinal doubleheader figures to a very different game than Alabama-Michigan.

Washington and Texas both have top-15 offenses, talented quarterbacks in Michael Penix Jr. and Quinn Ewers, multiple future NFL draft picks to throw to and problems stopping the pass.

That’s a recipe for points.

The one group that stands out on defense: The Texas defensive line, which features All-American T’Vondre Sweat and second-team All-American Byron Murphy II.

“There’s not a lot of teams in the country that have the interior guys like Texas has, specifically Murphy and Sweat,” Cubelic said.

Part of the reason teams attack the Longhorns secondary, especially their inexperienced safeties, is because they mostly give up on the running game. Texas is allowing 80.5 yards per game and 2.87 per carry, top-five in the country in each.

Washington counters with an offensive line that was underappreciated much of the season, but ended up winning the Joe Moore Award as the best in the country. Led by second-team All-America tackle Troy Fautanu, the Huskies allowed only 11 sacks while throwing the ball 37 times per game.

Washington doesn’t run it in volume, but coach Kalen DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb seemed to evolve as opponents adjusted to try to take away the deep throws the Huskies love. Running back Dillon Johnson’s role in the offense expanded later in the season, with Penix often lining up under center.

“They have relied on (Johnson) the last few weeks, and he’s been very good downhill,” Kuchar said. “And I think their confidence is growing every week. I think he’s taking a lot of pressure off Penix.”

Stops could be hard to come by for the Huskies, but Texas coach Steve Sarkisian’s red-zone offense has been a problem much of the season. The Longhorns have scored touchdowns on 49% of their opportunities, 120th in the country.

Then again, tightening up near the goal line hasn’t been a strength for Washington’s defense. The Huskies have allowed 31 touchdowns in 44 red-zone trips (70.45%).

Washington has scored touchdowns on 70% of its red-zone trips, 19th in the country. But when the field shrinks, Sweat and Murphy become even tougher to handle. Texas is 10th in the nation in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns on only 46% of opportunities.

PREDICTION: Texas 35-28.

SHORT-HANDED NO. 19 NC STATE, KANSAS STATE LOOKING TO CAP STELLAR SEASONS IN POP-TARTS BOWL

Pop-Tarts Bowl: No. 19 North Carolina State (9-3) vs. Kansas State (8-4), Dec. 28, 5:45 p.m. Eastern, (ESPN).

FanDuel Sportsbook College

FanDuel Sportsbook College Line: Kansas State by 2 1/2.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

North Carolina State finished the season on a five-game winning streak that included victories over Atlantic Coast Conference rivals Miami and Clemson without starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong. The Wolfpack recorded the 14th nine-win season in program history and their second in four seasons. Kansas State is looking to win its fourth bowl game in six seasons and is appearing in a bowl game in the state of Florida for the first time.

KEY MATCHUP

North Carolina State’s rushing attack vs. Kansas State’s run defense. The Wolfpack ranked 11th in the ACC in total offense, leaning heavily on their defense to win games. With some major absences on that side of the ball, NC State is going to have to find a way to break through against a defense that was third-stingiest in the Big 12 against the run.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

North Carolina State: With All-American linebacker Payton Wilson skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, the Wolfpack is counting on LB Jaylon Scott to take up the slack. Wilson led the team this season with 138 tackles, 17 1/2 tackles for loss and six sacks. Scott was pretty good, too, with 72 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Kansas State: QB Avery Johnson will be making his first start because Will Howard entered the transfer portal. Johnson appeared in seven games this year, completing 23 of 35 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 225 yards and six touchdowns.

FACTS AND FIGURES

Both teams are short-handed due to the transfer portal and other key players sitting out to prepare for the draft. … Kansas State’s two leading receivers, Ben Sinnott (49 receptions, 679 yards, team-high six TDs) and Phillip Brooks (53 catches, 589 yards and five TDs), are preparing for the draft. Howard, running back Treshaun Ward and cornerback Kobe Savage are also out after entering the transfer portal. … Kansas State will be playing its first bowl game in Florida. It’s just the seventh time overall the Wildcats have played a game in the Sunshine State. … Armstrong led the Wolfpack in rushing with 544 yards and six touchdowns. He also threw for 1,612 yards and 11 TDs with six interceptions. He averaged 216.7 pass yards per game in his last three starts.

NO. 14 ARIZONA TO FACE NO. 12 OKLAHOMA IN ALAMO BOWL TWO YEARS AFTER A ONE-WIN CAMPAIGN

Arizona will be in unfamiliar territory at the Alamo Bowl.

The Wildcats — two seasons removed from winning only one game — face traditional power Oklahoma on Thursday in San Antonio.

Jedd Fisch, the third-year head coach who has directed Arizona’s turnaround, said just eight of his players have competed in a bowl game, and those are all transfers.

“This is a brand-new experience for a majority of our team,” Fisch said. “It’s a brand new experience for our players. We want to make sure that our players understand it is a privilege to play in a bowl game. It is a celebration of a job well done.”

The 14th-ranked Wildcats (9-3) take a six-game win streak into the matchup with No. 12 Oklahoma (10-2). Four of those victories came against teams that were ranked at the time they played — Washington State, Oregon State, UCLA and Utah.

“There’s nobody in college football right now that’s playing better football the last half of the season than the University of Arizona,” Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said.

Arizona is making its first bowl appearance since 2015. It will be the Wildcats’ final game as a member of the Pac-12 before joining the Big 12 next season.

Arizona hopes to take advantage of the extra exposure to a state that includes Big 12 programs TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech and Houston.

“It will probably be a kickoff for us into the Big 12, this game, and really being able to see and show our players and let the state of Texas see the type of energy that our players play with,” Fisch said. “And hopefully, the high school coaches in the state will be excited about sending their players to us.”

It will be Oklahoma’s final game as a Big 12 member before joining the Southeastern Conference next season. The Sooners have won seven national titles and are making their 25th consecutive bowl appearance.

Arizona believes those factors would make getting a win extra special.

“This is a prestigious program in college football, so got a lot of respect for them,” Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to not only play because they’re leaving the Big 12, but being able to play Oklahoma in general is a great opportunity, and we’re looking forward to it.”

TOP CONNECTION

Fifita has passed for 2,515 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. In his most recent game, he passed for a school-record 527 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-23 win over Arizona State. His top target, Tetairoa McMillan, had 11 catches for 266 yards against Arizona State. McMillan was a second-team All-Pac 12 selection and a third-team AP All-American after posting 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving this season.

NEW FACES

Five-star true freshman Jackson Arnold is Oklahoma’s new starting quarterback now that Dillon Gabriel has transferred to Oregon. Arnold has completed 75% of his passes in limited action this season.

Oklahoma elevated offensive analyst Seth Littrell to offensive coordinator after Jeff Lebby left to become head coach at Mississippi State. Littrell was head coach at North Texas from 2016 to 2022.

“Obviously they’re going to run their offense,” Arizona defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen said. “Whatever they put on tape, that’s what they’re going to come out in. We’re prepared for other things, knowing the history of the coordinator where he came from, so we’re prepared in that way.”

HE’S BACK

Oklahoma linebacker Danny Stutsman has returned after speculation that he would leave for the NFL. Stutsman was a third-team AP All-American this season. He ranked second in the Big 12 in tackles with 9.0 per game and had 16.0 tackles for loss this season.

Stutsman was leaning toward leaving before changing his mind.

“When it was time for pen to go to paper, it just didn’t feel right,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to leave this program, all that we’ve built going into year three with coach Venables. I wasn’t ready to leave just yet.”

JACOB MANU

Arizona linebacker Jacob Manu was a second-team All-Pac 12 selection after leading the conference with 108 tackles. The 5-foot-11, 225-pound sophomore also had 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

STOOOOOPS!

Oklahoma receiver Drake Stoops will play his final game as a Sooner. The son of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops made a name for himself by becoming a first-team All-Big 12 selection this season. The sixth-year senior ranks second in the Big 12 with 78 receptions and third in the conference with 880 yards receiving.

NBA NEWS

NBA ROUNDUP: KD’S TRIPLE-DOUBLE TOO MUCH FOR ROCKETS

Kevin Durant produced a triple-double that included a career-high-tying 16 assists while Devin Booker and Eric Gordon combined for 47 points as the Phoenix Suns rolled to a 129-113 road victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

Durant posted 27 points and 10 rebounds and served as the orchestrator for the Suns. His deft passing steered a balanced first-half offensive attack and, when the Suns required his scoring prowess, Durant proved more than capable of handling that assignment.

Booker tallied 20 points and seven assists while Gordon scored 17 of his 27 points during a breathtaking second-quarter shooting display. The Suns took turns exploiting the Rockets’ defense, with Houston left vulnerable by the absence of Dillon Brooks (right oblique strain).

The Rockets lost for the third time in four home games on the heels of an 11-game homecourt winning streak. Alperen Sengun paced Houston with 24 points while Jalen Green added 23. But the Rockets shot 41.7 percent and struggled to keep pace with Phoenix, which led by as many as 21.

Cavaliers 113, Mavericks 110

Jarrett Allen scored 24 points and grabbed 23 rebounds, Caris LeVert came off the bench to score 29 points and Cleveland rallied from down 20 to beat host Dallas.

Luka Doncic, who posted his third consecutive game of at least 39 points, scored the last of his game-high 39 with a step-back 3-pointer that cut Cleveland’s lead in half with 17.1 seconds remaining.

Niang missed a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession, giving Dallas one last opportunity. Max Strus blocked Seth Curry’s would-be game-tying attempt as time expired to preserve the Cavaliers’ win.

Raptors 132, Wizards 102

OG Anunoby scored 26 points and Pascal Siakam added 22 points and a season-high 11 assists as visiting Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Washington.

Scottie Barnes added 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for Toronto, which never looked back after overtaking the Wizards late in the first quarter. Gary Trent Jr. scored 12 points and Jakob Poeltl had 10.

Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole scored 14 points apiece to lead Washington. Corey Kispert had 13 points, Deni Avdija and Daniel Gafford each scored 12 and Tyus Jones finished with 11.

Bucks 144, Nets 122

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points to lead seven Milwaukee players in double figures as the Bucks pulled away in the fourth quarter for a victory over short-handed Brooklyn in New York.

Antetokounmpo dominated inside and made 10 of 12 shots to help Milwaukee reach 140 points for the fifth time this season. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and had eight assists as the Bucks won for the eighth time in nine games. Khris Middleton added a season-high 27 for Milwaukee.

Rookie Jalen Wilson led Brooklyn with career highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds, but the Nets lost for the sixth time in eight games. Trendon Watford added 17 points and Dennis Smith Jr. contributed 14 for the Nets, who shot 44.6 percent and misfired on 25 of 32 3-point tries.

76ers 112, Magic 92

Tyrese Maxey scored 23 points to lead six players in double figures as Philadelphia defeated host Orlando.

Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton added 22 apiece, and Paul Reed had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Morris Sr. had 14 points and Patrick Beverley 10 for the Sixers.

Franz Wagner led the Magic with 24 points while Jalen Suggs added 20 points, and Paolo Banchero had 19 points and team highs with nine rebounds and four assists.

Thunder 129, Knicks 120

Jalen Williams scored a career-high 36 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also finished with 36 points as host Oklahoma City held off New York.

The win was a showcase of Oklahoma City’s core trio of Gilgeous-Alexander, Williams and rookie big man Chet Holmgren, who had 22 points, shooting 8 of 10 inside the arc and 1 of 4 from long distance.

Julius Randle led the Knicks with 25 points while Jalen Brunson added 24 and Immanuel Quickley scored 22 on 7-of-10 shooting.

GORDON SIDELINED WITH HAND, FACE INJURIES FROM DOG BITE

Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon will remain away from the team after suffering lacerations to his face and hand due to a dog bite on Christmas Day, the team announced.

Gordon injured his shooting hand and required 21 stitches in total, sources told The Athletic’s Shams Charania. He is in good condition, according to the team.

The Nuggets forward played on Christmas Day, tallying 16 points and 10 rebounds in a win over the Golden State Warriors.

Gordon is averaging 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and a steal in 28 games for the depending champions. He missed four games earlier this season due to a heel injury.

The Nuggets play the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.

NBA APPROVES MARK CUBAN’S SALE OF MAVS’ MAJORITY STAKE

The NBA Board of Governors approved Mark Cuban’s sale of the controlling interest in the Dallas Mavericks to casino mogul Miriam Adelson and her family.

Patrick Dumont, Adelson’s son-in-law and the president and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., will serve as the Mavericks’ governor.

The transaction is expected to close this week, according to a news release from the league on Wednesday.

According to earlier reports, Cuban is expected to maintain control of the Mavericks’ basketball operations.

The Adelson family’s majority stake is valued at a reported $3.5 billion. Forbes’ most recent NBA franchise valuations pegged the Mavericks as being worth $4.5 billion, the seventh-most valuable team in the league.

Forbes has also estimated Adelson, 78, as the fifth-richest woman in the world, controlling $32.3 billion in wealth. She is the widow of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the third woman to be the current principal owner of an NBA franchise, joining Jeanie Buss of the Los Angeles Lakers and Gayle Benson of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Cuban, 65, has held a majority stake in the Mavericks since January 2000. He purchased the team for $285 million.

NHL NEWS

NHL ROUNDUP: KRIS LETANG’S HISTORIC NIGHT PROPELS PENS PAST ISLES

Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin both scored twice while Kris Letang collected a record five assists during a six-goal second period for the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, who routed the New York Islanders 7-0 on Wednesday night in Elmont, N.Y.

Rickard Rakell and Radim Zohorna opened and closed the second-period barrage for the Penguins, who scored six goals in a period for the second time this calendar year. The six-goal period was the most prolific road period for the Penguins since they scored six against the Islanders in an 8-2 win at Nassau Coliseum on March 21, 2000 — which, until Wednesday, was the last time New York gave up six goals in a period.

Letang’s five assists are the most by one player in Penguins history in one period and the most by a defenseman in NHL history in one period. Letang helped cap off the scoring in the third by feeding Valtteri Puustinen at the 9:48 mark. He is the first Penguins player with six points in a game since Sidney Crosby had two goals and four assists against the Islanders on Jan. 19, 2010, and tied the record for most assists by a defenseman in NHL history.

Marcus Pettersson added four assists and Tristan Jarry made 22 saves for the Penguins, who earned their fifth win in the last seven games (5-1-1). Ilya Sorokin recorded 19 saves before being pulled after the second for the Islanders, who fell in regulation for just the third time in the last 20 games (11-3-6). Semyon Varlamov stopped six of seven shots in the third.

Blackhawks 2, Jets 1 (OT)

Rookie Connor Bedard scored the winning goal at 2:15 of overtime, giving Chicago a victory over visiting Winnipeg.

Bedard has 15 goals and 32 points in 34 games. Petr Mrazek saved 37 of 38 shots for the Blackhawks, who earned just their second win in eight games.

Morgan Barron collected a goal and Connor Hellebuyck made 23 saves for the Jets, who lost for only the third time in 11 games in December (8-1-2).

Coyotes 5, Avalanche 4 (OT)

Jack McBain scored at 4:40 of overtime as Arizona rallied from a four-goal deficit to beat Colorado in Tempe, Ariz.

Defenseman Sean Durzi had a goal and three assists, Jason Zucker and Lawson Crouse had a goal and an assist each, Michael Kesselring also scored and Karel Vejmelka made 20 saves for Arizona.

Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist each, Jonathan Drouin and Logan O’Connor had goals, defenseman Cale Makar added two assists and Alexandar Georgiev turned away 22 shots for Colorado.

Devils 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT)

Timo Meier scored 2:12 into overtime to give New Jersey a victory over Columbus in Newark, N.J.

Devils defenseman Luke Hughes weaved through the open ice and beat Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins to forge a 3-3 tie with 1:25 remaining in the third. In overtime, New Jersey took advantage of Kent Johnson fanning on a shot, allowing Meier to convert a breakaway for his ninth goal of the season and fourth in his past three games.

New Jersey’s Dawson Mercer collected a goal and two assists and Ondrej Palat also tallied. Vitek Vanecek turned aside 26 shots for the Devils, who won the final two contests of their five-game homestand (2-2-1). Justin Danforth, Yegor Chinakhov and Jake Bean scored and Merzlikins made 31 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Rangers 5, Capitals 1

K’Andre Miller had two goals and an assist as New York beat visiting Washington.

Artemi Panarin contributed a goal and an assist and Braden Schneider and Alexis Lafreniere also scored for the Rangers, who have won five of six. Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves. Mika Zibanejad, playing in his 800th NHL game, added two assists.

Anthony Mantha scored in his third straight game (four goals) for the Capitals, who have lost two straight. Darcy Kuemper made 26 saves.

Panthers 3, Lightning 2

Sam Reinhart scored twice to eclipse the 20-goal mark for the season, Aleksander Barkov had three assists and visiting Florida edged Tampa Bay.

Aaron Ekblad potted his first marker of the season and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots for the Panthers, who won their second straight game overall and are 11-2-2 against Eastern Conference foes this season.

Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov notched his 300th career goal and Michael Eyssimont also scored. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves, but the Lightning lost for the first time in four games.

Bruins 4, Sabres 1

Charlie Coyle scored two power-play goals as visiting Boston cruised past Buffalo.

The Bruins built an insurmountable 4-0 lead en route to snapping a four-game skid (0-2-2). Mason Lohrei and Morgan Geekie each had a goal, while Jake DeBrusk and Brad Marchand dished out two assists apiece. Jeremy Swayman made 25 saves.

Erik Johnson scored the lone goal for the Sabres, while Devon Levi stopped 21 shots. Buffalo has lost four of five (1-3-1).

Kings 5, Sharks 1

Adrian Kempe scored twice as host Los Angeles scored five unanswered goals en route to a blowout of San Jose.

It was the 23rd multiple-goal game of Kempe’s career and his first of the season. Kevin Fiala, Trevor Lewis and Pierre-Luc Dubois also scored goals for Los Angeles, which earned its second straight victory and won for the fourth time in five games.

Fabian Zetterlund scored for San Jose, which lost its sixth straight game. Kaapo Kahkonen made 38 saves as the Sharks fell to 3-15-1 on the road.

Wild 6, Red Wings 3

Marcus Johansson scored two goals and added an assist and Minnesota pulled away for a win over Detroit in St. Paul, Minn.

Kirill Kaprizov produced a goal and an assist for the Wild, who won their fourth game in a row. Matt Boldy, Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman scored one goal apiece, and Filip Gustavsson turned aside 25 shots to pick up the victory.

Alex DeBrincat had a goal and an assist for the Red Wings, who have lost six of their past seven. Patrick Kane and Daniel Sprong also scored, and James Reimer allowed six goals on 31 shots.

Hurricanes 5, Predators 2

Sebastian Aho tallied one goal and three assists while reaching the 500-point milestone as Carolina prevailed at Nashville.

Brent Burns, Andrei Svechnikov, Jack Drury and Seth Jarvis also scored for the Hurricanes, who scored three times on power plays. Burns, Svechnikov and Jarvis had one assist apiece, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 35 saves.

Ryan O’Reilly posted a goal and an assist for the Predators. Gustav Nyquist also scored, while Juuse Saros was pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots through two periods. Yaroslav Askarov entered and stopped all six shots he faced.

Blues 2, Stars 1

Joel Hofer made 39 saves to lift St. Louis past visiting Dallas, improving to 5-1-0 under interim coach Drew Bannister.

Jason Robertson scored and Scott Wedgewood made 28 saves for the Stars, who saw their three-game winning streak and six-game point streak snapped.

The Stars outshot the Blues 14-8 in the first period but went 0-for-2 on their power play and trailed 2-0 little more than halfway through the game.

Kraken 2, Flames 1

Alex Wennberg broke a third-period tie and goaltender Chris Driedger earned a win in his first NHL game in more than a year as visiting Seattle beat Calgary.

Kailer Yamamoto also scored for the Kraken, who are on a 5-0-2 run that has vaulted them over the Flames in the standings. Driedger made 37 saves while appearing in an NHL contest for the first time since May 1, 2022 — the finale of Seattle’s inaugural season.

Driedger, who played junior hockey in Calgary, sparkled over the final two periods — blanking the hosts despite facing 31 shots in the final 40 minutes.

Ducks 5, Golden Knights 2

Brett Leason scored two goals, including the first of four in the game’s opening 12 1/2 minutes, and Anaheim earned a victory over visiting Vegas, which is on a season-long four-game losing streak.

Jamie Drysdale, Frank Vatrano and Troy Terry also scored goals in the first period as the Ducks won for just the fourth time in their past 19 games while improving to 2-1-0 against the defending champions this season. Mason McTavish had three assists. John Gibson had 30 saves for Anaheim after missing the final three games before the holiday break after the birth of his child.

Alec Martinez and Mark Stone scored goals for the Golden Knights, who have dropped five of their past six games. Logan Thompson made 21 saves for Vegas, who have allowed at least four goals in seven of the last eight games.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

NO. 5 TEXAS CAPS NONLEAGUE PLAY WITH ROUT OF JACKSON ST.

Shaylee Gonzales scored a season-high 21 points as No. 5 Texas warmed up for the start of Big 12 play with a 97-52 rout of Jackson State on Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

Gonzales, a senior guard, matched her career high with six 3-pointers and added five assists. Madison Booker (16 points), Khadija Faye (14), DeYona Gaston (13) and Shay Holle (10) also scored in double figures for the Longhorns (13-0). Texas improved to 8-0 at home.

Andriana Avent logged 11 points for the Lady Tigers (5-6). Jackson State’s Miya Crump, Zakiya Mahoney and Tilan Boler each put up 10 points.

Texas trailed 6-5 before reeling off the next 13 points, capped by a Booker layup. Crump scored to end Jackson State’s drought, but the Longhorns then added the last five points of the first quarter to lead 23-8. The margin grew in each succeeding period.

The Longhorns open their final Big 12 season with a home game against No. 10 Baylor on Saturday. The Lady Tigers have a nine-day layoff before they tip off Southwestern Athletic Conference action on Jan. 6 vs. Alcorn State.

BASEBALL NEWS

TWINS SIGN STAUMONT TO 1-YEAR DEAL

The Minnesota Twins signed right-handed reliever Josh Staumont to a one-year contract, the club announced Wednesday.

Staumont will earn just under $1 million in 2024, according to The Athletic’s Dan Hayes.

Staumont spent the first five seasons of his career as a member of the Kansas City Royals. He registered a 5.40 ERA with 24 strikeouts across 20 innings for the Royals in 2023.

The 30-year-old missed the second half of the 2023 campaign after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

Staumont’s best season came in 2020 when he posted a 2.45 ERA, 192 ERA+, and 37 strikeouts over 25 2/3 innings for the Royals.

The hurler gives Twins manager Rocco Baldelli another proven option in the bullpen to complement closer Jhoan Duran.

INDIANA TEAM NEWS RELEASES/SPORTS NEWS

COLTS FOOTBALL

COLTS GREATS DWIGHT FREENEY, REGGIE WAYNE NAMED FINALISTS FOR PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2024

For the second straight year, two Colts greats are up for enshrinement in Canton.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced 15 Modern Era finalists for its Class of 2024, with former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Reggie Wayne to be considered in that select group. 

It’s Freeney’s second time as a finalist, while Wayne will hope to be tapped for a gold jacket in his fifth time as a finalist. Both Freeney and Wayne have been selected as finalists every year they’ve been eligible. 

The 49-person Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee will meet in the coming weeks to determine the 2024 Modern Era inductees, with the process whittling the group of 15 finalists down to 10 and then five. Once those final five finalists are chosen, the selection committee will vote yes or no on each player, with 80 percent of the vote needed to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Modern Era Class of 2024 will be unveiled during the NFL Honors award show at 9 p.m. ET on Feb. 8.

Freeney and Wayne will look to join five other Hall of Famers from their era of Colts football: General manager Bill Polian (inducted 2015), head coach Tony Dungy (inducted 2016), wide receiver Marvin Harrison (inducted 2016), running back Edgerrin James (inducted 2020) and quarterback Peyton Manning (inducted 2021).

Longtime Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, who was among this year’s semifinalists, was not selected as a finalist.

Freeney, who starred for the Colts from 2002-2012, finished his career with 125 1/2 sacks (26th all-time) and was a three-time first-team AP All-Pro (2004, 2005, 2009) and seven-time Pro Bowler (2003-2005, 2008-2011). Using his signature spin move, Freeney was a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks.

He had double-digit sacks in seven seasons and forced four or more fumbles in eight seasons; he led the NFL with nine forced fumbles and 20 tackles for a loss as a rookie and led the NFL with 16 sacks in 2004. And Freeney’s 11 postseason sacks are tied for ninth all-time.

Freeney, too, was named to prestigious NFL All-Decade team for the 2000s. He finished his career with the San Diego Chargers (2013-2014), Arizona Cardinals (2015), Atlanta Falcons (2016), Detroit Lions (2017) and Seattle Seahawks (2017). 

Wayne, over his 14-year career, was among the most prolific wide receivers in NFL history. His 1,070 receptions and 14,345 receiving yards both rank 10th all-time; he’s one of only 10 players to have at least 1,000 receptions and 14,000 receiving yards in a career.

But for as productive as Wayne was in the regular season, he was dominant in the postseason. Wayne is one of five players in NFL history with over 1,200 receiving yards and at least nine touchdowns in the playoffs, and his 93 postseason receptions rank fifth all-time while his 1,254 yards are seventh. 

In a wild card game against the Denver Broncos in the 2004 NFL Playoffs, Wayne racked up 221 receiving yards, fourth-most for a single game in postseason history. And Wayne’s 53-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XLI sparked the Colts’ 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears, which brought a Lombardi Trophy to Indianapolis.

Wayne was previously chosen as a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist in 2020-2023. He played his entire career with the Colts and is in his second season as the team’s wide receivers coach.

PRACTICE NOTEBOOK: COLTS MOVE ON WITHOUT JULIAN BLACKMON, MICHAEL PITTMAN JR. UPDATE

The Colts’ final playoff push will happen without one of their key players on defense, as the team on Tuesday placed safety Julian Blackmon on injured reserve.

Blackmon sustained a shoulder injury in the Colts’ Week 16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and because he’s on injured reserve he will miss the final two games of the regular season. The fourth-year safety would be eligible to return from injured reserve for the AFC Championship, if the Colts were to make it that far.

“Definitely tough not to be able to have him out here for the last couple games,” linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “But we keep doing our part, we’ll get him back soon.”

Blackmon put together a career year in 2023, setting new highs in tackles (88), tackles for a loss (five), interceptions (four) and passes defensed (eight). Those four interceptions are the most on the Colts.

The Colts this offseason moved Blackmon from playing deep free safety to strong safety, which pushed him closer to the line of scrimmage and into defending the run more. Per Pro Football Focus, Blackmon’s 48 tackles on running plays were close to his total over his first three seasons with the Colts (56).

“Getting the takeaways is big,” head coach Shane Steichen said. “He’s gotten a few takeaways this year. He’s been good in run fits, communication on the backend is big. He’s been making a lot of plays and playing at a high level. Losing a guy like that, it hurts, but again we have full confidence in the guys that are going to go in and step up for us.”

With Blackmon out, the Colts will turn to 2022 third-round draft pick Nick Cross at strong safety. The Colts began working Cross into their defense as a free safety, rotating with Rodney Thomas II, beginning in Week 13, and he recorded his first career interception in Week 15.

Cross, though, hadn’t played much strong safety since Week 2 of the 2022 season, when the Colts replaced him in their starting lineup with veteran Rodney McLeod Jr.

“I like his mindset,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “I don’t know if I could’ve said that last year. I don’t know if there was complete trust with him out on the field, but now there is trust and he’s going to get his chance to show us. He’s going to get a chance to show his teammates. He’s a better communicator at the free safety spot. Now he just has to transfer that to the strong safety spot.”

Behind the scenes, the Colts have been pleased with how Cross approached the 2023 season – one in which he didn’t have a clear path to playing time on defense until he earned his way on the field.

“Nick’s been putting that work in,” Franklin said. “All year he’s put that work in — anything anybody’s asked him to do, he’s done it to the best of his ability and been a playmaker doing so. Excited to have him out there. I know we’ve really been looking for ways to get him out there. Excited to have him out there, I know he’s going to take full advantage of that opportunity knowing that he’s ready.”

Wednesday’s practice report

Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. reverted to the concussion protocol over the weekend after head coach Shane Steichen said his symptoms relapsed. While Pittman was listed as a limited participant (concussion/shoulder) in Wednesday’s walkthrough estimation, Steichen said the 1,000-yard receiver is “progressing well.”

Right tackle Braden Smith was listed as a full participant. The veteran hasn’t played since sustaining a knee injury in the Colts’ Week 13 win over the Tennessee Titans.

INDIANA PACERS BASKETBALL

GAME PREVIEW: PACERS AT BULLS

The Indiana Pacers will look to earn their first set of consecutive wins since early December as they take on the Chicago Bulls at the United Center Thursday night.

Indiana enters the matchup after defeating the Rockets in Houston in a 123-117 nail-biter on Tuesday in the first game of their two-game road trip.

After 13 lead changes in three quarters, Indiana had an 11-point lead at the top of the final frame. However, two scoring runs helped Houston eliminate their deficit and allowed them to take a two-point lead with 1:50 remaining on the clock. Though Indiana only made four buckets during the Houston comeback stint, the Pacers ended up securing a six-point win with a go-ahead 3-pointer from Tyrese Haliburton, a completed jumper from Andrew Nembhard, and a made free throw from Myles Turner while holding the Rockets scoreless in the final 1:50 of play.

Tyrese Haliburton led the way with his 21st double-double of the season as he notched 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting, including seven 3-pointers, and 10 assists. The All-Star guard Haliburton is leading the team with 24.8 points per contest and a league-leading 12.1 assists per game.

Eight of the nine players who earned playing time scored in double figures as the best offense in the league shot 52.4 percent (43-of-82) from the field.

Indiana is averaging a league-high 126.3 points per contest but is also giving up 125.5 points per game to its opponents.

The Blue and Gold earned a win on Tuesday with a starting lineup that looked much different than what Indiana fans had been used to seeing previously. With only two wins in their most recent eight games, it seemed as if it was time for a change in the rotation as Aaron Nesmith, Jalen Smith, and Andrew Nembhard each earned spots in the starting lineup in place of Obi Toppin, Buddy Hield, and Bruce Brown. Brown did not play against Orlando on Saturday or in Houston due to injury.

Smith contributed 12 points, a team-high eight rebounds and two blocks. Nembhard added 11 points and six assists, while Nesmith pitched in 10 points and five rebounds.

The injury riddled Bulls also earned a win on Tuesday as they defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 118-113. The nine players who took to the floor were led by the 20-point outings of DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond, as Drummond earned his first start of the season.

The veteran All-Star guard DeRozan is averaging a team-best 22.4 points and 5.5 assists per game. Starting guard Cody White is contributing 17.6 points per contest on average and added 19 points in Tuesday’s win for the Bulls.

The Bulls will be without their second-best leading scorer, Zach LaVine, and potentially without starting center Nikola Vucevic, who together total an average of 37.7 points per game.

Chicago currently ranks second in turnovers, averaging only 12.0 turnovers per game in comparison to Indiana’s 13.6 turnovers per contest. The Bulls also average a league eighth-best 11.6 offensive rebounds per game.

Projected Starters

Pacers: G – Tyrese Haliburton, G – Andrew Nembhard, F – Aaron Nesmith, F – Jalen Smith, C – Myles Turner

Bulls: G – Coby White, G – Alex Caruso, F – DeMar DeRozan, F – Patrick Williams, C – Andre Drummond

Injury Report

Pacers: Bruce Brown – questionable (right knee bone bruise)

Bulls: Nikola Vucevic – questionable (left adductor contusion), Lonzo Ball – out (left knee surgery), Onuralp Bitim – out (nasal fracture), Torrey Craig – out (right plantar fascia sprain), Henri Drell – out (right thumb sprain), Zach LaVine – out (right foot inflammation)

Last Meeting

Oct. 30, 2023: The Indiana Pacers earned their first loss of the 2023-24 season after falling to the Chicago Bulls, 112-105, in their third game of the year.

Though leading, 83-78, to open the fourth quarter, the Bulls outscored Indiana, 34-22, in the final frame to secure their win. Bruce Brown tied the game with a layup at the 4:05 minute mark, but a bucket from DeMar DeRozan 19 seconds later put Chicago ahead to ensure they would not trail again for the reminder of the game. Indiana shot just 6-of-26 from the field in the fourth quarter.

Myles Turner led the Pacers with his second double-double of the season of 20 points and 11 rebounds. All-Star Tyrese Haliburton contributed his third straight double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Brown and Bennedict Mathurin added 15 points apiece.

Despite the impressive Indiana performances, Nikola Vucevic’s 24 points, Zach LaVine’s 23 points, and DeRozan’s 20 points helped the Bulls sail ahead to a victory.

Noteworthy

After falling to the Bulls in the first matchup between the two teams in the 2022-23 regular season, 124-109, Indiana won the next three games to win the season series, 3-1.

Indiana guard Bennedict Mathurin and Bulls forward Dalen Terry played together at Arizona for two seasons (2020-22).

Chicago forward Terry Taylor played two seasons with the Pacers from 2021 to 2023.

Broadcast Information (TV and Radio Listings >>)

TV: Bally Sports Indiana – Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)

Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (studio host)

Tickets

The Pacers return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to host Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks on Saturday, Dec. 30 at 7:00 PM ET.

INDIANA MEN’S BASKETBALL

INDIANA BASKETBALL GAME NOTES – GAME 13 VS. KENNESAW STATE

Opening Tip

• Indiana University closes out the non-conference slate in its 124th season of competition in men’s basketball at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall against Kennesaw State. Tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Dec. 29 on B1G+.

• Kennesaw State (9-4) has five players averaging nearly 10 points per game in sophomore guard Simwon Cottle (16.3), senior guard Terrell Burden (13.5), senior forward Demond Robinson (12.5), Quincy Ademokoya (11.8), and junior forward Jamel King (9.8). As a team, the Owls average 85.4 points and make 9.5 3-pointers per outing.

• KSU, coming off the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since joining the Division I ranks, are led by first-year head coach Antoine Pettway. The former Alabama guard spent 15 seasons as an assistant coach in Tuscaloosa.

Game Information

Friday Dec. 29, 2023 • 6:00 PM ET

Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (17,222) • Bloomington, Ind.

TV: B1G+ (Austin Render, Galen Clavio, Tricia Whitaker)

Radio: IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Errek Suhr, John Herrick)

Series History: Indiana leads, 3-0

Last Meeting: IU 69, KSU 55 on Dec. 23, 2022 in Bloomington

Series History

• Indiana and Kennesaw State have played three times in the last decade with the Hoosiers winning all three, including a 69-55 result on Dec. 23, 2022.

• Jalen Hood-Schifino, the first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, tallied 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists against the Owls last season. The game marked the non-conference finale in 2022.

• The game marks the final installment of Indiana’s games against the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Hoosiers opened the season with a 69-63 win over Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 7) and topped Northern Alabama (Dec. 21) 83-66. IU is 21-1 against the ASUN.

Last Time Out

• Indiana knocked down a season-best 12 3-point field goals on 24 attempts to blitz North Alabama in the penultimate non-conference game of the 2023-24 season by a score of 83-66 on Dec. 21.

• Sophomore forward Malik Reneau posted a career day with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from behind the 3-point line. He added seven rebounds and two assists.

• Fifth-year senior forward Anthony Walker led bench with 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Senior guard Trey Galloway dished out a career-high nine assists.

IU Mourns the Loss George McGinnis

The Indiana men’s basketball program is saddened by the loss of Indiana University Athletics Hall of Famer George McGinnis (1950-2023). He was 73 years old.

“I loved George McGinnis,” Indiana men’s basketball head coach Mike Woodson said. “He meant so much not only to IU and the state of Indiana, but to the entire basketball world.

“I looked up to George growing up in Indianapolis. He meant so much to me as a player and more importantly as a man. George was a Hall of Famer on and off the court, and I am going to miss him so much. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the McGinnis family, his friends, and his teammates. Rest easy Big Mac.”

In his one year of varsity basketball at Indiana, McGinnis led the Big Ten in both scoring (29.9 points per game) and rebounds (14.7) to become the first sophomore in league history to lead the Big Ten in both categories. He was named to the Associated Press All-America Third Team and added to the All-Big Ten First Team before bypassing his final two seasons of eligibility as a hardship case. He was inducted to the IU Athletics Hall of Fame on Sept. 22, 2023.

Sophomore Jump for Reneau

• Sophomore forward Malik Reneau has posted double digits in the scoring column in 11 games this season, including eight efforts of at least 14 points. He notched a career-high 25 points against North Alabama (Dec. 21).

• The Miami, Fla., native scored in double figures in seven games during his freshman campaign while hitting 14 points or more just twice.

• Reneau is averaging 14.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 0.9 blocks in 27 minutes per game.

Long Ball Looms Large in Win Over Lions

• Sophomore forward Malik Reneau scored a career-high 25 points to go along with seven rebounds and two assists in Indiana’s 83-66 victory over North Alabama on Dec. 21. Reneau canned all four of his 3-point attempts.

• As a team, IU knocked down a season-high 12 3-pointers on 24 attempts. Reneau (4), freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako (2), and senior guard Trey Galloway (2) all hit multiple 3-point attempts.

Late Push Leads Indiana Over Morehead State

• Indiana erased a 15-point lead in just under nine minutes on the strength of a 20-4 run to close the game to secure a 69-68 win over Morehead State on Dec. 19. Fifth-year senior Anthony Walker charted 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench to lead IU.

• Sophomore forward Malik Reneau blocked Morehead State’s game-winning shot attempt at time expired.

NOTRE DAME WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

HIDALGO NAMED USBWA TAMIKA CATCHINGS NATIONAL FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK

INDIANAPOLIS — That’s four for the freshman.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced that Hannah Hidalgo is the Tamika Catchings National Freshman of the Week. It is her second time earning the honor this year (Nov. 21), and it is her fourth award of the week (AP National Player of the Week, ACC Player of the Week and ACC Rookie of the Week). Hidalgo is also the only freshman to have earned the USBWA Freshman honors more than once this year.

Hidalgo had 26 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 5 steals in an 84-47 win over Western Michigan on Dec. 21. It was the highest-scoring triple-double in program history and just the second ever notched by a true freshman (Marina Mabrey – 11/23/15). The point guard now has three performances this year with at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals, two more than anyone else in the nation.

The freshman out of New Jersey continues to prove she is one of the best players — just not freshmen — in all of college basketball. She is pacing the ACC with 23.8 points per game, and she leads the nation in steals (6.0).

IUPUI MEN’S BASKETBALL

JAGUARS RETURN TO HORIZON LEAGUE PLAY AGAINST TITANS ON FRIDAY

INDIANAPOLIS – The IUPUI basketball team will return to Horizon League play on Friday (Dec. 29) when the Jaguars host Detroit Mercy (0-13, 0-2 HL) inside Indiana Farmers Coliseum at noon. Friday’s game will be sponsored by Lewis & Wilkins, Attorneys at Law and Greg Rakestraw (pxp) and IUPUI Hall of Famer Bob Lovell (analyst) will describe the action.

IUPUI (4-9, 0-2 HL) is coming off its most emphatic win of the season, having defeated Defiance College by a 90-67 score before the Christmas holiday. The 90 points marked the most by an IUPUI team under head coach Matt Crenshaw as junior Jlynn Counter led four Jaguars in double-figures with 18 points. Kidtrell Blocker and DJ Jackson added 15 each and sophomore Abdou Samb, making his first start of the season, tallied 11 points on a perfect 4-of-4 from the field. IUPUI shot a season-high 57.4 percent from the field, including 65 percent in the second half, and also made a season-high 32 free throws in 37 attempts. A run late in the first half helped IUPUI build a 41-28 advantage by halftime and the Jaguars were never threatened after intermission.

The IUPUI bench scored a season-high 38 points, fueled by Blocker’s 15 and eight from John Egbuta, while the Jaguars also enjoyed season-highs in rebound margin (+8) and turnover margin (+9).

QUOTABLE

“We came out a little sluggish, but we fought hard. I was just trying to get my teammates involved. Early, I was aggressive and their ball screen coverage was a little different in the second half, so I didn’t want to force anything,” Counter said following the win over Defiance.

SCOUTING DETROIT MERCY

Detroit Mercy is 0-13 on the year and 0-2 in Horizon League play. The Titans have played the 24th toughest non-conference schedule in the country, including road games at Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Northwestern and NC State. For the year, UDM is shooting 40 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from three while allowing foes to shoot 48 percent overall and 41.7 percent from beyond the arc. Jayden Stone (18.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Marcus Tankersley (13.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) are the team’s top performers while Edoardo Del Cadia (8.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is the lone UDM player to have started all 13 games this season.

INSIDE THE SERIES

IUPUI is 2-7 all-time against Detroit Mercy and 2-3 in five meetings inside Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Jaguars have dropped the last six meetings to the Titans, having not defeated UDM since January 2019.

UP NEXT

IUPUI will close its four-game homestand on Sunday (Dec. 31) when the Jaguars host Cleveland State at 2:00 p.m. inside Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

Notes and Tidbits (click here to download the full IUPUI Game Notes)

     MR. DO-IT-ALL

    In his second season with the program, junior guard Jlynn Counter has become the Jaguars’ Mr. Do It All, leading the team in scoring (16.2 ppg),assists (2.7 apg), field goal percentage (51.0%), threes made (13), free throws made (37) and minutes played (30.0 mpg). He ranks second on the team in  rebounding (4.6 rpg) and finds himself among the Horizon League’s top-10 in scoring and field goal percentage. 

    Counter, a preseason Second Team All-Horizon League pick, led the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and assists (3.3 apg) last season.

    COUNTER COUNT

    Counter tallied his 500th career point against Elon on Nov. 17 and enters today with 661 career points.

    …He’s scored in double-digits 32 times in 44 career games

    …He’s hit for 20-or-more points 13 times in 44 career games

    AGAINST DEFIANCE

    IUPUI’s 90 points against Defiance on Dec. 21 were the most in the Matt Crenshaw head coaching-era, topping the previous high of 84 against New Orleans last season… IUPUI set new season-highs in free throws made (32), free throw attempts (37), rebound margin (+8) and turnover margin (+9)… IUPUI had a season-high 38 bench points in that contest, paced by both Kidtrell Blocker’s 15 off the bench… Blocker (15 pts, 6-7 FG, 1-1 3’s, 2-2 FT) and Abdou Samb (11 pts, 4-4 FG, 3-4 FT) matched their season-highs in scoring… Derek Petersen made his season debut, hitting a pair of free throws in the game’s final minute.

    QWANZ SEES DOUBLE

    Graduate transfer Qwanzi Samuels recently recorded his first collegiate double-double at Minnesota (Dec. 16), having finished with a career-high 13 points (5-8 FG, 3-3 FT), 10 rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes off the Jaguars’ bench.

    It marked his first-ever double-digit scoring game (in his 96th career game) and his second career game with 10-or-more rebounds.

    Q ON THE GLASS

    The last seven games, Samuels has hit the glass hard, averaging 7.1 rebounds per game, including a pair of double-digit rebound efforts. Samuels now leads the team in rebounding at 5.2 rebounds per game and is second on the team in offensive rebounding (1.3 rpg).

    BENCH WORK

    IUPUI is averaging 27.0 points per game from its reserves this season and has gotten at least 21 bench points in all 13 games (including five games of 30+). IUPUI’s last time out, against Defiance on Dec. 21, the Jaguars tallied a season-high 38 points from reserves.

    FOR STARTERS

    After relying on the starting group of Jlynn Counter, Bryce Monroe, Kidtrell Blocker, Qwanzi Samuels and Yves Nkomba for the bulk of the season (8 games, 2-6 overall), head coach Matt Crenshaw has tried some alternatives of late.

    Cooper Dewitt has started the past five games in place of Samuels and both Vincent Brady II and DJ Jackson have recently earned a pair of starts. Most recently, sophomore Abdou Samb moved into the starting five, replace Nkomba ahead of the Dec. 21 game with Defiance. 

    Counter is the only Jaguar to have started all 13 games this season while Monroe has made 12 starts.

    TEN MAN ROTATION

    Ten different Jaguars are playing at least 10 minutes per game, led by Jlynn Counter (30.0 mpg) down to Yves Nkomba (11.3 mpg).

    Eight of the 10 have scored in double-digits at least once this year.

    ONLY THE LONELY   

    Only four of the Jaguars’ 15 players have appeared in all 13 games so far this season as 11 different players have missed at least one game due to injury or illness. Most recently, Bryce Monroe missed the Dec. 21 game with Defiance due to illness. 

    IN THE CLASSROOM

    Seven members of the squad topped a 3.0 grade point average for the fall semester, paced by John Egbuta (3.62) and Amhad Jarrard (3.51). Others included Vincent Brady II (3.48), Yves Nkomba (3.46), Derek Petersen (3.29), Qwanzi Samuels (3.12) and Bryce Monroe (3.00). 

    SEEING RED

    It’s likely that both Amhad and Armon Jarrard will redshirt this season. Amhad missed the entire summer and preseason after suffering an injury last season and Armon was limited to just three games this season while playing through an injury. He was shutdown after trying to play at Indiana State on Nov. 14.

    The Jarrards are one of 21 sets of brothers playing for the same team this season and one of nine sets of twins in Division I basketball.

    FIRST TO TIP

    IUPUI was the first team in the country to tip-off the 2023-24 season, starting at 11:00 a.m. on Nov. 6 in front of a crowd of 4,867 on the annual NCAA ‘Readers Become Leaders’ Day at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

    The 4,867 represented a new home attendance record for the Jaguars, eclipsing the previous mark of 4,114 from last year’s similar event.

    ROAD KILL

    The road win at Valpo was a welcome event, marking IUPUI’s first road win since winning at Robert Morris on Feb. 17, 2022. It was the first road non-conference victory since winning at South Florida on Nov. 13, 2019 at the Cayman Islands Classic.

SOUTHERN INDIANA MEN’S BASKETBALL

EAGLES HOPE FOR RESTART IN OVC

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – University of Southern Indiana Men’s Basketball hopes to restart its season in Ohio Valley Conference action, beginning with visits to Southeast Missouri State University Friday and Lindenwood University Sunday. Tipoff at SEMO is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and at Lindenwood is slated for 2:30 p.m. in St. Charles, Missouri.

Fans can track your Eagles all season by visiting the schedule on USIScreamingEagles.com for links to follow all of the action on the ESPN+, ESPN 97.7FM (http://listentotheref.com), and 95.7FM The Spin (http://957thespin.com/).

USI, which is 3-10, finished a tough non-conference slate with an 81-50 loss at Southern Illinois University December 22. Sophomore guard/forward AJ Smith (Edwardsville, Illinois) led the Eagles with 14 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. 

Overall last week in the win over the University of Saint Francis and the loss at SIU, Smith led USI last week with 15.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two contests. Junior forward Jack Mielke (Downers Grove, Illinois) followed with 13.0 points per contest, while sophomore Ryan Hall (Kettering, Ohio) rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10.5 points per game.

Through 13 games of the season, junior guard Jeremiah Hernandez (Chicago, Illinois) and Smith lead USI in scoring with 12.5 points and 11.6 points per game, respectively. Smith also leads the team with 9.5 rebounds per contest.

The Redhawks of SEMO were 4-8 in non-conference action after losing to Illinois State University December 21 on the road, 85-64, but is .500 over the last six games. The Lions of Lindenwood defeated Rockford University, 81-54, December 22, and are 6-7 overall in the run up to OVC play.

USI trails the all-time series with SEMO, 4-3, after splitting the OVC matchups last year. The Eagles took the opening game at Screaming Eagles Arena, 86-81, but lost in Cape Girardeau, 85-80.

After last season sweep, USI leads the all-time series with Lindenwood, 6-0. The Eagles took the opening meeting in St. Charles, 81-65, and completed the sweep at Screaming Eagles Arena, 74-64, for one of two OVC series sweeps last season.

Following this week’s OVC road games, USI comes home to host Tennessee State University January 4 and Tennessee Tech University January 6 at Screaming Eagles Arena.

Tickets for the TSU and TTU games are on sale and can be purchased by visiting the USI Ticket Office on-line. For more information, call the USI Ticket Office at 812-465-1189.

SOUTHERN INDIANA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

USI OPENS OVC SCHEDULE FRIDAY AND SUNDAY

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – University of Southern Indiana Women’s Basketball tips off its Ohio Valley Conference schedule this weekend when the Screaming Eagles travel to Southeast Missouri State University Friday and Lindenwood University Sunday. Game time Friday from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is 5:15 p.m., while tip-off Sunday in St. Charles, Missouri, is slated for Noon.

Both matchups can be seen live with a subscription to ESPN+ and heard on 95.7 FM The Spin (http://957thespin.com).

Southern Indiana concluded the preseason schedule with a 5-5 record before the holiday break. Last time out, USI seized an 86-37 home win against Brescia (KY) University. USI shot a season-best 57.7 percent from the floor and made a season-high 11 three-pointers. Plus, USI was 15-of-17 at the foul line. The Eagles used a dominant first quarter against the Bearcats to build a big lead when USI outscored Brescia 35-7 and started the game with an 18-0 advantage.

Senior forward Meredith Raley (Haubstadt, Indiana) played a big role in USI’s hot start against Brescia, eventually scoring a team season-high 22 points in the contest. Freshman forward Chloe Gannon (Manchester, Tennessee) matched a career-best 13 points, while junior guard Vanessa Shafford (Linton, Indiana) and graduate guard Tori Handley (Jeffersonville, Indiana) scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.

On the season, Shafford paces Southern Indiana at 13.9 points per game with Raley second on the team at 10.7 points per outing. Both are shooting above 45 percent from the field, placing both among OVC leaders. As a team, USI averages 67.8 points on 42.3 percent shooting, which ranks second in the OVC. Additionally, the Eagles are third in the conference with 38.3 rebounds per game.

Shafford has scored 10 or more points in the Eagles’ last eight games. During the eight-game stretch, the junior guard is averaging 15.5 points per contest on 49 percent shooting overall and nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. In 2022-23, Shafford had a streak of 10 consecutive games scoring 10-plus points in the middle of the season.

Southeast Missouri heads into conference play with a 3-8 record. A week ago, SEMO closed out the non-conference slate with a 74-44 home win against the University of Evansville, which snapped a four-game losing skid. The Redhawks average 65.9 points per game on over 40 percent shooting and are led in scoring by junior guard Jaliyah Green and sophomore guard Alecia Doyle with 15.3 and 12.2 points per contest, respectively.

Lindenwood enters OVC action with a 2-8 mark on the season. The Lions have gone 2-2 in the last four contests but have dropped two straight games, falling last time out to the University of Minnesota before the holidays. Lindenwood began the season with six consecutive setbacks. The Lions will be idle until the Screaming Eagles visit on Sunday afternoon. Freshman guard Ellie Brueggemann tops the Lindenwood squad with 14.6 points per contest. The Lions are putting up 67.8 points per outing and shooting just under 40 percent overall.

After a two-game split last year, SEMO leads the all-time series against USI, 12-2. Last season, Southern Indiana made its OVC debut at home with its first-ever OVC win, 68-54, against the Redhawks last December. Then Southeast Missouri edged USI, 63-59, in Cape Girardeau in February.  In that meeting, USI’s Raley posted a career-high 27 points.

Southern Indiana has the upper hand in the all-time series against Lindenwood, winning all six previous meetings. The Screaming Eagles swept both games against the Lions last season, securing a 73-60 win at Lindenwood and a 66-43 win inside Screaming Eagles Arena. Just like USI, Lindenwood also transitioned to Division I and the OVC from the Great Lakes Valley Conference a year ago.

Following this week’s OVC road games, USI comes home to host Tennessee State University January 4 and Tennessee Tech University January 6 at Screaming Eagles Arena.

Tickets for the TSU and TTU games are on sale and can be purchased by visiting the USI Ticket Office online. For more information, call the USI Ticket Office at 812-465-1189.

EVANSVILLE MEN’S BASKETBALL

HUMRICHOUS AND BAILEY EARN MVC ACCOLADES

ST. LOUIS – Following a pair of home victories last week, a pair of University of Evansville men’s basketball players were recognized on Wednesday for their accomplishments.  Ben Humrichous earned Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week honors for the second time this season while Chuck Bailey III recorded his fourth Freshman of the Week award.

Humrichous led the Aces to a pair of victories last week, averaging 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.  He played a team-high 27:45 in the two contests while shooting 50% from the field and 63.6% (7-of-11) from outside.  In the victory over UT Martin, Humrichous recorded 15 points with the majority of his points coming at the free throw line where he hit 7 of his 9 attempts.  In 37 minutes, he picked up 9 rebounds and a block.

He followed that up with another 15-point game versus Tennessee Tech.  With UE having a large lead, he played 20 minutes, but was a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point range and had 4 boards, an assist and steal.

Over the last week of action for the Purple Aces, Chuck Bailey III tied for the team lead with 15.0 points per game while adding 5.0 rebounds.  He shot 47.4% from the field and connected on 3 of his 6 outside tries.  At the line, Bailey was a perfect 9-for-9.  Bailey started the week with a 12-point effort against UT Martin.  He hauled in a career-high 6 boards and converted 5 free throw tries.

The win over Tennessee Tech saw Bailey finished with 18 points in just 17 minutes of work (due to UE having a large lead).  He was 6-for-9 from the floor, 2-for-2 from outside and knocked down all four free throw tries.  Bailey added 2 assists and a steal.

VALPO WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL OPENS MVC PLAY SATURDAY AT MURRAY STATE

Valparaiso (1-8, 0-0 MVC)

Game #10 – December 30, 2023 – 5 p.m.

at Murray State (7-2, 0-0 MVC)

CFSB Center (8,600) – Murray, Ky.

Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valpo women’s basketball team closes out the 2023 calendar year with its Missouri Valley Conference opener Saturday evening, as the Beacons continue a stretch of five consecutive games away from home with a visit to Murray State.

Previously: Valpo wrapped up nonconference action heading into Christmas with a pair of games in DeLand, Fla., dropping a neutral-site matchup to Bethune-Cookman (61-35) before falling to host Stetson (78-62).

Following Valpo Basketball: Streaming Video: ESPN+

Links for live coverage: Available via ValpoAthletics.com

Head Coach Mary Evans: Mary Evans is in her sixth year at the helm of the program in 2022-23 and owns a record of 56-99. Evans has made an impact on the program in her first four years, raising the team’s level of play to be competitive in a strong Missouri Valley Conference. The 2022-23 season saw Evans lead Valpo to the first win in program history over perennial MVC power Missouri State. The Beacons also won three consecutive road games in Valley play, the first time the program accomplished that feat against three different opponents since 2007.

Series Notes: It’s a very brief series between the Beacons and the Racers, as the two programs had never matched up on the hardwood until Murray State joined the Missouri Valley Conference last season. MSU won the first meeting between the two teams on New Year’s Day in Murray, Ky., pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 67-48 win, and then took a 77-64 victory in the second matchup of the season at the ARC. Olivia Brown paced Valpo in scoring in both games, averaging 17.5 points/game over the two matchups.

@ValpoWBB…

…and @ValleyHoops

– Valpo was picked to finish in 10th place in the MVC preseason poll, totaling 162 points, coming in ahead of Evansville and Bradley.

– Valpo is in its seventh season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.

– The Valley was ranked 13th in conference NET last season. The MVC ranked 10th in conference NET in 2021-22, seventh in conference NET in 2020-21 and was eighth in conference RPI in 2019-20.

…looking back at last year

– Valpo finished last season with a 7-23 overall record and finished at 5-15 in MVC play, good for 11th in the Valley standings.

– The Beacons earned their first win in program history over perennial MVC power Missouri State.

– Valpo also won three consecutive road games in Valley play, the first time the program accomplished that feat against three different opponents since 2007.

– Ali Saunders was named to the MVC All-Freshman Team.

…at Stetson

– The first quarter was played entirely within a single possession either way, as neither team was able to push its lead past three points, and the score was tied 15-15 after 10 minutes.

– Stetson opened the second quarter on a 10-3 run to take the lead for good and led 33-26 at halftime.

– The Beacons held the Hatters without a point for a stretch of nearly five minutes in the third quarter, closing to within 37-35 with 4:44 to play in the period.

– The deficit was still just four points at 43-39 with 2:23 to go in the third period before Stetson ended the quarter on a 9-0 run to push its lead to its apex at 52-39 with 10 minutes to play.

– Valpo was able to cut the deficit inside eight points twice in the fourth quarter, but both times Stetson came down and hit a 3-pointer on its next possession.

– Olivia Brown paced Valpo, pouring in 14 points — including four 3-pointers.

– Saniya Jackson finished with 10 points and led the Beacons with seven rebounds, bettering her season best in that category for the second straight day.

– Leah Earnest finished with 10 points as well, her eighth double-digit scoring outing in the season’s first nine games. The senior also handed out a game-high five assists.

– Valpo shot just 38.5% from the field compared to Stetson’s 52.9% clip. The Beacons did hit nine 3-pointers to the Hatters’ five, but Valpo was undone in part by 13-of-23 shooting from the charity stripe.

…vs. Bethune-Cookman

– The Wildcats led 15-4 at the end of the first quarter and were up 23-11 at halftime.

– Valpo was within nine points with 7:03 to play in the third quarter, but in a two-minute span between media timeouts, the Wildcats put nine straight points on the board to push their lead to 18.

– Bethune-Cookman led 45-24 at the end of the third quarter, and Valpo was unable to close to any closer than 18 points in the final period.

– The Beacons shot just 22.4% (11-of-49) from the floor, including a 2-of-23 mark from 3-point range.

– Ava Interrante paced Valpo with eight points, hitting four of her five attempts inside the arc.

– The Valpo defense limited Bethune-Cookman to 35.4% shooting (23-of-65), the lowest field goal percentage by a Beacon opponent this year. The Beacons also held the Wildcats to just two triples.

– Bethune-Cookman did grab 18 offensive rebounds, however, which it turned into 24 second-chance points.

…looking ahead

– The Beacons knock out the longest road trip of the Valley schedule next weekend, playing at Missouri State Thursday night, Jan. 4 and at Southern Illinois Saturday evening, Jan. 6.

– Valpo returns to the ARC for the first time in over a month Friday, Jan. 12 as the Beacons face Drake.

…on the road

– Valpo will play 17 games away from home in the 2023-24 regular season, 16 of which will be true road games.

– The Beacons are 0-7 away from home so far this year and posted a 4-10 record in true road games last season.

@RacersWBB

– Murray State opens Valley play with a conference-best 7-2 record in nonconference action, including six wins in a row.

– The Racers are the highest-scoring team in Division I, averaging 94.2 points/game.

– Reigning MVC Player of the Week Katelyn Young leads the Valley and ranks 27th nationally, averaging 20.1 points/game while also pulling down 8.1 rebounds/game.

Opening Valley Play

– Saturday’s game marks the start of Valpo’s seventh Missouri Valley Conference slate.

– For the fifth time in those seven years, Valpo opens Valley play away from home.

– This is the second straight year the Beacons have played at Murray State on opening weekend – last season, it was the second game of the Belmont/Murray State road trip.

– Valpo has opened Valley play with a win just once in the past six years – a 63-56 home win over UNI in 2020-21.

Another Leap Forward

– Senior Leah Earnest took a jump forward in her production last season, and nine games into the 2023-24 campaign, she has taken another leap.

– Earnest enters Valley play ranked eighth in the conference in scoring (14.2 points/game) and fifth in field goal percentage (.522).

– She also leads the Beacons in rebounding with 6.3 boards/game, and is averaging a career-best 2.7 assists/game as well.

– Earnest has been consistent, scoring in double figures in each of the season’s first seven games after opening last season with eight straight double-digit outputs.

– Prior to last year, you’d have to go back to 2009-10 to find the last time a Valpo player opened the year scoring 10+ in the season’s first seven games (Lauren Kenney-8; Betsy Adams-7).

– Earnest entered this season with a career high of 20 in the scoring column, but has outdone that three times this year, including a career-best 26 points at UAB.

– Earnest enters Saturday’s game with 484 career rebounds, 11 shy of cracking Valpo’s all-time top-20 in the category and 16 shy of becoming the 19th player in program history with 500 career boards.

Passing a Milestone

– Fifth-year guard Olivia Brown gave it her all trying to reach the 1,000-point milestone for her collegiate career at home against Chicago State Dec. 9.

– Brown scored a game-high 23 points – one off her career high – but ultimately came up one point short, finishing the game against the Cougars with 999 collegiate points.

– Brown reached the milestone the next time out, connecting on a 3-pointer early in the third quarter Dec. 19 versus Bethune-Cookman which pushed her past the 1,000-point mark.

– Brown enters Valley play with 1,020 collegiate points, 654 of which have come in her three seasons in the Valpo uniform.

– Brown’s .396 career 3-point percentage at Valpo ranks third in program history.

Thievery Abounds

– Valpo has gotten back to its stealing ways on the defensive end this season.

– The Beacons rank 27th nationally with 11.3 steals/game, and per HerHoopStats.com, their steal rate of 13.2% is good for 23rd nationally.

– Valpo has been in double figures in steals in five of its nine games this season, highlighted by an 18-steal effort against Western Illinois Nov. 18.

– The 18 steals was the program’s best single-game mark since tallying 21 steals at Evansville on Jan. 12, 2020, and is tied for the second-highest output in Evans’ tenure as head coach.

– Twice already this year, the Beacons have had a player tally eight steals in a game – Saniya Jackson did so Nov. 25 at UAB and Raeven Raye-Redmond did so in her collegiate debut in the aforementioned Western Illinois game.

– Jackson and Raye-Redmond are two of just 19 D-I players nationally to record eight or more steals in a single game so far this season.

– The duo are now tied for second on Valpo’s single-game steals chart, just one off the program single-game record.

– Prior to this year, the last Valpo player to tally eight steals in a game was Jeanette Gray against Houston in the 2002 WNIT.

– Raye-Redmond was the first MVC player to record eight steals in a game since UNI’s Ellie Herzberg did so against Indiana State on Feb. 19, 2017.

A Challenging Nonconference Schedule

– Valpo’s nonconference schedule was surprisingly strong.

– Six of the eight teams the Beacons have lost to sit at or above .500 on the season.

– Included among that group is a 7-3 Southern Miss team which defeated then-#19 Ole Miss, as well as Western Illinois (9-2), UAB (9-3) and Bethune-Cookman (8-4) with winning percentages of at least .667 as well.

On the Road Again

– Valpo’s game against Chicago State Dec. 9 was its lone regular season home game in a span of 55 days.

– The Beacons are in the middle of a stretch where they play nine out of 10 games away from home.

– Prior to beating the Cougars, Valpo played four consecutive true road games.

– Saturday’s game at Murray State is the third in a stretch of five straight games away from home for the Beacons, incuding each of their first three MVC games.

– Valpo will go 34 days between home games at the ARC (Chicago State Dec. 9-Drake Jan. 12), the program’s longest stretch between home games since the 1999-2000 team went 35 days between home contests.

Prolific in the Paint

– For those in tune with Valpo’s offensive scheme, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that most of the Beacons’ 2-point field goals come from inside the paint.

– So far this season, however, it has been even more pronounced.

– Through nine games, Valpo has made 123 2-point field goals – 121 of which have been registered as field goals in the paint.

– The only exceptions are a Leah Earnest shot at Eastern Illinois which was input as being shot from the block on the edge of the lane line, and an Ava Interrante runner to beat the shot clock at Purdue.

What a Quick Start

– Hopefully fans were on time to the start of Valpo’s win over Chicago State Dec. 9, because if they were late, they missed out on a bunch of scoring.

– The Beacons were a perfect 7-for-7 from the field on their first seven possessions of the game, scoring 14 points in the first 3:51 of the game.

– It was the quickest Valpo has reached 14 points since doing so in exactly 3:51 at Drake Jan. 31, 2020.

– It was the first time Valpo has scored on each of its first seven possessions of a game since Feb. 26, 2014 at Detroit.

– It was the first time Valpo has hit its first seven field goal attempts since Nov. 30, 2006 at Loyola.

SMALL COLLEGE ATHLETICS

INDIANA WESLEYAN ATHLETICS: https://iwuwildcats.com/

EARLHAM ATHLETICS: https://goearlham.com/

WABASH ATHLETICS: https://sports.wabash.edu/

FRANKLIN ATHLETICS: https://franklingrizzlies.com/

ROSE-HULMAN ATHLETICS: https://athletics.rose-hulman.edu/

ANDERSON ATHLETICS: https://athletics.anderson.edu/landing/index

TRINE ATHLETICS: https://trinethunder.com/landing/index

BETHEL ATHLETICS: https://bupilots.com/

DEPAUW ATHLETICS: https://depauwtigers.com/

HANOVER ATHLETICS: https://athletics.hanover.edu/

MANCHESTER ATHLETICS: https://muspartans.com/

HUNTINGTON ATHLETICS: https://www.huathletics.com/

OAKLAND CITY ATHLETICS: https://gomightyoaks.com/index.aspx

ST. FRANCIS ATHLETICS: https://www.saintfranciscougars.com/landing/index

IU KOKOMO ATHLETICS: https://iukcougars.com/

IU EAST ATHLETICS: https://www.iueredwolves.com/

IU SOUTH BEND ATHLETICS: https://iusbtitans.com/

PURDUE NORTHWEST ATHLETICS: https://pnwathletics.com/

INDIANA TECH ATHLETICS: https://indianatechwarriors.com/index.aspx

GRACE COLLEGE ATHLETICS: https://gclancers.com/

ST. MARY OF THE WOODS ATHLETICS: https://smwcathletics.com/

GOSHEN COLLEGE ATHLETICS: https://goleafs.net/

HOLY CROSS ATHLETICS: https://www.hcsaints.com/index.php                                                                                                                                                                            

TAYLOR ATHLETICS: https://www.taylortrojans.com/

VINCENNES ATHLETICS: https://govutrailblazers.com/landing/index

NFL STANDINGS

https://www.foxsports.com/nfl/standings

NBA STANDINGS

https://www.foxsports.com/nba/standings

NHL STANDINGS

https://www.foxsports.com/nhl/standings

NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL STANDINGS

https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/standings/

NCAA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL STANDINGS

https://www.ncaa.com/standings/basketball-women/d1

FOOTBALL HISTORY

December 28, 1905 – Representatives of 62 Colleges and Universities met to appoint a rules committee for Intercollegiate football per the Library of Congress. President Theodore Roosevelt requested schools to meet to save the game from being banned due to deaths and severe injuries. The meeting ended with the formation of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of the United States later to become the NCAA in 1910. 

December 28, 1946 – The original Baltimore Colts franchise was formed in the All American Football Conference or AAFC. This Colts team along with the Browns and 49ers were absorbed into the NFL in 1950 when the AAFC dissolved. The first season in the NFL was not a good one for Baltimore and the team disbanded according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame right after the 1950 season ended. The City of Baltimore received another chance to resurrect the Colts when NFL Commissioner Bert Bell challenged folks in the city that if they sold 15,000 or more season tickets in about six weeks that they could adopt the recently discontinued Dallas Texans franchise. The Maryland City accomplished the feat in just 4 weeks and on January 23, 1953 the Baltimore Colts franchise rose again under the ownership of Carroll Rosenbloom. By 1958 they were the Champs of the League! In 1984 in the cover of night the team picked up and moved to Indianapolis where they still call home until this day.

December 28, 1947 – Comiskey Park, Chicago – The 1947 NFL Championship game is played between the Philadelphia Eagles victors of the Eastern Division and the Western Division winners the Chicago Cardinals per a story on the Bleacher Report. The Cardinals jumped out to an early lead after Charlie Trippi punched in a score followed just a bit later by his Chicago teammate Elmer Angsman running in another TD. Steve Van Buren recorded one of the touchdowns for the Eagles shortly before halftime. The teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter setting up a dramatic finish in the final stanza. Angsman ran in another score in the fourth but Philly cut the lead to just one score after the Eagles crossed the goal line stripe on a one yard plunge by Craft. The game was a stalemate from there as theChicago Cardinals went on to beat Philadelphia, 28-21 to secure the Cardinals’ only title game victory.

December 28, 1952 – Cleveland Municipal Stadium – The 1952 NFL Championship game was played between the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns. Remarkably this was the third appearance of the Browns in the title game in just their third season in the League per a story on the mesa.marmot.org website! If you are keeping track of posts from the past few weeks this would be the first of 3 consecutive years that these two teams would vie for the Championship. The stars of the Lions Quarterback Bobby Layne and running back Doak Walker each ran in a score to put the team from the Motor City up. It would be the difference in the game as the Baltimore defense pretty much shut down Cleveland’s strong offense led by QB Otto Graham. The Detroit Lions outlasted the Cleveland Browns, 17-7 to win the title.

December 28, 1958 – Yankee Stadium, the Bronx, New York – “The Greatest Game Ever Played” was what the 1958 NFL Championship game was called by reporters after the game. The New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts earned their chance to play each other for the Title of World Champions. It could very well be the greatest as there were seventeen future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame that were involved in the contest. This game and its story may have been the biggest public relations boost the League had ever seen. The popularity of the professional level of the gridiron can look at this championship as the true watershed moment when they finally were gaining footing against the popularity of the college game. In the game suspense occurred late as the national audience lost the broadcast when someone bumped a cable creating a loss of signal from the NBC network. Minutes later the broadcast was restored as Johnny Unitas led his Colts teammates onto the field with just minutes left and trailing by three. Facing a 3rd and 10 from their own 14 yard line, Unitas completed a pass to Lenny Moore for an eleven yard gain and a new set of downs to jumpstart the Colts drive. A series of Unitas to Raymond Berry connections set up a 20 yard field goal attempt for Colts kicker Steve Myhra with just seven seconds remaining. The boot was up and good and sent the game into overtime! The Giants won the toss but went three and out giving the Colts the ball back at their own twenty yard line after a punt. Colts Head Coach Weeb Ewbank placed the game plan in the hands of his more than capable signal caller. Unitas and company were hot and drove the field, capping it off with an Alan Ameche one yard dive into the end zone. The Baltimore Colts won the 26th NFL championship 23-17 over the New York Giants with the first ever sudden-death overtime game in NFL history!

December 28, 1975 – Metropolitan Stadium, Minnesota – The original “Hail Mary” play occurred! The Star-Tribune tells the tale well. In the waning minutes the heavily favored Vikings scored what appeared to be a come from behind touchdown on a Brent McClenahan one yard plunge to go up 14-10. Dallas got the ball back but was facing a fourth-and-16  after Staubach had fallen on a bad snap from center for a six yard loss. From the shotgun formation,  Roger the Dodger connected with Drew Pearson, who made a jumping catch on the 50 yard-line near the sideline. The table was set, as there was a mere 32 seconds left in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game. Roger Staubach dropped back and let loose the legendary 50-yard winning touchdown pass to Drew Pearson who with a slight nudge of the Viking defender caught the pass to give Dallas the 17-14 win and to advance the Cowboys into the NFC Championship game.

December 28, 2008 – Lambeau Field, Wisconsin – The Detroit Lions reach rock bottom and become the first team in NFL history to go winless in a Sixteen game regular season format. The 31-21 loss to Green Bay Packers was the game played on this day that gave the Lions this dubious record.

December 28, 2019 – At the Fiesta Bowl  which was the BCS College Football Playoff semifinal, #3 Clemson knocked off #2 Ohio State, 29-23 for the right to play for the national Championship.

Meanwhile at the Peach Bowl  the other 2019 College Football Playoff semi-final had #1 LSU embarrassed #4 Oklahoma, 63-28 to advance to meet Clemson.

Hall of Fame Birthdays for December 28

December 28, 1894 – Indian Orchard, Massachusetts  – Ed Healey the end that played for both Dartmouth and Holy Cross was born. According to FootballFoundation.org Ed was the only boy of 9 children on a farm near Springfield, Mass and this may have led to his powerful well-tuned physique that made him a dominant line player.  Ed Healey secured his spot in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.  Ed played professional football with Rock Island and later Chicago and earned All-Pro honors five times in his 8 seasons as a converted tackle. George Halas who both played and coached Ed called him the “the most versatile tackle ever.” The Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined Ed Healey in 1964.

December 28, 1915 – Chicago, Illinois – The fine tackle from the University of Washington Vic Markov came to life in this world. With the Huskies Markov earned All-America honors in both 1936 and 1937 per the NFF. The National Football Foundation voters selected Vic Markov to gain entry into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976. After school Vic latched on to play with the Cleveland Rams for a couple of seasons in the late 1930’s. He served the US during World War II as a tank commander and was decorated for his heroics during the Battle of the Bulge.

December 28, 1920 – Chicago, Illinois – Michigan Wolverine Tackle Albert “Ox” Wistert was born. According to the footballfoundation.org Al entered college as the second of three brothers to earn a spot in HOF. In 1942 Ox was voted in as an All-America selection and was the Wolverines team MVP. Albert Wistert was one of the winners in the 1968 selections of the NFF voters to receive the recognition to enter into the College Football Hall of Fame and joined his brothers Whitey and Alvin there. The NFF states that Wistert went on to serve as co- captain of the 1943 College All-Star team which defeated a pretty good NFL Champion Washington Redskins team, 27-7, in Chicago. Ox Wistert signed to play for the Philadelphia Eagles and would become one of the club’s greatest linemen, captaining the team as an All-Pro selection for five straight years. Al played every game in his pro career as a starter except for one when he was injured. Philadelphia won two championships during Al’s career and, when he stepped away from the gridiron in 1952, the Eagles retired his number 70 jersey.

December 28, 1920 – La Ceiba, Honduras – “Supersonic” Steve Van Buren of LSU was born. The great halfback was the number one pick in the 1944 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Steve made the All-NFL team in six straight seasons as he also won the NFL rushing title in four different years. Van Buren tallied the lone score in the 1947 NFL Championship game to give Philly the 7-0 victory over the Chicago Cardinals.  The next year in the Title game he established a Championship game record when he trotted 196 yards in the contest against the LA Rams in a 14-0 Title win. The Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined Steve Van Buren in 1965.

December 28, 1935 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Oklahoma Sooners Halfback Clendon Thomas celebrated his birth. In 1955 and 1956 Thomas lived out his childhood dreams as he and the Sooners went undefeated and won consecutive National Championships. The streak of 47 straight games won in a row has never been matched by any other team in Division I history. Clendon’s 18 touchdowns in 1956 led the nation. The NFF recognized Clendon Thomas as one of the greats of the gridiron by selecting him into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

NUMBERS IN SPORTS

15 – 10 – 14 – 12 – 88 – 5 – 11 – 1 – 20 – 7 – 9

December 28, 1918 – Montreal’s Georges Vezina became the first NHL goalie to record an assist during the Canadiens’ 6-3 win over the Toronto Arenas

December 28, 1944 – Montreal right wing Number 15, Maurice Richard became the first player in NHL history to score 8 points in one game. ‘Rocket’ Richard tallied 5 goals and 3 assists in the Canadiens’ 9-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings

December 28, 1965 – Ballon d’Or: Benfica striker Number 10, Eusébio took home the award for best European football player; first Portuguese national to win, and still only Benfica player

December 28, 1971 – Ballon d’Or: Ajax forward Number 14, Johan Cruyff won the award for best European football player ahead of Inter forward Number 10, Sandro Mazzola and Manchester United winger Number 11, George Best. Cruyff became the first Dutch national and Ajax player to win award

December 28, 1975 – “The Hail Mary”, with 32 seconds left in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game, Cowboys quarterback, Number 12, Roger Staubach threw a legendary 50-yard winning touchdown pass to Number 88, Drew Pearson to defeat the Minnesota Vikings, and the “Hail Mary” play is born

December 28, 1976 – Ballon d’Or: Bayern Munich defender Number 5, Franz Beckenbauer won the title of Europe’s best football player for a 2nd time; beats Anderlecht winger Number 11, Rob Rensenbrink and Dukla Prague goalkeeper Number 1, Ivo Viktor

December 28, 1982 – Ballon d’Or: Juventus striker Number 20, Paolo Rossi was named best European football player; beats Bordeaux midfielder Number 12, Alain Giresse and Juventus’ Polish midfielder Number 7, Zbigniew Boniek

December 28, 1993 – Ballon d’Or: Juventus’ Italian striker Number 10, Roberto Baggio was named Europe’s best football player ahead of Inter forward Number 10, Dennis Bergkamp and Manchester United striker Number 7, Eric Cantona

December 28, 1993 – Number 15, John Maclean passed Number 9, Kirk Muller as all-time NJ Devils scorer (521 pts)

TELEVISION THURSDAY

COLLEGE BASKETBALL (MEN’S)

7 p.m.

BTN — Coppin St. at Maryland

9 p.m.

ESPN2 — Southern Cal at Oregon

ESPNU — UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis

10 p.m.

PAC-12N — UCLA at Oregon St.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

11 a.m.

ESPN — The Wasabi Fenway Bowl: SMU vs. Boston College, Boston

2:15 p.m.

ESPN — The Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers vs. Miami, New York

5:45 p.m.

ESPN — The Pop-Tarts Bowl: NC State vs. Kansas St., Orlando, Fla.

9:15 p.m.

ESPN — The Valero Alamo Bowl: Arizona vs. Oklahoma, San Antonio

IIHF HOCKEY (MEN’S)

11 a.m.

NHLN — World Junior Championship Group Stage: Switzerland vs. U.S., Group B, Gothenburg, Sweden

1:30 p.m.

NHLN — World Junior Championship Group Stage: Germany vs. Sweden, Group A, Gothenburg, Sweden

6 a.m. (Friday)

NHLN — World Junior Championship Group Stage: Slovakia vs. Norway, Group B, Gothenburg, Sweden

NBA BASKETBALL

7:30 p.m.

NBATV — Detroit at Boston

10 p.m.

NBATV — Miami at Golden State

NFL FOOTBALL

8:15 p.m.

PRIME VIDEO — NY Jets at Cleveland

SOCCER (MEN’S)

2:30 p.m.

USA — Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur at Brighton & Hove Albion

TENNIS

9 p.m.

TENNIS — United Cup Group Stage

4 a.m. (Friday)

TENNIS — United

TENNIS — United Cup Group Stage

6 a.m. (Friday)

TENNIS — United Cup Group Stage

TELEVISION FRIDAY

BASKETBALL

  • Women: Stanford at Cal, Pac-12, 3 p.m.
  • Bucks at Cavaliers, NBA TV, 5:30 p.m.
  • Washington St. at Utah, Pac-12, 6:30 p.m.
  • San Diego St. at Gonzaga, ESPN2, 7 p.m.
  • Thunder at Nuggets, ALT, 7 p.m.
  • Washington at Colorado, ESPNU, 7 p.m.
  • Arizona at Cal, Pac-12, 8:30 p.m.
  • Grizzlies at Clippers, NBA TV, 8:30 p.m.
  • Arizona St. at Stanford, ESPN2, 9 p.m.

FOOTBALL

  • Gator Bowl: Clemson vs. Kentucky, ESPN, 10 a.m.
  • Sun Bowl: Oregon St. vs. Notre Dame, CBS, noon
  • Liberty Bowl: Memphis vs. Iowa St., ESPN, 1:30 p.m.
  • Cotton Bowl: Ohio St. vs. Missouri, ESPN, 6 p.m.

HOCKEY

  • IIHF Juniors: Norway vs. Slovakia, NHLN, 4 a.m.
  • IIHF Juniors: Latvia vs. Finland, NHLN, 6:30 a.m.
  • IIHF Juniors: U.S. vs. Czech Republic, NHLN, 9 a.m.
  • IIHF Juniors: Canada vs. Sweden, NHLN, 11:30 a.m.

TELEVISION SATURDAY

BASKETBALL

  • Hofstra at St. John’s, FS1, 10 a.m.
  • Pitt at Syracuse, KUCW, 10 a.m.
  • Women: Ohio St. at Michigan, Fox, 10 a.m.
  • Women: South Carolina at ECU, ESPN2, 10 a.m.
  • Quinnipiac at Florida, ESPNU, 11 a.m.
  • Creighton at Marquette, CBS, noon
  • Indiana St. at Michigan St., FS1, noon
  • Queens at Duke, KUCW, noon
  • Virginia Tech at Wake Forest, ESPN2, noon
  • Women: Baylor at Texas, Fox, noon
  • Women: Utah at Colorado, Pac-12, 1 p.m.
  • Chicago St. at DePaul, FS1, 2 p.m.
  • UCLA at Oregon, CBS, 2 p.m.
  • Wichita St. vs. Kansas, ESPN2, 2 p.m.
  • Women: Utah St. at UNLV, CBSSN, 2 p.m.
  • Heat at Jazz, KJZZ, 3 p.m.
  • Ohio St. vs. West Virginia, Fox, 5 p.m.
  • Women: USC at UCLA, Pac-12, 6 p.m.
  • USC at Oregon St., Pac-12, 8 p.m.

FOOTBALL

  • Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Penn St., ESPN, 10 a.m.
  • Music City Bowl: Auburn vs. Maryland, ABC, noon
  • Orange Bowl: Georgia vs. Florida St., ESPN, 2 p.m.
  • Arizona Bowl: Toledo vs. Wyoming, KUCW, 2:30 p.m.
  • Lions at Cowboys, ABC/ESPN, 6:15 p.m.

HOCKEY

  • IIHF Juniors: Switzerland vs. Norway, NHLN, 9 a.m.
  • IIHF Juniors: Germany vs. Latvia, NHLN, 11:30 a.m.
  • Hurricanes at Maple Leafs, NHLN, 5 p.m.

LACROSSE

  • NLL: Riptide at Rock, ESPNU, 2 p.m.
  • NLL: Warriors at Mammoth, ALT, 7 p.m.

SOCCER

  • Luton Town vs. Chelsea, USA, 5:30 a.m.
  • Wolves vs. Everton, USA, 8 a.m.