NCAA

Walk-on to Heisman: Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield wins in landslide

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Walk-on to Heisman: Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield wins in landslide

NEW YORK -- Baker Mayfield took a unique road to the Heisman Trophy, a long and winding climb from walk-on to one of the most accomplished players to ever play college football.

The brash, flag-planting Sooners star became the sixth Oklahoma player to the win Heisman Saturday night in one of the most lopsided votes in the 83-year history of the award.

Stanford running back Bryce Love was the runner-up, making it five second-place finishes for the Cardinal since 2009. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, last year's Heisman winner, was third, the best finish by a returning winner since Tim Tebow of Florida in 2008.

Mayfield received 732 first-place votes and 2,398 points. Love had 75 first-place votes and 1,300 points and Jackson received 47 and 793. Mayfield received 86 percent of the total points available, the third-highest percentage in Heisman history behind Ohio State's Troy Smith (91.63 percent) in 2006 and Oregon's Marcus Mariota (90.92) in 2014.

Mayfield is the third player to win the Heisman heading to the College Football Playoff. The second-ranked Sooners meet No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. He is the first senior to win the award since Smith and the first Heisman winner to begin his career as a walk-on since athletic scholarships started in the 1950s.

"It's been a tough journey," Mayfield said during his acceptance speech. He choked back tears thanking his parents and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

"Tried to play it cool," Mayfield said later. "That's not my thing though. I'm a guy that wears his emotions on his sleeve."

Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting two years ago and third last year.

"It's motivating for me to be the best in the country," Mayfield said.

He entered this season as one of the favorites and jumped toward the front of the pack when he led the Sooners to an early victory at Ohio State that he celebrated by planting the OU flag in the Horseshoe turf.

He later apologized for that, but that has been Mayfield's career. Spectacular play fueled by grudges, slights and trying to prove doubters wrong. Moxie is the word that gets attached to Mayfield often, but at times poor judgment has gotten him in trouble on and off the field.

Those were really the only marks on Mayfield's Heisman resume because his play has been consistently stellar. He has thrown for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns this season for the Big 12 champion Sooners (12-1). For his career, Mayfield is eighth in FBS history in yards passing (14,320) and sixth in touchdown passes (129). He is likely to leave college with the two best single-season passer ratings in major college football.

Pretty good for a scrawny kid who grew up in Austin, Texas, rooting for Oklahoma, but did not receive a scholarship offer out of high school from either the hometown Longhorns or his beloved Sooners.

At Lake Travis High School, Mayfield won a state championship at a school that regularly pumps out Division I quarterbacks. Mayfield was undersized at 6-1 and received just one offer from a Power Five program -- Washington State.

Instead, he walked-on at Texas Tech and started eight games as a freshman. With a glut of quarterbacks in Lubbock, Mayfield left and had only one school in mind.

Oklahoma had Trevor Knight, coming off a Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama and with three more seasons left of eligibility, but that did not dissuade Mayfield.

Mayfield thanked former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who also was at the Best Buy Theater in midtown Manhattan, for welcoming a "chubby, unathletic kid into the program with open arms."

His departure from Texas Tech was contentious. At first, he lost a year of eligibility, despite not being on scholarship. Texas Tech could have given permission to waive the lost year, but did not.

Mayfield eventually got that year of eligibility back when the Big 12 tweaked its rules, but he never did let it go. For his last game against Texas Tech this season, he wore the "Traitor" T-shirt that some Red Raiders fans wore when he first returned to Lubbock with Oklahoma.

Later in the year, it was Kansas -- or all teams -- that tried to get the volatile Mayfield off his game. Jayhawks captains refused to shake his hand during the pregame coin flip. They trash-talked Mayfield and even took a late hit at him. He responded by screaming profanities and making a lewd gesture that television cameras caught. That led to a public apology from Mayfield, his third this year.

The first came after he was arrested in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in February for public intoxication, disorderly conduct and fleeing. He pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors and paid a $300 fine. The second came after that flag planting in Columbus, Ohio, after the Sooners beat the Buckeyes. Mayfield said before that early season showdown that the Buckeyes had irked him by celebrating on the Sooners' field in 2016.

Mayfield joins Jason White and Sam Bradford as Oklahoma quarterbacks who won the award since 2003. Only Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC have won more Heisman trophies with seven each.

Mayfield is an old-school winner. For decades, seniors dominated the Heisman, but over the last 10 years four juniors, four sophomores and two redshirt freshmen have won the Heisman. By comparison Mayfield has been around forever, that first season at Texas Tech coming in 2013. He has played 47 college games. Only USC's Carson Palmer with 50 had played more when he won his Heisman in 2002.

There is at least one more game to play for Mayfield, and maybe two. He and the Sooners will go into the playoff as a slight underdog against Georgia, which seems only appropriate for a player who has built his career on exceeding expectations.

Asked what has been his best moment, Mayfield predictably answered: "It hasn't happened yet."

FG try wide on final play as Army holds off Navy in thriller at Linc

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FG try wide on final play as Army holds off Navy in thriller at Linc

BOX SCORE

Just when you thought Army-Navy couldn't get any more intense, it snowed.

Then 60 minutes of bruising football came down to squinting through that snow to see where a long field goal attempt would land.

Wide left. Cue the celebration for Army. The Black Knights are back.

Bennett Moehring narrowly missed a 48-yard field goal on the final play and Army held off Navy 14-13 on Saturday to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 1996.

Army (9-3) earned its second straight win over Navy (6-6) following 14 straight losses in the series.

"We've got seniors in there that went 4-8 as freshmen and 2-10 as sophomores," Army coach Jeff Monken said. "Now they've won 17 games in the last two years. Really an incredible change."

After trailing most of the game, Ahmad Bradshaw pushed over the goal line on a quarterback sneak with 5:10 remaining and Blake Wilson kicked the extra point to put Army ahead.

But Navy's spectacular Malcolm Perry wasn't finished.

The quarterback, who ran for 250 yards on 30 carries and a 68-yard score in the second quarter, led Navy to the Army 31 with 3 seconds left.

Navy elected to try a field goal, and after about 10 players used their feet to clear the steady snow during a timeout, Moehring's kick was long enough but drifted barely left.

"Came up a couple of feet short," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "This is a great rivalry. It was another classic game."

Army cut its deficit in the series to 60-51-7 in a matchup of bowl-bound teams. The Black Knights claimed the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy thanks to an earlier victory over Air Force.

"That trophy hadn't been in our possession for 21 years," said Monken, in his fourth season. "To be able to accomplish that with this team is a great source of pride."

In a game that included only three passes -- Army completed its lone toss -- the Black Knights produced a 13-play, 65-yard drive to take a late lead. John Trainor tiptoed the sideline for 8 yards one play before Bradshaw's 12th touchdown of the season.

Bradshaw also scored the go-ahead touchdown in last year's victory over Navy.

"I actually don't think I would've gotten in if not for my fullback and my offensive line," said Bradshaw, who rushed for 94 yards on 21 carries. "I kind of stopped, but I felt like (fullback) Andy (Davidson) picked me up and kind of walked me into the end zone."

Navy took advantage of the ensuing kickoff going out of bounds and moved down the field. Perry dropped a shotgun snap on fourth down at the Army 37, but picked up the ball and ran for a first down. But Navy committed two false start penalties, making the final field goal attempt more difficult.

Snow started falling in the late morning on the 29-degree day. Workers used blowers to uncover the lines and hashmarks during timeouts as a light snow fell throughout.

The teams, both of whom run the triple-option, combined to complete only 59 passes all season. The snow made both coaches want to throw it even less as Navy went ahead 7-0 on Darnell Woolfolk's 3-yard run on the opening possession.

The first pass came with under 9 minutes left in the second quarter. Army completed its only pass, a 20-yard wobbler from Bradshaw to Calen Holt, midway through the third quarter.

The weather made one of sports' biggest rivalries an even more physical contest. Army's all-white uniforms -- a nod to the 10th Mountain Division of World War II -- served as almost camouflage in the snow.

Perry was the star through three quarters. Getting the start at quarterback ahead of Zach Abey, his long touchdown run in the second quarter was his third rushing TD of more than 65 yards this season.

Perry looked like he might have another long touchdown run, but he stumbled and fell at the Navy 11 early in the third quarter. Army senior John Voit chased him down.

"I'm not sure if I hit his foot or not," Voit said. "But I think I got enough where he slipped in the snow and thank God he went down."

Army then held Navy to a Moehring's second field goal, from 24 yards, to make it 13-7 and allow for their fourth-quarter comeback.

"There was never a moment our guys doubted we were going to win the game," Monken said. "When you love a group of people like I love them, I can tell when their emotions change. We never lost momentum."

The takeaway
Army: Monken has Army on a major upswing. This victory will do wonders for a program that had suffered through the longest losing streak by either team in this rivalry.

Navy: Perry was the fastest and most dangerous player on the field, and Niumatalolo indicated the quarterback job will be his next season. Navy outgunned Army 296-241 but was again hurt by costly penalties.

Jasper coaches
Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper coached after missing Wednesday's practice to be with his 14-year-old son. Jarren Jasper has had medical issues as he awaits a heart transplant.

Milestone
Simone Askew made history when she led the Corps of Cadets in the pregame march-on. Askew is the first black woman to be first captain, the highest student position at West Point.
 
Trump & Tillerson
A year after attending the game as president-elect, Donald Trump tweeted that he would be watching on TV. "On behalf of an entire Nation, THANK YOU for your sacrifice and service!" the president wrote.

After the game, Trump tweeted: "Great Army - Navy Game. Army wins 14 to 13 and brings home the COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF'S TROPHY! Congratulations!"

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson handled the opening coin toss.

Up next
Army: Armed Forces Bowl vs. San Diego State on Dec. 23 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Navy: Military Bowl vs. Virginia on Dec. 28 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Fastbreak Friday: Villanova looks destined for deep tournament run again

Fastbreak Friday: Villanova looks destined for deep tournament run again

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend's local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.

La Salle (5-5) at No. 4 Villanova (9-0), Sunday, 1 p.m.
SK:
Villanova returns to the Wells Fargo Center following its most impressive win of the young season — an 88-72 thumping of No. 12 Gonzaga on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. The fourth-ranked Wildcats controlled the game for the full 40 minutes and put the college basketball world on notice that they are once again legitimate national championship contenders. 

Junior forward Mikal Bridges stole the show against Gonzaga, scoring a career-high 28 points on 8 of 14 shooting from the field. Bridges punctuated the win with an incredible sequence midway through the second half — soaring for a one-handed slam over three defenders then hustling back to get a big block on the other end. Through nine games, Bridges has established himself as an All-American candidate and potential lottery pick in the 2018 NBA draft (see story)

As impressive as Bridges was on Tuesday, it was the play of junior guard Phil Booth that should be most encouraging for Villanova fans. Booth scored 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting and is averaging 17 points in his last three games. After missing all but three games last season due to a knee injury, it's become apparent that Booth is now 100 percent healthy and back to being his old explosive self that was previously seen scoring a team-high 20 points in the 2016 National Championship game. Having Booth playing at this level is huge for Villanova as they gear up for the Big East portion of their schedule.

Villanova now turns its attention to La Salle on Sunday afternoon, aiming for a 21st straight Big 5 win. La Salle played the Wildcats tough last season, losing 89-79 at the Palestra in a game that was decided in the final minutes. 

But the Explorers are sputtering a bit coming into Sunday's matchup. After beating Temple two weeks ago to improve to 4-3, they've dropped two of their last three including Thursday's 72-70 home loss to Drexel. La Salle trailed by 13 at halftime before rallying in the second half only to lose in the last few seconds. 

Senior guard B.J. Johnson scored 21 points in the loss — a shade under his season average of 21.5. But Johnson is going to need a whole lot more help than he's been getting if the Explorers are going to hang with a Villanova team that is operating on a championship-caliber level on both ends of the floor.

Look for Villanova's defensive intensity to eventually wear La Salle down, and for Wildcats junior guard Jalen Brunson to bounce back for a big game after being plagued by foul trouble against Gonzaga.

Villanova 82, La Salle 63  

Saint Joseph's (4-4) at Temple (5-2), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
AF: 
It's always fun when the Big 5 teams get together. There is so much familiarity and ire between the two fanbases and each team's players feed off the energy. And this weekend's contest between the Owls and the Hawks is certainly no different.

It's been an up and down season for both so far, but the Owls have more ups than downs at this point. If anything, it's harder to figure out this Temple team than in years past. However, a win over Wisconsin just this week has me thinking that Temple is just a team still trying to get its legs under them. Either that, or they just play really, really well against football schools. I mean, look at their schedule: wins over Clemson, Auburn and now the Badgers. That would put the Owls in the FBS Playoffs. 

Fran Dunphy's squad is starting to come together nicely and a lot of that can be attributed to the strong guard play of Shizz Alston, Jr. and Josh Brown. The two are combining to score 34 points a game. In the win over Wisconsin, Alston was steady on the court and most importantly at the free throw line. He now holds the school record for most consecutive free throws made with 52 and counting, which goes back to December of last year.

Meanwhile, on City Line Avenue, the Hawks are licking their wounds after suffering their worst loss in the rivalry with Villanova, a 41-point thorough thrashing nearly a week ago. But have heart Saint Joseph's fans, this is a fantastic, potential Final Four, veteran Villanova team. So just put that in your rear view and look ahead to the rest of the Big 5 slate and the Atlantic-10 conference schedule.

As I mentioned, it's been an up and down year for St. Joe's and you can draw a direct correlation to the Hawks' struggles by looking at an injury report. For the first eight games, they've been without Charlie Brown and you can't understate his loss. Brown is an NBA prospect. And Phil Martelli would love to go with his plan A of running the plays through him. But he's doubtful for this game as well after undergoing surgery on a fractured left wrist at the end of October.

So it's been on to plan B and maybe even plan C at this point for Martelli, thanks to the loss of Lamarr Kimble at the beginning of the season. But the Hawks do have the services of James Demery and Shavar Newkirk. The two seniors are neck and neck as the Hawks leading scorers at 16.8 and 16.5 points per game, respectively.

A bright spot for the Hawks is Taylor Funk, who's averaging three made three-pointers per game, and when you have that scoring threat from the outside, it can open up the inside lanes and the post to collect points.

I do want to point out one thing: Martelli and Dunphy are great friends. They have so much respect for one another, and together with their wives, are single-handedly responsible for the most successful Coaches vs. Cancer chapter in the country. The Philadelphia chapter has raised more than 14 million dollars since 1996 and that number grows every year.

But as for this one, well for the second straight game, I think it will be a Big 5 loss for the Hawks.

Temple 75, Saint Joseph's 68

Pennsylvania (7-4) at Dayton (4-4), Saturday, 3 p.m.
SK:
Penn ventures into what is traditionally one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball for a matchup with Dayton on Saturday afternoon. The Quakers have momentum on their side, winning four of their last five with the only blemish during that stretch coming at Villanova.

Penn hung on for a 73-68 win at Lafayette on Wednesday. Sophomores A.J. Brodeur and Ryan Betley combined for 31 points as the Quakers improved their season record to 7-4. 

Saturday's visit to Dayton will offer a tough test for Penn but it's certainly a winnable game. The Flyers are in a transition season under first-year head coach Anthony Grant, who took over for Archie Miller after Miller left for Indiana following last season. Dayton has a 4-4 record, with those four wins coming against Ball State, Ohio, Akron and Tennessee Tech. 

I expect Penn to not only compete with Dayton but have a chance to win the game in the last handful of possessions. But I just can't get over the raucous homecourt advantage that UD Arena provides. I expect that to be the deciding factor in what should be a hard-fought, entertaining game on Saturday.

Dayton 70, Pennsylvania 68

Drexel (5-4) at Robert Morris (5-4) Sunday, 2 p.m.
AF:
Okay, I'll admit it. I cannot for the life of me figure this Drexel team out. And yes, as my co-author will tell you, my prediction record reflects that. I pick them to lose to Houston and they beat them by four. I pick Drexel to win over NJIT and they lose by a dozen. So it's no surprise that when I picked Rider to beat the Dragons that of course they won, and did so handily.

Maybe I should pull a George Costanza and just do the opposite of what my brain tells me. But I don't know if I can do it this time. Drexel looked pretty good last time out when they took down La Salle at the Gola on Thursday night. Yes, Kurk Lee came to play yet again with 23 points. But it was the second straight game where Sammy Mojica has shined. The senior is really finding his rhythm. He posted 19 in the win over the Explorers. And in the win last week against Rider, he poured in 22. That can mean only positive things for Zach Spiker's team. 

This weekend, the Dragons travel across the Commonwealth to face Robert Morris. Robert Morris. It's a team that draws up bad feelings in my stomach. The Colonials beat Kentucky (without Nerlens Noel, mind you) in the first round of the NIT And yes, you read that correctly. It was in the NIT But that was several years ago. So I won't let that color my judgment in predicting the winner of this one. But Drexel wins.

As much as I'd love to pick the Dragons just because of the 2013 NIT loss, I can actually use a common opponent as my reasoning. Robert Morris just beat Rider by three points Wednesday night. The same Rider team that Drexel beat by 12. So I'll go with that.

Drexel 75, Robert Morris 70

Prediction Records
Sean Kane:
 6-3
Amy Fadool: 3-7