NCAA

Packers K Crosby takes aim on better second half

Packers K Crosby takes aim on better second half

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Perhaps no one enjoyed the Green Bay Packers' bye week more than kicker Mason Crosby.

He took a family trip, giving him a chance to unwind and come back for what he hopes will be a much better second half of the season. Crosby has made only five of his last 10 field-goal tries as the Packers (6-3) prepare to play at Detroit (4-5) on Sunday.

A year ago, Crosby made 24 of 28 attempts for a career-high percentage of 85.7. This year, he is 10 of 15, a 67-percent rate that is the lowest in the NFL this season among active kickers.

To recharge, Crosby, wife Molly and their young son, Nolan, spent a few days in the Charlotte, N.C., area. A little golf, a little swimming and nothing to do with football for a bit.

``It was just nice to spend time with my wife and my son and just kind of separating from the game a little bit,'' Crosby said. ``Because the season is so long, I think you've got to do that. Making kicks, missing kicks, whatever happens, I'm going to do that either way. So it was nice to have a refresher.''

Nobody is hitting the panic button over the sixth-year veteran.

``I have a lot of confidence in his ability to put the ball through the uprights, and that will definitely be the case Sunday,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

Getting the stretch run of the season started at Detroit's Ford Field might be a favorable scenario for Crosby. He is 10 of 11 on field goals at the indoor stadium in five games against the Lions since his rookie season with Green Bay in 2007.

``It's a big game (Sunday),'' Crosby said. ``It's a division game, and every point, every opportunity, offense, defense, special teams, every time I'm on the field it's going to matter - kickoffs and field goals. You've got to take advantage of those opportunities, put points on the board.''

Crosby's recent struggles started in the controlled environment of an indoor venue, a setting in which he has flourished most of his career.

Crosby missed both of his field goals in the Packers' stunning 30-27 loss at Indianapolis on Oct. 7. That ended his streak of 16 straight field goals made indoors going back to a Thanksgiving Day win at Detroit in 2009.

Two weeks later, Crosby missed a 58-yard kick at the end of the first half at St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome. But he connected on three other field goals in the 30-20 win over the Rams.

``Unfortunately the first three, the situations were ideal (for kicking), but they were all over 50 (yards),'' Crosby said of the string of misses.

What left a sour taste in his mouth and prompted him to forget about football over the bye week was a missed field goal in each of Green Bay's last two games, both at Lambeau Field.

Crosby had a 32-yard try hit off the right upright in the 24-15 win over Jacksonville on Oct. 28 and then pushed a 44-yard kick wide left in the 31-17 victory over Arizona a week later.

``The last two are the ones that you want to eliminate,'' Crosby said. ``That's my focus, staying solid inside of 50 yards - I've got to make those kicks. And then outside of 50, it's just be smooth and put 'em through when I have those opportunities.''

Shawn Slocum, Green Bay's special teams coordinator, has been encouraged by what he saw this week.

``Mason's been good,'' Slocum said. ``He's had a very good week of practice, and as I said prior to the bye week, I thought he could get away and come back energized and ready to go to work. He's done that, and he looks really good kicking the ball.''

Crosby knows much could be riding on his powerful and usually reliable right foot as the Packers contend for a repeat NFC North title and a return to the playoffs.

``Whenever I miss a kick, I always try to take full responsibility for what was on me and then move forward, because ultimately that's what we have to do,'' Crosby said. ``This offense, we're going to get the opportunities, so I've got to take advantage.''

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

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Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.