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Arkansas St., Kent State meet in GoDaddy.com Bowl

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Arkansas St., Kent State meet in GoDaddy.com Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) Arkansas State's Ryan Aplin owns nearly every school passing record after four productive seasons for the Red Wolves.

For his final game, the senior quarterback will get quite a test from No. 25 Kent State's gambling defense when the two teams meet on Sunday in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

The Golden Flashes are tied for the top spot in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 38 forced turnovers and a plus-21 turnover margin, thanks to an aggressive defensive scheme that's helped Kent State (11-2) go bowling for the first time in 40 years.

Aplin - who has seen plenty of defenses geared to stop his passing game over the years - says he's never seen a defense quite like Kent State's.

``They've forced 38 turnovers which averages to about three per game and that's just ridiculous,'' Aplin said. ``In a big game like this, you can't afford to give somebody momentum and they certainly feed off of it. When they get those turnovers their offense almost always goes down the field and scores.''

Kent State coach Darrell Hazell admits that his high-risk, high-reward has a tendency to give up some big plays in the passing game. And they'll have to be very careful against a quarterback like Aplin, who has 10,545 passing yards, 66 passing touchdowns and 31 rushing touchdowns in his decorated career.

``We're going to have to be disciplined with our reads,'' Hazell said. ``It's going to be a great football game.''

The Golden Flashes have taken a huge step forward in their second season under Hazell, breaking the school record for wins and advancing to college football's postseason for the first time since 1972.

Arkansas State (9-3) won its second straight Sun Belt championship this season under coach Gus Malzahn, ending the regular season on a seven-game winning streak. The Red Wolves haven't lost since a setback to Western Kentucky on Sept. 29.

But the price of that success means both programs have already lost their coaches to bigger programs. Hazell has been hired by Purdue - though he's staying to coach in Sunday's bowl game - while Malzahn took the Auburn job. The Red Wolves will be coached by defensive coordinator John Thompson.

It's the second straight season Arkansas State has had to deal with a coaching transition while preparing for the GoDaddy.com Bowl. After last season's Sun Belt title, coach Hugh Freeze left to take the Mississippi job and the Red Wolves ended up losing to Northern Illinois.

Aplin said the team should handle the adversity better this season, but he didn't deny the transition is hard.

The quarterback is the unquestioned leader of the Red Wolves' offense, completing nearly 68 percent of his passes this season for 3,129 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's also rushed for 443 yards and six touchdowns.

``You never really completely adjust (to a coaching change),'' Aplin said. ``You get close with people on a personal level and it makes it hard. You'd think after going through it a few times you'd be used to it, but you really don't. It's just one of those things that you've got to come together as a team and our assistants have been awesome at making sure we're staying together.''

Hazell has spent the past month split between preparing Kent State for a bowl game and beginning to build his program at Purdue. He said it's been hectic, but it's important that he stayed with the Golden Flashes to finish what's been a historic season.

He expects emotions to be high on Sunday.

``Right now it's fine,'' Hazell said. ``But Sunday night I'm sure it will be a little different. There's so much going through my head right now. It's the last time I'll really spend with these guys who have really changed the culture at Kent State. That's pretty amazing.''

Kent State's offense is powered by a productive running game, led by Dri Archer and Trayion Durham. Archer is a speedy 5-foot-8, 175-pounder who has rushed for 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns this season while Durham is the power option, a bruising 250-pound sophomore back who has gained 1,248 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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John Harbaugh talks Lamar Jackson and everything else that impressed him in 23-17 win

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John Harbaugh talks Lamar Jackson and everything else that impressed him in 23-17 win

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The 'easy' part of the Ravens schedule is over. 

They faced a team widely projected to have the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in week one and faced the team that had the No. 1 pick in 2019 in Week 2. 

The Ravens got out of those two games at 2-0. But now, the true test of the season will happen as the Ravens head to Kansas City to face the also undefeated Chiefs. 

Ahead of one of the biggest games in the young NFL season, the Ravens have reason to feel good about how they’ve started, but also know what’s around the corner.

Here are a few things that stood out about Harbaugh’s press conference:

Lamar’s Stellar Sunday

Lamar Jackson may not have thought he had a strong day. But the statistics say otherwise. 

He finished with 272 yards passing and two touchdowns. He added 120 yards on the ground, finishing as the Ravens' leading rusher as well. He was the first player in NFL history to post those numbers in the same game. 

The Ravens also went 7-of-14 on third down, something Harbaugh credited Jackson with having the ability to do in a variety of ways. 

“I thought he was just tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “Both getting to the sticks by throwing the ball, and then when they had people covered and the offensive line did a good job sustaining the protection, by getting out and running to the sticks. He did it both ways. That’s all you can ever ask for from a quarterback to do that. Keeps a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Through the first two weeks of the season, Jackson has showcased both his arm and his legs. Now, it’ll be a matter of which poison he forces defenses to drink.

Brynden Trawick’s injury

The Ravens got relatively good news about special teams standout Brynden Trawick’s injury.  

Trawick was injured on the Ravens first punt of the second half on a block in the back penalty, which was called, and never returned to the game. On the play, he grabbed his left arm immediately and left the field in a significant amount of pain. 

“Trawick’s got an elbow/arm issue, so we’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a matter of whether or not he can deal with it. It’s not going to be a long term deal. Whether he can go this week or not is how he can deal with it, how he can operate with it.”

Trawick, a safety, played in 13 snaps on special teams before his injury. 

The team recently promoted Maurice Canady to the 53-man roster in light of cornerback Jimmy Smith’s MCL sprain and will now be down two members of the secondary.

Preparing for a shootout

The Ravens lost in Kansas City last year in overtime 27-24. This year, Harbaugh said there won’t be much new to it all.

“Our guys have been in that stadium, they’ve been in that tiny little locker room before, they’ve been on that field, stayed in that hotel,” Harbaugh said. “All those things are pluses. We played a good game, but we didn’t win. That’s motivation also.”

He said they’ll watch last year’s game, but so much has changed since then it’s hard to take much stock in it.

Last season, Jackson threw for only 147 yards in the loss. This year, he’s eclipsed that total twice — by rather large margins. 

“Of course, we’ll watch last year’s game, but teams change so much,” Harbaugh said. “They watch the game too. It’s always a new game. It’s really so important in this league in the sense of, yeah, there’s carryover always, but really it’s week-to-week. It’s game-to-game. No two games are ever going to be the same.”

Ravens make a minor move

Just after Harbaugh’s press conference, the Ravens added offensive guard Parker Ehringer to their practice squad, a former fourth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016.

Ehringer spent 2018 in Dallas before heading to Jacksonville in the early part of the year. He was in 2019 training camp with the Cardinals.

A University of Cincinnati grad, Ehringer will fill the void of Greg Senat, who was waived last Saturday in place of Maurice Canady.

Marquise Brown’s potential meeting with the NFL

Marquise Brown hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.

But he is, according to a report from Pro Football Talk, likely speak with the NFL about the lawsuit surrounding his cousin, Antonio Brown. 

Antonio is accused in a lawsuit filed this month of raping his former trainer, twice in 2017 and once in 2018. The accuser, Britney Taylor, reportedly was scheduled to speak with the NFL on Monday.

The lawsuit, according to Pro Football Talk, reported Marquise as the unnamed player that was in attendance on one of the nights that Antonio allegedly raped the alleged victim in May of 2018.

When asked about the report from PFT on Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn’t concerned about Marquise’s reported place in the lawsuit.

“It’s not going to be a distraction,” Harbaugh said. “Believe me, it’s the last thing on my mind right now. Absolutely.”

Harbaugh said the team hadn’t spoken to Marquise about the lawsuit or potential NFL interview either.

“My focus is on football,” he said. “If it comes to that, if there’s something that needs to be done that way, we have people in the building that look at those things. Until it comes to that, it’s not an issue.”

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Nationals manager Dave Martinez remains in Washington for further testing

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Nationals manager Dave Martinez remains in Washington for further testing

Davey Martinez remained in Washington for further medical testing, the Nationals announced Monday. Bench coach Chip Hale will manage the team Monday night instead.

Martinez left Sunday’s series finale against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning because he was not feeling well. He went to a local hospital for further examinations upon the recommendation from Nationals medical staff. They said at the time they expected Martinez to join the team in St. Louis, though they did not specify when.

Hale, 54, joined the Nationals’ staff as bench coach when Martinez was hired ahead of the 2018 season. The Baltimore Orioles interviewed him this offseason for their open managerial position.

Hale has replaced Martinez following each of Martinez’s ejections this season.

Hale managed the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2015-16, where his teams went a combined 148-176. He’s also been the third base coach for the New York Mets, the bench coach for the Oakland A’s, and even a Triple-A manager. Prior, Hale was a part-time major leaguer for seven seasons.

The Nationals open a three-game series Monday night in St. Louis. They have a 1 ½-game lead for homefield in the Wild-Card Game. They are just 2 ½ games in front of Milwaukee for a postseason berth. Just 14 games remain in the season. 

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