NCAA

Cardinals fire coach Whisenhunt, GM Graves

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Cardinals fire coach Whisenhunt, GM Graves

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have fired coach Ken Whisenhunt after six seasons that included the long-suffering franchise's only Super Bowl appearance.

The team also ousted general manager Rod Graves, who had been with the franchise for 16 years. He'd been general manager since 2007.

The housecleaning by Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, son of team owner Bill Bidwill, followed a season that saw the team start 4-0 but lose 11 of its last 12 to finish 5-11.

Bidwill wasted no time in identifying possible replacements, saying at a Monday news conference that the team had reached out to Andy Reid, fired earlier in the day after 14 years as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Bidwill also said he had received permission to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Bidwill also said Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton was a candidate for the head coaching job and would be the first to be interviewed. Horton is believed to have interviews with other teams, too.

And Bidwill identified Steve Keim, Cardinals vice president for player personnel, as a candidate to replace Graves as general manager.

The 50-year-old Whisenhunt had more wins than any other coach in Cardinals history, going 45-51, 4-2 in the playoffs. He had a year worth about $5.5 million left on his contract.

Of the team's three winning seasons the past 28 years, two came with Whisenhunt as coach.

But the lack of success the past three seasons led Bidwill to make the changes.

``It came down to wins and losses and the direction I felt like the team was going,'' Bidwill said. ``...It was a decision that I made over the last several weeks and came to a final decision last night.''

In the last three seasons, Arizona won 18 games, only four on the road.

``When you look at the other teams in the NFC West, they were making dramatic improvements, especially the 49ers and the Seahawks,'' he said, ``so I felt like we've got to get back to where we're competing at the highest level to win the NFC West.''

Those dismissed included assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, offensive coordinator Mike Miller, offensive quality control coach Chad Grimm, quarterbacks coach John McNulty, wide receivers coach Frank Reich and running backs coach Tommie Robinson. Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens was the only coach on the offensive staff not fired.

None of the defensive coaches were dismissed.

Despite its overall lack of success, the team finished among the league leaders in several defensive categories.

In a statement released by the team, Whisenhunt thanked the Bidwills for the opportunity.

``I'm very proud of what we as a team and as an organization achieved during that time,'' he said. ``Collectively we accomplished some very special and unprecedented things. That's a testament to the dedication, hard work and talent of so many coaches, players and people throughout the organization.

``But we all understand this business and when you don't win enough games changes are made. That doesn't mean it's easy but you definitely don't have to look far to find people that have it much worse.''

Whisenhunt's six seasons were tied for the longest tenure for a coach in the Cardinals' long, largely unsuccessful history

In his second year with the team, the Cardinals finished the regular season 9-7, then mounted a stunning run to the Super Bowl, beating Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia along the way. They lost a thriller to Pittsburgh 27-23 in the Super Bowl in Tampa.

The following season, Arizona won a franchise-record 10 games in the regular season and defeated Green Bay 51-45 in overtime in one of the most exciting playoff games of all time. But the New Orleans Saints pounded the Cardinals 45-14 the following week, and quarterback Kurt Warner decided to retire.

Things were never the same again as Whisenhunt went with an assortment of quarterbacks but could never find the offensive magic that Warner created.

The Cardinals went 5-11 in 2010, but after a 1-6 start regrouped to finish 8-8 in 2011.

Arizona started 2012 at 4-0 but it was a fool's gold record. The Cardinals lost nine straight and 11 of their last 12 to finish 5-11 for the second time in three seasons.

Quarterback was again the main issue. Most of the success came with Kevin Kolb at the position, but he went down with what turned out to be a season-ending rib injury in Week 6 and, with John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and, in the finale, Brian Hoyer, at the position, and with a woeful running game, Arizona's was the worst offense in the NFL.

Kolb remains under contract although the Cardinals may want to try to renegotiate since he's to make $9 million plus a $2 million roster bonus next season. Bidwill, though, was supportive of the quarterback.

``That's one of the questions that we need to really focus on with the coaching staff candidates is how do we see about Kevin and his performance and how we can turn him into the quarterback of the future here for the Cardinals,'' Bidwill said, ``and make that decision - if he's the right guy. That's a question that needs to be answered but I'm not ready to give up on Kevin Kolb yet.''

Kolb played for Reid, mainly as a backup, with the Eagles before he was traded to the Cardinals.

Offense was supposed to be Whisenhunt's specialty.

The Georgia Tech graduate with a degree in engineering played nine seasons as an NFL tight end.

Whisenhunt worked his way through the coaching ranks to become tight ends coach for the Steelers in 2001 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2004. After three seasons in that job, he was hired in Arizona to replace Dennis Green, who was fired after three losing seasons.

Graves joined the franchise as assistant to the president in 1997. He became vice president for football operations in 2003 and general manager in 2007.

``Working with talented others to build and enhance our brand over the past 16 years has been an awesome and totally enriching experience,'' he said in a statement released through the team. ``It has been the opportunity that others only dream of. Every day I came to work I viewed it as the ultimate privilege and never once lost sight of that. ``

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Virginia Tech survives marathon 6OT game thanks to a two-point conversion

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Virginia Tech survives marathon 6OT game thanks to a two-point conversion

In a vacuum, the final play wasn’t anything to write home about. But the journey to get there sure was.

The Hokies needed a whopping six(!) overtimes to complete the task, but they were in fact able to record a win over the visiting UNC Tar Heels Saturday evening in Blacksburg.

There was an amazing one-handed catch to help keep their hopes alive, a missed field goal to shatter them in the fourth overtime period, and everything in between. 

The fact that it ended on such a simple two-point conversion almost seems anticlimactic.

The marathon game itself was anything but anticlimactic, however. The two programs traded great plays and failed opportunities all afternoon long, but ultimately it was Virginia Tech who managed to come away with a big win.

It was an instant classic, and something students and fans alike in attendance won’t soon forget.

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Virginia Tech requires 6 OT periods to take down visiting UNC in wild finish

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Virginia Tech requires 6 OT periods to take down visiting UNC in wild finish

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Quincy Patterson's two-point conversion run in the sixth overtime lifted Virginia Tech a wild 43-41 victory over North Carolina on Saturday in the longest game in ACC history.

Both teams squandered opportunities to win the game in earlier overtime periods, as Virginia Tech kicker Brian Johnson missed game-winning attempts from 41 and 42 yards and North Carolina kicker Noah Ruggles missed from 35 yards and had a 44-yard attempt blocked.

The game marked the debut of college football's new overtime rules, which now call for going for two points after the fourth overtime. In the fifth overtime, Virginia Tech (5-2, 2-2 ACC) had the ball first, but Patterson's pass to Damon Hazelton was broken up by the Tar Heels' Storm Duck, giving the Tar Heels an opportunity to win the game.

North Carolina (3-4, 2-2 ACC), though, couldn't convert. Virginia Tech's Khalil Ladler read an option play perfectly and tackled Michael Carter for a loss, sending the game into a sixth overtime. The Tar Heels received the ball first, but quarterback Sam Howell was tackled for a loss, setting up Patterson's game-winning conversion.

The loss spoiled an outstanding game by Howell, who completed 26 of 49 for 348 yards and five touchdowns.

Patterson played the majority of the second half for the Hokies after starting quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with an injury late in the first half. He rushed for 122 yards on 21 carries and threw for 54 yards to pace the Hokies.

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