Nationals

Central Michigan edges Western Kentucky 24-21

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Central Michigan edges Western Kentucky 24-21

DETROIT (AP) Coaching Western Kentucky for one game before moving on to an uncertain future, Lance Guidry had to make a crucial decision with the game on the line.

Fourth down, 51 seconds remaining. Kick a field goal and play for overtime, or go for the win?

``That was all the players. We were going to kick the field goal, but they told me that they were here to win the game,'' Guidry said. ``I asked everyone and they wanted to go for it so we took the chance.''

The Hilltoppers went for it and the move backfired when Kawaun Jakes threw incomplete on fourth-and-2 from the 19-yard line, giving Central Michigan a 24-21 win Wednesday night in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Even so, there was little regret afterward.

``I'm going to get back to my family, because I haven't seen them in a while,'' Guidry said. ``Then I'm off to the coaches' convention to try to find a job.''

Guidry was Western Kentucky's defensive coordinator, but he was put in charge on an interim basis for this bowl after coach Willie Taggart left to take over the program at South Florida. Next season, Bobby Petrino will coach the Hilltoppers.

The finish to this game - Western Kentucky's first bowl since joining college football's top tier in 2009 - won't be forgotten any time soon. Ryan Radcliff had thrown an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Wilson with 5:11 remaining to give Central Michigan (7-6) the lead, but the Hilltoppers (7-6) drove back down the field until their chances ended when Jakes' pass intended for Jack Doyle fell incomplete.

``I don't know what I would have done,'' Central Michigan coach Dan Enos said. ``But I will never second-guess a coach for trying to win.''

Radcliff went 19 of 29 for 253 yards and three touchdowns, but Central Michigan needed to rally late.

Down 21-17, Zurlon Tipton appeared to have put the Chippewas ahead in the fourth quarter, but his fourth-down run was ruled short of the goal line after a review.

``When we didn't get the touchdown, we knew we had to stop them right there,'' linebacker Shamari Benton said. ``We knew that we just needed to give the offense one more shot.''

Central Michigan forced the Hilltoppers to punt from their own end zone, and Avery Cunningham partially blocked it. Although the ball bounced around for a bit, the Chippewas finally secured it and took over with great field position inside the 30.

Radcliff found Wilson in the back left corner of the end zone for a 24-21 lead.

Petrino, the Hilltoppers' coach-in-waiting, was expected to be at Ford Field watching his new team, but a snowstorm forced him to scrap those plans. Western Kentucky started aggressively.

Down 7-0, the Hilltoppers ran a flea-flicker on their first play from scrimmage, with Antonio Andrews running to his right, then tossing the ball back to Jakes, who found Rico Brown for a 70-yard gain.

Two plays later, Jakes scored on a 6-yard run to tie it.

Central Michigan answered with a 73-yard drive that ended with Andrew Flory's 29-yard touchdown reception, his second of the quarter.

David Harman's 50-yard field goal put the Chippewas up 17-7, but Jakes threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Doyle, with the tight end making a one-handed catch to pull Western Kentucky within three.

Harman had a field goal blocked later in the half, and although the Chippewas were in range for another attempt in the final minute, Radcliff was sacked and fumbled. He was able to recover, but the last few seconds of the half ticked off.

Western Kentucky took a 21-17 lead in the third on a 1-yard scoring run by Kadeem Jones, which capped an 80-yard drive that used 9:23.

Andrews rushed for 119 yards, but he fell short of the 274 all-purpose yards he needed to break the single-season record of 3,250 set by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders in 1988. Andrews, a junior, had 184 all-purpose yards to finish the season at 3,161.

``I fell short this year, but I'll be going for that record again next year,'' he said.

Central Michigan took a 7-0 lead on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Radcliff to Flory. Western Kentucky safety Jonathan Dowling whiffed on a tackle near midfield, and Flory was gone.

Dowling had a chance to make up for that mistake early in the third quarter, but with his team down 17-14, he dropped an interception near midfield that he could have easily returned for a touchdown.

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Sean Doolittle on recent pitching woes: 'It was kind of of a helpless feeling'

Sean Doolittle on recent pitching woes: 'It was kind of of a helpless feeling'

When Sean Doolittle pitched Friday evening against the Milwaukee Brewers, he thought he'd made huge progress on his mechanics and felt good heading into Saturday's game.

But when things fell apart after Christian Yelich helped the Brewers rally to a 15-14 win in extra innings, Doolittle knew something was wrong.

"I thought I was every bit good enough to grind this out," Doolittle explained on Grant & Danny on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday morning.  "It was kind of a helpless feeling coming off the mound."

That helplessness led to him being placed on the injured list with a knee injury.

"I kinda battle a little bit of knee tendonitis regularly. It's something I've managed throughout my career," Doolittle said.

He thinks he tweaked it playing in San Diego early June. Since then, he believes his mechanics have suffered trying to alleviate the pain.

"Trying to compensate for it maybe favoring it a little bit subconsciously, my mechanics eroded," Doolittle noted. "It's just this beautiful chaotic circle we have to just pause, get the knee right."

Doolittle says he's going to take the time off to re-work his mechanics. Specifically, he wants to work on a toe-tap and slight hitch he has in his throwing motion, which he described as a subtler version of Clayton Kershaw's famous leg kick.

"I think there's some things I can do mechanically to get my body in a better position," Doolittle said. "This is an opportunity to get it right."

His big goal is to get his body in "better position over the rubber before the kick."

That way, he can have more momentum over the baseball, especially with a powerful four-seam fastball. "You're basically falling down the mound rather than driving and getting behind the ball." 

Throughout the season, he noted he's had good communication with manager Davey Martinez, and that blaming anybody would be a waste of time.

Since being placed on the IL, he's had a few days to rest before he started some light pitching activities Tuesday.

"It'll be a good break to get my body ready for September and October," he noted. "I'm throwing myself into this process and I'm not hanging my head."

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Former Penn State stars Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders catch up after joint practice

Former Penn State stars Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders catch up after joint practice

Things this time last year were a lot different for Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley and Eagles running back Miles Sanders.

McSorley was entering his final year at Penn State, and not highly sought after as an NFL QB prospect. Many draft 'experts' predicted McSorley would have to change positions in order to play at the highest level of the game.

But McSorley, was profiled in NBC Sports Washingtons' I Am The Prospect' series, stuck with quarterback, and early on, it's paid off. The Ravens selected Penn State's all-time passing yards and touchdown passes leader in the sixth-round, and thus far, McSorley has shown promise. 

Sanders, a rising junior at the time, had just 56 career carries and less than 400 rushing yards in his first two seasons with Penn State. While that was not a reflection on Sanders (after all, he was the backup to some guy named Saquon Barkley), the junior had little film to indicate to pro scouts that he would be ready for the jump just a year later.

But after being the Nittany Lions workhorse in 2018, where he rushed for just under 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns, Sanders immediately became on the league's radar. The 22-year-old earned his way to All-Big 10 second-team honors and showed enough at the combine for the Eagles to invest their second-round pick in him.

The Ravens are set to face the Eagles in their third preseason game on Thursday, but Baltimore has been in the City of Brotherly Love for the past two days, competing in joint practices with the Eagles. These practices have given the former Penn State teammates time to catch up before they play each other in a couple of days.

"I think it's cool, just thinking that we were at Penn State a year ago," Sanders said. "Now we're all living our dream, just on different teams. When we get together for times like this, it's pretty cool."

"It's really cool. Spending years together in college, now we're all on separate teams now, but it's cool," McSorley said, echoing his former running back. "We're rooting for these guys. Turning on one of [Miles] games and watch him run, rooting him on. it's cool to come out and be on the practice field with him again. Haven't seen him in a while, being able to say 'what's up,' it's pretty cool."

Very few people know each other's skillsets the way McSorley and Sanders do of one another. So who better to ask than each of them as to what their respective team can expect out of each?

"They're getting a dawg, man, " McSorley said on his former teammate. "They're starting to figure that out now. He's a special player and Philly is going to love him."

"Same with Baltimore. They got a dawg," Sanders said on McSorley. "He's been showing it in the preseason games. They said he's not a quarterback, but he's proving everybody wrong. That's just how Trace is."

Besides checking in regularly to see how Sanders is doing, McSorley has found another way to follow his former running back's rookie season.

"[I'm going to] try and get him on my fantasy team," McSorley said, getting quite the chuckle out of Sanders.

Besides the loyalty aspect, McSorley could end up getting significant production from Sanders on his fantasy squad. After an impressive performance in the Eagles second preseason game, NJ.com reported that "it is increasingly hard to project him as anything less than this team’s No. 1 running back." 

Sanders may be a more than viable fantasy option as a rookie, but he doesn't play the popular game himself. But if he did, he knows one player he would snag.

"I don't do the fantasy stuff, but if I did, I would definitely put my boy on there," Sanders said on McSorley. "Watching everyone I played with in college, looking at their stats each week and seeing them. Just grow and be better players each week. The way we do it here, it's the same mentality because we all went to the same school."

The two will get to see each other in person for the first time at the NFL level on Thursday. 

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