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Championship hunger rumbles for Stoops, Sooners

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Championship hunger rumbles for Stoops, Sooners

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) After 14 seasons at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops understands the all-or-nothing culture that surrounds his Sooners.

Anything less than a national championship equates to a disappointing season in the eyes of many. To some degree, that includes Stoops.

``I hate it,'' he said Friday when asked about being out of the national title race again. ``We've been pretty used to it. I helped create that and to me, it's the pulse here and I don't like it.''

The Sooners finished 10-3 for the second straight season and head into the winter smarting after a 41-13 throttling at the hands of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Stoops knows much of the focus this offseason will be on the three losses to teams that finished the season ranked in the top 12, but he still believes the status of his program is strong.

He'll readily point out that Oklahoma has won 10 games each of the last three seasons, something only five other programs can boast. In that timeframe, the Sooners won the 2010 Big 12 title outright and shared it this season with Kansas State. No other team in the conference has won more games, in league play or overall, than his Sooners in that span.

``People get bored with just winning the Big 12 championship. They want more. You've got to win the national championship,'' Stoops said.

It's been that way since he led Oklahoma to the championship after the 2000 season. The Sooners also played for the title after the 2003, 2004 and 2008 seasons.

``Every four years, or within four years, we're competing for the national championship - in the game. I don't mean just part of it - in the game,'' he said. ``And even that isn't good enough if you don't win it. In the end, that's just how people are. I get it.''

So, while he sees the Sooners' final ranking of No. 15 as a sign the program is still solid, he's not satisfied with it because it's not No. 1. Going practically position by position on his team, Stoops' assessment was similar at nearly every spot: Good, but it can be better.

``Really, think about it: What's ever good enough?'' he said. ``Nothing, unless you win them all.''

Stoops said he doesn't foresee any changes on his coaching staff, although that's always subject to change. He has canceled an upcoming recruiting weekend for high school juniors, choosing instead to focus on locking down the seniors he will be able to sign in February and bring in for next season.

There will be plenty of holes to fill, including a competition between backup Blake Bell and others to replace four-year starter Landry Jones at quarterback. With safety Tony Jefferson and linebacker Tom Wort exiting early for the NFL draft, a maximum of four starters will be back on defense next season.

Stoops is still waiting to find out whether junior cornerback Aaron Colvin will return.

``I never mind playing guys we're going to sign in February. We've had a lot of good ones come in and make big contributions, so that may be the case to a degree,'' Stoops said. ``But I think always, too, there's a lot of guys every year ... that people aren't seeing that we are trying to develop who come on and, `Wow! Who's this guy?'''

The Sooners will be counting on playmakers to emerge if they are to get back into the national title mix. And Stoops said he's not backing away from his statement before the 2011 season, when his team held the preseason No. 1 ranking, that it's time to bring another championship to Norman.

``You never know. We didn't seem very close when we had a shot at it in 2000. You never know when it's coming, and we're going to work hard for it,'' Stoops said. ``We may try and make some improvements here through the winter and spring and hopefully have a chance to be better next year.''

He needed only to point to one of this year's participants in the BCS championship game to show how early expectations can be deceiving.

``Year to year, you never know who progresses, who doesn't. Obviously, Notre Dame was that story this year,'' Stoops said. ``They weren't probably projected real high, did it right, had great team chemistry I'm sure, won some tight games and played well.''

One of those close calls came against Stoops' Sooners, who could find that same magical combination this season.

``In the end, we weren't quite good enough to win 11, 12 or 13 games,'' he said. ``We were good enough to win 10 and have a part of a championship once again, for the second time in three years. So, that's where we're at.''

Gonzaga fends off DeMatha in WCAC championship rematch

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Chad Ricardo

Gonzaga fends off DeMatha in WCAC championship rematch

In Saturday's match-up of the 2018 WCAC championship, Gonzaga came out ahead again - this time beating DeMatha 28-26.

Gonzaga broke up DeMatha's attempt at a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game.

Caleb Williams finished with four touchdowns for the Eagles. In 2018, the Eagles beat DeMatha on a legendary Hail Mary pass from Williams to receiver John Marshall.

 

 

 

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Houston Astros beat New York Yankees in 6 games to win AL pennant, will play Washington Nationals in World Series

Houston Astros beat New York Yankees in 6 games to win AL pennant, will play Washington Nationals in World Series

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jose Altuve homered off Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth inning and the Houston Astros outlasted the New York Yankees 6-4 Saturday night to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years.

In a bullpen game with a back-and-forth finish, DJ LeMahieu hit a tying, two-run shot off Astros closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth. Altuve answered with a two-run drive to left-center, setting off a wild celebration at Minute Maid Park and earning himself AL Championship Series MVP.

"Beautiful game," Altuve said. 

Astros ace Gerrit Cole was waiting to pitch a potential Game 7 on Sunday. Instead, the postseason star -- undefeated since May 22 -- could be lined up for Game 1 at home against the NL champion Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. 

Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run homer in the first inning, and flashy outfield defense helped Houston's relievers defeat the Yankees and their vaunted bullpen. 

It almost fell apart in the ninth. Gio Urshela singled off Osuna leading off for his third hit of the game, and LeMahieu put a ball into the first row of seats in right field -- inches over the glove of leaping George Springer -- to tie it at 4. 

Altuve, a 5-foot-6 sparkplug touted as Houston's heart and soul, didn't let this one get away.

"I get asked to describe Jose Altuve all the time," manager AJ Hinch said. "I think MVP is what he is." 

The teams combined to use 14 pitchers in a game that lasted 4 hours, 9 minutes. 

Houston's bullpen got a lift from flashy outfield defense. Right fielder Josh Reddick dived for Brett Gardner's liner for the second out of the sixth. An inning later, left fielder Michael Brantley laid out for Aaron Hicks' shallow floater and doubled off Aaron Judge at first. 

Gurriel, a holdover from Houston's 2017 championship team, was 1 for 20 to start the ALCS before his drive in the first inning. The shot into the Crawford Boxes was his first connection this postseason. 

It's the third time Houston has eliminated New York in the past five postseasons. The Astros won the 2015 wild-card game in the Bronx and beat the Yankees in seven games in the 2017 ALCS before winning their first title. 

Washington is seeking its first championship in the 51-season history of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise. The original Washington Senators won their only championship for the nation's capital in 1924 and last reached the World Series in 1933 before becoming the Minnesota Twins for the 1961 season.

Gary Sanchez had an RBI single in the second and Urshela homered in the fourth. 

Alex Bregman gave the Astros an insurance run with an RBI on a forceout in the sixth inning. 

Brantley's double play elicited one of the loudest ovations of the night -- before Altuve's blast -- from the sellout crowd of 43,357 which included Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio and Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook, who watched from the front row in personalized orange Astros jerseys.

New York lost its fourth straight ALCS after falling in 2010, 2012 and 2017. The Yankees will go without a World Series appearance in a calendar decade for the first time since the 1910s.

Altuve doubled off opener Chad Green with one out in the first inning and Bregman drew a walk with two outs. After a short visit to the mound, Gurriel knocked the next pitch into the seats in left field for a 3-0 lead. The runs were Houston's first with two outs in the series. 

Houston had been 4 for 40 with runners in scoring position before that big swing. 

Brad Peacock, who threw eight pitches in a scoreless eighth inning Friday night, became the fourth pitcher ever to finish a postseason game and then start the next day, and the first since 1924. 

He needed seven pitches to retire the side in the first before running into trouble with two outs in the second. Josh James ended the inning by striking out Gardner. 

Ryan Pressly had another gutsy escape, too. He hurt his right knee again fielding a bases-loaded grounder by Didi Gregorius but limped over to tag him for the final out of the third. Pressly, who grimaced as he went toward the dugout after one pitch, had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee on Aug. 22 and returned Sept. 20. Pressly also got two strikeouts with the bases loaded in Game 4.