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Daniels hopes to give Irish a boost vs. Alabama

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Daniels hopes to give Irish a boost vs. Alabama

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) DaVaris Daniels felt a moment of trepidation when he ran across the middle in practice and took his first hit since breaking his left collarbone two months ago. Then the Notre Dame wide receiver realized it felt like just another normal hit.

``I had to get the jitters out of the way,'' he said. ``It was like a confidence boost.''

The top-ranked Fighting Irish could use a confident Daniels when they face defending national champion Alabama (12-1) in the BCS title game in Miami on Jan. 7.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said the Irish need to make some ``big chunk'' plays against the Crimson Tide and Daniels could help. His average of 15 yards per catch is the highest of any Irish receiver, and he had the longest catch of the game for Notre Dame in four of the 10 games he played.

``We have a lot of guys that can fill in that role, so it's on all of our shoulders. Everybody has to make a play,'' Daniels said.

Kelly said the Irish need to spread the field against the Crimson Tide, and Daniels can help with his speed.

Daniels, who had his first contact Friday, said his shoulder still isn't 100 percent, but said it's getting better daily. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore had his best game against Pittsburgh with seven receptions for 86 yards, including a career-best 45-yard catch, a week before getting injured against Boston College on Nov. 10.

Kelly said on Saturday that Daniels, who has 25 catches for 375 yards, looks good.

``I think we'll be fine with him. He's a really good player who understands that his reps are going to be based upon how he practices and how he performs,'' Kelly said. ``I'm certain he'll play a role in the game.''

Daniels returned to practice in early December wearing a red jersey, which meant he couldn't be hit. He said it helped him get back into condition and get his timing down. He said it didn't take him long to get back into a groove with Irish quarterback Everett Golson.

Daniels said he tried to keep his mind in the game after being injured by attending team meetings, watching practices and going through as many off-field activities as he could.

``I think that really benefited me to get back to where I am right now,'' he said.

Daniels said he doesn't know yet exactly what his role will be against the Crimson Tide.

``Hopefully it's a lot,'' he said.

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Ravens fans celebrate new energy injected by Lamar Jackson-run offense

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USA Today Sports

Ravens fans celebrate new energy injected by Lamar Jackson-run offense

Lamar Jackson is the most popular man in Baltimore. 

In his second season with the Ravens, it’s impossible to *not* see his name everywhere you look. His number eight jersey is quickly becoming as synonymous with the Ravens as Cal Ripken Jr.’s was with the Orioles.

Jackson has taken the NFL by storm in 2019, forcing himself into the MVP debate.

Longtime fan Rick Gibson said the Jackson era has a different feel than the previous Joe Flacco-led team.

“It’s fun coming to games,” he said before Sunday's matchup against the Texans. "A lot better than it has been in the past, so it’s more exciting.”

With the flip of a switch -- or rather, the draft pick of a quarterback -- fan enthusiasm is all of a sudden at an all-time high.

And it starts (and ends) with number eight.

“It’s incredible,” said Ravens fan Jonathan Greene. “Most excited for a Ravens team, and I’ve been a fan for years. It’s awesome. He has elevated this team.”

The words fans use to describe Jackson’s game are all similar. Phenomenal. Awesome. Incredible. Spectacular. Magic.

Jackson’s stats this season speak for themselves: 2,036 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions. A 65.9 completion percentage. 702 rushing yards -- 11th-most in the NFL -- and six touchdowns. And of course, a 7-2 record.

Even those who would discount Jackson’s performance as beating up on weak competition are forced to recognize his brilliance. Against the winless Bengals, for example, Next Gen Stats estimated an average quarterback should have a completion percentage of 57.7%, based on how covered his receivers were, how much pressure he was under, and more. 

His actual percentage? 88.2%, or 30.5% higher than what was expected. It was the best difference for *any* quarterback in *any* game in 2019.

Fans are excited for the future as well. Not just for the Ravens but for young football fans across the city.

“He’s only 22 years old,” another fan, John Ford, said. “I think he appeals to the younger generation coming up through the high school and college ranks, because they can relate to him...I think he’s a role model for a lot of young kids coming up. And you watch him on the sidelines, he does some great things, but he takes it in stride. So he’s not celebrating too much, he knows what he’s got to do. That’s a unique thing for a young man, only 22 years old, at this level.”

The near future looks more daunting than in the long term. The Ravens enter Week 11 on a five-game winning streak, hoping to win six straight for the first time since 2000. 

They are beginning a tough slate of four straight against playoff contenders, but with Jackson leading an unstoppable offense, three or four wins doesn’t seem far-fetched. Regardless of what happens, Jackson has emphatically won over the city of Baltimore and the NFL writ large.

One longtime Ravens fan, Stan Nasiatka, put it best when asked about Jackson.

“That’s all we’re talking about," he said. "It’s everywhere.”

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Mr. Consistency Justin Tucker misses first field goal of the season

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Mr. Consistency Justin Tucker misses first field goal of the season

Justin Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL. That much hasn’t changed.

But something different happened on Sunday against the Texans: Tucker’s attempt on the Ravens’ first drive of the game -- from 43 yards out -- bounced off the right upright.

The miss snapped a streak of 22 consecutive made field goals for Tucker, who is the NFL’s all-time leader in field goal percentage. He is the only kicker in NFL history to convert more than 90% of his field goal attempts.

While it's shocking, this wasn't Tucker's first miss this season. He missed an extra point two weeks ago against New England.

It’s too soon to be concerned about Tucker going forward. For now, just pick your jaws up off the floor and go back to feeling confident in the Ravens’ most consistent player the next time he jogs out onto the field.

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