NCAA

Enjoying life in focus, Patriots RB set for bye

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Enjoying life in focus, Patriots RB set for bye

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Stevan Ridley will be on the sidelines this weekend, just not in uniform.

While many players around the NFL escape football during the bye week, New England's second-year running back wants no part of that. Ridley is heading to Louisiana to watch his former high school play on Friday before attending his alma mater's biggest clash of the season a day later.

``I'll be down in Baton Rouge, watching the LSU-'Bama game, of course,'' he said of his fifth-ranked Tigers and their showdown against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. ``It's funny how you get some time away and I'm going to watch another football game.

``So, I'm leaving football to go to football. Hey, it's my life.''

And with good reason.

At the midway point of the Patriots' season, the back is developing into one of the league's best, leading the AFC with 716 yards rushing, good enough for fourth in the NFL. He has 57 more yards than Houston's Arian Foster, who led the league in 2010 but has played in one less game than Ridley this season.

When he entered the league as the 73rd pick last year, the idea that he'd be ahead of Foster and a slew of other All-Pro backs halfway through his sophomore season wasn't a thought.

``I just go out there and run the football,'' he said, ``and I look up right now . leading the AFC in rushing? It's a dream come true for me.''

The same could be said for the Patriots (5-3).

Led by quarterback Tom Brady, one of the most potent and pass-happy offenses in the league over the past five years has adopted a more balanced attack behind Ridley's straight-ahead running.

With 150 carries through the first eight games, fifth most in the league, Ridley is on pace to become the first New England running back with at least 300 since Corey Dillon notched 345 in 2004. In fact, only BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2010) and Dillon (2004, 2005) have eclipsed 200 carries for the Patriots in the last nine years.

``He's very passionate about the game. Stevan loves to play. I think that's his biggest asset,'' New England running backs coach Ivan Fears said. ``On game day, he is there. He is mentally in the right frame of mind to play the game and I think as long as he's got that kind of passion for the game, he's going to do the little things that he needs to do to be physically ready to play.

``He's figuring out how to be a professional athlete, he's figuring out what it takes to win on Sunday. That's what you like about him.''

After carrying the ball just 87 times for 441 yards during his rookie campaign, Ridley this season has made some serious strides, exhibiting the intangibles required to thrive at this level.

His power, speed and elusiveness all have been on display at one time or another during an array of dazzling runs, including a league-leading 47 for first downs, five that have gone for 20 or more yards and five that resulted in touchdowns.

``I've got a lot of work to do in front of me,'' he said. ``I'm looking forward to the next eight (games) that we have.''

Patriots coach Bill Belichick thinks so, too.

``I think he's done some good things. I think there's certainly a lot of things that he can improve on,'' he said. ``There's been times where he's had really good blocking. There's times where he's produced yards on his own. There's a lot of things that he can work on. He's still a young, improving player.''

So far, so good, though. And his body seems to be holding up well to the rigors of being the primary back.

``I'm still playing football and still on the field. As long as I'm not missing any playing time, it's 100 percent,'' the 23-year-old said. ``Like I said, I'm just thankful to be healthy and thankful to be in my position in where I am. Got a little bit of football left to play, hopefully I can be healthy all the way until the end.''

The Patriots certainly hope so.

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Gonzaga beats DeMatha on Hail Mary in bonkers WCAC championship game

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Gonzaga beats DeMatha on Hail Mary in bonkers WCAC championship game

The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) has a long history of football excellence, and the 2018 championship game was no exception. 

No. 2 Gonzaga College High School defeated No. 1 DeMatha Catholic High School, 46-43, in the title game at Catholic University of America on Sunday night thanks to three lead changes in the final 60 seconds and a game-winning Hail Mary. 

After allowing  DeMatha to race out to a 20-point lead, the Purple Eagles scored in the second quarter on a one-yard rushing touchdown. Dean Engram, son of Baltimore Ravens’ WR coach Bobby Engram, caught a 35-yard pass to score again for Gonzaga, closing the deficit to just six at 20-14. DeMatha rushed in another touchdown and intercepted Gonzaga’s next pass before entering the half at 26-14.

Both powerhouses scored a touchdown in the third, leaving the teams to fight until the very end of the fourth quarter in order determine the 2018 championship. That's when things got extra weird.

With 39 seconds left, Gonzaga's Sam Sweeney caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Williams to give the Eagles a 40-36 lead. 

But on the ensuing kickoff DeMatha senior Dominic Logan-Nealy returned the kick to the end zone, giving DeMatha a 43-40 lead with just 15 seconds left.

Gonzaga would get another crack at the title, and they did not let it go to waste. Williams hurled a desperation pass to the end zone with no time remaining. Eagles' receiver John Marshall got his hands on the pass and snagged the game-winning touchdown catch to give Gonzaga the stunning 46-43 win. 

The winners immediately rushed to celebrate with their student section, but the protective fencing separating the two was ultimately torn down.

The WCAC champions end the year 9-3. Head Coach Randy Trivers emotionally addressed his troops after their battle, reminding them that Gonzaga won their first title on Catholic University of America’s field:

DeMatha ended its season 8-3.

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NFC East Update: Division race tightens as Redskins stumble, Cowboys surge

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USA Today Sports

NFC East Update: Division race tightens as Redskins stumble, Cowboys surge

When the sun came up Sunday morning, the Redskins held a two-game lead in the NFC East and looked to have a clear route to a division title. 

By the time the sun went down, a lot changed. 

Washington lost at home in a crazy game to Houston, but big picture, the more important outcome was the broken leg for Alex Smith. The Redskins now turn to backup Colt McCoy, and while the Burgundy and Gold remain in first place, their lead shrunk.

  1. Washington Redskins (6-4, 2-0) - Talk about a roller coaster game. The Redskins got down early to the Texans, trailing 10-0 in the first quarter, but fought all the way back. In the process, the team lost Smith for the season, but McCoy played well when he entered the game. A veteran in Jay Gruden's system, McCoy should be able to step in and run the offense without any hesitation. Will that be enough? What isn't being talked about in Washington: a suddenly slumping run defense. A huge game looms Thursday against Ezekiel Elliott and a surging Cowboys squad. Up next: Nov. 22 @ Dallas, 4 p.m.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (5-5, 2-1) - It seemed like the Cowboys season was over a few weeks ago after a humbling home loss on Monday Night Football to the Titans. Two weeks later, the script has flipped. Dallas won their second straight game on Sunday, holding off a late Atlanta rally and winning the game on a last-second field goal. Elliott went for 201 total yards from scrimmage and the Cowboys young defense continued to make impressive plays. Jerry Jones' team struggles on the road, but at home, the Cowboys are 3-1 this season. Up next: Nov. 22 vs Washington, 4 p.m.
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, 1-1) - Fans waiting for the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles to get it together might want to stop waiting. Philly got boat raced in New Orleans on Sunday, losing 48-7 and dropping to two games below .500. Carson Wentz threw three INTs in New Orleans and really, while the QB was bad in the Superdome, it's hard to pin the Eagles' woes on any one thing. The offense hasn't been very good, and the defense hasn't either. Sitting just two games back of the 'Skins and one behind Dallas, don't count the Eagles out yet. But don't really count them in either. Up next: Nov. 25th vs New York Giants, 1 p.m.
  4. New York Giants (3-7, 0-3) - Don't look now but the Giants might be the hottest team in the division. Or at least not the coldest team in the division. The Giants won their second game in a row on Sunday, a nail-biting 38-35 victory over Tampa. New York got out to a big lead before the Bucs crept back in it, but powered by four combined TDs between Saquon Barkley and Eli Manning, the Giants did enough. Simple arithmetic suggests the Giants are closer to a Top 5 draft pick than a playoff run, but hey, they haven't been eliminated yet. Crazy things happen in this league. Up next: Nov. 25th @ Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

 

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