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Fast start helps Tide beat Irish for title, 42-14

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Fast start helps Tide beat Irish for title, 42-14

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) The Tide sure did roll.

Alabama proved unstoppable from the outset of the BCS championship game Monday night. The Crimson Tide mounted touchdown drives of 82, 61 and 80 yards on its first three possessions and went on to beat Notre Dame 42-14.

The lightning-quick start gave the Tide a 21-0 lead one play into the second quarter, and Alabama built it by blowing the Fighting Irish off the ball.

``We knew we wanted to run the ball and hit them early, and I think that's what we did,'' center Barrett Jones said. ``We couldn't be happier with the way we came out and started the game.''

Alabama dominated with an offensive line that includes three All-Americas - first-teamers Jones and left guard Chance Warmack, and second-teamer D.J. Fluker at right tackle. They created gaping holes against a team ranked fourth in the nation in run defense, and neutralized Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o, who became a non-factor.

``I love this group of guys'' said Jones, a senior. ``They're by far the best O-line I've ever played on - very physical and very assignment-oriented.''

Notre Dame entered the game with 34 sacks, but A.J. McCarron was given plenty of time to throw. He hit eight of his first nine passes, including a 3-yard toss to Michael Williams for the second touchdown.

``The running game was a big key,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``When you run the ball, it opens up the offense and gives you more options.''

The early clock-eating drives took Notre Dame's offense out of the game. The Irish gained only 23 yards before Alabama had 21 points. Time of possession at that juncture was 12:12 for the Crimson Tide to 2:52 for the Fighting Irish.

The matchup of Alabama's ground attack - with 1,000-yard rushers Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon - against Notre Dame's stout defense was expected to be pivotal. It was, and like the game, it quickly became no contest.

Alabama had 74 yards rushing before Notre Dame attempted a running play.

``The O-line came out and got great push,'' Lacy said.

Notre Dame's defense wasn't accustomed to being pushed around in such a manner, and the Tide was surprised to be so dominant.

``I never saw that coming,'' tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said, ``but it happened.''

Saban agreed.

``Notre Dame had a really highly rated statistical defensive team,'' he said. ``I thought a real challenge for us in the game was how we would control the line of scrimmage. That's probably the thing that was most surprising to me - how we were able to control the line of scrimmage, especially early in the game.''

The first scoring drive - which took only five plays - was the longest the Irish had allowed all season.

``Alabama was the better team,'' Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ``They ran the football well. Our strength all year has been playing physical and tackling, and we did not tackle well together.''

McCarron threw downfield on the second play to Kevin Norwood for 29 yards. Three plays later, Lacy found lots of room up the middle and ran through the grasp of a cornerback en route to a 20-yard touchdown.

Most of the time in the early going, the Tide ran to the left and away from Te'o. Part of the game plan?

``It just happened,'' Kouandjio said.

``The coaching staff did an excellent job game-plan-wise breaking down Notre Dame's defense,'' McCarron said. ``They really had a great game plan for us coming in tonight, and my teammates did a great job of executing.''

Alabama's linemen repeatedly locked up Te'o. When Lacy ran up the middle for another 20-yard gain on third-and-1 to the Notre Dame 3, Te'o was blocked out of play by Warmack and ended up chasing the play from behind.

Jones helped knock Te'o aside when Yeldon ran over right guard for a 1-yard score to make it 21-0. That was the second rushing touchdown allowed by the Irish, matching what they gave up during the entire regular season.

Notre Dame had allowed only two players to rush for 100 yards, but Lacy finished with 140 and Yeldon added 108.

Leading up to the game, Jones missed considerable practice time with a foot sprain, and he said his teammates up front took up the slack for him.

``They had to help me out a lot tonight, because I wasn't really 100 percent,'' Jones said. ``I had to get help on plays I don't usually get a lot of help on. They helped me get through this game. It was painful, but you couldn't have pulled me off the field with a tractor.''

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

Bradley Beal, his agent Mark Bartlestein told Bleacher Report, would like to stay in Washington - even as he's a hot topic among front offices as the trade deadline approaches.

From Bleacher Report:

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is not looking for a trade. "Brad wants to win, Bartelstein told B/R. "He wants to win at the highest level, and he wants to compete for championships. I think he's seeing progress, and he's going to do everything he can to lead this team. They got themselves into a huge hole, and he's going to do his best to get them out of it.

The Wizards are facing tough decisions when it comes to the future of the franchise as this season's trade deadline approaches. Beal, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig detailed this week, is among the most tradable assets they have, especially when it comes to their three major contracts. But owner Ted Leonsis took a firm stance against tanking while speaking to reporters in London, and Beal is integral to their playoff hopes with John Wall sidelined. 

This isn't the first time this season that Beal has denied wanting to be anywhere but DC. When drama swirled around the team earlier this season, Beal denied a report that he had requested a trade.

"That's nonsense," he said at the time. "I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, 'If it didn't come from the horse's mouth, it wasn't me.' I got this Washington jersey on and I come here and work everyday, you know, until otherwise. This is where I wanna be."

Earlier this season, it was reported that the Raptors were interested in Beal but couldn't afford what the Wizards were asking for him. According to the latest report on Beal from Bleacher Report, there are a number of teams who may still be interested. 

Again, from Bleacher Report:

There are so many teams in the mix trying to make that extra push that want Beal," a Western Conference executive told B/R.

But even if some fans are clamoring for a big trade at the deadline, the price tag for Beal - who had 26 points in the Wizards' comeback win over the Knicks this week - only seems to be rising. 

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