Nationals

Freshman duo can keep run of Alabama backs going

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Freshman duo can keep run of Alabama backs going

If BCS championship game star Eddie Lacy declares for the NFL draft, Alabama fans needn't worry about any drop-off in the running game next season.

T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as the other half of Alabama's tandem running-back system, including 108 yards and a TD against Notre Dame on Monday.

If Yeldon replaces Lacy in the featured role, Kenyan Drake is next man up to co-star. Drake averaged 6.7 yards a carry while running 39 times for 273 yards and five TDs this season, including a season-high 67 against Auburn.

Like Yeldon, Drake was a freshman.

Now imagine if Lacy comes back for his senior year after being named offensive player of the game for his 140-yard, two-touchdown performance against Notre Dame. He ran for 1,322 yards and 17 TDs for the season.

The stockpile of running backs at Alabama is reminiscent of the embarrassment of riches Nebraska enjoyed at the position while winning its three national titles in four years in the 1990s.

No doubt, Yeldon-Drake could be just as good in 2013 as duos Lacy-Yeldon in 2012, Trent Richardson-Lacy in 2011 and Mark Ingram-Richardson in 2010.

YOUR 2012 STAT CHAMPS: Alabama dominated the major defensive categories, ranking first in total defense (250 ypg), rushing defense (76.4 ypg) and scoring defense (10.9 ppg). Florida State had the top pass defense (161.9 ypg).

Team leaders in offense: Louisiana Tech in total offense (577.9 ypg) and scoring (51.5 ppg), Army in rushing (369.8 ypg) and Marshall in passing (365.1 ypg).

Individual leaders were Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey in rushing (148.4 ypg), Marshall's Rakeem Cato in passing (350.1 ypg), Baylor's Terrance Williams in receiving (140.9 ypg), and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in total offense (393.5 ypg).

SPARTAN WORKHORSE: Remember when Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell carried the ball 44 times against Boise State? That was back on Aug. 31 in one of the opening-week showcase games.

It also was a precursor. Turns out no one had more rushing attempts in any game the rest of the season.

In fact, Bell's 382 carries for the season were 200 more than he had last season and the most in major-college football since Javon Ringer of, yes, Michigan State ran 390 times in 2008.

Bell had 35 or more carries in five games and accounted for 92 percent of Michigan State's rushing yards (1,793 of 1,942).

Bell, who has declared for April's NFL draft, ran for 3,346 yards and 33 touchdowns in 40 games.

YARDS IN BIG CHUNKS I: Georgia Tech's Orwin Smith finished his career with a per-carry average of 9.3 yards, best in Atlantic Coast Conference history for a running back with 1,000 yards.

Smith battled shoulder and ankle injuries this season and had only 9 yards on four carries against USC in the Sun Bowl.

YARDS IN BIG CHUNKS II: Nebraska's defense had a split personality. The Cornhuskers allowed an average of 258 yards in home games, ranking sixth in the country. They gave up 463 yards a game on the road or at neutral sites, ranking 91st.

The difference was big plays.

Of 13 opponent runs of 30 yards or longer, 12 occurred away from Lincoln.

TOUCHBACK TIME: The new kickoff rules produced the desired results.

Touchbacks in the BCS conferences, plus Notre Dame, increased from 23.4 percent in 2011 to 39.4 percent in 2012, according to STATS LLC.

The spot of kickoffs moved up from the 30- to the 35-yard line this season, and when a touchback occurred, the offense started at its 25-yard line instead of the 20.

The rule was changed in an attempt to prevent injuries. NCAA data indicated that players were hurt on kickoffs more than in other phases of the game.

UCLA's Jeff Locke led the nation with 76 percent of his kickoffs (68 of 89) going for touchbacks. He was among 22 kickers, compared with only two in 2011, who produced touchbacks on at least half of his kickoffs.

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Wild-card tracker: Nationals thankful for Marlins, Cubs slide back

Wild-card tracker: Nationals thankful for Marlins, Cubs slide back

Back before all this mania, Miami, as putrid as its season would be, loomed as a factor.

Handling the Marlins would be key for any contender. It wasn’t a question of winning, but of how much winning would occur against one of the league’s worst teams.

Following Friday’s 6-4 win in a sparsely attended Marlins Park, the Nationals moved to 14-3 against Miami this season. They are 16 games over. 500 for the year. They are plus-11 against Miami alone.

Asdrúbal Cabrera homered again, Trea Turner hit two homers, and Daniel Hudson pitched two innings to earn the save. So, the Nationals, 84-68, hold a one-game lead for the top wild-card spot. Milwaukee won again, joining a long list of teams to beat up on the Pittsburgh Pirates since the post-All-Star-break portion of the schedule began. Pittsburgh may be the league’s worst team, at the moment, and the Brewers host it for two more this weekend.

Trouble is brewing for Chicago. It lost again to St. Louis -- this time a 2-1 mid-day defeat in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have lost four in a row. They are three games behind the Nationals and two behind the Brewers. Their path to 90 wins, which may ultimately be the threshold for postseason entrance, is narrowing.

The Mets won their third consecutive game. They are hanging around, 3 ½ games behind the Brewers with nine remaining on the schedule. Their wild-card elimination number is six.

News for Philadelphia is more dire. The Phillies dropped to 78-74 Friday night following a 5-2 loss in Cleveland. They are now five behind Milwaukee. Their wild-card elimination number is a mere five. 

Which brings us to the more detailed math portion of this program. Here are the postseason chances for each team, according to fivethirtyeight.com:

Nationals, 96 percent

Brewers, 84 percent

Cubs, 15 percent

Mets, 5 percent

Phillies, less than one percent

Coming up Saturday:

St. Louis at Chicago, 2:20 p.m., Hudson (16-7, 3.35 ERA) vs. Quintana (13-8, 4.37)

New York at Cincinnati, 4:10 p.m., Wheeler (11-7, 4.09) vs. DeSclafani (9-9, 3.93)

Washington at Miami, 6:10 p.m., Strasburg (17-6, 3.49) vs. Yamamoto (4-5, 4.87)

Philadelphia at Cleveland, 7:10 p.m., Vargas (6-8, 4.48) vs. Plesac (8-6, 3.64)

Pittsburgh at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m., Marvel (0-2, 9.00) vs. Davies (10-7, 3.70)

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Jonathan Villar steals 37th base of the season

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Jonathan Villar steals 37th base of the season

Check out the latest news and notes from the  Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse. 

Player Updates:

2B Jonathan Villar went 1-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored in Friday’s win over the Mariners. Villar singled to lead off the bottom of the first inning and came around to score on Anthony Santander’s three-run homer. He stole his 37th base of the season after walking to lead off the seventh. The speed is great, but he’s also pitched in 23 homers, 69 RBI, and 106 runs scored to go along with a .277/.344/.462 batting line. 

2B Hanser Alberto went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and a walk Friday against Seattle. Alberto is now up to 12 homers on the year, with nine of them coming during the second half. The 26-year-old has faded here in September, but he still finds himself among the league-leaders with a .313 batting average. Nobody would have predicted that in the spring.

OF Anthony Santander finished 1-for-4 with a three-run homer in Friday’s 5-3 win over the Mariners. Santander delivered the big blow in a four-run first inning against Felix Hernandez. He’s now homered twice in his last three games, bringing his total to 20 despite appearing in just 91 games this season. The Orioles are looking for building blocks and the 24-year-old switch-hitter would appear to be one of them.

SP Aaron Brooks threw seven innings of one-run ball for the win against the Mariners on Friday. He came on in relief of opener Richard Bleier, who allowed a two-run shot to Kyle Lewis over his two innings of work. Brooks induced just three swinging strikes in his 83 pitches, but it didn’t really matter, as he Seattle’s lineup to just one hit while walking one and striking out four. 

Injuries

OF Mason Williams, knee, out indefinitely

RP Hunter Harvey, biceps, sidelined, day-to-day

RP Josh Rogers, elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

SP Alex Cobb, back, 60-Day IL, 2020

Coming Up:

Saturday, 9/21: Mariners at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Sunday, 9/22: Mariners at Orioles, 1:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Monday 9/23: Orioles vs Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. Rogers Centre

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