Jackson State, UAPB meet in SWAC title game

Jackson State, UAPB meet in SWAC title game

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Arkansas-Pine Bluff is trying to claim a piece of history for the program.

The Golden Lions (9-2) are seeking a school-record 10th win and their first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship since 1966 in Saturday's title game against Jackson State at Legion Field.

``That's definitely a carrot that's in our sight that we're trying for,'' Pine Bluff coach Monte Coleman said of the victory mark. ``It was a fun year. Any time you're winning football games, it makes it extremely fun for the coaches and for the team.''

Pine Bluff has won six straight while Jackson State (7-4) has won its last five since falling 34-24 in the teams' regular-season meeting on Oct. 6.

The Golden Lions' only SWAC title came as part of a four-way tie for first in 1966. They have matched the 1994 team for the most wins in a season.

Jackson State has won at least a share of 12 SWAC titles, with the last in 2007.

The East Division hasn't won the championship game since then, starting with the Tigers' 41-9 loss to Grambling State in 2008.

Jackson State righted its season after the Pine Bluff loss.

``We were down. We were wondering what was wrong,'' Tigers coach Rick Comegy said. ``We felt we had a pretty good football team that could make it but things weren't going our way.

``The barometer wasn't really set to how we play. We still were kind of, Who are we? We knew if we didn't win the next five we wouldn't have a chance to be here. We closed that chapter and started a new chapter.''

This game features the SWAC offensive and defensive players of the year.

Jackson State wide receiver Rico Richardson won offensive honors after catching 56 passes for 1,081 yards.

``Every play you have to understand and realize that he has very good running ability,'' Coleman said. ``We've got to make sure that we take care of our business when he's in the game.''

Richardson will need some blocking up front to have time to get open.

Golden Lions defensive end Brandon Thurmond leads the Football Championship Subdivision with 16.5 sacks and was named the league's top defensive player.

Jackson State not only leads the league with 37 sacks defensively but has yielded a league-low 15. Thurman will try to boost the latter number.

``He's got a lot of tenacity and he's a guy that you've got to reckon with,'' Comegy said. ``He's a good football player, and we've got to find a way to get around the heat that he brings.

``Hopefully we can. He's a guy that you've got to definitely look to double-team and get some added protection with, because he can really bring it.''

Pine Bluff leads the SWAC in scoring defense, giving up 18.3 points a game. Jackson State's offense is scoring 29.2 points a game, second in the league.

Matchups aside, Coleman buys into the adage that it's hard to complete a sweep when the other team gets a rematch in the same season. There won't be many secrets between Jackson State and Pine Bluff.

``It is harder to beat a team twice in one year and I think it's because of the familiarity that we have with each other,'' Coleman said.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.


Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.


Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility


Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 


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