Nationals

Johnny Football is Mr. SEC after dynamic debut

Johnny Football is Mr. SEC after dynamic debut

ATLANTA (AP) Johnny Football is Mr. SEC.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was a unanimous choice Monday for Associated Press Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year after a dynamic debut season in College Station.

The charismatic redshirt freshman known as ``Johnny Football'' passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, rushed for 1,181 yards and an SEC-leading 19 TDs, and guided the Aggies to a surprising 10-2 mark in their first SEC season, including an upset of No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones edged out South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney for the defensive player of the year award. Jones leads the conference with 22.5 tackles behind the line and ranks second to Clowney with 12.5 sacks.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin was named coach of the year, beating out Florida's Will Muschamp.

Manziel also was an overwhelming choice as freshman of the year, in addition to being selected on all ballots as the first-team quarterback - not bad in a league that features the nation's two highest-rated passers: Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Georgia's Aaron Murray.

``This season has been incredibly surreal,'' Manziel said. ``It's beyond my wildest imagination. It's a true testament to how this team has grown every week, because without these guys none of my individual success would be anything.''

He is also considered a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded in New York on Saturday. Manziel has put up bigger numbers than former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a landslide pick for the Heisman in 2010.

No freshman has ever won college football's highest individual honor.

``He's a tremendous competitor and a tremendous leader, and that's something that you really don't see in a player as a redshirt freshman,'' Sumlin said. ``His leadership on and off the field throughout the season has made our season a real successful one.''

Though Manziel struggled a bit in the Aggies' two losses, to SEC stalwarts Florida and LSU, he became a national sensation with his dazzling runs and catchy nickname. Then, with the season winding down, he sent his profile soaring by leading Texas A&M to a stunning victory over the defending national champion Crimson Tide.

``I'm a small-town kid,'' said Manziel, who grew up in Kerrville, Texas. ``I don't see myself as Johnny Football.''

Like Manziel, Jones was a unanimous selection to the first team. The junior passed up a chance to enter the NFL draft and certainly helped his status with another big season between the hedges, even though the Georgia star missed a couple of games with nagging injuries.

``There have been games this year where he has made a phenomenal amount of plays,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``The guy is probably one of the best defensive players in the country in terms of his playmaking ability. He's a really good rusher. He's physical. He's instinctive.''

Jones had two sacks, one stop behind the line and forced a fumble in last Saturday's thrilling SEC championship game. Georgia had a shot to play for the national title, but they lost to Alabama 32-28. The Crimson Tide will face top-ranked Notre Dame for the BCS crown on Jan. 7.

Five other players were unanimous picks for the first team: South Carolina's Clowney, cornerbacks Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State and Dee Milliner of Alabama, Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton, and Alabama center Barrett Jones.

Florida, which had a comeback season under Muschamp and earned a BCS bid to the Sugar Bowl, led all schools with six players on the first team. Tight end Jordan Reed and running back Mike Gillislee made it from the offense, tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam represented the defense, and the Gators landed both specialists off their superb special teams - kicker Caleb Sturgis and punter Kyle Christy.

Alabama, which will be seeking its third national title in four years when it faces the Fighting Irish, had four first-teamers. Barrett Jones and Milliner were joined by offensive lineman Chance Warmack and linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Texas A&M also landed four players on the first team after jumping from the Big 12 to the SEC along with Missouri. Two of the linemen who protected Manziel so well, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, were selected by the voters, as was defensive end Damontre Moore.

The rest of the first team included Georgia freshman running back Todd Gurley, receiver Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt, all-purpose threat Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee, offensive lineman Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson of Missouri and a pair of LSU defensive standouts, linebacker Kevin Minter and safety Eric Reid.

Barrett Jones, Jarvis Jones and Sturgis were the only repeat first-teamers from the AP's 2011 All-SEC team.

LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery and Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo both slipped from the first team a year ago to the second team this season. Heading in the opposite direction were Jackson, Banks and Reid, all making the jump from second-teamers last year.

Every school was represented by at least one player on the first or second teams except Auburn, which endured a winless season in the SEC and finished 3-9 overall. Coach Gene Chizik was fired after a blowout loss to Alabama, losing his job just two years after guiding the Tigers to a national championship.

The 80th annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a panel comprised of 14 media members representing each of the expanded conference's 11 states.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

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USA Today Sports images

Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

WASHINGTON -- Visuals can change everything.

It’s happened across sports in different fashion. An issue is discussed or dismissed until a troubling incident is brought to life via video in front of everyone’s eyes.

That breaking point on extended netting arrived for Major League Baseball after Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. pulled a line drive into the stands May 29. The ball struck a four-year-old girl. But, it was Almora’s reaction, as much as anything, which made the reality so stark. He was stunned and moved to tears. The player’s reaction amplified the incident to a level which forced something to be done.

Steps will be taken at Nationals Park to prevent such an incident. The team announced Thursday it will extend the protective netting up the foul line during the All-Star break. It will end just short of the foul poles. Washington has a good window to complete the work because it goes on the road following the All-Star break. The Nationals’ final pre-break home game is July 7. They don’t return to Nationals Park until July 22.

“As players, it's something that we've pushed for and advocated for years now,” Sean Doolittle said. “I think as you see exit velocities that have continued to increase and these new stadiums that are bringing fans closer and closer to the action, you're seeing balls go into the stands at really, really high speeds. It's really scary. Max broke his nose the other day on a BP pitch that was probably 50 mph and these balls are going into the seats over 100 mph.

“So, I think, hopefully, It's a way to keep fans safe while bringing them closer to the action. As somebody that watches the vast majority of games from behind a screen or chain-linked fence, I can promise you get used to it really, really quickly. It doesn't hinder your view at all. You think the most expensive seats in the stands, they're right behind home plate. People look through a net. I promise you-you can still see the game and after five minutes you don't even notice that it's there.”

Ryan Zimmerman called it a “no-brainer.” Trea Turner wants fans to be paying more attention, in addition to the netting.

“You only have to pay attention to small snippets of the game,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “I just want people to pay attention. You can’t block everybody off from a foul pop that goes over the net, that can still hit people. You’re not going to foolproof it.”

Netting in Nationals Park will be thinner than the current netting, according to the team. It will also have sections which can be raised pregame in order to allow players to interact with fans.

The Almora incident was referenced in a letter from Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner announcing the extension. The Nationals were also witnesses to an Eloy Jiménez foul ball in Chicago which struck a young fan in Chicago on June 11.

“Jiménez hit a line drive really hard foul and I saw a girl looking towards me -- I don’t know what she was looking at but was kind of looking in the outfield direction, hit her in the side of the face,” Turner said. “I heard it hit her. What sticks in my head is when I heard the ball hit her. Not good.”

Washington becomes the second team to announce a planned extension. The White Sox were the first.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Seattle on June 5 he didn’t expect league-wide changes in netting this season. Manfred cited a range of reasons from ballpark framework to fan objections. In 2015, the commissioner’s office recommended teams extend netting to the end of the dugouts. Three years later, that task was completed. The next steps have slowly begun.

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Women's World Cup 2019: Round of 16 bracket is set as USA soccer readies for knockout round

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USATSI

Women's World Cup 2019: Round of 16 bracket is set as USA soccer readies for knockout round

LE HAVRE, France (AP) -- The defending champion U.S. national team faced its toughest test of the Women's World Cup and remained dominant Thursday night, beating Sweden 2-0 to serve up a measure of revenge against the team that stunned the confident Americans in the last Olympics.

Lindsey Horan scored within the first three minutes, the fastest goal of this tournament. The United States went up 2-0 on an own goal by Jonna Andersson in the 50th minute that gave the Americans a tournament-record 18 goals in the group stage. The U.S. did not concede a goal in its first three matches.

Already assured a spot in the round of 16 before the game, the United States finished atop of group F and will head to Reims to face Spain on Monday, June 24th. Sweden will play Group E runners-up Canada in Paris. The U.S. currently has 9 points 

The meeting was the first tournament game between the two teams since the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics. The Swedes bunkered in on defense and advanced on penalties after a 1-1 draw, handing the United States its earliest-ever exit from the Olympic tournament. Former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo called the Swedes "cowards" for the defensive stand.

Round-of-16 Schedule

Saturday, June 22

Germany vs. Nigeria, 11:30 a.m. ET

Norway vs. Australia, 3:00 p.m. ET

Sunday, June 23

England vs. Cameroon, 11:30 a.m. ET

France vs. Brazil, 3:00 p.m. ET

Monday, June 24

Spain vs. United States, Noon ET

Sweden vs. Canada, 3:00 p.m. ET

Tuesday, June 25

Italy vs. China, Noon ET

Netherlands vs Japan, 3:00 p.m. ET

Quarterfinals 

Thursday, June 27 

TBD vs, TBD, 3:00 p.m. ET

Friday, June 28

TBD vs TBD, 3:00 p.m. ET

Saturday, June 29

TBD vs TBD, 9:00 a.m. ET

TBD vs TBD, 12:30 p.m. ET

Semifinals 

Tuesday, July 2

TBD vs TBD, 3:00 p.m. ET 

Wednesday, July 3

TBD vs TBD, 3:00 p.m. ET

Third-place game

Saturday, July 6 

TBD vs TBD, 11:00 a.m. ET

Final 

Sunday, July 7

TBD vs TBD, 11:00 a.m. ET