NCAA

LSU's pass D braces for challenge from Clemson

LSU's pass D braces for challenge from Clemson

ATLANTA (AP) The most obvious matchup of strengths Monday night in the Chick-fil-A Bowl will be Clemson's high-scoring spread offense against Louisiana State's defense.

``These guys are top 10 in defense,'' Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. ``We're top 10 in offense. So it's pretty easy to get excited about that.''

A closer look shows No. 9 LSU's pass defense hasn't been so stingy lately.

LSU gave up more than 300 yards passing in three straight wins over Mississippi State, Mississippi and Arkansas to close the regular season. That sets the stage for a tougher test against Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.

LSU began November ranked fourth nationally against the pass. It has dropped to 11th - still a strong ranking. The exposed late-season vulnerability against the pass will be tested by No. 14 Clemson, which ranks sixth in scoring with 42.3 points per game.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis said Clemson has a ``very, very talented offense.''

``I certainly would rank it as high as any offense we've faced,'' Chavis said Saturday.

Chavis has plugged holes to have LSU eighth in the nation in total defense and 11th with its average of 16.9 points per game.

Defense was the strength for the 2011 LSU team that played for the national championship. Then cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive tackle Michael Brockers were selected in the first round of the NFL draft, while safety Brandon Taylor went in the third.

An unexpected loss followed when star cornerback and return specialist Tyrann Mathieu, a 2011 Heisman finalist, was dismissed from the team.

Suddenly, LSU was forced to start freshman Jalen Mills at cornerback. A redshirt freshman, Jalen Collins, joins the defensive backfield on passing downs. Each has two interceptions.

Junior safety Eric Reid said Mills and Collins are young ``but very talented.''

``I have seen them develop and tried to help coach them,'' Reid said. ``They've come a long way. They're two guys we'll rely heavily on in the game. They'll play some very good receivers. I'm confident in them. I think they're going to do their job very well. And hopefully they can get some turnovers for us.''

Hopkins and Watkins combined for 126 receptions for 1,922 yards and 19 touchdowns, including 16 by Hopkins. Watkins was suspended for the first two games and missed another game with a sickness.

Watkins, a first-team All-America as a freshman in 2011, has had a decline in production this season but could be poised for a big bowl game.

``We expect Sammy to be Sammy,'' Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Saturday. ``We need him to play well and we're going to turn him loose.''

LSU already has proved it can beat a similarly talented quarterback and offense. The Tigers beat Texas A&M 24-19 on Oct. 20 while holding Johnny Manziel, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, to 23 yards rushing and 276 yards passing with three interceptions and no touchdowns.

LSU linebacker Kevin Minter said Boyd ``may have a better arm, a little more accurate'' than Manziel.

``Other than that they're pretty much the same,'' Minter said.

LSU can't expect Clemson to play a one-dimensional game on offense. Senior Andre Ellington has 1,031 yards rushing with eight touchdowns. Boyd, a dual-threat quarterback, leads Clemson with nine rushing touchdowns and has almost 500 yards rushing.

``It's a great challenge anytime you play that kind of attack,'' LSU coach Les Miles said. ``A quarterback that can throw and very, very explosive receivers. You have to handle it in a variety of ways. Certainly changing coverages and an opportunity to rush the passer.''

Added Miles: ``We enjoy the matchup.''

Watch a George Mason walk-on receive a full scholarship

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Watch a George Mason walk-on receive a full scholarship

There are not many videos better in this world than walk-on college athletes receiving a full-ride scholarship and their ensuing reaction. 

George Mason's men's basketball team gave everyone one of those emotional moments. Jack Tempchin, who's in his third year as a preferred walk-on for the Patriots, received the scholarship after Thursday's practice. 

His teammates reacted appropriately. 

On Twitter, the redshirt junior thanked his teammates, coaches and family who helped get him to this point. 

As a walk-on, Tempchin has only played in 16 games throughout his three years. Most of his minutes have been in garbage time of blowouts or to come in the game to pick-up a quick foul. Throughout those appearances, he's put up six points, four of them coming from the charity stripe. 

Gotta love when a player gets properly rewarded for their hard work and dedication. 

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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

The Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-112 on Thursday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Just before tip-off, the NBA announced it's 2019-20 All-Star starters and not included in the Eastern Conference backcourt was Bradley Beal. Boston's Kemba Walker and Atlanta's Trae Young instead got the honors.

Whether Beal knew that fact when he took the floor or not, he put in a performance against the Cavs that should add to his case for being a reserve. The two-time All-Star followed up a 38-point gem against the Heat with 36 points against Cleveland just one night later. He also had eight assists and shot 15-for-22 (68.2%) from the field and 4-for-8 from three.

Beal now has the fourth-most 30-point games in the NBA since the start of last season with 40 of them. Only James Harden (86) Gianiis (54) and Damian Lillard (45) have more.

This 30-point game helped the Wizards bounce back from a loss the night before in Miami. Washington is now 15-29 on the season and 5-5 in their last 10 games.

2. In his previous six games since returning from a quad injury, Davis Bertans had put up some solid numbers and shown flashes. Against the Cavs, though, he did what we saw him to much more often a few months ago when he was healthy.

Bertans not only lit a spark off the bench, but he did so in microwave fashion. He had 14 of his 17 points in the first half, including three consecutive threes in the second quarter to force a timeout as the Wizards' lead grew to 14. That marked a big turnaround after Washington trailed by as many as 12 in the first quarter.

Bertans helped lead a monster effort from the Wizards' bench as a whole. They outscored the Cavs' second unit, 59-34. The Wizards are second in the NBA in bench scoring and that is despite all of the injuries they have dealt with in recent months. Now that they are nearly whole, the bench is becoming even stronger.

 

3. The Thomas Bryant situation is getting more interesting as each game passes. He has now been back six games and has been kept between roughly between 12 and 21 minutes a night. He played 17 minutes against the Cavs and contributed nine points and three rebounds.

Bryant is a big man coming off a foot injury, so the Wizards have incentive to play it safe and maintain a minutes restriction. But it has now been nearly two weeks since he came back.

Is it as simple as a minutes limit or is Ian Mahinmi's improved play having a domino effect on Bryant? The more Bryant plays limited minutes, the more that could become evident, if this is indeed performance based. 

Mahinmi, by the way, had seven points, seven rebounds and played strong defense, helping the Wizards to hold Tristan Thompson to six points and three rebounds.

4. Much like last week when the Wizards saw the Pistons and Andre Drummond, watching this game was reminder that Kevin Love is reportedly available in trades. That begs the natural question of where he would fit, if he gets dealt soon, like before the Feb. 6 deadline.

Some might argue the Wizards as an option, given their best players are guards and Love would technically complement them well. Given his age and contract, however, it would probably be too much of a risk for the Wizards.

The Blazers seem like they could use him and the Raptors could also be interesting. He would also fit well with the Rockets, though they probably don't have enough trade assets to get him.

What about the Timberwolves? They have disappointed this year and need to find Karl-Anthony Towns some help. Love wouldn't be joining a contender, as he probably hopes to, but it could be an interesting story if he goes back to the team he started with. And him and Towns would be a tough duo to stop given how well they rebound and stretch the floor.

Speaking of Love, he had the viral moment of the night when he pretended to resuscitate Beal. 

5. Backup center Anzejs Pasecniks was back in the mix after missing two games due to a left ankle injury. And not only was he available, he actually got some burn.

Pasecniks played 15 minutes and scored four points to go along with three rebounds. So, even with Bryant and Bertans back from injury, and Johnathan Williams III still getting minutes, Pasecniks maintains a role in the rotation.

That could change once other players come back. Moe Wagner, in particular, will probably take minutes away from him at the backup center spot. But Pasecniks still hanging around in the rotation is a testament to him and the way he has played. No one predicted he would play this much of a factor this season.

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