Marquette moves on without Crowder, Johnson-Odom

Marquette moves on without Crowder, Johnson-Odom

MILWAUKEE (AP) Last year was not an easy one for Buzz Williams and Marquette as injuries and other issues cost him depth. The team was forever forging a new identity.

So how did Marquette manage to go 14-4 in the Big East, finishing second, and advance to the Sweet 16 for a third consecutive season with a 27-8 record?

Jae Crowder, the Big East Player of the Year, and Darius Johnson-Odom had more than a little to do with it. And now they are both gone, earning NBA paychecks, leaving Williams to figure out how to replace their combined 35.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. Those numbers represent 47.7 and 33 percent of the team's totals, respectively, from a year ago.

It's a challenge that Williams has excelled at during his six previous seasons at Marquette, the last five as head coach.

``Every team is a house,'' Williams said. ``We all live in that house and when the season's over, that house goes on the market and you can't live in it again. They were pretty impressive and you can argue that they were maybe the best (combination) of guys that's been here in a long time but relative to who replaces them and how that plays out, nobody knows that. We're in a different house.''

Williams has a strong foundation for this project, starting with point guard Junior Cadougan, who averaged 6.3 points and 5.4 assists in 28.6 minutes per game. The 6-foot-1 native of Toronto was effective behind Johnson-Odom, but will need to find a way to reduce his team-leading 90 turnovers from a year ago.

``Things happened last year and I'm over that,'' Cadougan said. ``I'm more mature now. I've been playing three years and I'm ready. I have to limit the turnovers, we need every possession.''

There is a lot of potential in the supporting cast, headlined by guard Vander Blue. A highly regarded recruit from Madison, Blue has evolved slowly at Marquette and in 35 games as a sophomore, averaged 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds. Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson saw significant playing time last season, combining for 14.9 points per game, and will be counted upon to take an expanded role this year.

In the paint, what was a major liability a year ago could turn into one of the Golden Eagles' biggest strengths. Marquette opens camp with two solid post players in Chris Otule and Davante Gardner.

Otule, a starter last season, played in just eight games due to a torn ACL suffered in the opening minutes of Marquette's 79-77 victory over Washington in early December. Gardner stepped in and was impressive, but was limited after a knee injury in January.

``Davante and Chris are probably two of the better 5's that have ever been on the same roster because they're so different as players,'' Williams said. ``The dynamic of those two guys is pretty good. I'd like to play a season with both of them healthy.''

A wild card could be senior Trent Lockett, who transferred to Marquette after three standout seasons at Arizona State. The Sun Devils' leading scorer a year ago, the 6-foot-5 Lockett averaged 13 points a game and shot at least 50 percent from the field in the last two seasons.

There are pieces in place, but Golden Eagles aren't counting on any one player to jump in and make up for what they lost in Crowder and Johnson-Odom.

``You never know who's going to step up. We had our individual workouts over the summer and you could see that guys have improved their games,'' Cadougan said. ``You can't really point to one person who's going to score points, we just have to play as a team and see what works out.''

Williams will find out quickly how good his new-look team is: The season opener on Nov. 9 is against No. 4 Ohio State and the non-conference schedule includes games against No. 10 Florida and No. 23 Wisconsin.

The Golden Eagles will be without Williams for the Big East opener, Jan. 1 against Connecticut, due to a one-game suspension levied by athletic director Larry Williams for recruiting violations.

``We're playing a much more difficult schedule than we've ever played so I think we'll find out who we are quicker than we've found out in the past,'' Williams said.

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Lamar Jackson becomes first QB to rush at least 70 yards in five straight starts

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Lamar Jackson becomes first QB to rush at least 70 yards in five straight starts

With Lamar Jackson under center for the past five games, the Ravens offense’ has relied on his legs to move the ball. The rookie quarterback has struggled at times throwing the ball, but utilizing the read options, Jackson has had no such problems making an impact. 

On Sunday against the Buccaneers, Jackson had 100 yards rushing going into the fourth quarter. With that, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for at least 70 yards in five straight starts.  The streak started with a bang in the Ravens 24-21 win over the Bengals when Jackson rushed for 119 yards  It was followed by games of 71 and 75 yards against the Raiders and Falcons and a 67-yard game in Week 14’s loss against the Chiefs. 

He knows the risks running quarterbacks face,  but winning is his No. 1 priority. 

"I’m going to put it all on the line," Jackson said in an interview with ESPN. "I want to win. I hate losing. I hate that feeling. You have to deal with it the next week. So, I want to win regardless. If it happens, it’s going to happen. I’ve been good so far.”

Coming into Week 15, the Ravens were fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. The team has rushed for at least 190 yards since Jackson took over.

At feat that hasn’t been achieved since the Steelers did it in 1976. With Jackson continuing to dazzle defenders, Baltimore will continue to maintain its dominance in the ground game. 


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It was ugly and boring, but the Redskins won a wild and important game in Jacksonville

It was ugly and boring, but the Redskins won a wild and important game in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE -- The Redskins played one of the ugliest games of the NFL season on Sunday, but they got an extremely important win, and in the end, that's all that matters. 

Across the league, offenses are getting more inventive and creating new ways to move the football through the air. That didn't happen in Jacksonville.

What did happen was a gutty performance from fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson, a great pass rush, and an opportunistic defense combined to grind out a victory. 

The team overcame some mistakes and proved they will still play for head coach Jay Gruden. There's a lot to unpack, let's dive in. 

1. Not Too Bad:

Josh Johnson played well on Sunday, finishing with 151 passing yards and completing 16 of 25 passes. He connected with Jeremy Sprinkle for a late touchdown to tie the game, and never made the kind of killer mistakes that often bury a team playing backup QBs. 

2. Beast Mode: 

The Redskins defensive front played a monster game, sacking Jags QB Cody Kessler six times. Ryan Kerrigan and Jonathan Allen each logged two sacks on Kessler, and Kerrigan moved into second place all-time on the Redskins sack list. Now with 82.5 sacks, Kerrigan trails only Dexter Manley on the Washington franchise list. The defense also limited the Jags to under 200 yards of total offense. 

3. Secret Formula:

The formula for the Redskins when they got out to a 6-3 start was fairly simple; control time of possession and win the turnover battle. That worked on Sunday. The Redskins won the clock battle and forced two turnovers from Kessler. The late interception from Fabian Moreau was a huge play for the Redskins, as it kept the Jags from a field goal attempt when the game was tied at 13 with less than five minutes remaining. Then a good drive from Johnson led to the game-winning 36-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins. 

4. The Curse Continues:

Penalties have been killing the Redskins for weeks, and Sunday's game was no different. The team finished with six penalties for 48 yards, and on a number of first down plays, flags brought the gains back. Morgan Moses added to his league-leading penalty total, a title that nobody wants. The Redskins offensive line is a mess due to injuries, playing their 10th guard of the season, but still, the pace of penalties demands attention and correction. 

5. Not so Special:

 The Redskins defense didn't give up any touchdowns, but the Redskins special teams did. Late in the first half, Maurice Harris got the mistake train rolling when he tried to field a punt with the sun directly in his eyes. Rather than just letting the ball go, Harris attempted a backward over-the-shoulder catch. It didn't work. He muffed the punt and had to retreat about 10 yards to fall on the football. From there, the offense went 3-and-out and had to punt. Then that punt got returned for a touchdown, with a remarkable missed tackle from Byron Marshall. Seriously watch this.