NCAA

McElroy goes from third-string to starter for Jets

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McElroy goes from third-string to starter for Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Greg McElroy has thought about this moment for years, ever since he was a young boy in Texas pretending he was Troy Aikman.

McElroy could imagine nothing greater in those days than being just like one of his idols, throwing the football around and helping an NFL team win games. Fast-forward a few years, and here's McElroy now: starting Sunday as the quarterback for the New York Jets.

``I did it,'' a beaming McElroy said Wednesday. ``I got here and I'm very grateful and excited about this opportunity.''

The game against the San Diego Chargers will mark the first NFL start for McElroy, who is stepping in for the benched Mark Sanchez and leapfrogging backup Tim Tebow on the Jets' depth chart. Rex Ryan made the decision Tuesday to go with the team's seventh-round pick last year out of Alabama, and now McElroy gets a chance to show the Jets if he might be part of the franchise's future.

``I don't look at it like anything,'' McElroy said. ``Obviously, it's one game at a time. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, your role changes every day and every minute. You never know what the situation is going to be. ... Just enjoy right now, live in the moment. That's what my Dad said when I talked to him, `Live in the moment. Enjoy this. You've been dreaming about this your whole life.'''

McElroy, who led the Jets to a 7-6 win over Arizona when he replaced Sanchez late in that game three weeks ago, took the first-team snaps at practice Wednesday.

Ryan hasn't decided on who the No. 2 quarterback will be Sunday - Sanchez or Tebow. All that matters for now is that McElroy, in the coach's mind, is No. 1.

``I definitely think I want to see what Greg can do,'' Ryan said. ``He's a winner. He's been a winner his whole life.''

He certainly has. McElroy helped lead Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, Texas, to a state title in 2005. Four years later, the University of Alabama rolled all the way to the national championship with McElroy as the quarterback.

Still, there were knocks on his size - he's 6-foot-2 and a trim 225 pounds - and his arm strength. Draft ``experts'' projected McElroy as a decent system quarterback, a guy who could be a solid backup but probably couldn't be an NFL starter. So, McElroy slipped to the seventh round last year.

Ryan said McElroy's arm is ``immensely'' better than it was when he first joined the team, and since missing all of last season after dislocating a thumb in a preseason game. He made some news in the offseason, though, when he told an Alabama radio station that there was a ``corrupt mindset'' in the Jets' locker room that included some ``extremely selfish individuals.'' He later apologized to his teammates for the comments.

``His whole resume speaks about him obviously being a very confident guy and a confident leader,'' Ryan said. ``He understands that we have to protect the football. That's where we're at right now.''

And that's because Sanchez failed miserably at that, turning the ball over 50 times since the start of last season. After McElroy's solid performance against the Cardinals - 5 of 7 for 29 yards and a touchdown - Ryan took a few days before deciding to stick with Sanchez.

That second chance lasted two games as Sanchez struggled mightily while McElroy wasn't even in uniform, listed as inactive. Despite the Jets being eliminated from postseason contention, Sunday's game couldn't be bigger for McElroy.

``I think it's a tremendous opportunity, a tremendous moment for me,'' McElroy said. ``I can't emphasize enough that this is not a finish line.

``This is a starting point.''

It could also signal an end point for Sanchez, once considered the face of the franchise who drew comparisons to Joe Namath after helping the Jets to consecutive AFC title games in his first two seasons.

Ryan reminded reporters of that on Wednesday, highlighting Sanchez's four playoff road wins and ability to ``make all the throws.'' He also was critical of the quarterback's mistakes, but refused to say that the Jets misjudged his talent when trading up to draft him fifth overall.

``Well, it's disappointing,'' Sanchez said. ``You just hate letting other guys down on the team and that's the worst part of it. You're going in there, trying to play well and improve and I just made some bad decisions. I just have to take care of the football better and own up to my mistakes and get better.''

Sanchez threw four interceptions and couldn't handle a shotgun snap from Nick Mangold with the game on the line in the Jets' 14-10 loss at Tennessee. It was an ugly ending to what perhaps could be his last play as New York's starting quarterback - although Sanchez believes he'll be in that position again someday.

``Sure, absolutely,'' he said. ``And you have to feel that way and be confident as a quarterback, no matter how many interceptions or touchdowns or anything you've thrown. I just have to be ready to come back strong and I will.''

Running back Joe McKnight, a former teammate at Southern California, suggested that the move to bench Sanchez came as a result of the coaching staff giving in to fans who have been calling for Tebow or McElroy to start for weeks. Sanchez disagreed with Ryan's decision but said he would fully support McElroy in practice and during games.

``Everything that I've learned at this position in this league has been from Mark,'' McElroy said. ``He's the guy that I've seen every day. Every day that I've been an NFL player, I've been looking up to him. I've been observing him and trying to follow after his lead. I've been watching him. I understand how to play this game because of him and I'm very grateful for that opportunity.''

Neither Ryan nor the other three quarterbacks would speculate on what next season will bring, but it's a good bet Sanchez will be back. The Jets owe him $8.25 million in guaranteed money because of a contract extension last offseason. There's a chance New York could just cut ties with him, or try to trade him. Sanchez refused to entertain any of those possibilities.

``Look, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals of me being here, not being here, whatever,'' he said. ``We're focused on this week, we're ready to play San Diego and that's where my mind's at. So, any question about what's going to happen next year, are you going to be a starter ever again, I'm not even going to go there.''

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The 7 craziest things that happened in Week 12 of the college football season

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USA TODAY Sports

The 7 craziest things that happened in Week 12 of the college football season

From massive comebacks to cartwheels, to rabid bats and even the rare signs of life from Northwestern's offense, this weeks' college football action truly had it all.

Here are the seven craziest things that happened in Week 12 of the college football season.

Ohio lineman does cartwheel during a play

MACtion was in full swing on Tuesday with a game between Western Michigan and Ohio. Unless you went to either of those schools, you probably don't care. I bring it up, however, because of one glorious play in which an offensive lineman did a cartwheel.

This wasn't a fun touchdown celebration, this wasn't a taunt after a big play. This was, the ball is snapped, the play is being run and this dude straight up does a cartwheel while people around him are playing actual football.

Make no mistake, this was planned. That was an actual play in Ohio's playbook. He did it immediately off the snap. Quarterback Nathan Rourke threw a 25-yard completion on the play so I guess you would have to say it worked. Hopefully, that means more of this in the future.

Michigan State wore their helmets on the bus to the Michigan game

Trying to motivate a group of college kids throughout an entire season is tough. Some coaches are masters at it. There are some techniques, however, that fall flat. I think you can put this one in the latter category.

Michigan State played rival Michigan on Saturday and the Spartans got off the bus on the way to the game with their helmets already strapped on. I guess the message was supposed to be that they were ready to play. The message that actually sent was, we are all out of ideas so here's something we will be mocked for when it doesn't work.

Michigan State lost to Michigan 44-10.

There were rabid bats at Mississippi State

First off, here's wishing the Alabama quarterback a speedy recovery. As it was the biggest story of the week, I would be remiss not to mention it when talking about the Alabama-Mississippi State game.

Tagovailoa's injury overshadowed what I thought would be the biggest story coming out of Starkville: rabid bats.

From great catch to miraculous fumble

This was just whacky. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor made an incredible one-handed catch as he grabbed a ball thrown behind him. A great play quickly turned into a disaster as he turned up the field and tucked the ball, but immediately had it punched out for a fumble.

We have all seen players tiptoe down the sideline, but not often do you see a ball do it. Luckily for Nebraska, Lamar Jackson pounced on the loose ball while the rest of his teammates stood watching seemingly oblivious to the fact that the ball was live.

Columbia had a punt blocked by the butt of its own player

You have heard of the butt fumble, but how about the butt punt block?

Northwestern scores 45 points

What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? That was the question on everyone's mind in Evanston when Northwestern met UMass.

Northwestern's offense entered the week averaging 11.1 points per game. That's not just the worst scoring offense among Power 5 teams this year, it is the worst of the decade. Its previous season-high for points was 30 which it scored against UNLV. So how in the world did the Wildcats manage to put up 45 points? Because UMass just so happens to be one of the worst teams in the FBS this year.

Running back Evan Hull went off for Northwestern with 220 rushing yards and four touchdowns to give the illusion of a competent offense. That won't last as next week they play Minnesota.

Oklahoma overcame a 25-point deficit to beat Baylor

Oklahoma has an illustrious history. Since 1895, the Sooners have won seven national titles. One thing they had never done? Overcome a 25-point deficit.

Oklahoma did just that on Saturday on the road against an undefeated Baylor team and without its top wide receiver in CeeDee Lamb. Somehow, the Sooners managed to rally to win the game 34-31 with an incredible second-half performance to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive.

McClung lifts Georgetown past Georgia St. 91-83

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McClung lifts Georgetown past Georgia St. 91-83

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mac McClung had 25 points, Omer Yurtseven had a double-double, and Georgetown topped Georgia State 91-83 on Sunday night.

McClung made all 11 of his foul shots and Yurtseven finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Josh LeBlanc added 12 points James Akinjo scored 11 points for Georgetown (3-1).

Corey Allen had 21 points for the Panthers (1-3). Josh Linder added 17 points and Justin Roberts and Damon Wilson scored 15 points apiece.

Georgetown faces Texas on Thursday. Georgia State plays Prairie View on Friday.

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