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Middle Tennessee rallies to beat Vanderbilt 56-52

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Middle Tennessee rallies to beat Vanderbilt 56-52

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tweety Knight scored a go-ahead layup with 1:08 left to lift Middle Tennessee State to a 56-52 victory over Vanderbilt on Friday night.

Bruce Massey scored 17 points to lead the Blue Raiders (9-3), who ended the game on a 16-3 run to get their first win against Vanderbilt since 1995.

After Knight's layup, Kerry Hammonds plucked a steal from Kedren Johnson and finished with a layup for a three-point cushion. Johnson missed a 3-pointer and Raymond Cintron's free throws with 7.5 seconds left sealed the win.

The Commodores (5-5) led 49-40 with 9:58 left but went scoreless for nearly the next six minutes.

Johnson scored 15 of his 25 points in the first half to lead Vanderbilt. He banked in his final basket with 1:56 left to give Vanderbilt a 52-51 lead before Knight responded.

Hammonds scored 11 points for Middle Tennessee, which had lost five straight against Vanderbilt.

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Ravens special teams lacking across the board, lone sore spot in dominating win

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Ravens special teams lacking across the board, lone sore spot in dominating win

BALTIMORE — If there was a lone dark spot on the Ravens’ 42-21 win over the Jets, it was the special teams. 

From kickoff coverage to even Justin Tucker, each particular unit had its fair share of struggles. The Jets blocked a punt — and scored, had long returns on both kickoff and punt returns and Tucker missed an extra-point. 

“We played really well on special teams last week,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We played not well at all this week. So, that’s an area of concern right now. I give them credit. They played really well, but we didn’t.”

The trouble started from the get-go when the Jets had a good return on the opening kick. They carried that throughout the game, as Ty Montgomery and Vyncint Smith averaged kickoff returns of 23.3 and 28.7 yards, respectively. Smith had a long of 37 yards and Montgomery had a long of 34 yards.

Then on the Ravens second touchdown of the night, Tucker missed an extra point — a rarity for the league’s most consistent kicker. Before Thursday’s game, he’d missed just one extra point all season and one field goal. 

While it’s nothing to be concerned about, any miss for Tucker is certainly surprising. 

And finally, in the fourth quarter, the Jets bull-rushed up the middle through the Ravens’ punt team and blocked the kick for a score.

Baltimore’s special teams units have been stellar all season, so Thursday’s game isn’t something to fret over long-term. But it’s certainly something to monitor as the games tighten, leaving little room for error on the margins.  

“We just have to get better,” Harbaugh said of the returns. “They were basically blocking us. They blocked our guys on the kickoff return. They did a great job with it. They ran a little pick-stunt on the blocked punt that we should have picked up with no problem, and we didn’t. That’s an issue for us.”

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Lamar Jackson sets QB rushing record, leads way for Ravens to clinch AFC North title

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Lamar Jackson sets QB rushing record, leads way for Ravens to clinch AFC North title

BALTIMORE — As Lamar Jackson etched himself into the NFL record book because of his legs, it was his right arm that was the story of Thursday’s drubbing against the Jets.

Jackson broke the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with a carry in the first quarter, but his passing stole the show in primetime. 

He threw for five touchdown passes — the third time he’s done so this season — and 212 yards in a 42-21 win at M&T Bank Stadium. While the Jets struggled to contain he and the Ravens' speed, Jackson's passes sliced through the Jets secondary.

“His performance speaks for itself,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Our guys played well, made some plays...Lamar is definitely the leader there. He’s the catalyst, but those guys are making plays together and that’s what you need to do to win the game.”

Jackson’s passing kept the Jets’ defense off-balance all night, as a mix of scrambles and deep balls left them confused throughout the game. 

"I think we were just trying to figure out what was going on,” Jets coach Adam Gase said. “Sometimes against this group, you do not want to commit, because you are unsure. They run their offense well, but you have to pull the trigger and make a decision in real time, and it is not easy."

A 24-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Marquise Brown in the back of the end zone sealed the deal, as the Ravens earned yet another blowout win. 

Thursday’s game marked the fifth time this season the Ravens have scored more than 40 points in a game. 

Jackson’s run in the first quarter set the single-season record and propelled him to 86 yards on the ground for the day. 

“That’s just the chemistry and hard work,” Jackson said. “You know, we take practice like it’s a game, and that’s one thing I had to work on individually by myself — because our guys work so hard, I (wanted) to throw dimes to them and make sure their job is a lot easier catching them in stride, and they just help me out by catching the ball and doing what they do.” 

While his arm was on display, the reason his performance will be remembered is what he did with his rushes. 

Jackson broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for quarterbacks in the first quarter, then added 64 yards on top of that for good measure. Now alone at the top of the NFL record book, Jackson can claim the most dominant season by a quarterback on the ground in league history.

“It’s pretty cool,” Jackson said. “My favorite player growing up; it’s amazing and I’m going to cherish that forever and just got to keep it going. Records are made to be broken, like he said. I heard him say that, and it’s an honor for me to do it.”

The Ravens, and Jackson, put 218 yards on the ground against the Jets, who entered as the league's second-best rush defense allowing just 78.8 per game. 

“He’s different,” Jets safety Marcus Maye said. “He’s not like the rest of them. He has the ability to run around and make plays. There’s probably only a handful of guys who can do it the way he does it.”

Jackson also led the way to a second-straight AFC North title for the Ravens, who are just a step away from clinching a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Should they get to that point, the Ravens will have their MVP-candidate at quarterback to thank. And this year, Jackson has something to prove. 

“That’s my fault we lost in that first-round last year, but this year is a different team, different mindset,” Jackson said. “It’s a brotherhood going on right now, and we’ve just got to keep it going.” 

So while Thursday’s game was one for the record books, everyone on the Ravens will tell you there’s more pressing matters at hand. 

Even as Jackson became the NFL’s best rushing quarterback in a season, and tied the franchise record for passing touchdowns in a season, it’s clear it’s not something they’re all that concerned about.

“But it’s really, it’s something I’m sure Lamar, as he says, he’ll look back on some day fondly,” Harbaugh said. “But right now, he has other things to think about."