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Ohio whips ULM 45-14 at Independence Bowl

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Ohio whips ULM 45-14 at Independence Bowl

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) Things were going so well for Ohio that quarterback Tyler Tettleton was cracking jokes in the huddle by the end of the game.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bobcats, who did nearly everything right in a dominant 45-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Friday in the Independence Bowl.

And it was also a satisfying ending to a roller coaster season for Ohio, which started the season on a seven-game winning streak and briefly jumped into the AP Top 25 rankings before a rash of injuries and inconsistent play caused the Bobcats to lose four of their last five regular-season games.

But thanks to Tettleton, Beau Blankenship and Chase Cochran, Ohio (9-4) was able to finish what it started on Friday.

``It was a fun season and we were enjoying ourselves, and then some things happened and we just weren't playing at a level that we felt we should be and we all pressed,'' Solich said. ``The players pressed and the coaches pressed, so I'm glad we were able to get back to enjoying the game and having some fun with it.''

Tettleton's early heroics staked the Bobcats (9-4) to an early 14-0 lead and Louisiana-Monroe was never able to gain its footing. During the two early touchdown drives, Tettleton completed all five of his passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

He finished 14 of 22 passing for 331 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Ohio broke several Independence Bowl records, including the 31-point margin of victory and 556 total yards. The Bobcats have won two straight bowl games.

``We knew we were going up against a great front seven, so our game plan was to take some shots down field and let our playmakers make plays,'' Tettleton said.

They certainly did. Cochran caught three passes for 162 yards, while Tyler Futrell had five receptions for 133 yards. With Tettleton softening the Louisiana-Monroe defense early, running back Beau Blankenship provided the power offense to seal the game, rushing for 104 yards and an Independence Bowl record four touchdowns.

Tettleton was especially sharp in the first half, completing 9 of 14 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns as Ohio built a 24-7 lead.

Louisiana-Monroe (8-5) struggled in its first bowl game after 19 seasons in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Kolton Browning completed 21 of 39 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw three first-half interceptions.

Tettleton's 2012 season had been a slight disappointment considering the huge numbers he put up the year before as a sophomore, but his performance against Louisiana-Monroe was a reminder of how good he can be. He averaged more than 23 yards per completion.

Blankenship finished with a school record 1,604 yards rushing yards this season and topped the 100-yard mark for the 10th time. All four of his touchdown runs came from 2 yards out or less.

``It was probably as complete of a ballgame as we've played in some time,'' Solich said. ``I think our guys played with great intensity and a great deal of heart. We showed we can play a great game against a really good team like Louisiana-Monroe.''

Louisiana-Monroe came into Friday's game with the better story and basically a home-field advantage. The Warhawks were playing in their first bowl game after joining college football's highest level in 1994 and secured a bid in Shreveport, which is about 100 miles from their campus.

But that emotional lift didn't help ULM's defense, which was torched by Tettleton's deep ball accuracy early and Blankenship's hard running late.

Louisiana-Monroe briefly showed some life early in the second quarter when Browning's 14-yard touchdown pass to Tavarese Maye cut Ohio's margin to 14-7.

But Ohio came right back, using Matt Weller's 38-yard field goal and Blankenship's 2-yard touchdown run to push ahead 24-7 with 4:50 left in the second quarter. Blankenship's touchdown run was set up by Browning's third interception of the first half.

Louisiana-Monroe had a chance to cut into the deficit just before halftime, but coach Todd Berry's gamble to go for a touchdown instead of a short field goal backfired when Browning's final pass of the half sailed harmlessly out the back of the end zone.

Berry's gamble wasn't a surprise - the Warhawks had gained a reputation for unorthodox play-calling during their record-setting season. But nothing seemed to work against the Bobcats, and the large ULM fan contingent had mostly disappeared from the stands by the end of the third quarter.

It was a disappointing ending for the Warhawks, who started the season with a stunning overtime victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., and still finished with the best season in school history since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

``This will get us back to work,'' Berry said. ``I would have liked it to have been a little cleaner. But I also recognize the opportunities for this football team next year. This will add fuel to the fire. We will have a great offseason because of what happened today and that's what we're going to use. This group will rally.''

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.
 

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Capitals center Lars Eller is busy working on his shot this summer

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Instagram @LarsEllerOfficial

Capitals center Lars Eller is busy working on his shot this summer

With the Washington Capitals season ending in April and training camp beginning in September, players are on their own to get their summer work in.

Center Lars Eller took to Instagram on Wednesday to show his followers that he's been working on his shot in the offseason.

The 6-foot-2 Dane scored 13 goals for the Caps last season, adding one more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With three months to go before the first puck drops in the 2019-2020 season, Eller will hope his extra work this summer will translate to the ice in the fall.

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