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Pitt crushes No. 21 Rutgers 27-6

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Pitt crushes No. 21 Rutgers 27-6

PITTSBURGH (AP) Tino Sunseri passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns in his final home game as Pittsburgh overwhelmed No. 21 Rutgers 27-6 on Saturday.

Ray Graham ran for 113 yards and a score for the Panthers (5-6, 2-4 Big East), who kept their hopes for bowl eligibility alive while drumming the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers (9-2, 5-1) will still play No. 19 Louisville on Thursday with a Bowl Championship Series berth on the line, though the Scarlet Knights head home with little momentum after the Panthers dominated in their last game Heinz Field as a member of the Big East, racing to a 21-0 halftime lead and coasting.

Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova passed for 157 yards with a touchdown and an interception but the Scarlet Knights were never in it on a day the Panthers played like the team with everything on the line.

The Scarlet Knights came in the Big East's biggest surprise, rising to the cusp of the school's first Big East title despite losing program architect Greg Schiano to the NFL last winter. First-year coach Kyle Flood stressed his team would not be distracted by an eventful week in which the program announced it was heading to the Big Ten in 2014.

The Scarlet Knights certainly appeared to have their minds on other things on a raw, windy day that made passing hazardous, at least for Rutgers.

Nova was under duress most of the afternoon and left briefly in the first half after getting slammed onto his right (throwing) shoulder. He returned to complete 18 of 37 passes, most of them coming in the second half with the Scarlet Knights in full-out desperation mode.

There were no such problems for the Panthers, who have been an enigma in coach Paul Chryst's first season, haphazardly alternating good and bad performances regardless of the quality of the opponent.

Pitt outgained Rutgers 365-206 and did whatever it wanted against one of the nation's best defenses to beat a ranked opponent for the second time this season.

The Panthers have alternated two-game losing streaks and two-game winning streaks all fall, leading Chryst to joke he hoped the pattern would continue over the final two weeks, allowing the Panthers to become bowl eligible for a fifth straight season.

It shouldn't be an issue if Pitt can take the intensity it showed during an emotional Senior Day to South Florida next week.

Chryst began the afternoon hugging each of the 18 seniors during pregame introductions, a sign how of hard he's worked to restore a sense of trust between the players and the program after Pitt went through four coaches in a span of 14 months, culminating with Chryst's hiring in January.

The seniors believe Pitt is heading in the right direction, and then went out and showed it by having little trouble with the Scarlet Knights in the final game between the two teams for the foreseeable future with Pitt heading to the ACC next fall.

The Panthers took control during a dominant second quarter. Sunseri hit Mike Shanahan for a 16-yard touchdown to give Pitt the lead, and Rutgers never responded.

The Scarlet Knights had the ball eight times in the first half, and punted eight times. Nova never got comfortable in the blustery conditions and Pitt swarmed whichever Rutgers back happened to carry the ball.

Pitt moved in front 14-0 on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Graham before the Panthers showed just how far they've come under Chryst's direction during a flawless 2-minute drill late in the half.

Taking over at the Pitt 45 with 1:19 to go, Sunseri directed the Panthers 55 yards in nine plays, the final one a perfect strike to Ed Tinker from 13 yards out that put the Panthers up 21-0 at the break.

Kevin Harper tacked on a 39-yard field goal early in the third quarter to make it 24-0. Rutgers finally got on board on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Nova to Brandon Coleman late in the third quarter but the 2-point conversion failed and Rutgers never threatened to make it interesting.

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

The Washington Wizards released guard Chasson Randle Monday, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Washington.

Head coach Scott Brooks briefly addressed the move ahead of Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

“He’s a terrific young man, a very good player,” Brooks said of Randle. “Just gives us more flexibility. Who knows what we might do with it. He’s definitely an NBA player.”

The additional space – the Wizards had one vacant roster slot even with Randle – brings up the question of which NBA player might join the roster next. For now, don’t expect a blockbuster move.

Randle, who Washington signed to the active roster on Oct. 30, likely clears waivers, and then would rejoin the Capital City Go-Go, Brooks said. It’s been a back-and-forth scenario for Randle between the Wizards and their G-League squad this season. The 6-foot-2 guard was on the Go-Go roster when Washington’s season tipped off, and assigned to the G-League squad at the time of Monday’s release. Randle scored 37 points in the Go-Go’s inaugural game. He did not enter a game for Washington.

The Wizards were forced to add a player by Oct. 30, a date that marked two weeks from the time the Washington traded Jodie Meeks to Milwaukee. League rules require a minimum of 14 players on the roster.

That two week timeline applies to the current scenario. For now, the Wizards save a bit on the luxury tax payment by waiving Randle, who was signed to a $1.24 million non-guaranteed contract. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, adding Randle cost the Wizards $14,955.5 per day. Washington saved approximately $8 million by dealing Meeks.

As Brooks acknowledged, the open spots create greater flexibility.  In wake of the Timberwolves trading disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler to the 76ers, multiple reports at least tangentially mentioned the Wizards’ as part of the mix.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Washington balked at including Bradley Beal. SI.com’s Chris Mannix reported teams are keeping tabs on the 3-9 Wizards in case role players like Jeff Green, Markieff Morris or Kelly Oubre Jr. become available should the slow start continue.

Randle’s release limits Washington’s backcourt depth, but the top four options are healthy entering its five-game home-stand. In theory two-way contract player Jordan McRae could be recalled from Capital City, but the wing guard is dealing with a groin injury, according to a source. McRae should be available later in the week.

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Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

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USA Today Sports

Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

The Redskins moved to 6-3 on Sunday by beating the Buccaneers in Tampa, and now sit two games clear in first place in the NFC East. 

That should be the biggest football story inside the Beltway. But it isn't. 

The story has become that two of the most high-profile members of the Washington defense said that they prefer playing road games to being in their home stadium. Why? Because on the road they can hear better and focus more since they don't have fans booing them. 

Seriously. 

"Home games, that’s some of the worst things I’ve seen. I’ve played on four different teams, never seen it that bad, with other team’s jerseys in the stands, the boos, whatever it may be," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said during an appearance on 106.7 the Fan's Grant and Danny program on Monday. 

"I’ve never been a part of nothing like that."

This freight train started moving on Sunday, when after the win in Tampa, Josh Norman said he likes playing on the road. Why? Because there aren't any boos.

"We go into the homestands, and it’s like an open bubble,” Norman said. “Like the other team’s turf or something. You hear more of them than you do us. Then if something bad happens, they suck. They sit back in their seat, and they boo."

There's a lot to unpack here. 

Norman and Swearinger are right. There are always a lot of visiting fans at FedEx Field. Some of that might be that Washington is a transient city, but some of it is also because other fans have determined that it's easy to get tickets at FedEx Field. 

Why is it easy for visiting fans to get tickets? Well, there's not much sizzle at FedEx Field.

The area doesn't have shopping or restaurants around it like many newer NFL stadiums. The traffic, like much of life in the D.C. area, is awful. The stadium itself is underwhelming; old and lacking character. 

The Redskins are working hard to overhaul the game day experience, and some of the efforts are alrady working. But the problem is some fans have soured on the idea of spending the day at FedEx Field, and that will take time to fix. Probably years. 

One obvious fix? A new stadium, preferably back in downtown D.C. That is a long way off though. 

Plenty of fans are bothered by Swearinger and Norman's comments, and they have reason for that, too. 

To start with, there are tens of thousands of fans at every home game, cheering on their club. Lifelong, loyal fans that pay good money to watch the Burgundy and Gold. 

Do some boo? Certainly. But they only boo when the team is bad. Play good, no boos. It's fairly simple.

And the boos aren't only about a specific game, or even a specific season. Many Redskins fans are just frustrated with the franchise in general for a litany of reasons. Things have been stable under Jay Gruden, but for a long time, they weren't. 

What isn't fair for Norman and Swearinger is they played zero part in the multi-decade erosion of the Redskins fan base. And some would argue the fan base hasn't actually eroded, just that fewer fans want to make the trek to the stadium and commit to the full day that is attending an NFL game.

For 20 years, Washington has played plenty of bad football at home. During that time, some fans simply decided they'd rather watch on television, or go for a walk, or do yard work, or hang with their family. 

The toughest part is that both Norman and Swearinger can be right, but the fans that are upset with the comments can be right as well. 

Are there good fans? Absolutely. Are there lots of visiting fans? Yep. 

It won't be fixed overnight. Winning is the best cure, however, as old fans will return and new fans will be created. 

Play well and there won't be any booing. Keep winning games and there won't be anything but burgundy in the stands. 

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