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RBs Riddick, Wood give Notre Dame 1-2 punch

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RBs Riddick, Wood give Notre Dame 1-2 punch

MIAMI (AP) Notre Dame tailbacks Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood showed how interchangeable they are in the final two games of the regular season for the Fighting Irish.

Game 11 against Wake Forest, Wood ran for 150 yards, while Riddick had 20.

Game 12 against USC, it was Riddick running for 146 yards, and Wood for 20.

And so has been the theme for the Irish this season: Two running backs - and sometimes three - are better than one. That approach has served Notre Dame pretty much since training camp, and the top-ranked Irish (12-0) are hoping it holds true once Monday night when they face No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in the BCS title game.

Riddick has run for 880 yards and five touchdowns this season, Wood 740 yards and four scores, and George Atkinson III - who got only 51 carries, compared with 180 for Riddick and 110 for Wood - added five touchdowns and 7.1 yards per carry.

``We try to utilize all their strengths,'' Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. ``The truth be told, they all could be a feature back, they all could do all the things. Everybody is like, `He plays more, what's wrong with him?' There's nothing wrong with any of the three. We'd like to get George 20 carries a game but there's one football.''

Notre Dame was unranked to start the year, which means not many - well, very few - people thought the Irish would be in the national title game against the reigning champion Crimson Tide.

Among those who thought the Irish would play in the season's last game: Riddick, Wood and Atkinson.

``We've had RB meetings where we talk about what we want to do and what we all want to accomplish,'' Wood said. ``In the beginning of the season, what we said normally was, `We want to win them all.' That was word-for-word what we said. We want to win them all. And up to this point, we have. So we took that upon ourselves. We think we're one of the more skilled groups on the whole team. That's just how we go about our business.''

Martin was asked in the days leading up to the BCS title game to describe all three backs in rapid-fire style. His responses:

On Riddick, ``pound for pound as good a football player as they make.''

On Wood, ``as explosive a player as they make.''

On Atkinson, ``really explosive athlete.''

Notice any trends there? The Irish love their backs, and Alabama is raving about what they see from them all as well.

``Riddick is probably quicker than the other two,'' Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. ``Great one-step quickness, the ability to make you miss, good stiff arm. Didn't think a former receiver would run with that much power, but he does run with power. They're really good backs.''

Riddick came to Notre Dame as a running back, then primarily played wide receiver for two years and returned to the backfield this season. He said he never complained, said he never wondered which position better suited him.

Whatever it took to win was fine with him, Riddick said.

``What can I say? I feel like I'm at ease,'' Riddick said. ``Everything slows down tremendously and I think it's just helped me.''

Ask anyone on the Notre Dame offensive line how Riddick has handled his return to running back, and they'll say they believe he's hitting his best stride at the perfect time.

That being, title game.

``He's been unbelievable,'' offensive lineman Zack Martin said. ``Especially in the last three or four games of the season, he's been great. To have a guy like that behind you, he's fun to block for.''

That probably can be said for Wood and Atkinson as well.

``It's a credit to all three of them that they've stuck with it and prepared hard every week, and some weeks they've gotten more touches, but that's the nature of the beast,'' said Chuck Martin, the offensive coordinator. ``But we're very fortunate to have three very talented kids at that position.''

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Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT, but the Ravens aren't fazed at all

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USA TODAY Sports

Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT, but the Ravens aren't fazed at all

Justin Tucker making an extra point for the Baltimore Ravens is a sure thing.

As sure as the sun will rise each morning, Tucker's dependability and success have been a constant for the team. But on an afternoon where winds of around 17 mph were a factor though 60 minutes, Tucker's success came to a shocking halt. 

After Joe Flacco and the offense made their way downfield, Flacco found wide receiver John Brown in the end zone to make the score 24-23 with 24 seconds left in regulation.

In walked the most accurate kicker in NFL history to do what he's done so many times before; keep the Ravens in the game. As the ball sailed off Tucker's foot, it took a right and became the first point-after-touchdown the kicker has ever missed.

"I felt like when the ball came off my foot, that I hit it just how I wanted to," Tucker said at the podium following the Ravens' Week 7 loss to the Saints. "Don't get me wrong, today was a challenging day to kick the ball in our stadium, to the right of our bench."

Two hundred and twenty two-straight PATs. 222 consecutive makes, including 112 consecutive since PATs were moved back to the 15-yard line in 2015. Tucker was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September, marking the fifth time he's been awarded the honor.

From the field to the press box and all the way to the nosebleeds, M&T Bank Stadium was in shock. 

"A lot of things go through your mind, but I've been there plenty of time," Flacco said. "If you play football long enough, you're going to be there at some point. We're a very tight team here, and the first thing you think about is your brother and him dealing with it. Justin's the best in the world at what he does, and he's the most confident person that I know. It's not going to be an issue." 

"We're a tight group – we are light years better than we've been in the past," safety Eric Weddle said in the locker room after the loss. "Shoot, 'Tuck' is going to win us some games. We're not worried about that missed kick. Shoot, I think it's the first extra point ever that he's missed. Let's not get on him too hard. He's going to be hard on himself. That wasn't the only reason we lost." 

The support for Tucker, in what was a one-off for their teammate, was apparent throughout the entire locker room. When Tucker took to the podium to address the media, long snapper Morgan Cox and punter Sam Koch stood in the interview room while their kicker tried to explain what went wrong in a show of support.

"This one just happened to get away from me," Tucker added. "I'll have to look at it. I can't tell you exactly what happened, but at the end of the day, I feel like I cost us the game. Every single one of my teammates thus far has told me the opposite, and no one plays wins or loses a game, but that's a tough thing to grapple with when you're the guy in the situation at the end of the game."

Even members of the Saints were in disbelief. Almost everyone was mentally preparing for overtime as Tucker's accuracy is known around the league.

"When [Tucker] missed it, I thought, 'Let's get up and get out of here,'" running back Mark Ingram said. "I mean, that guy is good, so I was shocked."

"I automatically was thinking about overtime and what we were going to do," quarterback Drew Brees added. "I was very, very surprised when he missed it."

What the Ravens and fans alike can take solace in is that Tucker's stats speak for themselves showing more positive plays than negative. While it was probably the most heartbreaking loss they've had since Week 17 of the 2017 season, Tucker's point of emphasis when speaking with the media postgame was about more than a missed extra point.

"But, more than anything, I just wanted to be here [at the podium]. If I was going to ever teach my son or any young person about accountability, I felt like it was really important that I stand up here and answer whatever questions you guys may have."

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By the numbers: Bradley Beal on pace to become one of NBA history's best three-point shooters

By the numbers: Bradley Beal on pace to become one of NBA history's best three-point shooters

Bradley Beal topped Gilbert Arenas for first place in career three-pointers in Wizards/Bullets franchise history on Saturday night in the Wizards' loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Beal, only 25, has put himself in some good company over the years with his outside shooting. Here are some numbers to put it all in perspective.

By The Numbers: Bradley Beal's historic shooting numbers

2,208: Beal made his record-breaking, 869th three on his 2,208th attempt. It took Arenas 2,430 attempts to get there in a Wizards uniform. Arenas, however, reached the mark in 357 games compared to Beal's 408. Beal, now at 2,209, is second on the franchise list for career three-pointers attempted. Based on his career attempts averages, he should get there this season.

100: Beal has made at least 100 three-pointers in five straight seasons entering 2018-19. That is a franchise record. The longest such active streak is held by Jamal Crawford at 14. The longest streak in NBA history is held by Ray Allen at 17.

39.4: Beal's career three-point percentage. He is one of only five players ever to shoot at least 39 percent from beyond the arc while making two or more threes per game in their careers. The others are Kyle Korver, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Buddy Hield, who has only played in 164 games compared to Beal's 408.

223: Beal set the franchise record for three-pointers made in a single season back in 2016-17. He passed Arenas, who twice got to 205, in 2004-05 and 2006-07.

41: Beal also passed Arenas for the most games in franchise history with five or more three-pointers made. Arenas is in second with 40, while Trevor Ariza is in a distant third with 15. Otto Porter Jr., for comparison, has done it nine times. Beal's 41 games with five threes or more rank 18th among active players. Curry is way ahead of everyone else with 183.

37: Beal is one of just eight players ever to begin his career with six straight seasons of 37 percent or better from three. The other seven is mostly a who's who of three-point specialists like Curry, Thompson, Korver and J.J. Redick.

20: Shooting 37 percent or better from three while also scoring 20 points or more is rarer than you may think. Beal has done it twice in his career, same as LeBron James, Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard. Only 11 players have accomplished the feat more often. Dirk Nowitzki has done that in nine seasons, most all-time, while Kevin Durant is second with eight.

872: Speaking of Durant, this isn't a historic number, it's just an interesting coincidence. Since Beal entered the league before the 2012-13 season, he and Durant have been nearly identical as three-point shooters. Beal has made 870 threes, while Durant has knocked down 872. Beal has shot 39.4 percent, while Durant has hit 39.6 of them. Another guy who has been extremely similar to Beal is Danny Green, who now plays for the Raptors. He has hit 858 threes during that span at a 39.2 percent rate.

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