NCAA

Saints defense shines in 41-0 win over Bucs

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Saints defense shines in 41-0 win over Bucs

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Jabari Greer made a leaping, twisting interception of Josh Freeman's short pass to the right flat, stalling a first-quarter drive deep into New Orleans Saints territory.

In the fourth quarter, Greer outran receiver Tiquan Underwood along the sideline to pick off Freeman's deep pass to the end zone.

In between, the rest of New Orleans' defense did about everything right to secure the franchise's first shutout in 17 years, while Drew Brees and the Saints' offense made their share of big plays in a 41-0 rout of the Tampa Bay on Sunday, eliminating the Buccaneers from playoff contention.

What was easily New Orleans' most complete performance of the season probably came too late, with the Saints (6-8) needing to win out and needing four teams to lose their last two games to sneak into the last NFC wild card spot. Yet, for Greer, playoff possibilities were beside the point.

``We are accountable to one another and no matter what situation we're in, we're going to band together,'' Greer said. ``We were going to play for the men in our locker room and the fleur-de-lis on our helmet, and that's what we did.''

New Orleans' defense produced five turnovers in all, four on interceptions of Freeman and one on defensive end Cameron Jordan's strip and recovery on his sack of Freeman.

The fans who stayed in the Superdome until the end got an additional moment to celebrate as the Saints stopped Tampa Bay one last time at the New Orleans 10, preserving the club's first shutout since a 12-0 win in the 1995 season finale against the Jets in New York.

The shutout meant a lot to a unit that came in ranked last in the league, in large part because of high yardage totals allowed early in the season while adjusting to the scheme of new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

``We've come a long way. Our defense the first four or five games was on pace to be one of the worst defenses ever,'' Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. ``It's just good to finally get a game to where we can be like, `All right, defense. This is us. This is what we're really all about.'''

The Saints' offense also looked more like the unit that set a slew of records last season.

Brees passed for 307 yards and four touchdowns. He avoided an interception for the first time in three games and connected on his scoring passes with tight end David Thomas, running back Darren Sproles and receivers Lance Moore and Joe Morgan. Mark Ingram added an 11-yard touchdown run.

``Even though maybe that Super Bowl trophy can't be ours this year, we still have a lot to play for,'' Brees said. ``We have a very prideful group of guys, but also we have a group of guys that understand the big picture, and that is that we're going to be together for a long time and we can start building the foundation of something now that will carry over for years to come.''

Freeman by contrast, was pulled in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.

``It's my job to make sure everybody is educated as to what the play is. I've got to do a better job,'' Freeman said. ``Some of those turnovers were really odd. Chalk it up to miscommunication.''

Rafael Bush intercepted a pass thrown directly at him at the New Orleans 9, returning it 40 yards to set up a Saints touchdown drive. Isa Abdul-Quddus intercepted a long pass that Freeman seemingly threw up for grabs.

New Orleans also bottled up standout rookie running back Doug Martin, holding him to 16 yards on nine carries as the Buccaneers lost for the fourth straight time and suffered by far their most lopsided drubbing this season.

``We got our butts whipped, and that's it,'' Bucs guard Donald Penn said . ``You can't sugarcoat it. We didn't perform today, and it's really tough and frustrating because we have so much talent.''

The Saints will still be alive for a playoff berth when they kick off at Dallas next Sunday, but will have to finish in a multi-team tie at 8-8, which would require several other teams to lose their last two games. While the Bucs could finish 8-8, they would lose all possible tiebreakers.

Brees had been intercepted nine times during New Orleans' recent three-game skid. That he would rebound well against Tampa Bay made sense; the Bucs came in giving up a league-worst 311.6 yards per game. Brees eclipsed 200 yards by halftime but eased off after his 34-yard touchdown to Morgan in the second half.

Brees finished with more than 300 yards passing and four TDs for the 17th time in his career, passing Dan Marino (16) for the most times in NFL history.

Ingram finished with 90 yards rushing and the Saints had their third-best total on the ground this season with 149 yards against a Tampa Bay rushing defense that came in first in the league, allowing 78.2 yards per game.

NOTES: The Saints had a halftime presentation for former left tackle Willie Roaf, who last summer became only the second Saints player inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Roaf was given the customary Hall of Fame ring as he stood behind his bronze bust, which will be returned to Canton. The only other Saints Hall of Famer is linebacker Rickey Jackson, inducted in 2010. ... The Bucs were shut out for the first time since Sept. 27, 2009, against the New York Giants.

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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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