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Texas Tech rallies to beat Minnesota 34-31

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Texas Tech rallies to beat Minnesota 34-31

HOUSTON (AP) Texas Tech has had a difficult month since coach Tommy Tuberville left abruptly for the job at Cincinnati.

The struggles continued on Friday night, and the Red Raiders trailed Minnesota by a touchdown with just more than a minute left in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

That was when seniors D.J. Johnson and Seth Doege came through with big plays to help Texas Tech to a 34-31 win.

After Doege connected with Eric Ward on a 35-yard scoring play to pull the Red Raiders even at 31 with just more than a minute remaining, Johnson returned an interception 39 yards and Ryan Bustin made a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give the Red Raiders the win.

``We've overcome a lot of adversity,'' Johnson said. ``To end my last play like that is a blessing.''

Michael Carter intercepted two of Doege's passes in the fourth quarter before the tying score, but Minnesota couldn't convert either of the turnovers into points.

``Things weren't always going our way ... but we kept fighting and put ourselves in a position to win the game,'' Doege said.

The Red Raiders (8-5) got their third straight bowl victory to end their trying season on a high note.

Texas Tech has hired Kliff Kingsbury to replace Tuberville, but interim coach Chris Thomsen led the team against Minnesota (6-7). Kingsbury was at the game, watching from a suite.

Doege threw for 271 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in front of a crowd that included 1977 Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell and former Tech coach Spike Dykes.

``More than anything I credit those players,'' Thomsen said of Johnson and Doege. ``They really held it together ... to get to make those plays after they struggled. They kept their poise and confidence and continued to stay in there and battle.''

Philip Nelson threw for 138 yards and two scores for the Gophers, who were in a bowl game for the first time since 2009.

``I think our kids played hard tonight; they played their guts out, and I appreciate that,'' Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. ``We just couldn't make a play at a critical time.''

The Red Raiders returned to a bowl after having their 18-season bowl streak snapped last year.

A 1-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Drew Goodger gave Minnesota a 31-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Texas Tech led 24-17 at halftime, but couldn't do anything offensively in the second half until the last couple of minutes. It was an ugly game for the Red Raiders, who had 13 penalties for 135 yards and lost the tight end Jace Amaro when he was ejected for throwing a punch.

Jakeem Grant ran for what was initially ruled a touchdown for Tech late in the third quarter. Amaro threw a punch at Derrick Wells in the end zone on the play and was ejected.

After the penalty, the play was reviewed and overturned. Doege threw an incomplete pass before Tech made a 32-yard field goal. But the Red Raiders had a false start penalty on the play and had to kick again and this time the Gophers blocked it.

Nelson threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Devin Crawford-Tufts, who was left uncovered in the end zone, to tie it 24-all early in the third quarter.

Donnell Kirkwood scored on a 3-yard run to leave Minnesota up 17-14 early in the second quarter.

Texas Tech had a first-and-goal at the Minnesota 2 after a pass-interference call on the Gophers. But Texas Tech had to settle for a field goal after a rush for a 3-yard loss and two penalties.

Minnesota's next drive started out well before turning ugly. The Gophers had made two first downs before MarQueis Gray was sacked for a loss of 7 yards. Kirkwood ran for 17 yards on the next play, but Minnesota received two 15-yard penalties on the play, one for a personal foul on lineman Zac Epping, to make it second-and-42. Epping received a second personal foul penalty on the next play to bring up third-and-49.

``We just made some errors that I wish we hadn't made,'' Kill said.

Christian Eldred shanked the punt, giving Texas Tech the ball at the Minnesota 42.

The Red Raiders capitalized on their great field position when Doege spun away from a defender in the backfield and leaped over another Gopher near the goal line on a 4-yard touchdown run. Tech converted a fourth-and-6 play on that drive, and led 24-17 at halftime.

Minnesota's Rodrick Williams Jr. scored on a 2-yard run to give the Gophers a 10-7 lead in the first quarter.

Doege lost his helmet on a 5-yard scramble on Tech's next drive and had to go out for one play. He was replaced by Michael Brewer, who found Derreck Edwards for a 13-yard touchdown pass to give the Red Raiders a 14-10 lead.

Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire returned the opening kickoff 26 yards to break the NCAA record for career kickoff return yards. He finished the game with 111 yards to push his total to 3,615.

The Gophers ended that drive with a 41-yard field goal to make it 3-0.

Texas Tech's Grant returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to put Texas Tech up 7-3.

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

JUPITER, Fla. -- Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor.

Jupiter police told reporters Friday that the 77-year-old Kraft hasn't been arrested. A warrant will be issued and his attorneys will be notified.

The charge comes amid a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in the area surrounding Palm Beach County. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days and more are expected.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta. The team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Update: A spokesperson for Robert Kraft issued a statement, denying Craft's involvement. "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity," a spokesperson said, via Michael Del Moro. "Because this is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further. 

This is a developing story. Visit NBC Sports Boston for the latest Robert Kraft news and updates. 

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Radio silence from Bryce Harper hasn't quieted Mark Lerner's confidence in Nationals

Radio silence from Bryce Harper hasn't quieted Mark Lerner's confidence in Nationals

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Fans on the sidewalks at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches are held back by wire fence, just a few feet away from players clicking past in spikes on concrete. It emulates two priorities: access and the idea the team’s managing principal owner, Mark Lerner, had when he was a kid at spring training.

“You want to be able to see your favorites,” Lerner said Friday.

When Lerner, 65, comes to West Palm Beach, he still does that. He stops in the clubhouse to distribute handshakes and hugs. Running into Anthony Rendon on a crosswalk near the fields really lit up Lerner, who is still using a cane following an amputation of his lower left leg in 2017 necessitated by the diagnosis of spindle cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Not in West Palm Beach is a player Lerner had a close relationship with. On the day Manny Machado was introduced in San Diego, Bryce Harper remained, to the astonishment of many, unemployed. 

Lerner last addressed Harper’s free agency when he sat for radio interviews, Dec. 10, the day Patrick Corbin was introduced. He said the Nationals were no longer in the mix for Harper. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract which had an expiration date: when free agency began, it would be retracted. Harper declined, vaulting the baseball world into a months-long saga filled with tension, misinformation and growing exasperation.

“Nothing’s certainly changed on our end; we’ve moved on, as I said back then,” Lerner told NBC Sports Washington. “We had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce I’m sure will make his decision, hopefully in the next few days. But, we filled out our roster and like I said, we wish him nothing but the best. There’s always that -- the door’s cracked a little bit. I have no clue at this point what they’re up to. I mean, we really haven’t heard from them in a couple months.”

The prospect of a wait was of prime concern before the season ended. Washington used its personal window to negotiate with Harper, producing a lucrative baseline offer, with the aforementioned end date. Not long after, Corbin received a six-year, $140 million from the organization, which stood throughout the offseason as the benchmark in both length and total value prior to Machado’s decision. If Harper accepted the Nationals original offer, they would not have been able to pay Corbin, according to a source.

The organization moved forward plugging holes at catcher, second base and in the bullpen. It deemed the current outfield foursome as more than satisfactory. Also looming was the possibility of another year over the competitive balance tax, something that prompted the team to start shuffling finances late last season when it was clear the playoffs were not an option.

“It’s a pretty severe penalty if you go over and it’s been our goal all year to stay under that,” Lerner said.

Which complicates the future. Anthony Rendon is entering the final year of his contract. Rendon and the team are open to an extension, which has been discussed here and there for 18 months. Rendon reiterated his position when speaking with reporters earlier this week. Lerner turned his visual affection for Rendon into words Friday. 

“We love Tony to death,” Lerner said. “He’s certainly one of the greatest players in the game today. He’s an even finer person. His activities with the youth baseball academy back in D.C. are phenomenal. He does it under the radar. It’s very important to him. Just a great example of the way a professional athlete should conduct himself. Like I said, he’s one of my favorites for a reason.”

Washington rose perennial losers upon coming to Washington to an organization with annual prominent expectations. It chose not to retain manager Dusty Baker, instead hiring Dave Martinez in an attempt to push the team beyond the first round. Martinez’s arrival came with the edict that something more than division titles and first-round bow outs were now necessary for the team. The Nationals finished 82-80 last year during a season filled with injuries, under-performance and often mediocre fundamental baseball. Lerner suffered through with the irritation of a typical fan.

“I have my routine [following losses]. I go into a closet and scream a little after,” Lerner said with a laugh. “No, no. That’s one thing that’s good about baseball. You’re going to play the next day. But I go home. I’m totally depressed. I won’t turn on the sports news or anything and get up the next morning, it’s a new day, get up and go after it again today. When I’m sitting down there, I’m very passionate as a fan. I’m yelling at the umpires like everybody else. I want to win. I hate losing exhibition games let alone regular-season games.”

Enter 2019. The Nationals are amid the favorites in a taught National League East. Short-term fixes frame the team’s mainstays. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Corbin possess the three long-term commitments in the clubhouse. Rendon may be next. The Nationals want to retain that talent level, avoid the tax and put together a team with a chance to win the division or more. Harper’s talent made that possible when here. His price made it difficult going forward. They decided to try it without him. 

“Our goal every year is certainly to make the playoffs,” Lerner said. “In reality, we look back where we are in the world and where our needs are. It’s not just…certainly, we don’t want to go crazy with free agency. But we said when we first got the team, we’re going to build up the minor leagues, we’re going to get to a point where we can start to dabble in free agency, which we did with Jayson Werth, and when we find a need or a special player, we’re going to go after that player if it makes monetary sense for us. Our philosophy has never changed but, certainly, our goal is to make the playoffs and hopefully deep into the playoffs.”
 

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