NCAA

Titans celebrate much-needed win with weekend off

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Titans celebrate much-needed win with weekend off

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Now that the Tennessee Titans finally have the win they so desperately needed they get a couple of days to rest before trying to prove they've turned this season around.

Coach Mike Munchak gave his Titans (2-4) the weekend off after Thursday night's 26-23 win over Pittsburgh, and they don't play again until visiting Buffalo on Oct. 21.

``Obviously, winning is huge for us because we needed it so badly and it's something we can build off of,'' Munchak said Friday. ``Now we have these four games coming up, and we have another break. Let's see if we can suck it up and put a winning streak together.''

The Titans showed some glimpses of the team that went 9-7 last season beating the Steelers. They blocked a punt to set up their first rushing touchdown this season, and the defense that had given up an NFL-worst 181 points through five games allowed a season-low points in forcing Pittsburgh to settle for four field goal attempts with the last one short in the final minute.

It would be easy for the Titans to think of what might have been if not for their struggles the first five weeks.

``We've already given away four games,'' cornerback Jason McCourty said after the game. ``At this point, it's a matter of trying to win out now.''

The schedule certainly eases up for Tennessee.

The weekend off provides a mini-break before visiting Buffalo (2-3), hosting Indianapolis (2-2) and Chicago (4-1) and going to Miami (2-3) before the Titans' bye week. Munchak said they then will have a six-game run to the finish, and Houston is the only team currently with a winning record in that stretch.

The Titans return to work Monday still needing to gear up the offensive and deal with tackling issues on defense. Doctors will check Jake Locker's left, non-throwing shoulder Monday to see if he can return to practice. If Locker isn't ready, then Matt Hasselbeck would start his third straight game.

``If Jake's healthy and we feel he's ready to play, he'll play,'' Munchak said.

If Locker isn't ready, Munchak said they are lucky to have Hasselbeck. The 14-year veteran was intercepted once and got lucky at least twice against Pittsburgh, including once on the tying touchdown drive. But Hasselbeck also had his best game ever against the Steelers throwing for 290 yards and the 5-yard TD to Kenny Britt.

Tennessee held the ball for 30 minutes, 3 seconds - the longest time of possession by the Titans since a win over Jacksonville on Dec. 24 last season. The Titans' improved offense might have been helped by offensive coordinator Chris Palmer moving to the box for the first time with receivers coach Dave Ragone on the field.

Palmer had worked from the sideline since joining the staff last season, intially to better coach a new offense during games. It worked well enough last season as Tennessee went 9-7 that Palmer stayed on the sideline the first five weeks this season before making the switch with Ragone.

``I'm sure we'll keep it that way,'' Munchak said.

The Titans also got just the second start this season for Britt, who tore his right ACL in September 2011 and has had three knee surgeries since then. His timing remains a bit off as he works himself back into shape.

Chris Johnson has been criticized heavily for his poor start this season. The Titans still can run better, but Johnson's 91 yards on 19 carries was his best game ever against the Steelers. Johnson credited the offensive line for his performance, saying they need each other to play well.

Munchak said both Johnson and the offense benefited from being having more time on the field to get into a better rhythm together. Winning the game by scoring 10 points in the final 4:19 against the NFL's fifth-best defense also gave a glimpse of what the Titans believe they have on offense.

``We have some very good talent here,'' Munchak said. ``It's just a matter of us now week in, week out proving that.''

The Titans still must fix tackling woes. Ike Redman got 10 extra yards on one catch because the Titans were too busy trying to punch the ball out rather than take him to the ground. Munchak said they must wrap up before trying to force a turnover.

``It's a work in progress,'' Munchak said.

And Tennessee has 10 games left to show what they can do.

Notes: DT Jurrell Casey hurt his shoulder and didn't finish the game. Munchak said the tackle should back for Buffalo. Defensive back Tommie Campbell, who hurt his left ankle covering a punt, will be checked and could miss some time.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter:http://twitter.com/teresamwalker

New AP Poll for Top 25: Ohio State drops to No. 11

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USA Today

New AP Poll for Top 25: Ohio State drops to No. 11

Clemson is back at No. 2 in The Associated Press college football poll behind top-ranked Alabama, moving up to where it started, after a convincing victory and Ohio State's first loss of the season.

The Crimson Tide are a unanimous No. 1, with all 61 first-place votes Sunday, for the first time this season.

The Tigers trailed only Alabama in the preseason rankings, but a couple of close wins in September -- combined with seemingly impressive performances by other highly ranked teams -- dragged Clemson to as low as No. 4.

Coming off a lopsided win against North Carolina State, Clemson rose a spot this week. Notre Dame is No. 3 and LSU is No. 4, setting the stage for a top-five matchup between the Tigers and Crimson Tide in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Nov. 3. Both have an open date this week.

Michigan is No. 5 and Ohio State dropped to No. 11 after being upset by Purdue.

POLL POINTS

No. 25 Appalachian State is ranked in the AP poll for the first time in school history. The Mountaineers (5-1) have not lost since opening the season with an overtime defeat at Penn State.

"It's awesome to be recognized," Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield said Sunday. "We've had a lot of positive things happen to our program the last three to four years. The first time we go bowl eligible, which was awesome. Then we go win our first bowl game. That was really cool. And then to go win our first Sun Belt championship two years ago. That was awesome. So there's been a lot of first for us over the last three years. This is another first."

App State transitioned to the FBS, the highest level of Division I football, in 2014 after years as an FCS power. Under former coach Jerry Moore, the Mountaineers were a regular playoff participant. The program peaked in the mid-2000s, winning three straight FCS (Division I-AA) championships from 2005-07. And App State pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in college football history against Michigan in 2007.

Moore retired after the 2012 season and was replaced by Satterfield, a former App State quarterback and assistant coach. The move up in class and into the Sun Belt has been practically seamless. The Mountaineers are 46-23 under Satterfield, with two Sun Belt titles. The only other Sun Belt team to ever be ranked was Troy on Nov. 13, 2016.

"To be recognized in the FBS level football and for our program to be a team that just went through transition four years ago and now to be ranked is pretty remarkable," Satterfield said. "We have a lot of pride, a lot of tradition in our program."

This season's team was expected to contend for another conference championship. A case could be made it is exceeding even those high expectations after replacing four-year starting quarterback Taylor Lamb, two four-year starting offensive linemen, four defensive players that were four-year starters and veteran defensive coordinator Nate Woody, who left for Georgia Tech.

Satterfield said this is may be his fastest team at App State and credited senior safety Josh Thomas, senior defensive tackle MyQuon Stout and fourth-year junior offensive tackle Victor Johnson with providing leadership for one of the least experienced rosters in the FBS. Running back Jalin Moore, another senior who was lost for the season to a knee injury two weeks ago, has become a de facto assistant coach for App State.

Since falling to Penn State, the Mountaineers have outscored their opponents 231-49. Next up is a key game for first place in the Sun Belt East at Georgia Southern (6-1, 3-0) on Thursday night.

UP

  • No. 14 Washington State was the only big mover to rise in the rankings this week, jumping 11 spots after beating Oregon.

DOWN

  • Ohio State dropped out of the top 10 for the first this season, tumbling nine spots
  • No. 19 Oregon dropped seven spots after taking its second loss
  • No. 22 North Carolina State fell six spots after losing for the first time this season

IN

  • No. 23 Utah is ranked for the first time this season, making it five straight years the Utes started the season unranked but moved into the rankings at some point. From 2014-16, Utah started the season outside the Top 25 but finished it ranked. Utah has won three straight, scoring at least 40 points in each game
  • No. 24 Stanford is back in the rankings after falling out two weeks ago

OUT

  • Michigan State and Mississippi State fell out of the rankings again after losing for the third time this season
  • Cincinnati's first loss of the season, in overtime to Temple, cost the Bearcats their first ranking since 2012

CONFERENCE CALL

  • SEC -- 6 teams (1, 4, 7, 9, 12, 16).
  • Big Ten -- 5 (5, 11, 17, 18, 20).
  • Pac-12 -- 5 (14, 15, 19, 23, 24).
  • Big 12 -- 3 (6, 8, 13).
  • ACC -- 2 (2, 22).
  • American -- 2 (10, 21).
  • Sun Belt -- 1 (25).
  • Independent -- 1 (3).

RANKED vs. RANKED

No. 7 Georgia vs. No. 9 Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. The first of two games involving the Bulldogs that will decide the SEC East. Georgia faces Kentucky on Nov. 3.

  • No. 14 Washington State at No. 24 Stanford. Cougars try to grab control of the Pac-12 North.
  • No. 18 Iowa at No. 17 Penn State. The Nittany Lions will help decide the Big Ten West with home games against the Hawkeyes and No. 20 Wisconsin.

Quick Links

Dwight Howard 'out' for game vs. Trail Blazers, does not travel with team

Dwight Howard 'out' for game vs. Trail Blazers, does not travel with team

Due to an ongoing buttocks injury, Dwight Howard is listed as "out" for the Wizards' Monday night game in Portland against the Trail Blazers. Howard did not travel out west with the team for the five-game trip, according to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller.

The news comes just four days after Wizards head coach Scott Brooks told the media that Howard would "definitely" make the trip. 

The veteran power forward was signed to the Wizards on a two-year free-agent deal in July worth $11 million, but has missed the Wizards' first two games of the regular season and all five of the team's preseason games. 

In Howard's absence, Brooks has turned to Ian Mahinmi, but his foul trouble has proved worrisome for the Wizards' lineup so far.

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