NCAA

Top tailbacks Ball, Taylor in Rose Bowl spotlight

Top tailbacks Ball, Taylor in Rose Bowl spotlight

LOS ANGELES (AP) Although Montee Ball and Stepfan Taylor have barely met, Taylor is pretty sure they would get along famously.

``We had a quick hello this week, but you can tell we've got a lot in common,'' the Stanford running back said. ``At least on the field.''

In an era of college football dominated by spread schemes and prolific quarterbacks, these two tailbacks personify an old-fashioned, smash-mouth approach to offense. Running behind similar massive offensive lines at Wisconsin and Stanford, both backs persevered through slow starts to their careers to earn prominent spots in the record books heading into their big finales in the 99th Rose Bowl.

``You can't really have a better running back matchup in college football than this one,'' Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said.

Ball and Taylor expect to get to know each other while they prepare for the upcoming NFL draft, where they're both likely to be high picks. They'll first finish up their college careers against each other when the surprising Badgers (8-5) make their third straight Rose Bowl appearance Tuesday against the favored No. 8 Cardinal (11-2).

When Ball is asked about Taylor's abilities, he realizes he might as well be describing himself.

``We're both not blazing fast, but we both do a good job playing to our strengths,'' Ball said. ``We run behind our pads, run between the tackles and always stay physical. We've got a lot of similarities, so it's good to see him have success. Just hopefully not too much success in the game.''

The Rose Bowl is a culmination of two resilient tenures at a notoriously fickle position. Both backs are playing in their third straight BCS bowls: Ball was outstanding in both of the Badgers' previous trips to the Rose Bowl, while Taylor had big games in Orange and Fiesta bowls over the past two years.

Ball, who won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back this season, has scored 82 touchdowns - more than anybody in FBS history.

Taylor is merely the leading rusher in Stanford history - and one score shy of becoming the school's career touchdowns leader - as an incredibly durable performer who almost never leaves the field when the Cardinal have the ball.

Yet neither Ball nor Taylor started his college career as the main man, instead winning their starting jobs through persistence and hard work.

Taylor was a backup to Toby Gerhart as a freshman, getting just 56 carries. He was overshadowed for most of his first three seasons on The Farm with Heisman contenders Gerhart and Andrew Luck in the same backfield before getting the spotlight this year - and even then, he was overshadowed on the West Coast by fellow Pac-12 ball-carriers Kenjon Barner at Oregon, Ka'Deem Carey at Arizona and Johnathan Franklin at UCLA.

Yet Taylor broke Darrin Nelson's Stanford career rushing record in the Pac-12 title game, getting 78 more yards to give him 4,212 in his career. With a touchdown against Wisconsin, he'll break his career tie with Gerhart at 44 TDs.

``I don't worry about people paying attention to me as long as we're winning games, because that's all you can control,'' Taylor said.

Ball played behind John Clay as a freshman and in a three-back combo with Clay and James White as a sophomore. Ball was frequently the third option in that troika in 2010, particularly when he didn't even play in a win over Ohio State, a setback that left him contemplating a transfer or moving to linebacker.

``I learned a lot about distractions during my career, and that helps you when you get in a situation like the Rose Bowl where you need focus,'' Ball said.

Ball has rushed for 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns in the final season of his decorated career at Wisconsin. With three touchdowns in the Big Ten title game, Ball broke the FBS career record for rushing TDs with 76 while topping 5,000 yards for his career.

He was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season after scoring 39 touchdowns, and he rushed for 164 yards in Wisconsin's loss to Oregon in last season's Rose Bowl. Ball won't catch Wisconsin career rushing leader Ron Dayne, the top ball-carrier in FBS history with 6,397 yards, but he's done just about everything else possible in Madison.

When David Shaw was asked about his single biggest concern in the Rose Bowl, the Stanford coach was blunt: ``He wears No. 28 for the other team.''

That would be Ball, of course. The Cardinal have replicated Ball in practice with Stanford backup running back Barry Sanders - yes, the son of that other Barry Sanders, whose single-season record of 39 touchdowns for Oklahoma State was tied by Ball last season.

``His career reminds me so much of Stepfan Taylor,'' Shaw added. ``"He's got great vision, great balance. He waits for the blocks and to happen, and then he explodes. You never see him get in (bad) body position. He doesn't turn the ball over. He doesn't sacrifice the good play to try to make the big play. He makes the plays he's supposed to make, and then makes more. He's just one of those complete running backs that we have a lot of respect for.''

Watch a George Mason walk-on receive a full scholarship

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Watch a George Mason walk-on receive a full scholarship

There are not many videos better in this world than walk-on college athletes receiving a full-ride scholarship and their ensuing reaction. 

George Mason's men's basketball team gave everyone one of those emotional moments. Jack Tempchin, who's in his third year as a preferred walk-on for the Patriots, received the scholarship after Thursday's practice. 

His teammates reacted appropriately. 

On Twitter, the redshirt junior thanked his teammates, coaches and family who helped get him to this point. 

As a walk-on, Tempchin has only played in 16 games throughout his three years. Most of his minutes have been in garbage time of blowouts or to come in the game to pick-up a quick foul. Throughout those appearances, he's put up six points, four of them coming from the charity stripe. 

Gotta love when a player gets properly rewarded for their hard work and dedication. 

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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

The Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-112 on Thursday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Just before tip-off, the NBA announced it's 2019-20 All-Star starters and not included in the Eastern Conference backcourt was Bradley Beal. Boston's Kemba Walker and Atlanta's Trae Young instead got the honors.

Whether Beal knew that fact when he took the floor or not, he put in a performance against the Cavs that should add to his case for being a reserve. The two-time All-Star followed up a 38-point gem against the Heat with 36 points against Cleveland just one night later. He also had eight assists and shot 15-for-22 (68.2%) from the field and 4-for-8 from three.

Beal now has the fourth-most 30-point games in the NBA since the start of last season with 40 of them. Only James Harden (86) Gianiis (54) and Damian Lillard (45) have more.

This 30-point game helped the Wizards bounce back from a loss the night before in Miami. Washington is now 15-29 on the season and 5-5 in their last 10 games.

2. In his previous six games since returning from a quad injury, Davis Bertans had put up some solid numbers and shown flashes. Against the Cavs, though, he did what we saw him to much more often a few months ago when he was healthy.

Bertans not only lit a spark off the bench, but he did so in microwave fashion. He had 14 of his 17 points in the first half, including three consecutive threes in the second quarter to force a timeout as the Wizards' lead grew to 14. That marked a big turnaround after Washington trailed by as many as 12 in the first quarter.

Bertans helped lead a monster effort from the Wizards' bench as a whole. They outscored the Cavs' second unit, 59-34. The Wizards are second in the NBA in bench scoring and that is despite all of the injuries they have dealt with in recent months. Now that they are nearly whole, the bench is becoming even stronger.

 

3. The Thomas Bryant situation is getting more interesting as each game passes. He has now been back six games and has been kept between roughly between 12 and 21 minutes a night. He played 17 minutes against the Cavs and contributed nine points and three rebounds.

Bryant is a big man coming off a foot injury, so the Wizards have incentive to play it safe and maintain a minutes restriction. But it has now been nearly two weeks since he came back.

Is it as simple as a minutes limit or is Ian Mahinmi's improved play having a domino effect on Bryant? The more Bryant plays limited minutes, the more that could become evident, if this is indeed performance based. 

Mahinmi, by the way, had seven points, seven rebounds and played strong defense, helping the Wizards to hold Tristan Thompson to six points and three rebounds.

4. Much like last week when the Wizards saw the Pistons and Andre Drummond, watching this game was reminder that Kevin Love is reportedly available in trades. That begs the natural question of where he would fit, if he gets dealt soon, like before the Feb. 6 deadline.

Some might argue the Wizards as an option, given their best players are guards and Love would technically complement them well. Given his age and contract, however, it would probably be too much of a risk for the Wizards.

The Blazers seem like they could use him and the Raptors could also be interesting. He would also fit well with the Rockets, though they probably don't have enough trade assets to get him.

What about the Timberwolves? They have disappointed this year and need to find Karl-Anthony Towns some help. Love wouldn't be joining a contender, as he probably hopes to, but it could be an interesting story if he goes back to the team he started with. And him and Towns would be a tough duo to stop given how well they rebound and stretch the floor.

Speaking of Love, he had the viral moment of the night when he pretended to resuscitate Beal. 

5. Backup center Anzejs Pasecniks was back in the mix after missing two games due to a left ankle injury. And not only was he available, he actually got some burn.

Pasecniks played 15 minutes and scored four points to go along with three rebounds. So, even with Bryant and Bertans back from injury, and Johnathan Williams III still getting minutes, Pasecniks maintains a role in the rotation.

That could change once other players come back. Moe Wagner, in particular, will probably take minutes away from him at the backup center spot. But Pasecniks still hanging around in the rotation is a testament to him and the way he has played. No one predicted he would play this much of a factor this season.

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