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USC ends disappointing season in Sun Bowl

USC ends disappointing season in Sun Bowl

EL PASO, Texas (AP) A season that began with so much promise for Southern California will end Monday in a place few would have expected to see the Trojans this bowl season.

USC started the season No. 1 in the country with a quarterback favored to win the Heisman Trophy. Losses to Stanford and Oregon took the Trojans out of the national title picture, and losses to Arizona, rival UCLA and then finally to Notre Dame sent them tumbling to second-tier bowl status.

Instead of the BCS, the Trojans (7-5) will face Georgia Tech (6-7) in Sun Bowl. Both teams are unranked and riding two-game losing streaks, and USC will be without injured quarterback Matt Barkley (shoulder).

The Trojans admit they had much greater expectations for themselves, but they also are happy to be in a bowl game after a two-year ban and will try to salvage a season that slipped through their fingers after a 6-1 start.

``We wanted to be in a better bowl game, and that's typical, but we decided our own fate and this is where we're at,'' All-American receiver Marqise Lee said. ``Things happen to the greatest teams out there. Sometimes situations happened where there's struggles, and that's what we had. So now we're here, just ready to play and focused - enjoying practice and enjoying our days here, and we'll be ready to play on Monday.''

Barkley, the first three-time captain in team history, injured his right shoulder injury in the loss to UCLA. It was announced Thursday that Barkley was not cleared to play in the Sun Bowl. He put together one of the greatest careers in USC history and is expected to be one of the first quarterback drafted by the NFL in April.

It certainly is not the season Barkley envisioned when he decided to return for his senior season and put off the NFL.

``I wouldn't say tough. It's not like you really have an example to look to as how to handle it with all the success teams in the past have had at this school,'' Barkley said. ``It's been definitely a learning lesson, not something I could have imagined, but then again nothing is guaranteed.

``When you strive for something, there are times when you're going to be disappointed. Knowing we were shooting for a very high goal . it just happens that way sometimes. But it doesn't take away from the fact of the experiences I've had.''

Barkley's injury means that redshirt freshman Max Wittek will get his second start. The first was the 22-13 loss to Notre Dame in which he was 14 of 23 passing for 186 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

``We're fortunate it isn't the first time we've had to (play without Barkley),'' USC coach Lane Kiffin said. ``We did it a lot of games last season. The team is very comfortable with Max. It's not like all of a sudden we made him the starter.''

Lee gave Wittek a ringing endorsement.

``Based off that Notre Dame game, we had little situations here and there, but then again you know what your quarterback is capable of. Max threw two picks, but then again in the huddle he was still pumping us up,'' Lee said. ``From a young quarterback, you don't expect that. So to see that from a freshman, willing to push us, the vets, and get us there and ready to go is amazing. So I'm not worried about him at all. Monday, he'll go out there and do what he's supposed to do. He looks great. He didn't have much time to practice for Notre Dame, but now he'll be on point.''

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he doesn't expect USC to change much offensively with Wittek.

``Surely he's an excellent player,'' Johnson said of Barkley, ``but I think the young man that played in his place is also very talented. We only had the one game to break it down, but you can see he's got good feet, a very strong arm and he's very capable. I doubt they're going to change what they do.''

And neither will Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets, with their triple-option offense, are fourth in the nation in rushing, averaging 323 yards per game. Quarterback Tevin Washington has run for 19 touchdowns.

``It's very difficult (to prepare for),'' Kiffin said of Tech's offense. ``Luckily, we had a month to prepare for it. I don't know how people do it in a week. It took us a week to get the (scout) team to play them. It's different. In a weird way, it's like playing Oregon. There are not a lot of plays being run, but they're so good at it.''

The Yellow Jackets have to prepare for a USC offense that features two of the best receivers in the nation in Lee and junior Robert Woods, who is expected to make a decision after the game regarding whether or not he plans to enter the NFL draft. Woods is USC's all-time receptions leader, while Lee won the Biletnikoff Award and finished fourth in this year's Heisman voting.

``The two wide receivers are so talented,'' Johnson said. ``They've got a good offensive line, an adequate running game. They're just very talented all up and down at every position.''

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Ravens hold on to another close preseason win in Week 2

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Ravens hold on to another close preseason win in Week 2

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Baltimore Ravens spoiled Andrew Luck's Indianapolis homecoming.

They picked him off before allowing a completion, and Terrell Suggs nearly chopped the ball out of Luck's hands on a sack. The Ravens then secured a 20-19 preseason win over the Colts by stopping a late 2-point conversion run.

Luck was just OK in his first home start since Jan. 1, 2017. But he did receive a roaring ovation from the crowd when he took the field, led the Colts to one score and apparently emerged unscathed after going down twice on sacks.

"Not too sharp, certainly red-zone turnovers are a negative, missed a couple of throws I'd like to hit," he said. "And I didn't feel like we, as an offense, got into any semblance of a sustained rhythm."

Expectations were high following a solid start in Seattle.

This time, the Colts (1-1) looked sloppy.

Luck missed his first three throws, the third winding up in the hands of Ravens safety Anthony Levine Jr. Luck rebounded to finish 6 of 13 for 50 yards and set up 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri for a 57-yard field before leaving in the second quarter.

If Luck had his way, he might have played longer. But first-year coach Frank Reich wasn't taking any chances with Luck's surgically repaired arm.

"We just never found a rhythm for him and some of his balls were not his best balls," he said. "But I still have a lot of confidence we're headed in the right direction."

Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens looked better.

Flacco went 7 of 9 for 72 yards and one touchdown. Jackson then showed flashes of what helped him win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.

Jackson was 7 of 15 for 49 yards and a TD and carried four times for 26 yards before giving way to another Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, in the fourth quarter.

Indy still had a chance at the end after Tarell Basham recovered a fumble at the Ravens 9. Five plays later, Phillip Walker threw a 9-yard TD pass to Zach Pascal with 2:24 left. But the Ravens (3-0) stopped Walker on the 2-point try, recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

"Happy to get the win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We did a lot of things that weren't winning football, especially in the second half."

The Ravens made it tough on Indy all night.

They stopped Indy twice in the red zone and nearly had a third when Jordan Wilkins fumbled the ball into the end zone, where it bounced right into the hands of receiver Chester Rogers.

Flacco gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter when he hooked up with John Brown on a 7-yard score, and Jackson's masterful hurry-up drive at the end of the first half ended with Justin Tucker's 38-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.

When Colts rookie Nyheim Hines fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half, Jackson hooked up with Chris Moore on a 7-yard TD pass to make it 17-10.

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Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in NFL history.

But is he the best running back for the Redskins right now?

The Redskins signed Peterson, 33 years old and a 12-year NFL veteran, to a one-year contract. They have been hit with injuries at the running back position, most notably the loss of second-round pick Derrius Guice for the season with a torn ACL. They didn’t make any moves when that diagnosis was announced a week and a half ago. But they lost two more backs to short-term injuries last Thursday and they decided that now is the time to go out and get somebody.

Is the need for a running back really there? Rob Kelley was the starter for the last half of the 2016 season and for seven games last year before a variety of ailments sent him to injured reserve. Samaje Perine became the starter after that and while he struggled at time he also showed growth potential.

Kelley is 25 and Perine is 22. In the absence of Guice, they could develop and when Guice returns next year the team would have a good stable of young running backs.

But now, Peterson is in the picture. We don’t yet know what his role will be, but they did not sign him to be the back who is inactive on game days. He will get some carries and that will take work away from Perine and Kelley.

Now, if Peterson is more productive than either of the two younger backs then that is a worthwhile swap. But what does he have left in the tank at age 33?

Last year, playing for the Saints and Cardinals he gained 529 yards on 156 carries, a very pedestrian average of 3.4 years per carry. That is very similar to the production of Perine, who had 175 carries for 603 yards, a 3.4 average. In his two years in the NFL, Kelley has averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

By signing Peterson, however, the Redskins are hoping that Peterson has one more big year, or at least a medium year by his standards, left in him. After all, it was just in 2015 that he led the NFL in rushing for the third time in his career as he ran for 1,485 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. The Redskins would be delighted if he could get half of that total.

Any free agent signing can only be evaluated when the contract details are available. We only know that it’s a one-year deal and according to some reports he did not get any money guaranteed at signing. That seems to be a team friendly deal, but we will have to see what might kick in if he is on the Week 1 roster.

As with everything else, time will tell if this move works out. If the money is right, it’s a low risk transaction with some possible upside for Washington.

Back during minicamp while talking about how quickly Alex Smith would have to get up to speed with the offense, Jay Gruden said that the Redskins are not in a rebuilding mode and that they need to win now. After the trade for Smith, the Peterson signing is another indication that patience may be wearing thin.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler