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Westbrook's temper part of what makes him great

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Westbrook's temper part of what makes him great

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Make Russell Westbrook mad, and it's anybody's guess what will happen next.

In his rise to stardom in the NBA, Westbrook has shown off an All-Star temper to go with his unique blend of athleticism and determination.

His latest outburst came in anything but a pressure-packed situation Thursday night, when he snapped at teammates and stormed off toward the locker room after a third-quarter turnover with his Oklahoma City Thunder leading by 25.

In his fifth season in the league, the Thunder have come to understand that's just part of the Westbrook package. He plays with a permanent chip on his shoulder, and it's part of what makes him a great player.

Get Westbrook fired up, and he might waste a couple possessions letting off steam with ill-advised shots or unnecessary fouls. Moments later, he's using that rage to ratchet up his defensive intensity and dunk so hard he rattles the backboard. An angry Westbrook can be even better than the ordinary Westbrook, who's already a three-time All-Star.

That's the conundrum that Westbrook presents. When he finished bickering with assistant coach Maurice Cheeks, slapped at a chair and headed down the tunnel toward the locker room, fellow All-Star Kevin Durant was never concerned.

``Russell is such an emotional player. I knew he would be back,'' Durant said, ``and I knew he would play well.''

Sure enough, when coach Scott Brooks finally put Westbrook back in to start the fourth quarter, Westbrook made the key plays that put the game away after Memphis had clawed back within 10 during his 8-minute benching.

The only concern for Oklahoma City is whether his tantrums will fracture chemistry at some point and keep the team from winning an NBA championship.

Thabo Sefolosha, the target of Westbrook's rage this time, acted as though ``nothing really happened'' and steered his postgame comments toward the fact that Oklahoma City won and deemphasized the dispute.

``We can count on him every night,'' Sefolosha said. ``He's a big, big part of what we're doing with the team. Regardless of anything, he's a big, big, big part of the team and he's an extremely talented player.''

Durant considered it part of the game - even if you don't see an All-Star abandoning his team on a regular basis.

``Everybody's going to have disagreements in this league,'' Durant said. ``You're dealing with so many different emotions on this team. It's probably our third or fourth one throughout the whole year, and I'd say that's pretty good for us.

``We've just got to continue to keep helping each other, keep talking to each other and we'll be OK,'' Durant added.

In brief comments, Westbrook called it a ``miscommunication'' and said he can control his temper like a man, and that's what he did during the game. He wouldn't talk about why he went as far as leaving the bench.

This was only his latest episode. Sometimes what he thinks is a blown call gets him enraged to the point he gets a technical foul, and then his blood really gets boiling. Sometimes it's the opposite team that gets him going.

Then there's the personality switch from the happy-go-lucky Westbrook who wears eyeglasses with no lenses and crazy shirts and playfully chides his teammates in the locker room into an unstoppable ball of rage.

In a recent road game at Denver, he blocked the mascot's half-court shot during the fourth quarter of a close game. The Pepsi Center crowd then booed every time he touched the ball, with Westbrook soaking it in while leading a Thunder comeback. Then, he only added to it by blocking the mascot's shot a second time.

``That's how he is,'' Durant said. ``You want everybody to be themselves. Russell is doing a great job for us this year. You can't downplay that. He's passing the ball very well, he's communicating very well and as a point guard, that's what you need.''

While Nike put together an ad campaign suggesting Durant - with a squeaky clean reputation - is ``Not Nice,'' Westbrook can stir up hatred and criticism with any perceived misstep: He takes too many shots. He doesn't pass enough. And, of course, his attitude isn't right. Westbrook has absorbed it all while ranking in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring and the top five in assists and steals.

``Russell's an emotional guy. He plays hard,'' Brooks said. ``He plays every night. He plays for his team every night. We can pick apart his game, like a lot of us have in the past. But Russell plays hard every night. I have no problem that guys compete every night the way he competes. If that's becoming a problem, then we're all in this for the wrong reason.''

The Thunder didn't practice Friday and were traveling to Cleveland for their next game on Saturday night. Veteran Nick Collison, the team's longest-tenured player, said he didn't think anything needed to be addressed.

But as he pointed out, the Thunder are counting on Westbrook even more this season. They let locker room leaders Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey depart this offseason, leaving Westbrook and Durant to guide the ship at a relatively young age.

Immediately, they were challenged to keep the team together after Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was traded away at the start of the season in another challenge to the team's chemistry.

``The reason we've been able to keep up and go - we made a big trade earlier in the year - is because of what Russell and what Kevin have done as leaders. They've been great this year,'' Collison said. ``They've grown up a lot, their voice with the team. And they've done it with their play, too. ... Russ in particular has grown up a lot and we're going to be fine. He's had a great year.''

The 6 craziest things that happened in Week 3 of the college football season

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The 6 craziest things that happened in Week 3 of the college football season

If you don't know what makes college football so glorious (and are not a Maryland fan) check out the Maryland-Temple game from Saturday. There are good crazy games in college football and then there are the bad ones. That was one of the ugliest, craziest, most glorious games you will ever see. But more on that later.

You are not going to get anything like that in the NFL. And here's the thing, that was just one game! Every week is full of those crazy moments!

Here are the six craziest things that happened in Week 3.

Kansas beat a Power 5 team on the road!

A win for Kansas in and of itself is crazy. The fact that it came against a Power Five and on the road team is downright shocking.

The Jayhawks' 48-24 win over Boston College snapped a 48-game Power Five road losing streak. They have not won a Power Five game on the road since 2008. They were considered 20-point underdogs and managed the blowout win!

In all seriousness, it may be early but you have to tip your cap to the Mad Hatter. Les Miles' decision to take the Kansas job was widely scoffed, but he has won two of his first three games which is already better than most people probably expected.

By the way, from a local angle, this does not bode well for Virginia Tech who lost the Boston College in the opening week of the season. The Hokies had to rally from a 14-3 deficit just to beat Furman on Saturday. This could be a very long season in Blacksburg.

Maryland and Temple played the most absurd game ever

I don't know if I am going to be able to do this game justice by trying to describe the mayhem that happened in Philadelphia. Basically, neither team wanted to win the game and they both made that very clear...repeatedly.

Just to try to give you an idea, this game featured a muffed punt, a goal-line stand, a safety off a bad snap on a punt, a horrendous fake field goal attempt, a missed field goal, an interception negated by a penalty, seven Maryland players failing to pick up a fumble, a defensive holding call on third down which led to first and goal and eventually the go-ahead touchdown, a second goal-line stand and a seven-yard punt.

Maryland recovered a muffed punt on Temple's 19-yard line, returned a punt to Temple's 4-yard line and started a drive at Temple's 10-yard line after a seven-yard punt. That's three drives that began inside Temple's 20 and the Terps earned exactly 0 points off those three drives.

If you want to read more about it, here are the ugliest plays from Maryland's first loss of the season.

Pat Narduzzi seriously thinks he was being bold by calling the most conservative game ever

Coaching is hard and requires a lot of split-second decisions that will be second-guessed repeatedly whenever you get something wrong. It's a tough job, I get it. What I don't get is when a coach makes a bad decision, it blows up in his face and he continues to argue it was the right decision afterward because...reasons.

Pitt and Penn State played on Saturday in the last scheduled meeting between these two rivals. In a big rivalry game on the road against a highly ranked opponent, you would expect the Panthers would be aggressive looking for the upset. Instead, Pat Narduzzi called the most conservative game ever then tried to tell everyone who dared question him how he was right and they were wrong.

Pitt punted from the Penn State 37 in the first quarter, lost five yards on a third-and-goal from the two which force a field goal and punted from the Penn State 48 in the fourth quarter instead of going for it on fourth-and-two.

But wait, it gets worse.

Down 17-10 with less than five minutes in the game, Pitt had a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Again, this is a rivalry game on the road against a top-15 team and Narduzzi decided it was a good time to go for the field goal. A field goal!

Karma, no doubt reacting to the universal disgust from everyone watching, immediately struck and the Panthers missed the field goal.  Pitt would go on to lose 17-10.

And what did Narduzzi have to say for himself after the game?

"You need two scores to win the football game, unless you guys are playing for overtime," Narduzzi said. "We're trying to win the football game."

So...Narduzzi's answer is that he wasn't playing for overtime? Well, I guess he's right since Pitt lost in regulation.

The defiance is my favorite part. Narduzzi evidently thinks he was being aggressive by not going for it on fourth down because, hey, he's not playing for overtime. OK, so why not try to score the touchdown and go for two? Or maybe they should have intentionally turned the ball over at the 1 and tried to force a safety.

But how dare you question the wisdom of Narduzzi!

"Again, we can look back at all the calls, guys," Narduzzi said. "All the armchair quarterbacks, you guys got those armchair desks there. It's easy to make those decisions."

Yeah, it's easy to make those obvious decisions because literally everyone knew you were wrong, coach.

The game-tying field goal called back when Michigan State called for too many men

This one is going to sting in East Lansing for a long time.

With Arizona State leading 10-7, the Spartans attempted a 42-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to tie the game. Kicker Matt Coghlin nailed the kick and the game headed to overt...oh wait, that's not what happened.

The kick was good, but Michigan State had 12 men on the field which is generally frowned upon. The Spartans were flagged and moved back five yards and...well, you can probably guess what happened next.

Clemson is pretty much getting a bye to the ACC title game

The Tigers are ranked No. 1 and deservedly so. They are the defending national champs and are a dominant football team. As good as Clemson is, however, its conference is...not.

Here are some of the highlights from the ACC's week:

  • Boston College was blown out at home by perennial punchline Kansas.
  • Pitt lost to Penn State because its coach decided not to go for a game-tying touchdown
  • NC State was blown out by a bad West Virginia team
  • Virginia Tech had to rally back from a 14-3 deficit just to beat FCS Furman.
  • Georgia Tech lost to its FCS opponent, The Citadel, in overtime.

So...yeah. Clemson pretty much has a bye from here to the conference championship game.

Iowa State loses game off a muffed punt after Cyclone knocks over his own punt returner

Trailing by one point, Iowa State forced Iowa to punt with 1:37 left in the game. This was the Cyclones' chance to erase a four-game losing streak to its heated rival. This was going to be their moment to announce to the world that Iowa State has arr...what's that? They muffed the punt? Oh no.

Generally smashing into your own teammate is not a good strategy. That is especially true when you are trying to field a punt and your teammate is the returner.

Now that's how you close out a rivalry game.

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One side of the Redskins' offensive line is struggling, and it's not the one you expected

One side of the Redskins' offensive line is struggling, and it's not the one you expected

One side of the Redskins' offensive line is made up of a 36-year-old tackle who showed up on July 31 and a guard who's played a grand total of two games at the position. The other side, meanwhile, features a third-round pick who signed a pricey extension in 2017 at tackle and a two-time Pro Bowler at guard.

The first pair, somehow, is holding up OK through two contests this year. It's the second pair that's having trouble. And no one really expected that to be the case.

In Washington's Week 1 loss against Philadelphia, Morgan Moses — the one with the hefty contract — committed two penalties, a holding and a false start. Another holding call was declined.

In the team's Week 2 loss to Dallas, meanwhile, Brandon Scherff — the one with the Pro Bowls — was whistled for holding twice.

Beyond the penalties, though, Moses and Scherff haven't helped out the running backs. At all.

So far, according to the NFL's logs, the Burgundy and Gold have had 11 runs to the left for 46 yards, which comes out to an average of 4.18 yards per carry. There have been 14 carries to the right, on the other hand, for just 27 yards, which comes out to an average of 1.92 yards per carry.

To be fair, it's not like Donald Penn and Ereck Flowers are totally tearing it up at left tackle and left guard. But those stats show they've been surprisingly effective as run blockers and, overall, they're giving the Redskins all they could've hoped for. Moses and Scherff simply aren't.

Now, on the list of problems Jay Gruden's squad is facing, the defense's discouraging start is at the top, while injuries and poor adjustments follow. They need to seriously evaluate how they're trying to stop opposing offenses and what they are (or aren't) doing at halftime.

But Moses and Scherff's slumps are high up on that list of problems as well, because they were supposed to be two reliable veterans and pave the way when they were asked to.

Instead, they're holding the offense back, sometimes literally, sometimes because of sloppy play. The right side of the O-line is currently on the wrong side of things, which wasn't supposed to be the story up front.

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