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Western Kentucky hires Petrino as football coach

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Western Kentucky hires Petrino as football coach

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) Now that Bobby Petrino is back in the coaching ranks, he wants to make the most of his second chance.

Petrino was introduced Monday as Western Kentucky's new head football coach. The 51-year-old was fired by Arkansas in April for a ``pattern of misleading'' behavior following an accident in which the coach was injured while riding a motorcycle with his mistress as a passenger.

``At this point in my career, it's about getting back and coaching players,'' Petrino said. ``It just happened to open up at a place we love.

``I hope it can be as long as possible.''

Petrino had a 34-17 record at Arkansas before he was dismissed in the wake of the scandal. Petrino had an affair with former Razorback volleyball player Jessica Dorrell, who he later hired as a football assistant had gave $20,000 in gifts. Petrino said initially he was the only person on the motorcycle but later admitted to Dorrell's presence.

``I'm going to be able to sit down with mom and dad and the student-athlete and make them understand how this experience has made me a better coach, a better person and will make me understand their son better,'' Petrino said during a packed news conference at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

``I'm looking forward to the opportunity I'll be able to give student athletes when they make a mistake.''

Petrino is replacing Willie Taggart, who left WKU last week to become South Florida's coach.

Western Kentucky gave Petrino a four-year deal with a base annual salary of $850,000. If he terminates the deal at any time, he must re-pay the university $1.2 million in six monthly payments starting the month after he leaves.

Athletic director Todd Stewart knows he might get criticized for hiring Petrino.

He and Petrino had a long discussion over the weekend about the coach's past. Stewart said Petrino was candid and honest about his conduct and took responsibility for his actions. He said Petrino's contrition convinced him to give the coach a shot.

``What it comes down is that he made a big mistake and he acknowledges that and he's taken ownership of that,'' Stewart said. ``And he's paid a heavy price for it.

``But this is the United States of America, and we're a country of second chances. I was confident after talking with him and with other people that he deserved a second chance and we are more than happy to give it to him.''

Petrino, 75-26 overall as a college head coach, said he is looking forward to ``building on the foundation and standards'' that Taggart established.

Petrino had been looking to get back into coaching since he was let go by Arkansas. His name had been recently mentioned in connection with several openings, including Kentucky and Auburn.

He returns to the state where he successfully began his head coaching career. Petrino coached at Louisville from 2003-06, going 41-9 and leading the Cardinals to a 12-1 mark and their first-ever BCS berth in the Orange Bowl in 2006.

Now that he's back in the state, the coach said he and wife Becky ``consider this coming home.''

While at Louisville, Petrino was offered an NFL job and he left the Cardinals to become coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

He had a brief 13-game stint in 2007 with Atlanta. The Falcons stumbled to a 3-10 start before Petrino left for Arkansas, announcing his departure to players in a four-sentence laminated letter left at their lockers.

Arkansas had a losing record - 5-7 - in his first season. But Petrino and the Razorbacks improved each after that. They were to 8-5 in 2009, 10-3 with a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2010 and went 11-2 with a Cotton Bowl bid in 2011.

He takes over a 7-5 Western Kentucky team that's headed to its first bowl appearance as an FBS school. The Hilltoppers will play in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26 against Central Michigan.

WKU defensive coordinator Lance Guidry was named interim coach on Saturday and will coach the team in the bowl game.

Petrino will be hands-off until after the bowl game.

The new coach did meet with Hilltoppers players on Monday afternoon. Petrino expects the program to consistently win conference championships, bowl games and to compete for a BCS bowl berth.

Stewart believes Petrino can take WKU to the next level.

``I'm confident that he'll be here for a while and hope that he's here for a long time,'' Stewart said. ``No one person is bigger than the program, it's about the program. The important thing is that the program continues to develop and get better and go to places that its never been.

``You need a field general to give you the best chance to have that happen, and coach Petrino is the best one out there for us.''

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AP Freelancer Writer Brad Stephens in Bowling Green contributed to this report.

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Strasburg dazzles as another quick start leads to a Nationals win

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Strasburg dazzles as another quick start leads to a Nationals win

The Washington Nationals bounced back to beat the Chicago Cubs, 5-2, Saturday to improve to 19-26. Here are five observations from the game…

1. Davey Martinez can’t draw up a night on the mound much better than riding Stephen Strasburg long enough to get to one inning of Sean Doolittle.

Of course, that was only possible thanks to the brilliance of Strasburg, who tossed eight stellar innings Saturday. He was efficient throughout, throwing just 93 pitches and walking only one. Strasburg allowed four hits, two runs (only one earned), and struck out seven Cubs.

Strasburg “only” induced 15 swinging strikes, far from his best number this season, but still pretty good. It didn’t matter, especially with how quickly he was able to make work of the Cubs, getting ground ball after ground ball all night long.

NBC Sports Washington’s own Todd Dybas pointed out midway through the start how Strasburg was going back to his fastball after multiple starts in this recent successful stretch where he featured his curveball prominently. That pattern held throughout his eight innings, and tonight, nearly half (7) of Strasburg’s swinging strikes came on the four-seamer.

Strasburg’s success tonight continues a great recent stretch. He’s allowed just 10 earned runs in his last 42.1 innings, spanning six starts. He’s got 54 strikeouts and just six walks in those starts, a remarkable 9:1 ratio. 

It all adds up to one of the best stretches of Strasburg’s career, as he continues to cement himself as one of three true aces on the current Washington staff. And tonight may have been the most impressive outing yet, considering how deep he went into the game and how hot the opponent’s bats had been.

2. The Nationals are hoping their lineup sees an uptick in performance with guys like Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and Trea Turner getting back in the swing of things after time on the IL. Those three combined for five hits, three RBI and three runs Saturday.

But it would go a long way for the offense if Brian Dozier finds his stroke as well.

The powerful second baseman is a notoriously slow starter, but when he gets on a hot streak, he can carry a team. It’s only two games, but this may be the start of one of his patented “in the zone” streaks at the plate.

Dozier has gone 3-for-4 and 2-for-4 in back to back games, including a stretch where he reach base six straight times. That includes tonight’s home run to start the scoring for the Nats.

It’s been hard to fault Davey Martinez for his daily lineup construction with all the injuries. Now that his team is getting healthy, it will be interesting to see where Dozier fits in. The top of the order seems well set with Turner, Rendon, and Soto sandwiching one or two of Howie Kendrick, Victor Robles and Adam Eaton. 

Where does that leave Dozier? Probably in the 6-7 range. But if he keeps swinging the bat like he has against the Cubs, that could change. In a week, Martinez has gone from not having enough viable options to potentially having too many. I’m sure he’s happier with the latter.

3. A pattern has emerged in recent wins for the Nationals. When they get off to a quick start, they win. When they don’t, they lose.

In four of their last five victories, the Nats have scored first, including early-inning leads of at least three runs in each game.

In the four losses during the same stretch, the opposing team scored first each time, including three times in the first inning. In those losses, the Nationals were ultimately outscored by a combined 31-8.

In other words, quick starts have been crucial to the team’s success. It’s a narrative that would make sense even if the numbers didn’t back it up. With the way the team has struggled so consistently this season, it would be natural to feel deflated after an early deficit. That feeling is magnified with the lack of faith in the bullpen's ability to keep games within reach.

Saturday night against the Cubs kept this pattern going, with the Nats jumping on the board first with a Brian Dozier home run in the second inning, followed by the three-run fourth inning. That would prove to be all the support Strasburg needed, and once again Washington was able to ride early momentum to a relatively easy win.

4. The team as a whole was looking to bounce back Saturday night, but so was their best reliever.

Doolittle has been, far and away, the most reliable, valuable member of the Nationals bullpen in 2019, but against the Mets Thursday, he wasn’t himself. The lefty allowed four hits and two earned runs in his inning of work, walking one and striking out two on 31 pitches.

Coming off his worst inning of the season, Doolittle was back to his usual self against the Cubs.  He only needed seven pitches (six strikes) to make quick work of Chicago in the top of the ninth inning and earn his eighth save, even with some funny business.

Joe Maddon came out to protest with the umpires about Doolittle tapping his toe on the mound after beginning his windup. It’s a move the Cubs’ own Carl Edwards Jr. had been banned from doing, so his manager was obviously upset to see the Nats’ star closer getting away with something similar.

It’s unclear if anything else will come from the points Maddon brought up, but on Saturday at least, Doolittle was unfazed even after getting “iced” by the opposing manager.

5. For all the struggles the Nats have faced this season, they might be in the midst of a turning point.

It may not feel like it to frustrated fans who just want to see the team reel off several straight wins, but the Nationals have put themselves in position to potentially "win" their third straight series against a quality opponent. Yes, technically the Los Angeles series was a 2-2 split, but considering the Dodgers had only lost four games at home all season prior to the Nats’ trip, we’ll count the split as a win.

They followed that up taking two of three from the Mets, who have faltered of late but are still talented enough to be heard from in the National League East this season.

And now, after bouncing back from last night’s tough 14-6 loss, the Nats have earned an opportunity to grab another series win Sunday night. Of course, they’ll need a strong start from Jeremy Hellickson, which is less likely than it was Friday with Scherzer or Saturday with Strasburg.

Eventually, if the Nationals want to make any real noise, they will need an elongated winning streak. They’ve yet to win more than two consecutive games at any point this season, and have already experienced three losing streaks longer than that.

The talent is there, especially as much of the team gets healthy, and the schedule is finally lightening up. Nats fans are tired of hearing it, but this may finally be the successful stretch they’ve been waiting for. At the very least, the opportunity is there.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

The real winner of the Preakness was Bodexpress, the jockey-less horse

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The real winner of the Preakness was Bodexpress, the jockey-less horse

War of Will crossed the finish line first at the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, but it was the horse Bodexpress who stole the show.

Bodexpress opted out of having a jockey early in the race but continued to be a strong contender.

More from NBCSports.com:

Jockey John Velazquez was unseated off of Bodexpress out of the gate, and the riderless No. 9 horse continued to run with the pack. Stewards flagged the incident but quickly cleared it and listed him as “did not finish.” Outriders couldn’t attempt to catch him until later in the race because of how close he was running to other horses.

 



At the highest level, it's not always the winner that makes the imprint on our memory. Rather, it is often something obscure that catches our eye and becomes a moment we will never forget.

The newspapers will crown War of Will the winner, but it was Bodexpress, despite finishing second-to-last, who made the event one that will stand the test of time. When we remember the 144th Preakness Stakes, it will be Bodexpress we remember.

Keep on galloping.