No. 22 Navy can edge closer to a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game with a win against South Florida at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Friday. The Midshipmen (5-1, 4-0) are the only remaining undefeated team in AAC play and sit atop the West Division with four league games remaining. South Florida suffered its first league setback last week against Temple and dropped to second place behind the Owls in the East Division. Navy has been dominant with its triple-option attack, led by senior quarterback Will Worth. However, Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo is wary of the Bulls, who are scoring a league-best 42.4 points per game." It's another highly explosive offense, another tough challenge for our defense," Niumatalolo said. "They spread you out with a lot of different formations and stretch you vertically and horizontally." South Florida (6-2, 3-1) is looking to bounce back from the disappointing 46-30 loss to Temple. The setback not only knocked the Bulls from first-place, it also ended a nine-game winning streak against their AAC division opponents. Navy and its high-powered offense could pose an even bigger challenge." We really didn't do much of anything right. In every aspect, we did something wrong," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said about the loss to Temple. "You just can't play that way against a good team on the road and expect to win." The Bulls do have enough talent on offense to get into a shootout with Navy. South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers has been one of the most dominant players in the AAC and has completed 117 of his 200 pass attempts for 1,722 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. He is also the team's leading rusher with 745 yards and eight touchdowns on 108 carries. Navy has spent time at practice this week preparing for the multi-faceted Flowers." Flowers is a bigger kid and maybe a more powerful runner, but they are very similar," Niumatalolo said. "Whenever the quarterback is able to carry the football it presents some problems. He has great running ability and a strong arm. He throws a really good deep ball." South Florida wide receiver Rodney Adams is one of Flowers' favorite targets and he has 34 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns. Adams also has had some success against Navy, returning a kickoff for a touchdown in the Bulls' 29-17 loss in Annapolis last year. Flowers also likes to throw to D'Ernest Johnson, who has 18 catches for 171 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 321 yards and four touchdowns on 59 carries. Marlon Mack is the primary running back for the Bulls with 659 yards rushing on 97 carries with 10 touchdowns. The Bulls will face a stern challenge from the Navy defense, which has forced at least one turnover in 24 of the last 26 games, including in five of six games this year. The Midshipmen are 5-0 when the defense creates a turnover. On offense, Navy will look to run the ball against the Bulls, who have given up huge chunks of yards in their two losses. In the loss to Temple, South Florida allowed 319 rushing yards. Florida State ran for 478 yards in its 55-35 victory over the Bulls on Sept. 24." In both losses we didn't stop the run and couldn't get off the field," Taggart said. "We have a ranked Navy team coming in here that is going to run the ball so we have another tough challenge ahead of us." Navy averages 293.2 rushing yards per game. Last week in a 42-28 victory over Memphis, the Midshipmen had 447 rushing yards. Worth ran for a career-high 201 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. He also completed three of his four pass attempts for 85 yards with two touchdowns and was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week. Worth has now scored a touchdown in every game this year and leads the Midshipmen with nine rushing scores on the season. Not bad for a quarterback who is only starting because of a season-ending knee injury to Tago Smith." I thought Will could run our offense, but he's playing a lot better than I thought he would," Niumatalolo said.
Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Air Canada Centre Friday night's contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Toronto won't be just another game on the 82-game schedule for the Toronto Raptors. Toronto (1-0) had its season cut short last spring by the Cavaliers, who defeated the Raptors in six games of the Eastern Conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals. Toronto fell behind 2-0, losing both games in Cleveland last May, but rebounded to tie the series 2-2 with a pair of wins at Air Canada Centre. The Cavs went on to win Games 5 and 6 to advance to the Finals." It's never just another game," said Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan. "Every game we have, we look at it as a new opportunity to gain something. Come Friday, it's another opportunity against the team we played against in the Eastern Conference finals." DeRozan led the way with a game-high 40 points and four rebounds in the Raptors season-opening 109-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. Toronto won the regular-season series against Cleveland last year, taking three of four meetings." It's going to be a battle," DeRozan said. "It's a challenge we're looking forward to: playing against the champs, playing against the team we took to six games in the Eastern Conference finals, it's going to be great. It's going to be great in here. It's another challenge for us." Jonas Valanciunas added 32 points and 11 rebounds as he and DeRozan became the first teammates in NBA history with a 40-point game and a 30-point game in a season opener." It's a good opportunity for us to go against the best team, I think in my mind, in the league," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "They've got every weapon that you could look for, the best player in the world, one of the best rosters put together in the world so it's a good test for us." I'd rather have it now, early in the season, lets us know where we are." Cavs guards Iman Shumpert and Kay Felder, who both underwent concussion protocol, are expected to be available for Friday's game against the Raptors. Cleveland (1-0) opened the season with a 117-88 thumping of the New York Knicks on Tuesday night -- the same evening they received their 2016 NBA championship rings and raised the banner to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena. Kyrie Irving led the way with 29 points and four assists in the win, while LeBron James chipped in 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for his 43rd career triple-double." It's the second game of the season, we know we played these guys in the Eastern Conference finals. They have a good team; they beat us twice and coach Casey's a great coach so we know we're going to have our hands full (on Friday)," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. "We expect that. They have a great crowd, great atmosphere, but we'll be prepared for it." The Cavs return home following Friday night's contest for a three-game home stand beginning with the Orlando Magic on Saturday. Toronto, meanwhile, concludes its three-game home stand on Monday when it plays host to the Denver Nuggets.
Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: PNC Arena RALEIGH, N. C. -- The season-opening road stretch didn't treat the Carolina Hurricanes well so they'll have to do better upon beginning their ventures at PNC Arena. The New York Rangers have been in a better groove during the first couple of weeks of the season. The teams meet Friday night in Carolina's much-awaited home opener. The Rangers (5-2-0), who've won three games in a row, present a challenging task for the Hurricanes." They've got unbelievable speed and they're going to push the pace," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. The Hurricanes are 1-3-2, failing to hold leads in a couple games and failing to hold down opponents early in other outings." We will fix it," Peters said. "We're scoring, but we're reckless when we're scoring. Right now it's not clicking. It's not clicking for 60 minutes." The Rangers needed a comeback to beat Boston, scoring five consecutive goals Wednesday night." One of the team's trademarks is that we come out and we're ready to play," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said, expressing concern about a shaky beginning to the game. Peters was determined to make the first two weeks positive for the Hurricanes, realizing that road swing had the potential to be daunting. It's on the verge of become a devastating October unless the two home games in three days help turn things around." I think we need to have a good start," said Carolina center Victor Rask. "I think that's real important." The Hurricanes have had a couple of days off since stumbling Tuesday night at Detroit. For the Hurricanes, it will be the official home introduction for eight players on the active roster, including right wingers Lee Stempniak, who has racked up four goals and two assists already this season, and rookie Sebastian Aho. Others who'll make their Carolina home debuts if they're in the lineup are left wingers Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg and Teuvo Teravainen, right winger Martin Frk, and defensemen Klas Dahlbeck and Jakub Nakladal. Even with the recent success, the Rangers are making roster adjustments. They placed defenseman Dylan McIlrath on waivers Thursday." On our team right now, he's our eighth defenseman," Vigneault said. "That's where we are. Maybe it's less about him and more about the other guys. ... He needs to play. He's a young player." McIlrath, 24, will be sent to Hartford of the American Hockey League if he passes through waivers. Meanwhile, Rangers left winger Josh Jooris will be out for up to a month with a shoulder injury sustained Wednesday night. Right winger Pavel Buchnevich will be in the lineup. Henrik Lundqvist draws the start in goal for the Rangers. He's 23-10-1 in 34 career appearances against Carolina. Vigneault also pointed out that with it being Carolina's home opener, there could be an additional layer of energy in the building. Added Rangers forward Derek Stepan: "The big focus for us is not to be down. You want to play with the lead in this league. ... In order to make these last few games stick, this game is huge. You want to make sure you're playing the right way going into Carolina's building."
Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: The Palace of Auburn Hills Stan Van Gundy anticipated his offense would have some issues in the early going. The Detroit Pistons head coach has even more concerns about his defense and rebounding after an ugly performance on opening night. The Pistons need to improve in every area when they play their home opener against the Orlando Magic on Friday. The Pistons trailed by double digits throughout the second half of a 109-91 loss to Toronto on Wednesday. Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan combined for 72 points as Toronto shot 47.7 percent from the field. Detroit shot 41.7 percent and got outrebounded 51-40." We just hit these times where we're just a one-option team and the ball doesn't move," said Van Gundy, whose team also dropped its preseason finale 103-92 to the Raptors. "That's going to have to change. But that to me is almost secondary right now. Until we change defensively and on the boards from what we've done these last two games, it really doesn't matter what we do offensively. We don't have a chance to win and be good if we're not going to defend and rebound." All-Star center Andre Drummond played just 24 minutes after taking an elbow to the face from Valanciunas in the opening minutes and getting into early foul trouble. He finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four turnovers. The Pistons also clearly missed floor leader Reggie Jackson, who is expected to sit out approximately 20 games with knee tendinitis. Fill-in starter Ish Smith had seven assists and no turnovers in 33 minutes but shot 3-of-10 from the field. Backup point guard Beno Udrih, claimed off waivers from Miami earlier in the week, had five points on 1-of-5 shooting and two assists in 15 minutes." We've got some offensive problems but we knew that was going to be a little bit of a struggle," Van Gundy said. Miami spoiled Frank Vogel's debut as Orlando head coach on Wednesday, knocking off the Magic 108-96. Like the Pistons, Orlando had a multitude of issues in its opener. The Magic shot 38.6 percent from the field, got outscored 74-36 in the paint and lost the rebounding battle 52-44." We have to figure it out fast, because we have a tough schedule in front of us, and if we dig ourselves a hole, it's going to be really hard," center Nikola Vucevic told the Orlando Sentinel. Power forward Serge Ibaka, acquired from the Thunder in a blockbuster deal in June, had 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting and seven rebounds in his Orlando debut. Center Bismack Biyombo, who was signed to a four-year, $72 million contract as an unrestricted free agent, will make his Magic debut. He served a one-game league suspension opening night for exceeding the flagrant foul limit during the Raptors' postseason run." Biz is a monster," shooting guard Evan Fournier told the Orlando Sentinel. "He's our best screener, probably our best offensive rebounder. He's just a guy with tons of energy. He plays super hard. He's big for us, man." The Pistons have won the last six meetings with the Magic, including a three-game sweep last season.
Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: Barclays Center NEW YORK -- By the end of his rookie season, Myles Turner had begun showing his potential for the Indiana Pacers. If one game indicates anything, Turner appears ready to take the next step. Turner will look to follow up his stellar opening night showing Friday night when the Pacers visit the Brooklyn Nets. Over his last 35 games, Turner averaged 11 points and shot 47.4 percent while making 28 starts. On Wednesday, he began his second season by getting 30 points and 16 rebounds on 13-of-19 shooting during a 130-121 overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks." Myles has had confidence since last season," Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. "He worked his behind off all summer. He's certainly a threat offensively, and he just continues to improve. If Turner has similar games to Wednesday, the Pacers could meet the high expectations placed upon them following the acquisition of point guard Jeff Teague to go along with star forward Paul George." He's a confident kid," George said "One of his biggest attributes is he thinks every shot is going in. He was just itching, I know he was, floating on the perimeter. He was itching to get it." George scored 25 points Wednesday while Teague added 20 in a game where Indiana shot 50.5 percent and made 10 of 19 3-pointers. While the Pacers have been hyping a new offensive system and a revamped roster resulting in raised expectations, the Nets have been touting a new culture and grittiness to compensate for what most believe will be among the worst teams in the league. The Nets began their fifth season with Brooklyn on their jerseys with a 122-117 loss at the Boston Celtics. Typical of many bad teams, they fell behind big before a late charge from a 23-point deficit fell short." Very pleased that we didn't give up and we kept on fighting," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "I liked our grit in the fourth quarter." Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points, Justin Hamilton had 19 and Jeremy Lin added 18. Hamilton scored his points while Brook Lopez was limited to seven points in 21 minutes. Brooklyn also is trying a new motion offense system which emphasizes ball movement and 3-pointers. The Nets had 22 assists and made 15 of 44 attempts from behind the arc, setting a team record for 3-point attemptsLin and Lopez were not on the floor for the late comeback since the game appeared over. Brooklyn's biggest free agent signing hopes the Nets can have that kind of showing from the outset of their fifth home opener at Barclays Center." Starting with me and others, I want to bring the same effort Friday night, the way they did," Lin said. "That was inspiring." Going back to last season, the Nets have dropped 11 straight games. Their last victory was a 120-110 home win over the Pacers on March 26 when Lopez scored 23 points and the Nets overcame 27 points by George. Indiana has won eight of the last 11 meetings in the series and ended last year's season series with a 129-105 rout on April 10. The Nets have won three of four home openers since moving from New Jersey. Atkinson will be the fourth coach in a home opener for the Nets since 2012 and the Long Island native will have several family members and friends in the crowd. Friday also will mark the return of Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn. Young spent the last year and a half with the Nets before being dealt for rookie Caris Levert.
Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: Prudential Center The Chicago Blackhawks, at 5-on-5 this season, have looked like the perennial championship contender they always do. They've outscored teams 16-8 thanks to their talent and depth throughout the lineup. Ask the Blackhawks to kill a penalty, however, and they look like a lottery team tanking for a top draft pick. Their 30th-ranked penalty kill, which sits at an unbelievable 46.1 percent, will try to right itself Friday night against the New Jersey Devils, who have five power-play goals in 16 chances over their past four games. The Blackhawks' struggles while down a man can be indirectly credited to a lack of cohesion that has led to the team defending more, which has put them in position to take more penalties than they usually would." Our identity in the past was being fast and having the puck," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said to the Chicago Sun-Times. "Now we don't have quite the four-line rotation, or the puck enough, to get that precision we look for, that identity we're accustomed to having. We're not playing as fast, because we're defending a lot more than we're used to." The Blackhawks (3-3-1) have also had trouble delivering consistent starts to games. They have been outshot in the first period in six of seven games, including a 14-8 deficit during a 3-2 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday. Is there a reason for the slow starts?"No good one, that's for sure," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said to the Chicago Sun-Times. "We've got to get that out of our game. The penalty-kill usually translates from our effort 5-on-5, and if we're not starting games well, then we're getting behind (and) giving up power plays. And we're not killing the penalty kills that we're on. It was unfortunate to get behind again (Monday night against Calgary)." The Devils (3-2-1) are off to a 3-0 start at home. All six games were started by goaltender Cory Schneider, who holds a 2.00 goals-against average and .936 save percentage but will get the night off in favor of backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid. The 27-year-old Kinkaid has yet to play a second this season but with the Devils playing Friday against the Blackhawks and Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, his first test was going to be a difficult one either way. He had a .904 save percentage in 23 games last season." I'm very excited," Kinkaid said to the Bergen Record. "I'll finally get some game action. I just want to help the guys out." The Devils won nine of Kinkaid's 20 starts last season, which included two shutouts. If the Devils are to improve on their 84 points of a season ago and become a playoff contender, Kinkaid will have to give the Devils more support and better play when giving Schneider the night off." Going back to backs, we knew all along coming into the year in those situations we wanted to play both guys," Devils coach John Hynes said to the Bergen Record. "He's played well. He's practiced well so we'll give him a chance tomorrow. We want to be able to do a good job in front of him and make sure we allow him to get into the game and see the shots that he should stop and get himself re-acclimated with things. He's been through this before. It's not like it's a newer player that has to come in in a backup role. So we'll be confident he'll be ready to go.
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena OKLAHOMA CITY -- The start of the 2016-17 season for Russell Westbrook almost couldn't have gone any better and he'll try to keep it going when the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Phoenix Suns on Friday. Not only did the point guard lead his team to a comeback 103-97 victory over host Philadelphia on Wednesday, but he narrowly missed a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. As he enters his ninth year, Westbrook continues to transform from an aggressive scoring guard to an all-around point guard who can take over games in a variety of ways." It's just taking my time, being patient, poised and managing the game," Westbrook said. "It's part of my job, to be able to manage the game at a high level and that's a huge thing for me moving forward with this team." But it was the defense the Thunder displayed in final minutes against the 76ers that really stood out. They had to come up with three consecutive stops, including a blocked shot by guard Andre Roberson and guard Victor Oladipo taking a charge to secure the win." I think that was the key," Thunder forward Enes Kanter said. "When you try to finish the game, when you try to finish the fourth quarter, I think the most important thing is the defense. Everybody was focused, everybody did a good job." Opening night was not as kind for the Phoenix Suns. They were at home Wednesday taking on fellow Pacific Division rival Sacramento and fell 113-94. The Suns got off to start shooting the ball, but trailed 57-38 at half. Using their reserves, however, Phoenix was able to go on a run in the third quarter and cut the lead to 10. But that would be as close as they would get. Guard Eric Bledsoe was back on the court for the first time since a season ending knee injury in December. He scored 16 points in his return. Guard Devin Booker led the team with 18. However, having the second unit play as well as it did was a positive note Phoenix coach Earl Watson can carry into the Suns game with the Thunder." The momentum changed everything," Watson told The Arizona Republic. "Our second unit, we just played young guys, let them play aggressive, let them have fun, be creative. They played with a lot of passion. It was fun to watch." It was also a way for Watson to send a message to his veterans who under-performed and played with lackluster effort at the start." The way I addressed the team was, you can't use, 'We're young,'" Watson told Arizonasports.com. "Our young guys got us in the game. Our veterans have to come and have to play with the same passion." Even though the Suns are coming off a contest in which their offense inconsistent, the Thunder are wary of the explosive squad." They are a very, very fast team, an explosive team," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of the Suns. "Their backcourt with Book and Brevin Knight has speed. Along with Bledsoe, they can shoot the ball. (Tyson) Chandler is one of the great rollers to the rim and a great post defender. They have the ability to play small. They are a different team than Philadelphia, but it will be a challenge."
Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: AmericanAirlines Arena MIAMI - Who said the days of significant centers are dead in the NBA?Not the 1-0 Miami Heat or the 1-0 Charlotte Hornets, who meet Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. It will be the home opener for the Heat, who remade their team largely around 7-foot, 265-pound center Hassan Whiteside, who signed a four-year, $98 million contract extension in July. Whiteside had 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 31 minutes on Wednesday night, leading Miami to a 108-96 win over the Orlando Magic." I wasn't trying to make a statement," Whiteside said when asked about his first game since signing the initial major contract of his career. "I was just playing." This is the first time that the 27-year-old Whiteside has had his name at the top of the marquee, sharing top billing with point guard Goran Dragic. The Heat no longer have the "Big Three" that won two NBA titles and got them to four championship series in four years. Dwyane Wade bolted to the Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh is in limbo due to health concerns and LeBron James had previously gone back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over on the Hornets side, they are also relying heavily on a center, 7-2, 270-pound Roy Hibbert, who has been in the spotlight since he was drafted in the first round by the Indiana Pacers in 2008. Hibbert, 29, is a two-time NBA All-Star, but he has bounced around lately, spending last season on a brutal Los Angeles Lakers team before signing this year with Charlotte. In fact, Hibbert signed with the Hornets on the same day Whiteside re-signed with Miami - July 7. On Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, Hibbert made his Hornets debut, getting 15 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three assists. He made 6-of-9 shots from the floor, 3-of-3 from the foul line and grabbed four of his rebounds on the offensive end, giving Charlotte 32 excellent minutes. The Hornets led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter." We just stuck to our game plan," said Hornets point guard Kemba Walker, who had eight assists. "We got a lot of stops." Part of the plan for the Hornets, both on Friday night and for the entire season, is to get the ball inside to HIbbert, who had two monster dunks against the Bucks. Charlotte let injury-prone center Al Jefferson go in free agency after a season in which he played just 47 games, including only 18 starts. Hibbert, who played 81 games last season, is much more durable than that. In fact, he has played at least 65 games in each of his eight seasons in the NBA. That's not to say Hibbert has nothing to prove. His scoring average dipped to a career-low 5.9 points last season, perhaps influenced by the train wreck that was the Lakers' season. For his career, HIbbert averages 10.6 and 6.6 rebounds. But while Hibbert is looking for a bounce-back year, Whiteside is trying to continue to ascend to what he believes is his rightful place among the game's greats. In Heat circles, Whiteside is well known for using any perceived slight as motivation for domination - such as when he was only third last season in the voting for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Whiteside led the NBA last season with 3.7 blocks per game, adding 14.2 points and 11.8 rebounds. He was even better after the All-Star Game, averaging 17.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and 3.4 blocks. That's why Heat president Pat Riley made re-signing Whiteside his No. 1 offseason priority. Beyond the intriguing center matchup, there are several other storylines to follow for Friday's game:--Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who played just seven games last season due to a shoulder injury, had 23 points and 14 rebounds on Opening Night. He will be opposed by Heat small forward Justise Winslow, a first-round pick out of Duke last season who is just beginning to tap into his potential.--Hornets backup center Cody Zeller, who gets by mostly on sheer hustle, missed the entire preseason due to a knee injury. Yet he produced 15 points in 14 minutes on Wednesday, making 5-of-6 shots from the floor.--Hornets power forward Frank Kaminsky, their first-round pick last year, missed the opener due to a strained right foot. His status is undetermined.--Heat shooting guards Josh Richardson (knee) and Wayne Ellington (quad) sat out the opener and likely won't be ready for a while. Dion Waiters, who averaged 9.8 points last season while serving mostly as a backup for the Oklahoma City Thunder, started for Miami at shooting guard while also making his Heat debut.--Miami's other new starter this year is 6-9 forward Luke Babbitt, a career 40.2-percent shooter from three-point range. This is his seventh year in the league, and last season was his career high in scoring (7.0).
Time: 08:08 P.M. EST Venue: Wrigley Field CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber will not play in the field in Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will, however, and that may provide a bigger impediment for Cleveland when the World Series shifts to Chicago for Game 3 Friday after the teams split the first two games at Progressive Field. Cy Young Award candidate Hendricks was 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 home games this season, including 14 starts, and he is 2-0 in three playoff starts as the Cubs seek their first World Series title since 1908. The only thing that got in the way of a possible third postseason victory was an Angel Pagan line drive that struck Hendricks' right forearm in the fourth inning of NLDS Game 2. Hendricks was forced to leave leading 4-2, and the Cubs won 5-2. Hendricks will oppose Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin, who was 13-9 in the regular season and has beaten Boston and Toronto in his two playoff starts while allowing three runs in 10 2/3 innings. He has never faced the Cubs." I think the pitchers feel as though they're really not far from home plate," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of what might play into Hendricks' home success." There's times different ballparks you feel like the mound is far away, and sometimes it feels like it's right on top of you. Apparently the wind may be blowing out tomorrow night, but for the most part this year it's not. It's a really big ballpark, in spite of what the numbers say on the wall. And we have a very good defense. And a big part of it is that he has elicited weaker contact all year based on the variety of pitches he has." Corey Kluber, scheduled to start Game 4 on Saturday, shut the Cubs down in Game 1 with help from Andrew Miller and Roberto Perez, who had two homers. The Cubs tied the series behind Jake Arrieta in Game 2, when 3-4-5 hitters Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Schwarber combined to go 5-for-11 with four walks, four runs and four RBIs. Schwarber was 3-for-7 with two walks while serving as the DH in Cleveland, when he became the first player in major league history to have his first hits of a sesaon in the World Series, but he was not cleared to play the field because of the severity of his injury. That will keep him out of the starting lineup Friday. He missed 6 1/2 months after suffering torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in an outfield collision April 7, the Cubs' third game of the season. He made eight plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League before being activated for the World Series." The doctors were very convicted that there's just too much risk in playing the outfield because of the ... instantaneous reactions, the need to cut in the outfield, the dynamic, athletic movements that are unanticipated in the outfield," Cubs president Theo Epstein said. "Your instinct in reacting to balls that just aren't the case when you're running the bases." Schwarber will be used as a pinch-hitter and could DH again in possible Games 6-7 in Cleveland. To a man, the Cubs were more than impressed but not surprised at Schwarber's pitch recognition and timing after such a long layoff." It's incredibly difficult," Zobrist said. "I'll say this. Sometimes when I show up for spring training and see at-bats for the first time, it feels like every pitch is 115 miles an hour. For him to be able to make an adjustment that quick out in the Arizona Fall League and take aggressive hacks and get big hits ... I don't know that there is anybody else in the league that can do that." Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will start rest of the series except in games Jon Lester pitches, Maddon said. David Ross is Lester's personal catcher. The Cubs took a dramatic step by benching slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in the first two games of the series, with Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler starting in right field. While Schwarber will be out, Cleveland is considering starting nominal DH Carlos Santana in left field in Game 3, manager Terry Francona said. Cleveland platooned Brandon Guyer and Coco Crisp in left field in the first two games. Santana was 0-for-6 with two walks in Games 1-2, but he had 34 homers and 87 RBIs in the regular season." It's no big secret, we're trying to balance scoring more runs than them," Francona said. "He's a big part of our offense."
Time: 08:30 P.M. EST Venue: American Airlines Center The Dallas Mavericks open their home schedule Friday night at American Airlines Center against the Houston Rockets, with both Texas rivals in search of their first win. The Southwest Division foes lost high-scoring season openers on the road Wednesday night. The Mavericks fell 130-121 in overtime at Indiana, while the Rockets dropped a 120-114 decision at the Los Angeles Lakers. Dallas fought back from 14 points down late in the first half to send its first game into OT. The effort wasn't lost on Mavs coach Rick Carlisle." I like the rally. I don't like going down 14," he said. "We spread the floor and got some penetration in, and it opened up some things. We were struggling through most of the game, and we had some good stretches late in the first half and parts of the second." I like the way we fought and hung in, but the defense has obviously got to be better. Giving up 130 points is no way to do business, and it was a high-turnover game for two low-turnover teams." The Pacers shot 50.5 percent and outrebounded Dallas. Deron Williams paced the Mavericks with 25 points. Dirk Nowitzki and J. J. Barea each scored 22, and Harrison Barnes added 19 points and nine rebounds in his first game with Dallas. Barnes sent the game into the extra session by hitting a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left in regulation." We battled and we fought, and we definitely showed some promise out there in a couple of areas," Williams said. "But if you look at, 130 points is just a lot of points, even in overtime, so there's definitely some things we've got to clean up and learn from." The Mavericks also jacked up 48 3-pointers -- one shy of their franchise and NBA record. Dallas made 18 from distance. The Rockets also let it fly from deep plenty in L. A., but couldn't find their stroke in the second half. Houston missed 15 of 16 3-pointers after halftime after going 6-13 in the first half. Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni pinned the late shooting woes on fatigue." We were 1-16 and that's the biggest telltale we lost our legs," he said. The pairing of D'Antoni's up-tempo system with James Harden did pay immediate dividends. The All-Star guard racked up 34 points and a career-high 17 assists against the Lakers." Just being able to get my teammates the ball and give them opportunities to finish layups or shoot the 3," Harden said, "it's a good feeling, as long as they do the right things, like run the floor. I feel like it's my job to reward them." The Mavericks are facing Houston in their home opener for the third time in franchise history. The teams also square off against each other Sunday in Houston's first home game. The Mavs and Rockets will finish off their four regular-season matchups before the end of the calendar year with two more meetings in December. Nineteen of the last 25 regular-season meetings have been decided by eight points or less. Dallas has won 29 of the last 43 between the two teams, but Houston has taken six of the last nine.
Time: 09:00 P.M. EST Venue: Pepsi Center The Winnipeg Jets have had a tough, busy week. They hosted the Edmonton Oilers in The Heritage Classic on Sunday, the first outdoor game in franchise history, but were underwhelming in a 3-0 loss. Then they split a home-and-home matchup with the Dallas Stars, losing at Dallas on Tuesday and beating the Stars 4-1 at home on Thursday. Rookie sensation Patrik Laine was the hero of Thursday's win. He scored twice -- his fifth and sixth goals of the season -- to tie fellow rookie, Toronto's Auston Matthews, for the NHL lead in goals." We've only played seven games but it's nice that I've got those goals and helped my team to win with those goals," Laine told NHL.com after the Jets victory. Laine will try to keep the momentum going when the Jets play the second of a back-to-back set at the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. While the Jets will be playing for the fourth time in six days, Colorado is playing for the first time in a week. The Avalanche finished up a four-game Eastern Conference road trip against Florida on Oct. 21 and have been sitting idle since." A lot of good came from this week," Colorado coach Jared Bednar told hockeybuzz.com. The Avalanche are playing just their second home game. They opened the season with a 6-5 win over the Stars on Oct. 15 and then went 2-2 on its road trip, winning at Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. The Avalanche have found the net often, except for a 3-0 loss at Washington on Oct. 18, but they've given up plenty of goals, too. They allowed at least three goals in four games and twice gave up five. The week off might help them shore up their defense. It did help them get some players healthy and ready to go. Rookie forward Mikko Rantanen was recalled from San Antonio of the AHL after rehabbing from an ankle injury. Center John Mitchell, who missed the first five games with a hip injury, will likely make his season debut against Winnipeg and forward Rene Bourque is back after missing the last two games with a groin injury." It was tough," Bourque told The Denver Post. "I felt like I got off to a good start, playing well. But you have to be careful. It's nice that we had a big break between games, almost a full week. That probably saved me from missing a few more games." It remains to be seen if the well-rested Avalanche will suffer from rust. They ended the road trip with a 5-2 loss to Florida but at 3-2 they are off to a better start than the last two seasons, which ended up with them missing the playoffs. The Jets (3-4-0) are looking for their first road win of the season against their Northwest Division rival. While Laine has had a strong start to his season, Colorado veteran winger Jarome Iginla has struggled. Iginla, 39, has one goal this season and is 12th on the NHL all-time list with 612 goals. He used this week off to try to get back on track." I would like to have been better, but it's five games," Iginla told The Denver Post. "I've had some good games and I've had some games I would like to have back. So I'll just keep going at it. I'm feeling better daily as far as hands, and for whatever reason it usually takes me a little bit to find that groove, and hopefully this week of practice will help."
Time: 09:00 P.M. EST Venue: Scotiabank Saddledome CALGARY, Alberta -- While Brian Elliott has newfound confidence in net for the Calgary Flames, the Ottawa Senators will be without their starting goaltender for the foreseeable future. After backstopping the Flames (3-4-1) to back-to-back road wins over the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues on Monday and Tuesday, Elliott will attempt to keep his momentum going against the Senators (4-2-0) at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday. Elliott, who the Flames acquired from the Blues on June 24 in exchange for a second-round draft pick (35th overall) in 2018 and a conditional third-rounder, started his tenure with the Flames with three straight losses before bouncing back to stop 54 of 57 shots he faced during Calgary's two wins earlier this week." I don't think I've felt bad the other ones too," said Elliott. "I just think we kind of beat ourselves the first few games. Now we're getting the picture of how we need to play each and every night. We played good road-style hockey and if we can bring that kind of hockey at home we'll be successful as well." Meanwhile, the Senators announced on Thursday that goalie Craig Anderson has taken a leave of absence and that there's no timetable for his return." With the support of the entire organization, we've provided Craig with a leave of absence so that he can attend to a personal matter at home," said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion in a statement. "While we are uncertain of how long Craig may be away, he will continue to have our support for as much time as is needed. We will respect his privacy and will have no further comment at this time." Anderson improved his record this season to 4-1-0 after making 22 saves to backstop the Senators to a 3-0 road win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. The 35-year-old veteran has also compiled a 2.95 goals against average to go with a .903 save percentage. In his absence, the Senators will go with the goaltending tandem of Andrew Hammond and Chris Driedger, who was called up from the AHL's Binghamton Senators. Hammond, 28, will get the start on Friday and is hoping to bounce back from his only previous appearance of the season, a 5-1 road loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 17 in which he stopped 20 of 25 shots he faced. After going 20-1-2 in his rookie campaign with the Sens in 2014-15, Hammond went 7-11-1 last season and even spent a stint in the AHL in Binghamton where he had no wins to go with two losses. In just 55 minutes of NHL action over the past two seasons, Driedger has made 21 saves without allowing a goal. The 22-year-old netminder, who starred for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen for three seasons from 2011-14, has never started or been the goaltender of record in an NHL game. While Elliott played a starring role against his former team on Tuesday in St. Louis, Flames right winger Alex Chiasson told CalgaryFlames.com that he's looking forward to going up against his old squad at the Saddledome on Friday." It's always a little special playing previous teams," said Chiasson, who Calgary acquired from Ottawa in exchange for defenseman Patrick Sieloff on June 27. "I have a good amount of friends on that team, but when the game starts it's a game day just like any other day. That's part of pro hockey, really." After starting the season on Calgary's fourth line, Chiasson has been elevated to play alongside center Sean Monahan and left winger Johnny Gaudreau." I know that it'd be nice to be on the scoresheet a little more, but at the same time it's a process of trying to stay focused mentally on that, do the good things and the rest of the stuff is going to come," said Chiasson, who has just one goal to show for his efforts through eight games with the Flames. "If I keep playing with those two guys, I think I can bring an element to that line that they don't have, and they can just play."
Time: 09:00 P.M. EST Venue: Vivint Smart Home Arena SALT LAKE CITY -- Several shrewd trades during the summer brought improved depth to the Utah Jazz and positioned the team to be a rising star in the NBA's Western Conference this season. After one game, that depth is already being tested. Utah opened the season with usual starting forwards Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors sidelined with injuries. Hayward is out through at least mid-November after fracturing his left finger in the preseason. Favors missed the opener against Portland on Tuesday because of lingering knee and IT band issues. He practiced with the team on Thursday, but remains questionable. The Jazz missed both players in a 113-104 loss to the Blazers. Utah's offense went ice cold over the final 3 1/2 minutes -- despite an outstanding individual effort from Joe Johnson, who is starting in place of Hayward and finished with a team-high 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting. Learning how to play without a pair of key players is something Utah coach Quin Snyder said the team must do if it wants to live up to preseason expectations." We can't wake up every morning wondering when they'll be back," Snyder said. "They'll be back when they're back. We can't let that be a distraction. We need to lock in and just compete with who we have." Facing the Los Angeles Lakers in Friday night's home opener should present much less of a challenge for the Jazz. The Lakers are coming off a franchise-worst 17-65 season and enter their post-Kobe Bryant era with talented and raw building blocks such as Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell and rookie Brandon Ingram. Los Angeles got off to a good start Wednesday night, winning in coach Luke Walton's debut. The Lakers rallied in the fourth quarter, beating the Houston Rockets 120-114 behind Clarkson's 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 20 points from RussellFor a team that tasted victory so infrequently a year ago, rallying against a quality opponent felt like a welcome change of pace. Los Angeles struggled at times before halftime, but played with a degree of energy and enthusiasm not seen during much of the 2015-16 season. Walton said the offense is ahead of the defense at this point because his team played unselfish basketball against Houston. Players shared the ball and worked it around to whoever had an open shot. It paid off in terms of execution." I know it sounds basic but I think it's something that it is hard to buy into because if one guy's doing it then you don't want to give the ball up because you might not get it back," Walton said. "But as soon as multiple people start buying in and the ball can move side to side you're going to get good shots." Utah is the first stop in a four-game road swing for Los Angeles. The Lakers also travel to Oklahoma City, Indiana and Atlanta over a six-day stretch before returning home to face Golden State. After Friday, the Jazz head out for a pair of road games against the Clippers and Spurs over a three-day stretch. Utah won the season series 3-1 a year ago and hasn't lost at home to Los Angeles since falling 100-97 on February 25, 2015. The Lakers' lone victory came on April 13 in Bryant's final game of his NBA career when he totaled 60 points to lead his team to a 101-96 victory.
Time: 09:30 P.M. EST Venue: Smoothie King Center NEW ORLEANS -- There's no question which was the bigger shocker on opening night: the Golden State Warriors losing their home opener by 29 points to the San Antonio Spurs or the New Orleans Pelicans wasting a superhuman, 50-point, 16-rebound, seven-steal, four-block performance by Anthony Davis in a 107-102 home loss to Denver. The Warriors won that bar bet -- or actually lost it -- hands down. The new-look Warriors, with the gaudy addition of All-Star forward Kevin Durant, were not supposed to be 0-1 after going 39-2 on their home court last year en route to an NBA-record 73 regular-season victories. The Pelicans, with Davis as their only bankable star, were supposed to find creative ways to lose, and they came through with a whopper, squandering a stat line unique in NBA history. The two 0-1 teams will face each other Friday night at the Smoothie King Center, and they will be searching for early-season redemption." It was a slap in the face," Durant said after scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the loss to San Antonio. "Woke us up a bit." Davis said after his 50-point opener -- only the third 50-point performance in an NBA season opener since 1963-64 -- that he expects to play as many minutes as Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry needs him to play, but he added he was due for "a massage." Carrying the load of a lightweight roster may get pretty heavy, but Davis said no one is shedding tears for him. And, now, the wounded Warriors await." After what happened a few nights ago, we know that they're going to come in hungry for a win," Davis said. "We've just got to come out prepared knowing those guys are going to take some bad shots and make them go in. We've got to stay composed and not let that kill our spirit and let the momentum go to them." Gentry saw the Pelicans give up 60 first-half points against Denver before settling in and being more physical in the second half. He knows Golden State, for whom he coached as an assistant in 2014-15, will be looking to push the ball." Transition defense is going to be the key," Gentry said. "You've got to keep those guys out of the paint. The drive and kick is what they live on, spotting up at the 3-point line. People have to help on drives, and then they kick the ball and hit 3-point shots." This is the first of a three-game road trip for Golden State. The Warriors -- like the Pelicans -- were embarrassed on the boards in their opener, losing the battle to San Antonio 55-35, including a 21-8 edge on the offensive glass. In six of their nine regular-season losses last year, the Warriors were outrebounded. That was the case in seven of their nine postseason losses last year. Golden State also pushed the pace against San Antonio but committed 16 turnovers, which led to 17 Spurs' points. For all their talent in one locker room, the Warriors still need continuity. They are breaking in six new players, including two new starters, Durant and center Zaza Pachulia." People don't value continuity enough," Golden State GM Bob Myers said. "It's just so important -- experience together, continuity together. We will get there, but we're not there now. People may rear back at that kind of comment, but it's OK not to be a finished product in October."
Time: 10:00 P.M. EST Venue: Rogers Arena VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks try to burst the Oilers' bubble -- and put some air back in their own -- when they host Edmonton on Friday night. The Oilers (6-1-0) are off to their best start to a National Hockey League season since 1985-86, when they won their first five games, and are riding a four-game win streak. On the other hand, the Canucks (4-2-1), are reeling from three straight losses after starting the campaign with four consecutive victories -- a feat that they had not matched since 1992-93. Clearly the Oilers, with sophomore sensation Connor McDavid, 19, leading the way offensively and as captain, have developed a new attitude after missing the playoffs for 10 straight seasons." I think (players) are believing now in their game and, thus, feeling more confident about it," Oilers coach Todd McLellan told reporters in Edmonton this week. "It's each individual showing up with his toolkit and being ready to work, and that's where the confidence comes from, where the swagger, the wins come from. They don't just happen by accident. If you keep doing that, your belief system goes up and you believe you can come from behind and play with leads, and that is what we are working toward." The Oilers displayed some of their new belief Tuesday night as they broke open a tight game in the third period and thumped the Washington Capitals -- a team expected to contend for the Stanley Cup again this season -- 5-1 in Edmonton. The strong start is a good omen because history has shown that games lost at the beginning of the regular season can spell a team's downfall at the end. Now, the Oilers want to continue riding the winning wave." We have a lot of work to do but this start is huge for us," said winger Benoit Pouliot, who is in his third season with the Oilers. "The last couple of years, we haven't had great starts, and it's tough to climb back. Now we just have to keep this going." Meanwhile, the Canucks, who were blanked 3-0 at home Tuesday by Ottawa, are looking to end a habit of slow starts. Despite the success in their first four games, the Canucks are struggling because of a lack of scoring. Averaging two goals per game, they have constantly been forced to try and play catch-up. Accordingly, the Canucks do not want to fall behind too early against McDavid and the rest of the potentially explosive Oilers." That's a team we have to play tight against," Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said. "We know the speed they have. When they are up, they are going to keep coming at you. It's very important to get the first goal against those guys. It could open up a lot of room for us." Ultimately, the game could prove to be a depth test for both clubs. Although McDavid is in early contention for a league scoring title with four goals and seven assists, Edmonton has also been able to count on the likes of fellow forwards Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Pouliot. But the Canucks are searching for offensive consistency as highly touted free-agent signing Loui Eriksson continues to struggle. Eriksson, who signed a six-year deal worth $36 million, has yet to score a goal while playing wing on the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin -- and elsewhere at times, although he has four assists. In addition, a number of holdovers have been slow off the mark, and Vancouver is starting to run into some injury woes with veteran winger Alex Burrows sidelined with an undisclosed lower-body issue and defenseman Chris Tanev out with an ankle problem. The Canucks promoted winger Mike Zalewski from their AHL farm team in Utica, N. Y., on Thursday. But Zalewski, who has only one assist in five games with Utica, is not slated to play against the Oilers. He figures as a bottom-six forward who can also kill penalties, but lacks the offensive firepower that the Canucks need. Second-year winger Jake Virtanen, 19, is someone who could provide a spark, but has been used sparingly. Virtanen expressed some frustration this week about his intermittent activity, but has done little to suggest that he deserves more playing time. Coach Willie Desjardins is opposed to using him on the fourth line -- the only place where he might fit regularly at this point -- and wants to put him in situations where he can produce. However, Virtanen might not have to wait long for more action if the Canucks fail to put air back in their bubble soon.
Time: 10:00 P.M. EST Venue: Honda Center ANAHEIM, Calif. -- With defenseman Hampus Lindholm finally under contract, the Anaheim Ducks will seek their fourth win in five games when they play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night at the Honda Center. Lindholm, a restricted free agent, signed a six-year contract worth $31.5 million on Thursday. The agreement makes Lindholm the Ducks' highest-paid defenseman after he led the team with 115 blocked shots while scoring 10 goals last season." I'm really happy to be back in Anaheim," Lindholm said on a conference call from his native Sweden. "There's where I've been all my career so I'm really happy to be back with the team and everyone." But before Lindholm rejoins the team, the 22-year-old Swede must get a work visa while general manager Bob Murray resolves the salary-cap problems resulting from the deal. Capfriendly.com calculates that Anaheim exceeds the salary cap by $1.4 million, even after placing defenseman Simon Despres and center Nate Thompson on long-term injured reserve. Nevertheless, Murray believes re-signing Lindholm was imperative to maintaining the Ducks' status as contenders." It solidifies this organization," Murray told NHL.com. "Hampus is a really good young hockey player. He's part of the future of this franchise. He's only going to get better." Murray also implied that Lindholm's signing represents at least the beginning of the Ducks' last stand with their current roster." We wanted to get it at a fair number for the organization so we could try to move forward with this group as best we can," he told NHL.com. "I wanted to give this group another shot. I'm going to do everything in my power to keep it that way." That includes managing the salary cap while concentrating on winning the team's second Stanley Cup." It's going to be an interesting experience," Murray told NHL.com. "But I'm going to do the best I can to give this group one last shot at this." Another recently signed restricted free agent, center Rickard Rakell, practiced with his teammates for the first time Wednesday. Rakell agreed to another six-year contract worth $22.8 million on Oct. 14. But Rakell will not be ready for Friday night's game. Center Ryan Getzlaf might miss his second consecutive contest after a shot hit him in the left forearm Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks. Columbus enters the game after Thursday night's 3-1 loss in San Jose. The Blue Jackets' 2-3-1 record provides a radical contrast from last year's 0-8 start, and reflects a renewed emphasis on conditioning to deal with the NHL's increasing speed." Everybody looks quicker," Columbus forward Nick Foligno told the Columbus Dispatch. "To a guy, you definitely feel quicker and lighter on your skates. But it's more than that, too. It's the way we're playing. We're trying to play faster and think faster and be faster with our heads, not just faster with our feet." Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella believes mental quickness can compensate for physical speed." If you're even a little bit slower than the other teams -- as far as just foot speed -- but you have a mindset of playing quick, I think you can be a quick team," Tortorella told the Dispatch. "We're certainly trying to play quick." That quickness begins with the Blue Jackets' defensemen sending the puck up the ice more rapidly and avoiding lateral passes. Tortorella described his goal using a metaphorical compass." We're just trying to be as north-south as we can," he told the Dispatch, "and try to get away from going D to D and traveling east to west as much."
Penn State coach James Franklin encouraged his team to take in the moment following its dramatic fourth-quarter comeback and 24-21 upset of No. 2 ranked Ohio State last Saturday night in Happy Valley." Obviously these types of wins are important," Franklin said. "To be honest with you, I don't want to spend a lot of time thinking about the big picture right now, I just want to soak this all in. Nights like this don't happen very often." Now the No. 24 Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten), who visit Purdue (3-4, 1-3) on Saturday, need to find a way to regroup and move on from their first home win over a Top 2 rated team since a 27-24 victory over Nebraska in 1982." If we turn around and lay an egg against Purdue, then what good is (the Ohio State) victory?" Nittany Lions assistant head coach Terry Smith, filling in for Franklin, who was out of town attending a family funeral, asked on Tuesday's Big Ten head coaches conference call. Toss in the fact Penn State has lost its last seven true road contests dating back to a Nov. 18, 2014 victory at Indiana, including two this season at Pitt (42-39) and Michigan (49-10), and the early noon start in West Lafayette, Ind., becomes even more intriguing." We're going to approach it as business as usual," Smith said. "We worked under the belief that the next game is the most important game, no matter who your opponent is." Our kids have bought into the process for the entire year, and after a game last weekend, the buy in is even greater. For us personally, we haven't won on the road, so this is going to be a good test for us to get our first road victory." Purdue also has a lot riding on the contest. It will be the first home game since interim head coach Gerad Parker took over for Darrell Hazell a few weeks ago and an upset of the Nittany Lions, who have won seven in a row in the series, would put the Boilermakers back on track for a potential bowl bid. Parker is emphasizing a more positive, upbeat approach to his head coaching duties. It seemed to work for much of his debut last week at No. 8 Nebraska. The Boilermakers performed far better than they had all season against top teams, building a 14-10 halftime lead before eventually falling to the Huskers 27-14." It was a fun run. We have to take that and build off of that so we become that same team the second half," Parker said. "It was a fun ride. You could see the belief in those kids' eyes. I think they know they let one fall through here. That's how they feel. It's going to be fun to coach them the rest of the weeks to try to get them to this point where they keep believing." Penn State's running game looked pretty good against Ohio State as sophomore running back Saquon Barkley and sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley continue to team up to make defenders miss. They combined for 162 yards as their chemistry in the team's zone read rushing attack has grown. The Boilermakers, meanwhile, have allowed 1,237 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns since conference play started. Penn State's defense, which kept Ohio State quarterback J. T. Barrett in check with a variety of blitzes, now must find a way to slow down Purdue's wide open passing attack. Boilermaker quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in completions (173) and yards (2,065) and has thrown 14 touchdown passes. Senior wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey is coming off a big game against Nebraska with four catches for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns." (Blough) can throw the ball," Smith said. "He's got some really good receivers on the perimeter, some guys that create challenges for us on the perimeter. He's very accurate, he throws a good ball, he throws a catchable ball, and you can see him directing the offense." We have our work cut out for us, and we're going to try to figure out how to slow him down and keep the pass game to a minimum."
After a loss to Clemson and a close call against Duke, Louisville may have got what it needed to enhance its postseason hopes in a 54-13 rout of North Carolina State last week. Now the No. 5 Cardinals hope to keep their momentum going when they visit Virginia on Saturday (noon ET, ABC/ESPN2) at Scott Field in Charlottesville, Va." Back on the road, we have to do a good job in practice this week, got to do a good job traveling, and get up and play another noon game," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "I think our players will be excited about it." The Cardinals (6-1, 4-1 ACC) could wake up Sunday morning in a first-place tie in the ACC's Atlantic Division depending on how undefeated Clemson fares against Florida State that night, though the Cardinals still are at a disadvantage in the tiebreaker because of their loss to the Tigers. But more than getting a spot in the conference championship game, the Cardinals also are hoping impressive wins will get them consideration for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoffs. That's not necessarily a hot topic with Petrino, however." I think it takes care of itself," he said. "I don't think anyone's going to care what I have to say whether we're going to get in the playoffs or not. Let's go out on the field and let's try to perform very well and show the world that we're a good football team and hopefully that will all take care of itself the right way." Like said before, last week I think, there's a lot of football to be played out there. There's still a lot of things come up, there's going to upsets, and we'll see where we're at." Nevertheless, the big win over the Wolfpack was a much-needed tonic. Quarterback Lamar Jackson continued his Heisman Trophy quest with another big game, with 355 passing yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 76 yards and another score against N. C. State. Senior tight end Cole Hikutini had a nice game as well with six catches for a career-high 118 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, junior linebacker Stacy Thomas emerged as a playmaker with two tackles for loss and his first career interception. With all the attention given to Jackson and the Cardinals' scoring punch, it's easy to overlook that they are the only team in the country ranked in the top 10 in total offense and total defense." I like the way our front guys are playing -- besides defeating blocks, we're able to make tackles and get production," Petrino said. "A lot of times as a defensive lineman it's hard to get that kind of production." Defensive end Drew Bailey has 30 tackles with 5.5 for losses and tackle DeAngelo Brown has 20 with 4.5 for losses in leading Louisville's three-man defensive front. Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall credited Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham for building that success." When you have a combination of good coaches and good talent, that ends up having a lot of success and that's over the years, Louisville has done that," Mendenhall said. "They have added good football coaches, and they have recruited very good talent to fit their schemes and vice versa." Mendenhall's Cavaliers (2-5, 1-2) seemed to be getting their act together after losing two of their first three games, but after posting victories over Central Michigan and Duke, they have lost to Pittsburgh and North Carolina their last two outings. Quarterback Kurt Benkert, a transfer from East Carolina, struggled in those two outings, passing for 126 yards against the Tar Heels and completing 20 of 44 passes against Pitt for 278 yards after throwing for 757 yards in the two wins." I think his development and his production has been on track to this point," Mendenhall said. "And now that we're playing better, better and better teams, his execution, his performance is having to climb at a more immediate pace, and that's only realistic if he's prepared for that." And so we've seen a few teams, we've seen some looks, he's beat up a little bit and that's impacted his kind of poise and patience in the pocket just a hair."