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Kessler leads No. 24 USC to 45-42 win over Huskers

SAN DIEGO (AP) Adoree' Jackson scored on a 98-yard kickoff return and a 71-yard pass from Cody Kessler, and No. 24 Southern California blew most of an 18-point, third-quarter lead before beating No. 25 Nebraska 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl on Saturday night.

Kessler threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns for USC (9-4), which was playing Nebraska (9-4) in a bowl game for the first time.

USC stuffed De'Mornay Pierson on fourth-and-3 from the USC 31 with 2 1/2 minutes left. Nebraska had one final shot but Tommy Armstrong Jr.'s desperation pass as time ran out was knocked down inside the 10.

Armstrong had brought Nebraska back from a 45-27 deficit with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Westerkamp and a 15-yard keeper and a 2-point conversion pass to Kenny Bell.

Armstrong threw for 381 yards and three TDs.

USC had 515 yards of total offense and Nebraska finished with 525.

Sun, 28 Dec 2014 05:15:00 +0000
No. 1 Kentucky holds off No. 4 Louisville 58-50

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Tyler Ulis shook off a bloody cut by his right eye to score 12 key second-half points and lead top-ranked Kentucky to a hard-fought 58-50 victory over No. 4 Louisville on Saturday.

An inadvertent elbow by Louisville's Chris Jones in the first half left Ulis with two thin bandages. He hit two big 3-pointers to give the Wildcats (13-0) a cushion in this showdown between unbeaten Bluegrass State rivals.

Fellow freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles joined in to help stake Kentucky to a 50-38 lead with 4:43 left.

Towns had 10 points and nine rebounds, while Booker added nine points for Kentucky, which held Louisville (11-1) to 26 percent shooting in a game defined by defense until the Wildcats' freshmen started making their shots.

Sat, 27 Dec 2014 21:45:00 +0000
Slumping New Jersey Devils fire coach Pete DeBoer

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey Devils have been on a slide since going to the Stanley Cup final in 2012, and coach Pete DeBoer paid the price.

DeBoer, who took the Devils to the championship round in his first season, was fired Friday, with his aging and short-handed team in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight season.

Lou Lamoriello, the Devils' president and general manager, won't say who will be the next coach until he speaks Saturday with the players, who are on a three-day Christmas break. The Devils will have a pregame skate at the Prudential Center on Saturday morning before playing the Rangers in New York that night.

There are a number of potential candidates, including Adam Oates, a former Devils assistant; Dallas Eakins, who was fired earlier this month by Edmonton; and former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

Lamoriello has hired a couple of former Montreal Canadiens coaches to lead New Jersey, and Jacques Martin has been in the press box to watch the Devils in their last three home games. He was an assistant under Bylsma last season and was promoted to senior adviser of hockey operations.

New Jersey has been hit with injuries in a 12-17-7 season. It has not won consecutive games since early last month, going 3-8-5 in its last 16. The Devils were missing six regulars to either injury or illness Tuesday night when they lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes, the NHL's second-worst team.

"I know that no one wants to hear excuses, and I am not going to make any, but I am definitely not going to throw our guys under the bus," DeBoer said Tuesday. "Guys are trying."

The problem is the guys are not as talented as they used to be, and it shows in the standings. The Devils are 14th in the Eastern Conference, nine points out of a playoff berth and fading.

New Jersey has 15 players over the age of 30 on the roster, including 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who is tied for the team lead in scoring. Not only are they old, but the Devils have not gotten much help from their minor leagues in recent years. Defenseman Adam Larsson, the fourth pick overall in 2011, has been a disappointment, and Stephane Matteau, the first-round pick the following season, has one goal with the Devils' top affiliate this season.

DeBoer is the third NHL coach to be fired this season, following Paul MacLean in Ottawa and Eakins.

DeBoer was 114-93-41 in his three-plus seasons with the Devils. Before coming to New Jersey, he coached the Florida Panthers for three years, never making the playoffs.

The 46-year-old DeBoer was hired in 2011-12 and immediately took the Devils to the Stanley Cup final, where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Devils, however, lost Zach Parise to free agency after the season. They took an unexpected blow after the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when goal-scorer Ilya Kovalchuk left to play in Russia. Those were the team's two best players, and their losses were keenly felt, especially in shootouts.

The Devils were 0-13 in shootouts last season and 2-6 this season, their first since not re-signing goaltender Martin Brodeur, the longtime face of the three-time Stanley Cup champions.

DeBoer had provided some stability to the Devils' coaching position. Since winning their last Cup in 2003 under Pat Burns, the Devils have changed coaches nine times, with only Brent Sutter lasting two full seasons until DeBoer came along. During that span, Lamoriello has twice filled in on an interim basis and Jacques Lemaire has twice come out of retirement to coach the team.

Fri, 26 Dec 2014 21:44:00 +0000
Chiefs QB Alex Smith out with lacerated spleen

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Alex Smith thought he had some indigestion. It turned out to be a lacerated spleen.

Now, the Kansas City Chiefs will put their already slim playoff hopes in the hands of career backup Chase Daniel, who will make his second-ever start Sunday against San Diego.

The Chiefs need to beat the Chargers and hope that Baltimore loses to Cleveland and Houston gets beat by Jacksonville to reach the postseason for the second straight year. San Diego needs only to defeat its longtime AFC West rival to get back to the playoffs - and now faces a second-string quarterback.

"The guys have a lot of trust in Chase," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said shortly after Friday's practice. "Our heart goes out to Alex. It's not something he wanted to happen. He wanted to be out there. But the guys know Chase. They're comfortable with him."

Daniel should be comfortable facing the Chargers, too.

Last season, the Chiefs (8-7) had already locked up their playoff seed before their regular-season finale in San Diego. Reid rested his starters and Daniel made his first NFL start, playing well in an overtime loss that allowed the Chargers to squeak into the playoffs.

Smith is expected to miss about six weeks, Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said, though his age and fitness level could shorten that timeframe. The Chiefs would need to make the playoffs and then likely advance all the way to the Super Bowl for him to return this season.

"I didn't know what to make of it," Smith said. "Once you start hearing how serious it is, obviously yeah, you know the implications as far as not playing - that's the last thing you want to hear. At the same time, you're not crazy."

The Chiefs, who have lost four of five, have been plagued by injuries all season.

Defensive tackle Mike DeVito and linebacker Derrick Johnson were lost to torn Achilles tendons and offensive guard Jeff Allen a torn biceps in Week 1. Running backs Joe McKnight and Cyrus Gray, tight end Demetrius Harris and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins have joined them on injured reserve.

Then there's safety Eric Berry, who was placed on the non-football injury list and diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Berry is currently undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments.

Smith believes he was hurt on a hit early in the third quarter of last Sunday's 20-12 loss at Pittsburgh. He didn't feel any pain until after he had showered, and then it felt like cramps and pressure. He visited with the team's medical staff but didn't go through full testing.

"Thought it was something I ate," said Smith, who ultimately took some antacids.

Smith practiced twice early in the week, feeling fine other than some nausea. There had been a stomach virus going around the team that kept wide receiver Dwayne Bowe from practicing all of last week, so Smith and the training staff suspected that might be the cause.

The Chiefs had off for Christmas and Smith didn't want to leave his family, but a team doctor helped persuade him to undergo a scan, which to his surprise found a 3-centimeter laceration. There was only a bit of bleeding, though, which explained why Smith had so few symptoms.

"If you would take another shot there and the laceration would increase, then you have a medical emergency," Burkholder said. "This is a 1-in-100 find for our doctors because he didn't have any signs of a spleen (injury)."

Burkholder said scans also revealed a slight enlargement of the spleen, and Smith will have more testing to determine why that's the case. Burkholder said it may just be natural.

"It's a non-surgical case. It will heal on its own, but he is going to have to have some time down from contacts and collisions," Burkholder said. "I won't go as far as to say that we saved a life, but you saved something that could go on Sunday."

Daniel, who starred nearby at Missouri, was acquired by the Chiefs last season. He's appeared in only seven games since, mostly in mop-up duty, but was 21 of 30 for 200 yards with a TD pass and no interceptions in that 27-24 loss to San Diego last year.

"We have a sharp game plan this week. We're excited about it," Daniel said after Friday's workout, "and it was great to get out here and go over the entire game plan."

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fri, 26 Dec 2014 23:10:00 +0000
Georgia's Richt: RB Todd Gurley heading to NFL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Georgia running back Todd Gurley has informed coach Mark Richt that he plans to enter the NFL draft.

Richt said after practice Friday for the Belk Bowl that Gurley won't return for his senior season. The 13th-ranked Bulldogs face No. 20 Louisville on Tuesday.

The news doesn't come as a huge surprise.

Gurley was a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and got off to a strong start, but a four-game suspension and a knee injury derailed a promising season.

Richt said Gurley's rehabilitation is going well and his spirits are high.

He predicted Gurley "will be a very high draft pick."

"I wouldn't be shocked to see him doing a lot of things for the scouts before the draft," Richt said.

Gurley attended practice with his teammates Friday but was not made unavailable for interviews.

The 6-foot-1, 236-pound Gurley ran for 911 yards and nine touchdowns in six games this season, averaging 7.4 yards per carry.

Gurley was suspended four games in October by the NCAA for taking $3,000 for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years.

In Gurley's first game back against Auburn, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, ending his season.

In his first two seasons at Georgia, Gurley ran for 2,374 yards and 27 touchdowns.

The Georgia running game hasn't missed a beat since Gurley left, with freshman Nick Chubb handling the load. Chubb rattled off four straight games of at least 143 yards rushing with Gurley out. He has 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns in the last seven.

Fri, 26 Dec 2014 22:01:00 +0000

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