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Crunch time: SEC teams relying on defense - again

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — It's the time of year when SEC teams seem to start flexing their defensive muscle. Offenses have deservingly garnered headlines in an age of spread offenses and run-it-up attacks, but the league that built its national championship run on defense has taken another step forward this season: 10 Southeastern Conference teams have allowed fewer yards this year than last and half of the 14 league members are among the country's 30 stingiest in points given up. "There's no question that defense is most important at this time of the year," said LSU coach Les Miles, who won the 2007 national title and played for a second crown in 2011. The sentiment is shared throughout the SEC. It also may be one reason there were six SEC teams in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, four in the top six. No. 3 Alabama (No. 6 CFP) is the country's fifth best defense, giving up about 10 fewer yards a game than in 2013. Seventh-ranked Mississippi (No. 4 CFP) is yielding 305 yards, 65 fewer a game than last season. No. 4 Auburn (No. 3 CFP), No. 9 Georgia (No. 11 CFP) and No. 16 LSU (No. 19 CFP) are all allowing less yards than last season. Ole Miss leads the country with just 10.5 points a game, a decrease of nearly two touchdowns from the 23.7 yielded a year ago. Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Missouri, Auburn and top-ranked Mississippi State (No. 1 CFP) are all in the top 30 of the FBS in that category. "That's just the culture in the SEC," former Texas coach and ESPN analyst Mack Brown said. "That hasn't changed." While TCU's 82-point outburst against Texas Tech gained headlines last week, the SEC answered with a 10-7 defensive struggle with LSU topping Ole Miss. The SEC's defensive push comes during a year after some of its marquee stars on that side of the ball left for the NFL — including South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Alabama's C.J. Mosley and Missouri's Michael Sam left for the pros. Now, others have filled the void. — Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson leads the SEC with 86 tackles for the Vols, who are holding opponents to almost 80 yards less this season than last. — Missouri defensive end Shane Ray picked up where Sam left off, on top in the SEC — and third nationally — with 10 sacks. — Mississippi's Senquez Golson has eight interceptions to tie for most in the country. Not everything's rosy for all SEC defenses. One the league's leading groups the past few years could be found in South Carolina. But the Gamecocks have allowed 38 points a game in its six SEC contests, an increase of 18 points from a year ago and a major reason the Gamecocks went from preseason SEC East favorites to 2-4 in the conference. And then there's Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have managed to win though statistically they are not as strong defensively as they were last year: Mississippi State is last in SEC defense, giving up 90 yards more a game than in 2013. Brian Jones, a former Texas linebacker and current CBS Sports analyst, said the numbers are misleading. He said the Bulldogs offense, led by Heisman Trophy contender Dak Prescott, builds big leads and forces opponents to throw the ball to get back in games, and that skews the numbers. "The key," Jones said, "is what they do in the red zone and the turnovers they get." Tennessee coach Butch Jones thinks improved defense as the season moves on is as much a product of more opponent game film as work on the field. "So, the more video you have out there, the more games you play, the more things you have to game plan," he said. Injuries also can affect teams on top defensively. Ole Miss lost starting linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche to a broken ankle against LSU this past week and won't have him for critical games against Auburn this week and Mississippi State down the road. "You look at the teams that win consistently in November, late October, that go on championship stretch runs," Jones said, "they have great depth." There's also a competition in the league to be considered the SEC's top defense. "I know our defense enjoys playing and wants to be the best," said Vols linebacker-defensive end Curt Maggitt, whose four sacks rank 10th in the SEC. "We play to be the best, and I'm sure other teams could say the same." ___ AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Gary B. Graves in Lexington, Kentucky; David Brandt in Oxford, Mississippi; Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee; and John Zenor in Auburn, Alabama, contributed to this report.

  • icon Posted: October 29

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Thursday 10/23/2014
Braves name Hart president of baseball operations
Posted: October 23, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves have named John Hart as president of baseball operations.

Hart was hired as interim general manager on Sept. 22 and will also continue to serve in that role. It's unclear if Hart's new title means the team no longer will seek a full-time replacement for Frank Wren, the former general manager. Wren was fired last month following a disappointing finish this season.

Team president John Schuerholz announced Thursday the 66-year-old Hart has agreed to a three-year contract that will continue through the team's first season at its new stadium in Cobb County.

Hart, the former general manager for the Rangers and Indians, joined the Braves last year as a senior adviser.

Wednesday 10/22/2014
Bobcats fail to gain ground in final round in Rome
Updated: October 22, 2014 - 12:04 am

The Georgia Northwestern golf team turned in a second straight team score of 311 on Tuesday and finished tied for 13th place in the Chick-fil-A Collegiate Invitational – hosted by Berry College - at the Coosa Country Club in Rome.

Tuesday 10/21/2014
NGAC Softball: Gordon Lee wins conference crown
Updated: October 21, 2014 - 11:23 pm

The Gordon Lee Middle School Lady Trojans claimed the first North Georgia Athletic Conference championship of the 2014-2015 school year when they captured the softball title over LaFayette on Tuesday night.

Monday 10/20/2014
Bobcats tied for 13th after first round in Rome
Updated: October 20, 2014 - 8:57 pm

The Georgia Northwestern Bobcats golf team endured a disappointing Monday in the first round of the Berry College/Chick-fil-A Collegiate Invitational held at the Coosa Country Club in Rome.

Manning breaks Favre's mark with 509th TD pass
Posted: October 20, 2014

DENVER (AP) — Peyton Manning broke Brett Favre's NFL record for touchdown passes with No. 509. He didn't stop there, either.

Manning threw four TD passes in Denver's 42-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, two to Demaryius Thomas, one to Wes Welker and another to Emmanuel Sanders.

That gives him 510.

The record-breaker was an 8-yarder to Thomas with 3:09 left in the first half.

Manning's receivers played keep-away with the milestone memento before Manning got the ball and congratulations from his teammates.

Favre sent along his congratulations via a scoreboard video he taped from his home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Manning went into the game with 506 and needed just four drives to break Favre's record.

He threw a 3-yard TD pass to Sanders on Denver's first drive and tied the record when Welker took a pass over the middle for 39 yards. Sanders' score was his first in Denver, and he became the 47th player to catch a TD pass from Manning.

Manning added a 40-yard TD throw to Thomas in the second half.

Manning reached the milestone in his 246th regular-season game. Favre needed 302.

As Manning approached the milestone, Favre told The Associated Press he was thrilled "it's Peyton that's doing it. I think a lot of Peyton. I know him well. I know his family well. His dad was one of my idols."

Favre, who grew up in the Gulf Coast watching Archie Manning and the New Orleans Saints, sent along his well wishes last week to Manning, the only player in NFL history with more MVP awards (five) than his three.

The veneration is mutual.

Saying he appreciated Favre's words of encouragement, Manning suggested that of all the men who have ever taken a snap in the 94-year history of the NFL, "nobody's defined longevity and career toughness more than him."

Favre played in a QB-record 297 straight regular-season games during his 20-year NFL career, plus another two dozen in the playoffs.

"He always answered the bell every single Sunday and was always producing," Manning said. "And growing up in the South, both of us, Brett has always said he was a big fan of my dad's, so there's been kind of a mutual respect there from my family to him, as well. And I always enjoyed watching him play. Nobody played the game quite like he did. He's truly a one-of-a-kind quarterback."

Favre said that were it not for Manning's neck problems at the tail end of his tenure in Indianapolis, Manning might very well have gone on to eclipse his most hallowed mark, the consecutive games streak, and certainly would have obliterated his career touchdowns mark by now.

"I know Peyton missed a year. Aside from that year, he's played just like I did. I mean, he's been out there over and over and over again," Favre said.

Manning's 208-game starting streak ended when he sat out the 2011 season following neck fusion surgery.

With the top pick and Andrew Luck there for the taking, the Colts and Manning had a tearful goodbye. And Manning landed in Denver, where he rejuvenated both his stellar career and a foundering franchise.

In Indy, Manning averaged 1.92 touchdown throws per game. Since joining the Broncos in 2012, he's averaged almost three TD throws a game.

Favre said he enjoys pulling up a chair at his home and watching Manning go to work.

"He's a throwback, a pocket passer, in a mobile quarterback league," Favre said. "Peyton's one of the last guys to play the way he does. And at 38, he's still the best at what he does."

___

Sunday 10/19/2014
NGAC Volleyball: Tournament begins on Tuesday at CVMS
Posted: October 19, 2014

The North Georgia Athletic Conference volleyball tournament will begin on Tuesday at Chattanooga Valley Middle School.

NGAC Volleyball: Tournament begins at CVMS on Tuesday
Posted: October 19, 2014

The North Georgia Athletic Conference volleyball tournament will begin on Tuesday at Chattanooga Valley Middle School.

Chris Jones among first to go into SPSU Hall of Fame
Updated: October 19, 2014 - 10:42 pm

Former LaFayette High School baseball standout Chris Jones is one of 34 former Southern Polytechnic State University student-athletes who have been named to the inaugural class of the institution’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Saturday 10/18/2014
NGAC Softball: Gordon Lee take Game 1 of finals with seventh-inning rally
Updated: October 18, 2014 - 1:12 pm

The Gordon Lee Lady Trojans are one win away from capturing the 2014 North Georgia Athletic Conference softball championship.

NGAC Softball: LaFayette, Gordon Lee to battle for league title
Updated: October 18, 2014 - 12:24 am

The 2014 North Georgia Athletic Conference softball champion will be from Walker County.

Thursday 10/16/2014
NGAC Softball: Gordon Lee through to tournament semifinals
Updated: October 16, 2014 - 10:48 pm

The Gordon Lee Middle School Lady Trojans are into the NGAC softball semifinals following a 13-0 drubbing of Trion in the tournament opener on Thursday.

FOOTBALL: LaFayette rises up to take down Rossville
Updated: October 16, 2014 - 10:40 pm

For the past seven days, the disappointment of a 35-6 loss to Chattanooga Valley has sat in the pit of the collective stomachs of the LaFayette Middle School football team.

Falcons' Jones, White upset with themselves
Posted: October 16, 2014

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Nobody expected Julio Jones and Roddy White to be a weak link in the Atlanta Falcons' offense.

The former Pro Bowl receivers are having unforeseen problems holding onto the football and running crisp routes.

When the Falcons (2-4) visit Baltimore (4-2) this weekend, they will bring a running game that's struggling for the second straight year and a once-dependable passing attack that can't make basic plays.

Jones and White, both seemingly healthy after an injury-filled 2013, blame themselves for multiple drops.

They each had two in last week's home loss to Chicago. Levine Toilolo, a second-year tight end who replaced legendary Tony Gonzalez, had three.

The offense is also without No. 3 receiver Harry Douglas, who's likely to miss his fourth straight game with an injured foot.

The Ringgold Tiger Band continues to excel
Posted: October 16, 2014

The Ringgold High School Tiger Band is having an exceptional competition season. The Tigers, led by ddirector Robin L. Christian and assistant director Tracy D. Wright , recently competed in the Wolverine Classic on Sat, Sept. 27 in Cumming, Ga and the Super Bowl of Sound on Saturday, Oct. 4 in Carrollton, Ga.

Coach does not expect Gurley to play this week
Posted: October 16, 2014

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia coach Mark Richt expects star tailback Todd Gurley's indefinite suspension to stay in place this week.

No. 10 Georgia plays a Southeastern Conference game at Arkansas on Saturday. The school is investigating allegations of rules violations by Gurley, whose suspension began for last week's 34-0 win at Missouri.

Richt said on his Twitter account early Thursday that he will "try to clear up Todd's status" and "will let you know if his status changes." He added that he's "not anticipating it to change this week."

The school has not released details of the investigation. Richt has said it involves autographs and memorabilia.

Gurley is considered a leading Heisman Trophy candidate and continues to practice with the team.

Sgt Jason Smith honored at Catoosa Cup
Updated: October 16, 2014 - 9:29 am

Ringgold High School took time out on Friday night at Don Patterson Field to honor one of its own.

CORRECTION: 2014 Heritage Homecoming
Updated: October 16, 2014 - 9:18 am

Congratulations to Hannah Hale for being crowned the 2014 Homecoming queen at Heritage High School on Friday, Oct. 10. Jamie McCurry was the honorary queen. Several errors were made in the Oct. 15 edition of The Catoosa County News regarding these two seniors – dressed in red as part of the Heritage Homecoming tradition - as well as Bree Baughman, Jamie McClurry and Millie Baughman. The photo and correct information will be printed in the Oct. 22 of The Catoosa County News in sports. The 2014 Heritage High School Homecoming court also included (not pictured) Brittany Richardson, Bree Baughman, Madison Damron and Mollie Johnson. 

Wednesday 10/15/2014
Bobcats shoot 4-under par in rout of Oxford
Updated: October 15, 2014 - 10:52 pm

The Georgia Northwestern Bobcats prepped for next week's Berry College Chick-fil-A Collegiate Invitational by routing Oxford College by 61 shots at The Oaks Course in Covington on Wednesday.

Bamacross comes to Gadsden Sports Complex Saturday Oct. 18
Posted: October 15, 2014

GADSDEN, Alabama -- As many as 150 cyclists are expected in Gadsden this weekend for Bamacross, a series of Cyclocross races, at Gadsden Sports Complex of West Meighan Boulevard.

Tuesday 10/14/2014
Second person tied to Gurley investigation lawyers up
Posted: October 14, 2014

A Cedartown man has retained a lawyer after Georgia’s compliance

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