No 'chip' this time for Gaels

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No 'chip' this time for Gaels

Its been a quiet day in Omaha, and no, that is not an invitation for you to chime in. The NCAA Tournament is here, and two most interesting developments are that Kansas and Missouri are both here but have no compelling reason to talk about each other.Indeed, there is an odd hollowness to the matchups here not much to sink your teeth into, really, whether it be Missouri-Norfolk State, or Virginia-Florida.It is a location that badly needs Omar Samhan.Samhan is the mildly famous Saint Marys center who stole the tournaments heart two years ago by seizing the first two rounds by the throat with his play and with his own throat. Indeed, until he ran into the noted former Warrior Ekpe Udoh, he was as charming a figure as the 2010 tournament provided.Well, the Gaels are back, as if you didnt already know, but the force of Samhans personality is not. This is a slightly more buttoned-down Saint Marys team, and with Purdue the kind of team that will rattle those buttons, the Gaels have decided that less improv is better for the task at hand.I think we might have needed that chip on our shoulder a couple of years ago, head coach Randy Bennett said after finishing his Purdue prep with a cheery, That hays in the barn on that now.
RELATED: NCAA Tournament scoreboard
Omar did have a chip on his shoulder (in 2010), and he even had T-shirts made with a chip on the shoulder. I think he felt, and they all felt, that we needed that then. But every team is different, and this one is different than the one in 2010. We won the conference, we won the conference tournament, and I think they all sense that people were coming after them more this time.Saint Marys offense was also different because of Samhans upright-minivan presence in the middle.Were more outside-in now, no question, he said. Were not as dependent on getting the ball down low, and we have more ways to go at people. I think in some ways that makes us harder to game-plan for, but in other ways . . . well, its hard to guard a good big man, and it always has been. So really, I dont know whats actually harder, but this is definitely different.As for Samhans personality, while it may be missed, it could not have been recreated, so nobody has bothered to try. The Gaels are still on the quirky side Clint Steindls dad re-invited himself for another extended stay on his sons floor, and people remain fixated on the Australian thing but Samhan was bigger than life. This team isnt, and doesnt need to be.It helps that Purdue, while an excellent perimeter team, is not a pound-it-inside-and-let-the-carnage-speak-for-itself type. They play a lot with a forwards-guards lineup, and as Saint Marys does, they live on the perimeter. With point guard Lewis Jackson creating space with penetration, the Boilermakers have an advantage that Saint Marys does not, but Bennett says they are enough like USF that unfamiliarity shouldn't be an issue.RELATED: Saint Mary's roster Purdue roster
I mean, theyre the handiest comparison point, he said, but we know where we are, and this is the NCAAs, and everybodys better at this level.Only this time, the Gaels dont need to lean so heavily on Samhans chip alone. They have seven players from that 2010 team here, so the load that must be borne to advance will be distributed more evenly.Nevertheless, the load remains the load, and one guy with an elevated level of comedic and rhetorical skills is only one way to carry it.

Former Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam dies at 42 years old

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AP

Former Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam dies at 42 years old

BOULDER, Colo. — Authorities say 1994 Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam has been found dead in a Colorado park.

The Boulder County coroner's office said Tuesday that it was still investigating the cause of the death of the 42-year-old Salaam.

The body of the one-time running back was found Monday at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder.

Salaam led Colorado to one of its best seasons in 1994, when the Buffaloes went 11-1.

He had a terrific rookie season with the Chicago Bears in 1995, rushing for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns.

But he only scored three times in the next two years and he played his last game in 1999 with the Cleveland Browns.
 

Jackson, Watson headline five 2016 Heisman finalists

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USATSI/AP

Jackson, Watson headline five 2016 Heisman finalists

NEW YORK -- Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is a Heisman Trophy finalist for the second consecutive season, joining Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers and Oklahoma teammates Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook.

The finalists were announced Monday on ESPN and the award will be presented Saturday in New York.

Watson finished third in last year's voting, won by Alabama running back Derrick Henry. Just like last year, he heads to New York not as the favorite but as the contender coming on strong at the end. Mayfield finished fourth last season, but did not get an invite to Heisman presentation in New York.

Peppers is the first defensive player to be a Heisman finalists since Notre Dame linebacker Manti Teo was a distant runner-up to Johnny Manziel in 2012.

Westbrook and Mayfield are the first teammates to be finalists since Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart from Southern California finished first and third, respectively in 2005.

Finalists are determined by the margins between vote-getters. The ballots of more than 900 voters, which included former Heisman winners, were due Monday.

Watson entered as the preseason favorite in what looked like a strong field of contenders, but Jackson quickly swept past them all to be front-runner. He was brilliant for the first two months of the season and Louisville was looking like a College Football Playoff contender.

It seemed as if Jackson would be a runaway Heisman winner, but the 15th-ranked Cardinals lost their final two games of the season. He was sacked 11 times in a lopsided loss at Houston and he committed four turnovers in a last-second loss against Kentucky.

Watson, meanwhile, has surged since Clemson's only loss to Pitt in mid-November. He also had the benefit of playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game last Saturday and took full advantage of the spotlight. Watson threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores in a 42-35 victory against Virginia Tech to seal a spot in the College Football Playoff.

The raw numbers still favor Jackson, who is second in the nation in total yards per game (410.7) and has accounted for 51 touchdowns (21 rushing TDs and 30 TD passes) with 13 turnovers (nine INTs and four lost fumbles) in 12 games. Watson averages 341.8 yards per game and has 43 touchdowns (six rushing and 37 passing) with 15 turnovers (all interceptions) in 13 games.

When the two met on Oct. 1 at Clemson in what was one of the season's most entertaining games, Watson threw for 306 yards and five touchdowns, ran for 91 and was picked off three times. Jackson had 295 yards passing, 162 rushing and accounted for three touchdowns with one interception. Clemson won 42-36.

Mayfield and Westbrook have been a dynamic combination, and late in the season No. 7 Oklahoma started a dual campaign to promote both for the Heisman. Mayfield is on pace to break the NCAA record for passer efficiency rating in a season (197.75). Westbrook has 74 catches for 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns and has more receptions covering at least 20 yards (26) than any receiver in the country.

Peppers played defense, offense and special teams for Michigan, lining up all over the field.