National Sports

Broncos’ Fant has keen eye on Kelce, Kittle in Super Bowl

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Noah Fant parlayed his outstanding performance at the NFL scouting combine last year into a first-round phone call from the Denver Broncos and the best season among the league’s rookie tight ends in 2019.
What he’s aiming for this year is to join the league’s elite at his position, including two stars who square off Sunday in Super Bowl 54: Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and San Francisco’s George Kittle.
“Yeah, if you play tight end, you watch the best tight ends, so Travis Kelce is definitely one to watch,” Fant said. “I think he’s a very savvy player.
Although Kelce led all tight ends this season with 97 catches for 1,229 yards and five touchdowns, Fant counts Kittle (85 catches, 1,053 yards, five TDs) as the top tight end in the game today.
“I have a little bit of a bias toward George because I went to school with him,” Fant said.
Fant regularly texted his former University of Iowa teammate as he navigated the ups and owns of his rookie season, one that included three big drops in a loss to Kansas City in October and a 75-yard TD catch in a win over Cleveland in November.
“Anything I ask of him he gives good feedback and good knowledge and obviously he knows what he’s doing,” Fant said.
Fant figures he’ll join the ranks of Kittle, Kelce and Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz soon.
“I’m not big into making projections or anything like that,” Fant said, “but it’s definitely the goal and I feel like I have the ability to get there.”
Step 1 is watching Kittle and Kelce go at it on Sunday.
Step 2 is a makeover of his offseason workout regimen.
Fant, who set club rookie tight end records with 40 catches for 562 yards and caught three touchdowns in 2019, is switching his workout program from one designed to impress coaches and general managers and to kill it at the combine to one more focused on football.
“Training for coming into the NFL, that’s all combine training, right? It’s all to get you to run the fastest, weigh the most that you can, things that don’t necessarily translate into football,” Fant said in a phone interview from Los Angeles where he was signing Panini America football cards ahead of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
“So, that’s my plan this year is just to work out specifically for football, get those moments to do the field work, lift weights specifically to help me get stronger in certain areas that will directly correlate to the football field.”
Another thing that will change for Fant in 2020 is veteran play-caller Pat Shurmur running Denver’s offense following the firing of rookie offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello.
“I was just as surprised as anybody,” Fant said. “We had gotten some good games with Coach Scangarello and this is my first experience of coaches coming in and out like that. But Coach Shurmur, I’ve heard great things, heard that he runs a great offense, he’s a very experienced play-caller.
“Tight ends in his offense have done really well. I mean, really well. So, I’m excited to see what he has in store.”

National Sports

Climate change poses threat to future Super Bowls in Miami

By Steven Wine
AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) — The forecast for the Super Bowl in Miami is grim.
Clear skies and temperature in the 60s are expected when the game kicks off, so weather won’t be a problem.
But climate change likely will be, sooner or later. The sea and temperature are rising, posing a threat to South Floridians’ way of life, including their customary spot in the NFL’s Super Bowl rotation.
The game will be played Sunday in Miami for the 11th time, the most of any city. Given the changing climate, how much longer will the region be a place where the NFL wants to bring its big party?
“In 10 years maybe we’ll still be functioning normally,” said Harold Wanless, a leading expert on sea level rise in South Florida. “Twenty years? I think that could be a problem.”
The Miami Dolphins’ stadium, the site of the Super Bowl this year for the sixth time, stands 10 feet above sea level. That will change, although projections vary widely.
Miami first hosted a Super Bowl 52 years ago. What will Miami be doing 52 years from now?
“We just don’t know how fast the water is going to rise,” said South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, who has long been sounding the alarm about climate change.
At some point, the time for games will end. Wanless, director of the University of Miami’s geological sciences department (elevation 13 feet), and other scientists have warned the sea in South Florida could rise by up to 30 feet by the end of the century.
That’s a first down’s worth of water, an amount so difficult to fathom that Wanless prefers to emphasize a more conservative projection of 8.4 to 13.7 feet by 2100.
And long before seawater begins lapping at the base of Dan Marino’s statue near the Dolphins’ stadium entrance, life in Miami could become less than super.
With a sea level rise of 2 feet — which Wanless considers possible before 2040 — failing sewage treatment plants and flooded septic systems could become a serious problem. Street flooding would disrupt transportation, and the area would be at increased risk of catastrophe from hurricanes.
Obstacles to future Super Bowls in Miami might surface first not at the stadium, but in Biscayne Bay.
“Creep of fecal matter into the bay is going to make the area inhospitable, because you can’t swim in the water. That is already happening now,” said Albert Gomez, co-founder of the Miami Climate Alliance, a grassroots group focused on policy. “Would you want to go to Miami when the bays are full of fecal matter? Are you going to want to have a Super Bowl if you don’t have that under control?”
Even if sewage and septic tanks don’t spoil fun in the South Florida sun, a rising sea will alter the landscape.
“Are people going to want to come to a beach if there is no beach?” Wanless said. “Which will happen. At least the beach won’t be where you want it.”
Another harbinger could be frequent flooding in low-lying areas. High tide in Miami Beach already causes problems.
“The issue will be if the hotel districts and transportation are compromised,” Stoddard said. “That’s my big concern.”
Rising temperatures are a lesser worry, although Gomez said extreme heat might someday make South Florida unsuitable for football. He pointed to a projection of 200 days above 95 degrees annually 50 years from now.
For the NFL, climate change won’t be just a Miami problem. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium sits on the banks of the St. Johns River at an elevation of 3 feet. The New Orleans Superdome is also at 3 feet. The Jets and Giants play home games 7 feet above sea level in New Jersey.
South Florida is built on porous limestone, which makes adaptation to a higher ocean especially difficult. And because the topography is so flat, challenges will be widespread. With a rise of 12 feet, high tide would cover 97 percent of Miami-Dade County, Wanless said.
The Miami Beach Convention Center (elevation 7 feet) is the site of this year’s Super Bowl Experience interactive theme park. The city, built on barrier islands between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, is already spending millions of dollars to raise streets, upgrade storm drainage and otherwise adapt to the changing climate.
“We’re at the tip of the spear,” Mayor Dan Gelber said. “We’re going to feel it before others.”
But Gelber, a Democrat, is optimistic Miami Beach can continue to host Super Bowl events half a century from now.
“In 50 years our roads may be a little higher and our pump system may be engineered differently, but we will be dry and happy,” he said. “All of this is very surmountable. We’re a man-made island to begin with. You can adapt to these new challenges, but you have to adapt. You don’t want to wait until you’re under water.”
Also sanguine is Ben Kirtman, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami. He said state and local governments increasingly acknowledge the need to reduce emissions and adapt to a rising sea.
Kirtman said the NFL could play a role with its big bullhorn.
“This is an existential threat to much of Miami,” he said. “If the NFL shined a little light on that, that would be extremely helpful in shifting attitudes.”
NFL Green has promoted environmentally friendly Super Bowl initiatives for 26 years. Projects this year included urban gardens and recycling, and the league teamed in Miami with Ocean Conservancy to raise awareness about ocean issues.
The Dolphins have virtually eliminated single-use plastics at their stadium.
“More and more, climate change is on the NFL’s radar,” said Susan Groh, who works for the league’s environmental program as a consultant. “Any new projects we’ve suggested, they’ve always been supportive.”
When asked how concerned the NFL was about climate change making Miami a less appealing Super Bowl site, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said: “We will work with the Dolphins as they focus on working on local issues.”
The Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, however, has yet to address the challenges a changing climate will present when the group tries to bring future games to South Florida.
“We’ve had no discussion of that,” committee chairman Rodney Barreto said. “It has not been on our radar at this point.”
But for the Super Bowl in Miami, the clock is running, and no one knows how much time is left.

National Sports

NBA All-Stars to wear Kobe’s No. 24 and Gianna’s No. 2

By Tim Reynolds
AP Basketball Writer

The NBA’s All-Stars will be playing this year with Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant in their minds and on their jerseys.
So, coming soon: No. 24 Giannis Antetokounmpo, and No. 2, LeBron James.
As part of what will be a long series of tributes to Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the NBA announced Friday that every player on Team Giannis will wear 24 on their jerseys at this year’s All-Star Game and every player on Team LeBron will wear 2.
Kobe Bryant spent the last 10 seasons of his career in a No. 24 jersey. Gianna Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and an outstanding young player, wore No. 2 on her jersey.
All players taking part in All-Star weekend — including the Rising Stars game Feb. 14 and the Saturday night events such as the 3-point contest, slam dunk contest and skills competition — will wear a patch with nine stars to commemorate the nine victims of Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
The patches for Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 will also bear the numbers 2 and 24. The patches for the All-Star Game will be slightly different, showing only the nine stars since players will already be wearing the numbers.
The decision means that almost every All-Star is assured of wearing a different number than usual. The only All-Star who regularly wears 2 or 24 is Kawhi Leonard, who dons No. 2 for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Antetokounmpo and James, the captains for the Feb. 16 game in Chicago, will pick their teams this coming Thursday.
“It’s been a rough week because of Kobe,” said first-time All-Star Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat — who never met Bryant, but was a huge fan and was hoping to meet him at All-Star this year. “Just going through that, it’s been rough.”
The plan for the jersey numbers is the second known Bryant-related tribute scheduled for this year’s All-Star Game. The NBA has changed the format and will add 24 — Bryant’s last number — to whatever the leading team score is after three quarters to set a target score. The first team to hit that target score wins the game.
The patches will pay tribute to John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan, in addition to the Bryants. The group was on its way to a basketball tournament where Gianna Bryant was scheduled to be playing when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed. There were no survivors.
Jersey-related tributes have been many in the days since the crash. Connecticut’s women’s basketball team displayed a No. 2 jersey for Gianna Bryant — she was a big UConn fan and hoped to play there one day — on its bench for a game earlier this week against the U.S. national team. Hockey star Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals took the ice this week in a No. 24 jersey as a Bryant tribute; Ovechkin usually wears No. 8, the number Bryant used in his first 10 years with the Lakers.
A number of NBA players have announced that they will no longer wear 8 or 24 in tribute. All-Star Joel Embiid of Philadelphia decided played in a No. 24 jersey instead of his usual No. 21 earlier this week, his way of showing respect to Bryant. Atlanta All-Star Trae Young, who idolized Bryant, started a game in a No. 8 jersey on Sunday before switching back to his usual No. 11.
Bryant is the No. 4 scorer in NBA history and was an 18-time All-Star after a 20-year career, all with the Los Angeles Lakers. He started 15 of those All-Star Games, a record that will be passed this year when James starts his 16th.
Bryant — still the youngest All-Star in league history — was All-Star MVP four times, tying Bob Pettit for the most ever. Bryant’s 38 career All-Star steals are another game record.

National Sports

Almost half of US sports fans want Super Bowl Monday holiday

By Jimmy Golen
AP Sports Writer

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Nearly half of American sports fans would give up one of their other work holidays in order to have a day off after Super Bowl Sunday, according to a survey commissioned by the daily fantasy sports company DraftKings.
The survey, which was conducted by the polling firm SurveyGizmo, found that more than 40% would rather work Presidents Day, Martin Luther King’s birthday or Columbus Day than the Monday after the NFL championship game.
About one in 10 would even prefer to work Christmas or Thanksgiving, and still more would give up the Fourth of July, New Year’s Day or Memorial Day.
“We were curious as to what extent this was a national holiday in itself,” DraftKings president and co-founder Matt Kalish said. “People like to go out to watch the game. They don’t want to be thinking, ‘I’m going to get home at 12:30 or 1 a.m. I don’t want to be getting up to go to work the next morning.’”
The company contacted by email a nationally representative sample of 1,003 people who identified as sports fans. It found 43% would prefer to give up one of their work holidays in order to take the day after the Super Bowl off; 43% said they would not, and 15% said they aren’t sure.
It also found that 45% are more likely to take Super Bowl Monday off if their preferred team wins the game. About three in 10 agreed with the statement, “I have called in sick on short notice after the Super Bowl in the past.”
The company also asked fans their feelings about sports betting and found that 82% of those self-identified sports fans want to be able to bet legally on the Super Bowl. More than three-quarters — 78% — said they are more likely to watch the whole Super Bowl if they have money riding on it.
“That’s not surprising,” Kalish said. “People like having something on the line when they’re watching major events like the Super Bowl.”
Although DraftKings started by allowing fans to win money playing fantasy sports, it has entered the sports betting market since the Supreme Court overturned a national ban on it in 2018. Gambling on sports is now offered in 14 states — not including Massachusetts, DraftKings’ corporate home.
Even so, the company already gives its staff the day off on the Monday after the Super Bowl.
“It’s almost a reward for our employees,” Kalish said. “We’ve always had a pretty lenient policy. We found like half the company was taking the Monday off after the Super Bowl anyway.”

National Sports

Four safeties vying for Hall of Fame spot, 3 WRs and OLs

By Barry Wilner
AP Pro Football Writer

MIAMI (AP) — There are 11 pure safeties in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Four more are seeking to join them when the Class of 2020 is selected Saturday.
John Lynch, now the general manager of the 49ers who will play the Chiefs in Sunday’s Super Bowl, is up for the seventh time. Steve Atwater is a finalist for the third time. LeRoy Butler and first-year eligible Troy Polamalu complete the quartet of safeties among the 15 final candidates.
“The Hall of Fame would be unbelievable. I’m humbled every year,” Lynch says. “I’ve been a finalist seven times now. I don’t know if it will necessarily change my life. I’ve been pretty blessed with my family, what I’ve been able to do in football. I’ve heard other people say that, and then they go in and say it’s like happening. You never know until you’re in there what it means to you.
“It would be tremendous. I’d be incredibly humbled and honored. Hopefully this is the year on Saturday.”
Butler, who starred for the Packers from 1990-2001, has had the longest wait to get to this point.
Butler won a Super Bowl for Green Bay, which had a quarterback named Brett Favre — a first-ballot Hall of Famer — leading the way.
Favre is adamant about Butler also deserving enshrinement.
“LeRoy was as important to our Super Bowl win and success as any other player on our team,” Favre says. “I couldn’t tell you the interceptions or tackles — I know there were a lot — but his leadership and playmaking ability were outstanding. He had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Being around the ball.
“He wasn’t the most athletic guy and that might surprise a lot of people, but he was so instinctive. He made the plays; some guys get in position and don’t make the plays. He had a lot of charisma about him — he was the first to jump into the stands. That’s no reason to put a guy into the Hall of Fame, but the career he had definitely is worthy.”
Atwater was one of the hardest hitters at the position, an intimidating figure against the run but also a force in pass coverage. He played for a decade with Denver, winning two Super Bowls, then one year with the Jets.
Polamalu was a do-everything safety for the Steelers from 2003-14 and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year — the last safety to earn the award. He was a four-time All-Pro known for his freelancing playmaking.
The finalists from the defensive side also include lineman Richard Seymour and Bryant Young, linebackers Sam Mills and Zach Thomas.
On offense, the candidates are receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne; linemen Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca and Tony Boselli; and running back Reggie Wayne.
“I feel like the closer we get to that day, the butterflies are going to start kicking in,” Wayne said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I’m just enjoying the wave, excited to be in this position. I know being a receiver this isn’t the easy lock-in spot for the Hall of Fame. But man for me to be in this position on my first ballot, words can’t describe it.”
Wayne and Polamalu are the only first-year eligibles on the ballot Saturday.
The five modern-day players elected will be inducted into the Canton, Ohio, shrine on Aug. 8.
The Hall of Fame previously elected 15 members of a centennial class. They included coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher; contributors Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner, Steve Sabol, who along with his father Ed — already a Hall of Fame member — created NFL Films, and George Young, who built the New York Giants’ championship teams in 1986 and 1990.
Ten former players also were selected by the special centennial committee:
Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris; Cleveland receiver Mac Speedie; Pittsburgh safety Donnie Shell; Green Bay safety Bobby Dillon; Detroit defensive tackle Alex Karras; Eagles wide receiver Harold Carmichael; offensive tackles Winston Hill of the Jets and Jim Covert of the Bears; linebacker/defensive end Ed Sprinkle of the Bears; and Duke Slater, one of the NFL’s first black players, an outstanding two-way player in the league’s earliest days.

Michigan Headlines

Man with IS link pleads guilty

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan man accused of making plans to leave the U.S. to fight for the Islamic State group pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy charge.
Mohamud Muse, of Lansing, acknowledged that he made a video pledging loyalty to IS and had planned to travel to Somalia at some point in 2019.
Muse and two other men were arrested a year ago at the Grand Rapids airport where his brother, Muse Muse, was starting a journey to Somalia to join IS, according to federal authorities.
Mohamud Muse was aware that IS is a “designated foreign terrorist organization,” his plea agreement states.
Muse Muse pleaded guilty on Jan. 7. Charges are pending against a third man, Mohamed Haji. The three are naturalized U.S. citizens who were born in Kenya.

Hawaii Headlines

Mom fails to meet deadline to produce missing children

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The mom of two children missing since September failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to bring the kids to authorities in Idaho on Thursday.

That clears the way for a judge to potentially hold Lori Vallow in contempt of court, a legal move that could allow prosecutors to seek to have her extradited from Hawaii to Idaho to face charges.

Seven-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan haven’t been seen since late September, and police in Rexburg, Idaho, have said they “strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee’s lives are in danger.”

“The only word coming to mind right now is ‘monster,’ ” Kay Woodcock, JJ’s grandmother, said during a news conference Thursday evening. “All this has just been very disheartening . . . I’m a lot less optimistic at the moment.”

Police have said Lori Vallow and her new husband Chad Daybell have lied about the children’s whereabouts and even their very existence, with Chad Daybell allegedly telling one person that Lori Vallow had no kids, and Lori Vallow allegedly telling another person that her daughter had died.

The tangled case spans multiple states and includes investigations into three separate deaths: Lori Vallow’s estranged husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed in Phoenix in July by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox. Cox, who claimed the shooting was in self-defense, died of unknown causes in December.

In August, Lori Vallow moved her family to Idaho. In October, Chad Daybell’s wife Tammy Daybell died of what her obituary said was natural causes. But when Chad Daybell married Lori Vallow just two weeks after Tammy’s death, law enforcement became suspicious and ultimately had Tammy Daybell’s remains exhumed.

The test results on Tammy Daybell’s remains and on Alex Cox have not yet been released.

The case also involves rumors of a cult — Lori Vallow reportedly believes she is “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020,” according to divorce documents Charles Vallow filed before his death. Chad Daybell has written several apocalyptic novels based loosely on Mormon religious theology. Both were involved in a group that promotes preparedness for the biblical end-times.

Police questioned Daybell and Vallow about the missing kids in late November, and the couple left town before police returned the next day. On Saturday, they were stopped by investigators in Hawaii, served with the order to produce the kids, and then searched.

Phone numbers could not be found for Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow.

Vallow and Daybell are still in Hawaii, Woodcock said.

“I was informed that they’re still probably sunning on the beach somewhere while we’re sitting here wondering where the kids are,” she said.

A contempt of court charge is generally a misdemeanor under Idaho law, with a penalty of just five days in jail and a $5,000 fine. But Kay Woodcock said authorities told her it could be used to seek Lori Vallow’s extradition.

“We now know that there’s some recourse that can happen after this,” she said. “They’re going to make her accountable to law enforcement.”

Thomas “Tad” DiBiase, a former homicide prosecutor in Washington, D.C., said the order to produce the children is good strategy if prosecutors are looking to build a criminal case. DiBiase consults with law enforcement agencies on “no body” murder cases.

“It’s actually very clever, because it forces the parent’s hand,” DiBiase said Thursday. “Parents who have not done something to their kids are not going to violate a court order, so in that sense it’s powerful.”

Bringing missing persons cases to court can be difficult because, without a body, prosecutors are missing their best piece of evidence, DiBiase said.

“If you have a body, you know generally when the murder happened: Did it happen an hour ago, did it happen two days ago, did it happen a year ago, did it happen five years ago? You also don’t know how the murder happened, you also don’t know where the murder happened,” he said. “It’s an enormous challenge, because in addition to that, you don’t know whether the person is truly dead or not.”

When the potential victims are kids, however, it’s easier to bring a case without a body, he said.

“A 7-year-old is not likely to walk away on their own, never to be found again,” he said.

It could be some time, however, before the public knows exactly what is going to happen next in the case. Child protection cases in Idaho are sealed, and the Madison County prosecutor had to get special permission from a judge just to reveal that Vallow had been legally ordered to produce her children.

“We are grateful for the concern and attention being shown regarding the location, health and safety of Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow,” Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood said in a prepared statement released Wednesday evening. “In the event that information comes forward that would be important for the public to know, we will inquire of the court as to whether that information can be shared.”

Wood also asked anyone with information about the kids to come forward.

“We hope and pray that the children will be produced or found and that they are safe and healthy,” he said.

Kay and Larry Woodcock have offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the children’s discovery.

“I can’t say for sure what’s going to happen next other than to say I hope it’s something that will get her attention, because I would love to know where those kids are,” Kay Woodcock said. “I think all America wants to know where they are.”

West Virginia Sports

Texas Tech rebounds with 89-81 win over No. 12 West Virginia

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech went through some hard practices after consecutive losses. The Red Raiders were plenty tough enough against No. 12 West Virginia.
“We had to bounce back,” Davide Moretti said.
“We get testy every afternoon at 3:30 in Lubbock, Texas,” coach Chris Beard said. “We strap it on. That’s what we do. All sorts of things to be concerned about when you’re playing West Virginia, but the testiness of it wasn’t an issue tonight.”
Moretti had a career-high 25 points and a pair of Texas Tech freshmen also scored more than 20 in an 89-81 win over the physical Mountaineers on Wednesday night.
Terrence Shannon Jr. added 23 points, including 12 of 14 free throws in a game plagued by 54 personal fouls. Jahmi’us Ramsey shed his facemask and scored 21 for the Red Raiders (13-7, 4-3 Big 12), who never trailed.
“We didn’t take away anything that we actually talked about, practiced, drilled,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said. “When you don’t do that against Chris (Beard’s) teams you’re going to pay for it. They’re well-coached and made shots. We didn’t.”
Texas Tech made 11 3-pointers, shot 54% overall (25 of 46) and was 28 of 32 on free throws. The Mountaineers were 33 of 41 from the free throw line while shooting 39% (22 of 57) from the field.
Derek Culver had 16 points, with 14 made free throws, to lead five players scoring in double figures for West Virginia (16-4, 4-3). Gabe Osabuohien had 15 points, while Taz Sherman had 11. Jermaine Haley and Miles McBride each had 10
After Shannon got a technical foul early in the second half for a slight shove of Culver under the basket following a whistle on a shooting foul, the Mountaineers made two of the four free throws and kept possession before Haley was fouled and then made both free throws to cut the deficit to 44-42.
But Ramsey then made a 3-pointer, and by time he hit another with 16:14 left, Texas Tech had stretched its lead to 56-46. The Red Raiders led by as many as 15 while scoring the most points any team has had against the Mountaineers this season.
“This was obviously a hard-fought win,” Beard said. “It was everything we expected from West Virginia, one of the most physical teams in college basketball. Above all, I thought our guys responded.”
Ramsey had worn a protective mask pretty much since he broke his nose when being hit in the face during AAU competition the summer before his senior year in high school.
“I just decided to get rid of it,” said Ramsey, who had his highest-scoring Big 12 game. “I’ve been playing with it for a while, just decided to put it down.”
Moretti and Kyler Edwards fouled out of the game, while Shannon and Ramsey both finished with four fouls. West Virginia had four players end with four fouls. There were six technical fouls — three against West Virginia players, the one against Shannon and then one against each bench.
Texas Tech freshman guard Kevin McCullar missed the game while still in concussion protocol. He finished Saturday’s overtime game against Kentucky after a hard fall in the first half when his head hit the floor twice when taking a charge — after initially getting knocked down, then again when the opposing player then fell on top of him.
Beard said McCullar was completely cleared at halftime Saturday, and his parents and doctors were involved in the decision for him to return.
“What a courageous second half against Kentucky, and then the next morning a headache or two,” said Beard, adding that McCullar is improving.
BIG PICTURE West Virginia: The Mountaineers were flustered early on after being forced into some turnovers. A lack of perimeter defense hurt them in the long run. Texas Tech hit 11 of 17 3-pointers and shot 54% overall after making only 28% of its field goal attempts in a 12-point loss at West Virginia 2 1/2 weeks ago.
Texas Tech: A good bounce back for the Red Raiders four days after they overcame a 10-point deficit before losing in overtime at home to SEC powerhouse Kentucky. They dropped out of the AP Top 25 this week after being ranked the previous six polls. … The “glaring thing” to Beard was their 22 turnovers. “We understand it’s an issue and we’re working really hard to try to improve it,” he said.
West Virginia heads back home to host Kansas State on Saturday.
Texas Tech is on the road to play its third consecutive Top 25 opponent, at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday.
More AP college basketball: and

Minnesota Sports

No. 19 Illinois holds on to take down Minnesota 59-51

By Terry Towery
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Andres Feliz scored 17 points while Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn added 13 each as No. 19 Illinois held on to beat Minnesota 59-51 on Thursday night.
It was the seventh consecutive win for the Fighting Illini (16-5, 8-2 Big Ten). They moved into a first-place tie with No. 14 Michigan State in the Big Ten.
Daniel Oturu led the Golden Gophers (11-10, 5-6) with a game-high 20 points and Alihan Demir added eight points.
Both teams shot poorly. The Illini shot 33% and Minnesota made 32% of its attempts from the field.
Minnesota rallied from a seven-point deficit with three minutes to play to pull within one point with 1:43 left on Orturu’s layup. Giorgi Bezhanishvili was fouled with 1:30 left and made both free throws. Feliz later made two free throws to help seal the win.
Illinois led 24-20 at halftime.
There was an announcement during halftime to evacuate the State Farm Center due to “a fire emergency.” The capacity crowd stood and appeared to confused for a couple of minutes. The alarm was later silenced and it was determined to be a false alarm.
Minnesota: The Gophers have lost three of four games and it’s clear Oturu needs more help. They need to have a double-digit scorer, or two, join him in the box score to win.
Illinois: The surprising team needed a win to regain its place atop the conference standings, tied with with Spartans.
Minnesota: Hosts Wisconsin on Wednesday.
Illinois: Play at No. 18 Iowa on Sunday.

National Sports

Warner wonders how good Mahomes can be once taps potential

By The Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) — Two-time NFL MVP and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner can’t wait to find out just how good reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes can be.
“We don’t even know Patrick’s untapped potential yet,” Warner said Thursday. “How good can he be? I remember when I was with (former coach) Mike Martz, we just continued to push that envelope and see how far we could go, and it was part of the fun of playing the game.”
The NFL Network analyst says he wonders if the league has ever seen a quarterback with all the skills Mahomes has. He led the Chiefs to the AFC championship game in his first season as a starter while winning the NFL MVP, and now he has them in the Super Bow l for the first time since 1970.
His athleticism and arm strength is similar to Aaron Rodgers, and Warner said Mahomes also can play in the pocket like other great quarterbacks. But Warner said what separates Mahomes the most is his ability to creatively see the game, something only a few quarterbacks have had.
“A lot to be determined yet, but I do think there is the potential for him to be the most complete quarterback we may have ever seen in this game,” Warner said.
On the other side Sunday is Jimmy Garoppolo who could help San Francisco do what Warner managed in 1999 with the then-St. Louis Rams by winning a Super Bowl a season after going 4-12. Warner said Garoppolo sometimes misses defenders or focuses so much on making a throw that he misses receivers, noting a couple of opportunities Minnesota missed at interceptions in the divisional round.
Warner expects Garoppolo to play well in his first Super Bowl as a starter after winning two rings as Tom Brady’s backup in New England. His question is whether Garoppolo can make the throw the 49ers need to make the difference Sunday.
“Do the Chiefs make that play?” Warner asked. “Can Jimmy avoid that play? That to me is probably a bigger question than do I think he can make enough plays to win. Yeah, I definitely think that.”
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is healing well enough from hip surgery in November that he just might be able to do some things on the field before the NFL draft.
Agent Leigh Steinberg, CEO of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, says Tagovailoa is no longer using crutches. Steinberg said Tagovailoa certainly has enough tape showing just how good he can be. How healthy Tagovailoa can be in 2020 could be the key in just how high the quarterback is drafted in April.
“He’s coming along, and I’m sure sometime prior to the draft he’ll be able to show his skills and be perceived the way he originally was perceived as a top pick in the draft,” Steinberg said.
For the first time, three women athletic trainers will provide medical care in the Super Bowl.
The three athletic trainers are Laura A. McCabe of the San Francisco 49ers, Tiffany Morton and Julie Frymyer with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“The accomplishment of these three athletic trainers leading up to the NFL’s biggest game is a testament to their commitment to player health, safety and well-being,” said National Athletic Trainers’ Association President Tory Lindley.
“The athletic training profession is more than 50% female and I am hopeful that through the examples set by the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers and others, female athletic trainers in professional sport will be commonplace.”
Frymyer noted that even though the Chiefs had several injuries this season, they got to the big game. Certainly the training staff helped in that quest.
“I believe it’s time that females in these positions are no longer considered a rarity, but as the norm,” she said. “I commend the work the NFL has done with their intern scholarship programs for women and minorities to expand the network of athletic trainers in the league.”
San Francisco offensive assistant Katie Sowers also will be the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl with the 49ers.
The New York quarterback comparison is coming to South Florida.
Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold will go at it in cornhole.
The Giants and Jets signal callers will compete alongside top American Cornhole League professionals. The event Friday night in Fort Lauderdale is part of a three-day event conducted by the ACL in which $40,000 in purses are available.
The Jones-Darnold matchup even gets network television attention; it will be broadcast by ESPN2 on Sunday.
“Being from Charlotte cornhole was always around. To watch it evolve from a backyard game to a full-fledged sport with American Cornhole League has been exciting,” Jones said. “Plus, the opportunity to take Sam on heads up was something I couldn’t pass on.”
Darnold is confident he can handle his opponent.
“While I wish I was going to be on the field this weekend, this is a nice consolation prize — and another opportunity to take home a win for ‘Gang Green’ against a crosstown rival,” said Darnold, whose Jets beat the Giants during the 2019 season. “Daniel’s a great competitor, but I’ve been practicing and feel good about my odds.”
NFL Player Engagement has arranged for four players who went through the Broadcast Boot Camp to commentate on Radio Row at the Super Bowl. Participating players are Jason Cabinda, Marlon Favorite, Brandon Flowers and Shane Vereen, and they also will be involved in the game broadcast to Great Britain.
Each player is participating in segments on various radio outlets, including SiriusXM and Westwood One Radio.
The program is open to current and former players who have previously participated in the NFL’s Broadcast Boot Camp and its advanced version; the Speakers Bureau; and the Sports Media/Sports Journalism & Radio Boot Camp. Players have the opportunity to practice what they learned at previous boot camps, and, who knows, maybe land a broadcasting gig.
Cabinda currently is a linebacker with the Lions. Defensive lineman Favorite played for several teams and was on the Saints when they won the 2009 championship. Cornerback Flowers was with the Chiefs and Chargers and made the 2013 Pro Bowl. Vereen was a running back who won a Super Bowl with Patriots.
Don’t worry if you miss any of the musical performances Sunday at the Super Bowl. Each will be available almost immediately after as part of a new visual album announced Thursday by the NFL.
Those scheduled to perform include Demi Lovato handling the national anthem, Yolanda Adams with The Children’s Voice Chorus singing “America the Beautiful” and the halftime show with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. The performances will be available on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and YouTube, though fans also can place their order now.
Proceeds from the anthem and “America The Beautiful” performances will go to the NFL’s Inspire Change grant programs for education, economic development, police and community relations and criminal justice reform.