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  • White-Hackney combo keeping UAB in bowl contention

    Nov. 2, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- On just one play in UAB's first game of the season, receiver Roddy White and quarterback Darrell Hackney showed why they are among the nation's most prolific passing duos.

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    White was running his route when he noticed Hackney scrambling away from pressure. The roommates knew what to do.

    "I just took off to the end zone," White said. "He tucked it in and threw it, and I knew we were on the same page then. I didn't know what he was going to do and he didn't know what I was going to do, and we still hooked up together."

    They haven't stopped since, putting Alabama-Birmingham (5-2, 3-1 Conference USA) into contention for their first bowl bid entering Wednesday night's game with South Florida (2-4, 1-3).

    Hackney, the nation's fifth-rated passer, is finally healthy and is leading the league in yards passing after missing the final five games last year with a dislocated thumb.

    Hackney and White began rooming together over the summer, and they frequently stayed after workouts for extra passing work along with other receivers.

    Hackney has completed 56.7 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns, both career highs, and has thrown just four interceptions.

    "He's feeling his dream right now," said White, the nation's leading receiver with 886 yards and nine touchdowns. "Nobody knew how good he could be because he was hurt. Now, everybody's seeing what he could do. He just wanted to prove that he's one of the best quarterbacks in the nation."

    Hackney passed for a career-high 448 yards in a 59-55 loss to Tulane two weeks ago, finding White for 253 of them. Both were league highs for the season, providing some substance to White's opinion about where they rank as a passing duo.

    "I think we're (No.) 1 on the nation. Nobody's doing what we're doing," said White, who is averaging 21.6 yards on 41 catches. "If we're not 1, we're one of the best at hooking up together. We're on the same page all the time. We're inside each other's head."

    Hackney is proving as polished off the field as well. He credits his coaches and teammates for his success and even shoulders much of the blame for the 23 sacks UAB has allowed.

    "The two biggest assets to my play this year are my preparation with coach (Pat) Sullivan and the people around me," said Hackney, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior. "They're making me look good and I have to give credit to them."

    And the sacks?

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    "Half the sacks you can blame on me because I always run right to them and always hold the ball too long," Hackney said.

    He had shown signs that he was capable of this kind of season, starting eight games and passing for 1,977 yards and 14 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.

    Hackney was well on his way to even better things last year - and had UAB on the brink of an upset at No. 16 TCU -- when he went down for the season. The Blazers wound up losing that game, missing a chance for an attention-getting win for a program starved for recognition and starting a 2-4 tailspin to end the year.

    Now, the Blazers remain in contention for their first CUSA title and are a win from becoming bowl eligible, with Hackney leading the way.

    "I'm staying healthy and just trying to take charge and lead this team to big things and all our goals," he said.

    White said the Blazers feed off Hackney's confidence, not just his passing.

    "I think he's just being a leader out there," he said. "When the play's there to be made, he's making it. And he's got everybody believing that he can do it. He's a real confident guy and he's getting that confidence spread all over the team, and everybody's making plays."

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  • DJRamFan
    Hawaii's Chang may become most prolific QB in college history
    by DJRamFan
    HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii coach June Jones knew special things were in store for his football program when a lanky, baby-faced teenager first stepped onto the Manoa practice field in 2000 and completed eight straight passes.

    Since then, quarterback Timmy Chang has thrown for 12,814 yards and 79 touchdowns and is closing in on becoming the most prolific passer in college history.

    The senior needs 2,218 yards to break the 13-year-old NCAA career passing mark of 15,031 set by Brigham Young's Ty Detmer, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1990.

    Chang, who is 1,030-of-1,834, is also on pace to break the NCAA marks in career completions (1,231) and pass attempts (1,883), held by Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury. With 67 interceptions thrown, Chang is the verge of breaking Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann's record of 73.

    Barring injury or any mental lapses that led to his benching last year, Chang -- who averages 320.4 passing yards per game -- could surpass Detmer's record by midseason.

    "I had envisioned this happening if he had stayed healthy," Jones said. "The first time I saw him in our training camp, I knew he would play as a freshman. And anybody that lines up and plays 12 games a year in this offense is going to have a shot at that record."

    If he does break Detmer's record, Chang said it is a reflection of all his coaches and teammates -- past and present.

    "Football is the biggest team game," he said. "You got 11 guys on the field that need to work together to accomplish one goal. It would be selfish to award myself, so I would never do that."

    Hawaii is also touting Chang as a Heisman hopeful. He could have a big season, given that 10 offensive starters are returning from last year's 9-5 squad, which was second in the nation in passing.

    He has already set or tied 36 school records and eight Western Athletic Conference marks. Not bad considering he didn't play the sport until junior high school.

    "Football wasn't a part of my childhood experience other than on the streets," Chang said. "I love basketball more than football, even now. But football was a tool for me to get ahead."

    The youngest of three children, Chang said he focused on football to lessen his parents' financial burden of paying for a college education. He expects to graduate next spring with a liberal arts degree.

    Despite his lofty numbers, Chang has struggled with injuries and inconsistency.

    Last year, he was booed by the home crowd and benched late in the season for ineffectiveness. However, he came off the bench and threw for 475 yards and five touchdowns in a 54-48 triple-overtime victory over Houston in the Hawaii Bowl.

    Chang said his most difficult time was when he suffered a season-ending wrist injury just three games into...
    -08-30-2004, 09:15 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Now healthy, Winston eager to lead Hurricanes
    by DJRamFan
    July 28, 2005
    CBS SportsLine.com wire reports




    CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- He already was good. Really good. Experts touted him as a high first-round NFL Draft pick this past spring.

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    A serious knee injury put those pro plans on hold. Now, Eric Winston is back to prove he's better than ever.

    Miami's left tackle is healthy and cleared to participate when the Hurricanes open camp on Aug. 8, when he'll start his mission to regain -- or exceed -- the form that left scouts drooling and opponents leery.

    "If I would have not gotten hurt, I would have been top five in the draft, gotten a ton of money and I would have been some little kid with $20 million in my bank account and probably doing something stupid right now," the 6-foot-7, 310-pound Winston said. "Getting hurt kind of puts everything back in perspective."

    Winston's 2004 season ended eight games early because of three torn ligaments in his left knee, an injury that probably played a major role in Miami's three-loss campaign -- one in which the Hurricanes failed to reach a Bowl Championship Series game for the first time since 1999.

    It happened early in the fourth quarter of Miami's 27-3 win at Georgia Tech last Oct. 2. A missed block on the right side of the line allowed Georgia Tech linebacker Chris Reis an unimpeded path to Miami quarterback Kyle Wright, who tumbled to the turf in Reis' grasp.

    Winston fell backward over Wright and shredded his knee.

    Season over, just like that.

    The plane ride home from Atlanta -- which should have been joyous, with the Hurricanes celebrating their first Atlantic Coast Conference road win -- instead was one on which Miami president Donna Shalala spent time comforting Winston and telling him a fourth year in school could be a good thing.

    "What happened with Eric took the wind out of the coaches' sails and the team's sails that day," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "We were pretty down as a staff and as a football team for quite a while. ... No doubt, we struggled offensively without him. With Eric, things might have been different."

    With him, they were 4-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation. Without him, they went 5-3, each loss coming by a touchdown or less -- and in games in which they certainly could have benefited from having their best lineman, and perhaps their best leader, on the field instead of the sideline.

    Inability to run the ball was a consistent thread in each of Miami's losses a year ago. The Hurricanes averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in defeats to Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. In the games in which Winston was in the lineup, Miami averaged 4.2 yards per carry.

    "He's such a physical player. ... He makes those...
    -07-31-2005, 04:05 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Oklahoma turns to freshman for help in pass coverage
    by DJRamFan
    Nov. 10, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    NORMAN, Okla. -- What started with an occasional blown coverage for a long score has turned into a legitimate problem for No. 2 Oklahoma.

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    With a key injury eliminating depth and experience all at once, opponents have been exploiting the Sooners' secondary.

    The weakness couldn't have been more evident than in the first half against Texas A&M last week. Facing four third downs of eight yards or more, the Aggies converted all four with passes. With the Sooners unable to make a stop, A&M scored on its first two possessions to pull ahead 14-0. A 45-yard touchdown pass on the Aggies' third possession made it 21-7.

    Looking for a solution, Oklahoma defensive coordinators Brent Venables and Bo Pelini turned to freshman Marcus Walker. The highly touted Texan had sat out the first eight games, well on his way to a redshirt season. But with Oklahoma's national title hopes on the line, the freshman was thrust into action.

    "It was a gut reaction time," Pelini said. "It was time to make a change and shake things up and he was the guy that I felt at that point I was ready to go with."

    With Walker in the lineup, Oklahoma was finally able to slow the Aggies' passing attack, but Sooners coaches aren't ready to suggest that patching the defensive hole was so simple. Venables and Pelini both say Eric Bassey -- the man Walker replaced -- wasn't the problem and shouldn't be the scapegoat for the other 10 defenders.

    "It's not just at the back end," Pelini said. "That's the thing that you see the most, but it's a team deal.

    "Sometimes it's letting a guy out of contain. It's just the most obvious things are the ones that result in touchdowns."

    A knee injury to cornerback Antonio Perkins has hurt. Perkins is the only senior among Oklahoma's corners. He has been out since Oct. 9 against Texas and the Sooners aren't sure when he'll return.

    Perkins' departure shuffled junior college transfer Chijioke Onyenegecha into the starting lineup and pushed Bassey into covering opponents' top receivers.

    The first sign of vulnerability was a 78-yard touchdown catch by Kansas' Brandon Rideau two weeks after Perkins' injury, but the play was sloughed off as a one-time mistake.

    The next week, Oklahoma State went deep often with quarterback Donovan Woods completing passes for 50, 46, 39 and 32 yards as part of a career day. Then Texas A&M racked up 360 yards passing, although 71 came on a fake punt, as the exploitation continued.

    The struggles are entirely uncharacteristic for Oklahoma, a team that ranked No. 2 against the pass last season and has been among the country's top-25 pass defenses each of the past four seasons. This year,...
    -11-11-2004, 11:11 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Rattlers' fate rests in shift of owner
    by DJRamFan
    Richard Obert
    The Arizona Republic
    Jun. 29, 2004 12:00 AM


    After coming up 4 yards short of a championship Sunday, there are four important questions the Rattlers need to address this summer.


    Will coach Danny White be back?


    Will somebody be able to buy the Rattlers to partner with new Suns ownership?


    Will there be a team beyond the 2005 season?


    Will the team's nucleus return for one more shot at the title?

    First, the Suns ownership transaction between Jerry Colangelo and Robert Sarver needs to be completed Wednesday.

    Then, issues can be evaluated.

    Rattlers President Jim Pitman, who worked closely on the financial transaction in the past three months, said that the Rattlers will be a high priority, along with Suns free agency this summer.

    Pitman gave White credit for one of his best coaching jobs, turning a 3-5 team to 13-5, before losing to San Jose 69-62 in ArenaBowl XVIII.

    "I think our season was very successful," Pitman said. "I think the coaching staff and coach White in particular did a great job."

    Pitman, who has worked under Colangelo's ownership, said he doesn't know what his position with the Rattlers will be next season.

    He said he hopes the team doesn't fold after next season. The team is committed to the league for the 2005 season. Sarver said last week he wasn't thinking beyond 2005 because he was working on closing the ownership deal.

    Sunday's ArenaBowl crowd of 17,391, the largest ever to see a Rattlers game at America West Arena, was proof that the Rattlers have a strong fan base.

    "The city still loves the Rattlers," Pitman said. "We still want to bring them a championship."

    Attorney Kim Coben is trying to buy the team, which is worth about $17 million after Colangelo bought it in 1991 for $250,000. That's not a done deal, though, White said. Pitman said he could not comment on Coben's attempt to purchase the team.

    Most important to White, 52, who has led the Rattlers to five ArenaBowls and 12 consecutive playoff appearances, is being able to get along with the owner.

    "It's more I just need to know who I'm working for before I say, 'Yeah, I'm going to coach the team for five more years,' " said White, whose contract has expired. " . . . It would be hard for me to work for someone I don't respect. Until I know who that person is, it's so important to me. I've always worked for people I've had great respect for."

    With his children all grown, White said he would leave Arizona for an NFL opportunity. Right now, he says he's in a "holding pattern."

    "I'm going to be pursuing other opportunities," he said. "For the...
    -06-30-2004, 11:09 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Missouri's promising season turns miserable after four defeats
    by DJRamFan
    Nov. 17, 2004
    SportsLine.com wire reports

    COLUMBIA, Mo. -- One miserable month has wiped away all the promise Missouri started with this season.

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    The Tigers (4-5) have lost four straight and the star running back and the father of the star quarterback have questioned the play calling.

    Coach Gary Pinkel's mid-major background, his perceived stubbornness and his apparent decision to transform Brad Smith into a dropback passer have all come into question.

    With two games left, it's hard to believe this team began the season with the grand expectations of a Heisman Trophy contender and a No. 17 preseason ranking.

    "It's been a tough month," Pinkel said.

    Pinkel appeared to have accomplished the big turnaround last season, leading the Tigers to a 7-5 record and an appearance in the Independence Bowl -- their first postseason appearance in five years and only the third in 20 years. Near the end of last season he signed a contract extension through 2008.

    Even earlier this year, it looked like Missouri, as the school advertising slogan goes, was "on the move."

    Missouri began the year 4-1, the only blemish a 10-point loss at lightly regarded Troy in Week 2. That was the first in a series of collapses threatening the season.

    The Tigers scored two quick touchdowns at Troy, then nothing. They ran out to a 17-0 lead against Oklahoma State before losing by three at home, and in their last game two weeks ago they were poised to end an 11-game losing streak against Kansas State with a 21-0 second-quarter lead that also evaporated in a 35-24 loss.

    "If we were playing two halves, I don't think we'd be having a problem," offensive tackle Scott Paffrath said. "That's what's so disappointing about the way we've played. It's not like we've gotten beat, we've let these games go."

    Behind the scenes, things were going just as poorly. Running back Damien Nash was suspended for a loss at Nebraska after remarks about play-calling were overheard by a reporter. Smith's dad, Phillip Smith, telephoned a Kansas City radio show to complain some more about philosophy and memorably said that Pinkel had the personality of a "dill pickle."

    Potentially more harmful, Pinkel snapped recently at members of a booster club, people who might be able to influence his future. He's consistently been curt with the media.

    This week he's seemed more accepting of the firestorm surrounding his program, although he went on the offensive in some aspects. He attempted some spin when he said Saturday's game against border rival Kansas was perhaps more important than a bowl trip and improbably, a possible Big 12 title game appearance, that still hang in the balance despite a 2-4 conference record....
    -11-18-2004, 01:46 PM
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