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[SPORTS] 2016 “THE YEAR IN SPORTS”

The Year in Sports…

 

As 2016 comes to a close I could not help but take a look at all the amazing stories of this year…

 

The greatest story line to me has to be the World Series win for the Chicago Cubs. While they were one of the favorites going in to the season, having not won a title 108 years it is just a moment when you have to be happy for them even if you are not a sports fan. That said while a perennial bad team the majority of the past 108 years somehow they have managed to maintain an incredibly loyal fan base and have been selling out for years. Not only did they win the World Series but it also took one of the most exciting game sevens to make it happen with an 8-7 10-inning victory over the Cleveland Indians who were trying to exercise there own demons having not a Championship since 1948.

 

Another monumental moment in sports this year was Peyton Manning taking the Broncos back to the Super Bowl and earning his 2nd ring as we all knew retirement was in the wings. Coming back from a mid-season injury and really a shell of his MVP form, he along with Von Miller and the vaunted defense willed another title for Denver.

 

What truly kept me on the edge of my seats during a usually boring long NBA season was watching the Golden St Warriors go for the best record in NBA history. The Chicago Bulls in 1996 when an absurd 72-10 and established a mark I thought would never be broken. Low and behold Steph Curry your defending MVP came back with another MVP season and players like Clay Thompson and Draymond Green played at All Star levels and the once laughing stock for many years went on to go 73-9. They reached the NBA finals and after a 3-1 lead bowed out to Lebron and the Cavs 4-3. Many will say because they did not close the deal they are not in conversation with greatest teams ever. If anybody’s asking I am taking the 96 Bulls in 5 games if they would have played.

 

This was also the year of the Summer Olympics and we had some great moments. Carmelo led the US Basketball team to another Gold and we loved that but swimmer Michael Phelps winning his record 23rd medal and retiring from the Olympics was the top story. The most bizarre and controversial moment was when Ryan Lotche, Phelps’ teammate alleged that he was robbed by gunpoint at a gas station with fellow swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen. Brazilian officials found no evidence that the incident occurred and announced in a press conference that the men had vandalized the property.

 

There were so many great stories in 2016 these are just a few what are your favorites?

 

#allaboooooard

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Christian McCaffrey has 368 yards in breaking all-purpose mark

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PASADENA, Calif. — Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, already the holder of the NCAA single-season all-purpose yardage record, broke the Rose Bowl mark in that category during Stanford’s 45-16 rout of Iowa on Friday.

McCaffrey finished with 368 all-purpose yards, besting the old mark by Wisconsin receiver Jared Abbrederis, who had 346 yards against Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl. McCaffrey’s yardage also was the fourth-most in any bowl game ever.

In addition, McCaffrey became the first player in the 102-year history of the Rose Bowl with at least 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving. And he became Stanford’s single-season rushing leader with 2,109 yards
“I think he was the best player in America before this game, so I think it’s just the icing on the cake,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “I do think it’s a shame that a lot of people didn’t get to see him during the course of the year. Apparently the games were too late.”

McCaffrey’s performance in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual got off to an auspicious start. The Heisman Trophy finalist and Associated Press Player of the Year caught Kevin Hogan’s pass on the game’s first play and raced untouched 75 yards to the end zone, the second-longest touchdown pass in the bowl’s history and the longest play given up all season by Iowa’s defense. McCaffrey later returned a punt 66 yards for a score.

He added 172 rushing yards on 18 carries, averaging 9.6 yards per carry. He had 105 receiving yards (98 after the catch) on four receptions and 91 yards on returns.

In Stanford’s previous game, against USC, he surpassed Barry Sanders’ 27-year-old NCAA single-season record in the all-purpose yardage category (3,250 yards) while racking up 461 yards — a Cardinal single-game record. He finished the season with 3,864 all-purpose yards.
McCaffrey took second to Alabama’s Derrick Henry in the Heisman Trophy race despite breaking Sanders’ mark, and a reporter asked him whether this runner-up finish fueled his prolific performance in the Rose Bowl.

“Great players always play with a chip on their shoulder no matter if they have a reason to or not,” McCaffrey said. “I’m someone who believes in having motivation at all times, win or lose, individual awards. I play for my teammates.”

Said left tackle Kyle Murphy: “With all the Heisman stuff, he felt really snubbed. He’s not going to say anything about it, but all of us, we know. He’s the best player in the country. It lit a fire under him, although he’s already the hardest-working man and most motivated man.”

The Rose Bowl was McCaffrey’s fourth game this season with at least 350 all-purpose yards. No other Football Bowl Subdivision player reached that mark once. In addition, McCaffrey recorded more than 150 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in each of his past two games, while the rest of the FBS has recorded one such game since 2013.

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Signed Winston items top 2,000

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An in-depth search of the verification page on the James Spence Authentication website reveals the company has authenticated more than 2,000 signatures by Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, up from the more than 900 signatures that were found on the site’s database earlier this week.

James Spence, the authentication company’s owner, told ESPN on Thursday he will not reveal the identity or identities of the customers who submitted the signed Winston items for authentication. Spence also won’t verify the number of items because he says his database is not searchable by name.
But Spence does stand by his company’s opinion that the signatures are real. Spence also said that no one at his company has any knowledge of whether the clients who submitted the Winston items paid the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for his signatures.

Spence said that as of noon Thursday, no officials from Florida State had called to inquire how Spence’s company authenticated as many signatures as it did. ESPN reported earlier this week that Florida State’s compliance department was looking into how so many Winston signatures were submitted to JSA.

Asked if anyone has talked to JSA, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Thursday, “I have no info. That’s our compliance and the AD and those guys handle that stuff. I’m coaching football.”

Winston has signed a tremendous number of autographs in public, particularly at baseball games, but the fact that hundreds of signed jersey numbers and more than 50 signed jerseys, photos and minihelmets were sequentially numbered by the authentication company’s website suggests the possibility that the signatures might have come from an organized signing event.

“No one who is not a dealer is going to submit that many autographs at one time,” said Matt Powers of Powers Collectibles in Kansas City, which sells the autographs of more than 1,000 athletes. “But besides the number, the giveaway of the JSA authenticated items that you can see on eBay, that suggests it was a sit-down signing, as the consistency of autograph, the cleanliness of the autograph and the fact that the autograph is signed in the perfect place over and over.

“Jameis might have signed a lot of autographs, but when he is doing so in public, he’s not 100 percent focused,” Powers continued. “Someone might be chatting with him, he might be signing with different pens on different surfaces like on someone’s hand or shoulder. What’s out there being sold is just too good.”

Fisher was asked Thursday if Winston has said why there are so many authenticated signatures at JSA.

“No. That’s between them and their investigation,” the coach said.

Fisher told reporters after the team’s victory against Syracuse that Winston told him he did not get paid for signing the items. No one has publicly alleged Winston got paid for these items, unlike the case involving Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

Gurley was suspended indefinitely from the team Oct. 9 while the school investigates whether he got paid for his autographs. University representatives met with the NCAA eligibility staff in Indianapolis on Thursday regarding the matter, the school said in a statement, but no other information was provided.

On Sept. 30, a memorabilia dealer named Bryan Allen sent an email to ESPN and several other media outlets, claiming he has video of Gurley doing a private autograph signing last March. Allen also said he paid Gurley for the signing seen on the video and claimed Gurley has been paid “thousands of dollars for his stuff over the last 18 months.”

Georgia hasn’t revealed the information it has that might have led officials to suspend Gurley. And it appears Gurley will not play for a second straight game this weekend, when Georgia plays at Arkansas.

Bulldogs coach Mark Richt tweeted Thursday morning:

Former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, when he played at Texas A&M, also had thousands of autographs authenticated by JSA, as well as its competitor, PSA/DNA. Manziel was suspended by the school for the first half of its first game in the 2013 season, though an NCAA investigation did not reveal details about the quarterback being paid to sign.

Information from ESPN.com’s Jared Shanker was used in this report.

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QB Town to USC; Coker joins Bama

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While USC continues to put the finishing touches on their 2014 recruiting class with signing day less than two weeks away, the Trojans began to build a foundation for 2015 on Saturday night.New coach Steve Sarkisian landed a verbal commitment from quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), the No. 2-rated pocket passer — and No. 22 overall prospect — in the ESPN Junior 300, who decommited from Alabama earlier in the day.

“I’m proud to be a part of the Trojan Family!” Town said via text. “I’ve seen many of the top programs and what they have to offer. However, when I had the chance to get on the USC campus last week and spend time with Coach Sarkisian and his staff, I knew after those meetings that USC is where I want to be. The coaches are upbeat, focused and committed to winning and I completely believe in them. I chose USC because of the tradition, the academics and the incredible coaching staff. This is an amazing opportunity to be a part of something really special. Fight On!”

Meanwhile, former Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker was in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday and signed with the Crimson Tide on Sunday, coach Nick Saban announced.

Coker is on target to graduate in May and would be eligible to play for the Tide in 2014.

Town had been wavering on his commitment since Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier left to take the same position at Michigan. The talented quarterback also held offers from Arizona State, USC, Georgia, Florida State, Miami, Texas and a host of others.The Trojans have held a commitment from 2015 quarterback David Sills (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) for nearly four years since he committed as a 13-year-old, but Sills gave his pledge to former coach Lane Kiffin, now the offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Coker, who is from Mobile, Ala., backed up Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston this past season. The sophomore played sparingly and injured his knee late in the year.

“We think a lot of Jake and we are excited to have him join our team,” said Saban. “He is not only an outstanding football player, but he is also a fine young man who we feel will be a great fit with our program at Alabama.”

Shortly after Florida State won the national title, the school released him from his scholarship.

Coker’s high school coach, Steve Mask of St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, says Coker spent the weekend in Tuscaloosa after Saban visited the quarterback at his home earlier in the week.
I was very impressed with everything on my visit to Tuscaloosa,” Coker said in a statement released by Alabama. “I feel very comfortable with the coaches and the players, and I’m looking forward to getting started at Alabama and competing. I also want to thank my coaches and teammates at Florida State. I had a great experience there and I’m excited to build on that at Alabama.”

Alabama is looking to replace Heisman finalist AJ McCarron, who also went to St. Paul’s.

Coker is on target to graduate in the spring and would be eligible to play next season.

Alabama is still off to a strong start to its 2015 class. Even without Town, Alabama has four commitments and all of them are ranked in the ESPN Junior 300.

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Penn State hires James Franklin

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — James Franklin smiled when he took the dais here Saturday as he was formally introduced as Penn State’s 16th head football coach.

“I’m excited to come here,” he said during an hourlong news conference. “I’m a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart.” The former Vanderbilt coach met with Commodores players at 9 a.m. ET Saturday before hopping on a twin-jet to Happy Valley. About two dozen fans and photographers stood behind an airport gate at Penn State to greet the new coach. The Pennsylvania native, who grew up in Langhorne, Pa., shouted to fans there: “It’s good to be home!”

Franklin signed a six-year deal worth $25.5 million in total guaranteed compensation, with a buyout starting out at $5 million and gradually decreasing to $1 million by the last year of the contract. Penn State’s newly formed Compensation Committee unanimously approved the deal, 6-0, at a Saturday morning meeting.

“I’d still be at Vanderbilt if it wasn’t just such an unbelievable opportunity,” he said. “We’re coming with the mindset we’re going to build this program. … We plan on being here a very, very long time. This is my dream job; this is where I want to be.”

Franklin, who coached at Vanderbilt the last three seasons, entertained overtures this offseason from the NFL’s Houston Texans, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns before agreeing to a deal with Penn State. He replaces Bill O’Brien, who left for the Texans earlier this month after two seasons.

O’Brien guided PSU through unprecedented sanctions, levied by the NCAA in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. He finished with records of 8-4 and 7-5.

Players were largely stunned by O’Brien’s departure last month but wished him well. Those same players told ESPN.com they were looking forward to working with Franklin.

“I’m really excited. I think Coach Franklin was a great choice to get,” receiver Geno Lewis told ESPN.com on Saturday. “We’re really a team that’s together, and we’re all in. We’re excited to be stable and have a coach to get the ball rolling.”

The hire was widely regarded as a positive for the university, but not everyone supported it. University associate professor Michelle Rodino-Colocino started an online petition in advance of the news and called the potential hire “appalling” because of an investigation regarding several of Franklin’s Vanderbilt players accused of committing a rape.

The coach dismissed four players in connection with the incident but was suspected of deleting criminal evidence. Prosecutors cleared him of wrongdoing, but a trial for the accused players is set to begin in August. Rodino-Colocino’s petition received more than 500 signatures. However, an official from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape told PennLive.com there was no reason to condemn Franklin.

Franklin said Saturday his discussions with Penn State regarding the alleged rape were honest and forthright. Athletic director Dave Joyner said he “couldn’t be more confident in the character of this man.”

Franklin comes to Penn State after inheriting a Vanderbilt team in 2011 that made one bowl game in the previous 28 years and hadn’t experienced a nine-win season since 1915. Under his tutelage, the Commodores made three bowl games in a row — the first time in school history — and finished with back-to-back nine-win seasons.
He spoke passionately for much of his introductory news conference and told the media that Beaver Stadium’s 107,000-seat capacity would be filled every week. He also said he planned to run multiple pro-style sets and would “dominate the state” and the region in recruiting.

“Best day of my life,” Franklin said, reversing course after glancing left and laughing after making eye contact with his wife and daughters. “Third best day.”

Earlier this week, ESPN reported that other candidates for the Penn State job included Miami’s Al Golden, former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Penn State interim coach Larry Johnson also reportedly interviewed with the committee.

Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said in a statement the Commodores plan to hire someone who can build on the progress of the past few years. Williams said Franklin called him Friday night telling him he was accepting the Penn State job.

“There is no question that James Franklin’s outstanding work has helped put Vanderbilt football on the national stage,” Williams said. “We are extremely sorry to see the Franklin family leave our university and community, and we thank them and wish them the very best.”

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Florida State back at No. 2 in BCS

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After a week at No. 3, Florida State returned to the No. 2 position in this week’s edition of the BCS standings.

BCS Standings

The top five teams in the
BCS standings:

Bama
.9797
FSU
.9525
Ore
.9435
OSU
.8720
Stan
.7930

• Bowl projections
• Blog network bowl projections

Florida State (8-0) handed Miami its first loss of the season on Saturday, giving it a big enough boost to surpass No. 3 Oregon.

Alabama (8-0) remained No. 1 in the country, while No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Stanford and No. 6 Baylor also stayed put.

Florida State earned a perfect rating from the BCS computers, earning the top spot in five of the six rankings. Alabama earned the other top ranking, but each team’s highest and lowest computer rankings are thrown out and not used in the BCS formula.

Miami (7-1) fell four spots to No. 11 after its loss. The Hurricanes are now looking up at five other one-loss teams: Stanford, No. 7 Clemson, No. 8 Missouri, No. 9 Auburn and No. 10 Oklahoma.
Auburn passed Miami and Oklahoma to move up two spots after cruising past Arkansas on Saturday. The Sooners did not play in preparation for a Big 12 showdown with unbeaten Baylor on Thursday night.

Oregon was also off Saturday ahead of another big Thursday night game. A win at Stanford should return the Ducks to No. 2.

Florida State debuted at No. 2 in the first edition of the BCS standings Oct. 20, then fell to third after Oregon beat UCLA and moved up to No. 2 last week.

If the season ended today, No. 16 Fresno State would earn a BCS berth. That’s because the 8-0 Bulldogs are ranked in the top 16 and ahead of teams from the American Athletic Conference.

Fresno State and No. 18 Northern Illinois are both ahead of No. 20 Louisville and No. 21 UCF, the only ranked teams from the AAC, formerly the Big East.

Texas A&M dropped three spots to No. 15 despite winning 57-7 over UTEP on Saturday. No. 12 South Carolina gained two spots by jumping A&M and No. 13 LSU, which had a bye week.

No. 14 Oklahoma State moved up four spots after pummeling Texas Tech 52-34, which fell 10 spots to No. 25.

SportsNation: College Football Top 25

SportsNationFSU jumped over Oregon into the BCS No. 2 spot. Do you agree? What about the rest of the Top 25? Rank ‘Em »

No. 17 Michigan State jumped five positions after controlling Michigan 29-6. The Wolverines were the only team to fall out of the standings this week.

No. 22 Arizona State (6-2) moved into the standings for the first time this year.

Notre Dame climbed two spots to No. 23. In an unusual twist for the Irish, Notre Dame is getting more love from the computers — ranks of 15, 16 and 21 were used in the formula — than from the polls, where the Irish are No. 25.

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Florida State ahead of Oregon in BCS

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No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State have the inside track to the national championship game after topping the season’s first BCS standings.

The standings, released Sunday night, put Florida State ahead of No. 3 Oregon, one day after the Seminoles cruised to a 51-14 win at Clemson. In both polls that are used in the BCS calculations, Oregon is second and Florida State third, but the standings’ computer component gave the Seminoles the advantage.

No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Missouri round out a top 5 of undefeated teams.

No. 6 Stanford is the top one-loss team. The Cardinal are ahead of two teams with perfect records: No. 7 Miami and No. 8 Baylor.

Clemson is No. 9, while undefeated Texas Tech is No. 10.

The percentage of votes in the USA Today and Harris polls each count for one third of the calculations. A composite ranking of six computers make up the final third. Each team’s highest and lowest computer rankings are ignored in the calculations.

Florida State had the best overall computer ranking, followed by the SEC’s Alabama and Missouri. The computers ranked Oregon fourth.

The Seminoles led three of the computers, Alabama led two, and Missouri topped one.

The computers were not kind to the Big 12 — Texas Tech has the 11th best computer ranking while Baylor is 12th, despite their perfect records.

Auburn is No. 11 in the BCS standings after its seventh-best computer ranking jumped it above No. 12 UCLA and No. 13 LSU.

No. 14 Virginia Tech, which was ranked No. 19 by both polls, also received a large computer boost.

The SEC has six schools in the BCS top 25, the most of any conference, while the ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 all have four.

The Big Ten has three schools in the top 25, but there’s a steep drop-off after Ohio State. Michigan is No. 22 and Nebraska is No. 24.

No. 17 Fresno State is ahead of No. 18 Northern Illinois in a battle of undefeated teams looking to bust into the BCS from outside the automatic qualifying conferences.

One of those schools will earn a BCS bid if it finishes in the top 12, or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of an AQ conference champion. That appears to be a strong possibility this season because Fresno State and Northern Illinois are both ahead of the top teams from the American Athletic Conference: No. 20 Louisville and No. 23 UCF.

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Washington legend Don James dies

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Don James, the longtime Washington football coach who led the Huskies to a share of the national championship in 1991, died Sunday. He was 80.

The university said James died at his home from the effects of pancreatic cancer. He had been receiving treatment for the disease since late September. James was 176-78-3 as a head coach at Kent State and Washington. He went 153-58-2 with the Huskies from 1975-92 and led the school to a six-pack of Rose Bowl appearances. His crowning moment came in 1991 when Washington had the most dominant defense in the country, and beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl to finish 12-0. The Associated Press poll voted Miami the national champions, while the coaches’ poll gave the nod to Washington.

James played quarterback at Miami, graduating in 1954 with a degree in education.

He was an unknown when he arrived in Seattle in 1975, taking over for Jim Owens. He came from Kent State, where he led the Golden Flashes to the Mid-American Conference title in 1972. While at Kent State, James coached future Hall of Famer Jack Lambert and two current college coaches — Alabama’s Nick Saban and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel.

Pinkel, who also coached under James for 12 years at Washington, told ESPN.com in 2012 that James had the greatest influence on his coaching career.

“The foundation of our program I took to Toledo, took that to Missouri, and it’s the Don James blueprint,” Pinkel said. “It’s his foundation. He’s had a remarkable influence on me.”

Saban credited James for starting him in coaching.

“Don James, my college coach, influenced me a lot because he really got me started in this profession,” Saban told ESPN.com. “Organizationally, and character-wise, he was first-class.”

It didn’t take long for Washington to become a contender. The Huskies went 6-5 in his first year. By 1977, led by quarterback Warren Moon, they beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. It was the first of James’ six Rose Bowl trips, topped by the 34-14 win over Michigan in 1991.

James resigned in protest just days before the start of the 1993 season after sanctions were handed down by the Pac-10 Conference against the program.

James gave his annual preseason speech to the current Washington squad in August and attending the first game at the renovated Husky Stadium on Aug. 31 against Boise State. It was shortly after that his health took a significant turn.

James had two surgical procedures in September at Virginia Mason Medical Center for what was called a gastro-intestinal issue. James’ family issued a statement after the surgeries announcing that he was resting comfortable following the hospital stay but would be beginning chemotherapy treatment for a malignant tumor on his pancreas and asked for privacy.

“Coach James set the standard for this program and for all of us. It’s the reason you all are sitting here. It’s the reason I’m here,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said recently. “Husky football and what it all stands for is what he created and I was so happy he was able to come to the first game against Boise and the opening of Husky Stadium because if anybody deserved to be in that building that night it was him.”

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No. 5 Florida State has little trouble crushing No. 3 Clemson

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Jameis Winston and Florida State didn’t take long to hush Death Valley, making a statement that that could be heard from Alabama to Oregon.

The Seminoles’ remarkable redshirt freshman threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns and No. 5 Florida State crushed No. 3 Clemson 51-14 Saturday night. When the first BCS standings of the season come out Sunday, Florida State should be right there with the top-ranked Crimson Tide and second-ranked Ducks, fighting for the top spots.

“Do we deserve to be in the top two? We deserve to be No. 1,” Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith said. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s game of the year, billed as maybe the league’s biggest game ever, quickly became a Seminoles’ seminar on how to take apart a top-five opponent on its hostile home turf in front of 83,428.

“We don’t play against noise. We’re playing against the Clemson Tigers,” Winston said. “It was amazing, when we were out on the field that first snap. It was loud and we started smiling because we don’t play against noise.”

The game started with two Heisman Trophy contender quarterbacks. It ended with one.

Playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the country, Winston was unfazed, going 22 for 34 for Florida State (6-0, 4-0). His first throw was a 22-yard touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin, and he scrambled for a 4-yard touchdown that made it 41-7 with 4:04 left in the third quarter.

“They took advantage of our mistakes,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “They might be the best team in the country.”

Tajh Boyd threw two interceptions for Clemson, and his first-quarter fumble was returned 37 yards for touchdown by Mario Edwards. Clemson (6-1, 4-1) turned it over a season-high four times, the first one on the first play from scrimmage.

“We know we’re better than how we played, but nobody cares about that,” Swinney said.

Rashad Greene caught eight passes for 146 yards and two scores, including a 72-yard sprint that made it 24-7 Florida State in the second quarter. The Seminoles broke a five-game losing streak at Memorial Stadium, scored more points than any opponent ever has in Death Valley and gave fourth-year coach Jimbo Fisher his biggest victory since taking over for Bobby Bowden.

Florida State is also perfect through six games for the first time since 1999, the last time Bowden’s `Noles won the national championship.

As for Clemson, the Tigers can’t be accused of “Clemsoning” this one away. They were simply outclassed.

Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary punctuated the beatdown in the third quarter, running over Clemson’s Travis Blanks as he tried to make a tackle. Seminoles by a knockout. O’Leary finished with five catches for 161

The game marked only the fourth time that the conference better known for basketball has matched two top-five football teams, and the first time since 2005.

Not long after Clemson made its grand entrance, sprinting past Howard’s Rock and down the hill onto the field, orange balloons filling the sky above Memorial Stadium, Florida State took control. On the first play from scrimmage Smith stripped Stanton Seckinger and Terrence Brooks recovered for the Seminoles at the Clemson 34.

Two plays later, Winston lofted deep down the sideline to the 6-foot-5 Benjamin, who went up high for the perfectly thrown ball and landed with it inside the pylon for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game.
Winston has been even better than advertised in his first season as a starter, hard to believe considering the hype. But this opponent and this setting represented by far the biggest challenge of his young career. Turns out, it was just another showcase game — for Florida State’s defense, too.

Lamarcus Joyner forced Clemson turnover No. 2, coming free on a backside blitz and knocking the ball free from Boyd. Edwards scooped and scored, covering the ball with two arms as he crossed the goal line with a Clemson player trying to strip it from behind. It was 17-0 with 3:07 left in the first quarter and Death Valley suddenly didn’t seem so daunting.

Clemson made a much needed response, Boyd hitting Sammy Watkins with a 3-yard touchdown pass to trim the lead to 10 late in the first quarter. But the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of good field position in the second quarter before Winston and his talented receivers struck again.

Winston beat a Clemson blitz with a quick pass to Greene, who slipped a tackle and was gone, 72 yards for a touchdown that made it 24-7 midway through the second. Greene made a shush gesture to the Clemson fans. He didn’t need to. He had already quieted them.

Joyner’s interception of Boyd in Florida State territory turned it into another field goal to make it 27-7 at halftime.

Boyd finished 17 for 37 for 156 yards.

The last sounds heard booming from Memorial Stadium were from the Florida State band, playing that familiar Seminole war chant with its fans chopping away.

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Trojans dismiss coach Lane Kiffin

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The USC Trojans have fired coach Lane Kiffin not six hours after dropping to 3-2 after a blowout loss to Arizona State.

Trojans athletic director Pat Haden broke the news to Kiffin after the team’s charter-flight arrival back in Los Angeles early Sunday morning after the 62-41 loss at Tempe, Ariz., the school said in a statement on its website.

USC has lost seven of its past 11 games dating to last year and both of its first two in Pac-12 play this season.
Kiffin’s overall record in four years at USC was 28-15.

Haden will hold a news conference at USC on Sunday afternoon, the school said. The specific time and location of the event was unknown.

Kiffin had been retained for 2013 despite the Trojans’ three-game skid to end last season while losing five of their last six. That included a 38-28 loss to crosstown rival UCLA, a 22-13 defeat to then-No. 1 Notre Dame and a Hyundai Sun Bowl setback to Georgia Tech, 21-7, on New Year’s Eve to cap the season.

The Trojans debuted at No. 24 this preseason before dropping out of The Associated Press Top 25 in the third week.

They had entered the 2012 season No. 1 but finished unranked — the first team in nearly a half-century to accomplish the ignominious feat.

Kiffin’s stay at USC — like many of his other jobs — came with a quick, tumult-laden exit. Kiffin was an NFL head coach at 31, a head coach in the SEC at 33 and became USC’s head coach at 34.

If there was a consistent trend to those stops with the Oakland Raiders, then the Tennessee Volunteers and finally the Trojans, it was turmoil.

With Oakland, he lasted only 20 games and his departure became a messy, public feud between he and Al Davis, the former owner who died in 2011.

His arrival in Tennessee was not warmly received by all Vols fans, given the loyalties many had to the former coach there, Phillip Fulmer.

And then came the USC era. The Trojans were hit with severe NCAA sanctions a few months after Kiffin arrived — he had nothing to do with the wrongdoing that wound up costing the school 30 scholarships over three years and the right to go to the postseason twice — but it set the tone for another bumpy ride.

Between the ongoing issue with the sanctions and injuries, the Trojans played at Arizona State on Saturday night with 56 recruited scholarship players. The lack of depth was evident at times in that game, and in the end, Kiffin was held ultimately responsible. Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is expected to emerge as a candidate to replace Kiffin, NFL sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

USC next plays on Oct. 10 against Arizona, so the Trojans have a bye week to try to settle down the coaching situation and get some players healthy. USC may have lost wide receiver Marqise Lee to a left knee injury, one that Kiffin said on Saturday night after the game may be serious. Lee is expected to have his knee evaluated later Sunday in Los Angeles.

“It didn’t look very good,” Kiffin said. “It didn’t sound very good or look very good, so that’s all I got for you.”

Hours later, Lee’s health took a backseat among the problems facing USC’s storied program.

Kiffin addressed his spot on the proverbial “hot seat” after Saturday’s loss, saying he’s fine with it and that his own job security is “the last thing I’m worried about.”

“We have to find a way to coach better,” Kiffin said.

Instead, USC and Haden now have to find a different coach.

“I think the guys on this team that really do care and can turn this thing around,” USC quarterback Cody Kessler said Saturday night, a few hours before the firing decision was announced, “It’s going to be hard — I’m not going to lie — but with the character and leadership that we have we can do it.”

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