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Illinois upsets Penn State in first nine-overtime game in NCAA history

Angelo Moretti

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Illinois upsets Penn State in first nine-overtime game in NCAA history



STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Casey Washington caught a 2-point conversion pass from Brandon Peters to end the first nine-overtime game in NCAA history and lift Illinois over No. 7 Penn State 20-18 Saturday.

The teams were tied at 10 after regulation, exchanged field goals in the first two overtimes, then began to alternate 2-point attempts in the third OT as part of a format tweaked ahead of the 2021 season.

Neither team converted until the eighth overtime, when Isaiah Williams ran one in to put Illinois up 18-16. Penn State’s Noah Cain kept the game alive with a 2-point run of his own.

In the ninth OT, Sean Clifford’s pass to Parker Washington was broken up by linebacker Khalan Tolson. Peters then found Washington near the back of the end zone for the winning completion.

The 2-point conversion shootout started in 2019, the season after LSU and Texas A&M played a seven overtime game that left both teams badly beaten up. The rule was tweaked this year, with the 2-point conversion possessions beginning with the third overtime instead of the fifth.

Casey Washington is emotional after the win.Getty Images

Chase Brown and Josh McCray combined for 365 rushing yards and a touchdown and James McCourt kicked three field goals, including 39- and 32-yarders in overtime, to snap Illinois’ three-game skid to Penn State.

The two bullish backs blasted through wide-open holes and flanked Penn State’s defense again and again on a soggy day at Beaver Stadium. The Illini (3-5, 2-3 Big Ten) outgained the Nittany Lions 370 yards to 207 in regulation and battled back from an early 10-0 deficit.

Peters, normally Illinois’ starter, came off the bench when Artur Sitkowski hurt his left hand in the sixth overtime period.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith caught a touchdown pass and Jordan Stout added three field goals for the Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-2) who ran for just 62 yards and struggled to protect ailing Clifford.

Led by Brown’s 229 total yards, the Illini tied it 10-10 early in the fourth quarter with a 37-yard field goal from McCourt.

A sloppy fourth quarter gave way to overtime where McCourt and Stout matched each other on field goals before a string of goal line standoffs pushed the game into unprecedented territory.

Clifford suffered an unspecified injury on Oct. 9 at Iowa and didn’t finish that game. He handled a light workload early Saturday.

Illinois celebrates its upset of Penn State.AP

The third-year starter attempted just nine passes in the first half and was slow to get to his feet after taking a sack on his first series. After two lackluster possessions and just 15 yards on seven plays, Clifford was able to rally his offense on its third try.

Working quickly, Clifford completed two straight passes downfield to top target Jahan Dotson, then fired a bullet to slanting KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 42-yard touchdown.

The Nittany Lions’ defense helped out moments later when linebacker Brandon Smith blasted Sitkowski. The backup quarterback fumbled to D’Von Ellies.

Penn State settled for a 35-yard field goal from Stout when the offense stalled at the Illinois 17. Stout’s kick made it 10-0 with 11:42 to play in the second quarter.

Illinois’ rushing offense, which racked up 165 yards in the first half, picked up the pace.

Led by Brown and McCray, the Illini ran the ball 12 times on a 15-play drive that ended when Brown bulled into the end zone from a yard out and cut Penn State’s lead to 10-7.

Illinois continued to control the pace with its running game, and turned a 16-play, 70-yard drive into a tying field goal from McCourt.

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Yankees haven’t fixed anything in disappointing start to offseason

Angelo Moretti

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Yankees haven’t fixed anything in disappointing start to offseason



No obligation for any of us outsiders to turn up the heat on the Yankees. Just turn back to what the ultimate insider, Hal Steinbrenner, said last month after bringing back his manager Aaron Boone:

“As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve. We need to get better. Period.”

With one day to go before Major League Baseball, barring a miracle, locks out its players and shuts down all transactions, that sits as one mission seriously unaccomplished.

Doesn’t mean it can’t happen by Opening Day 2022, whenever that occurs. It sure as heckfire hasn’t occurred yet, though.

At Tuesday’s deadline to tender contracts, the Yankees made news with their lack of news, a distressing development for their fans already anguished by the team’s decision to stand back as big names like Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Starling Marte and Max Scherzer came off the board in a pre-lockout frenzy, the last two going to Steve Cohen’s Mets. Steinbrenner’s club retained Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit and Miguel Andujar, each candidates to be non-tendered in the realm of public speculation if nowhere else, along with other slam dunks like Aaron Judge, Jordan Montgomery and Chad Green.

Keeping Sanchez justifiably generated the biggest headlines and most social media agita, and to reiterate my opinion, it’s a significant mistake to bring back the source of so much tension and drama, no matter how much of that reflects New York’s drawbacks as much as Sanchez’s own, no matter if he can dominate offensively for a month. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman spread the word this week that he was working on a trade for a catcher. Perhaps such a transaction still can occur to find a better partner for Kyle Higashioka, although now the Yankees find themselves on the hook for about $8 million, albeit only a portion guaranteed, to Sanchez.

Gary Sanchez and Brian CashmanChristopher Sadowski. USA Today Sports

Voit, too, appeared in jeopardy after a miserable, injury-plagued 2021 during which he went to the plate 241 times, a mere seven more than during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign when he won the big-league home run title. He’s back, for now, maybe as much as a designated hitter option (with Giancarlo Stanton preferring the outfield) as first base. Andujar, meanwhile, has totaled -1.9 wins above replacement — that’s 1.9 wins below replacement, if you prefer, as per Baseball-Reference.com — since he finished second in the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year voting. He has tallied three straight seasons of sub-replacement performance. Yeesh.

The Yankees haven’t answered their questions at shortstop or center field, and they could use another starting pitcher (they offered one year and $25 million to Justin Verlander, who accepted two years and $50 million from the Astros) plus some more bullpen depth. Moreover, the Yankees jettisoned the speedy trio of Greg Allen, Andrew Velazquez and Tyler Wade after acknowledging their desire to get more athletic.

There hasn’t been a first act this discouraging since the start of “Superman III.”

Now, before you plunge yourself into a months-long funk as the sport goes dark, don’t miss the key words there: First act.

Even after this past week’s flurry of activity, the free-agent pool features a bevy of appealing options from shortstop Trevor Story to Swiss Army knife Chris Taylor to high-end starting pitcher Carlos Rodon to a pair of lefty-hitting ex-Cub first basemen, one of whom (Anthony Rizzo) handled New York quite well, the other of whom (Kyle Schwarber) thrived in Boston. The A’s have not yet begun to sell off their veterans, including first baseman Matt Olson. And if the Yankees somehow wrested Freddie Freeman from the Braves, my hunch is you’d be just fine with Andrelton Simmons manning shortstop until Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe are ready.

(Yes, you want Sanchez gone, even if the Yankees figure out how to clone Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Jeter. Understood. And I still don’t see Carlos Correa or Marcus Stroman as fits.)

That Steinbrenner issued his mandate despite his team qualifying for the 2021 playoffs underlined the frustrating journey to a quick October exit. Growth, evolution and improvement still reside on their to-do list. If they can’t accomplish those goals in time, an angry owner will represent the least of their problems.

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Tom Thibodeau, Julius Randle ‘pissed’ at refs after Knicks’ loss to Nets

Angelo Moretti

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Tom Thibodeau, Julius Randle ‘pissed’ at refs after Knicks’ loss to Nets



The Knicks’ first game following the benching of Kemba Walker didn’t end with a victory, but it came with promise in taking the first-place Nets down to the final seconds in a 112-110 thriller at Barclays Center.

However, instead of taking the close defeat and gleaning the positives, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau and Julius Randle railed about the officiating while overshadowing the Knicks’ move to Alec Burks (25 points, five assists) as the starting point guard.

There was a lot of holiday whine in the postgame in Brooklyn.

Thibodeau ended his press conference early, saying he’s “pissed’’ and “something’s wrong,’’ referring to the foul calls. Randle then said the officials need to brush up on basketball.

Both Thibodeau and Randle could be fined by the NBA after the Knicks shot 12 free throws to the Nets’ 25.

Randle picked up a late technical foul during a timeout arguing his case and then needed to be restrained after the final buzzer.

Julius Randle and Tom ThibodeauGetty Images; N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

It’s not the first time Randle had an incident at Barclays Center, as last season he was fined for charging at referee Scott Foster after the game.

“You saw what happened, everyone saw what happened,’’ said Randle, who scored 24 points. “No need for me to talk about it. Everybody saw what was going on.

“I’m not going to talk about them. I’m going to talk about the game and what the players are doing. I’m not going to talk about those guys. They clearly don’t understand the game.’’

Told the Knicks shot just 12 free throws to the Nets’ 25, Randle said, “I shot two, right? Yeah.’’

Randle talked to the officiating crew after the game and got further incensed by the explanations.

“I don’t know what they’re watching or seeing,’’ Randle said. “I’m aggressive attacking the paint. I can’t be penalized for just being stronger than people. That’s the answer I got today.

“They said certain contact doesn’t affect me like it affects other players because I’m stronger so they missed the calls. It pissed me off even more, to be honest. It’s not how you officiate the game.

“You know when smaller players guarding bigger players, they get away with a lot more. But certain things are more blatant. If you just slap a guy, I don’t care who it is, it’s going to affect him.”

Julius RandleN.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Knicks’ moping was started by Thibodeau, who was asked about the Nets’ final possession in which Mitchell Robinson was called for a clear hacking foul on a driving James Johnson that produced the winning free throws.

“I don’t know,’’ Thibodeau said, pausing.

Unsolicited, Thibodeau then mentioned the discrepancy in free throws and Randle taking just two shots at the line.

“I don’t care how the game is called,’’ the Knicks coach said. “I really don’t. You call it tight, call it loose. But it’s got to be the same.

“I want to watch the film. But something’s not right. I’m watching what’s going on both ways. They’re a good team. But I know Julius was driving the ball pretty darn hard. And I’m pissed. Thank you.”

Last week, Thibodeau made an offhanded remark about the officials missing a foul call when Robinson got a concussion against the Rockets.

The TNT broadcast crew never made the officiating or foul calls an issue the entire broadcast.

Randle said he has to curtail his technicals though mouthing off probably doesn’t win friends among the striped shirts.

“I can’t let my techs affect whether we win or lose,’’ Randle said.

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Devils whipped by Sharks in Jack Hughes’ return to lineup

Angelo Moretti

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Devils whipped by Sharks in Jack Hughes’ return to lineup



The Devils had no answers for the San Jose Shark’s top gun.

Sharks’ leading scorer Timo Meier scored twice, James Reimer made 32 saves and San Jose defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Tuesday night at Prudential Center in Newark, spoiling Jack Hughes’ return.

Noah Gregor, Jacob Middleton and Erik Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have started their five-game road trip at 2-0.

Tomas Tatar and Jesper Bratt scored for the Devils, and Mackenzie Blackwood had 26 saves.

Gregor opened the scoring at 4:26 of the first, beating Blackwood for his first goal of the season. Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic assisted.

Middleton made it 2-0 at 4:14 of the second period with his second goal this season, with assists going to Gregor and Alexander Barabanov.

Meier poured it on to make it 3-0 midway through the second on the power play, and Karlsson followed not long after to make it 4-0 San Jose.

Jacob Middleton scores a goal on Mackenzie Blackwood during the Devils’ 5-2 loss to the Sharks.USA TODAY Sports

Despite having Hughes back in the lineup for the first time since the second game of the season, the Devils offered a minimal offensive attack against the Sharks until the third period.

Tatar ruined Reimer’s shutout bid with his fourth goal at 9:12 of the third. Pavel Zacha and Devils captain Nico Hischier assisted, the 100th career assist for the 22-year-old.

Bratt then made it a 4-2 game with his sixth goal at 12:49, and Andreas Johnsson had the lone assist.

Meier’s second goal of the game (his team-leading 11th goal of the season) came with three minutes left in the third.

The Devils announced earlier Tuesday that the 20-year-old Hughes agreed to an eight-year, $64 million contract extension that starts next season after his three-year entry level pact expires. Hughes was the first overall pick by the Devils in the 2019 draft. He missed 17 games after suffering a shoulder injury on Oct. 19 against Seattle.

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