Mike Dunlap, a little known but highly respected assistant coach with St. John’s, was hired Monday by Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats, the school said in a statement released early Tuesday morning.Dunlap is a surprise hire because he has spent most of his career at the collegiate level, and was not mentioned as one of the leading candidates by Bobcat executives, who said the search was narrowed down to Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, Indiana assistant Brian Shaw and Lakers assistant Quin Snyder.After initial interviews with Charlotte executives Rod Higgins and Rich Cho, Shaw and Snyder were brought in last week to interview with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan.Sloan pulled himself out of the running last week, and after meeting with Shaw and Snyder, Jordan decided to re-open the field and brought Dunlap back in for an interview on Monday, sources say. Impressed, Jordan offered Dunlap the job.Cho told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz on Monday night that “a strong emphasis in player development was extremely high on our priority list,” in response to the Dunlap hire. Dunlap is known as a teacher of the game amid his peers in college and in the NBA.Dunlap, who is known to favor an up-tempo style of play, will replace Paul Silas, whose contract was not renewed after Charlotte finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history this past season. The Bobcats were 7-59.
Lance Stephenson, who blew into LeBron James’ ear during a playoff game, drawing criticism from around the NBA, blew $17 million by signing with the Charlotte Hornets instead of re-signing with the Indiana Pacers.Stephenson apparently considered the Pacers’ five-year, $44 million offer an insult and instead signed on with the Hornets for a deal worth $27 million, according to league sources.The mercurial swingman met with Hornets owner Michael Jordan, general manager Rich Cho, head coach Steve Clifford and associate head coach Patrick Ewing on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. The move ends Stephenson’s productive yet controversial time in Indiana.Stephenson, who led the league in triple-doubles, felt the Pacers’ offer was “low ball.” The Charlotte contract pays him $200,000 more per year, but the overall value is much lower than what Indiana offered him. At the end of the day, he left $17 million in guaranteed money on the table.There is a chance this could end up being a smart move for Stephenson. He will be just 26 when his contract with the Hornets is up in the summer of 2017. With the salary cap set to skyrocket in the wake of the league’s new TV rights deals, Stephenson could be well positioned to cash in if he continues to grow as a player.“Reports throughout the negotiation process with Indiana have often strayed from the truth, but suffice it to say that it was less about the money,” Stephenson’s agent Alberto Ebanks said in a statement. “Lance will miss the city, the team and the mentor who helped transform him into the dynamic player he has become. He looks forward to making a strong contribution and beginning a new chapter with the Charlotte Hornets. … While we tried our best to come to the best possible terms for both sides, there was not sufficient flexibility in the terms of the contract, particularly the length of the contract.”The Pacers were unwilling to offer Stephenson a shorter deal, spanning two or three years, sources said. Indiana was also unwilling to increase its offer.Stephenson, who challenged James in the regular season and fought with teammate Evan Turner in practice, would have signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks for $20 million had the Houston Rockets matched the Mavs’ offer to Chandler Parsons. But the Rockets let Parsons go, opening the way for Jordan and the Hornets.Like many teams, the Hornets, while fans of Stephenson’s play, had concerns about his antics and attitude. But sources say those concerns were alleviated in Tuesday’s face-to-face meeting.
Scan a list of the NFL’s best quarterbacks nowadays, and you’ll find names such as Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor and even that of rookie sensation Dak Prescott — dynamic passers who can run the ball, too. The question of whether a team can succeed with that kind of dual threat under center has basically been settled in today’s game; such a QB has led his team to the Super Bowl in each of the past four seasons.1Colin Kaepernick did it in 2012; ditto Wilson in 2013 and 2014, and Newton in 2015. And no five-year period in modern NFL history2Going back to the start of the Super Bowl in the 1966 season. has seen quarterbacks gain more rushing yards per game than they have over the past five seasons. The golden age for mobile passers is right now.In the not-too-distant past, a quarterback was supposed to stay in the pocket, survey the field and make the throw — not take off and run. Not only was rushing mostly absent from the job description, it was often seen as a bad habit that needed to be discouraged. But Randall Cunningham helped change all that when he took the NFL by storm in the mid-1980s. 25Donovan McNabb2002419141211 30Steve McNair20011,102109198 Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 9Steve Young19921,737142263 After flashing abilities as a passer, runner and punter at UNLV, Cunningham was selected in the second round of the 1985 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. And almost immediately, his unique skill set grabbed his teammates’ attention.“You knew there was something special about Randall,” former Eagles defensive back Eric Allen said. “[He was] extremely athletic, played with a great sense of self, understood that he was good, understood that he could do a lot of things that other quarterbacks in the game could not do, and he had a great deal of confidence.”Despite his talent, Cunningham sat behind Ron Jaworski, a more traditional dropback passer, for most of his first two NFL seasons. But he became Philly’s starter after Jaworski was hurt late in the 1986 season — and the Eagles’ iconoclastic coach, Buddy Ryan, soon let Cunningham loose as the game’s first true dual-threat QB.“Buddy Ryan allowed me to be the player he believed I could be,” Cunningham told me. “He saw something in me and gave me an opportunity to flourish as an athlete, and not just a quarterback, but to really take it to a whole other level.”Cunningham wasn’t the first mobile QB in NFL history. Before 1986, six quarterbacks had put up 500 or more rushing yards in a season; in 1972 alone, two of them — Bobby Douglass of the Chicago Bears and Greg Landry of the Detroit Lions — combined for a whopping 1,492 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Those were the two best pre-Randall QB rushing seasons according to my yards above backup QB (YABQ) metric, which assigns a value to a quarterback’s passing and rushing statistics in a way similar to Football Outsiders’ yards above replacement (and can also be calculated throughout history).3Specifically, YABQ converts Chase Stuart’s calculations for a QB’s passing and rushing value above average into a measurement of total value that uses as its baseline a backup-level quarterback, a la Football Outsiders’ YAR metric. But Landry’s days as a scrambler were limited — he only had a couple more 200-yard rushing seasons in his 15-year NFL career — and Douglass, as great as he was running the ball, couldn’t throw.4Douglass generated fewer passing yards that season than a backup-level QB would have in the same number of attempts. There was the occasional outlier, like Minnesota’s Fran Tarkenton, who was a strong passer and able scrambler, but before Cunningham, those players were seen as unicorns more than archetypes.Cunningham ushered in the age of the running QB. In 1987, his first full season as Philadelphia’s starter, he passed for 349 more adjusted net yards than a backup-level QB (16th best in the NFL that year) and rushed for an additional 125 yards above backup (which easily led the league). It was the third time in history a quarterback had hit both of those benchmarks in the same season, after Landry in 1972 and Steve Grogan with the New England Patriots in 1978.5Along with Landry and Douglass, Grogan was another of the few pre-Cunningham QBs who could run; in 1976, he scored 12 touchdowns on the ground, a record for QBs until Cam Newton scored 14 in 2011. And Cunningham was just getting warmed up.In 1988, he piled up 336 YABQ through the air and 171 on the ground, the first time in league history that combination had ever been achieved. In a “down” 1989 season, he notched 248/147, a combo that had only been reached twice before (by Landry in ’72 and Cunningham himself in 1988). And in 1990, Cunningham set a standard for dual-threat seasons that has yet to be eclipsed in the 26 years since. That year, he was 750 yards better than a backup through the air, and he tacked on another 249 YABQ on the ground; if we take the harmonic mean of those two numbers (a particular kind of average that emphasizes high values in all numbers being averaged, in order to capture seasons when a player produced a lot of passing and rushing value), it’s the single best combined passing-rushing season by a QB in the Super Bowl era: 3Russell Wilson2014659225335 5Michael Vick2010860202327 21Randall Cunningham1992445144217 By Neil Paine In the latest installment in our documentary podcast series Ahead Of Their Time, we examine how Cunningham frustrated defenses not only with his speed and agility but also with his ability to throw the ball. It was a combination of skills that no quarterback had ever really possessed before, and it helped Cunningham transform the way people thought about the game’s most glamorous position. 17Steve Grogan1978484146224 6Cam Newton2011512224311 22Tyrod Taylor2015682129217 7Cam Newton2012608195295 28Russell Wilson2012952111199 27Greg Landry1971861113200 Embed Code 2Robert Griffin III2012847218347 4Michael Vick2002679218330 14Rich Gannon2000947129227 23Colin Kaepernick2013803125216 Greatest dual-threat QB seasons, 1966-2016 PLAYERYEARPASSINGRUSHINGHARMONIC MEAN 12Daunte Culpepper20001,558129239 15Randall Cunningham1988336171226 24Cam Newton2013423143213 20Kordell Stewart2001610132217 8Cam Newton2015633169266 11Steve Young19981,474133244 19Daunte Culpepper2002288181222 16Michael Vick2011593140226 More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed 26Donovan McNabb2000232178201 10Greg Landry1972547167256 29Steve Young19911,030110199 There have been better pure passing seasons by mobile QBs; Steve Young had more than a few of them. As Cunningham told me, “People cannot forget about Steve Young, because [he] and I were battling out every single year to be the No. 1 rushing quarterback.” There have also been better QB rushing seasons; in 2006, Michael Vick became the first quarterback to break the 1,000-yard barrier in a season, though his passing was below the backup level that year. But nobody combined the two aspects of quarterbacking in a more prolific way than Cunningham did during that magical 1990 season, one which earned him league MVP honors from the Pro Football Writers of America.Alas, Cunningham would injure his knee in the Eagles’ 1991 opener, and miss the entire season. He returned in 1992 to produce what was, at the time, the sixth-best dual-threat season in modern history (according to my method above),6It ranks 21st now. but ongoing battles with injury and inconsistent play eventually paved Cunningham’s way out of Philly in 1995. After a year away from football entirely,7He spent the season running a granite company. a rejuvenated Cunningham joined the Minnesota Vikings and, in 1998, he enjoyed the 25th-best passing season of the Super Bowl era, according to YABQ — a testament to his skills as a pocket passer after his athleticism had eroded with age and wear.Cunningham finished his 16-year NFL career with the 40th-most total YABQ of any quarterback since 1966 and the second-most rushing YABQ — trailing only Vick. (He also generated about twice as much value through the air as Vick did.) But Cunningham’s biggest football legacy might be in the number of dual-threat QBs that followed in his footsteps. Before Cunningham’s 1987 season, only four quarterbacks had produced at least 200 passing and 100 rushing YABQ in the same season: Tarkenton, Landry (twice), Grogan and Doug Williams. Afterwards, 16 different quarterbacks pulled off the feat in 36 seasons, not including Cunningham himself. And 21 of the 25 best dual-threat seasons in modern history have taken place since Cunningham’s banner 1990 campaign.There are still quarterbacks in today’s NFL who play like the traditional archetype of the drop-back passer. But there are also a number of top QBs whose playing styles resemble that of Randall Cunningham. By proving that a quarterback could dominate the game with both his arm and his legs, Cunningham opened up a new path to success for subsequent generations of signal callers. So anytime a passer rolls out and fires a dart to a receiver who broke free because the defense was worried about the QB running, remember that in some small way, that play was made possible by the influence of a Philadelphia Eagle who changed the game three decades ago.This is part of our new podcast series “Ahead Of Their Time,” profiling players and managers in various sports who were underappreciated in their era. 1Randall Cunningham1990750249374 18Steve McNair1998450149224 YARDS ABOVE BACKUP 13Kordell Stewart1997422159231
With Thanksgiving upon us, we’re entering the home stretch of the NFL regular season. So what are the most important games of Week 12?One way of looking at this — as we did in 2014 — is to figure out how much every game affects each team’s playoff chances. We do this by using the model behind our 2016 NFL predictions to calculate each team’s playoff “swing” based on a game outcome. For example, we estimate that if Oakland beats Carolina, the Raiders’ playoff chances will rise to 88 percent from 81 percent. If they lose, their chances will drop to 70 percent — an 18 percentage point swing.1 Some detail on what this means. Our NFL predictions are based on 100,000 simulations of the rest of the season and are updated after every game ends. In the simulations in which Oakland beats Carolina, the Raiders make the playoffs 88 percent of the time. In the simulations in which they lose, they make the playoffs 70 percent of the time. But at the end of Week 12, it’s unlikely that Oakland’s playoff probabilities will be exactly 88 percent or exactly 70 percent, because the team’s chances depend on the outcome of several games, not just their own. Carolina’s chances would see a more modest swing (rising to 17 percent from 9 percent if the Panthers win and falling to 4 percent if they lose); Buffalo, Atlanta, Miami and several other contenders could also see their probabilities change.By summing up these individual swings, we can get sense of which games will make the largest total impact league-wide. Here are this week’s top five, ranked by total swing: CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF MIN WINSIF DET WINSSWING The NFC North is on the line, and, for once, the Packers aren’t involved. Going into 2016, Green Bay had made the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, winning an average of 11 games each year. So it’s come as some surprise that the Packers have basically played their way out of playoff contention by Week 12 — we give them just a 6 percent chance of making it to the postseason. Rising in their place are the Lions and Vikings. The winner of their game on Thursday will be in strong shape; the loser will be more likely to miss the playoffs than make them. 5. Kansas City (7-3) vs. Denver (7-3) — 66 total ���swing’ points Arizona1122418– 1. Minnesota (6-4) vs. Detroit (6-4) — 101 total ‘swing’ points Pittsburgh55%70%42%28– AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF PIT WINSIF IND WINSSWING Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Kansas City83967322– According to the Elo ratings that our NFL predictions are based on, the five best teams in the AFC are New England, Kansas City, Denver, Buffalo and Oakland — all in the East or West divisions. Since it’s looking unlikely that the AFC South or North will produce a wild-card team, Steelers-Colts will go a long way toward determining two divisional playoff spots and not much else.Indianapolis is in a rough position because of a bit of karmic payback: Although the Colts have outperformed their point differential the past few seasons, the Texans (6-4, outscored by 34 points) are managing the same feat this year. The Colts will need some help to win the AFC South even with a win. The Steelers, meanwhile, have a slightly better point differential than the Ravens, with whom they’re tied for first in the North, but it’s come against a slightly easier schedule. Pittsburgh is a good bet to make it in with a win, and not all the way out of it with a loss. 2. Pittsburgh (5-5) vs. Indianapolis (5-5) — 96 total ‘swing’ points CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS New Orleans101285– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Cincinnati1592111– Despite a narrow lead in the NFC South, the Falcons are in stronger shape than they may seem to be. Elo thinks Atlanta is way better than 5-5 Tampa Bay and 4-6 New Orleans, and although the Panthers still rank high (by Elo), they’re unlikely to win a division tiebreaker and their remaining schedule is rough. That means that if Atlanta wins on Sunday, the Falcons will make a pretty big playoff jump — and if they lose, their NFC South rivals make only modest gains. Washington, which currently holds the second wild-card spot in the NFC, would prefer that Arizona all but end its playoff hunt with a loss. AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF ARI WINSIF ATL WINSSWING This is another big game toward determining the AFC North winner. Cincinnati is very much alive despite its 3-6-1 record and even though star receiver A.J. Green is out with a hamstring injury for the next few weeks — the Bengals would improve to a roughly 1-in-3 chance of making the playoffs with a win here. Baltimore can make similar gains, and Pittsburgh, which has beaten Cincinnati but lost to the Ravens in Week 9, would rather the Bengals win. Pittsburgh5559527– Oakland8182803– Washington5653585– Minnesota65894643– Cincinnati1529524– Carolina91274– Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Denver76%58%89%30– 3. Arizona (4-5-1) vs. Atlanta (6-4) — 70 total ‘swing’ points AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF KC WINSIF DEN WINSSWING AFFECTED TEAMCURRENTIF CIN WINSIF BAL WINSSWING Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Houston80867412– 4. Cincinnati (3-6-1) vs. Baltimore (5-5) — 68 total ‘swing’ points Tampa Bay1519136– Detroit58%32%79%46– Miami2931283– Indianapolis22123119– N.Y. Giants6667653– CHANCE OF MAKING PLAYOFFS Only teams with a playoff swing of at least 2 percentage points based on the game outcome shown Baltimore32%14%46%32– Buffalo2627252– Atlanta78%64%87%23– Baltimore32243814– The Broncos have already lost to the Raiders, who sit on top of the AFC West at 8-2. A loss to the Chiefs would put Denver in a dangerous situation, at risk of losing a division tiebreaker or a wild-card tiebreaker (or both!) to an AFC West rival. A Denver loss would have a pretty big impact: Since 1995, 7-4 teams have made the playoffs 68 percent of the time, but we’d give the 7-4 Broncos just a 58 percent chance if the Chiefs knock them off.CORRECTION (Nov. 23, 2:10 p.m.): A footnote in an earlier version of this article said incorrectly that FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction model does not project ties and gave an incorrect number of simulations in which the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers were projected to win their game on Sunday. In 100,000 simulations of the NFL season, Oakland was projected to win the game 58,042 times, not 57,955, and Carolina was projected to win 41,791 times, not 42,045.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
The streak is likely to survive into the NCAA tournament. The Huskies have one game scheduled against a ranked opponent: Feb. 27 against 22nd-ranked University of South Florida Bulls – whom the Huskies beat in January 102-37 (no joke). But once they get to the tournament, they have a better chance than most years of losing, particularly to the Maryland Terrapins, whom they only beat by 6 points in December, or the Baylor Lady Bears, who despite also losing to the Huskies in November have been putting up Huskies numbers themselves this season. Related: Hot Takedown Leading by only 2 points with under 6 minutes left in the third quarter against the Gamecocks, the Huskies looked beatable — yet they won again. Such has been the story of the season so far. We’ll see if they can keep it up through March Madness. Though they’ve managed to keep the streak that was built on the back of Breanna Stewart’s remarkable career going, the Huskies haven’t dominated as much as they’re used to. This is unsurprising, considering they lost Stewart and their two other best players to the WNBA draft after last season (those players went 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall). Indeed, they’re probably having one of their worst statistical seasons in several years. Unfortunately for the rest of basketball, the Huskies’ off years are the stuff most schools’ dreams are made of: The No. 1-ranked Connecticut Huskies beat the 6th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks 66-55 on Monday night for their NCAA-record 100th consecutive win. They last lost on Nov. 17, 2014, when they fell to the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal, 88-86 in overtime. That loss snapped a 47-game winning streak itself, meaning that, between March 13, 2013, and today, the Huskies have won four NCAA Championships and lost one game.Yes, once more for emphasis: Between March 13, 2013, and today, the Huskies have four times as many national championships as they have losses.This is Connecticut’s third record-breaking streak this millennium. First, between 2001 and 2003, they won 70 games in a row – the longest winning streak in NCAA women’s basketball history, and in 2008-10, they won 90 games to break UCLA’s 88-game record set in 1970-74. Here’s what being the mother of all powerhouses looks like: Who’s Going Where As The NBA Trade Deadline Approaches?
Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s episode (Aug. 29, 2017), we’re bringing you a conversation from FiveThirtyEight’s basketball squad: Hot Takedown regular Neil Paine is joined by Kyle Wagner and Chris Herring to help make sense of the latest developments surrounding this month’s trade between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the groundbreaking trade, the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a first-round pick are slated to go to the Cavs while Kyrie Irving would head to Boston. However, amid concern about Thomas’s health, the trade has stalled. What would the trade mean, and what might happen next? We discuss.Here are the links discussed during the show:After news of the trade broke, Chris Herring wrote about the deal, which is unprecedented.Kyle Wagner reasoned that the Celtics didn’t mortgage their future in the deal — they insured it.ESPN’s Chris Forsberg argued that despite concerns about Thomas’s hip, Boston should not sweeten the deal. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Embed Code
Ohio State’s libero Valeria Leon passes a ball in the regional quarterfinal versus Washington on December 11, 2015. Credit: Ohio State AthleticsThe No. 19 Ohio State women’s volleyball team couldn’t have asked for a better ending to its nonconference season. Just like dominos, three teams fell to the Buckeyes. Not to mention, all of the matches were three-set sweeps. OSU dominated the competition to clinch the Ball State Active Ankle Challenge title on Saturday in Muncie, Indiana. Valparaiso was the first of the Buckeyes’ victims on Friday, followed by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The Ball State Cardinals gave OSU the biggest run for its money on Saturday, but it was the Buckeye “tribe” who came out on top. Senior libero Valeria León, senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe and sophomore outside hitter Audra Appold earned all-tournament honors. León earned the tournament MVP title with 3.78 digs per set. Sandbothe and León have been named to all-tournament squads in three of the past four weekend tournaments.ValparaisoValparaiso hung with the Buckeyes in the first set until OSU started to pull away at 19-13, with credit to the power of middle blockers Sandbothe and freshman Madison Smeathers. An assisted block from Sandbothe and senior middle blocker Kylie Randall sealed the win in the first set, 25-17. OSU jumped out to an early lead in the second set and eventually put away the Crusaders, 25-13. Junior outside hitter Luisa Schirmer contributed five kills to the Buckeye offense. A block by Smeathers and Schirmer for the final point in the third set would wrangle in the victory for OSU, 25-18. Sandbothe led the offense for the Buckeyes with a .458 hitting percentage, followed by a strong performance from Appold who hit .364. OSU more than doubled the Crusaders in kills, 50 to 19. UNCGErrors on OSU’s side of the net and an aggressive UNCG team kept the first set of the match close, with nine times during the opening frame. A final Spartan timeout wasn’t enough to hold back Sandbothe. She closed out the set with three kills, making the score 25-20 going into the second set. The Buckeyes would shut down the UNCG offense in the next set. OSU went on a seven-point run to win 25-12. The third and final set showcased OSU’s “tribe” motto with six players slamming down kills for the 25-14 set and match win.Randall, Schirmer and Appold all had an errorless hitting performances. Appold also tied León for a team-high 10 digs, and Sandbothe walked away from the match with a monstrous .615 attacking percentage. Ball StateOSU’s final match carried some weight with it – the last nonconference match for the team and a tournament title on the line. The momentum from the Buckeyes’ previous two matches carried into the first set against the Cardinals. Despite a couple of four-point leads by Ball State, OSU battled back to eventually take the advantage, 17-16 on a service ace by Sandbothe.Another service ace by sophomore setter Taylor Hughes coming out of a Cardinal timeout was enough to push the Buckeyes to secure a first-win set, 25-21. In the second, Smeathers went to work on defense, assisting on three blocks and stuffing the Cardinals’ Sydnee Vanbeek for a solo block. OSU took the second set, 25-17. Two early three-point runs put the Buckeyes up 9-2 in the final set. Ball State would have its own five-point run later in the game to tighten the set, two OSU kills and an attacking error for the Cardinals would give the Buckeyes the set win, the match win and complete the perfect trifecta of tournament play. Hughes racked up 36 assists during the match, and five out of six OSU hitters hit above .300. Sandbothe and Appold combined for 27 kills against the Cardinals. The women’s volleyball team improved to 10-2 on the season and will challenge its first Big Ten opponent when they travel to Wisconsin on Sept. 23.
There’s no question that Ohio State football (5-3, 2-2) vaulted itself into the race for a Big Ten Leaders Division title after its 33-29 upset win against then-No. 12-ranked Wisconsin. The real question is whether OSU can avoid a letdown in its upcoming game. With a Saturday contest against Indiana awaiting his team, first-year OSU head coach Luke Fickell said Thursday that he is wary of the Hoosiers. “Not that people believe it, but (Indiana) is a scary crew,” Fickell said. “I really believe that. With the way the offense is going for Indiana, they don’t mind coming (to OSU).” Indiana is in the middle of the pack among Big Ten offenses and is ranked No. 7 in the conference. The Hoosiers are averaging 23.2 points per game — just 1.3 points fewer than OSU. “They’ll be in a different mindset,” Fickell said. Surely, Indiana is in a different mindset compared to when it visited Ohio Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010. The Hoosiers lost, 38-10, that day but finished the season 5-7 and had a shot at bowl eligibility for parts of the year. In 2011, first-year Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson has led the Hoosiers to a 1-8 overall record and an 0-5 Big Ten record. Wilson also saw one of his top receivers, senior Damarlo Belcher, dismissed from the team this week. Co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler’s said he’s currently “extremely frustrated.” His unit has given up 51 points per game in the last four weeks “…We’ve gone downhill,” Ekeler said of Indiana’s 2011 performance. “I go home and I don’t sleep because I’m not used to this and I don’t want to get used to it. And I’m sick of it and I’m tired of it. It’s the most frustrating thing I’ve ever been a part of.” Though the defense has been disappointing for the Hoosiers, the offense has recently showed signs of life. They’ve averaged 31 points in their last two games and haven’t had trouble moving the ball. But Indiana co-offensive coordinator Rod Smith said that athletically, the Buckeye defense will be tough to match up against. “They’re big, fast and strong if you like that kind of athlete,” Smith said. “I tell those guys all the time so it’s going to be a challenge each and every snap.” Wilson has at least remained upbeat, saying his team is looking forward to Saturday’s game. “We look forward to going into (Ohio Stadium),” Wilson said. “We look forward to going against the Buckeyes and it will be a great challenge.” Fickell voiced concerns about the Indiana squad on Thursday, but Wilson is also realistic about the challenge presented by OSU. “(OSU is) coming off back-to-back wins, they’re sitting at 5-3,” he said. “They could have three wins in a row. They played very well at Nebraska and their freshman quarterback (Braxton Miller) has done a nice job. “They are doing it with good players and a quarterback that can make plays. The last time we won against Ohio State was in the 80’s, so we’re playing a team that’s pretty good. It’s not like all of a sudden I say we have an advantage from playing those guys.” Both teams head into the contest with injuries. Fickell said Thursday that OSU junior running back Jordan Hall was “doubtful” for the game and Ekeler remarked that the Hoosiers have had so many injuries they are having trouble filling the scout team. Weary though he may be, Fickell said there would be no let down on Saturday. “We’ve been through enough,” he said, “and we know what the situation is.” Kickoff for Saturday’s game at the ‘Shoe is set for noon.
The Columbus Clippers secured their fifth come-from-behind win of the young season with a 5-4 victory against the Indianapolis Indians on Thursday, in the last game of an eight-game homestand to start the year. The Clippers (6-2) gained plenty of experience in tight contests during the homestand as close games and come-from-behind victories were present throughout. All eight games were decided by three runs or less and five of the eight were one-run games. Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh said he is proud of the way his team has hung tough in tight situations early in the year. “We have confidence as a club in our ability to score runs,” he said. “We’ve showed early in the season we can come back, score some runs and win games.” Clippers shortstop Gregorio Petit said his team is made up of resilient competitors. “We just battle the whole game and never give up,” Petit said after the Clippers 4-3 walk-off win against Indianapolis Monday. “Fighters fight, and that’s how we are.” In the win Thursday, Columbus found itself trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the fifth inning, taking a significant punch from Indianapolis in the top half of the inning. The Indians scored three runs on a 3-run home run by shortstop Jordy Mercer to take the lead. Using three consecutive hits to start the inning, the Clippers tied the game at four with an RBI single by center fielder Ezequiel Carrera. Third baseman Russ Canzler gave Columbus the lead with an RBI single of his own, the team’s sixth hit of the inning. “I thought that was the key in the game for us,” Sarbaugh said. “Coming out that next inning and scoring three was big.” Scoring the tying run in the fifth inning was Clippers right fielder Chad Huffman. Huffman went 2-for-3 in the game with two runs and a RBI on a home run hit into the deepest part of the ballpark in left-center field. “I got a change-up up in the zone and I was lucky I got the barrel on it,” Huffman said. Clippers starting pitcher Corey Kluber struck out eight in five innings allowing four runs on three hits. Kluber has a combined 18 strikeouts in his first two starts. Columbus begins an 11-game road trip Friday against Louisville, and the team’s confidence is riding high after the successful homestand. “There’s lots of confidence in this locker room,” Huffman said. “Our expectations are to go in there and win all 11 of them.”