It’s Alabama versus the world, at least the college football world.
That’s what happens when you win as much as the Crimson Tide have over the past five years and build a mini-dynasty.
They get sick of you.
And right now, Alabama is making everybody downright nauseous. That is, everybody who doesn’t know the words to “Yea Alabama!” by heart.
Just two days after Oregon was bloodied and beaten by Stanford on the West Coast, No. 1 Alabama showed Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium that it’s still the master of old-school, impose-your-will football with a 38-17 smackdown of No. 13 LSU.
As Alabama coach Nick Saban said himself, it wasn’t perfect. But boy was it effective.
The second half might have been as good a half as the Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC) have played all season. A nifty fake punt from their own 41 got them going on their opening possession of the second half, and from there it looked like the Alabama we’ve grown accustomed to seeing during the run of three national championships in the last four years.
“We didn’t play a great first half, but I’ll tell you … we showed a lot of character out there in the second half, controlling the line of scrimmage the way we did,” said Saban, whose club hadn’t been in a close game to open the second half since winning at Texas A&M 49-42 on Sept. 14.
That was part of the knock on this Alabama team coming into Saturday’s game. The Crimson Tide hadn’t played anybody who had a chance of staying on the field with them, much less beating them, in more than a month.
So how good, really, is this team?
We got a much more definitive answer Saturday as T.J. Yeldon and the running game chiseled away at the LSU defense for 129 of their 193 rushing yards after halftime.
A 17-17 tie early in the third quarter gave way to three consecutive long touchdown drives by the Crimson Tide, who with the exception of the fake punt didn’t do much of anything fancy. Yeldon finished with 133 rushing yards, and Alabama’s offensive line reminded LSU’s defense what big-boy football was all about.
Don’t forget about Mr. Big Game, either. Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron attempted just 20 passes and missed a couple of throws in the first half he normally makes. But he tossed three touchdown passes and didn’t have any interceptions.
There was a poignant embrace between Saban and McCarron after the game, their smiles as wide as some of the holes Alabama blew open in the LSU defensive front.
“AJ and I have been through a lot,” Saban said. “Some of it, you’ve seen on TV and some of it you haven’t. He’s done a great job for us, and there’s nobody I’ve had an opportunity to coach who’s more into the game and more of a competitor than AJ.
“He did a great job of showing a lot of leadership out there, especially in the second half. We needed our offense to control the tempo of this game, and they did that in the second half. That was really the difference in the game.”
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Saban is never going to be one to savor a win, or even a championship for that matter.
There’s always the next game, the next season, the next challenge.
When it was over Saturday, though, Saban took a mini victory lap around the stadium.
He knows there are several monumental challenges to come before there’s any thought of playing for a third straight national championship. The Iron Bowl matchup with No. 9 Auburn on the Plains to end the regular season looks more daunting by the week, and then there’s potentially the SEC championship game.
But even as the wins mount, the vogue thing to do with this Alabama team is to talk about everything it’s not.
It’s not as talented as the three teams that won national championships under Saban in 2009, 2011 and 2012. It’s not as laden with veteran leadership as some of Saban’s past teams, and it’s not a team that has played a killer schedule.
Matter of fact, Florida State probably gets the nod as the most talented team in the country right now. Stanford might be the most proven, and Baylor the most entertaining.
And, yes, Ohio State hasn’t lost a football game since the end of the 2011 season — 21 in a row.
But the team to beat, like it or not, is still Alabama.
As an adoring nation watched and roared, Andy Murray ended 77 years of frustration at Wimbledon by defeating No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, on Sunday to become the first British man to win the singles championship since Fred Perry triumphed in 1936.
Murray, ranked No. 2 in the world, rode out a lull in the third set to win his first Wimbledon title and second Grand Slam event. He had previously won the U.S. Open in 2012, beating Djokovic for that honor.
The last British tennis player to win a singles title here was Virginia Wade, in 1977.
Murray, who lost the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer a year ago, was foiled on his first three championship points in the third set Sunday, in keeping with the long games he and Djokovic had played under a broiling sun. The game went to deuce four times before Murray finally
prevailed, setting off roars in the stadium and, undoubtedly, around the country.
When Murray realized that Djokovic’s backhander had gone into the net and that the title was his, he pumped his fists and grinned. He hugged Djokovic, whom he has played against since they were both 11 years old, before kneeling on the grass in relief and exultation, eventually climbing toward the box where his friends and family sat. He began to descend toward the court for the awards ceremony and almost forgot to hug his tearful mother, Judy, but went back to hug her.
“I just heard her screaming behind me and I went back,” he said during an on-court interview.
In a nice moment, TV cameras caught Djokovic’s parents hugging Judy Murray.
Murray said he was simply glad to get through a grueling final game and final point as he held off an attempted comeback by Djokovic. Murray was only beginning to realize the magnitude of his feat in the first few moments after the match.
“It feels slightly different to last year,” Murray said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “I hope you guys enjoyed it. I tried my best.”
Djokovic, the 2011 Wimbledon champion and a six-time Grand Slam tournament winner, had won his previous three matches against Murray — including at this year’s Australian Open — and each time had rallied after Murray had won the first set. But Murray, though vexed sometimes in the third set, wouldn’t be stopped this time.
“Congratulations to him and to you guys. I know how much this means to the country,” Djokovic said in an on-court interview. “I’m aware of the pressure that he gets…. It’s a great achievement.
“I gave it all. It was an asbolute pleasure and honor to be part of this match, this final.”
The first set took 59 minutes and featured countless long rallies. Murray had three break points in the first game but Djokovic held him off; Murray had four more break points in the third game before finally getting that break for a 2-1 lead.
However, Djokovic broke back and then held for a 3-2 lead. Murray then gained another break, at love, after Djokovic sent a backhand into the net.
Murray double-faulted twice to start the eighth game, which went to deuce four times before Djokovic hit a long forehand and then a forehand into the net to give Murray a 5-3 lead.
Djokovic held his serve, but Murray won his service game at love and cashed in on his first set point when Djokovic sent a return wide.
Djokovic appeared to steady himself in the second set, breaking Murray in the fourth game and building a 4-1 lead. But Murray, pushed by the crowd at every turn, came back to level the set at 4-4 after converting the second of two break points in the eighth game.
Perhaps Djokovic was feeling the effects of his 4-hour, 43-minute, five-set semifinal victory over Juan Martin del Potro on Friday, the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history. He held service to take a 5-4 lead but committed a series of unforced errors that allowed Murray to pull even at 5-5 and then for Murray to break him for a 6-5 lead. The crowd, riding on every move, roared as Murray capitalized on his second break point and gave him a standing ovation when he hit an ace to win the next game at love to win the set, which took 69 minutes to complete.
Djokovic simply seemed to have nothing left as the third set began and Murray won the first two games, but Djokovic found the strength to push back. He won three games in a row to go up, 3-2, with the help of a volley by Murray that dropped just wide and allowed Djokovic to get the break.
Suddenly, Murray seemed to be feeling the pressure and Djokovic gained strength from it. Resorting to more drop shots that seemed to catch Murray wrong-footed, Djokovic broke Murray’s serve again for a 4-2 lead and there was no question that the momentum had drastically shifted toward
Murray halted that momentum by breaking Djokovic’s serve to cut his lead to 4-3. Murray pulled even at 4-4 with a running forehand on game point and then played out a great game to take a 5-4 lead, coming up with a beautiful passing shot to set up break point and winning the game when Djokovic hit a forehand into the net.
Seven-time champion Roger Federer was stunned by 116th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round of Wimbledon on Wednesday, his earliest loss in a Grand Slam tournament in 10 years.
The 27-year-old Ukrainian outplayed Federer on Centre Court, serving and volleying his way to a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory that stands out as one of the biggest upsets in Grand Slam history.
The result capped a chaotic day at Wimbledon when seven players were forced out by injuries, and former champion Maria Sharapova fell in the second round to a qualifier.
Federer’s loss ended his record streak of reaching at least the quarterfinals at 36 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, a run that began at Wimbledon in 2004, shortly after a third-round exit at that year’s French Open.
“It’s very frustrating and very disappointing,” Federer said. “But I’m going to accept it and move forward.”
The owner of a record 17 major championships, Federer hadn’t been beaten in the second round or earlier since a first-round defeat at the 2003 French Open.
Federer’s shocking defeat was his earliest at the All England Club since a first-round loss in 2002 to No. 154-ranked Mario Ancic. Stakhovsky is the lowest-ranked player to beat Federer at any event since then.
Federer said the tournament’s ban of the orange-soled shoes he wore in his first-round win had no effect on Wednesday’s match, CBSSports.com reported.
Wednesday’s defeat came on the same grass court Federer has made his own for nearly a decade.
It ended with Stakhovsky converting on his second match point, a 13-stroke rally that finished with Federer hitting a backhand wide.
Stakhovsky fell onto his back in celebration. He later bowed to the crowd as Federer walked off the court with a quick wave.
Federer managed only one break of serve against Stakhovsky, who broke the Swiss star twice. The Ukrainian piled up 72 winners against 17 unforced errors, while Federer had 56 winners and 13 errors.
“I’m still in disbelief,” Stakhovsky said. “When you play Roger Federer at Wimbledon it’s like you are playing two persons. First you play Roger Federer, then you play his ego, and on the Centre Court of Wimbledon, where he is historical. So that’s like playing two against one.”
An NHL-record unbeaten streak to start the lockout-shortened season.
Three straight victories to clinch the title.
From beginning to end, the Chicago Blackhawks skated away from the rest of the league.
Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 and the Blackhawks staged a stunning rally to win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final 3-2 on Monday night for their second NHL championship in four seasons.
Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves for Chicago in the first final round between Original Six teams since 1979.
“I still can’t believe that finish,” Crawford said. “Oh my God, we never quit.”
Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal in Game 6 beat Philadelphia to win the 2010 championship, was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP.
“It was the best year of my life, just playing with these guys,” Kane said.
Toews scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it for the Blackawks at 4:24 of the second of Game 6 – exactly two minutes after teammate Andrew Shaw was penalized for roughing.
“In 2010, we didn’t really know what we were doing,” Toews said. “We just, we played great hockey and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing.
” This time around, we know definitely how much work it takes and how much sacrifice it takes to get back here and this is an unbelievable group. We’ve been through a lot together this year and this is a sweet way to finish it off.”
Boston, needing a win to extend the series to a deciding Game 7, came out aggressively and led 1-0 after one period on Chris Kelly’s second goal of the playoffs. The Bruins outshot the Blackhawks 12-6 in the first period but the margin dropped to 18-15 through 40 minutes.
Each team got one of its best players back when Toews and Boston alternate captain Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup after leaving the Blackhawks’ 3-1 win with injuries on Saturday.
Toews scored when he got past Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara along the boards in the neutral zone. Chicago’s captain skated up the right side and fired a hard shot from the right faceoff dot that beat goalie Tuukka Rask between his pads.
It was Toews’ second goal in three games. Of Chicago’s last 10 goals, Chara was on the ice for nine.
Boston right wing Jaromir Jagr was shaken up in the first period. He returned for the second but left the bench, and Tyler Seguin replaced him on the second line with left wing Brad Marchand and center Bergeron.
The play that led to Kelly’s goal began after a faceoff that rookie defenseman Torey Krug rushed in to tip toward a teammate. The puck went to Daniel Paille, standing about 40 feet on the left. He passed to Seguin, who caught the puck with his right glove in the slot and dropped it.
Seguin then passed to Kelly, who scored his second goal of the playoffs 7:19 into the game.
It came just seven seconds after a whistle stopped a scrum in front of the net that followed an extended period of pressure by the Bruins.
Just two minutes after the goal, Chicago had one of its best chances of the period when Michal Frolik skated in with the puck behind the defense and fired a 15-foot drive from the left, but Rask made the save.
Boston had another solid chance at 12:24 when Milan Lucic took a 15-foot shot from the slot that Crawford stopped.
After having no power plays in Game 5, the Bruins had four failed advantages in the first two periods.
With 4:01 left in the first, Shaw was struck in the face by a puck when it deflected off the shaft of his stick after Boston’s Shawn Thornton shot it. He lay on the ice before getting up and skating off slowly.
Toews was on Chicago’s first shift of the game. Bergeron had left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury after playing just 49 seconds in the second period.
Five of the last nine Cup finals have gone seven games, including in 2011 when the Bruins overcame a 3-2 series deficit and won their first championship since 1972 by winning Game 6 in Boston and Game 7 in Vancouver.
In 2010, Chicago won its first NHL title since 1961 on Kane’s overtime goal. As they did this year, the Blackhawks won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.
This year’s finals have been extremely tight, with three of the first five games going to overtime. Chicago won the opener in three overtimes, then Boston won 2-1 in one extra period and 2-0. The Blackhawks regained home-ice advantage with a 6-5 overtime win in a wild Game 4 in Boston before returning home for Saturday night’s win.
Teams that have won Game 5 after splitting the first four have won the Cup 15 of 22 times since the best-of-seven format began in 1939. But the loser of Game 5 the past six times has won four championships, including the Bruins against the Canucks.
Last season, the Los Angeles Kings beat the New Jersey Devils in six games. This season, the Blackhawks beat the Kings in five games to reach the Cup finals, clinching the series on Kane’s goal in overtime.
Lightning struck twice for Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon as the Spanish 12-times grand-slam champion suffered a shock first-round defeat by Belgian outsider Steve Darcis on Monday.
A year after losing to Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round, Nadal was outplayed by the 135th-ranked Darcis on Court One, losing 7-6(4) 7-6(8) 6-4 in front of a disbelieving crowd.
Fifth seed Nadal, who had never lost in the first round of a grand-slam tournament before, appeared to be struggling physically at times but refused to make excuses.
“I tried my best out there in every moment. It was not possible for me,” Nadal, playing on grass for the first time this season, told a news conference. “It is not a tragedy.”
Nadal, who spent seven months out of action with a knee injury after last year’s Wimbledon defeat, served for the second set but Darcis hit back to move two sets in front.
Asked if his knee had been giving him problems, Nadal said: “I don’t want to talk about my knee this afternoon. Anything that I would say today about my knee would be an excuse. The only thing I can say is to congratulate Steve Darcis.”
As the clock crept towards three hours on court, Nadal’s touch deserted him completely and he turned his back on the court, grimacing, after failing to cash in a breakpoint in the eighth game and hitting a feeble forehand into the net.
As he served for the match at 5-4, Darcis, sensing blood, put himself ahead with a superb running forehand after chasing the ball across court. Finding himself right in front of the press photographers, he obligingly pumped his fist and roared with delight.
Another Nadal forehand error gave Darcis matchpoint and he finished off the biggest win of his career with an ace.
“You don’t beat Nadal if he isn’t playing his best tennis,” said Darcis, a no-nonsense player who trudged out from every changeover with his towel clenched between his teeth and his head bowed in thought.
“It is my biggest win so I have to be happy. Maybe he was not in the best shape ever but I have to be proud of me,” he told a news conference.
The man nicknamed “The Shark”, after a tattoo he sports on his right shoulder, dropped 22 places in the rankings coming into Wimbledon and said his career had often been blighted by injury.
“I have been feeling really good for a few months,” he added. “For me it was easy today, nobody expected me to win. I really wanted to do something today.”
Darcis, who faces Lukasz Kubot of Poland in the next round, was the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal for seven years, since Joachim Johansson, the world number 690, in Stockholm.
The 27-year-old Spaniard became the first reigning French Open champion to lose in the first round of Wimbledon since Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten suffered the same fate in 1997.
Nadal’s fifth seeding, in line with his current ranking, had put him in the potential path of champion Roger Federer and home favorite Andy Murray, who will both be relieved to have the chance of profiting from his early exit.
PARIS — If Rafael Nadal truly was going to be challenged, if his bid for an unprecedented eighth French Open championship would be slowed even a bit, this might have been the moment.
Leading by a set and a break 70 minutes into Sunday’s final against David Ferrer, another generally indefatigable Spaniard, Nadal faced four break points in one game. The last was a 31-stroke exchange, the match’s longest, capped when Nadal absorbed Ferrer’s strong backhand approach and transformed it into a cross-court backhand passing shot.
Ferrer glared at the ball as it flew past and landed in a corner, then smiled ruefully. What else was there to do? Dealing with Nadal’s defense-to-offense on red clay is a thankless task. His rain-soaked 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Ferrer was Nadal’s record 59th win in 60 matches at the French Open and made him the only man with eight titles at any Grand Slam tournament.
“I never like to compare years, but it’s true that this year means something very special for me,” Nadal said, alluding to the way he managed to come back from a left knee injury that sidelined him for about seven months.
“When you have a period of time like I had,” he added, “you realize that you don’t know if you will have the chance to be back here with this trophy another time.”
But he does it, year after year.
He won four French Opens in a row from 2005-08, and another four in a row from 2010-13.
“Rafael was better than me,” said Ferrer, who had won all 18 sets he’d played the past two weeks to reach his first Grand Slam final at age 31. “He didn’t make mistakes.”
A week past his 27th birthday, Nadal now owns 12 major trophies in all — including two from Wimbledon, one each from the U.S. Open and Australian Open — to eclipse Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver and equal Roy Emerson for the third-most in history. Nadal trails only Roger Federer’s 17 and Pete Sampras’ 14.
“Winning 17 Grand Slam titles, that’s miles away,” Nadal said. “I’m not even thinking about it.”
This was Nadal’s first major tournament after a surprising second-round loss at Wimbledon last June. Since rejoining the tour in February, he is 43-2 with seven titles and two runner-up finishes. He’s won his past 22 matches.
“For me, it’s incredible,” said Toni Nadal, Rafael’s uncle and coach. “When I think of all that Rafael has done, I don’t understand it.”
No one, perhaps not even Ferrer himself, expected Nadal to lose Sunday.
That’s because of Nadal’s skill on clay, in general, and at Roland Garros, in particular, but also because of how Ferrer had fared against his friend and countryman — and video-game competitor — in the past.
Ferrer entered Sunday 4-19 against Nadal. On clay, Nadal had 16 consecutive victories over Ferrer, whose only head-to-head win on the surface came the first time they played, in July 2004, when Nadal was 18.
Nadal had yet to make his French Open debut then, missing it that year because of a broken left foot. On May 23, 2005, Nadal played his first match at Roland Garros, beating Lars Burgsmuller 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Court 1, known as the “bullring” because of its oval shape.
And so began the reign.
Nadal won a record 31 consecutive matches at the French Open until the fourth round in 2009, when Robin Soderling beat him. In 2010, Nadal started a new streak, which currently stands at 28.
There was occasional shakiness this year. Nadal lost the first set of each of his first two matches and was pushed to a tiebreaker to begin his third.
He barely edged No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic in a thrilling semifinal that lasted more than 4½ hours and ended 9-7 in the fifth set Friday.
By any measure, that match was far more enjoyable to take in than the final, akin to dining on a filet mignon accompanied by a well-aged bottle of Bordeaux one day, then grabbing a hot dog and can of soda from a street vendor 48 hours later.
Under a leaden sky that eventually would release a steady shower from the second set on, Ferrer felt nerves at the outset, he acknowledged later. But after the players traded early breaks, Ferrer held for a 3-2 lead.
That’s when Nadal took over, winning seven games in a row and 12 of 14. His court coverage was impeccable, as usual, showing no signs of any problems from that left knee, which was supported by a band of white tape. His lefty forehand whips were on-target, accounting for 19 of his 35 winners and repeatedly forcing errors from Ferrer.
When Nadal did have lapses, he admonished himself, once slapping his forehead with his right palm after pushing a lob wide. But what’s demoralizing for opponents is the way Nadal slams the door when they have openings, then rushes through when he gets the slightest chance.
He was at his relentless best on key points, including those four break chances for Ferrer at 3-1 in the second set. Immediately after, Nadal broke to 5-1 on a forehand winner down the line.
As Nadal prepared to serve in the next game, a man wearing a white mask and carrying a fiery flare jumped out of the stands nearby. The intruder quickly was shoved to the ground by one security guard, while another went to protect Nadal.
“I felt a little bit scared at the first moment,” Nadal said, “because I didn’t see what’s going on.”
It happened within a few minutes of other actions by protesters, including chanting from the upper deck that briefly delayed play. Police said seven people were held for questioning.
Nadal got broken in that game, then broke back right away to take the second set.
The third set was similar to the first. It was 3-all, then suddenly over. Nadal took the last three games, ending the match with a forehand winner before dropping his racket and falling on his back, leaving a rust-colored smudge on his white shirt and flecks of clay on his stubbled cheeks. Soon he was standing, holding his index finger aloft.
Yes, Nadal is No. 1 at the French Open. When the ATP rankings are issued Monday, however, he will be No. 5, because of points he dropped while hurt.
Ferrer will be at No. 4.
“Yeah, it’s strange, no? I lost the final against Rafael, but tomorrow I am going to be No. 4 and him No. 5,” Ferrer said with a grin, then delivered his punch line: “I prefer to win here and to stay No. 5.”
Sorry, David. This is Nadal’s tournament.
Now the question becomes: Is eight enough?
The University of Alabama gymnastics team wrote a new chapter in its championship history Saturday night.
Winning the school’s sixth gymnastics national championship is impressive by itself. But winning back-to-back national titles is a new high for the Crimson Tide program.
With a score of 197.85, Alabama edged out SEC rival Florida (197.775) to bring another trophy back to Tuscaloosa.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our athletes,” coach Sarah Patterson said. “We really had a great night. I thought last year was great, but for a lot of different reasons, this year is a lot better.”
During the semifinals, it was the balance beam that got the Tide started off strong, and it was the balance beam ending the finals that got the Tide to its sixth title.
Seniors Geralen Stack-Eaton and Ashley Priess finished up the competition for Alabama. Last year, Priess sat out the season with two hurt ankles, and it came down to her final beam routine to win the championship.
“As it was coming down to the end and I knew that it was (Florida’s) Kytra Hunter on floor, and Ashley Priess was going on the balance beam, and I knew it came down to that routine,” Patterson said. “To have her step in this year and lead with Geralen, I couldn’t be more proud of that moment.”
Priess and Stack-Eaton prayed before they went on for their beam routines, and Priess said it was an incredible moment for her.