Every March Madness features a couple of exhilarating games, but can we measure which games were the most exciting? In this video, Neil Paine and Reuben Fischer-Baum introduce FiveThirtyEight’s excitement index for this year’s NCAA tournaments, which will measure how exciting each game was based on swings in in-game win probability. Plus, a friendly wager: What first-round game will be the most exciting?
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco started the preseason right where he left off last year. On his way to helping his team destroy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he completed seven of nine passes for 57 yards. Ravens running back Bernard Pierce scored on a 20-yard run, and Baltimore’s defense pummeled Tampa Bay, forcing four turnovers in the 44-16 victory on Thursday night.“We’re a very different team than we were, so we were really anxious to get on the field and just see who we are, because we really don’t know in a lot of ways,” coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens said after Thursday night’s 44-16 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “We suspect we have a chance to be a good team, but we’ve got a long way to go as far as being on the same page in a lot of ways, so it’s a good thing we’ve got preseason, obviously.”The Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw two TD passes, including a 21-yarder to LaQuan Williams, who also scored on a blocked punt recovery in the end zone.“It’s good to see him step up and make plays,” Harbaugh said of Williams. “Here’s a guy that just brings his lunch pail every single week, puts on his blue collar work shirt and goes to work. To see him make those plays, he’s got tremendous talent.”The Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions, and by the looks of it, they may be a heavy contender for this season’s playoffs. Then again, it’s only preseason.
T. Taylor (BUF)38-0.5544-0.23450.42-0.37 SHORT%Z-SCORESHORT%Z-SCORESHORT%Z-SCORETOT. PASS THROWNATTEMPTSCOMP%YPATD%INT%CONV. RATE C. Wentz (PHI)35-0.9239-0.9534-1.06-2.93 D. Brees (NO)52%1.3854%1.1053%1.393.87 M. Ryan (ATL)34-0.9745-0.1041-0.09-1.17 J. Goff (LAR)40-0.1841-0.69440.26-0.60 T. Siemian (DEN)34-0.9742-0.59460.50-1.05 J. McCown (NYJ)490.97470.20460.521.69 J. Brissett (IND)460.48531.0342-0.061.45 A. Smith (KC)480.82551.32460.542.68 J. Cutler (MIA)420.02510.66561.772.45 M. Stafford (DET)40-0.22500.5437-0.70-0.38 FIRST DOWNSECOND DOWNTHIRD DOWN J. Winston (TB)30-1.6232-1.9522-2.54-6.10 Short of the sticks67273.2%6.61.2%2.4%12.5% C. Beathard (SF)501.07470.19551.652.91 B. Hundley (GB)511.24480.25470.562.05 B. Bortles (JAC)501.12480.35480.702.17 D. Prescott (DAL)36-0.8132-1.9642-0.05-2.82 C. Keenum (MIN)501.07460.02460.501.59 M. Trubisky (CHI)29-1.64531.01490.900.28 A. Dalton (CIN)39-0.43581.6636-0.760.46 E. Manning (NYG)430.12551.3440-0.221.25 C. Newton (CAR)501.0738-1.1039-0.37-0.40 C. Palmer (ARI)29-1.6346-0.0340-0.33-1.98 D. Carr (OAK)430.1145-0.12450.330.32 R. Wilson (SEA)36-0.7337-1.2738-0.52-2.52 Picture this common scene on a Sunday afternoon. Your team could really use a scoring drive to turn the tide. On a 3rd-and-10, before the quarterback is even pressured, he quickly throws a 2-yard pass, and the receiver is tackled a few yards later to bring up fourth down. The crowd grumbles, the offense casually jogs off the field and the punting unit comes on. Better luck next time.Sure, once in a blue moon the offense may throw a bubble screen on 3rd-and-33 and end up with a 52-yard touchdown, like the Rams did with Robert Woods against the Giants in Week 9 this season. But that is the rarest of exceptions.Generally, safe passes like that don’t accomplish much, and we have the data to back that up. How does that 2-yard pass on 3rd-and-10 work out? According to the ESPN Stats & Information Group, quarterback passes thrown no more than 2 yards beyond the line of scrimmage on third down with at least 10 yards to go have been converted only 10.9 percent of the time this season. On throws that travel at least 10 yards, quarterbacks have converted 38.6 percent of the time. So an offense can more than triple its conversion rate just by doing the most obvious thing when trying to move the chains: throwing the ball past the imaginary yellow line on your TV screen.And yet despite this, NFL teams are leaning on the short pass more than ever. The same league that transformed into a passing league over the past 10 years is slowing morphing into something else: the dump-off league.There are some risks with throwing deeper, of course, such as a higher interception rate. And in some special situations, getting a first down isn’t the primary goal of a drive, especially when facing third-and-long. Sometimes teams are just trying to get enough yards to make a field-goal attempt shorter. Or with a big lead in the second half, they’re hoping for an easy completion that will run some clock and gain field position.But when an offense really needs to score points, playing it safe and throwing short of the sticks on third down is often the inferior strategy. We looked at the data from ESPN Stats & Info for passes on 3rd-and-10 or longer for Weeks 1 to 13. We divided the passes between those thrown short of the sticks and those thrown at or beyond the sticks:1For reference, a 12-yard pass on 3rd-and-13 would be considered short of the sticks. Which quarterbacks are the most conservative passers?Which quarterbacks throw short of a “successful” pass distance the most relative to their peers (as measured by the z-scores — the standard deviations above/below the mean — of the Short%* for each down added together), minimum 200 dropbacks through Week 13 of the 2017 season A. Rodgers (GB)602.38520.8924-2.280.99 D. Kizer (CLE)37-0.6842-0.52440.28-0.91 D. Watson (HOU)30-1.5331-2.1340-0.26-3.92 The completion rate for short throws is more than 30 percentage points higher than the rate for longer passes and yet the conversation rate is more than 30 points lower. This is not surprising because defenses are playing to prevent the first down and are willing to concede a fraction of the yardage. However, this positioning make it very difficult for a team to throw short and run after the catch to convert.So far we have only talked about third downs, the crucial down for maintaining offensive success. However, analyzing aggressive and conservative passing on first and second down is also important. A bubble screen that loses a few yards to bring up 2nd-and-13 is also putting the offense in a position to fail.Football Outsiders’ key efficiency metrics, including Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (explained here), are built around the concept of successful plays and are adjusted for factors like the down and distance. For instance, a 5-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 is more valuable than a 5-yard pass on 2nd-and-17. For a pass to be considered a successful play, it must gain at least 45 percent of the needed yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth. A completion that does not meet those standards is considered a failed completion. Joe Flacco of the Ravens set the failed completion record last season, with 144, and he leads all quarterbacks in 2017 with 95 through Week 13.It’s not just Flacco. The ineffective dump-off is happening across the NFL. Leaguewide, 26.1 percent of all completions this season qualify as failed completions. That’s the highest rate for a season in the Football Outsiders database, which goes back to 1989, and if the 2017 rate stays at that level, it will break the current high bar set in 2015 (25.1 percent).This is not to say that the short pass doesn’t have value in the NFL playbook or that every quarterback should begin slinging the ball 25 yards downfield each time he takes a snap. There is no one right way to run an NFL offense, and some teams have been able to use the short pass to devastating effect. To get a better sense of this, let’s look at which quarterbacks throw short most often using air yards stats.2This includes passes that drew a defensive pass interference flag but excludes passes that were intentionally thrown away or became intentional grounding penalties.Football Outsiders has a stat called “Short%” to denote the percentage of attempts that a quarterback threw short of the minimum yards needed for a successful play, as defined above. So if 45 percent of needed yards are required on first downs, then anything shorter than a 5-yard throw on first-and-10 would be considered a short pass here. The league average for Short% in 2017 is 41.6 percent on first down, 45.5 percent on second down, and 42.5 percent on third down. It’s not until fourth down that most quarterbacks realize the importance of needing to convert with a big throw. Short% on fourth down is 26.2 percent (although that is only on a sample of 214 plays).We looked at Short% on first, second and third downs for quarterbacks who have had a minimum of 200 dropbacks this season. For the 35 quarterbacks, we took the z-score (standard deviations above or below average) of each percentage and added them up, to make sure we were accurately capturing quarterbacks who threw short on all of their downs relative to the league. The quarterback with the largest summed z-score in the table below is the most conservative, as a higher percentage of his passes were short of being a successful play. J. Flacco (BAL)480.79551.28511.123.19 B. Hoyer (SF/NE)450.42551.27490.902.59 B. Roethlisberger (PIT)470.6838-1.1136-0.75-1.19 Short passes become puntsKey outcomes for passes on 3rd-and-10 or longer, Weeks 1-13 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group P. Rivers (LAC)440.30510.67450.321.29 T. Savage (HOU)38-0.4742-0.5530-1.57-2.59 T. Brady (NE)36-0.7942-0.5434-1.06-2.40 K. Cousins (WAS)470.70460.03501.051.78 M. Mariota (TEN)37-0.64460.0433-1.10-1.70 At or beyond the sticks39042.89.64.43.842.6 Higher z-scores mean a quarterback throws short more often.*Short% is the share of passes that fall short of a successful play’s distance (at least 45 percent of the needed yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third)Source: Football Outsiders Some of the names at the top of the list are predictable, including Flacco and infamous short pass maestro Alex Smith. Jay Cutler has been very dink-and-dunk oriented with Adam Gase in Miami this season, while San Francisco’s first two quarterbacks this season (Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard) made the top five.The real surprise here is the name at the very top: Drew Brees. Not only does he rank as the most conservative passer, but he has consistently stuck to this strategy no matter what the down is. To his credit, Brees has made it work — the Saints rank No. 1 in offensive DVOA and No. 6 in passing. Perhaps more accurately, the running backs are making this offense work. Through Week 13, rookie Alvin Kamara ranked as the best receiving running back while teammate Mark Ingram ranks as Football Outsiders’ top rusher. With two RBs capable of big gains on any play, it’s no surprise that Brees is throwing short early and often. We’ll see if this strategy can sustain itself — the Saints have failed to score 21 points in all four of their losses this season (each was to a playoff contender, including last night’s loss to Atlanta).At the bottom, seven quarterbacks had a combined z-score below 2.0 standard deviations. That includes the trio of favorites for the MVP race in Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz, whose aggressive styles this year have been a positive for their offenses. Similar things could have been said about Deshaun Watson before Houston’s standout rookie tore his ACL.But being aggressive is not a magic formula for success as the list plainly shows. Watson’s backup, Tom Savage, has tried to emulate Watson’s aggressive style, but without anywhere near the same success. Likewise, Jameis Winston of the Buccaneers is routinely one of the leaders in air yards per attempt, but his lack of consistency remains a problem for Tampa Bay. In Dallas, Dak Prescott is throwing aggressively, but his receivers are getting the fewest yards per carry after the catch in the league.Like with any stat, Short% is only one piece of the puzzle, and every quarterback has his own set of circumstances. As we see with Brees, a quarterback can get away with passive play if he’s extremely efficient and the team is still winning.Few quarterbacks have this type of arsenal or this type of ability, so they would be better served trusting the numbers and resisting the easy dump-off.Check out our latest NFL predictions.
201881.6D. Ayton7’0″M. Bamba7’0″M. Bagley6’11” 199280.7S. O’Neal7’1″C. Laettner6’11”A. Mourning6’10” 200781.6S. Hawes7’1″G. Oden7’0″Y. Jianlian7’0″ 201680.6D. Bender7’1″T. Maker7’1″J. Poeltl7’0″ 2018′s top 10 was calculated using ESPN.com’s latest mock draft.Sources: ESPN, Basketball-Reference.com When the NBA drafts its newest class of rookies Thursday, big guys should be the order of the night. According to rankings from ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, six of the top seven prospects in this year’s draft stand 6-foot-10 or taller. (The one exception is Real Madrid’s Luca Doncic, a 6-foot-8 point guard.) If things play out according to ESPN’s latest mock draft, this could be the second-tallest collection of top-10 picks in any draft since the lottery era began in 1985: 2018 is looking like one of the tallest drafts everTallest average height for top 10 picks in an NBA draft, 1985-2018 YearAvg. HEIGHT (inches)1st2nd3rd Tallest Players 198681.1B. Daugherty7’0″W. Bedford7’0″B. Sellers7’0″ 200281.1Y. Ming7’6″N. Tskitishvili7’0″Nene6’11” 200681.0A. Bargnani7’0″P. O’Bryant7’0″L. Aldridge6’11” 199780.1T. Duncan6’11”T. Battie6’11”K. Van Horn6’10” 198581.5P. Ewing7’0″B. Benjamin7’0″J. Koncak7’0″ 201581.4K. Porzingis7’3″K. Towns7’0″W. C.’Stein7’0″ 200080.6J. Przybilla7’1″C. Mihm7’0″K. Martin6’9″ 200182.0T. Chandler7’1″P. Gasol7’0″E. Curry7’0″ 199480.2E. Montross7’0″S. Wright6’11”D. Marshall6’9″ 201080.6D. Cousins6’11”G. Monroe6’11”D. Favors6’10” 198880.3R. Smits7’4″R. Seikaly6’11”D. Manning6’10” Headlined by Arizona 7-footer Deandre Ayton, this crop of big men is poised to have a profound effect on the league’s future. But therein lies a paradox: In the sport that prizes height like no other, the game itself is moving away from the archetype of the plodding big man. How each top prospect handles this seeming contradiction will go a long way toward determining what kind of pro career he’ll end up enjoying.The changing role of tall players in today’s pace-and-space NBA is complicated. As our ESPN colleague Kevin Pelton noted last week, bigs are actually more effective on a per-minute basis than ever, at least according to player-value metrics. Even though their share of leaguewide minutes has stayed relatively constant since the late 1980s, the share of NBA value over replacement player (VORP) accumulated by players 6-foot-10 or taller has been on the rise, hitting a modern high-water mark during the 2017-18 season, when bigs accounted for 39.5 percent of total value: Last season, 21 of the league’s 50 most valuable players by VORP stood 6-foot-10 or taller, another high for the league since the ABA merger in 1976. So in that sense, towering talents such as Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons are doing just fine in the modern NBA, thank you very much.But at the same time, it’s difficult to conclude that this is a true heyday for taller players when you consider how little difference any of them made during the playoffs.1Granted, NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant is listed as 6-foot-9, but he is certainly taller than that. The percentage of total postseason minutes logged by players 6-foot-10 or taller has fallen from 29 percent in 2009 (the year 6-foot-11 Dwight Howard led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals) to 22 percent this year. At the same time, the share of playoff VORP belonging to big men has fallen from 34 percent to 26 percent. Only two players 6-foot-10 or taller — Kevin Love and JaVale McGee — played any significant minutes in the NBA Finals.2The series’ other players who stand 6-foot-10 or taller — Zaza Pachulia and Ante Zizic — were on the court for a grand total of 11 minutes over the series’ four games. In recent postseasons, the switch-heavy defensive schemes that top teams play have often made it a tactical liability to rely heavily on traditional big-man types, to say nothing of the negative effects of playing a nonshooter like most bigs have been throughout NBA history.Even among those who have survived these shifting conditions and remained relevant as NBA big men, the core responsibilities of the role have changed substantially over time. The floor-spacing element alone has not only put added pressure on bigs to develop greater range as shooters — 7-footers now take more than double the number of threes they did just five seasons ago, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group — but it also requires them to be able to move fluidly in larger areas of defensive space, as well as taking a more active role in ballhandling and passing duties.You can see these changes playing out statistically as today’s big men are diversifying their contributions. Relative to the league average, the typical player who stands 6-foot-10 or taller in the 2010s gets significantly more assists and steals than in previous decades; he also is a much more frequent and efficient scorer and rebounder, but he blocks fewer shots. These changes have been about survival, and several of this draft’s elite post prospects have things they’ll need to prove in order to avoid becoming the next Jahlil Okafor, who entered the NBA with one of the best low-post arsenals in decades but couldn’t move his feet well enough to justify consistent playing time (let alone the No. 3 overall pick).The physically gifted Ayton, who spent much of this past season at power forward, logged very low steal and block rates when compared with other recent top-level post prospects, leading some to question his defensive instincts. Marvin Bagley III, who played zone during his one year at Duke, struggled at times defending the pick and roll, a vital trait in a league where that play can be used every time down the floor. And while Texas’s Mohamed Bamba will enter the NBA with a shot-blocking reputation — he has a ridiculous 7-foot-10 wingspan and erased almost four shots a game in college — it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to make an impact on defense when teams seek to pull him out with a stretch-big who doesn’t need to be tethered to the paint.If we learned anything during these NBA playoffs — between Houston finding ways to torch and neutralize likely defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert and Golden State making mincemeat out of Cleveland’s switch-everything defense in the NBA Finals — it’s that the best offenses generally have counterpunches against highly predictable defensive sets and players. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a shock to see someone like Michigan State’s 6-foot-11 Jaren Jackson Jr. get drafted a few spots earlier than expected, given the defensive versatility he possesses.To be clear, it’s not just the big men who find themselves adapting to a changing game. Players at other positions will also come with a handful of question marks Thursday night for similar reasons. For all his game-changing offensive talents, Oklahoma guard Trae Young’s lack of size (he checks in at 6-foot-2 and just under 180 pounds, with only a 6-foot-4 wingspan) figures to give teams pause after an NBA postseason whose earlier rounds saw smaller guards targeted and exposed consistently on the defensive end. Among perimeter players — rookie and veteran alike — Young isn’t alone in that weakness.On a larger scale, though, the sheer number of elite big-men draft prospects leading the way this year may seem a bit odd, given how the league has seemingly downsized. But just keep in mind the necessary caveat: Big men are still alive and well in the NBA — as long as they can move their feet and possess more than one tangible skill. We’ll see how many of this year’s towering prospects can check off those boxes once they start playing against the pros.
3Roger FedererSwitzerland55.5 7Juan BalcellsSpain54.3 In particular, Dominic Thiem, who knocked out Nadal in Madrid, was able to significantly erode Rafa’s second-serve dominance with a 7-5, 6-3 win. It was the only match Nadal lost on clay this season.What have these players done to put a dent — however temporary — in Nadal’s second serve? To answer that question, we must first look at why it’s so dominant to begin with.In the men’s game at the pro level, the first serve is a statistical powerhouse. It’s a guessing game for the returner — a nightmare of speed, spin and precision. When a player connects on his first serve, he usually wins the point.When a player misses the mark, it’s time for the second serve. That’s when anything can happen and where break points are won. It’s the real contest. It’s also where Nadal is making everyone else look like fools, statistically speaking.What makes Nadal’s second serve so goodThe second-best second server on clay is John Isner, a 6-foot-10 acing titan who can hammer balls more than 150 mph. Many of the career leaders in this second-serve category are like Isner — they bring the heat. 2John IsnerUnited States55.7 The clay-court masters of the second serveCareer leaders in share of points won off second serves on clay courts Alexander Zverev2ndItalian Open38–– Source: ATP OpponentSetTournamentSecond-Serve Points Won 1Rafael NadalSpain56.7% 5Andy RoddickUnited States54.8 10Thomas MusterAustria54.0 8Stan WawrinkaSwitzerland54.2 Dominic Thiem1stMadrid Open40%–– Beating Nadal means beating back his second serveShare of second-serve points that Rafael Nadal won in the four sets he lost on clay this season Fabio Fognini1stItalian Open50–– Rafael Nadal is likely more dominant at clay-court tennis than any other athlete is at any one thing. Winning a set, let alone a match, against Nadal on clay can seem almost hopeless. As he nears 32 years old, he’s already won 56 clay-court titles and a record 10 French Open championships — with a chance to add an 11th next week.While his forehand is explosive and his backhand is relentless, it’s possible Nadal’s greatest advantage is that he turns an element of the game that’s a weakness for so many others into a weapon: the second serve. He has had more success on his second serve than any player in tennis history, and on clay, his prowess here is even more pronounced.In his career, Nadal has won 56.7 percent of his second-serve points on clay. In the past year, he’s upped that percentage to 66.4 percent.1Data reflects his numbers going into the French Open. On Thursday, Nadal advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 win over Guido Pella. For most pro players, anything better than break-even on second serve is considered good. Nadal has taken the safety net of the sport and turned it into a battle ax.This also unlocks the secret to beating him on his favorite surface. Occasionally players can and do make Nadal more human in this area. Bringing him back to Earth by cracking into his second-serve points, players can make the King of Clay look more like … just a prince, let’s say.This clay-court season, Nadal has lost exactly four sets of tennis. Notice what happened to the percentage of second-serve points Nadal won in those four sets: 6Stefanos TsitsipasGreece54.4 But Rafa’s not about speed on the serve. He’s not even close to the ATP Tour leaders in aces. In fact, his 1.9 career aces per match on clay is the lowest on the table above. (Isner’s rate is 16.3.) Nadal averages around 110 to 115 mph on his first serve and less than 100 mph on this statistically dominant second serve. Very meh speeds.The elements that make his second serve so crushing, particularly on clay, are part intuitive and part mystery. Nadal plays left-handed — a topsy-turvy problem for players conditioned to a world full of right-handed serves. A lefty slice serve travels the opposite way of what players are used to.But slice isn’t the menace on clay that it is elsewhere because players have more time to get to balls on this surface. So if slice is mitigated, why would Nadal’s lefty slice be more potent on clay?John Yandell is a tennis editor and coach who has examined the spins and techniques of hundreds of professional tennis players. He analyzed Nadal’s serve spins and concluded that while Nadal’s second serve “has an element of topspin” and is “heavy” at around 4,000 rotations per minute, it’s not categorically different from other serves on tour, which combine slice and topspin.“Most likely it’s just Rafa,” Yandell said. “What he does after he puts the serve in play.”So the secret could be in what he’s doing when that second serve comes back — a shot sometimes called “the plus-one.”How to win points off his second serveRafa has become a master at managing space on European red clay, where balls travel so far off the bounce that the court plays bigger and wider. On returns, he famously stands far back behind the baseline to take a big swing at the serve, then repositions himself according to where his shot lands. Though he can’t start deep behind the baseline when he serves, he uses that same repositioning approach with his plus-one shot, taking advantage of errors by overzealous returners to dominate these second-serve points.At the French Open on Tuesday, Nadal won a straight-sets victory in what was considered a tough first-round match. He not only took 62 percent of second-serve points, he also tempted Simone Bolelli into going for too much on those points and committing an unforgivable 23 errors — with only four winners.So what about the tougher competition? In Rome on May 19, Nadal faced Novak Djokovic, one of the greatest returners in tennis. The two clashed intensely before Nadal won the first set in a tiebreak. It was a set in which Nadal hit a lot of second serves and won his usual high percentage of second-serve points. It’s also a good case study in what Nadal does so well here in terms of positioning.In this video, Nadal’s second serve puts Djokovic in a defensive position early. An extended rally ensues until Nadal sees his opportunity to step into the court and strike with a forehand winner.But even what Djokovic did above is preferable to the alternative, which is missing the return all together. If you can prolong the rally, at least you have a fighting chance: Contrary to his reputation, Nadal doesn’t do nearly as well in long rallies as he does in short ones.Take note, Rafa challengers. Dominic Thiem2ndMadrid Open29–– RKPlayerCOUNTRYSecond-serve point win share 4Borna CoricCroatia55.2 Source: ATP 9Juan Carlos FerreroSpain54.1
Terrelle Pryor admitted he doesn’t have the most talent or the glitziest numbers. But he proved Saturday he can make plays when it counts. The junior quarterback rallied Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) to a fourth-quarter comeback to escape Iowa City, Iowa, with a 20-17 victory and keep the Buckeyes in the hunt for their sixth straight conference title. “I might not be the best quarterback or have the best stats,” Pryor said, “but I guarantee I can bring my team back and make them believe that we were coming back.” It wasn’t pretty. Pryor scrambled for 14 yards to convert a fourth-and-10 at midfield to revive a game-winning drive that was on life support. Five plays later, running back Dan “Boom” Herron punched in a 2-yard touchdown to cap the 12-play, 76-yard march and give OSU a 20-17 lead with 1:47 remaining. “Our guys don’t panic,” coach Jim Tressel said. “They believe and keep fighting. We felt like it was going to be a four-quarter heavyweight bout.” Herron rushed for 69 yards on 20 carries. The junior has scored at least one touchdown in 10 consecutive games. Iowa’s final crack at tying or winning the game was short-lived. Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward sacked quarterback Ricky Stanzi to force the Hawkeyes into a fourth-and-22, which they couldn’t convert. “I think we knew we really needed a stop,” Heyward said. “The defensive line just took that personally and went out there and played.” Pryor raved all week about OSU’s offensive game plan for Iowa, but aside from the go-ahead series, the Buckeyes struggled to muster up any sort of offensive rhythm. The junior signal-caller tossed a pair of costly interceptions, and officials flagged the Buckeyes eight times for 73 yards, including three false start penalties. “Throughout the game, a lot of things were going on,” Pryor said. “A lot of dropped passes, a lot of bad throws, a lot of inaccurate throws. We lived for another day.” Pryor’s miscues nearly cost OSU the game. Facing third-and-10 with the score tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter, Pryor, looking for receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, threw into double coverage off his back foot. Iowa’s Shaun Prater collected the errant throw after a deflection, returning the pick eight yards to the OSU 27-yard line. The pick “was kind of B.S.,” Pryor said. “It kind of bounced off Dane and bounced up. They made a great play on that.” Two plays later, running back Marcus Coker scored the first touchdown of his career from one yard out to provide Iowa a 17-10 edge. Coker totaled 70 yards on nine carries as he started in place of Adam Robinson, whom Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz benched for the first quarter for what he called “academic indigestions.” “He didn’t do anything wrong, illegal or what have you,” Ferentz said. “But just not dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s.” Robinson, who gained 27 yards on nine carries, left the game on Iowa’s final drive after taking a brutal hit from OSU safety Jermale Hines. With 7:38 to play, Devin Barclay converted a career-long 48-yard field goal to cap an 11-play, 30-yard drive that cut OSU’s deficit to 17-13. One play before Pryor rescued the Buckeyes on fourth down, receiver DeVier Posey, all alone in the end zone, let a downfield heave fall through his fingers. He strutted back to the huddle, hands on his helmet, shaking his head. “Was I pissed? Yeah, I was mad,” Pryor said. “But we had a fourth-and-10 to get to or we were going to lose another game. I hate losing with a passion.” Pryor atoned for Posey’s drop and his own mistakes on the next play, as Tressel opted against punting on fourth down from midfield with more than four minutes left. Instead, the notoriously conservative coach put his trust in an offense that tallied just three points in the first half. “When it was fourth-and-10 and (Pryor) went scrambling, I almost threw up on myself,” linebacker Brian Rolle said. “I held my breath the whole play.” On the Buckeyes’ final possession before halftime, Pryor tried to squeeze a pass into triple coverage for receiver Taurian Washington. After a deflection, Iowa safety Micah Hyde snagged the ball with one hand while falling to the ground to preserve the Hawkeye lead. Following the play, Pryor pleaded his case with Tressel and quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano, insisting that the turnover wasn’t his fault. “He was probably upset about the fact he threw an interception,” Tressel said. “But in the heat of a game when you’re screaming and yelling at each other, there’s no place for the meek and mild. You need to be screamed at and you need to scream. “I don’t know if I was screaming at him or if he was screaming at me or if we were screaming at each other, but we still love each other.” Pryor completed 18 of his 33 pass attempts for 195 yards. He found backup tight end Reid Fragel for a 5-yard touchdown to cap a 12-play, 77-yard drive to start the second half and turn a 7-3 deficit into a 10-7 advantage. The score was the first of Fragel’s career. Iowa responded with a 10-play, 65-yard march of its own, which culminated in a 31-yard field goal to tie the game. Last season, the teams also entered the fourth quarter knotted at 10-10. Herron and running back Brandon Saine scored touchdowns early in the quarter before Iowa erased a 14-point deficit to send the contest into overtime. After Iowa failed to score, Barclay punched the Buckeyes’ ticket to Pasadena, Calif., with a 39-yard field goal. OSU hosts rival Michigan at the Horseshoe at noon Saturday. A victory would clinch the Buckeyes at least a share of the Big Ten title. Michigan State and Wisconsin remain tied with OSU atop the Big Ten standings with one conference loss. The Badgers beat Michigan, and the Spartans rallied to defeat Purdue.
Fans of Ohio State sports are lucky, spoiled even, you could say. Not only is Columbus home to one of the country’s best football programs with Urban Meyer at the helm, but the basketball team, under the watch of Thad Matta, has developed into a national power. Over the last five years, OSU leads all schools in the two-sport winning percentage of football and men’s basketball. The past academic year witnessed a flawed but driven football team go undefeated and a basketball squad, having to replace a two-time all-American and the program’s third all-time leading scorer, come within a game of matching its NCAA Tournament run from a season ago. As the photo editor of The Lantern, I was privileged to witness each of OSU’s 12 football games in person. I also covered the majority of the basketball team’s contests, including all of the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago and the NCAA Tournament games in Dayton and Los Angeles. Here’s the best that was on the gridiron and the hardwood in 2012-13 at OSU: Best game: OSU 73, Arizona 70, NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Playing in one of America’s basketball cathedrals, OSU advanced to its second Elite Eight in as many seasons at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The No. 6-seeded Wildcats, coached by Sean Miller, Matta’s former assistant at Xavier, raced out to a 26-17 lead. Junior forward Deshaun Thomas hit a couple 3-pointers to help the Buckeyes claw back to within four points at halftime. Out of the break, No. 2 seed OSU used a 10-2 run to take hold of the contest. The Buckeyes lead got as high as eight points with 7:42 to play, but an and-one layup from senior guard Mark Lyons tied the game at 70-70 with 21 seconds remaining. With the ball in his hands less than a week after hitting the game-winner in a third round contest against Iowa State, junior guard Aaron Craft passed to LaQuinton Ross with two seconds left. The sophomore forward and occupant of Kobe Bryant’s locker during the stay in L.A. hit a 3-pointer from the left arc to catapult the Buckeyes past the Wildcats. Best player: Then-sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller Thomas made a strong case for himself being the name in this category, leading the Big Ten in scoring and being OSU’s only offensive option for the most of the season. But as much as the junior forward was relied on this winter, Miller was to an even greater extent with the football team. The then-sophomore set a school record for total yards in a season and was a serious Heisman contender until the trophy’s finalists were announced in early December. In 2012, Miller totaled 3,310 yards and 28 touchdowns. With Thomas declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft, Miller is likely to see his name in this category again next year. Best play: Craft’s game-winning 3-pointer vs. Iowa State Two plays made by players on the football team came to mind when trying to decide who would win this category. There was the scrambling run for a touchdown by Miller at Penn State that involved multiple juke moves before a leap into the end zone. And the superman-esque dive by then-sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier into Wisconsin then-senior running back Montee Ball forced a fumble at the goal line and stopped history (Ball was a touchdown away from setting the NCAA career record). But neither of those, nor any play made by the football or basketball team this year, were better than the 3-pointer Craft hit in Dayton against Iowa State to send OSU into the Sweet 16. Dribbling the ball at the top of the key, the junior guard waved off calls for the ball by Thomas and junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. With Cyclone freshman forward Georges Niang isolated on him, Craft waited until there was one second left before firing a 3-pointer that found nothing but the bottom of the net. “I hope someday they put a statue in front of our building of him,” Matta said on CBS after the game. “Coaches were telling me he’s exhausted. He’s too tough to be tired. What a big-time shot.” Best moment: Then-redshirt junior quarterback Kenny Guiton leads comeback against Purdue OSU’s dream of an undefeated season nearly came to a screeching halt at the end of the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ Oct. 20 game against Purdue in Columbus. Miller had just suffered an injury, left the field on a cart and exited the stadium in an ambulance. OSU was trailing the Boilermakers, 20-14, and with its best player out, the team’s perfect 7-0 record was almost assuredly going to be handed a blemish. In stepped Guiton, who did little to help the Buckeyes’ cause until the game was just about over. With 2:40 left and the score 22-14, the then-redshirt junior threw an interception. Meyer grabbed Guiton, who was noticeably distraught. “I said, ‘You’re going to win us a game,’” Meyer said. “He looked right at me. I think he was down but I think that moment kind of picked him up.” OSU got the ball back, and Guiton led a 61-yard drive with 47 seconds left that ended with a touchdown pass to then-redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Fields. The Buckeyes tied the game with a two-point conversion on a lobbed throw to then-freshman tight end Jeff Heuerman and won the contest in overtime. Best underdog story: Zach Boren’s move to linebacker OSU’s defense had shredded in back-to-back games against Nebraska and Indiana in mid-October. The Buckeyes allowed a combined 87 points in those two contests, and at the heart of Meyer’s concerns about his defense was the linebacker position. Boren, then-senior and 30-game starter at fullback, had played linebacker in high school and was recruited to OSU to play that position. Sensing that his team needed someone to step up and fill a void, Boren asked Meyer if he could play linebacker during an October practice. Meyer obliged to the request, and Boren responded by helping revamp a defense that allowed just 57 points in November. The Pickerington native recorded 50 tackles on the season and averaged 8.2 tackles per game in his six games at linebacker, including a career-high 12 in the overtime win at Wisconsin. “Talk about Zach Boren. You want someone to write a book on, wow, that would be good if you go write a book on Zach Boren,” Meyer said. Best team: Football The basketball team can make its arguments: Big Ten Tournament champions, an Elite Eight Appearance and an 11-game winning streak. The football team only needs to make one, though. Undefeated. Meyer and his squad literally accomplished everything they could in 2012, winning all 12 of their games and recording the school’s first perfect season since 2002.
3. Braxton Miller’s rollercoaster season.Since spraining the MCL in his left knee in OSU’s win against San Diego State, junior quarterback Braxton Miller has struggled to play consistently. After a four-touchdown performance against Wisconsin, Miller played poorly against Northwestern, turning the ball over three times and failing to find the end zone. Now Miller heads into the game against Penn State on the heels of a performance against Iowa in which he threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and added 102 yards on the ground. If Miller wants to lead the Buckeyes to another undefeated season, he will need to find more consistency in his play and keep his mistakes to a minimum. Although he was successful against the Hawkeyes, it remains to be seen which Miller will show up Saturday. If Miller can avoid turning the ball over and instead score a couple of touchdowns, it will go a long way to pushing the Buckeyes to 8-0 overall on the season. 4. Can Ohio Stadium and Buckeye Nation rattle Christian Hackenberg?True freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been all Penn State could have asked for this season. The 6-foot-4-inch Palmyra, Va., product has thrown for 1,672 yards and 11 touchdowns so far in 2013, against six interceptions. His three first-half scoring tosses kept the Nittany Lions afloat early on in their quadruple overtime win against Michigan two weeks ago, and the freshman is only getting better. OSU’s secondary has taken multiple hits this season, with the loss of senior safety Christian Bryant to a broken ankle against Wisconsin Sept. 28 and Roby last week to the ejection. If Hackenberg is able to find holes and complete big plays to Robinson and others, the team could light up the scoreboard. 5. Will the pressure get to OSU?The Buckeyes currently sport the nation’s longest winning streak at 19 games, and with the opportunity to take another step toward a Leaders Division title, will the pressure finally get to the team? The last time OSU boasted a 19-game winning streak, Meyer was on the other sidelines with Florida when it ended in the 2006 BCS National Championship. A victory against conference rival Penn State (8 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium) would surely vault the Buckeyes ahead into their next two games on the road against Purdue and Illinois. 2. Will Bradley Roby be ready to step up?This year hasn’t gone exactly how redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby had planned. After being named a preseason All-American, Roby was then suspended for the season opener after a July incident at a Bloomington, Ind., bar. He has been outplayed during games against California and Wisconsin and was then ejected from the game against Iowa for targeting. Roby is expected to play the whole game against the Nittany Lions and will likely be matched up against Penn State junior wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson is averaging 117.5 receiving yards per game, the highest among players that OSU has faced so far in 2013. It will be another test for Roby, who continues to watch his NFL Draft stock plummet with his struggles. If Roby can contain Robinson, it could be a long day for Penn State. Senior running back Carlos Hyde (34) dives forward during a game against Iowa Oct. 19 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 34-24.Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editor1. How many yards does Carlos Hyde gain?Let’s face it: The lead running back role in the Buckeye offense belongs to Carlos Hyde. Although redshirt-senior Jordan Hall played well during Hyde’s three-game suspension stemming from an incident at a Columbus bar in July, Hyde has completely taken over No. 4 Ohio State’s (7-0, 3-0) backfield. In the four games since returning from suspension, Hyde has rushed for 41, 85, 168 and 149 yards, respectively, and five total touchdowns. Two of those games came against then-top 10 rushing defenses in Wisconsin and Iowa, and Hyde was still successful. Penn State (4-2, 1-1) comes into the game Saturday with the No. 21 rushing defense in the country, so Hyde will look to have another big game to help OSU win its 20th straight game.
But on Friday Cheshire Police brought civil proceedings against him to impose an SRO after they said Mr Crawshaw was a “sexual predator”.Acting for the applicant, Elizabeth Heavey told the court the police accepted the verdicts of the juries but the order came from a “wholly unique and extraordinary” set of circumstances.She said: “The respondent has admitted sexual contact with six complainants out of 11. There appears to have been no previous relationship with these complainants.”He admitted in the course of criminal proceedings that he had sex with one complainant in a toilet in a nightclub. Many complainants he met in nightclubs or bars.”It is for that reason that the application has been drafted.” He admitted in the course of criminal proceedings that he had sex with one complainant in a toilet in a nightclubElizabeth Heavey, acting for the applicant The interim SRO restricts Crawshaw from contacting any of the complainants, from having sex in licensed premises, from having sex in public, from being in a licensed premises between 9pm and 6am and from having sexual contact with any person without giving the police notice beforehand as soon as practicable.Ms Heavey said the restriction on Mr Crawshaw’s sexual contact with other people was only the second case of its type, the other being a man called John O’Neill in York.Defending, Howard Jones said Mr Crawshaw “objects to the order in its entirety” but that he had no intention of contacting any of the women who made complaints about him and said he “didn’t want to have anything to do with them”.He said the order to stop him going into licensed premises between 9pm and 6am would stop him going to a “family dinner, to Sainsbury’s, or a local shop” and was disproportionate. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. It will restrict his liberty. It does not particularly state what is meant by sexual activity. Is kissing a girl sexual activity?Howard Jones, defending Mr Jones said that as the hearing was about an interim order the bar for granting it was “low” but complained that the definition of sexual contact was “vague”.He said: “With regard to contacting the police before any sexual contact takes place I would ask you to give serious thought to that.”It will restrict his liberty. It does not particularly state what is meant by sexual activity. Is kissing a girl sexual activity?”What if he does meet a girl for the first time and the girl in question wants him to stay overnight. Then Mr Crawshaw is in a situation that he has to ring the police and he has to tell the person why he is calling the police when he has been acquitted of all charges. That would ruin his life.”Magistrates granted the interim order until a full hearing on November 2 at Chester Magistrates Court.A local newspaper and Mr Crawshaw successfully opposed reporting restrictions which Cheshire Police asked to be placed on the case.Cheshire Police argued Mr Crawshaw should not be identified to “maintain his privacy”. Mr Crawshaw said he wanted the case to be heard in public. A man dubbed a “sexual predator” has been banned from going into pubs after 9pm or having having sex without informing the police.Nicholas Crawshaw, 23, has been given an interim Sex Risk Order (SRO) by West Cheshire magistrates which restricts him from having sexual contact without telling the police beforehand.Mr Crawshaw was cleared by a Warrington Crown Court jury of six counts of rape, two of sexual assault and two of assault by penetration against eight different women.In February he was cleared of six counts of rape, one of sexual assault and one of assault by penetration against two women in a different trial and in 2015 he was cleared of one count of rape.
Most well-balanced individuals who lose their job wouldn’t then resort to violence against the person taking over their jobDavid Gordon, prosecuting He said: “While the defendant may have made an outward show of not being bothered about losing his job looking after Pamela Newton’s horses, in fact, he harboured resentment about it and this may have provided him with a motive.”Mr Gordon added: “This might sound extreme. Most well-balanced individuals who lose their job wouldn’t then resort to violence against the person taking over their job, but there it is.”The prosecution say that the attack upon Miss Southwell was vicious, relatively protracted, it seems to have involved at least 19 wounds being inflicted to her head and body with a sharp weapon.”And what we say is that Miss Southwell had no known enemies and yet the attack would seem to suggest someone who had a grudge or resentment against her or somebody who was in a disturbed state of mind or both.”The jury, of 11 women and one man, heard Miss Southwell, who was single and lived with her brother and elderly mother, was seen working at Grange Farm on the morning of the murder on July 15 last year.Her brother, Samuel Southwell, who became worried when she did not return home for lunch or dinner, went to look for her and found her in a barn, lying on her back behind a wheelbarrow, the jury was told.Mr Gordon said she had been stabbed repeatedly. The court heard Edwards had found new employment at a neighbouring farm and was working there on the morning of the murder. A stable-hand murdered a 60-year-old woman as he resented losing his job to her before leaving her blood-covered body in a barn, a court heard.Daniel Edwards, 22, is accused of killing Fiona Southwell, who was found dead with 19 stab wounds to her head and body at a farm near Hornsea, East Yorkshire.The jury was told Edwards, who was replaced by Miss Southwell after being sacked at Grange Farm, discussed asking for his old role back the day after her death.David Gordon, prosecuting at Hull Crown Court, told the trial Edwards might have held a grudge against Miss Southwell. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Grange Farm in Hornsea, where the body of Fiona Southwell was foundCredit:SWNS.com The following day, he went to work and asked his employer’s partner, John Tierney, if he should ask for his old job back, the trial heard.Mr Gordon said: “The defendant asked John Tierney if he thought that he, the defendant, should ask Pamela Newton about getting his old job back looking after the horses now that Miss Southwell was dead.”Edwards was arrested at his family home in Hornsea on the evening of July 16 and clothing – stained with blood belonging to Miss Southwell – was recovered from his bedroom, the court heard.Miss Southwell’s blood was also found on Edwards’s ankle; a kitchen knife, found discarded in a hedgerow near the farm and from a block kept at Maxholme; and a blood-stained child’s vest, thought to have been used to wipe the knife clean and of the type used as cloths at Maxholme, the jury was told.Edwards’s DNA was also found on areas of the vest and blood on his clothing suggested he was near to Miss Southwell as she lay bleeding from her injuries and still alive, Mr Gordon said. The prosecutor said Edwards sent a number of text messages to a childhood friend in the days leading up to the murder, which might suggest he was “in a disturbed state of mind”.He said: “On the face of it, the fact that a person is sacked wouldn’t normally provide any kind of reason to do harm to their replacement but, in this particular situation, we have, additionally, a young man who, in the hours leading up to the murder, was expressing, to a childhood friend of his, some distress, in the sense that he was feeling he was going to have a breakdown and his ‘head was f—ed’.”Edwards denies murder and the trial continues. The case is being heard at Hull Crown CourtCredit:Alamy