Herbert has 3 TD runs, Oregon beats Wisconsin in Rose Bowl
PASADENA (AP) — Justin Herbert faked a handoff and went on the run of his life in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl.
Oregon’s 6-foot-6 quarterback gracefully stiff-armed Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn at the line of scrimmage. He surged downfield, found his blockers and sprinted to the green-painted end zone, even absorbing a very late hit from the frustrated Badgers as a reward.
The Eugene kid who took over his beloved hometown team during its worst season of this century had just scored the decisive touchdown of the biggest win of his career. A few minutes and a couple of big passes later, the Ducks all celebrated amid confetti and roses at midfield after Herbert’s final college game.
“I wish it wasn’t over,” Herbert said. “This has been the best four years of my life. I’ve been honored to be a part of this team.”
Herbert scored his third rushing touchdown of the 106th Rose Bowl on that thrilling 30-yard run with 7:41 to play Wednesday night, and No. 7 Oregon held off No. 11 Wisconsin 28-27 to win its third straight trip to the Granddaddy of Them All.
Herbert passed for just 138 yards without a touchdown, and Oregon (12-2) managed just 204 yards of offense — the fewest by any Rose Bowl team in 40 years. The Ducks still managed to win yet another frenetic edition of this venerated bowl game, surviving six lead changes and big special-teams mistakes by both schools.
While the offense sputtered, the Ducks scored 21 points off the Badgers’ four turnovers, including Brady Breeze’s early 31-yard fumble return for a TD off a botched punt.
And on the next snap after Breeze forced another fumble in the fourth quarter, Herbert rambled through the Wisconsin defense for that 30-yard score in what’s sure to be the signature moment of the four-year starter’s career.
“I’m going to be honest with you, we’ve been telling him to run all year,” Oregon linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. said. “He runs in practice and torches, so I told him, ‘Man, pull that thing and get loose.’ Stiff-arming dudes. Juking dudes. Is he a running back or a quarterback? We don’t know.”
Winston’s praise aside, Herbert had only 10 rushing touchdowns in the first 41 starts of his career. He turned into a big-play ball-carrier on Arroyo Seco’s hallowed ground, and Oregon improbably relied on its quarterback’s long legs to grind out a landmark victory under second-year head coach Mario Cristobal, Herbert’s third coach in four years.
Redskins hire Ron Rivera as coach
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Redskins hired Ron Rivera as their coach on Wednesday in owner Dan Snyder’s latest step to try to turn around the wayward franchise.
Washington announced the move two days after Snyder fired president Bruce Allen following a decade of futility. The former Carolina Panthers coach quickly emerged as the Redskins’ top candidate and inherits a team that went 3-13 this season and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015.
“After several meetings with Coach Rivera, it was clear he is the right person to bring winning football back to Washington, D.C.,” Snyder said in a statement. “He is widely respected around the league as a man of great integrity and has proven to be one of the finest coaches in the country.”
The 57-year-old of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent is the first minority to be named full-time coach in Redskins franchise history. Rivera is the seventh coach hired by Snyder in his two decades of ownership that have included just five playoff appearances.
West-leading Lakers beat Suns 117-107 for 3rd win in row
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Lakers built a huge early lead against Phoenix only to see it shrink to single digits.
They still won their third in a row, but considered it a lesson learned.
LeBron James notched his eighth triple-double of the season, Anthony Davis had 26 points and 11 rebounds, and the Western Conference leaders opened the new year with a 117-107 victory on Wednesday night.
“We can’t allow ourselves to fall into a trap like that,” Davis said. “You got to learn how to handle success within games.”
James finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in a game that appeared well in hand by the end of a dominant first quarter. He had double-figure points and assists by halftime.
“We wanted to get off to a good start and protect home as well as we can,” James said.
The Suns rallied in the fourth, getting within seven points after trailing by 36 earlier in the game. That forced the Lakers’ starters back in, and James steadied them with eight points to close out the win.
“You always got to be engaged until the clock hits zero,” James said.
The Lakers shot 70% in a ferocious opening quarter when they made their first 11 shots. Danny Green had their first miss on a 3-point attempt, but the Lakers controlled the offensive rebound and JaVale McGee found Green for a dunk.
“I’m asking our guys to dominate everybody they play,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Our guys took that message to heart.”
The Lakers missed just eight attempts in the first. James airballed a shot, but they snagged the rebound and Avery Bradley scored to salvage the possession.
The Lakers put together a 25-4 run in which the Suns were limited to only free throws. Among the highlights, Davis dunked over Aron Baynes and let out a roar, and later Davis threw down a reverse dunk on James’ pass. Not to be outshone, James followed with a two-handed jam that ignited the crowd. Los Angeles led 43-17 at the end of the quarter.
Kyle Kuzma, sporting blond hair, had three 3-pointers in the second. Bradley scored on a smooth behind-the-back pass from James. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope beat the shot clock with a casual heave on a 3-pointer. Dwight Howard chipped in eight points and the Lakers shot 61% in taking a 74-41 lead into halftime.
Kuzma added 19 points and Bradley had a season-high 18.
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern dies at 77
NEW YORK (AP) — David Stern had basketball as a passion and law as a profession, one he figured he could return to if a job at the NBA didn’t work out.
He never did.
Instead he went to Europe, Asia and plenty of other places around the world, bringing with him a league that was previously an afterthought in the U.S. and turning it into a global powerhouse.
Stern, who spent 30 years as the NBA’s longest-serving commissioner and one of the best in sports history, died Wednesday. He was 77.
“Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today,” Hall of Famer Michael Jordan said. “He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before.”
Stern suffered a brain hemorrhage on Dec. 12 and underwent emergency surgery. The league said he died with his wife, Dianne, and their family at his bedside.
“The entire basketball community is heartbroken,” the National Basketball Players Association said. “David Stern earned and deserved inclusion in our land of giants.”
Stern had been involved with the NBA for nearly two decades before he became its fourth commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984. By the time he left his position in 2014 — he wouldn’t say or let league staffers say “retire,” because he never stopped working — a league that fought for a foothold before him had grown to a more than $5 billion a year industry and made NBA basketball perhaps the world’s most popular sport after soccer.
“Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand — making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time, but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation,” said Adam Silver, who followed Stern as commissioner. “Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration.”
No. 13 San Diego State beats Fresno State to stay undefeated
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Undefeated and 13th-ranked San Diego State passed the first test of its toughest stretch of the season when it outlasted old friend Justin Hutson and undermanned Fresno State.
Malachi Flynn scored 16 points and Matt Mitchell had 15 for SDSU, which beat the Bulldogs 61-52 Wednesday to remain one of two undefeated teams nationally.
Mitchell had three big baskets in the second half in his first start of the season and Flynn, a transfer guard, scored his 1,000th career point as SDSU (14-0, 3-0 Mountain West) remains on its hottest start in nine seasons. The Aztecs haven’t been this good since 2010-11, when they opened 20-0 behind Kawhi Leonard and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time before finishing 34-3.
“Someone asked me if I wanted to lose a game to take the pressure off and I said ‘Are you insane?’ coach Brian Dutcher said. “I want to win them all. We like the pressure. We want to keep it on and we’ll see as hostile an environment as anybody in the country when we go to Logan and play Utah State next game.”
Utah State was the unanimous preseason pick to repeat as MWC champion. The Aggies beat the Aztecs 64-57 in the conference tournament championship game to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. The Aztecs missed the postseason.
SDSU and Auburn remain the nation’s only undefeated teams. The Aztecs snapped a five-game losing streak to the Bulldogs, who had won their last three games at Viejas Arena.
Jarred Hyder scored 23 for Fresno State (4-10, 0-3), which was without leading scorer Nate Grimes, out with a wrist injury.
Horse euthanized after breaking down in race at Santa Anita
ARCADIA (AP) — A horse broke down in the last race at Santa Anita on Wednesday, the track’s first racing death of the winter-spring meet after a spate of deaths last year.
Golden Birthday took a bad step in the stretch and jockey Victor Espinoza fell off while trying to pull up the 4-year-old gelding trained by Jim Cassidy. Espinoza wasn’t hurt.
Veterinarians recommended that Golden Birthday be euthanized, although it wasn’t immediately clear what his injury was. He was competing in a 1 1/8-mile turf race worth $57,000.
The winter-spring meet began on Dec. 28, two days later than usual after the track postponed opening day due to concern over rain in the forecast. On Dec. 26, Truest Reward sustained a broken left front leg on the training track and was euthanized.
Santa Anita instituted major reforms last year in an attempt to stem the number of fatalities. A total of 37 horses died at the Arcadia track last year.
Golden Birthday had two wins in 10 career starts and earnings of $117,894. A necropsy will be conducted, which is required by the California Horse Racing Board.
The board is expected to release the results of its investigation into the deaths at Santa Anita this month. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office recently found no criminal wrongdoing in its investigation into the fatalities.