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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches a replay in the first half of an NCAA football game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches a replay in the first half of an NCAA football game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


Harbaugh to Edwards after critical tweets: “Come after me”

By CHRIS NELSEN

Associated Press

Tuesday, September 4

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The war of words between Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and former Wolverines receiver Braylon Edwards is heating up.

Harbaugh, upset Edwards posted a negative tweet about two U-M players during Saturday’s 24-17 loss at Notre Dame, fired back at Monday’s news conference.

Edwards, now a college football analyst, was suspended indefinitely Monday by the Big Ten Network for “a violation of the network’s social media guidelines.”

“I was disappointed that a member of the Big Ten Network would choose to attack the character of two of our players,” said Harbaugh, whose program dropped its 17th consecutive road game to a ranked opponent, a streak dating to 2006.

“If somebody wants to attack the character of anybody on the ball club, come after me.”

Edwards’ tweet Saturday night, which was later deleted, was directed at U-M center Cesar Ruiz and transfer quarterback Shea Patterson: “Ruiz is weak, line is weak, shea is scared, (expletive) Michigan offense is so predictable…..Michigan football is sadly one thing……Trash,” Edwards wrote.

On Monday, Harbaugh defended his players, both first-year starters for the Wolverines.

“First of all, it’s not true. It’s not factual,” Harbaugh said. “There’s nobody in our program who thinks those things about any player on our team, let alone the two players that he described. … Just so you know, that’s not coming from anybody inside the program.”

Edwards, one of the top receivers in Michigan history, still holds program records for career receptions (252), yards (3,541) and touchdowns (39).

After learning of his suspension from the Big Ten Network, Edwards fired off another tweet aimed at his alma mater.

“So funny that everyone is worried (about) my tweet as opposed to the real issue, 0-17 on the road against ranked opponents, 1-6 against rivals and the one win was against a 3-9 MSU. Last thing i will ask and really think about this before you get mad…is Michigan better than Iowa?” Edwards wrote Monday.

He apologized in part later in the day, saying he “should not have attacked Ruiz and Patterson that hard or period individually” but said Michigan “still needs to step up so no apologies there.”

Michigan junior defensive end Rashan Gary, a likely first-round NFL draft prospect, said he didn’t see Edwards’ tweet Saturday night, though he was offended a former Wolverine would rip the program and current players.

“At the end of the day, we’re college students, we’re college football players and we love what we do,” Gary said Monday. “We take it to heart. For someone to stab at somebody, I didn’t see the tweet, but to take shots at a player and you’re a grown man, I don’t think that’s cool.”

Wolverines tight end Sean McKeon didn’t address Edwards’ tweet directly, but he knows how quickly frustration can build from the team’s die-hard fan base.

“Coach Harbaugh says it’s just us, all the coaches, all the players,” McKeon said. “Outside noise doesn’t have any effect on what we do. Yeah, I’m frustrated, too. You don’t want to lose ever, but you can’t change that. You just have to learn from it.”

With a long season still ahead, Michigan players are trying to focus on Saturday’s home opener against Western Michigan.

“It’s a new week, we’re still in control of everything we want to accomplish,” Gary said. “Right now, it’s Week 2 and we’re focused on Week 2. We got to get this win and keep it pushing.”

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Illinois tops Kent St. 31-24, extends home-opener win streak

By TERRY TOWERY

Associated Press

Saturday, September 1

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — As expected, Illinois showed up to play what many thought would be a nonthreatening Kent State team on Saturday. Unfortunately, its offense didn’t arrive at Memorial Stadium until midway through the third quarter.

Nonetheless, the Illini rallied to hold off Kent State 31-24, avoiding an upset and extending its home-opener win streak to 21 games, the fourth-longest in the nation.

But the win didn’t come easy for Lovie Smith’s Illinois team, expected to easily turn around a 2-10 season from last year.

Following a lackluster first half that saw Kent State leading 17-3, Illinois quarterback AJ Bush showed the crowd of 31,898 why offensive coordinator Rod Smith called him a “dynamic, dual threat.” Bush passed for 190 yards on 23 attempts, and rushed for 139 yards on 21 carries.

“Any team that judges us off this game will be in for a rude awakening, I promise you’” Bush said after the game.

“It’s been a while since AJ played,” Lovie Smith said. “He’s a tough guy, he’s mobile and he ran well. He also threw some good passes.”

Reggie Corbin carried 10 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns for the Illini (1-0). Mike Epstein and Ra’Von Bonner added rushing touchdowns.

“Offensively, we knew we had a lot of weapons and I thought the offensive coaches gave the guys a chance to make plays,” Lovie Smith said.

Woody Barrett, announced by first-year Kent State coach Sean Lewis as the starting quarterback at game time, was 28-of-41 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He threw an interception late when Illinois linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips picked off a short pass into the end zone that would have tied it with less than three minutes remaining.

Barrett and sophomore Dustin Crum had battled for the starting spot since spring.

Barrett also was the leading rusher for the Golden Flashes with 18 carries for 117 yards and one touchdown.

Lewis saw much to be happy about on Saturday.

“For year one, game one, it’s certainly something we can build on,” he said. “Obviously, we need to finish stronger and there are going to be some things we need to look at.”

Mike Carrigan rushed for 62 yards on eight carries and a touchdown for Kent State (0-1).

BIG LOSSES

Before the game, Illinois announced the indefinite suspension of five players, including three starters: safety Bennett Williams, cornerback Nate Hobbs and tight end Lou Dorsey. Wideout Carmoni Green and defensive tackle Deon Pate also were suspended.

The loss of defensive backs Williams and Hobbs hurt the Illini, allowing Barrett to pepper the Illini secondary with passes early in the game, throwing for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Illinois tightened up in the second half. Losing Dorsey also hurt with backup Daniel Barker a nonfactor in the game.

The team said the suspensions were for “breaking team rules.” No further information was available, nor was it certain how long the players will be out, although Lovie Smith indicated after the game it might be sooner rather than later.

“It’s not a death sentence,” Smith said. “And that won’t be the case with these players.”

KEY PLAY

With 2:11 left and Illinois up 31-24, Kent State drove to the Illini 2-yard-line. After being backed up to the 6, Barrett dropped back on fourth down. Carrigan had slipped to the left and was open briefly in the back of the end zone. Barrett fired the ball and Phillips leaped and snared the interception, ending the Kent State threat and securing the Illinois victory.

THE TAKEAWAY

Illinois was expected to cruise to victory over a Kent State team picked by most to finish last in the Mid-American Conference. But Rod Smith’s offense didn’t awaken until midway through the third quarter, finally bringing the crowd to its feet as it struck twice in less than three minutes to tie the game at 24.

A few minutes later, Corbin punched his way in on a 1-yard carry to cap an eight-play, 55-yard drive that put Illinois up for good.

UP NEXT

Illinois: Hosts Western Illinois on Saturday.

Kent State: Hosts Howard on Saturday.

Saban makes official what “everybody knows,” it’s Tua’s job

By JOHN ZENOR

AP Sports Writer

Tuesday, September 4

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Nick Saban made official what anybody who watched No. 1 Alabama’s opener likely assumed: Tua Tagovailoa is the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback.

The top-ranked Tide’s coach didn’t wait for the question to be asked Monday before saying Tagovailoa will start Saturday against Arkansas State, but even he acknowledged it wasn’t much of a secret.

He said two-year starter Jalen Hurts will still play a role.

“I think everybody knows that Tua’s going to start this game and we’re going to use Jalen’s skill-set in the future to help however we feel that he can benefit the team,” Saban said. “I just want to be clear with everyone that I have done this in the past where we don’t say who the starter’s going to be for the first game and we give both quarterbacks an opportunity to play in the game, which is exactly what we did in this game. Not a whole lot different than what we’ve done in the past.”

It was just amplified this time because of the circumstances. Hurts has a 26-2 record as a starter and has led the Tide to a pair of national championship games.

Tagovailoa was the hero of the title game against Georgia in January after entering for the second half, guaranteeing a quarterback battle during the offseason. The sophomore from Hawaii was terrific in his first start in a 51-14 victory over Louisville . He was 12-of-16 passing for 227 yards and two touchdowns while running for a third score.

“We make all of our decisions here based on winning,” Saban said. “Whoever we feel will give us the best opportunity to go out there and win, that’s who we’re going to play. Obviously, it’s how you practice, how you prepare. I said it at the beginning, who wins the team.

“In our opinion, the one player did a little better job of that so he got the opportunity to start and we got the opportunity to play both guys and look and see how they performed and we’re going to continue to try to help both players improve and get better.”

It had become a touchy subject for Saban after repeated questions about the starter leading up to the game. Saban got testy with an ESPN reporter following a postgame question about the decision.

Saban called sideline reporter Maria Taylor and apologized.

Taylor simply asked: “What answers did you have about your quarterbacks after watching them both play tonight?”.

Taylor was part of the ESPN crew for Monday night’s game between No. 20 Virginia Tech and No. 19 Florida State. She declined to comment when asked about Saban’s remarks the past two days.

Saban is taking pains to avoid seeming critical of Hurts.

“If I get asked to vilify a player and make another one a crown prince publicly, I might not respond to that, and I need to learn a better way to respond to that,” he said. “And I will in the future. And I pray every Sunday that I never get angry. But it was a time and circumstance thing for me. I was a little upset by the way we finished the game, the penalties we had, the mental errors that we had. So it was totally my responsibility and we apologize for it.”

Saban said he hasn’t made any decision on working to let Hurts take advantage of the NCAA’s new rule allowing players who play in four games or fewer to redshirt. Hurts has two years of eligibility left and played significant time in the opener.

“I don’t know how you can prepare when you pick and choose when you’re going to play players,” Saban said. “I don’t know how you can do that. I mean, you have to get somebody ready to play in the game. So if you have any suggestions, I’d be glad to listen to them. But I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how a player really can choose when he wants to play and have any respect for his teammates.”

Associated Press writer Joe Reedy in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this story.

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Talented freshmen give No. 7 Oklahoma new look on defense

By CLIFF BRUNT

AP Sports Writer

Monday, September 3

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — New blood helped bring new results for Oklahoma’s defense.

Freshmen Ronnie Perkins, Brendan Radley-Hiles, Justin Broiles and Ryan Jones were key contributors in the seventh-ranked Sooners’ 63-14 victory over Florida Atlantic in the season opener Saturday. Oklahoma held the Owls off the scoreboard for the first 44 minutes and limited star running back Devin Singletary to 69 yards on 18 carries. It was a rousing start for a unit that has been criticized for failing to support Oklahoma’s dynamic offense at times in recent years.

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley was fired up about the role the freshmen played.

“Here, it’s not about seniority,” Riley said. “We respect, of course, our older guys and the guys who have produced. Here, it’s about what have you done for that program lately — both players and coaches. That’s the only way you get better.”

Perkins, a 6-foot-3, 254-pound true freshman, had four tackles as a reserve defensive end.

“Perkins was what I would say one of the highlights as far as the young guys,” Riley said. “As much as any of them, it looked like he belonged from the first snap. He got off some blocks, made some plays and was really close to making a couple of others. But with not playing a ton of snaps, he had an impact on the game.”

Perkins will be needed since sophomore Addison Gumbs, a potential starter, was lost for the season with a non-contact knee injury last Friday. Perkins is listed behind Kenneth Mann on the depth chart, but defensive coordinator Mike Stoops expects him to play a significant role in the future.

“I think Ronnie Perkins’ upside is pretty limitless,” Stoops said. “I see the development of our overall skill at that position as we mature. We have some depth that we can lean on.”

Radley-Hiles, one of the nation’s top recruits, had three tackles on the first series of the game and finished with five as the starting nickel back. The true freshman has the mentality to match the hype.

“He just kind of is who he is,” Riley said. “He’s one of those guys that the situation just never seems too big for him, and he’s been like that since the first day.”

Broiles, a redshirt freshman, is the starter at strong safety. He had one tackle in the opener. Stoops said Radley-Hiles and Broiles didn’t look like freshmen against Florida Atlantic.

“I think they were impact players,” Stoops said. “You look at their recruitment, what they brought to the table as you recruited them —they’re impact guys. Their personality, their athleticism tells you that. They’re mature. Been impressed with the way both guys have handled everything.”

Ryan Jones, a redshirt freshman, had two tackles. The Sooners first brought him in as a receiver, but he now has developed into a 6-foot-2, 236-pound linebacker.

“He’s got frame, he’s got physicality,” Riley said. “I was excited to see him play. Looked like he did a good job. He takes up a lot of space out there and can really move, so he gives us a lot of versatility.”

The youngsters will be tested again this week when the Sooners host UCLA and coach Chip Kelly.

“Knowing coach Kelly, his reputation offensively, they’re going to continue to challenge you to play fast and put you in tough situations defensively,” Riley said.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Little League champions return home to hero’s welcome

HONOLULU (AP) — The 14 boys and three coaches who delivered Hawaii its first Little League World Series title in a decade received a hero’s welcome on their return home.

The team was showered in lei, handed food and greeted by a roaring crowd upon their exit from the Honolulu airport Monday.

The team shook hands with Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho and other city officials. The Royal Hawaiian Band played for them as they entered a news conference.

“After the entire state was on edge with the close passage of Hurricane Lane, this team helped us celebrate something positive as we watched their prowess on the baseball diamond which resulted in the first shutout championship game since 2002,” Caldwell said.

The Hawaii boys shut out the South Korea team in the 3-0 championship game Sunday in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The game marked the first time a Hawaii team has won the title since 2008. Hawaii is now one of seven U.S. states with at least three Little League World Series titles.

A parade in Honolulu to recognize the team is in the works, city officials said. Honolulu’s city hall was illuminated Monday night with blue and yellow lights — the team’s colors.

“What made everyone back home even more proud is seeing how these young men are true ambassadors of aloha and treated everyone they met with humility and respect,” Caldwell said. “Governor Ige and I look forward to hosting a hometown parade for the team so that the entire state can celebrate with them.”

Kerry Perry quits as president of scandal-hit USA Gymnastics

By WILL GRAVES

AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, September 5

USA Gymnastics turned to an outsider when it tasked Kerry Perry to steer the embattled organization through the fallout of the Larry Nassar scandal.

Perry, who had no background in the sport when she was hired as president and CEO last November, stressed her focus would be “on creating an environment of empowerment where all have a strong voice and we are dedicated every single day to athlete safety.”

Yet too often during her nine months on the job — a brief tenure that ended Tuesday when Perry resigned amid pressure from the United States Olympic Committee — it was Perry’s voice that was missing.

While the former marketing and communications executive spoke frequently in buzzwords — the use of “empowerment” during her introductory press conference was a sign of things to come during the rare occurrence when Perry did make a public appearance — she struggled to get a handle on the scope of the damage inflicted by Nassar.

As athletes spoke out about being sexually abused by Nassar — a former team doctor for both the women’s program at USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University athletics — Perry couldn’t seem to effectively articulate empathy for the survivors or offer a clear way forward for one of the U.S. Olympic movement’s crown jewels.

Her tenure would follow a familiar pattern: a high-profile gymnast would come forward to outline her abuse at the hands of Nassar, now serving an effective life sentence after being convicted of federal child pornography and state sexual abuse charges, and USA Gymnastics would release an empty statement, usually without Perry’s name on it.

The few significant moves Perry did orchestrate came only after substantive external pressure.

USA Gymnastics exited its agreement to purchase the Karolyi Ranch outside Huntsville, Texas, in January only after reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles said she was victimized by Nassar and questioned why she had to train in the same facility where she and others were abused.

USA Gymnastics also removed its board of directors in January, a decision it reached only after the USOC threatened the organization with decertification.

The final straw came last week during the botched hiring — and then firing — of its elite development coordinator.

The coach, Mary Lee Tracy, was an early supporter of Nassar when allegations against him began to surface two years ago. After the announcement of her promotion, Tracy made an attempt to reach out to six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman — herself a Nassar victim — after Raisman called Tracy’s hiring “a slap in the face for survivors” and proof that the organization had not changed.

USA Gymnastics responded by asking Tracy to step down. While the request was made in the interest of protecting USA Gymnastics legally — Raisman has filed a lawsuit against the federation — it also became another public relations pratfall.

Newly hired USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland had seen enough, saying in a statement on Friday that USA Gymnastics “is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership.”

Hirshland said the USOC would reach out to USA Gymnastics’ newly appointed board over the weekend to discuss possible changes.

The discussions ended with Perry being pushed out, forcing USA Gymnastics to search for its third president in 18 months. Steve Penny, Perry’s predecessor, stepped away under pressure in March, 2017.

A management committee that includes USA Gymnastics chairman of the board Karen Golz, vice chair and secretary David Rudd and board member Kathryn Carson will oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization during the search for an interim president.

“In the wake of horrific events that have impacted our athletes and the entire gymnastics community, USA Gymnastics has made progress in stabilizing itself and setting a new path to ensure that the safety and interests of our athletes remains at the heart of our mission,” Golz said.

How much impact Perry had on that progress is uncertain. USA Gymnastics was already in the process of implementing the more than 70 changes recommended by a former federal prosecutor when Perry was hired, a process that remains ongoing.

Though Perry made an attempt to visit some of the organization’s 3,564 member gyms, some gym operators felt left in the dark.

“The communication from the top down has been really reactive and disjointed,” Kim Ransom, who runs Pittsburgh Gymnastics Club in the eastern exurb of Braddock, told The Associated Press in August. “We get mass emails kind of bombed to us when there’s a catastrophe in the news and it’s sort of just feels very forced and contrived. … It feels like nobody is being real with us.”

Perry fared no better connecting while speaking to a congressional panel. Asked what strides USA Gymnastics was making, Perry’s answers were canned and offered little specifics.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday that Perry was “never transparent” and wasn’t forthcoming about what she was doing to “change the culture at USA Gymnastics.”

“There is still a lack of urgency behind addressing how we protect young people from physical and emotional abuse while maintaining the amateur status that allows young people to compete,” Dingell said.

Biles addressed that lack of urgency before the U.S. Championships in Boston last Monday, taking Perry to task when asked if it was time for the head of the organization she competes for to speak up.

“It’s her job,” Biles said before winning her fifth national title.

Not anymore.

AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this report.

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches a replay in the first half of an NCAA football game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/09/web1_121289244-0c544aa89df545b090910eb4c3f8a58b.jpgMichigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches a replay in the first half of an NCAA football game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Staff & Wire Reports