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Caleb Williams propels No. 5 USC past Notre Dame 38-27

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-california-notre-dame-fighting-irish-heisman-trophy-25776334c4e52e9fad4b18866cd8b271

LOS ANGELES (AP) — After Caleb Williams perfectly faked a handoff and sprinted up the middle for the first of his three rushing touchdowns against Notre Dame, he went to the Southern California sideline and extended a stiff-arm with his body coiled in a familiar way.

Williams’ teammates had been demanding a Heisman Trophy pose from him, and USC’s spectacular quarterback is nothing if not a team player.

“They kept saying it, so I just ended up doing it in the moment,” Williams said with a smile and a shrug.

Williams and the Trojans had plenty to celebrate after a skid-snapping rivalry victory over the Fighting Irish kept them in play for even bigger honors — and made Williams the probable frontrunner to collect the real trophy next month.

Willams polished his Heisman credentials with 232 yards passing and four total touchdowns, and No. 5 USC capped its outstanding regular season under new coach Lincoln Riley by staying firmly in the College Football Playoff race with a 38-27 victory over No. 13 Notre Dame on Saturday night.

Tahj Washington caught an early TD pass from Williams while USC (11-1, No. 6 CFP) ended its four-game losing streak in its famed intersectional rivalry with the Irish (8-4, No. 15 CFP). The Coliseum was packed with fans of both teams, but USC’s faithful had a night that recalled this long-struggling program’s glittering past.

“I don’t know how long it’s been since it was like that,” Riley said. “I haven’t been here before (this season), but man, it was electric in there. That’s what I remember watching as a young kid. … These guys have brought it to life.”

The night felt like a Heisman coronation for Williams, who iced it with 2:35 to play by sprinting 16 yards through the heart of the defense for his school-record 44th total TD. Williams was serenaded with frequent chants of “Heisman! Heisman!” from the Coliseum crowd, which has cheered seven previous Heisman winners in this school’s fabled history.

“I’ve never seen nothing like it,” Washington said. “The things he does on a consistent basis … he deserves it. He got the crown, you know what I mean?”

Although USC is headed to Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas on Friday, the revitalized Trojans first kept their CFP hopes intact with this victory — and even got a boost from LSU’s loss to Texas A&M during this game. USC became the first team to gain 400 yards and to score more than 32 points this season against the Irish while completing its first 11-win regular season since 2008.

“I think we’re as good as any team, and I’m not just talking about today,” Williams said. “We thought we were a great team, and we got to show it tonight.”

Drew Pyne passed for 318 yards and hit Michael Mayer for two of his three TDs for the Irish, whose five-game winning streak ended in their regular-season finale under new coach Marcus Freeman.

Pyne completed his first 15 throws into the fourth quarter, but he ultimately couldn’t keep up with Williams, and the Irish surrendered the Jeweled Shillelagh in their first trip to the Coliseum since 2018.

“I think we have a lot to play for still,” Pyne said. “I’m proud of how we fought today. I’m proud of how we’ve fought the whole season.”

The 93rd edition of this rivalry was a showcase for Williams, the sophomore who followed Riley from Oklahoma to USC last winter.

With a pocket elusiveness that had Notre Dame’s defense embracing air and a lively arm at nearly any distance, Williams set single-season records for quarterbacks in total touchdowns and yards rushing at a school historically rich in talent at the position. His eventful night against the Irish even included an offensive pass interference penalty on a failed Philly Special — and a 58-yard punt, the Trojans’ longest of the year.

“That was one of the biggest things, his ability to keep the play alive when it should have been a dead play,” Irish linebacker JD Bertrand said. “He’s freaky athletic, and it shows.”

Austin Jones rushed for a career-high 154 yards as USC never trailed, but never pulled away from the tenacious Irish.

After Pyne fumbled in USC territory on Notre Dame’s first drive after halftime, Williams led a 74-yard drive capped by Raleek Brown’s untouched TD run for a 24-7 lead.

Deion Colzie and Logan Diggs scored later in the second half, but Williams kept the Trojans in front until Calen Bullock made his fifth interception of the season for USC with 4:56 to play, boosting the Trojans’ turnover margin to an astronomical plus-23.

“We knew what type of game it was going to be,” Bullock said. “We knew they were going to come in here and thought they were going to out-physical us, but we wasn’t going for that.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Notre Dame: The Irish ultimately couldn’t stop Williams, but that’s hardly a unique failing. After a rocky start, Freeman’s debut season offers much more hope than concern.

USC: Williams’ brilliance is the main reason for the Trojans’ turnaround, considering the defense gave up 408 yards and again had trouble getting off the field against an elite opponent. Yet USC repeatedly has done enough to win, and the Trojans are playoff-worthy if Friday and the numbers work out for them.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: A mid-tier bowl game.

USC: A quick trip to Las Vegas on Friday to play for the Trojans’ second conference title in 14 seasons.

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Source: https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-california-notre-dame-fighting-irish-heisman-trophy-25776334c4e52e9fad4b18866cd8b271

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LeBron’s off-court legacy complements his basketball success

Mya Smiley is a student at the University of Akron thanks to an assist from LeBron James, and she is determined upon graduation to become a social worker that helps foster kids.

Her education and career path would not have been possible, the sophomore says, were it not for a scholarship and counseling that she received from the LeBron James Family Foundation. “He’s life-changing,” Smiley said.

For all his accomplishments on the basketball court — four championships, 19 All-Star Game nominations and an imminent coronation as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer — it is James’ ambitious pursuits off-the-court that may ultimately distinguish his legacy from other superstar athletes’.

James co-founded a successful media and entertainment company, bought stakes in storied professional baseball and soccer franchises and, with a big assist from product endorsements, his net worth is estimated to have grown above $1 billion. The off-court achievement that James is most proud of, he says, is working to uplift the lives of people like Smiley in his hometown of Akron.

Many athletes have excelled in one or more of these areas. But few have done all of them as well as James, who is closing in on passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s career scoring record.

“His goal, I believe, is to have 10% of his wealth go to causes and support communities, which is an amazing goal,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sports management at George Washington University. “I would say he’s maybe above and beyond others, just on that aspiration alone.”

James is, by any measure, an overwhelming success. And he makes Smiley — one of the many people in Akron who have received financial support from his foundation — believe that she can be a success as well.

“If I did not have the LeBron program, I probably wouldn’t have ever gone to college. I would be living in a not-so-positive environment,” said the 19-year-old Smiley.

“His ability to help people’s futures,” she added, “is what makes LeBron a great person.”

James, who entered the NBA straight after high school in 2003, planned early on to use his talents, fame — and, yes, his growing financial resources — to have on impact on the world beyond basketball.

“Even before I got into the NBA, I knew I wanted to find a way to give back to my community,” said James. Although James bounced from home to home during his childhood, and experienced financial insecurity for many of those years, he also was given enormous support from friends, neighbors and educators.

The LeBron James Family Foundation, founded in 2004, at first gained local attention by giving away bikes and backpacks. Then it began looking at after-school programs, with students scattered across several dozen schools, and eventually created a public school currently serving about 575 third through eighth graders. Today the school includes a family resource center that provides a wide-range of services to parents, including mental health, financial literacy, legal aid and GED courses.

Just down the street from the school, the foundation provides rent-free housing to as many as 16 different families — when needed — and it has plans to build 50 units of affordable housing.

“I couldn’t have guessed how much it would grow,” James said in late January. “But we got here by listening and responding to our community and what they need.”

James has made over $400 million in NBA salary during his time with Cleveland, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers. Another $100 million is on the way in the next 2-1/2 years or so.

James is a pitchman for Nike, GMC, AT&T and many more multinational companies. He owns a piece of the Boston Red Sox and Britain’s Liverpool football club. His entertainment company, SpringHill — named after the modest apartment complex he grew up in — is valued at $725 million and has produced movies for HBO and Netflix.

“He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids with lesser opportunity and haven’t had the same advantages as others,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said in 2018, a sentiment he’s repeated many times since. “They see in this guy somebody who has consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace and gives them a voice and lets them know that you can speak about anything.”

James puts so much focus on giving back to Akron because of the help people there gave to him and his family. “He’s never lost sight of that,” said Michele Campbell, the executive director of James’ foundation. “I think that keeps him grounded.”

Just how down to earth “King James” really was got called into question in 2010. That’s when he went on television to announce that he was leaving Cleveland to play in Miami. Billed as “The Decision” — and broadcast on ESPN — the live event was widely ripped as egotistical. But from James’ perspective, the broadcast raised around $4 million for charity, a fact was largely overlooked.

Just a couple of years later, James would use his star power to help draw attention to a cause bigger than himself.

In the aftermath of the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin — a Black Florida teen who was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer — James tweeted a photo of Heat players wearing hoodies and bowing their heads that included the hashtag “WeWantJustice.”

In 2020, James helped lead the “More Than A Vote” movement, which included registration and early-vote drives and stressed the need for people — particularly Black voters — to get to the polls to fight disenfranchisement.

Also in 2020, in the aftermath of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, James was one of the players calling for an end to racial inequality and police brutality.

“Everything I do,” James said late last year, “has to have a purpose.”

James has all the money and all the fame that he ever wanted or needed. His NBA records, including the scoring title, are going to last for a very long time.

As will his off-court endeavors.

“His ability to help others and put others first is what makes him a great person,” Smiley said. “Not the baskets he shot.”

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Kyrgios pleads guilty to assault, has no conviction recorded

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Nick Kyrgios had suffered severe depression, suicidal ideation and insomnia in the past, a psychologist told a court on Friday when the Australian tennis star pleaded guilty to pushing a former girlfriend to the ground two years ago.

The 2022 Wimbledon runner-up pleaded guilty in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court to assaulting Chiara Passari during an argument in his hometown of Canberra in January 2021.

Magistrate Jane Campbell didn’t record a conviction against Kyrgios for reasons including that the offense was at the low end of seriousness for a common assault, and was not premeditated.

Campbell described it as an act of “stupidity” and “frustration.”

Kyrgios, who was using crutches following recent surgery on his left knee, didn’t speak to reporters as he left court but issued a statement through a management company.

“I respect today’s ruling and am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” Kyrgios said. “I was not in a good place when this took place and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.

“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I’ve found that getting help and working on myself has helped me to feel better and to be better.”

Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, said in a written report and testimony by phone that Kyrgios had suffered major depressive episodes in the past and had used alcohol and drugs to cope. Kyrgios’ mental health led to impulsive and reckless behavior.

His recent knee injury had resulted in mild to moderate symptoms of depression, but his mental health was improving, Borenstein said.

“He’s doing very well,” Borenstein said. “His mental health has improved significantly.”

Lawyers for Kyrgios had sought to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds but the application was unsuccessful.

Kyrgios had been attempting to leave Passari during an argument at 10 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2021, outside her apartment in the inner-Canberra suburb of Kingston. He called an Uber but Passari stood in the way of him closing the front passenger side door. The driver wouldn’t leave with the door open.

Kyrgios eventually pushed Passari’s shoulders backward with open palms, causing her to fall to the pavement and graze her knee, according to agreed facts read to the court.

Passari signed a police statement alleging the assault 11 months later, after her relationship with Kyrgios had ended.

His current partner, Costeen Hatzi, wrote in a character reference that she had no concerns of violence in her relationship. Hatzi was among Kyrgios’ supporters who sat behind him in court.

Kyrgios, wearing a dark suit and using the crutches for support, first spoke in court when the magistrate asked him if he could stand to enter a plea.

Kyrgios replied: “Yep, no worries, Your Honor,” as he rose to plead guilty.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs last year to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last September to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because the knee injury which later required arthroscopic surgery.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Bengals’ Joe Mixon charged with pointing gun at woman

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has been charged in a warrant with pointing a gun at a woman and threatening her, according to court documents.

Mixon faces a misdemeanor charge of aggravated menacing, according to the documents, which were filed Thursday in Hamilton County Municipal Court and obtained by The Associated Press. No attorney is listed for him in court records.

According to the warrant, Mixon pointed the gun at the woman and told her, “You should be popped in the face. I should shoot you, the police (can’t) get me.”

The incident occurred on Jan. 21, the day before the Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills in a divisional-round playoff game.

The 26-year-old Mixon rushed for 814 yards and seven touchdowns this season, his sixth. He also had 60 receptions for 441 yards, both career highs, and two touchdowns.

A second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2017, Mixon has spent his entire career with Cincinnati and rushed for career highs of 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021.

In 2014, when he was 18, Mixon punched a female Oklahoma student in the face, an attack captured on surveillance video. He was suspended from the football team for a year and entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is sufficient evidence for a conviction. He received a deferred sentence and was ordered to perform community service and undergo counseling.

The incident hurt his standing in the draft, with several teams saying they passed on him because of concerns about his character.

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