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OKLAHOMA BEATS ALABAMA 45-31 IN SUGAR BOWL

Friday, 03 January 2014 06:31 Published in Sports

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- In the final year of the BCS, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops won the one major bowl that had eluded him, and proved a point about parity in the process.

After taking the past month to cultivate a young quarterback who was still coming into his own, Stoops brought a confident and motivated Sooners squad to the Sugar Bowl, where they stunned 16-point favorite Alabama 45-31 on Thursday night.

Freshman Trevor Knight completed a Sugar Bowl-record 32 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns for 11th-ranked Oklahoma, outshining Heisman Trophy runner-up AJ McCarron, who saw his otherwise charmed college career come to a sour end with No. 3 Alabama.

The convincing victory also gave Stoops an I-told-you-so moment, backing up his comment last offseason that the gap between the Southeastern Conference and other top leagues like the Big 12 is not as great as some "propaganda" makes it out to be.

"I have the utmost respect for Alabama, and I think this shows that obviously we can play with anybody," Stoops said. "So, enough of that. And I just watched them go through their entire conference and play pretty well. I'm not pointing any fingers. But I think sometimes the comparisons aren't necessarily very true."

Stoops became the first coach to win all four BCS bowl games, having already won the Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls.

Before the game Stoops had provided an element of mystery by declining to say whether he would start Knight or junior Blake Bell, or how much he'd play either one.

Alabama led 7-0 - having scored on the opening drive - before Stoops made his decision know by sending Knight out with the offense for Oklahoma's first series. Knight had played behind Bell much of the season. His completion percentage entering the game was 52.2. He had completed 47 passes all season - before a breakout performance in which two of his TDs went for more than 40 yards.

"It's huge for our program, to get a win like this after no one gave us a chance all year," Knight said. "We've got to ride this into next year. We can't settle with this. ... We want the big one."

Oklahoma (11-2) needed him to play that well in the 80th Sugar Bowl, the first in which quarterbacks for both teams threw for more than 300 yards.

His Big 12 team vanquished an Alabama (11-2) squad that had been ranked No. 1 much of the past three seasons, winning the previous two national titles before its shot at a third straight was derailed by Auburn on the last play of the Iron Bowl in late November.

Coach Nick Saban didn't find his team, favored by 16 points, was too deflated from its loss to Auburn to play up to its standard.

"I actually thought that the players responded in practice pretty well for this game," Saban said. "We put over 500 yards of offense up. Somebody had to do something right. I don't think that we played as well on defense as we're capable of or should have."

McCarron passed for 387 yards and two TDs, but his two interceptions set up Oklahoma TDs. He was also sacked seven times, fumbling on the last one, and Geneo Grissom returned his second recovery of the game 8 yards for a score, sealing Alabama's first two-game skid since its Sugar Bowl loss to Utah in January 2009.

"Put it all on me. I had two turnovers, (Oklahoma) ended up scoring 14 points, and we lost by 14," said McCarron, who won 36 of his first 38 games before losing his last two. "I wish it wouldn't have happened, but I'll definitely take the loss and definitely take the blame, because a lot of it is probably my fault."

Freshman Derrick Henry's 43-yard run in the third quarter pulled Alabama to 31-24. But Alabama was unable to add another score before Knight found his groove again.

He lofted a perfect pass to Lacoltan Bester for a 34-yard gain to the Alabama 9. Shortly after, Knight rolled left all the way to the sideline before rifling a touchdown strike to Sterling Shepard, making it a two-touchdown game again with 10:44 left.

Henry pulled Alabama within a score once more when he turned his first career reception into a tackle-shedding 61-yard TD with 6:22 to go, but Oklahoma didn't fold.

Early on, Alabama looked sharp, leading 7-0 when T.J. Yeldon scored from the 1.

Soon after, Landon Collins intercepted Knight's tipped pass, but Oklahoma got it right back on Gabe Lynn's interception on the next play. One play later, Knight found Bester for a 45-yard score.

Jalen Saunders first TD reception from 8 yards out gave Oklahoma a 14-10 lead, but McCarron's 67-yard TD to DeAndrew White gave the Tide the lead right back.

With the game tied at 17, Alabama appeared on the verge of another go-ahead score when Yeldon fumbled on the 8. Instead, Oklahoma took the lead for good when Knight hit Saunders in stride down the right sideline for a 43-yard score.

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Blues blank Kings 5-0

Thursday, 02 January 2014 22:57 Published in Sports
 
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- T.J. Oshie scored twice and Brian Elliott made 30 saves to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
 
St. Louis has won four in a row and six of seven.
 
Los Angeles lost a season-high fifth successive game. The Kings' previous five-game losing streak came Dec. 3-13, 2011.
 
Oshie scored twice in a 91-second span in the second period to push the lead to 3-0. After his second tally, the standing-room only crowd of 19,839 broke into chants of, "USA, USA," in honor of Oshie's selection to the United States Olympic team Wednesday.
 
It was the first two-goal game of the season for Oshie.
 
Elliott, who improved to 11-1-2, picked up his third shutout of the season and 24th of his career. He stopped 13 shots in the opening period, including a pad save on Jarret Stoll.
 
Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Tarasenko and Barret Jackman also scored for St. Louis.
 
Morrow scored just 4:42 into the game to give the Blues to a 1-0 lead. Kevin Shattenkirk, another Olympic team selection, missed on a long shot, but Morrow pounced on the rebound at the side of the net and banked it in off goalie Martin Jones.
 
Oshie scored on the power play at 11:41 of the second off the rebound of a shot by Jaden Schwartz. Less than two minutes later, Oshie whipped a shot behind replacement Ben Scrivens.
 
Jones, who fell to 8-3, gave up two goals on 14 shots and was pulled after Oshie's first tally.
 
The Kings had won 15 of the previous 18 games between the teams including postseason play.
 
Los Angeles won four successive games after falling behind 2-0 in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs last season and also swept the Blues in four games in the 2012 conference semifinals.
 
Notes: St. Louis RW Ryan Reaves returned to the lineup after missing 17 games with a broken hand. ... The Kings have outscored their opponents by 15 goals in the first period this season. ... St. Louis G Jaroslav Halak missed the game due to the flu. He is listed day to day. Jake Allen was recalled from the Chicago Wolves of the AHL to serve as backup. ... St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock recorded his 100th regular-season win with the Blues. ... Jones lost his third in a row after a franchise-record 8-0 start to his career. ... St. Louis RW David Backes, the third St. Louis player chosen to the Olympic team, missed his third successive game with an upper-body injury.

LEGAL WEED SALES BRING LONG LINES TO COLORADO

Thursday, 02 January 2014 11:32 Published in National News

DENVER (AP) — Long lines and blustery winter weather greeted Colorado marijuana shoppers testing the nation's first legal recreational pot shops Wednesday.

It was hard to tell from talking to the shoppers, however, that they had waited hours in snow and frigid wind.

"It's a huge deal for me," said Andre Barr, a 34-year-old deliveryman who drove from Niles, Mich., to be part of the legal weed experiment. "This wait is nothing."

The world was watching as Colorado unveiled the modern world's first fully legal marijuana industry — no doctor's note required (as in 18 states and Washington, D.C.) and no unregulated production of the drug (as in the Netherlands). Uruguay has fully legalized pot but hasn't yet set up its system.

Colorado had 24 shops open Wednesday, most of them in Denver, and aside from long lines and sporadic reports of shoppers cited for smoking pot in public, there were few problems.

"Everything's gone pretty smoothly," said Barbara Brohl, Colorado's top marijuana regulator as head of the Department of Revenue.

The agency sent its new marijuana inspectors to recreational shops to monitor sales and make sure sellers understood the state's new marijuana-tracking inventory system meant to keep legal pot out of the black market.

Denver International Airport erected signs warning travelers that they could not take marijuana home with them.

Keeping pot within Colorado's regulated system and within the state's borders are among requirements the U.S. Department of Justice has laid out to avoid a clampdown under federal law, which still outlaws the drug.

The other state that has legalizes recreational pot, Washington, will face the same restrictions when its retail shops start operating, expected by late spring.

The states' retail experiments are crucial tests of whether marijuana can be sold like alcohol, kept from children and highly taxed, or whether pot proves too harmful to public health and safety for legalization experiments to expand elsewhere.

"This feels like freedom at last," said Amy Reynolds, owner of two Colorado Springs medical pot shops. Reynolds came to Denver to toast the dawn of pot sales for recreational use. "It's a plant, it's harmless, and now anyone over 21 can buy it if they want to. Beautiful."

Marijuana skeptics, of course, watched in alarm. They warned that the celebratory vibe in Colorado masked dangerous consequences. Wider marijuana availability, they say, would lead to greater illegal use by youth, and possibly more traffic accidents and addiction problems.

"It's not just a benign recreational drug that we don't have to worry about," said Dr. Paula Riggs, head of the Division of Substance Dependence at the University of Colorado-Denver medical campus.

The only problems reported Wednesday, though, were long lines and high prices. Some shops raised prices or reduced purchasing limits as the day went on. One pot shop closed early because of tight supply. Some shoppers complained they were paying three times more than they were used to.

Colorado has no statewide pricing structure, and by midafternoon, one dispensary was charging $70 for one-eighth of an ounce of high-quality pot. Medical marijuana patients just a day earlier paid as little as $25 for the same amount.

Medical pot users worried they'd be priced out of the market. Colorado's recreational pot inventory came entirely from the drug's supply for medical uses.

"We hope that the focus on recreational doesn't take the focus away from patients who really need this medicine," said Laura Kriho of the patient advocacy group Cannabis Therapy Institute.

Colorado has hundreds of pending applications for recreational pot retailers, growers and processors. So it's too soon to say how prices would change more people enter the business, increasing supply and competition.

Shoppers waiting in line Wednesday didn't seem fazed by the wait, the prices, or the state and local taxes that totaled more than 25 percent.

"This is quality stuff in a real store. Not the Mexican brick weed we're used to back in Ohio," said Brandon Harris, who drove from Blanchester, Ohio.

 

 

 

Kristen Wyatt can be reached athttp://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt .

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