Rangers ruin Banner Night, edge Hawks 3-2.

Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Klein and Derek Stepan scored in the first period, and the New York Rangers ruined the Blackhawks’s Stanley Cup party with a 3-2 victory over the Hawks on Wednesday on the first night of the NHL season.J.T. Miller had two assists and Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves for New York.Cheered on by a sellout crowd of 22,104, with many dressed in their usual red jerseys, the Blackhawks raised the banner for the franchise’s sixth NHL title during a colorful pregame ceremony. Fluorescent balls bounced around the seats and LED wristbands for the fans provided a synchronized lightshow during player introductions and highlight presentations.All-Star winger Patrick Kane, the subject of a sexual assault investigation in western New York, heard loud cheers when he skated onto the ice for the Cup celebration. Kane has not been charged.Artemi Panarin scored in his first NHL game for the Hawks, who are trying to become the first team to defend the title since the Red Wings in 1997-98. Teuvo Teravainen also scored, and Corey Crawford made 24 stops.The Hawks face the New York Islanders the next two games.

Short handed or not, Bulls beat Bucks in Hoiberg’s Pre-Season opener

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

Jimmy Butler and Doug McDermott scored 23 points each to lead the Bulls to a 105-95 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night, making new coach Fred Hoiberg a winner in his preseason debut. Rashad Vaughn had a team-high 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting. . Miles Plumlee had 12 points for the Bucks. Butler was 7 for 12 from the field in 25 minutes. . McDermott, who was 0 for 5 from the field in the first half, scored all his points in the second half on 8-for-14 shooting. . Nikola Mirotic had 18 points and eight rebounds. Derrick Rose (left orbital fracture) and Pau Gasol (rest)along with Kirk Hinrich,Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy all didn’t play for the Bulls. … Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker, recovering from ACL surgery last December, won’t play in a preseason game until at least next week, according to coach Jason Kidd.
NOTES—Up next: The Bulls face Denver on Thursday in Boulder, Colorado. … Milwaukee hosts Detroit on Saturday.-+

Late Gould 49 yard FG gives Fox his first Bears win over Raiders

-As soon as Jay Cutler threw an interception, it looked like the Bears were about to follow the familiar script.Then he and Robbie Gould rewrote the ending to give the Bears their first win under John Fox.Cutler threw for two touchdowns and redeemed himself following that interception by helping set up a 49-yard field goal by Gould in the closing seconds Sunday, leading the Bears to a 22-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

”It’s a big win,” Cutler said. ”Guys are excited. Coaching staff’s excited. We’ve got a good group in there.”

The Raiders (2-2) grabbed the lead on a field goal by Sebastian Janikowski with just over two minutes remaining set up by an interception by Charles Woodson. He picked off a pass thrown behind Martellus Bennett deep in Oakland territory.But Cutler led the Bears (1-3) from its 20 to the Oakland 32 before Gould nailed the winner in the closing seconds.

”I was really happy to see smiles in there,” Fox said. ”I’m really happy for our fans because we haven’t exactly lit it up here at home in the first two opportunities.”

The Bears shook off two embarrassing losses, including their first shutout since 2002 last week at Seattle, to give Fox his first victory since he was hired in the offseason. The win came at the expense of Oakland coach Jack Del Rio, his defensive coordinator in Carolina and Denver. And it capped a busy week that saw Chicago trade Jared Allen to Carolina.Derek Carr threw for 196 yards as Oakland lost after winning two in a row.

”This was just one of those old-fashion NFL fights,” Carr said. ”Down to the wire. There was no lack of focus, or lack of effort. Nothing that would alarm you.”

In the end, there was the Bears standing tall, finally squeezing out a victory in a season that has been nothing short of dismal.Big things were hardly expected of the Bears after a brutal five-win season that cost former coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery their jobs. They brought in Fox and GM Ryan Pace to turn things around, and this was at least a step.Cutler completed 28 of 43 passes for 281 yards after missing a game because of a strained hamstring. Matt Forte had 91 yards rushing and 64 receiving. Martellus Bennett caught 11 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Marquess Wilson added 80 yards receiving. Eddie Royal caught a touchdown on the game’s opening possession.

”Those are the type of wins that you want to see,” Gould said. ”And usually those type of wins catapult a team and give them a lot of confidence for the next week.”

For Oakland, Carr completed 20 of 33 passes with two touchdowns and an interception.Amari Cooper, tops among NFL rookies in catches and yards receiving, had just four receptions for 49 yards. Latavius Murray, coming off a career-high 139-yard performance at Cleveland last week, ran for 49 yards. He had a hand in two turnovers, fumbling a pitch and juggling a pass into Pernell McPhee’s arms for an interception. And he got benched toward the end of the game.Cutler completed 14 of 19 passes for 170 yards and two TDs in the first half, and McPhee set up Gould’s late field goal that made it 16-14 with his first career interception.Even though he felt better during the week, Cutler wasn’t sure he would be ready to play until he warmed up. He said the hamstring limited his mobility, but he still looked sharp, particularly in the early going. And he delivered in the end.

”It’s hard to play an instinctual game and then move and have to realize we can’t exactly do that,” he said. ”On the last drive there I was moving to the right and wasn’t going to go very far so I decided to get down. I tried to save a little time and keep moving. It was a little back and forth throughout the game. I just tried to manage it.”

NOTES–Janikowski matched Hall of Famer Tim Brown’s club record by playing in his 240th game. … The Bears lost C Will Montgomery to a broken leg on the opening possession. Matt Slauson then moved from left guard to center. … S Antrel Rolle injured his right ankle making a tackle early in the third quarter when a teammate hit him and left the game.

Mistake ridden ND tastes first defeat, 24-22 to Clemson.

CLEMSON—Clemson coach Dabo Swinney learned plenty about his 12th-ranked Tigers on Saturday night, qualities he believes make them hard to beat.Deshaun Watson threw two touchdown passes, ran for a third score and 12th-ranked Clemson withstood No. 6 Notre Dame’s second-half rally for a 24-22 victory.

”This is what it’s all about,” Swinney said. ”It ain’t always perfect. I told them, `Listen, we give you scholarships, we give you stipends and meals, we give you nice uniforms and a place to live. I can’t give you guts. I can’t give you heart.’ … Tonight it was BYOG, bring your own guts. They brought some guts and some heart and they never quit until the last play.”

It took until almost the final play to secure the win, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins stopping Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer on what would’ve been a tying 2-point conversion with 7 seconds left.

”It’s was man versus man, heart versus heart. And he got there. I didn’t lower my shoulder the way I should,” said Kizer, who threw two touchdowns passes and had a scoring run in Notre Dame’s second-half rally.

The Irish (4-1) had four turnovers, all in the second half. Linebacker B.J. Goodson had an interception and a fumble recovery to choke off two Notre Dame chances in the last 7 minutes. Still, the Irish were a play away from overtime – and keeping alive their undefeated season.

”They say the luck of the Irish,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. ”We had some luck, too.”

Like kicker Ammon Lakip getting a helmet on the ball on the second-half kickoff, forcing C.J. Sanders to fumble. Moments later, Watson was in the end zone after a 21-yard run for a 21-3 lead.On Notre Dame’s next series, sure-handed runner C.J. Prosise fumbled with the ball bouncing out to where only Clemson safety Jayron Kearse could recover.

”If you told me we were going to turn the ball over four times, I was going to tell you we would lose,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ”It doesn’t take a genius (to know) we turned the ball over four times and lost.

Kizer rallied Notre Dame from 21-3 down in the second half with two touchdown passes, the last a 1-yard toss to Torii Hunter Jr.Clemson secured the Notre Dame’s onside kick and closed out the victory, moving to 4-0 for fourth time in five years. It also kept Clemson in the mix for the four-team playoff. The Tigers biggest hurdle appears to be against No. 11 Florida State on Nov. 7, which will likely decide the ACC’s Atlantic Division.The Tigers are thinking about much more.

”We’ve got our eyes on the prize,” cornerback MacKensie Alexander said.

Waterlogged Clemson fans rushed the field when time ran out, celebrating the win over the highest-ranked Tigers opponent since No. 5 Georgia to start the 2013 season. Those title dreams died a few weeks later when undefeated Clemson was stomped by eventual national champion Florida State, which put up the most points ever scored by an opponent in Death Valley in a 51-14 loss.Another loss was surely on many minds as Clemson saw its 18-point lead sliced to two after Hunter’s TD catch.This time, though, the defense held strong.Watson accounted for 190 yards, 93 of those coming on the ground. He had a 21-yard TD run early in third quarter to put the Tigers up 21-3. That’s when Notre Dame’s defense rose up to give its offense a chance to come back.Kizer had a 56-yard scoring pass to C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame’s eighth play this season of at least 50 yards. The Irish closed to 24-16 on Kizer’s 3-yard scoring run to set up the wild final moments.Clemson struck quickly in Notre Dame’s first visit to Death Valley since 1977, with Watson running for 38 yards on the game’s first play. Watson found Leggett moments later for a 6-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.Clemson kept the pressure on its next series. Watson connected with Hunter Renfrow for a 24-yard pass inside Notre Dame’s 20, before finding Scott for a 13-yard TD and a 14-0 lead as the stunned Irish looked at each other as they headed to the sidelines.The Irish’s only points of the half came on a 46-yard field goal by Justin Yoon.The rainstorm that saturated much of the East Coast was a focus of the week. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – a Clemson graduate whose picture is on one of the Tigers’ offensive play-call signs – told fans to stay home unless they had to attend. The stands, though, were filled with orange ponchos and raincoats as the rain fell.

NU 5-0 after shutting down Minnesota 27-0

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

EVANSTON—Pat Fitzgerald recently challenged his Northwestern defense to have more fun, celebrating the role the dominating unit has played in the Wildcats success this season.His players appear to have gotten the message.Northwestern turned in another impressive performance and Clayton Thorson scored two touchdowns and Justin Jackson ran for 120 yards as the No. 16 Wildcats shut out Minnesota 27-0 on Saturday.The defense has allowed only three touchdowns in five games, and limited Minnesota to only 173 yards and shutting down the Gophers on all four of their fourth down conversion attempts.While confidence has continued to grow for the defense over the first month of the season, beginning Big Ten play with a shutout proved to be a big step for Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten). ”We made a statement to the whole Big Ten, but there’s seven games left and right now, this is just one step,” Northwestern senior defensive end Dean Lowry said. Defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster forced a fumble by Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner that linebacker Anthony Walker returned 13 yards for a touchdown that gave the Wildcats a 27-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.Minnesota (3-2, 0-1) turned the ball over twice and struggled to build any rhythm offensively. The Golden Gophers punted seven times, unable to get either the run or pass game going. ”They don’t make mistakes, they do their job,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. ”They did their job today. They played harder than we did.” That made life easy for Thorson – Northwestern’s redshirt freshman quarterback who scored on runs of 5 yards and 1 yard.Thorson’s 1-yard touchdown run gave the Wildcats a 20-0 lead after Minnesota failed on fourth down deep in Northwestern territory. A Jackson 31-yard run helped set up the short scoring run.Kicker Jack Mitchell gave NU a 13-0 lead with a 23-yard field goal with 6:13 remaining in the third quarter. The kick came after a 32-yard, one-handed diving touchdown catch by Solomon Vault was overturned on review. Officials incorrectly determined the ball hit the ground while Vault was tumbling to the ground.It was many awful calls by Officials and replay decision makers.Instead, Mitchell’s field goal finished off a 19-play, 69-yard drive that ate up the first 8:47 of the second half. During the third quarter, Northwestern had possession of the ball for 11 minutes, 26 seconds. ”To chew up that amount of time with (Minnesota) having the wind was critically important for second-half success,” Fitzgerald said. Northwestern led 10-0 at halftime. Thorson scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:36 remaining in the half. Miles Schuler set up the score with a 55-yard punt return, giving the Wildcats the ball at the Minnesota 5.Thorson also passed for 128 yards, connecting on 14 of 19 attempts.Mitchell gave Northwestern with a 3-0 lead midway through the second quarter.Leidner completed 10 of 21 passes while the Gophers running game – led by Shannon Brooks’ 33 yards – covered only 74 yards.

Late Lunt to Allison TD carries Illini past Nebraska

Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

CHAMPAIGN—Wes Lunt hit Geronimo Allison with a 1-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left in the game to lead Illinois past Nebraska on Saturday, 14-13.Illinois (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) trailed by 10 at the half and never led until placekicker Taylor Zalewski, who missed two first-half field goals, converted the extra point.Lunt finished the day 23-45 for 251 yards and two touchdowns, the first a 22-yarder to Marchie Murdock early in the final quarter.Allison caught eight passes for 91 yards and the winning touchdown.Nebraska (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) led 10-0 at the half.Backup Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo led the Cornhuskers with 70 yards on seven carries and a touchdown.The win was Illinois’ first against Nebraska since 1924.Illinois’ defense kept the Illini the game.Nebraska managed just 292 total yards. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. finished the day 10-31 for 105 yards and an interception.And the Illinois defense stopped the Cornhuskers on a fourth-and-7 at the Illini 27 yard-line with 51 seconds to play, giving Lunt one last shot.The junior led Illinois up the field and to the Nebraska 7. On three straight plays, Lunt went to Allison on the right side of the Nebraska end zone. Twice Allison caught the ball out of bounds.But twice Nebraska defensive backs also interfered with Allison, moving the ball to the 1.Then Lunt finally found his target, hitting the senior receiver low and just inside the end zone.Allison, on his knees, raised his arms and looked to the sky. On the sideline, Lunt ran straight into a hug from interim coach Bill Cubit.The celebration appeared to be as much relief as anything.For much of the first half, the upper hand was there for Illinois to take.The Cornhuskers stumbled to three three-and-outs to and a fumbled punt on their first four possessions.The Illini could move the ball, but only until they neared the end zone.Three trips into the Nebraska red zone produced the two missed field goals, from 51 and 41 yards, and a failed fourth-down attempt at the Cornhusker 13. And the half’s final play ended with Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 48-yard run to the Nebraska 12, putting a fourth empty trip inside the Husker 20 yard-line on the stat sheet.In the meantime, Nebraska found a way to scratch out 10 first-half points.Ozigbo rumbled 19 yards around the right side of Illinois’ defense with 12:35 left in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.Then, late in the quarter, Armstrong hit Cethan Carter for a 55-yard pass down the right sideline that set up a 39-yard Drew Brown field goal. With 11 seconds to play, Nebraska was up 10-0.

NIU falls to CMU who dominated second half.

Northern Illinois Huskies (2001 - Pres)

MOUNT PLEASANT—Cooper Rush threw two touchdown passes and Brian Eavey kicked three field goals Saturday to help Central Michigan overtake Northern Illinois for a 29-19 win in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.Trailing 10-3 at the half, Central Michigan (2-3) tied it up early in the third quarter with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Rush to Jesse Kroll, who later hauled in a 23-yard TD strike as well. Jahray Hayes punched in a touchdown from the 4 to extend the lead and Eavey padded it in the fourth quarter with his third field goal of the game, a 41-yarder.Rush, who had been averaging 317 yards per game, completed 16 of 31 passes for 182 yards and an interception.Northern Illinois (2-3), the defending league champion, got two touchdowns from Joel Bouagnon, who finished with 104 yards on 26 carries.

Hawks send Dano to Rockford, waive Bickell

The Blackhawks made two surprising roster moves on Friday morning when they placed veteran forward Bryan Bickell on waivers and sent Marko Dano to Rockford of the American Hockey League.Let’s start with Bickell, because his contract has been a thorn in the Blackhawks’ side pretty much since the moment it was signed. Following an incredible postseason performance during their 2013 Stanley Cup run where Bickell scored nine goals and eight assists in 23 playoff games, the Blackhawks signed him to a four-year, $16 million contract extension, presumably with the hope that he would continue to score goals and serve as a power forward.The problem: Other than that brief surge in the postseason he had never really been a scoring threat and the cap-strapped Blackhawks were basically paying $4 million per year for a banger and grinder. Given all of the moves the Blackhawks have had to make this offseason to get under the cap, including the trade of young star Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets, that turned out to be an expensive mistake.General manager Stan Bowman attempted to move Bickell repeatedly over the summer (one recent rumor involved the Edmonton Oilers and defenseman Nikita Nikitin) but were unable to complete anything, almost certainly because of the money that he is still owed over the next two years. It is likely that he will pass through waivers unclaimed.If the Blackhawks send him to the minors it will only save them $925,000 in cap space, via General Fanager.The other big move Friday was the decision to send Dano to Rockford to start the season. That one is a pretty significant development because Dano was one of the key pieces the Blackhawks received when they traded Saad to the Blue Jackets over the summer.Still only 20 years old, Dano is coming off of a promising debut season in the NHL that saw him record 21 points in 35 games and then follow it up with what was a pretty promising training camp and preseason performance for the Blackhawks. Given his skill and dirt cheap contract it was expected that he would have some sort of role on this season’s team. And he still might in the very near future. It just seems that it won’t happen at the start of the season.

The Chicago Blackhawks placed Bryan Bickell on waivers on Friday. (USATSI)
The Chicago Blackhawks placed Bryan Bickell on waivers on Friday. (USATSI)


AFC GAMES: NY Jets over MIA, INDY over Jax, CIN over K.City, SD over Cleve
NFC GAMES: Phila over WASH, Carolina over TB, ARIZ over St.Louis
INT CONF GAMES: ATL over Houst, BUFF over NY Giants
NFC NORTH GAMES: Mon Night,SEAT over DET, DENV over Minn, G.Bay over SF & Oak over BEARS
Home teams in ALL CAPS, Byes this week: Tenn & N.Eng
Last week: Les 12-4, Producers 13-3. Total through 3 weeks: Les 30-18, Producers: 19-19

Bears blanked by Seahawks, now 0-3

SEATTLE—After the Seahawks sleepwalked for a half, Tyler Lockett provided a jolt.From there Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham and a defense that was whole again after the return of safety Kam Chancellor took over.Lockett returned the second-half kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, Wilson and Graham connected on a 30-yard TD in the third quarter, and the Seahawks routed the undermanned Bears 26-0 on Sunday.Seattle led just 6-0 at halftime after an offensive performance that led to a cascade of boos. That changed when Lockett started a huge second half running untouched on a perfectly executed return, the longest in franchise history.It was Lockett’s second touchdown return of the season, taking a punt back 57 yards in the opener.

”We know we have a great weapon in him and we just hope we’ll continue to find ways to spring him and be a factor,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

Later in the quarter, Wilson found Graham across the middle for his second touchdown catch of the season and Steven Hauschka added four field goals as the Seahawks started the process of erasing an 0-2 start.Not all went well for Seattle. Starting running back Marshawn Lynch capped a strange day by leaving at halftime with a hamstring injury. Lynch finished with 14 yards on five carries and spent half of the first quarter in the locker room before coming to the Seahawks bench. Lynch was questionable entering the game with a calf injury.

Carroll said Lynch could not get loose before the game, but tried to play. The hamstring was checked and ”it’s nothing to be alarmed by,” Carroll said.

Starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane also suffered a groin injury in the first quarter and did not return. There was no update on Mebane’s prognosis.Bears (0-3) was shut out for the first time since 2002 and the fourth time since 1990. Jimmy Clausen started at quarterback in place of Jay Cutler and was 9 of 17 for 63 yards. With sacks included, the Bears finished with 48 net yards passing, the second time since 1990 they finished with less than 50 net yards through the air.The Bears punted on all 10 of its possessions. Matt Forte was held to 74 yards on 20 carries and the Bears finished with just 37 yards in the second half.Only one Bear drive finished in Seattle territory, and the Bears ran just three plays on the Seahawks’ half of the field.

”We didn’t protect real well, we didn’t execute real well in the passing game whether it was routes protection or delivery of the ball,” Chicago coach John Fox said.

Seattle’s offensive line had a forgettable first half. Wilson was sacked twice by a Bear defense that had zero entering the game. Seattle punted three times and failed on all six third-down attempts.That changed in the third quarter. Wilson was 5 of 5 for 110 yards in the quarter and Seattle outgained the Bears 162-24. Seattle finally converted a third-down when Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for 22 yards midway through the period and the Seahawks capped the drive with Graham’s first touchdown at home. Wilson was protected long enough to find Graham coming open across the middle, watching the big tight end step away from Brock Vereen for the TD.

”I’m definitely not the first option there, but it was just a great pitch and catch,” Graham said.

Wilson finished 20 of 30 for 235 yards, while Graham had seven catches for 83 yards a week after getting just one catch. Lynch’s replacement became undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls, who flashed by rushing for 104 yards, 98 in the second half.Even before Lockett’s return, Seattle used a bit of trickery on special teams. Running the same misdirected punt return that St. Louis used against them last season for a touchdown, the Seahawks caught the Bears napping. Instead of Lockett catching the punt near the Bear sideline, it was Richard Sherman catching it on the sideline in front of the Seattle bench and returning it 64 yards to set up Hauschka’s first field goal.

”I think they trusted by ability and my savvy to go out there and execute it during the game,” Sherman said.

NOTES—Seattle’s last shutout was Dec. 15, 2013 at the New York Giants, a 23-0 victory. … Chancellor started at strong safety but was occasionally subbed for backup DeShawn Shead. Chancellor received mostly loud ovations when introduced during pregame. … Last time Bears were shut out was Week 17 of 2002 season, a 15-0 loss to Tampa Bay. … Seahawks set franchise record with crowd of 69,002 made possible through small stadium expansion in offseason.