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December 8, 2016

Next Three Weeks Big For Cowboys and Saints Playoffs

By bryanflynn

As of this moment, the only team in the NFL playoffs is the Dallas Cowboys. Since its opening-week loss, Dallas has reeled off 11 straight wins.

The Cowboys get a chance to avenge their only loss of the season to the New York Giants this Sunday. More than just revenge at stake for the Cowboys.

A victory over their hated rival isn’t the only thing on the line in this game. A Cowboys win would lock up the NFC East title for the club and put a strangle-hold on home-field advantage.

New York, on the other hand, can keep Dallas from winning the division and help its playoff hopes. The Pittsburgh Steelers overwhelmed the Giants last week and have both the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles hot on their tails.

Dallas can wrap up home-field advantage with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the next week on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys can then use the last two weeks of the season to let banged up players rest.

It would take a massive fall from the Cowboys to lose the division and home field, but massive falls have happened before in the NFL. Dallas ends the season with games against the Detroit Lions and the Eagles.

Every team the Cowboys play in the final four weeks of the season are still in the hunt for the playoffs. That means locking up division and home field will become more important each week.

On the other hand, the New Orleans Saints burned all their margin for error in a loss to the Lions. Detroit helped its playoff hopes and put the Saints in must-win mode for the last four weeks of the season.

New Orleans gets another chance to help its playoff hopes, as the team plays Tampa Bay in two of the next three weeks. A road game against the Arizona Cardinals is mixed between the two meetings against the Buccaneers.

Few teams have been as hot as Tampa Bay the last four weeks. Since losing to the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 3, the Buccaneers have won four straight games and tied for the NFC South lead.

If the Saints are going to make the playoffs, they are going to have to earn it. The team must beat Tampa Bay twice and then Arizona and Atlanta just to have a chance to get in the postseason.

Every team in the NFC is still alive for the playoff except for the San Francisco 49ers. Pretty much every game in the NFC will matter as far as playoff hopes go over the next four weeks.

The next three weeks, however, are huge for the Cowboys and Saints but for different reasons. Dallas becomes the top team in the NFC, and the Saints can end up playing for something in the final week of the season if both just win.

December 8, 2016

Variety Says Trump to Remain Executive Producer of Celebrity Apprentice

By Todd Stauffer

In today's edition of "lowering the optics of the American Presidency," Variety is reporting that President Elect Donald Trump will keep a credit on Celebrity Apprentice, despite the "cutting of ties" that the show's network, NBC, made with Trump after comments he made about Mexican immigrants in 2015.

December 7, 2016

All Conference Players at Miss Universities

By bryanflynn

Now that the college-football regular season has ended, conferences are beginning to honor players that stood out. Millsaps College, Delta State University, Mississippi College, Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi have released the names of players who received conference recognition.

In the Southeastern Conference, the Rebels and the Bulldogs were featured lightly. MSU wide receiver Fred Ross was named second-team All-SEC, and he is the only Bulldog to make the first or second team.

Rebels tight end Evan Engram made school history when he became the first player in school history to be named All-SEC four times. Engram earned first-team All-SEC in 2014 and 2016 and second-team All-SEC in 2013 and 2015.

Injured UM quarterback Chad Kelly earned second-team All-SEC. Kicker Gary Wunderlich joined him on the second-team. Kelly, Engram and Ross all were invited to play in the 2017 Senior Bowl, but Kelly won’t play due to his injury.

Twelve players from Southern Miss earned some type of All-Conference USA honors.

Offensive lineman Cameron Tom, defensive lineman Dylan Bradley and defensive back D’Nerius Antoine were named first-team All-CUSA. Running back Ito Smith and kicker Parker Shaunfield earned second-team All-CUSA honors.

CSUA named quarterback Nick Mullens, tight end Julian Allen and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers to honorable mention for offense. Defensive lineman Xavier Thigpen, linebacker Elijah Parker and punter Tyler Sarrazin earned defensive and special team honorable mentions.

Offensive lineman Ty Pollard earned C-USA first-team All-Freshman team.

Players from Delta State and MC earned recognition in the Gulf South Conference. Running back Chris Robinson of DSU and wide receiver Marcel Newsom of MC were named first-team GSC offense. Newsom earned first-team special team honors as a return specialist.

Statesmen offensive tackle George Roberts and linebacker Larry Tullo were named to the second-team All-GSU on offense and defense. Choctaws punter Matthew Turcotte earned second-team All-GSU honors on special teams.

Millsaps garnered several players on the Southern Athletic Association’s end-of-season honors. Offensive lineman Austin Harris, linebacker Hector Sandoval and defensive back Jared Bullock earned first-team All-SAA on offense and defense.

Wide receiver Rashad Sims was the only player the Majors placed on the second-team All-SAA squad. Running back Taz Watson, offensive lineman Bryan Pitman, defensive lineman Jacob Kendall, and defensive backs Benton Brown, Tyrone Howard and Chandler Loy received honorable mention All-SAA.

The SWAC and the American Southwest Conference still haven’t released the names of players who earned all-conference honors.

December 7, 2016

Lieutenant Governor Tourism Meet-Up

By adreher

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves met with Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, both Republicans, in Cleveland, Miss., today to talk tourism.

The lieutenant governors met with members of the Mississippi Tourism Association to discuss tourism possibilities in the area and between the two states. The Delta Regional Authority is working with both Louisiana and Mississippi to promote the Mississippi River Geotourism Project, which will work on making the Delta a tourist attraction as well as create a website in coordination with National Geographic to to help tell the story of the longest river in North America.

Reeves and Nungesser toured the Grammy Museum while in Cleveland, one of the area's newest tourist attractions. The museum opened in March 2016, and it features not only exhibits but also a theater. Both lieutenant governors also praised development around the museum, including construction of the new Lyric Hotel in Cleveland, which will be a luxury hotel featuring a four-star restaurant, special event venue and spa.

“Our two states share a deep connection in so many areas, whether its food, music, history or a love of the outdoor sports,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said in a press release. “Through tourism, we can highlight the contributions of our talented citizens to these areas and grow the economies in our towns.”

December 6, 2016

MSU Women’s Basketball Makes History

By bryanflynn

The Mississippi State women’s basketball team began the season ranked No. 10 in the nation in the Associated Press poll and No. 11 in the USA Today Coaches poll. Since the preseason rankings were released, MSU has steadily climbed in the poll with each win.

In week two of the season, the Bulldogs stayed at No. 10 in the AP poll but moved from No. 11 to No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches poll. MSU leaped to No. 7 in both polls after beating the University of Texas 79-68.

MSU outscored Texas 26-9 in the second quarter, taking control of a game where the first quarter ended with a 16-16 tie. The Bulldogs kept pace with the No. 8 ranked Longhorns for the rest of the game, but Texas outscored MSU in the second half.

That explosion in the second quarter allowed the Bulldogs to cruise to a win and up the polls. Week four of the polls saw the Bulldogs move up to No. 6 in the nation.

It looked like that ranking might take a major hit in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which saw MSU traveled to the University of Iowa.

At halftime the sixth ranked Bulldogs were down 17 to the Hawkeyes at 43-26 and in danger of losing for the first time this season. In the second half, MSU slowly chipped away at Iowa’s lead and tightened up on defense.

The Hawkeyes were still up by 15 at the end of the third quarter even though MSU made a couple of runs in the quarter. MSU trailed by eight with three minutes left in the fourth quarter but wasn’t about let its perfect season end.

A three-pointer with 36 seconds left in the game allowed the Bulldogs to force overtime. MSU outscored Iowa 14-10 in overtime, completing the comeback victory.

MSU’s win snapped Iowa’s 96-game nonconference home winning streak and was the first time since 2012 that the Bulldogs won a game after trailing by 10 or more points at halftime. The overtime win propelled MSU to No. 5 in the country in the latest AP poll.

The Bulldogs made history by being ranked No. 5 in the nation. It’s the highest ranking the team ever achieved in program history and marks the 41st week that MSU is featured in the rankings.

The Bulldogs have three players that are averaging double-digits: Junior guard Victoria Vivians leads the way with a 14.6 points per game average; junior guard Morgan William is second with a 11.9 points per game; and junior guard Roshunda Johnson is third at 10.4 points per game.

After the comeback victory over Iowa, MSU moved to 8-0 on the season and rose up in the polls. In front of the Bulldogs are women’s basketball powerhouses, University of Connecticut at No. 1, University of Notre Dame at No. 2, Baylor University at ...

December 6, 2016

College Football Bowl and Playoff Thoughts

By bryanflynn

The College Football Playoff matchups are set, and there is little argument that the four best teams made it in the playoffs. The University of Alabama, Clemson University, Ohio State University and the University of Washington are the four teams playing for the championship.

There really aren’t any teams that can complain about being left out of the playoffs. If someone wanted to, he or she could make a small argument for Pennsylvania State University, the University of Michigan and the University of Oklahoma.

Personally, I have always favored an eight-team playoff. That means all the teams above would be in, and the University of Wisconsin or the University of Southern California would be the eighth team.

In most years, an eight-team playoff would include all the conference champions from the Power Five conferences and three at-large teams. It took years just to get to a playoff, and adding teams will take time.

Two schools from our state got bowl bids. Another blog post will break down these two games before the teams play them.

The University of Southern Mississippi received an invite to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and will face the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Mississippi State University, thanks to a high APR score, ended up in the St. Petersburg Bowl against Miami University from Ohio.

USM earned the six wins for a bowl and will play on Dec. 17 in New Orleans. That is a short drive from Hattiesburg, so Southern Miss fans should help fill the Superdome up for this game.

MSU finished the regular season at 5-7 but is still in a bowl game. The Bulldogs will play the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, in sunny Florida. Miami went from 0-6, winning six straight games to make this bowl.

Besides the playoff games and teams from our state, other bowls have good matchups. Here are the games I plan on making time to checkout.

The University of Houston and San Diego State University clash in the Las Vegas Bowl, which Geico will present on Dec. 17. Two Group of Five teams are exciting to watch, but this game loses some luster, as the Cougars head coach has left to take the same job at the University of Texas.

Boise State University will try to take down another Power Five team in Baylor University during the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl on Dec. 27. The Broncos normally play some inspired football against teams from the major conferences, but Baylor floundered down the stretch this year.

On Dec. 28 in the Russell Athletic Bowl, two former Big East teams, the University of West Virginia and the University of Miami in Florida, will battle. Now the Hurricanes are in the ACC, and the Mountaineers are in the Big 12.

Former Big 12 member Texas A&M University faces current Big 12 member Kansas State University. The Aggies are now in the SEC and need to ...

December 6, 2016

Gov. Bryant Announces Opioid and Heroin Abuse Task Force

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant created a task force today to address drug abuse in the state, specifically for the abuse of opioids and heroin.

Opioid abuse is up nationally and has been for the past two decades. Opioids include prescription pain killers, some nervous system depressants and some stimulant drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Gov. Bryant's proclamation claims that Mississippi is one of the leading prescribers for opioids. The governor will appoint voluntary members to the task force, but the proclamation does not specify a date when the task force will meet or for how long.

The Centers for Disease Controls tracks overdose related deaths, and from 2013 to 2014, the state saw a slight increase, from 316 deaths in 2013 to 366 in 2014. That number is not specific to opioid-related overdoses, however.

December 1, 2016

2016 SWAC Championship Game Preview

By bryanflynn

Some people might argue the SWAC championship game took place last week when Grambling State University crushed Southern University 52-30 to win the west division. Both teams entered the contest undefeated in conference play, and the winner earned a spot in the title game Saturday, Dec. 3.

Grambling State ran roughshod over the SWAC this season, winning by an average of 38 points in conference games. The Tigers steamroll of the conference included two shutouts, and they only gave up 21 or more points twice.

Alcorn State University won its final two games of the season against Mississippi Valley State University and Jackson State University to win the east division. The Braves now have three consecutive east titles and are looking to become the first team since Grambling State from 1999-2001 to win three SWAC championships in a row.

In last year’s title game, Alcorn State beat up Grambling State, winning 49-21. ASU set championship records for points (49), rushing yards (411) and total offense (613). The Braves are the only team with multiple championship-game appearances without a loss.

Grambling State is playing in its ninth championship game and owns an 8-2 record in its previous trips. The Tigers are 5-0 against SWAC teams from Alabama but just 1-2 against SWAC teams from Mississippi.

When Alcorn State traveled to Grambling State during the regular season, the Tigers routed the Braves 43-18. GSU rolled up 534 yards total offense with 400 yards coming through the air.

Former University of Mississippi quarterback DeVante Kincade leads GSU on offense. He threw for five touchdowns against the Braves in that regular-season meeting.

Interestingly, both teams scored a safety in that game. Alcorn State held an 8-7 lead in the first quarter before Grambling State recorded a safety in the second quarter and never gave up the lead again.

The championship game will feature a battle between two of the top offenses in the SWAC. Grambling State is first in total offense (507.6 yards per game), scoring offense (44 points per game) and passing offense (300.3 yards per game). The Tigers are also fourth in rushing offense with 207.3 yards per game.

Alcorn State is fourth in scoring offense (31.3 points per game), third in total offense (417.9 yards per game), second in rushing offense (217.8 yards per game) and seventh in passing offense (200.1 yards per game).

It is on defense where Grambling State separates itself from the rest of the conference. The Tigers top in the conference in total defense (allowing 323.6 yards per game), scoring defense (allowing 16.4 points per game) and rushing defense (allowing 120.9 yards per game. GSU is also second in passing defense, giving up just 202.7 yards per game.

ASU is third in total defense (allowing 391.7 yards per game), sixth in scoring defense (allowing 29.2 points per game), third in ...

December 1, 2016

U.S. Justice Dept. Announces (More) Federal Prison Reforms

By adreher

The Department of Justice announced a series of reforms for federal prisons today. Reforms include building a school district within the system and improving the halfway houses that serve as re-entry homes for inmates in the system.

The DOJ also announced plans to improve programs for women in prison and provide inmates that are released with ID cards, free of charge. The reforms are a part of the department's intense focus on lowering recidivism rates across the country and rehabilitating former inmates. Earlier this year, the DOJ announced that they would phase out all contracts they had with private prisons due to the lowering number of inmates in the country as well as not finding real advantage in cost savings or enhanced services with private facilities.

There are two federal prisons in Mississippi: one in Yazoo City, and one in Natchez. The facility in Yazoo City is privately operated and run by the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, whose stocks soared after Donald Trump won the projected electoral college votes on Nov. 8.

President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general could change some of these reforms, and Democrats fear what Sessions' prosecutorial reputation and Trump's promises for "law and order" on the campaign trail could mean for reforms made in the past eight years.

December 1, 2016

Welcome Brian Stauffer to Jackson

By Todd Stauffer

If you're driving around Jackson today, consider tuning in to Mix 98.7 for a special "telethon" program they're doing for Batson Children's Hospital.

And, when you do, listen closely to the new voice you're hearing at that remote alongside Shannon Steele -- that's Brian Stauffer, my (Todd Stauffer's) brother.

Brian's got 20+ years experience in radio, but this is the first time he and I have been in the same town doing media work. I'm excited to have him here and for Jackson to get to know him.

Wish him luck!

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2016/dec/01/27257/

November 30, 2016

Saints Playoff Hopes Can Improve This Weekend

By bryanflynn

This week could end up being extremely fruitful for the New Orleans Saints. If there was ever a week to catch up in the NFC South and the playoff race, it is this week.

At 5-6, New Orleans sits two wins behind the 7-4 Atlanta Falcons, who lead the NFC South, and a game behind the 6-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Atlanta hosts the 8-3 Kansas Chiefs out of the AFC West, and Tampa Bay travels to face the San Diego Chargers, also out of the AFC West.

The Chiefs are solidly in the playoff picture and battling with the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos for the division title. San Diego is still alive in the AFC playoff picture but can’t afford to lose many more games.

If both the Falcons and the Buccaneers lose this weekend, New Orleans would move into a tie with Tampa Bay and end up just a game behind Atlanta. The Saints need to beat the Detroit Lions at home this Sunday, Dec. 4.

New Orleans must gain ground this week on Atlanta. The Falcons, after playing the Chiefs, face the 4-7 Los Angeles Rams, the 1-10 San Francisco 49ers, the 4-7 Carolina Panthers and the Saints to end the season.

Atlanta has a chance to win every game and the division, but if New Orleans can win out and get a little help from another team, the Saints could win the division. There is little room for error, but the Saints could be peaking right now.

New Orleans has played vastly better on defense over the past two months and is getting healthier by the day. The Saints’ offense has been its normal explosive self but needs to cut down on turnovers.

Catching Tampa Bay will be easier for New Orleans. The Buccaneers, after playing the Chargers, face the Saints, the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys, Saints (again) and Carolina.

If New Orleans can sweep the Buccaneers and get some help from, say, the Cowboys, then the Saints would easily pass Tampa Bay. The Saints would need help to get in the wildcard picture, with the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins, the Buccaneers and the Minnesota Vikings ahead of the team.

Dallas could really help New Orleans out with games against the Vikings, Giants, Redskins and Buccaneers, but New Orleans needs to keep winning, as well.

New Orleans just has to win its remaining six games, and the playoffs should be in reach. One loss might not hurt but more than one could end any postseason hopes.

The Saints will have something else to play for this weekend, too. Head coach Sean Payton is tied with Jim Mora for most wins in franchise history. Both coaches have 93 wins, and a victory over the Lions will mean that Payton has the most wins of any head coach in Saints history.

It would seem fitting to reach the ...

November 29, 2016

High-School Football Championships Kick Off

By bryanflynn

The six state championships in Mississippi high-school football will be decided this Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3. This year, teams will play on the campus of Mississippi State University at Davis Wade Stadium.

One of the biggest matchups will be for the 6A championship, with Clinton High School facing Pearl High School on Friday at 7 p.m. This is the second championship game for both schools.

Pearl is making its first appearance in the championship game since 1985 when the team fell to Louisville High School. Clinton returns to the title game for the first time since 2000, which ended in a loss to Moss Point High School.

Starting off the title games Friday will be the 1A championship, which will begin at 11 a.m. and features Lumberton High School against Simmons High School from Hollandale.

Lumberton is making its fifth appearance in the title game and is a perfect four for four in championships. Simmons is the defending champion at the 1A level and is making its third run for the title.

After the 1A game is the 2A game at 3 p.m. featuring Bay Springs High School facing off against Calhoun City High School. Bay Springs is making its third appearance but looking for its first win. Calhoun City is in its 11th title game, the most appearances for any school playing this year, but only has one win to show for all the trips.

Saturday’s games begin at 11 a.m. with the 3A championship between Charleston High School and Kemper County High School out of De Kalb. Kemper County is playing its first title game, and Charleston is making its sixth appearance but has won just one title.

The action continues on Saturday with the 4A title game at 3 p.m. as Poplarville High School faces Lafayette High School from Oxford. This is the first championship-game appearance for Poplarville, but Lafayette is making its fifth title run and has two championships.

Saturday night features the final title game between Laurel High School and West Point High School, kicking off at 7 p.m. Laurel is playing its sixth title game and has three titles, and West Point is playing for its 10th title with seven titles under its belt, the most out of any school making an appearance this year.

The northern teams will be the home squads during these championship games and will be on the sideline with the press box. Attendees can purchase tickets at the gate for $15 and are good for all three games on either Friday or Saturday. Tickets are also available for $14 at any school playing in a championship game.

If you can’t make it to the games, you can still catch them on TV in the Jackson area on MeTV WAPT or channel 16.2 on the digital dial. The games will also be aired in Hattiesburg on WDAM Bounce (7.3); Meridian on WMDN Bounce (24.2); Tupelo ...

November 29, 2016

Egg Bowl Win Earns MSU a Bowl Spot

By bryanflynn

Mississippi State University completely dominated the University of Mississippi in the 2016 Egg Bowl. The Bulldogs’ players ran around and over the Rebels in a 55-20 road win.

MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald set a school record for most rushing yards in a game at any position with 258 rushing yards. The quarterback also broke Dak Prescott’s school record for most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback with 1,243 yards.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 27-10 lead in the first half before the Rebels mounted a comeback. UM cut MSU’s lead to only seven points at the break, but the second half belonged to the Bulldogs, who outscored their main rival 28-0 over the final 30 minutes.

It was a disappointing end to the season for the Rebels. Entering the game, the team could have reached six wins to reach bowl eligibility but instead looked completely outmatched on offense and defense most of the afternoon.

MSU racked up 566 total yards with 457 of those yards coming on the ground. The Bulldogs only threw for 106 yards in the game.

The Rebels had 528 total yards but couldn’t keep pace with MSU on the scoreboard. All the rushing attempts wore out the UM defense and kept the Bulldogs’ defense fresh for the second half to finish off the Rebels.

MSU’s victory gave head coach Dan Mullen five wins in the eight Egg Bowls that he has coached. That is something he can hit the recruiting trail with to sell athletes on coming to play for the Bulldogs.

The Egg Bowl win not only denied the Rebels a bowl game, but it also set the Bulldogs up for a bowl. MSU got plenty of help on the final weekend of the regular season.

There are 80 slots for bowl teams with the first priority going to those with 6-6 records. That means the University of Southern Mississippi will get first shot at a bowl before other teams.

Next is the United States Military Academy and the University of Hawaii. Army currently has a 6-5 record but two wins over FCS teams—only one counts toward bowl eligibility—with a final game against the United State Naval Academy on Dec. 10.

If the Army Black Knights best the Navy Midshipmen, they are bowl eligible with seven wins, but in reality, with its current record, Army is already going bowling because there won’t be enough 6-6 teams. No matter how the Army-Navy game turns out, both teams are going to make a bowl game.

Hawaii is 6-7 and will play in the Hawaii Bowl because the Rainbow Warriors get to play 13 games. This is because it is hard to get teams to travel to Hawaii so they get an extra game.

Either way, Hawaii is bowl eligible, but that still leaves two teams that can get six wins this weekend, which are the University of South ...

November 23, 2016

The Egg Bowl’s Bad Defense

By bryanflynn

The 2016 edition of the Egg Bowl may end up feeling like a Big-12 or Pac-12 game, in that defense might be optional when the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University meet on Saturday, Nov. 26.

Heading into this game, the Rebels are ranked 101st in total defense, and the Bulldogs are slightly worse, at 105th in the nation. MSU gives up 455.2 yards per game, and UM allows 451.7 to opposing offenses.

Those aren’t defensive numbers normally associated with SEC defenses. Poor defense is one reason that the Bulldogs aren’t going to a bowl game and a reason that the Rebels need to win this game to go to a bowl game.

Each team will try to attack the other’s weakness on defense.

MSU will try to use its 33rd-ranked rushing attack against the Rebels 112th-ranked rush defense. The Bulldogs gain 212.8 yards per game on the ground, and UM is giving up 227.2 rushing yards.

UM will brings its passing attack, ranked 12th in the nation, against the 119th-ranked pass defense of the Bulldogs. The Rebels average 314.5 yards in the air, and MSU gives up 279.7 yards to completed passes.

Both defenses will try to take away what the opposing offense does best. That means the Bulldogs want the Rebels to run on offense, and UM wants MSU to pass on offense.

The Rebels allow 224.5 yards per game passing for 60th in the nation. MSU is 74th in the nation in passing, averaging 225.5 yards per game.

UM enters the game with the 104th-ranked rushing attack, which amasses 144.1 yards per game. The Bulldogs bring the 72nd-ranked rush defense, which allows 175.5 yards per game.

Again, neither defense is very good, but they will try to force the opposing offense into what they stink the least at on defense. Either way, both offenses should have big days against these porous defenses.

Stopping each team begins and ends with the quarterback.

The Rebels must force MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to be a passer and not let him break off the long runs that he produces nearly every game. UM must not let the Bulldogs turn their quarterback Shea Patterson into a runner.

Fitzgerald is prone to miss targets in the passing game, but he is great at reading the defense during the rushing attack. Patterson brings Johnny Manziel to mind, as he scrambles to keep plays alive when the rush bears down on him. He also has a strong arm and can read defenses pretty well in limited action.

Barring injuries, this will be the quarterback matchup for the Egg Bowl for two more years since Fitzgerald is a sophomore, and Patterson is a freshman. If Patterson turns out as good as recruiting sites believe he will, he will be gone for the NFL after his junior season.

While the Rebels want ...

November 22, 2016

Prescott Shines in Win Over the Ravens

By bryanflynn

Credit for the Dallas Cowboy’s eight-game winning streak seemed to be split between the offensive line and running back Ezekiel Elliott entering their game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Nov. 20. It isn’t like Dallas’ rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, doesn’t get enough credit, but many seemed to think he was more of a game manager than a quarterback who can win games on his own.

The Ravens’ game plan was to force Prescott to try beating them with his arm.

That plan looked perfect early on, as Baltimore’s top-ranked rush defense bottled up Elliott for 26 yards on six carries in the first half. The Ravens even rattled Prescott, who started four for 10 on pass completions, gaining only 31 yards on the Cowboys’ first four drives.

Dallas punted on those drives, and everyone had to wonder if having Tony Romo as the backup quarterback was putting pressure on the young rookie. Then came first down and 30 yards for the Cowboys with under 10 minutes left in the second quarter and Baltimore leading 7-0.

Most of the time, a team facing first and 30 from its own 28 yard line would lead to a punt from the offense. But this is when Prescott began to take over and showed that he is a major reason for the Cowboys’ rebirth.

Prescott took off for 12 yards on first down, and on the next play, he ate up 12 more yards with a pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant, setting up a makeable third down and six yards.

Then, Prescott hit wide receiver Brice Butler on a 41-yard bomb to set up first and goal at the Baltimore seven yard line. The Cowboys scored three plays later when Prescott found Cole Beasley in the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.

Prescott shook off this rough start to end the game with 23 completions for 26 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. In the second half, he went 14 for 15 on passing, and Dallas began to take over the game.

The Cowboys salted away the game in the fourth quarter with a drive that lasted more than six minutes. Prescott went three for three on passing, but Elliot handled the bulk of the work. All the same, great play from the fourth-round draft pick at quarterback led the way for the Cowboys’ running game to take over in the fourth quarter.

Prescott made play after play throwing the ball in a game where the Ravens wanted to see if he would fail under the pressure. But Baltimore’s game plan blew up in its face when Prescott proved that he can make every throw needed to beat opponents.

It is likely that the rest of the teams on the Cowboys’ schedule will try to employ the same tactic down the road. Even though that seems like a sound strategy, the former Mississippi State University star has shown ...

November 22, 2016

2016 Conerly Finalists Announced

By bryanflynn

This college-football season has been underwhelming for most of the teams in our state, with close losses, injuries, mistakes and countless other struggles.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t players who are worthy of recognition, and we now know the 10 finalists for the 2016 C Spire Conerly Trophy.

Every four-year college and university nominates one player for this award. This year, the Conerly Trophy will be awarded to its 21st recipient. The ceremony will take place at the Clarksdale Country Club instead of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum as it has in the past.

Here are the finalists in the order that I think they will finish.

Hunter McEachern is the freshman quarterback for Belhaven University and nominee for the Conerly. Despite being in his first season, he served as the team captain for the 2-8 Blazers, and he set a school record for passing attempts with 76, completions with 48 and touchdowns with six. He threw for 3,722 yards on 337 completions with 31 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

Mississippi Valley State University quarterback Austin Bray is the 1-10 Delta Devils’ pick for the award. He passed for 1,462 yards after completing 129 passes out of 239 attempts and finished the season with eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions, as MVSU struggled nearly every week on offense. He also rushed for 163 yards with four touchdowns.

Millsaps College went with defense for its Conerly nominee. Defensive lineman Alex Foust finished his senior season with 42 total tackles. He was a three-year starter for the Majors and finished second the Southern Athletic Association in tackles for a loss with 15.5 this season. He also finished second in the conference in sacks with 9.5 for the Majors, who ended the season with a 3-7 record.

Jackson State University named highly touted defensive lineman Javancy Jones for the Conerly. The senior missed time this season due to an injury and his mother’s illness, but he was still a force on the field when he was healthy.

Jones led the 3-8 Tigers with 17.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks, and he saw action at tight end, as he caught two passes with one ending in a touchdown. He was also JSU’s finalist for the Conerly last season.

Mississippi College also nominated a familiar name for the Conerly, as well, with wide receiver and kick returner Marcel Newsom tapped as the Choctaws' finalist for a second consecutive year.

He finished this season with 57 catches for 853 yards and five touchdowns for the 3-7 Choctaws, leading the Gulf South Conference in all-purpose yards with 180.6 per game and receiving yards with 94.8 yards per game.

Alcorn State went with linebacker Darian Anderson, who led the 5-5 Braves in tackles with 80 total.

He tops the Southwestern Athletic Conference in sacks with 10 and is one of the finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, which the best defensive player at the ...

November 22, 2016

Saints Special Teams Not Very Special

By bryanflynn

Kicking field goals and extra points seems easy for every NFL team but the New Orleans Saints. In a major surprise, the Saints saw a place kick blocked for the second week in a row.

The Denver Broncos blocked a potential game-winning extra-point attempt and returned it for two points to beat New Orleans on Sunday, Nov. 13. Less than a week later on Thursday Night Football, the Saints saw the Carolina Panthers block a field-goal attempt.

Thanks to a penalty, the Panthers’ return of the block for a touchdown came off the scoreboard, but that didn’t stop wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. from making a spectacular catch for a touchdown shortly after.

Instead of cutting the Panthers’ lead to 13-6 at the half, New Orleans watched as the Panthers ballooned to 20-3. That big lead helped Carolina hold on for the 23-20 win.

The first team to block a Saints kick wasn’t the Broncos but the New York Giants in week two of the season. New York returned that block kick for a touchdown in the Giants’ 16-13 win over New Orleans.

Special teams haven’t been very special for the Saints. In addition that blocked field goal, New Orleans kick returner Marcus Murphy fumbled a kickoff out of bounds at the one-yard line.

The kickoff looked to be heading out of bounds, which would have given the Saints great field position from a penalty. Murphy’s mistake came after Carolina scored its only points of the second half from a field goal, and it kept the Saints in bad field position for most of the third quarter.

Back in week three, New Orleans had two punt-return men crash into each other during a game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints players’ miscue allowed the Falcons to recover the ball.

While it might be easy to pour all the blame on the Saints’ special teams for the losses of the last two weeks, quarterback Drew Brees hasn’t helped matters. Against Carolina, he had two turnovers, a fumble from a sack and wobbly interception, and during the previous week’s loss with the Broncos, he threw two interceptions.

The New Orleans defense has improved as the season progressed and has played well enough to win the last two games. But turnovers from the offense, poor special-teams play, including a running into the kicker penalty in the Carolina game, and poor coaching have betrayed the defense.

Some of the blame on last night’s win certainly falls on the coaching. Head coach Sean Payton didn’t get the offense moving fast enough on its last touchdown drive. Instead, the Saints huddled up and took their time going down the field.

That slow play helped the Panthers to eat up the clock while the Saints methodically moved down the field needing two scores down 10 points. The offense should have played with more urgency, and that has to come from the head coach.

Unless the place-kicking ...

November 21, 2016

Updated: AG Hood: Legislature Has to Make EdBuild Contract Public

By adreher

Attorney General Jim Hood sent a letter to legislative leaders today reminding them that they must release the EdBuild contract to the Transparency Mississippi website, despite their own House Management Committee rules.

Last week, several news organizations attempted to get access to the contract between the Mississippi Legislature and the nonprofit EdBuild that the state is contracting with to examine the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The contract with EdBuild is paid in part by the state and in part by private donors. The state is paying $125,000 of the cost, while undisclosed private donors are paying another $125,000, the AP reported.

The House Management Committee changed their rules last week, allegedly keeping all contracts private and not accessible via the state's Public Records Act.

Hood's letter says that while lawmakers do have the power under the Public Records Act to limit access to legislative records, they are not exempt from the Mississippi Accountability and Transparency Act, which requires all agencies to let the Department of Finance and Administration access their data and post the contracts on the Transparency Mississippi website. Hood told legislative leaders that they have two weeks to give DFA access to that information, as is prescribed in the Mississippi Accountability and Transparency Act.

The Senate has not changed their management rules yet to come into compliance with the House's new rule, but the Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to meet this week.

Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Greg Snowden and Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Terry Burton released a statement after Hood's letter was sent.

“When the agreement was approved in October, the terms of the Legislature’s contract with EdBuild to review school funding was shared with the public,” the joint statement says. “Over the last four days as House and Senate leadership continued to study the issue, Legislative legal staff concluded the contract should be posted to the Transparency Mississippi website. The contract has been released to the Department of Finance and Administration to be posted on the Transparency Mississippi website.”

The contract is up and available on the Transparency Mississippi's website this morning or you can read it here.

November 21, 2016

EEOC Issues Guidance on 'National Origin' Discrimination

By adreher

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated enforcement guidance on national origin discrimination to replace its 2002 compliance manual section on that subject today.

“EEOC is dedicated to advancing opportunity for all workers and ensuring freedom from discrimination based on ethnicity or country of origin,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang said in a press release. “This guidance addresses important legal developments over the past 14 years on issues ranging from human trafficking to workplace harassment. The examples and promising practices included in the guidance will promote compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws and help employers and employees better understand their legal rights and responsibilities.”

On June 2, the EEOC published a proposed guidance for public input, and the guidance issued today reflects the Commission’s consideration of feedback received on the proposal from approximately 20 organizations and individuals.

The new guidelines define a "national origin group," or an "ethnic group," as a group of people sharing a common language, culture, ancestry, race, and/or other social characteristics. For example, Hispanics, Arabs, and Roma are ethnic or national origin groups, the guidelines say.

The guidance also addresses developments in the courts since 2002, as well as topics such as job segregation, human trafficking and intersectional discrimination. In fiscal year 2015, approximately 11 percent of the 89,385 private sector charges filed with EEOC alleged national origin discrimination, a press release from EEOC says. These charges alleged a wide variety of Title VII violations, including unlawful failure to hire, termination, language-related issues, and harassment.

November 17, 2016

NSA Chief: 'Nation State' Interfered in U.S. Election

By Todd Stauffer

The National Security Administration isn't big on public statements, so this one by Admiral Michael Rogers, the NSA's current chief, is raising some eyebrows.

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