December 06, 2004

Steelers Extend Win Streak to 10 Games

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ben Roethlisberger extended both his and Pittsburgh's winning streak to 10 games by engineering a last-minute drive Sunday night to set up a 37-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with 18 seconds left that gave the Steelers a 17-16 win over Jacksonville.

The drive, the kind pulled off by the best quarterbacks, covered 56 yards in six plays after Josh Scobee made a 36-yard field goal with 1:55 left to give the Jaguars the lead.

But Roethlisberger, who set a record for most wins by a rookie quarterback, wasn't the only star of the last-minute victory.

There was Reed, of course. And the win by the Steelers (10-1) was a testament to coach Bill Cowher's clock management. He used all three of his timeouts before the 2-minute warning as Jacksonville was driving for the go-ahead field goal, preserving plenty of time for his offense.

Then Roethlisberger was 3-of-4 for 39 yards on the winning drive, and the one incompletion was a spike after he calmly let the clock run down to avoid giving the Jaguars much time for a march of their own.

He finished the night 14-of-17 for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 40 yards after three rather sluggish games in an otherwise brilliant rookie year.

Jacksonville (6-6) had one last shot after a 19-yard completion from Byron Leftwich to Jimmy Smith, which gave Scobee a shot at a 60-yarder. It fell just short and wide right.

The Steelers are one win from clinching the AFC North. They hold a four-game lead over Baltimore with four games left, but their only loss of the season was to the Ravens, when veteran quarterback Tommy Maddox was injured and Roethlisberger took over.

Jacksonville, which could have moved into a tie with Baltimore and Denver for the final AFC wild-card spot, remains a game behind those two. The Jaguars have had 11 of their 12 games decided in the final minute.

Pittsburgh scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, but was held without a point for the rest of the game until the final drive.

In the first three quarters, the Jags moved inside the Pittsburgh 15 three times, but came out with only six points — Scobee missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter, made two others.

The first Steelers TD came after a 77-yard, seven-play drive when Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward for a 37-yard score.

Leftwich, who finished 16-of-27 for 268 yards, countered with a 12-play, 73-yard drive, finding Troy Edwards from 22 yards. As Ward did on the first TD, Edwards broke a tackle and ran it in for the score.

Pittsburgh made it 14-7 on Roethlisberger's 26-yard pass to tight end Jay Riemersma to cap a 72-yard drive.

Jacksonville cut it to 14-10 on Scobee's 20-yard field goal on its first second-half possession, in which it went from its 2 to the Pittsburgh 2. There were two big plays on the drive: a 56-yard pass from Leftwich to third-string tight end Todd Yoder and a 36-yarder to Edwards.

Scobee's 29-yarder in the final seconds of the third quarter cut it to 14-13.

(4) Georgia Tech 87, Georgia 49

ATLANTA -- Jarrett Jack was nearly perfect. His Georgia Tech teammates weren't too bad, either.

Jack didn't miss a shot while scoring 18 points, and the fourth-ranked Yellow Jackets romped to another easy victory, this time beating Georgia 87-49 on Sunday night.

The Yellow Jackets (5-0) followed up a 31-point rout of Michigan with an even bigger victory over their state rival. Once again, Jack led the way.

He was 7-of-7 from the field, including three from outside the 3-point arc. He also made his only free throw, grabbed four rebounds, dished out two assists and came up with a steal. The lone blemish on his stat line -- one turnover.

Against Michigan, Jack had 11 assists and no turnovers.

``I know it's early, but I don't think I've ever been around a guy who has played at such a high level from the first day of practice,'' coach Paul Hewitt said. ``He's been playing unbelievable basketball, and I just hope it continues.''

It may be early, but it's already apparent this will be a very long season for Georgia (1-3). The Bulldogs kept it close for about 10 minutes, only to have the Yellow Jackets methodically pull away for a 43-30 halftime lead.

Things really got out of hand over the final 20 minutes. Georgia Tech opened the second half with a 12-0 run, the Bulldogs missing their first seven shots on the way to shooting just 33 percent.

It was Georgia's worst loss ever to the Yellow Jackets, eclipsing a 33-point blowout in 1966.

``In the second half, Tech just ran away from us,'' Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. ``Obviously, they are a powerful team, and the game simply got away from us.''

Isma'il Muhammad's basket made it a 20-point game barely 2 minutes into the half. Ra'Sean Dickey made two free throws for a 30-point lead with nearly 12 minutes remaining. Zam Fredrick swished a 3-pointer to give the Yellow Jackets a 40-point cushion with 5 minutes to go.

At that point, Georgia Tech already had pulled out the starters, letting its younger players finish the game.

``In the second half, we stepped it up defensively,'' Hewitt said. ``When you do a good job defensively, the offense comes easy for you.''

The only drama occurred early in the second half. Jack scored on a nifty drive to make it 59-32, prompting Georgia to call a timeout. As the players headed to the bench, Jack got into it with Steve Newman, leading to a brief scuffle at midcourt.

The teams were quickly separated, Jack and Newman were given offsetting technicals and there were no further problems.

``It's an emotional game,'' Jack said. ``Tempers flared a little bit, but there are no hard feelings.''

B.J. Elder scored 19 points to lead five Georgia Tech players in double figures. The Yellow Jackets shot nearly 54 percent from the field and outrebounded the Bulldogs 44-25.

Luke Schenscher, Muhammad and Dickey all had 12 points, with Schenscher pulling down 14 rebounds.

Levi Stukes led Georgia with 17 points.

Georgia Tech has won its first five games by an average of 26 points. The Jackets' only scare was a 60-59 victory at Illinois-Chicago, their lone road game.

Georgia's woes were epitomized by its freshman center, Dave Bliss. He picked up two fouls in the first 43 seconds, sending him to the bench for the rest of the first half.

He started the second half, but quickly picked up his third foul. After another stint out of the game, he fouled out with two more whistles in succession. Bliss was done with 11:06 left, having played just 3 1/2 minutes.

``Georgia Tech is one of the top teams in the country,'' Bliss said. ``Now we know how hard we'll have to work when we start playing in the SEC.''

The Yellow Jackets were eager to avenge one of the most disappointing losses of their Final Four year. After opening last season with 12 straight victories, they lost 83-80 at Georgia in overtime.

``We were definitely thinking about last year,'' Muhammad said. ``We still had a bitter taste in our mouth about that one.''

The Bulldogs lost four key players from that team and are in the beginning stages of a major rebuilding job. Georgia has only seven scholarship players and is forced to rely on several walk-ons who made the team during open tryouts before the season.

``We're progressing,'' freshman Sundiata Gaines said. ``Even though we lost by whatever the score was, we played hard.''

Penn St. 77, (2) North Carolina 71

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State's upset of North Carolina was so stunning, the Lady Lions' substitute coach had to ask her team about the biggest details.

``I don't even know what happened,'' coach Annie Troyan said after the 77-71 win Sunday over the No. 2 Tar Heels. ``I said to the kids when we came in, 'What happened?' They said, 'We won.'''

Troyan is coaching Penn State in place of Rene Portland, who began a leave of absence last month because of medical reasons.

The Lady Lions got 21 points and seven assists from Tanisha Wright, but it was the team effort that pleased Troyan the most. Penn State had five players score in double figures, including Jen Harris, who tied her career high with 19 points. Jess Strom added 11, and led the team in assists (9) and rebounds (7).

Penn State (3-3) used a 7-0 run after halftime to take a 47-43 lead on Ashli Schwab's tip-in with 17:14 left. Though the Lions fell behind by one on Ivory Latta's 3-pointer 1:51 later, Harris hit a 20-footer from the right corner with 14:52 left to put them ahead to stay. It was the 11th lead change of the game.

Penn State used a big second-half rebounding advantage (19-9) and 23 points off turnovers to turn around what had been a lopsided game in the paint.

``We constantly kept it in our heads to remind each other what we needed to do,'' Wright said. ``It was a big focus for us after the first half. We let that down, so I think the second half we came out and -- every time we got the chance, every loose ball, every break -- we pretty much said, 'We need to rebound, we need to rebound, we need to rebound.'''

Latta led the Tar Heels with 19 points, and Camille Little added 11 rebounds, but her tip-in with seven minutes left -- tying the game at 62 -- was the last time the Heels pulled even.

``They gave more than we did,'' Latta said. ``We usually go after loose balls and dive, but we didn't do that ... they deserve to win if they do stuff like that.''

Penn State's win was its first this season against a Top 25 team in three tries, and the Lady Lions' first victory against a team ranked No. 2 since they beat Texas at home on Dec. 7, 2003. Penn State lost at Texas and Duke earlier this season. The Lady Lions had a five-point halftime lead against the Blue Devils, but lost 66-58.

``In the Texas game and the Duke game, we talked about it, like 'We need a stop, we need a stop, we need to do this,' but we lost those two games because we didn't get that stop,'' Strom said. ``This time we actually believed it. When somebody said it, we believed we were going to get that stop and they weren't going to get any closer.''

Erlana Larkins scored 15 points for the Tar Heels, who jumped out to a seven-point lead when La'Tangela Atkinson stole an errant pass from Harris and made a layup 6:11 in. But the Lady Lions came back and took their first lead, 23-21, on Harris' 3-pointer from the top of the key with 8:56 left in the half.

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