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ADRossi

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I think SF can win the NFC. That defense is scary good, and Philly has looked vulnerable against the run in recent weeks.

The team I'm fading hard in the AFC is the Bills. Are we convinced they're that good? Their early season domination of Tennessee and LA no longer seem impressive, and they've been sluggish otherwise. I guess we'll see in a couple weeks when they play Cincy.
 

Pharaoh

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I think SF can win the NFC. That defense is scary good, and Philly has looked vulnerable against the run in recent weeks.

The team I'm fading hard in the AFC is the Bills. Are we convinced they're that good? Their early season domination of Tennessee and LA no longer seem impressive, and they've been sluggish otherwise. I guess we'll see in a couple weeks when they play Cincy.
from your lips homie
 

brakbrak

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Damn, I don't usually watch NFL but watched it today because our group decided to place a bet, holy fuck the one time I actually watched it a player collapse. Apparently he still can't breathe on his own...
 

DiegoMilito22

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Seattle were so shit in the second half ew.

And what a choking job by the Chargers LOL
 
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Puma

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Seattle and the Chargers were both rubbish.

I can't believe the Chargers head coach still has a job.
 
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Puma

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Sam Hubbard’s heroic run: Anatomy of Bengals’ epic, game-changing playoff moment

CINCINNATI — Of the 120 plays run Sunday night in the AFC wild-card game between the Ravens and Bengals, there’s only one everyone is going to remember. Not just tomorrow, or a year from now, or even a decade in the distance.

We’re talking forever.

Sam Hubbard’s 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown — the longest play of its kind in NFL postseason history — will live on as the details, emotions and video evidence are passed down like family heirlooms.

Where were you the night of Jan. 15, 2023, for “Wham, scram, thank you, Sam?”

For the 66,399 who were inside Paycor Stadium — and the hundreds of thousands who will claim they were — watching Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson knock the ball free from Baltimore quarterback Tyler Huntley on a third-down sneak from the 1-yard line and Hubbard, the Cincinnati native and team captain, rumble 98 yards for the go-ahead points in a 24-17 victory will carry into eternity not just as something they saw, but lived.

So why wait five or 10 years to break out the oral history of what will go down as one of the most iconic plays in Bengals history? Let’s get right to it as the memories are still fresh or, in the Ravens’ case, raw.

It was third-and-goal from the 1-yard line with the game tied 17-17 and 11:54 remaining. Huntley, starting for the injured Lamar Jackson, tried to leap over the pile of bodies and extend the ball across the goal line as teammates Patrick Ricard and Mark Andrews pushed him from behind. But Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt stopped Huntley’s progress, and Wilson batted the ball with both hands into the waiting arms of Hubbard.

Pratt: “Once they got in that formation, me and Logan was like, ‘sneak, sneak, sneak.'”

Wilson: “I knew it was a sneak formation. I knew there was space. I don’t remember what exact yard line it was on, but it was at least a yard-and-a-half away from the goal line, so I knew there was gonna be time before he was able to reach the ball all the way across the goal line. I just jumped up, and made a play and punched the ball out.”

Hubbard: “Logan is smarter than me. I was just trying to get some penetration and get the stop, because that’s what our defense does. We scratch and claw and try to defend every yard as best we can.”

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh: “It’s a push-sneak play. It just wasn’t executed the correct way. Tyler went over the top — that’s a Burrow play. He’s got to go low on that … that’s the way the play is designed. We felt like that was the best call, we just didn’t execute right.”

Defensive tackle Zach Carter: “I knocked my guy back, and I seen Huntley go up with the ball and I’m like, ‘No, he scored.’ Then I hear cheering from the crowd, and I don’t know what’s going on. I look up and I see Sam taking off.”

Defensive tackle DJ Reader: “I just heard our crowd, so I knew it was something good for us.”

Defensive tackle B.J. Hill: “That roar was awesome to hear. I hope we hear it next Sunday when our fans travel to Buffalo.”

Center Ted Karras: “I thought we were gonna be down 24-17. They were on the 1. It was unbelievable. It was one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever seen.”

As soon as Hubbard plucked the ball out of the air, he took off running toward the north end zone. Three of his 10 teammates who were on the field with him for the fateful play escorted him down the field — linebackers Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey and safety Vonn Bell. The only Ravens player in pursuit was Andrews. Bell nudged him off course some at the 50, and Bailey knocked to him to the ground 30 yards shy of the end zone.

Hubbard: “I was just playing football. It kind of just fell in my hands, and you just go.”

Bailey: “Sam had probably 5-10 yards on me when I started taking off. I caught back up to him, got even to him. I saw Mark Andrews running from behind my right side of my vision. He was doing a good job of weaving around. He probably would’ve made the play if I didn’t get a hand on him. I thought I pushed him on the side. Throwing the hands up was just to make sure the referees knew I had no ill intent to push him in the back.”

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd: “At first I had a slight feeling he was gonna get caught. But there was too many blockers there with him to get caught, and it was just a thrill to see that. That’s something you see in ‘Madden’ or something. For him to get that, he’s deserving, because he’s Mr. Cincinnati.”

Head coach Zac Taylor: “(I was) yelling at all those people to just block somebody. It looked like Mark Andrews was going to run him down and we had a whole caravan of people. That’s what was going through my mind — ‘Run faster.'”

Quarterback Joe Burrow: “Run faster, Sam! Get there! He actually did look pretty fast, surprisingly.”

Hubbard: “I was just looking on the Jumbotron. I’ve never really been in that position, but it’s a good feeling. I could see why the offensive guys like it. I was like, ‘(Andrews is) coming, somebody block him. Please don’t get caught.’ That’s all I was thinking about.”

Wilson: “He was getting gassed.”

Hill: “I love seeing my teammates make plays. I was so happy for him. He ran 98 yards. I might have made it to the 20, if that.”

Defensive end Cam Sample: “Once I saw Logan hit it out, I ended up falling. Me and DJ just stayed on the opposite goal line, yelling, ‘Go, Sam. Run, Sam run.’ It took a minute, but he got there.”

Hubbard: “They saw me taking off and no D-linemen chased after me. They were like, ‘You got it.’ It was funny.”

Reader: “Sam had the wheels to finish it out. That’s amazing. You see a lot of people get on those runs who don’t make it. Turning it immediately into points was a big thing.”

Defensive end Trey Hendrickson: “Unbelievable play. Game-changing play. The guy is all effort, all the time. The guy goes 100 mph every day. I’m just really proud of him.”

Hubbard’s huge play never happens if not for the hustle of another teammate, and key plays by a couple of others. Three plays before the fumble return, Huntley ripped off a long run and looked like he would score, but safety Jessie Bates beat him to the goal line and knocked him out at the 2-yard line.

On first-and-goal from the 2, Sample got a piece of a Huntley pass intended for an open Ricard in the flat, forcing it to fall incomplete. On second-and-goal from the 2, Bell and Pratt stood up Baltimore running back Gus Edwards at the 1, setting up Hubbard’s heroics.


Running back Joe Mixon: “Jessie made a hell of a play. Them are the plays that go unnoticed a lot of times. But Jessie had the hustle to go and get him. I’m just glad he caught him and it worked out the way it did.”

Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt: “I was running from way across the field. If Jessie didn’t get him, I was mighty close. But that was a huge play by Jessie.”

Hubbard: “I don’t know how many times we’ve been in that situation where somebody’s got somebody on the ground, and we bowed up to either get a turnover or (hold them to) three points. You don’t want to be that guy that gave up and let him in and gave him something free. You always want to be that guy that gave us another chance and let somebody else make a play, and that’s just our mentality. It’s nothing new to us or Jessie. He’s done it so many times before.”

Carter: “Just give us a blade of grass to defend. Give us an inch, a yard, whatever. That’s what happened. Jessie gave us an inch, or a yard, and we made the stop. That’s what we do. Cleanup crew.”

Once Hubbard scored, everyone had something to say to him. But all he could think about was getting some oxygen and getting back on the field for the next defensive series. Even though he can’t remember what people said to him, there will be a record of all of it.

Hubbard: “I was mic’d up, so we’ll see. (My) first-ever mic’d up game.”

Taylor-Britt: “I told him, ‘Good f—ing job. That’s how you play, man.’ We needed a play, and they were the ones to make it, Logan and him.”

Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase: “I told him, ‘You looked fast.’ Even though I was lying. It was a nice moment.”

Boyd: “What did I say to him? I said, ‘Levels. Big f—in’ levels.’ That was some good s—. That’s what we needed. That won the game for us.”

Taylor: “I couldn’t find him. I think Sam was the last one I found. I just congratulated everybody.”

Hubbard couldn’t remember what was said to him, but he’ll never forget the experience. The Bengals had to come up with three more defensive stops after that to hang on for the win, including defending a Hail Mary that went off Ravens receiver James Proche’s hands on the final play of the game. But as has been the case all season, the defense got the job done. And after Taylor and Burrow had taken their turns in the news conference room, Hubbard sat on the dais for nearly 15 minutes, enjoying answering every question and soaking in the moment.

“You can’t replicate a feeling like that in life,” he said. “It’s really special. You can’t even dream that one up. It’s pretty special. But I was just glad to see my teammates’ faces because that was a bad one. It was a toughly fought game. A lot of adversity, very physical. To make the play and be the guy to come through is an amazing feeling. Not only for my teammates, but the fans as well.”

(Photo: Rob Carr / Getty Images)
 

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What We Learned in the N.F.L.’s Wild-Card Round​

Josh Allen’s trademark big plays almost let the Dolphins take down the Bills, the Giants handled the Vikings with their defense, and Trevor Lawrence led a comeback that was emblematic of the Jaguars’ resilience.

By Derrik Klassen
Jan. 15, 2023

Teams don’t suddenly turn into champions when the postseason begins. If anything, the even matchups and heightened stakes force opponents to rely more heavily on what they’ve done best all year since there’s little room for experimentation.

The Bills have followed quarterback Josh Allen’s daring to the postseason, riding the risk roller coaster the whole way. On the first weekend of the 2022 N.F.L. playoffs, Buffalo didn’t stray from that routine, and it almost gave the Miami Dolphins an upset. Meanwhile, the Giants used a savvy defensive game plan to beat the Vikings, and the Jaguars leaned into the resilience they’ve shown all year to take down the wobbly Chargers.

Josh Allen’s big plays cut both ways​

Allen giveth, and Allen taketh away. One of the league’s most prominent big-play makers, Allen had the most volatile game of his season in Sunday’s 34-31 win over the Dolphins. The deep throws and extended plays that buoyed an otherwise hapless Buffalo offense were the same plays that led to turnovers and disjointed drives. It was a game that highlighted both Allen’s singular ability to affect a game and also how dangerous his decision making can be for the Bills.

Allen started the game firing on all cylinders. On Buffalo’s second drive, Allen strung together two improbable throws to bail out the Bills and eventually score a touchdown.

The drive began with a 20-yard pickup, but the Bills quickly faced a third-and-15 near midfield — a classic case of the conundrum Allen presents to defenses. Not blitzing gives him too much time to find an open receiver for a chunk play, but blitzing Allen opens up the possibility that he’ll break the pocket on a run or find an uncovered receiver.

The Dolphins chose to roll the dice on an all-out Cover 0 blitz, and they paid for it. Bills receiver Stefon Diggs beat defensive back Xavien Howard one-on-one down the field, and Allen nailed Diggs for a 52-yard gain. On the very next play, Allen scurried to his right to pin a touchdown pass just past the helmet of a Dolphins defender and into the outstretched arm of tight end Dawson Knox for the first score of the game.

By the next quarter, Allen couldn’t stop himself from playing so aggressively. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey continued to dial up shot plays, and Allen had zero reservations about taking them, a strategy the Dolphins eventually wised up to.

With 6:01 to go in the second quarter, the Bills called a first-and-10 play-action deep shot near midfield with receiver John Brown sprinting down the sideline. Brown never had the step on his man; Howard, whom Diggs had burned for the earlier long pass, was on top of Brown the whole way. Allen let it rip anyway, coughing up a senseless turnover when both of his underneath check-down options — running back Devin Singletary and tight end Quintin Morris — were open.

Allen was stuck in big-play mode from the beginning of the second quarter to the middle of the third. The Dolphins outscored the Bills, 24-3, over that stretch, including a strip-sack touchdown of Allen. Allen finally recovered by leading back-to-back touchdown drives that included a dazzling Cover 2 hole shot to Gabe Davis for a touchdown, the kind of throw that reminded everyone watching that it’s still Allen’s game to decide.

That’s been a scary way for the Bills to play this season, with their three losses each featuring Allen turnovers. Allen finished Sunday’s game with 16 interceptions and 22 giveaways this season, including the playoffs. That’s tops in the league, according to N.F.L. Research (at least until Dak Prescott plays on Monday).

Perhaps Allen wouldn’t be tempted to gamble if the Bills had a more consistent running game, and if the team regularly threw more in the short area and chipped away at drives. But Buffalo has banked on Allen’s unique eye and talent for doing the improbable. And on Sunday, a Skylar Thompson-led Dolphins team couldn’t make the Bills pay. Buffalo may not be so lucky against the rest of a loaded A.F.C. playoff pool.

The Giants won with their defense​

Defense isn’t what got the Giants to the playoffs. Injuries kept many of their best defensive players out of the lineup during the season and robbed them of the chance to build up chemistry. They finished 25th in yards per game allowed and 24th in yards per play allowed. They never quite found their footing as a unit under new defensive coordinator Don Martindale.

When the team needed them most on Sunday, however, the defense tightened up. Martindale called on the lessons he took from the last time these two teams played in Week 16, a 3-point Giants loss. The defense was most successful in that game when it played with a softer pass-rush approach and directed its coverage attention toward Justin Jefferson, often bracketing or playing Cover 2 to his side of the field.

Martindale didn’t send as many pressures at Kirk Cousins as usual, instead favoring more four-man rushes with softer coverage behind it. Per the N.F.L.’s Next Gen Stats, the Giants played a season-high 65 percent of their snaps from split-safety coverages. The Giants struggled to affect Cousins directly — he wasn’t sacked and didn’t throw any interceptions — but they took away the wide-open explosive passes he is used to finding with his receivers.

The Giants instead gave Cousins everything he wanted over the short and middle parts of the field. Slants, hitches and shallow crossers were all available, and Cousins, a by-the-book passer, took all those open short throws with enthusiasm. Tight end T.J. Hockenson was the biggest beneficiary, netting 10 catches for 129 yards. That approach can be a dangerous game, too, but the Giants’ defense stepped up when it came to tackling. Minnesota’s receivers struggled to squeeze out extra yardage, and chunk plays after the catch were tough to come by.

Martindale and the Giants’ defense weren’t exceptional, but they were enough. They lulled Cousins into dinking-and-dunking the game away, and they made sure to tackle well enough to not let the Vikings bite them in the behind. That kind of defensive fortitude is going to have to hold if the Giants want to trudge forward in a brutal N.F.C. divisional-round matchup.

Doug Pederson’s calls keyed the Jaguars’ comeback​

Trevor Lawrence’s playoff debut opened in terrible fashion, with the second-year Jaguars quarterback throwing four interceptions on the first six drives. That meltdown helped the Chargers to a 27-0 first-half lead.

Each interception was worse than the last, on throws that ranged from unlucky to wishy-washy to flat-out horrible. Lawrence’s first interception was a tipped ball on a run-pass option throw, and his second pick came on a missed ball in which receiver Zay Jones was roughed up by a Chargers’ defender with no flag thrown. Bad plays, to be sure, but mistakes that could be forgiven.

Then Lawrence threw a third interception after failing to read the defense, and he one-upped that two drives later with a throw over the middle and straight into traffic for his fourth interception.

Somehow, those mistakes — and a muffed punt return — weren’t enough to slay Lawrence and the Jaguars. Coach Doug Pederson dug deeper into his bag of tricks, and the Jaguars’ receivers stepped up in the second half. Tight end Evan Engram, in particular, took center stage in the Jaguars’ rally to victory.

The Chargers’ linebackers weren’t adept at coming downhill to tackle, and in the second half, Pederson and Lawrence found ways to make them do that relentlessly. Engram raced straight across the shallow part of the field over and over again, and Lawrence found him repeatedly on shallow throws that reaped 10- and 15-yard chunks. Lawrence and Pederson hammered that matchup until the Chargers made an effort to stop it, which finally opened up the vertical game for Lawrence.

All of the Jaguars’ efforts came to a head in the fourth quarter while trailing, 30-28. On fourth-and-1 at the Chargers’ 40-yard line, Pederson called a timeout with 1:28 remaining to get the Jaguars out of a quarterback sneak call. Pederson came out of the break with a strike of brilliance.

The Jaguars lined up in an old-school T formation — three players in a horizontal row behind the quarterback — and sent running back Travis Etienne on an outside rush to the right. Etienne hit the perimeter, made the lone cornerback miss and booked it 25 yards for a first down, putting the Jaguars at the 16-yard line for a game-winning field goal.

Around the N.F.L.​

Bengals 24, Ravens 17: The Ravens played their hearts out. Defensively, they had Joe Burrow’s number. Baltimore’s well-designed pressure schemes and chippy play over the middle made it difficult for Burrow and the Bengals’ passing offense to ever get in a groove. That wasn’t enough, though. Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley, who mostly played a respectable match, squandered the game early in the fourth quarter. After leading an 80-yard drive, Huntley reached for the end zone on a quarterback sneak. He was short by about a yard, and the ball was jarred loose right into the hands of Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard, who ran it back for a touchdown to break a 17-17 tie. It was a mistake that ultimately sealed the Ravens’ fate.

Giants 31, Vikings 24: Both Daniel Jones and Kirk Cousins had a field day in the short area, peppering each other’s defenses with throws designed for yards after the catch. The Giants’ receivers were just a smidgen better at evading their opponents and picking up extra yardage, and that was the difference. The Giants’ speedy receivers moved the ball into the red zone regularly, and running back Saquon Barkley made sure to finish the job for them a couple of times. It’s hard to imagine the Giants have the juice to go any further than this in the playoffs, but stealing a postseason win in a “rebuilding” year with a first-year head coach is a huge success.

Bills 34, Dolphins 31: After a 17-0 start, the Bills collapsed for about a quarter and a half. Quarterback Josh Allen, great as he is, could not stop throwing the ball deep to covered defenders. A couple of those hero throws became interceptions, giving the Dolphins extra chances on offense. Miami capitalized on plenty of those chances, getting spectacular downfield throws from Skylar Thompson in between his four sacks. Allen nailed receiver Gabe Davis for a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth, and then the Bills’ defense stopped a Dolphins’ drive at midfield to end things.

Jaguars 31, Chargers 30: It’s hard to play two more different halves of football than the Jacksonville Jaguars did. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence had four interceptions before halftime, and the defense constantly folded in its attempts to slow down Justin Herbert, who got Los Angeles out to a 27-0 start. Everything flipped in the second half, when Lawrence threw touchdown passes to Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Marvin Jones, leading the third-biggest playoff comeback in N.F.L. history. It was also the first playoff game in which a team with five more turnovers than its opponent won.

49ers 41, Seahawks 23: Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns, and the 49ers scored on four straight drives in the second half, giving San Francisco a lead that allowed its pass rush to tee off on Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (25 of 35 passing for 253 yards, three sacks). Deebo Samuel added a 74-yard touchdown catch, and Christian McCaffery had 119 yards rushing on 15 carries.
 

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Charles White, Heisman Winner With a Difficult Second Act, Dies at 64​

A tough, bruising tailback, he set U.S.C.’s career rushing record. But he also dealt with drug and alcohol abuse and, later, dementia.

Jan. 15, 2023
By Richard Sandomir

Charles White, a dynamic tailback for the University of Southern California who set the school’s career record for rushing yardage and won the 1979 Heisman Trophy, died on Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 64.

Judianne White-Basch, his care manager and former wife, said the cause of his death, at a hospital, was esophageal cancer.

White, who went on to play eight seasons in the N.F.L., was part of U.S.C.’s lineage of elite running backs, four of whom also won the Heisman: Marcus Allen, O.J. Simpson, Mike Garrett and Reggie Bush. White’s 6,245 rushing yards exceed the 4,810 gained by Allen, who ranks second on U.S.C.’s all-time list.

White was not especially big or fast; rather than elude defenders, he bulled his way through them. And he was a workhorse: In 1978, he rushed 374 times (65 more than anyone else in the N.C.A.A.’s top ranks) for 1,859 yards. The next year he ran for 2,050.

All the pummeling he experienced in high school, at U.S.C. and in the N.F.L. took a physical toll in a cumulative battering to his head. In 2012, Ms. White-Basch said, he was diagnosed with dementia, a symptom of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that is linked to repeated head trauma but can be diagnosed only after death.

“Suddenly, everything made sense,” she said in a phone interview.

Ms. White-Basch donated her former husband’s brain to the CTE Center at Boston University to determine if he had C.T.E.

Ms. White-Basch said it was possible that he used cocaine and alcohol to self-medicate symptoms of a brain injury. “Everyone was targeting him” on the field, she said. “And he gave hits that were as hard as the hits he was getting.”

In 1987, while playing for the Los Angeles Rams, White was charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance, believed to be cocaine, for which he had been treated in a monthlong program in 1982 while with the Browns. In 1988, he was suspended for 30 days by the N.F.L. for using alcohol, a violation of the league drug program he had entered when he was arrested.

Charles Raymond White was born on Jan. 22, 1958, in Los Angeles and was raised by his grandmother, Bertha Leggett. He was recruited from San Fernando High School to U.S.C. and led the team in rushing in 1977, 1978 and 1979.

At the Rose Bowl after the 1978 regular season, White scored the decisive touchdown on a disputed play from the Michigan 3-yard line in the second quarter. He fumbled the ball before he reached the goal line. The umpire signaled that Michigan had possession of the ball, but the line judge called it a touchdown; the head linesman then reaffirmed that it was a score.

The touchdown extended U.S.C.’s lead to 14-3, which held up in a 17-10 win, and the school was named college football’s national champion in a poll of 35 coaches.

White was incandescent in the next year’s Rose Bowl against Ohio State. He rushed for 247 yards on 39 carries and scored the winning touchdown with 1 minute 32 seconds left in the game, lifting U.S.C. to a 17-16 victory.

“Charlie White is the best football player I’ve ever seen,” John Robinson, the U.S.C. coach, said after the game. “If you don’t believe me, just go back and look at the fourth quarter. His domination was absolute. He is the greatest competitor I have ever seen.”

White was chosen by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the N.F.L. draft in 1980, but in four seasons, he never rushed for more than 342 yards. After he was released by the Browns, he was signed by the Rams, who were then coached by Robinson, for the 1985 season.

His first two seasons with the Rams were uneventful, but he was spectacular in 1987, carrying the ball 324 times for a league-leading 1,374 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, the season was tainted by a 24-day players’ strike, during which games were played largely by nonunion replacements for three weeks. White was one of a group of players who crossed the union’s picket lines.

He started the 1988 season serving his four-game suspension and never regained his starting job. He gained only 323 yards that year, and Greg Bell led the Rams with 1,212 rushing yards.

White retired after the season and spent the next 20 years at U.S.C. as a special assistant to the athletic director, Mike McGee; the football team’s running backs coach; and as a university administrator. During that period, Ms. White-Basch said, he was abusing alcohol but not cocaine.

In 2000, he said, he sold his Heisman Trophy for $184,000 to settle tax debts.

In addition to Ms. White-Basch, he is survived by their daughters, Nicole, Tara and Sophia White; their sons, Julian and Ashton; and their granddaughter, Giovanna Hemmen, with whom he was close.

White was the subject of a profile in The Los Angeles Times last year in which the columnist Bill Plaschke described his quiet life in an assisted living facility.

“He knows he is Charles White and he knows what he accomplished for his beloved university,” Mr. Plaschke wrote, then quoted him as saying, “I know I once did something good, something great, something fantastic for U.S.C.”
 

Coasterfreek

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To no surprise Derek Carr isn't good. Someone needs to eat crow here.
 

junkie

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Better send those refunds :awyeah:
 

Pharaoh

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these games are toss ups, but we'll need a miracle in philly
 
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