For the first time since hosting Kent State in 2011, Alabama football opened a season at home Saturday, so after a decade of empty silence at Bryant-Denny Stadium while the Crimson Tide forged its first victory at points all over the map, things felt a little different.
For players, a departure from neutral-site openers against marquee Power Five opponents; for fans, the advent of alcohol availability and cashless points of sale all over the stadium.
But the one status quo that held was what mattered most, at least for one night: The Crimson Tide looked its usual dominant self in routing Utah State 55-0 for its 21st consecutive season-opening win. There were walk-in touchdowns and suffocating defense and all the merry enthusiasm that naturally ties itself to the hip of 1-0 starts.
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Simultaneously, as star quarterback Bryce Young was stringing together six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) in less than three quarters of action, another feel-good story was unfolding about 750 miles to the west in Austin, Texas. There, the Texas Longhorns gave their fans the very same warm feeling in trouncing Louisiana-Monroe 52-10 for a home-field hammering of their own.
Two savory sips from the victory cup, neither of which came with even a modicum of resistance from the opposition.
Wins like that can be intoxicating. They can be deceiving, as well.
Where is Alabama’s weak point? If one exists, Utah State didn’t prove capable of exposing it. As for Texas’ Achilles heel, that remains shrouded as well, camouflaged by the hapless Warhawks in a game that was over by halftime. Coaching staffs in both locales will work tirelessly this week to find the cracks, but it’s not an easy task when poring over film of a blowout.
Whatever holes can be punched in these two blueblood programs, they’ll be laid bare for a national TV audience to see when the Crimson Tide travels to Austin in Week 2 for its first real test of the season.
And without mentioning Texas specifically, Alabama coach Nick Saban made reference to it.
“No disrespect to Utah State, their players played hard, they’ve got a good little team. We’re going to play teams that are much more physical and aggressive and talented than what they are,” Saban said. “So we’re going to have to do things correctly, and it’s going to be important to get guys to understand that.”
Texas, ranked No. 18 in the USA Today Sports AFCA Coaches poll, will welcome the Crimson Tide with a few familiar faces, starting with former UA offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, now in his second season at the Texas helm. A handful of transfers have left Alabama for Texas as well, although you’d have barely known it from their impact in UT’s opener. The atmosphere at a tradition-rich venue like Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is worth a few points by itself, as long as the crowd has reason to make all the noise it can.
ESPN’s “College GameDay” show will emanate from UT as well, as if any more hype is necessary.
“We know we’re going to hostile environment, so we’re going to learn all we can throughout the week. We’ll study, we’ll prepare, because we have a tremendous amount of respect for them,” Young said. “We know it’s going to take everything. We have to work hard throughout the week to put ourselves in the best circumstance to be successful.”
A hostile environment, indeed.
And all the more so for the team that finds out it wasn’t as good as its opener suggested.
Reach Chase Goodbread at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football will learn plenty against Texas Longhorns
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Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers seemed determined to keep playing. And playing. And playing.
The teams opened their Eastern Conference final playoff series with Florida’s 3-2 victory in four overtimes early Friday, with the game ranking as the sixth-longest game in NHL history.
Matthew Tkachuk’s goal came at the 19:47 mark of the fourth OT to end this one, which marked the 15th four-overtime game in NHL history and the longest game in franchise history for each team.
The longest game in NHL history came on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime on Mud Bruneteau’s goal at 116 minutes, 30 seconds of extra play.
Florida’s previous record for longest game was 104:31 in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup final against Colorado. Carolina’s previous record was 114:47 for Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup final.
The only good news for the teams is they had an extended break before this series began. Carolina closed out New Jersey exactly a week earlier, while Florida eliminated Toronto a day later.
But this game ended roughly six hours after Thursday night’s puck drop, and the teams have a Game 2 in less than 48 hours.
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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club
MADRID (AP) — The investigation ordered by Barcelona into its controversial payments for refereeing reports found no evidence of corruption by the club, president Joan Laporta said Monday.
Laporta reiterated that the club’s payments over several years to the company owned by the vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee were only for technical reports and not to influence referees. He said he believed there were no ethics breach and that Barcelona was the victim of a campaign to hurt its reputation.
“This is one of the most ferocious attacks in our history,” Laporta said. “I ask FC Barcelona supporters to be as united as ever in defense of our crest, our essence, and our ownership model. No campaign to discredit us will prevent us from continuing to be an organization of reference in the world of sports that is beloved and admired by millions of Catalans and by many more millions of people around the world.”
It was the first time Laporta spoke at a news conference to give explanations after it became public that the club paid 7.3 million euros ($8 million) from 2001-18 to the company of then committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira. Prosecutors have accused Barcelona of alleged corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation.
Barcelona opened the probe to look into the actions of all the different presidential administrations that made payments over the years, including Laporta’s first at the club. The investigation was conducted by an external company.
The club said the probe found that “no conducts of a criminal nature associated to sporting corruption have been identified, nor are there any grounds to investigate any form of criminal activity associated to bribery.” It added there was “official documentation on the invoices and payments” for the services of “scouting and advice regarding referees, which are common practices in the professional sports sector.”
“Consulting on technical-refereeing issues does not constitute any type of illegal act,” Laporta said. “Consulting, as is done by the big clubs, that was carried out transparently, with the corresponding invoices, at least in my first mandate as president.”
The probe found 629 technical refereeing reports and 43 CDs that the club received over 18 years for what Laporta called “market price.” More reports were likely lost over time, he said.
“I reiterate with all my resolve, I am convinced that FC Barcelona has not committed any crime of sports-related corruption. I hope that sooner rather than later, it is fully exonerated,” he said. “Accusations must be proven. We live by the rule of law, which guarantees among its basic principles the presumption of innocence.”
He said that if there were any irregularities committed by Negreira, Barcelona would be a victim of them. He also said Negreira was not in a position to directly influence referees, and that it was Negreira’s son who actually produced the refereeing reports.
“I dare anyone to show an instance in which Barcelona was favored in a match because of these payments,” Laporta said. “We will allow the justice system to do its work and I’m sure that Barcelona will be cleared. I am fully convinced that FC Barcelona has never performed any act with the intention of altering the competition to gain an advantage.”
The Spanish league, Real Madrid and other clubs have been among those taking part in the legal proceedings against Barcelona. Laporta criticized league president Javier Tebas for making accusations against Barcelona, and also took a shot at rival Madrid.
“Everyone knows that Real Madrid is a club that is historically favored by refereeing mistakes,” he said.
Laporta said Barcelona has always been a club that takes pride in its values, and it would never want to win anything with outside help.
“Throughout its 123-year history, FC Barcelona has always been a model of fair play, both on and off the field,” he said. “If we have won for so many decades, it has undoubtedly been a result of effort, talent and knowledge.”
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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley city councilman has been charged with perjury after he allegedly lied about leaking a grand jury report to the San Francisco 49ers last year that detailed a purportedly unethical relationship between the team and the city council, prosecutors said Friday.
Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker is accused of providing the secret report titled “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Santa Clara City Council” to the team’s former top spokesperson and a local media outlet in 2022, days ahead of its official release.
Becker then allegedly lied to the grand jury about the leak, prosecutors said, prompting the criminal charges.
The 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara, about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Santa Clara County is broadly considered home to Silicon Valley.
The city of Santa Clara owns the stadium and leases it to the team; fighting between the two groups has led to ethics complaints, legal disputes and years of bad blood.
Al Guido, the team’s president, and Larry MacNeil, the former CFO who worked extensively on the team’s stadium project, were named in the indictment as witnesses who spoke to the criminal grand jury for Becker’s indictment.
“The 49ers have cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s Office in their investigation, and will continue to do so,” team spokesperson Brian Brokaw said in a statement Friday. “However, because this is an ongoing legal matter, the organization is not able to make any further comment at this time.”
Prosecutors say the team has bankrolled Becker’s political career by spending $3.2 million through independent expenditure committees for his 2020 city council race, which he won, as well as his unsuccessful 2022 mayoral bid.
The “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” report alleged that Becker and four other councilmembers regularly voted “in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers” and would routinely meet with the team’s lobbyists but not disclose what was discussed.
Becker faces a felony charge of perjury under oath, as well as a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to perform duty. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Becker did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday, and it was not clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
“Councilmember Becker violated the public’s trust,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “That an elected official would commit perjury and lie under oath before the grand jury strikes at the very heart of our justice system and requires accountability.”
Representatives for the Santa Clara City Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.