GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Defensive tackle Tyreak Sapp finally got to bed around 4 a.m. following Florida’s season opener.
He woke up a few hours later still reveling in a 29-26 victory against seventh-ranked Utah that set the tone for coach Billy Napier’s tenure and provided validation for a new regime that spent nine months tweaking and tuning nearly every aspect of the program.
The extended celebration ended as soon as Sapp walked into a team meeting Sunday afternoon.
”You got to understand you can’t be complacent,” he said Monday. ”You’ve got to understand that there’s room for improvement, and the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. You’ve got to take that for what it is and move on to the next week and have laser-beam focus on the next team and get ready for your next opponent.”
On tap for the Gators is their Southeastern Conference opener Saturday night against No. 20 Kentucky (1-0), which stormed the field after upsetting penalty-prone and 10th-ranked Florida 20-13 in Lexington last October.
That loss was the start of Florida’s freefall, which led to Dan Mullen getting fired in November and Napier being hired a few days later.
Napier has made sizable strides since taking over in Gainesville. If the win against Utah gave his rebuild a jump start, beating Kentucky would thrust the Gators another step closer to returning to national prominence.
Florida is expected to move into The Associated Press Top 25 college football poll, which will be released Tuesday, and Napier already is bracing his team for a week of praise.
”How is this group of players and this staff going to handle everybody patting them on the back for the next week?” Napier said. ”I think it’s one of the things about the University of Florida. You’re in a state with 21 million people. You’ve got a huge alumni network. You’ve got unbelievable amount of passion.
”So when it’s good, it’s good. When it’s bad, it’s bad. Learning how to navigate that, ignore some of the subjective opinions and call it what it is.”
It’s really good right now.
Anthony Richardson looks like a budding star, a 6-foot-4, 232-pound quarterback with the size to take on linebackers, the speed to run by defensive backs and enough arm talent and improvisation skills to make opposing defensive coordinators lose sleep.
His offensive line appears stouter than it’s been in years. Receiver Ricky Pearsall, a transfer from Arizona, looks like a legit playmaker. And Florida’s defense has enough bright spots – pass rusher Brenton Cox, linebacker Ventrell Miller and cornerback Jason Marshall, for starters – to offset the unit’s run-stopping woes.
Richardson masked other deficiencies. The sophomore ran for 106 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 1:25 to play. He also completed 17 of 24 passes for 168 yards and was at his most dynamic during a 2-point conversion early in the fourth. He pump-faked a blitzing linebacker while spinning in the air and then outran another defender before finding a receiver all alone in the back of the end zone.
The conversion was the play of the game until linebacker Amari Burney intercepted Cam Rising’s pass in the end zone in the waning seconds. It was the second of two goal-line stops for Florida’s defense.
It also set off a raucous celebration in the Swamp in front of 90,799 – the 10th-largest home crowd in school history and the largest for a home opener. Athletic director Scott Stricklin gave Napier two game balls in the locker room afterward, one from Florida’s first touchdown and another from the final score.
It was a memorable moment in a night filled with them, all of which could do wonders for Napier’s program and its current trajectory.
”When you’re new and you’re doing things a different way and you’re trying to establish trust and you’re trying to connect with people, I think that it’s important that they see progress,” Napier said. ”They taste a little bit. .
”There’s always a little bit of doubt until they see, `Hey, maybe we’ve got a chance here.’ I think early on in your tenure you’re always looking for these type of opportunities. And it ain’t over.”
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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.