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home : sports : sports June 28, 2016

9/24/2012 3:30:00 AM
Weekend roundup: Jaguars shock Colts with 80-yard TD, win 22-17; Bears' defense keys win over Rams; ND stops Robinson, beats Michigan; Ball State wins thriller from S. Florida; Angels sweep Sox; Cubs lose 2 of 3 to Cards; plus, Hamlin wins at New Hampshire; Snedeker takes Tour Championship

WEEKEND ROUNDUP

NFL

Jaguars 22, Colts 17

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Andrew Luck blamed his own mistakes for Sunday's loss.

Teammates and coaches insisted there was plenty of blame to go around.

After Luck rallied the Colts for a last-minute field goal to take the lead, Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert hooked up with Cecil Shorts III on an 80-yard TD pass with 45 seconds left and Luck's second rally of the day fell short as the Colts lost 22-17.

It was a dismal, demoralizing way to head into a bye week.

"It's one of those deals where you come into the locker room and you're like 'What are you going to say?'" Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "Like anything else, just remember this feeling. Just remember how you feel right now."

After Luck put the Colts in position to win the game by setting up Adam Vinatieri for a 37-yard field goal with 56 seconds left, all the defense had to do was come up with one stop. The Colts (1-2) couldn't even protect the lead for one play.

Shorts ran underneath a teammate on a crossing pattern, and when Colts backup safety Sergio Brown started to step forward, Gabbert pounced on the mistake by throwing a perfect strike to Shorts, who sprinted to the end zone.

Luck answered by moving the ball to the Jags 26 and had two chances to win it. But the first went awry when he was hit before stepping into his throw and the ball fell incomplete.

The second, intended for Reggie Wayne, was batted away by cornerback Aaron Ross, and afterward, everyone had something to bemoan - including Luck who went 22 of 46 for 313 yards with two TDs and one interception.

"I think they played, they deserve to win the game and they made the plays when they counted, but I do think we had opportunities to make it a two-score game, a three-score game," he said. "Coming out at halftime, we get the ball back right after scoring a touchdown, put another one on the board, that's big. We didn't do it."

Instead, Gabbert made a big play.

He was just 10 of 21 for 155 yards, and completed only four passes in the second half - the last being his only TD pass of the game - and that was good enough for Jacksonville (1-2) to avoid an 0-3 start.

It was a shocking turnabout for a team that had a franchise-low 117 total yards last week and relied almost exclusively on Maurice Jones-Drew to wipe out a 14-3 halftime deficit.

Yet Gabbert never doubted himself or his teammates.

"I told the guys going out onto the field, 'We're going to win. Right here, right now,'" Gabbert said. "We happened to get the right look for the play that was called. We just went with it."

All Shorts had to do was catch the ball, sprint to the end zone and avoid a potential game-saving tackle by Cassius Vaughn as he dived in for the touchdown.

A replay review confirmed that Shorts' leaping lunge allowed the ball to cross the goal line before his knee came down at about the Colts 1.

The Lucas Oil Stadium crowd, which was poised to celebrate Luck's second straight comeback victory, went silent.

"It's called God's play, 32-power," Jones-Drew said. "When you don't get a (defensive) touch, you've got to make the other team pay."

For the Colts, there were lots of problems.

Indy struggled offensively for most of the second half.

The defense blew the halftime lead, giving up a 59-yard TD run to Jones-Drew on Jacksonville's first offensive play of the second half, and it couldn't preserve the 16-14 lead for a single play.

Even Vinatieri, the best clutch kicker in NFL history, wound up missing a potential go-ahead 36-yard field goal to the left with 4:40 to go.

Luck finished 22 of 46 for 313 yards with two scores and left with plenty to ponder heading into the Colts' bye week.

"I point the finger at myself, some bad decisions," he said. "I think the big finger should be pointed at me. I'm sure everybody feels like they have something to clean up."

Bears 23, Rams 6

CHICAGO (AP) - Major Wright saw Sam Bradford zeroing in on Danny Amendola and knew where the ball was headed.

It ultimately wound up in the end zone, and that was just fine with the Chicago Bears. They got back to winning thanks to their defense, with Wright coming up with the biggest play.

He returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown, and Chicago beat the St. Louis Rams 23-6 on Sunday.

The defense came to the rescue against the Rams (1-2), holding them to 160 yards and sacking Bradford six times. That was enough on a day when Jay Cutler struggled, and the Bears (2-1) bounced back after an ugly loss to Green Bay the previous week.

The Bears had just kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 13-6 in the fourth quarter before Wright made his key play. Bradford had been hit hard by Israel Idonije and Stephen Paea on the previous play when Tim Jennings deflected a slant intended for Amendola.

Wright caught the ball at the 45 and ran untouched to the end zone, making it a 14-point game and finally giving the Bears some breathing room.

"Sam Bradford was looking his way the whole time," Wright said. "As we were watching film, he is not the type of quarterback that is going to look one way and go back the other way. He was honing in on that side and I was like, 'You know what, let me take a shot over here,' and I ended up taking a shot over there. ... (Jennings) tipped it up and me being in the right spot at the right time (I) took it in."

It wasn't exactly the sort of showing the Bears were looking for after that brutal 23-10 loss to the Packers, but they got by because the defense did its part. For the offense, well, that's two bad outings in a row.

"Some games, we are going to need to score 41," coach Lovie Smith said. "Other games, we're not going to need to. We're going to have to play good, sound football and make the plays when it's required, and it was that type of day."

One positive note for the offense was Cutler appearing to keep his composure in this game. Considering he got sacked seven times, threw four interceptions and berated and bumped left tackle J'Marcus Webb on the sideline, that was an improvement.

Otherwise, there weren't many positives for him.

"Not every game is going to be 41-21," Cutler said, referring to the season-opening win over Indianapolis. "We're not going to come out every game and blow the doors off offensively and defensively. This is what is going to be more likely week in and week out."

Cutler completed 17 of 31 passes for 183 yards. He was sacked twice and threw an interception to Cortland Finnegan, who also delivered a shot after the game.

Asked what he saw from the Bears' quarterback, he said, "Not much. Not much. I think he had 190 yards passing, something like that. And no touchdowns. Typical him."

Brandon Marshall had trouble hanging onto the ball at times and wound up with five receptions for 71 yards after catching just two passes the previous week. Michael Bush ran for 55 yards and a touchdown with Matt Forte sidelined by a sprained right ankle.

"It's not how we wanted to perform, but got a W," Bush said.

Credit for that goes to the defense.

Israel Idonije had 2½ sacks, and the Bears simply made it a miserable Bradford, who was 18 of 35 for 152 yards with two interceptions.

Steven Jackson managed just 29 yards rushing after missing most of the previous game with a groin injury and sitting out practice during the week, and Amendola had five catches for 55 yards after tying a club record with 15 catches for 160 yards.

"We definitely didn't play well today," Bradford said. "Give them credit, they played us tough. But I think there are a lot of things when we look at the film that are going to fall on us. Things that we were in control of and just didn't handle. It was a tough game, a lot for us to learn from and move on as a group."

Protection might be at the top of the list. Then again, the Bears had something to do with it, too.

For all the questions surrounding their defensive line, the results so far are good. They came in tied for second in the league with eight sacks and added to their total with another balanced effort.

It's not just Julius Peppers being disruptive; he's getting help, too.

"We're fighting for the sacks," said Paea, who had one. "It's not just one person on the quarterback. It's two or three."

The effort on defense was enough to overcome a subpar performance by the offense.

When the Bears had chances, they simply didn't take advantage. With Chicago leading by four early in the final quarter, a 21-yard scramble by Cutler put the ball on the 6. But the Bears settled for a field goal to make it 13-6 after he overthrew an open Devin Hester in the end zone, the ball going through the receiver's hands as he tried to make a leaping catch.

That drew more groans from an already weary crowd, but the Bears came out on top.

"Most games are like this," Cutler said. "Most games are slug-outs. It's a four-quarter game."

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

No. 11 Notre Dame 13, No. 18 Michigan 6 (Saturday)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - No crazy comebacks this year by Michigan against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish didn't even let Denard Robinson and the Wolverines get into the end zone this year.

Manti Te'o had two interceptions as the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish picked off five Michigan passes and forced a fumble and backup quarterback Tommy Rees sparked the Notre Dame offense in a 13-6 win over the Wolverines Saturday night.

"A great team win for our guys," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "Defensively what can I say? Six turnovers, limited who we felt is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the country to no touchdowns. Just an incredible performance by our defense."

Robinson, who amassed 948 yards of total offense in victories over the Irish past two years, wasn't as effective this time around as the Irish repeatedly forced him into mistakes. He threw four interceptions in the first half, then lost a fumble at the Notre Dame 8 on the first drive of the second half.

The Irish (4-0) are off to their best start since 2002 and took another step in trying to re-establish themselves as a college football power. It was a setback for Michigan (2-2), which lost its eighth straight road game against ranked teams since beating second-ranked Notre Dame 47-21 in 2006.

The victory ended a streak of three straight games in which Michigan beat the Irish with a score in the final 27 seconds.

"As much as we would have liked to have executed better on offense, give Michigan a lot of credit," Kelly said. "They did a very good job defensively, and we knew we were going to be in for this kind of close, tough, hard-nosed football game, and proud of the way our guys pulled it off."

Robinson apologized to Michigan fans, saying it was the worst game of his career.

"It won't happen no more. I'm going to be accountable for the rest of the season. I don't want to feel like this no more. In the 22 years I've been living, this is the most disappointed I've ever been in myself," he said.

Robinson finished 13-of-24 passing for 138 yards and also rushed for 90 yards on 26 carries.

"The key to stopping Robinson, the key to stopping such a dynamic player like Denard is everybody has to get to him," Te'o said. "Denard will start running one way and then totally cut back the other way. Everybody has to get to the ball. You have to really emphasize 11 guys to the ball."

The victory belonged to the Irish defenders, who held an opponent without a touchdown for a second straight week. Many fans at just the second night game in 22 years at Notre Dame Stadium wore leis to show support for Te'o, a Hawaiian whose girlfriend and grandmother recently died. He finished with eight tackles.

"I can't thank the students and just the fan base around the world, Notre Dame and non-Notre Dame fans. They've been really great," Te'o said.

Notre Dame ran out the clock after a 31-yard Brendan Gibbons field goal with 3:27 left in the game cut Notre Dame's lead to 13-6. Rees, who came in for an ineffective Everett Golson midway through the second quarter, connected with Tyler Eifert on a 38-yard pass down the sideline on a critical third down. Then an 8-yard run by Theo Riddick on third-and-8 with a minute left salted the game away.

"It's a great feeling any time you can beat Michigan," Rees said. "It's a great environment ... a lot of fun."

Twice, Notre Dame held Michigan without points from the Irish 10-yard line. Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he never considered pulling Robinson.

"The guy has done a pretty dog gone good job being a quarterback at Michigan and made some good throws in the first half. You know, just better decision making and move forward. What are you going to do, sit there and talk about each one of them? You've got to move forward," Hoke said.

Te'o said it felt great to finally beat Michigan and Robinson.

"He's gotten me the past two years and Michigan has gotten me three years total. I am just glad on my last hurrah I finally have something to celebrate about," he said.

Ball State 31, South Florida 27 (Saturday)

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Ball State found a way to win just in time for the second week in a row.

Cardinals quarterback Keith Wenning connected with Willie Snead for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 1:02 left as Ball State rallied to beat South Florida 31-27 on Saturday.

"We were talking about needing to score a touchdown," Ball State coach Pete Lembo said.

Wenning, who was 24 of 36 for 244 yards passing with two touchdowns, and also ran for a score, knew the Cardinals didn't have many more opportunities.

"I told them it was do or die," Wenning said. "It was the last opportunity to score."

Snead, who finished with 11 catches for 135 yards, caught the winner in the back corner of the end zone for the Cardinals (3-1).

"It was a high-pressure drive," Lembo said. "We were talking a lot about staying in balance because we had plenty of time and we had (one) timeout."

The Cardinals also left some time for the Bulls (2-2). B.J. Daniels, who had three touchdown passes and led South Florida with 75 rushing yards, drove his team from its 13-yard line to the Ball State 28.

But Ball State's Eric Patterson intercepted Daniels' pass at the 10-yard line as time expired.

Jahwan Edwards ran 98 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown for the Cardinals, who won their second straight game after being down late. Ball State beat Indiana, 41-39, on a field goal as time expired last week.

After trailing much of the way, South Florida turned a 24-12 deficit into a three-point lead in the fourth quarter. Daniels, who finished with 312 yards passing, threw a 15-yard TD pass to Andre Davis in the final minute of the third quarter, then connected with Lindsey Lamar on a 29-yard touchdown - the second TD for Lamar in the game. Demetris Murray's 2-point conversion run put the Bulls in front 27-24 with 4:12 to go.

Wenning, who was not intercepted in the game, earlier found Jamill Smith in the corner of the end zone to make it 24-12.

South Florida beat Chattanooga and Nevada before losing to Rutgers a week ago. The Bulls host No. 4 Florida State next week.

After the teams traded field goals early, Edwards' 3-yard TD midway through the second quarter put the Cardinals up 10-3. South Florida scored on Daniels' 15-yard pass to Lamar, but Ball State blocked the extra point and led 10-9 at halftime.

"We talk about controlling what we can control and worrying about ourselves and not getting caught up in the opponent," Lembo said. "We've been trying to focus on that a lot, especially considering the schedule we've played last year and this year."

Ball State's loss came to No. 10 Clemson two weeks ago. The Cardinals, who beat Mid-American Conference rival Eastern Michigan in their opener, resume MAC play next week when they travel to Kent State.

MLB

Angels 4, White Sox 1

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - The Chicago White Sox left Angel Stadium the same way they arrived - looking for a big hit.

For the third straight day, the struggling White Sox couldn't deliver. They let Jered Weaver escape in the first inning after loading the bases with one out, and got only four more hits the rest of the way Sunday in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

The White Sox led Detroit by a half-game in the AL Central after the Tigers lost the opener of their day-night doubleheader against Minnesota.

"Right now, it's 'Let's get out of here, get home and a change of scenery can't do us any worse,'" first baseman Paul Konerko said after Chicago's fifth straight defeat.

"Everyone is playing hard and going about it the right way and there's nothing wrong except the lack of results and the wins. We've just got to keep battling and keep fighting. Things go in cycles. Hopefully there's a cycle that's going to turn and it's going to be good for us," he said.

Chicago's only run came in the seventh, when A.J. Pierzynski doubled, advanced on Weaver's wild pitch and scored on Dayan Viciedo's sacrifice fly. The White Sox have just three hits in their last 42 at-bats with runners in scoring position and were 1 for 17 in the series against the Angels.

"You've just got to go out and play," said third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who is 2 for 22 with no RBIs over his last seven games. "If you put pressure upon yourself, the game is going to get a lot worse. You have got to go out, have fun and try to win ballgames. A lot of guys are working their butt off to do that, and we're just coming up short right now."

Weaver's AL-leading 19th career victory didn't come easily. The three-time All-Star needed 33 pitches to get through the first while batting through 94-degree heat. But he struck out Alex Rios at the end of an 11-pitch at-bat and retired Pierzynski on a grounder.

Rios came in batting .469 (30 for 64) with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, but was only 4 for 22 lifetime against Weaver (19-4).

"It felt like it was a million degrees out there," Weaver said. "Having to throw upwards of 30 pitches in the first is obviously not what you want to do, but they made me work. That's what their game plan was, and they did a good job of it. It could have been a lot worse, so it was good to come out of that first one unscathed and be able to extend it into the seventh."

Gavin Floyd (10-11) gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings while striking out eight. The right-hander matched zeros with Weaver until the sixth, when the Angels erupted for four runs.

"I tried to execute pitches like I had been doing the past five innings and I think I just missed location," Floyd said. "They were being aggressive early and they happened to get hits. Just hoping to get quick outs and doing the same thing I had been doing."

Mike Trout walked with one out, Torii Hunter sent him to third with a hit-and-run single to left field, Albert Pujols lined the next pitch to left field to score both runners and Kendrys Morales followed with his 22nd homer on a 2-1 pitch.

"You walk the first guy - and not a good guy to walk because it puts a lot of pressure on you with Trout getting on base," Floyd said. "Torii got the base hit, and it happened pretty quick. It wasn't one of those drawn-out innings."

Weaver established a career high for wins. He threw 113 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, allowing a run and five hits and dropping his ERA to 2.74. He finished his home slate 11-2, including a no-hitter against Minnesota on May 2.

Kevin Jepsen threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Weaver. Garrett Richards, Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri each retired a batter in the ninth to close it out.

"It's a bad weekend, but we are fine," manager Robin Ventura said. "Again, it doesn't mean we are out of anything. We'll just continue playing. It's not fun losing, but we still have a chance to take care of it ourselves."

Pujols reached the 100-RBI mark for the 11th time in 12 big league seasons as the Angels remained 2½ games behind Oakland for the second wild-card spot.

Cardinals 6, Cubs 3

CHICAGO (AP) - Justin Germano hopes a strong finish can earn him the chance to pitch for the Cubs next season.

"I know the opportunity (for 2013) is there but I've got to worry about what I'm doing now," Germano said following the Cubs 6-3 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. "I've had a couple starts where things didn't really go my way and I got into a rough patch."

Kyle Lohse and the short-handed St. Louis Cardinals won for the sixth time in seven games, holding their lead in the NL wild-card race with a 6-3 win Sunday over the Chicago Cubs.

Minus All-Stars Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran from the starting lineup, the Cardinals stayed 2½ games ahead of Milwaukee for the second wild-card spot.

Germano (2-9) worked 5 2/3 innings, giving up four earned runs and 10 hits. Acquired from Boston on July 17 for cash considerations, he's lost seven straight decisions.

"(But) I've had a pretty good year all around," the 29-year-old pitcher said. "I just had four rough starts that I had back-to-back-to-back-to back and I don't want my season to end on that."

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Germano's losses don't tell the whole story.

"He does things like today, he keeps you in a game, goes six innings and has a breaking ball and tricks up his sleeve to get through a game," Sveum said. "He's done a nice job for us and keeping the game within grasp."

Lohse (16-3) made his team-leading 32nd start, giving up three runs and five hits in six innings.

"I made a couple mistakes the inning they scored two runs, but it was a pretty solid outing," Lohse said. "I felt I could have executed better to Soriano, obviously, but other than that, I pitched around some things happening. Bottom line is we came out with a win."

Jason Motte earned his sixth save in the Cardinals' last seven games, and now has 40 saves this season.

Molina did not play for the defending World Series champions because of lower back spasms, having hurt himself while getting out of the way of a pitch Saturday. The catcher was feeling better, manager Mike Matheny said, still had some discomfort.

Beltran did not start because of what Matheny believed to be food poisoning. The outfielder had a pinch-hit RBI single during a two-run eighth.

Allen Craig got three hits and drove in two runs for St. Louis.

Shortstop Pete Kozma, called up by the Cardinals in late August, hit his first major league homer, a solo drive in the sixth. He also had a sacrifice fly.

A Cardinals fan caught Kozma's homer in the left field bleachers, had his young son throw back a decoy ball and then delivered the keepsake to Kozma after the game.

Alfonso Soriano hit his 31st homer for the Cubs, giving him a career-high 105 RBIs.

"He just keeps going, he's had to play a lot of games this year with very few days off," Sveum said. "He's done one heck of a job - left field, at the plate and everything about this season has been one of his best."

Craig hit a two-run double with two outs in the third and David Freese had an RBI single. St. Louis would have had the bases loaded for Craig, but a baserunning mistake found both Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday on third base and Carpenter was tagged out.

Chicago got two runs back in the fourth on Welington Castillo's RBI double and a wild pitch.

Angels 4, White Sox 2 (Saturday)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Dan Haren earned his first win at home in more than a month, Mark Trumbo capped a four-run first inning with a two-run single and the Angels gained ground in the playoff race.

Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances after giving up a go-ahead home run in each of his previous two outings. Los Angeles moved within 2½ games of Oakland for the second AL wild card; the A's lost to the Yankees earlier in the day.

Paul Konerko hit his 24th homer for the White Sox, who have lost four straight. The AL Central leaders had their advantage trimmed to a half-game over second-place Detroit, which posted an 8-0 victory over Minnesota.

Haren (12-11) allowed two runs and six hits in six-plus innings, struck out four and walked one for his first win in Anaheim since beating Tampa Bay on July 27.

Chicago's Jose Quintana (6-5) gave up four runs and six hits in five innings.

Cardinals 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings, Saturday)

CHICAGO (AP) - Jon Jay's RBI double in the 10th inning lifted St. Louis to the victory, bolstering the Cardinals' bid for another playoff appearance.

Carlos Beltran hit a tying solo homer in the ninth for the Cardinals, who improved their lead for the second NL wild-card spot to 2½ games over Milwaukee.

The defending World Series champion Cardinals have 10 games left in the regular season. They bounced back from an agonizing 11-inning loss at Wrigley Field the previous day.

After Matt Carpenter and Brian Anderson drew two-out walks from Jaye Chapman (0-1), Jay doubled down the right-field line.

Mitchell Boggs (4-1) got the last out of the ninth. Jason Motte struck out the side in the 10th for his 39th save.

Beltran made it 4-all with his 30th homer, a one-out shot off Carlos Marmol that wrapped just inside the right-field foul pole.

NASCAR

Hamlin wins in New Hampshire; Johnson leads Chase

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) - Denny Hamlin stepped out of his car, pointed into the air and took a mighty swing of an invisible baseball bat. Like Babe Ruth did before him (or so the legend goes), Hamlin had called his shot.

The top winner in NASCAR's regular season earned his series-leading fifth victory of the year Sunday, backing up a tweet of "We will win" with a mistake-free and dominating run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the second event of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

"You don't want to sound too cocky, but I knew what we were capable of," said Hamlin, who was 32nd in qualifying after his crew put the wrong pressure in his tires. "I know we made a couple of big mistakes, but I said we were fast enough to make it up and we did."

It was the 100th career victory for team owner Joe Gibbs, who also won three Super Bowls as the coach of the Washington Redskins. And it came with a little teamwork, too, when Kyle Busch slowed down to help suck some debris off the front of Hamlin's car and propel him to victory.

"As fast as he was, he could have gone to the back of any car and pulled that off," said Jimmie Johnson, who finished second and took over the Chase lead. "I kind of thought he would be the guy to beat and he certainly was. We are second-best."

Johnson will head into Dover, Del., one of his top tracks, one point ahead of Chicago winner Brad Keselowski, who was sixth Sunday. Jeff Gordon, who was the last man to qualify for the Chase, was third.

"We had a great race car," said Johnson, a five-time NASCAR season champion, "just not an amazing car like the No. 11 did here today."

Hamlin improved to third in the Chase, seven points behind Johnson, despite a tumultuous week that began with him running out of gas in Chicago and continued when his crew used race pressure instead of qualifying pressure in his tires on Friday. Hamlin also had problems with his crew here in July, when confusion during a tire change dropped him into traffic and left him scurrying to get back to the front of the field.

But he was confident enough on this track, where now he has five top five finishes in his last seven races, that he told a group of U.S. National Guardsmen during a publicity trip to New Hampshire earlier this month that would be back to share a few beers in victory lane. And despite finishing 16th in Chicago, Hamlin tweeted: "This is week 1 of 10. We will win next week."

Hamlin had the fastest car in both practices, but the mistake in qualifying had him starting near the back of the field. Hamlin said he came to the track on Sunday with the goal of getting into the top 10 by the 100th lap.

He did better than that, taking the lead on the 94th lap and holding it for 193 laps in all.

"He was the class of the field from the time we unloaded," said Clint Bowyer, who finished fourth and is tied for fifth in the Chase. "I don't know what they figured out, but they figured it out in a big way."

Hamlin, who won in New Hampshire in 2007, led for 150 laps here in July before a miscommunication with crew chief Darian Grubb over whether to change two tires or four cost him a chance at another win. Then, in the Chase opener in Chicago last week, he finished 16th after his crew failed to fill up his tank on the final pit stop.

But Hamlin remained confident, in person and on Twitter, and Gibbs said that spilled over to a crew that was frustrated over its own mistakes.

"That meant a lot to his team. And I think the way you handle things like that, being the guy that's wheeling the car, I think is a big deal," Gibbs said, commending Grubb as well. "Those guys are going to remember the way they were treated and I think they would die for them both."

The biggest threat for Hamlin on Sunday was a plastic bag that was sucked onto the front of his car, blocking part of the air intake, with about one-third of the race to go. Busch, who had blown a cylinder and is not a part of the Chase, slowed down to allow his teammate to come up behind him.

The turbulence between the cars blew the debris off, and Hamlin was back on his way.

"No matter how fast your car is in practice, it's no guarantee for the race. And so I was a little nervous about that and how the conditions were going to change," Hamlin said. "But Darian obviously gave me a lightning fast car today. For me, my job was relatively easy: Just make sure that I didn't make any enemies on the way to the front."

GOLF

Snedeker takes Tour Championship

ATLANTA (AP) - Brandt Snedeker played the biggest round of his career for the biggest payoff in golf.

Needing to win the Tour Championship on Sunday to beat out Rory McIlroy for the FedEx Cup, Snedeker came up with three big birdies on the back nine at East Lake to take all the drama out the final day that had been loaded with possibilities.

Snedeker hit his final tee shot into the grandstand left the 18th green and made bogey. By then, it didn't matter. So dominant was his performance that he was the only player from the last five groups who managed to break par, closing with a 2-under 68. Along the way, he answered any questions about why Davis Love III made him a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next week at Medinah.

Snedeker won by three shots over Justin Rose (71) in the Tour Championship, his second title of the year, and collected $1.44 million. And he won the $10 million bonus for capturing the FedEx Cup, which comes with a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

McIlroy and Tiger Woods, both of whom could have won the FedEx Cup with a victory Sunday, faded early and were never a factor. Snedeker joins Woods (twice), Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Bill Haas as winners of the FedEx Cup in its six-year history.

McIlroy had won the last two playoff events and three of his last four tournaments dating to his eight-shot win in the PGA Championship. He still is virtually a lock to be voted PGA Tour player of the year, but he had to settle for second place in the FedEx Cup.

Snedeker finished at 10-under 270 and will move into the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time.

Snedeker, McIlroy and Woods were separated by four shots going into the final round. All any of them had to do was win to capture the FedEx Cup.

Woods had a 72 and finished eight shots behind in a tie for eighth. McIlroy shot 74 to finish another stroke back.





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