Bulldogs pose 'fun challenge' for Wildcats

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Bulldogs pose 'fun challenge' for Wildcats

Defensive back Johnthan Banks is considered one of the schools all-time greats at Mississippi State.The Bulldogs All-American is just one of several challenges Northwestern must ponder as it prepares for their Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.They have enough wrinkles to make you turn grey, and they've got great SEC speed, head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. Were going to have our best couple of weeks of preparation to be ready. But our guys are hungry for it.Last week Banks captured the Jim Thorpe Award, awarded to the nations top defensive back. Hes the fourth straight Southeastern Conference player to win the award, and the first from Mississippi State.Banks is tied for sixth nationally with six career interceptions returned for touchdowns and is No. 1 in all-time career interception yards (320). The Walter Camp All-American also collected 59 tackles this season.Mississippi State also presents an imposing defensive line, a particular concern for Wildcat running back Venric Mark.They have guys on the inside who are 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, 340 pounds and realistically, (if) we run option sideline-to-sideline theyre going to get tired, Mark said. When you play a team like that, with that type of caliber of players, its all about scheme...You have to know what your strengths and your weaknesses are.Theres a lot for Fitzgerald to consider as he locks down a game plan for the Wildcats fifth bowl game in five seasons.(Bulldog coach) Dan (Mullen) does a terrific job schematically, Fitzgerald said. Theyve got great balance. When you look at them offensively, theres not a lot of things that are going to tip what theyre doing and how theyre doing it.(Assistant coach) Chris Wilson does a great job with their defense, theyre big up front -- on both sides of the ball. Theyre very athletic and theyve got the Thorpe Award winner, the best DB in the country in the secondary.Northwestern has already seen some of the what Mississippi State may offer.Theyve got a lot of similarities to Iowa and Michigan State from the standpoint of the downhill run and play-action pass, Fitzgerald said. Theyre very physical and very well- coached and play with terrific effort.Its going to be a fun challenge.Banks was the Bulldogs only first team all-SEC player, but freshman linebacker Benardrick McKinney also snared league honors as an all-SEC freshman. He played in all 12 games and finished 7th in the SEC with 97 tackles.Northwestern had three representatives on ESPN.coms Big Ten All-Freshman Team, including cornerback Nick VanHoose and defensive end Dean Lowry. True freshman Dan Vitale landed on the offensive team.Last week, the College Sports Information Directors of America awarded Capital One Academic All-American honors to Wildcat offensive lineman Patrick Ward (first team) and defensive lineman Brian Arnfelt (second team). Northwestern now has 34 Academic All-Americans in program history.But with two exceptions, top conference football awards eluded the Wildcats.Fitzgerald said he considered running back Venric Mark, who rushed for 1,315 yards and 11 touchdowns, the Big Tens best. But Mark could only garner second team conference recognition.I did miss a game -- Michigan State -- which is probably the best defense in the Big Ten, Mark said. I was a little bit down, a little upset, but at the end of the day (if Fitzgerald) thinks Im the best runner thats all that really matters to me.The only other Wildcat honoree was kicker Jeff Budzein, who shared first-team selection with Nebraskas Brett Maher.
Northwestern will pick up the practice pace later this week. The month of preparation is invaluable, not only to get veterans back up to speed but also allowing younger players additional practice time.The rich get richer, Fitzgerald said. Its one of those situations where youve got a huge opportunity to get those guys a lot of work, (teach) fundamental technique on what you do and how you do it and then figure out what theyve got to do better in the winter.Missing from bowl preparations this year is the stuffed monkey that accompanied the Wildcats to the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston.Northwestern lost to Texas A&M, 33-22, and that symbol of getting a long bowl losing streak off their backs probably wont make the Gator Bowl trip.Besides, the Wildcats dont need any outside influences.I think a year ago that was fun, Fitzgerald said. At the end of the day, were a totally different team ... Our seniors are highly motivated and they want to find a way to win a (bowl) game.Thats a sentiment wholeheartedly embraced by quarterback Kain Colter.Guys are fueled to make some new goals that we havent achieved here at Northwestern, he said. We want to be the team thats remembered as getting that first bowl win in a long time.

Road Ahead: Can the White Sox turn things around?

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Road Ahead: Can the White Sox turn things around?

CSN's Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton talk about what's next for the White Sox, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.

The White Sox are struggling lately as the team has lost six consecutive games and 14 of their last 18.

It doesn't get much easier for the South Siders as they stay on the road to face the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers this week.

After once leading the American League Central and looking like a complete team, the bullpen is struggling and the team is in a freefall.

Can the team fix things to stay in the division race?

Find out what Garfien and Melton had to say in the video above.

 

Quintana takes the hill as White Sox face the Mets on CSN

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Quintana takes the hill as White Sox face the Mets on CSN

The White Sox take on the New York Mets on Monday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Monday’s starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana vs. Matt Harvey

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

White Sox outfielder Austin Jackson sidelined with turf toe

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White Sox outfielder Austin Jackson sidelined with turf toe

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Austin Jackson exited Sunday’s game after battling turf toe on his left foot, according to a club official.

When he’ll return to the White Sox lineup isn’t yet certain. The injury comes at a time when Jackson is red hot at the plate and continuing to make big plays in the outfield.

Jackson, who finished 1-for-3 Sunday with a sac fly and two RBIs, has produced a .464/.500/.607 slash line in his last eight games.

The center fielder has been so good at the plate that White Sox manager Robin Ventura has batted him in the second spot in the lineup two days in a row. With Melky Cabrera needed for the middle of the lineup, Jackson has been Ventura’s best option. He entered Sunday with a team-high .697 OPS hitting second.

“I like Melky there, too,” Ventura said. “But (Jackson’s) at-bats have been better. Walking, fouling pitches off, getting on, he’s looked good up there.”

Jackson also turned in a sterling defensive play in the first inning as he made an over-the-shoulder catch to rob Kendrys Morales of extra bases. Jackson then fired a perfect strike to Tyler Saladino, whose relay to first doubled off Eric Hosmer.

Outfielder Adam Eaton has credited much of Jackson’s communication and defensive skills to his own improvement in right field.