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No. 21 Houston edges Auburn 17-13 in Birmingham Bowl

UNDATED (AP) — Jake Herslow caught a 26-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass from Clayton Tune with 3:27 left to help lift No. 21 Houston to a 17-13 victory over Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl.

The Cougars marched 80 yards on eight plays to cap the third season in program history with at least 12 wins. They snapped a four-game bowl losing streak.

The Tigers ended coach Bryan Harsin’s first season with five straight losses for the first time in 71 years. Game MVP Tune completed 26 of 40 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, while also rushing for 43 yards.

Haaziq Daniels passed for two touchdowns and ran for two others as Air Force beat Louisville 31-28 in the First Responder Bowl at SMU’s home field in Dallas. Daniels completed 9 of 10 passes for a season-high 252 yards leading a triple-option offense that came into the game averaging an FBS-best 340.8 rushing yards and the second-fewest passing yards at 82.5 per game.

Malik Cunningham threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Harrell and ran for a 22-yard touchdown with 2:57 to play for Louisville.


Warren scores 15, No. 25 Texas Tech tops Alabama State 75-53

UNDATED (AP) — Julian Strawther scored 15 points, Rasir Bolton added 14 points, and No. 4 Gonzaga beat North Alabama 93-63 on Tuesday, extending the nation’s longest home winning streak to 59 games. Nolan Hickman scored 13 points, Drew Timme had 12, and Anton Watson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the 11-2 Gonzaga that wrapped up its nonconference schedule. C.J. Brim scored 15 points for North Alabama.

The Lions kept it close for the first part of the first half, but Gonzaga pulled away with an 18-3 run and didn’t look back.

Elsewhere in college basketball action:

– Davion Warren scored 15 points, and No. 25 Texas Tech rolled to a 75-53 victory over Alabama State in the final Big 12 tuneup for the Red Raiders. Warren put Texas Tech ahead for good on a 3-pointer midway through the first half. The Red Raiders will open Big 12 play Jan. 5 at eighth-ranked Iowa State after the original conference opener against Oklahoma State was postponed because of COVID-19. Gerald Liddell scored 15 points for Alabama State.


Holiday Bowl scrapped as virus issues hit UCLA before kickoff

UNDATED (AP) — The Holiday Bowl has become the fifth postseason college football game to be canceled. UCLA was forced to pull out just hours before kickoff because of COVID-19 issues with the team. The Bruins were scheduled to face No. 18 North Carolina State at Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres.

The Hawaii, Military, Fenway and Arizona bowls have already been canceled with virus issues leaving teams without enough available players. The Sun and Gator bowls have had to scramble to find replacement teams.

Miami, Virginia and Boston College all had to withdraw from their games. Wake Forest is set to play in the Gator Bowl, but will face Rutgers instead of Texas A&M as originally scheduled.

North Carolina State is the fifth Atlantic Coast Conference team to have its bowl disrupted.

Numerous college programs have coronavirus issues coming out of the Christmas break. No. 2 Duke is one of several basketball programs with COVID-19 issues, postponing games against Clemson and Notre Dame this week. And UConn’s game against No. 23 Xavier scheduled for Tuesday was scrapped because of COVID-19 issues involving the Huskies.

In other college sports news:

— Georgia wide receiver George Pickens still has a chance to be a major contributor for the Bulldogs this season. The junior was expected to be third-ranked Georgia’s go-to receiver before he tore the ACL in his right knee during spring practice. He will be available Friday for the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl against No. 2 Michigan.


NFL cuts isolation time to five days for players who test positive

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL is reducing isolation time for players who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, including unvaccinated players, to five days from 10. The league and the NFL Players Association revised the protocols after the CDC changed its guidelines for those who are asymptomatic, recommending a five-day isolation period and masking over the second five days.

Elsewhere in NFL news:

— For the third consecutive week, the Green Bay Packers have the top spot in the AP Pro32 poll. The Packers earned 10 of the 12 first-place votes. The Kansas City Chiefs, who have won eight in a row, earned the remaining two first-place votes and remained at No. 2. The Dallas Cowboys gained two spots to move to No. 3. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers slipped a spot to No. 4 despite routing Carolina on Sunday and the Los Angeles Rams also fell one place after a win as they are at No. 5 after edging Minnesota.

— Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz is expected to miss Sunday’s crucial game against the Las Vegas Raiders after joining the team’s rapidly expanding reserve/COVID-19 list. It’s the biggest blow yet for Indy, which can clinch a playoff spot with a win. Rookie Sam Ehlinger is Wentz’s backup. Veteran Brett Hundley is on Indy’s practice squad and is 3-6 as a starter.


John Madden, Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster, dies at 85

UNDATED (AP) — The NFL says Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster John Madden has died at age 85. Madden’s exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades. The league says he died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning and did not provide a cause. Coaching the renegade Oakland Raiders, Madden compiled a stellar 103-32-7 regular-season record and led his team to victory in the Super Bowl after the 1976 season.

He became an even more impactful figure after he stopped coaching at age 42, entertaining millions who tuned in to NFL football. He also was the name behind the hugely popular sports video game, “Madden NFL Football.”


Nets’ Irving clears NBA protocols, Hawks add to COVID list

UNDATED (AP) — Kyrie Irving is a step closer to making his season debut. The Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets announced today that Irving, along with Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, have cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols — a major step toward getting them back on the court.

But the Atlanta Hawks added three more players to their list, and Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault (DAN’-yoh) is now sidelined as well.

The league began Tuesday with about 120 players in the protocols. Numbers tend to change frequently as players test in and out over the course of each day.


Lightning star Point back after missing 14 games with injury

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay Lightning star center Brayden Point will return to the lineup for Tuesday night’s game against Montréal after missing 14 games with an upper-body injury.

Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde announced the news after the team’s morning skate. Lalonde is filling in for coach Jon Cooper, who is in COVID-19 protocols. In addition to Cooper, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and forward Anthony Cirelli are among six players in the protocols.

Point was hurt Nov. 20 in a game against New Jersey when he crashed hard into the end boards during the third period. He favored his left arm and shoulder afterward.

In other NHL news:

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Jujhar Khaira could return when the team visits Nashville on Saturday. Khaira hasn’t played since he was stretchered off the ice following a big hit by New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba on Dec. 7. He spent the night in the hospital and the team cited the NHL’s concussion protocol when it placed him on injured reserve. The Blackhawks’ matchup with the Predators is their first game since Dec. 18.


One of a kind: Ohtani wins AP Male Athlete of Year award

UNDATED (AP) — Shohei Ohtani (SHOH’-hay oh-TAH’-nee) did things during 2021 that almost nobody alive had ever seen in sports. That’s why the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way superstar is the winner of The Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year award.

The unanimous American League MVP put together a season with an analogue unmatched in the past century of his sport. No one else had been an everyday two-way player in the better part of the past century. Nobody has been both one of baseball’s top power hitters and one of its best starting pitchers since Babe Ruth starred at the plate and on the mound in 1919.

Ohtani hit 46 homers and drove in 100 runs with a .965 OPS while playing in 126 games as the AL’s best designated hitter. He finished third in the majors in homers after leading the sport for much of the season. Ohtani also started 23 games on the mound, going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts over 130 1/3 innings as the Angels’ ace and one of the AL’s top right-handers.


US forfeits world junior game after 2 players test positive

RED DEER, Alberta (AP) — The U.S. has been forced to forfeit its game at the world junior hockey championship against Switzerland after two players tested positive for the coronavirus.

The International Ice Hockey Federation says the team’s quarantine status will be evaluated later to determine the status of the Americans’ next game scheduled for Wednesday against Sweden. Switzerland is awarded a 1-0 victory over the U.S. from the forfeit.

The U.S. is the defending champion at the tournament for the world’s best men’s hockey players under age 20. The U.S. beat Slovakia 3-0 Sunday night in its first preliminary round game.


French skier Tessa Worley wins GS in Shiffrin’s absence

LIENZ, Austria (AP) — French skier Tessa Worley won a women’s World Cup giant slalom Tuesday in the absence of Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin and world champion Lara Gut-Behrami, who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Worley held on to her first-run lead to beat defending overall champion Petra Vlhova by three-tenths of a second. Worley became only the third female skier with at least 15 World Cup wins in giant slalom. Sara Hector of Sweden finished third.

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