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News Nuggets, 12.18.04
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Compiled from staff reports and electronic dispatches

Wolfpack's Hodge not short on self-esteem


12.17.04: Nebraska icon Osborne irked with aloof AD's ... William & Mary QB captures Payton Award ... More...
12.16.04: Pirates hawking hoops tickets with a twist ... Majerus ditches TV gig to rescue Trojans ... More...
12.15.04: Bowl season kicks off with Southern Miss victory ... Marshall linebacker suspended for bowl game ... More...
12.14.04: Preview: USM, North Texas kick off bowl season ... Former ECU assistants McFarland, Brindise land jobs ... McLendon to bolt Wolfpack for NFL draft ... More...
12.13.04: Musical chairs at full tilt as coaches change jobs ... List of Division I-A coaching changes ... Heisman Trophy chronology 1935-2004 ... More...
12.12.04: Title game of the Heismans set ... All-time Heisman winners list ... Blue- Gray Classic scratched again ... More...
12.11.04: Job security for SMU coach comes with lofty mandate ... Panel pushing to tie bowl bids to grad rates ... More...
12.10.04: Gamecocks' ol' man "Pops" still in the limelight ... Lou Groza Award winners ... Ray Guy Award winners ... More...
12.09.04: East Carolina releases 2005 baseball schedule ... BCA urges athletes, coaches to shun Gamecocks ... More...
12.08.04: All-Conference USA and C-USA All-Freshman teams ... Petrino waves off suitors to stay at Louisville ... More...
12.07.04: Syracuse chancellor decides to stick with Pasqualoni ... Zook selected to rejuvenate struggling Illini ... More...
12.06.04: C-USA standings, scoreboard, bowl lineup & TV ... BCS rankings, bowl pairings ''' AP football poll ... More...
12.05.04: FLwed BCS produces another messy title picture ... College football weekend: stars & storylines ... More...

RALEIGH — Julius Hodge drove to the basket and scored, then turned to run back on defense. On the way, for a brief moment, he held the Heisman Trophy pose.

It was the North Carolina State guard's not-so-subtle way of letting everyone know where he thinks he ranks among the elite players in the country — even if he had the wrong sport.

``I feel like I'm the best player in college basketball,'' said Hodge, a passionate college football fan. ``I was just having a little fun out there, but I believe that.''

He has plenty of evidence to support his brashness.

This month, Hodge became the first player in N.C. State history to reach 1,600 points, 600 rebounds and 300 assists. That type of all-around play helped him win player of the year honors in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season, beating out Wake Forest's Chris Paul, North Carolina's Rashad McCants and Duke's J.J. Redick.

Surprisingly, Hodge returned for his senior season, determined to make himself and his 12th-ranked team better.

``To be honest, I didn't see myself staying in college for four years,'' he said. ``But I knew that staying for this final year would be the best decision for me and my family and the N.C. State basketball community.

``I really want to win a championship and we're good enough to do that.''

So far, so good. Hodge is in the top 10 in the ACC in four different offensive categories — scoring average (19 points), rebounding (7.1 per game), assists (six per game) and field goal percentage (58) — and has helped N.C. State (8-0) to its best start under ninth-year coach Herb Sendek.

Against Liberty, Hodge finished a rebound and an assist short of his second career triple-double. He's had at least four assists in each game, and that unselfishness has rubbed off on the other players.

``He's really gone out and played a team game,'' Sendek said. ``He's really trying to help his teammates, and they're trying to help each other.''

Everything hasn't been perfect, however. Sendek held Hodge out of the starting lineup against Manhattan for coming late to practice — something Hodge said he didn't do.

That's been about the only hiccup to the fast start for Hodge and N.C. State, although neither really has been tested. All eight games have been in front of the home fans against mostly undermanned opponents.

A game at No. 18 Washington on Sunday night changes all that. The Huskies (7-1) are off to their best start in eight years behind talented Nate Robinson, a 5-foot-9 guard who averages 22.5 points.

He likely won't match up often with the 6-7 Hodge, but when it does happen, Hodge is ready.

``I know personally I have a target on my chest,'' he said. ``But I don't back down from challenges.''

Right now, he faces perhaps the biggest one from his performance at the free-throw line. A career 78 percent shooter, Hodge has made only 36-of-51 (59 percent) this season, including going 6-for-14 Wednesday night against Louisiana-Lafayette.

In fact, his struggled so badly that the Ragin' Cajuns were looking to foul him late in a close game.

``It's crazy,'' Hodge said. ``But I'm going to continue to work on this in practice, and eventually, they're going to fall like they did before.''

Hodge did have a hand in helping the Wolfpack stay undefeated, and a large part of it had nothing to do with his play. He took an instant liking to freshman center Andrew Brackman before the season and helped him get acclimated to life in the ACC, offering praise and criticism when they were needed.

Brackman had a breakthrough effort against Louisiana-Lafayette, finishing with 20 points, four rebounds and three blocks in only 23 minutes.

``He's been great,'' Brackman said. ``When you do something right, you hear about it, and when you do something wrong, you really hear about it.

``Even though he doesn't play my position, he's helped me out a bunch.''

James Madison rushes to I-AA championship

CHATTANOOGA — James Madison ran roughshod over rough sod on its way to its first Division I-AA national championship.

Despite adverse field conditions resulting from recent maintenance on the turf, Maurice Fenner had 164 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Justin Rascati also ran for two scores in a 31-21 victory over Montana on Friday night. The Dukes rolled up 314 yards rushing en route to their first national title.

``It was two great quarterbacks. The difference was we could run it, and they couldn't,'' James Madison coach Mickey Matthews said.

Rascati ran for 57 yards on 11 carries, and Fenner had 29 carries.

The Dukes (13-2) were the first team to reach the title game by winning all three playoff games on the road, advancing past the second round for the first time.

The two-time champion Grizzlies (12-3), playing in their fifth title game and led by Colorado transfer quarterback Craig Ochs, took a 21-17 lead in the third quarter, but couldn't stop James Madison's rushing attack.

Trailing by four points, James Madison responded with a 72-yard drive — all on the ground. Fenner capped the drive by pounding in for a score from the 1, putting the Dukes ahead for good.

Montana missed a 31-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter that would have tied the game, and the Dukes all but sealed the title on their next drive.

Rascati scored on a 6-yard run one down after getting hit in the head, a play that resulted in a roughing the passer penalty on Montana's Kerry Mullan that gave James Madison a first down.

The Grizzlies had a chance to rally, but James Madison's Clint Kent intercepted Ochs' pass with 6:17 remaining, and Montana was unable to move the ball the rest of the game.

``It's a dream come true,'' said Rascati, who transferred from Louisville after last season. ``It's something I've always dreamed of throwing in the backyard.''

James Madison's fans threw yellow streamers and some even jumped down from the stands onto the field to celebrate with the team as the final seconds ticked off the clock. All stayed on the field during a short fireworks show while security officials took down the goal posts.

Montana appeared to be in control in the first quarter after holding James Madison to 2 total yards on offense (minus-4 rushing, and 6 passing). The Grizzlies' score on their opening drive was the only touchdown James Madison allowed in the first quarter this season.

But the Dukes eventually got rolling on the ground.

``I think they decided they were going to do it,'' Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. ``They played a great game and deserved to win.''

Montana was trying to win the school's third title, a championship that would have provided a perfect ending to Ochs' college career.

He transferred from Colorado in the middle of the 2002 season after sustaining several concussions and having differences with coach Gary Barnett.

Ochs struggled with some injuries last season, but had a fabulous senior year. He finished 29-of-38 for a career-high 371 yards and three touchdowns.

``It's absolutely been a great year for us,'' Ochs said. ``It's a year I'll always remember.''

It was James Madison's quarterback transfer who was the star of this game.

Rascati was 13-of-18 for 132 yards.

Both teams complained about the poor field conditions. After the first series, players started to kick up huge chunks of sod. At times, players picked up the pieces of sod and threw them to the side before the snap.

The field, which is used by the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, was re-sodded last month and had a sandy base.

``That is probably the worst field I've ever played on in all my life,'' Rascati said.

Fenner and Alvin Banks rotated throughout the first part of the season before both were injured and missed several games. Raymond Hines filled in admirably, but he hurt his ribs in last week's win over William & Mary and didn't play Friday.

Both of Fenner's touchdown runs were from 1 yard, the first coming with 16 seconds left before halftime and giving James Madison a 10-7 lead.

Rascati scored from 11 yards to extend the Dukes' lead after halftime. Ochs threw touchdowns passes Levander Segars and Willie Walden in the third quarter.

News Nuggets are compiled periodically based on material supplied by staff members; data published by ECU, Conference USA and its member schools; and reports from Associated Press and other sources. Copyright 2004 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Page Updated: 02/23/2007 12:07 PM


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