TAMPA — USF nearly found itself on the other end of a crazy comeback in Saturday night's 66-64 win over Alabama.
The Bulls (6-2), who had rallied from 17 points down in a dramatic 68-66 road win over George Mason on Wednesday, almost let one slip away against the Crimson Tide (4-4).
USF held an eight-point lead with just more than two minutes left, but Alabama cut it to one in a final-minute flurry....
TAMPA — The two rookie quarterbacks have been buddies since high school, both growing up in Virginia.
The Bills' EJ Manuel and Bucs' Mike Glennon were recruited by many of the same colleges and bumped into each other often.
"Mike stuck out because he was one of the taller guys that you'll meet when you go on a recruiting visit," Manuel said of the 6-foot-6 Glennon. "At one of the campuses, we introduced ourselves to each other and have been friends ever since."...
TAMPA — Bucs WR Vincent Jackson returned to practice Thursday, though in a limited fashion.
Coach Greg Schiano said Jackson, who missed a portion of Wednesday's practice with a hamstring issue, split time between working with trainers and working on the field. Schiano said Jackson's availability might not be known until just before Sunday's game against the Bills.
"When you have a leg injury and you're a receiver, your legs are your life," Schiano said. "You've got to be able to run. Vincent is a pro. He'll know if he can do it or not. So it will be up to him."...
Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis admitted he was briefly knocked out in the third quarter of Sunday's game against Carolina but did not have a concussion.
Revis, who fell hard to the ground after nearly intercepting a Cam Newton pass, did not return to the game. But Revis did practice Wednesday and Thursday, saying he had to go through the proper concussion tests and passed.
"They're saying I got knocked out for a second and came back," Revis said. "I'm fine though."...
Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson returned to practice Thursday - though in a limited fashion - and his status for Sunday's game against the Bills is uncertain.
Coach Greg Schiano said he split time on Thursday between working with trainers and out on the practice field. But Schiano wouldn't commit to Jackson's availability Sunday.
"When you have a leg injury and you're a receiver, your legs are your life," Schiano said. "You've got to be able to run. We'll see when we give it a go, which I don't know when that will be. If it will be (Friday) or if it will be Saturday or if it will be Sunday, we'll give it a go. Vincent is a pro. He'll know if he can do it or not. So it will be up to him."...
TAMPA — DT Gerald McCoy said while the Bucs have been eliminated from playoff contention, they still have much to play for in the final four games this season.
"We're not going to the playoffs. It's a fact. So what?" McCoy said. "Are we going to lay down, or are we going to finish off strong? We have four more weeks to leave our mark on 2013. What are we going to do with it? It's up to us."...
Though Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson was a surprisingly absent from the early portion of Wednesday's practice, coach Greg Schiano indicated there's no cause for concern.
Schiano said Jackson is bothered by a hamstring issue, but believes it's nothing serious. Schiano pointed out Jackson, like another veteran in Davin Joseph, was actually supposed to get an extra day off/treatment anyways....
New Rays reliever - and potential closer - Heath Bell was one of the best in the game from 2009-2011, when he racked up 132 saves for the Padres with a 2.36 ERA.
But Bell, 36, acquired from Arizona Tuesday as part of a three-team deal, is coming off two disappointing seasons, including a 4.11 ERA in 2013.
Which Bell are the Rays getting? Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, who saw Bell up-close as Padres GM in 2009 and dealt him Tuesday, believes the veteran still has "got a lot left in the tank."...
The "Legion of Boom" might be destined for doom Monday night. Seattle's secondary, with its well-earned moniker, is shorthanded as it heads into a showdown with New Orleans. CB Walter Thurmond has been suspended four games and CB Brandon Browner faces a yearlong ban for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. The Seahawks still boast S Earl Thomas and CB Richard Sherman, but they'll need all the help they can get against the Drew Brees-led Saints, especially with the NFC's top seed on the line. This mega-matchup is like the unstoppable force against the immovable object. New Orleans boasts the second-ranked passing offense, and the Seahawks — thanks to the "Legion of Boom" — the second-best passing defense. Seattle QB Russell Wilson is undefeated (13-0) at his home, Century Link Field, one of the toughest venues to play in, and has WR Percy Harvin as an added weapon (though the former Florida Gator might miss the game). But if any team can come in and upset Seattle, it might be the Saints, especially with Brees having another spectacular season. New Orleans also has an opportunistic defense, led by first-year coordinator Rob Ryan, with 37 sacks, tied for most in the league. Wouldn't be surprised if this one is as exciting as the teams' last game in Seattle. In the 2011 wild-card game, the then-defending champion Saints were upset by the 7-9 Seahawks 41-36. And with both teams nearly unbeatable at home, this one could go a long way in determining who will be in the Super Bowl for the NFC....
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said his parents had to be creative for his Thanksgiving feast, which had to be turkey-free.
Newton, 24, challenged himself in March by becoming a pescetarian, giving up all meat and animal flesh except fish. He likes how it makes him feel, including increased energy and alertness, though acknowledged he has been tempted.
"When I go around the guys or I go around a particular place and they have chicken wings, they have prime rib, they have steak, it's just something for me to pinch myself and challenge myself," Newton said. "I can put my mind to a lot of different things as well."...
11/28/13 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — Lightning rookie defenseman Andrej Sustr is 6 feet 8, so there aren't many players he has to look up to.
But one of them is Bruins star defenseman Zdeno Chara, a 6-foot-9, 256-pound menacing force who has been a model for Sustr. Sustr, still growing into his wiry 225-pound frame, knows he is not yet close to being the enforcer Chara is.
"We'll see," Sustr said, smiling, "Maybe that side will develop a couple years down the road."...
11/28/13 Lightning Strikes
Lightning vs. Penguins
When/where: 4, Tampa Bay Times Forum
TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM, 93.5-FM
Key stats: Penguins star C Evgeni Malkin has 16 goals and 14 assists in 25 career games against Tampa Bay. … Pittsburgh (16-9-1) has lost five of its past six road games. It beat the Lightning 5-4 on Oct. 12 in Tampa in the team's first matchup this season. … The Lightning has won seven straight home games and is 10-2 overall at the Times Forum. … The Penguins' power play is fourth in the league at 24.2 percent (22-of-91).
11/25/13 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — Make no mistake, Monday was Marty St. Louis Night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Lightning captain knew emotions would be high during a pregame ceremony celebrating his 1,000th career game, played last week. His parents, wife and three sons were going to be there as he received gifts and tributes.
An hour before faceoff, coach Jon Cooper put St. Louis' nerves at ease with a prescient prediction....
11/25/13 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — As well as LW Nikita Kucherov was playing for AHL Syracuse, he was still surprised Sunday when he got called up by the Lightning.
"It's like a dream come true," Kucherov said. "They said, 'You got called up,' and I said, 'What?' I was nervous. 'Are you sure?' "
Coach Jon Cooper said it wasn't ideal to bring Kucherov in after just 17 professional games but said the 20-year-old Russian "earned his stripes a little quicker" and deserved a chance. Plus, the Lightning needed offensive punch without C Steven Stamkos (broken leg) and RW Ryan Malone (lower body). And Kucherov, who led the Crunch with 13 goals and 24 points, brings a unique scoring dynamic....
While Brad Richards hasn't been Lightning teammates with Marty St. Louis for five years, the two former linemates remain close friends.
And Richards, the ex-Lightning star and current Rangers forward, said he's "thrilled" it worked out where he'll be at the Tampa Bay Times Forum tonight when St. Louis gets honored for playing his 1,000th game.
"I still talk to him pretty much weekly on the game and things we're doing, whether it's stick length to how the game is played - we still pick each other's brains," Richards said after today's morning skate. "He's helped me a lot, I still look up to him, and love how he competes. He's a good inspiration to me."
Richards is not surprised about St. Louis' longevity, with the Hart Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion boasting a legendary work ethic....