National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

49ers edge Packers 23-20 in frigid wild-card game

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Phil Dawson kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired, and Colin Kaepernick threw for 227 yards and ran for another 98 to lead the San Francisco 49ers past the Green Bay Packers 23-20 on Sunday night in a frigid NFC wild-card game.

In a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the 49ers (13-4) threw the final punch. Kaepernick escaped a blitz on third-and-8 and scrambled for an 11-yard gain to the 27 with 1:13 left. Dawson nailed the winning kick five plays later.

The defending NFC champions came away with a huge win in conditions that resembled a meat locker. It was 5 degrees at kickoff, and the winds made it feel like minus-10.

San Francisco plays at Carolina next Sunday.

Mason Crosby's 24-yard field goal tied it at 20 for the Packers (8-8-1) with 5:06 left before the 49ers' final drive.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Golden says he is not a candidate for any job

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) Miami football coach Al Golden said Sunday he is not a candidate for any other job, ending days of silence and speculation about his future with the Hurricanes.

Golden's statement did not specifically mention Penn State, his alma mater, which reportedly targeted him as a top candidate to replace Bill O'Brien as coach. Throughout the process, Miami athletic director Blake James said he was confident Golden would stay, and was more succinct following the release of the coach's statement.

"He's staying," James said Sunday.

Golden is 22-15 in three seasons at Miami, with much of that time coming while the Hurricanes were dealing with an NCAA investigation concerning the actions of a former booster. That saga ended midway through this past season, when Miami finished 9-4 and began luring a recruiting class that is widely expected to be among the top 10 nationally.

"There has been much speculation concerning my future at the University of Miami," Golden said in the statement released by the school. "While I am flattered that our progress at The U during an extremely difficult period of time is recognized, I am also appreciative of just what we have here at UM and I am not a candidate for another position."

Golden is to hold a season-ending news conference Monday, an athletic department spokesman said. The event was scheduled before the speculation about Penn State started.

Former Miami wide receiver Shawn O'Dare, who played for Golden, wrote on Twitter shortly after the announcement: "Commitment-the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc."

Added incoming Miami wide receiver Braxton Berrios, also on Twitter: "It's a canes thing, you guys just wouldn't understand."

Golden was unaware of the investigation when he took the Miami job, often calling what happened when the NCAA probe became widely known in August 2011 - a few weeks before his first game with the Hurricanes - "the tsunami."

Nonetheless, he stayed and was rewarded with an extension, one that has him under contract into early 2020.

Through it all, the Hurricanes continued to build. If not for a second straight self-imposed postseason ban, they would have appeared in the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. They climbed to No. 7 in the AP Top 25 this season after a 7-0 start, the school's highest ranking in nearly eight years.

"We are eager to welcome our student athletes back to campus next week and visit with prospective student-athletes and their families beginning January 15," Golden said.

Payton encouraged by Saints' road playoff win

METAIRIE, La. (AP) With a trip to Seattle looming, the New Orleans Saints gained more confidence from the first road playoff win in franchise history than Saturday's 26-24 margin at Philadelphia indicated.

Before kicker Shayne Graham connected on a 32-yard field goal as time ran out, the Saints dominated the Eagles statistically.

"Certainly when you watch the tape, the score could have been a lot bigger on our part," coach Sean Payton said Sunday. "It was a great team win."

Specifically, Payton pointed to New Orleans' nearly 10-minute edge in time of possession, converting seven of 13 third downs compared to the Eagles' three of 12, its 185-80 advantage in rushing yards and its 434-256 domination in total yards.

Philadelphia, which had won seven of its last eight to claim the NFC East, entered as the NFL's leading rushing team, averaging 160.4 yards. The Saints held LeSean McCoy, who had a league-high 1,607 yards in the regular season, to 77 yards on 21 carries with a long gain of 11.

"We tackled well and pursued to the ball," Payton said. "We really felt that was going to be important. He's such an exceptional player and has the ability to cut back. Your angles and gap integrity have to be really good because it might start out going right, then all of a sudden, it ends up all the way around the left end."

Conversely, New Orleans ran right at a Philadelphia defense that had limited five consecutive opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards. The Saints' number of carries (36) and yards were higher than in all but one regular-season game, and they rushed for 54 more yards than their second-best total.

On their final drive, Drew Brees threw one pass while the Saints ran eight times, getting three first downs to move from the Philadelphia 48 to the 14.

"We controlled both lines of scrimmage," Payton said. "When you do that, you have a good chance of winning."

That advantage allowed New Orleans to overcome two interceptions by Brees in the first half and become a rare team to win on the road in the playoffs while losing the turnover battle.

Trailing 7-6 at the break, New Orleans scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the third quarter.

"At halftime, to some degree, we were fortunate to be down just a point after the turnovers," Payton said. "We felt like if we put our best football together and executed and did the things we had to do then, the result would take care of itself."

They also took care of having to answer questions again about their winless playoff record in opposing stadiums. The Saints were 0-5 overall and 0-3 under Payton, who downplayed that statistic all week.

"It is great for the city and it's great for our team, just momentum as we move through the playoffs," tight end Benjamin Watson said. "To win on the road in this league is tough as we saw through the regular season. To win in a hostile environment, the cold, in Philadelphia, it brings great confidence for our team."

They'll need all of that confidence in Seattle, which buried the Saints 34-7 on Dec. 2 in the midst of New Orleans' four-game road losing streak to end the regular season.

At least the Saints know what they will face next Saturday at raucous CenturyLink Field. They will try to duplicate what the New York Jets did three years ago when they won at New England in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs after losing there 45-3 a month earlier.

"When you face an opponent previously in the season, you have a better idea of what you're going against," New Orleans defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley said. "It helps you prepare for it a little bit better."

Notes: Payton offered no update on the status of CB Keenan Lewis, who left in the third quarter with a concussion, or any other player. ... The Saints will be off Monday before practicing Tuesday.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

AP source: Watkins, 2 other Tigers to NFL

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is off to the NFL.

A person familiar with the wideout's decision said the record-setting Watkins would give up his final year with the Tigers to enter the NFL draft. The person requested anonymity since the school had not officially announced Watkins' intentions.

The source also said two other Tigers in receiver Martavis Bryant and cornerback Bashaud Breeland were also giving up the rest of their college eligibility for the NFL.

Watkins, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior from Fort Myers, Fla., has been an electrifying performer since he arrived on campus before the 2011 season. He had 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman to help Clemson win its first Atlantic Coast Conference title in two decades.

Watkins tailed off as a sophomore because of a drug-related suspension and illness, but was back to his first-year form this past fall. He set a Clemson record with 101 catches for 1,464 yards. His receptions topped the school mark of 88 set by Aaron Kelly in 2007.

Watkins' yards moved him past former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who left a year early after the 2012 season and became a first-round draft pick of the Houston Texans.

Watkins saved one of his best showings for last, finishing with 16 catches for 227 yards and two TDs in No. 12 Clemson's 40-35 victory over No. 7 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl for the Tigers' first win in a BCS bowl.

"I've definitely been blessed with great coaches and a great quarterback (Tajh Boyd) the past three years," Watkins said after the Orange Bowl. "It's not all about me."

Watkins is considered the top receiving prospect in this year's draft and has been among the top 10 overall picks in mock drafts.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney joked Friday night that if Watkins wanted to talk about his future, "it would be a short conversation with me."

Swinney has long said that if his players are considered first-round picks, they should head to the NFL with his full support.

Bryant is a 6-5, 200 pound junior from Calhoun Falls. He is considered one of the fastest players on the team who had struggled to keep up with the production of receiving leaders in Hopkins and Watkins.

Bryant came into the year with 19 catches and six touchdowns his first two seasons. He had 42 receptions for seven TDs this fall, including two in the Orange Bowl win.

Breeland, a 6-foot, 195-pound cornerback from Allendale, missed three games as a sophomore, but rebounded from injury this season to finish with 70 tackles. He had four stops in the Orange Bowl, including a sack and a forced fumble.

With Watkins and Bryant leaving, the Tigers will look to a remade receiving group. Charone Peake, a starter this season who was lost in September because of a knee injury, is expected to make a full recovery.

Clemson will also count on senior Adam Humphries along with young wideouts Mike Williams, T.J. Green and Germone Hopper.

Chargers rally for 27-10 win over Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) San Diego took advantage of Andy Dalton's three turnovers in the second half on Sunday, pulling away to a 27-10 victory that extended the Cincinnati Bengals' streak of playoff misery to 23 years and counting.

Philip Rivers donned gloves and made accurate throws in the January rain, leading the Chargers (10-7) to their fifth straight win, this one over the last team to knock them off.

They'll play next Sunday in Denver, the AFC's top seed.

It was a shocking finish for the Bengals (11-6), they won the AFC North, went unbeaten at home and had their top-ranked defense for the playoffs. With everything in their favor, they fell apart, getting outscored 20-0 in the second half.

Dalton now has a trilogy of bad playoff games. He fumbled and threw two interceptions in the second half, setting up San Diego's first playoff victory on the road in an open-air stadium since the 1994 AFC title game in Pittsburgh.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Malkin scores twice in return as Penguins rally past Jets, 6-5

PITTSBURGH - Evgeni Malkin scored twice in his return from injury and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-5 on Sunday afternoon.

James Neal added two goals for Pittsburgh, which matched a club record by winning its 12th straight home game. Jussi Jokinen picked up his third goal in two games and Matt Niskanen put in the winner with less than 8 minutes left.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots as Penguins coach Dan Bylsma won his 232nd game with Pittsburgh, moving into a tie with Eddie Johnston for the most victories in franchise history.

Evander Kane had two goals and an assist for the Jets. Jacob Trouba, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele also scored as Winnipeg remained winless in Pittsburgh since 2006. Al Montoya made 33 saves, but couldn't make an early two-goal lead stand.

Malkin missed nine games with a lower leg injury, but hardly looked rusty. He scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season and added an assist as the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins extended their home dominance.

Pittsburgh's 12-game run at Consol Energy Center matches that 12-game run the club put together between Feb. 22-March 30, 2013.

This one, however, was harder than most.

The Jets, less than 24 hours removed from a dismal 4-1 loss to Boston, hardly looked like a team overwhelmed by Pittsburgh's home ice dominance or the return of a pair of All-Stars. Winnipeg took the lead just 1:47 into the game as Trouba pounced on an Olli Jokinen rebound and flipped it into the open net.

Trouba's fourth goal of the season also snapped a streak of 438: 19 of game time in which the Penguins had been either in the lead or tied at home, a streak that dates back to Nov. 27.

Pittsburgh had a chance to even it late in the first period when Sidney Crosby was interfered with on a breakaway. His penalty shot was knocked out of harm's way by Montoya, leaving Crosby without a penalty shot goal during his career (0 for 4).

Scheifele made it 2-0 with just 4 seconds left in the first on a knuckler that Fleury couldn't get a handle on.

All it did was set the stage for a furious second period in which the teams combined to score seven times on just 24 shots.

A Winnipeg turnover led to a nasty wrist shot from Malkin for his first goal since Dec. 14. Neal followed by scoring twice in 34 seconds to give Pittsburgh the lead.

The Jets, however, would not go away. Kane beat Fleury twice, beating Fleury with a beautiful backhand on a breakaway then emerging from a mad scramble to flip the puck over Fleury with 17 seconds left in the second to put Pittsburgh's home streak in serious jeopardy.

For a few minutes anyway. Malkin tied it at 5 by stuffing in a rebound 8:29 into the third period and Niskanen put the Penguins in front for good with a slap shot from the point that eluded Montoya.

Fleury made a pair of big stops in the final minute, including getting a glove on a wrist shot by Scheifele with 3 seconds remaining.

NOTES: Bylsma is 232-104-26 in four-plus seasons with the Penguins. Johnston went 232-224-80 in two different stints with Pittsburgh ... The Penguins begin a three-game trip through Western Canada on Tuesday in Vancouver. ... The Jets finished their three-game East Coast swing 0-3 ... Penguins D Kris Letang had an assists in 24:31 of ice time after missing 10 games with an elbow injury.

Toughest part of Ryder Cup is getting on the team

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) The most pressure involving the Ryder Cup this year is simply getting on the team.

It has never been more difficult - for Europe or the United States.

"I do not want to be missing out on that one," Graeme McDowell said last month at the end of a most successful season.

The former U.S. Open champion and Ryder Cup hero from Wales in 2010 won three times last year, including the World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria. He finished the year at No. 14 in the world, behind five Europeans - Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter.

But there are no guarantees in golf, especially in this era of great depth. McDowell goes into the year outside the top nine in the standings (four from European Tour money, five from world ranking points, both earned since September).

Both captains, Tom Watson and Paul McGinley, have three wild-card selections. Both teams have young players who were never part of the Ryder Cup conversation until now, whether that's Jordan Spieth of Texas or Victor Dubuisson of France.

"There's going to be two or three guys who miss," McDowell said. "Good players. Quality players. I assume McGinley's wild cards are going to be very hotly contested. No doubt it's going to be a tough team to get on."

It's like that for America, too.

All anyone has to do is look at the Presidents Cup last October - not because of who played for the American team, but who didn't.

Jim Furyk was left off the team when U.S. captain Fred Couples picked Spieth, and it was hard to fault him for that. Dustin Johnson, whom many regard as the best American talent under 30, didn't make the team and wasn't picked. Former Masters champion Bubba Watson stayed home. Rickie Fowler hasn't played on a U.S. team since he was a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup in Wales.

"It certainly is getting harder now - that, and I think the American players are hungry for it, so they're playing and they're working," Zach Johnson said. "They are grinding and they want to make that team. It's harder to make those teams."

Last fall, Johnson couldn't help but look at the rosters and say, "He deserved to be on the team," or "How do you not take that guy?"

"The obvious one was Jim," he said. "How was he not on the team?"

Furyk had not missed a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team since 1997. Then again, Furyk was 43 and every year gets a new class of young players who made it even harder. Harris English won twice last year. Think he doesn't have the Ryder Cup on his mind, especially after having played in a Walker Cup?

Tiger Woods, when he was going through a season of mediocre golf and troubling injuries in 2011, was regarded in some circles as a questionable captain's pick for the 2011 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. Woods didn't even qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. Before heading down to Australia, his last top 10 was in April. Taking him would mean leaving PGA champion Keegan Bradley off the team.

All the opinions and analysis overlooked one important thing. He's Tiger Woods. And that made him an obvious choice.

How many guys are locks like that now?

Phil Mickelson, who turns 44 this year and is as unpredictable now as when he was a rookie, probably still fits into that category. And that's about it.

Consider who might be expected to play at Gleneagles the last week of September. Woods, Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Zach and Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Spieth, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Furyk.

We're already up to 14. The Ryder Cup takes only 12.

And that's overlooking which new star might emerge this year. English? Billy Horschel? Gary Woodland? Ryan Moore?

Europe was at its strongest in the middle of the 2000s decade. Again, the strength was measured more by who didn't make the team. That prompted Colin Montgomerie to say in Ireland in 2006 that Europe had reached a stage where it could field two quality teams. It used to be the Europeans barely had enough for one.

Rose and Poulter didn't make the `06 team. Darren Clarke was left off the 2008 team, even though he had won twice that year. Garcia didn't play in 2010.

The Ryder Cup already is closer than ever. Sure, the Europeans seem to have a lock on that gold chalice. They won in 2010 when it came down to the final match, even though the Americans won all but one session in that rain-filled week. Europe's win in Medinah required a stunning comeback on the final day. It effectively was decided on a 45-foot birdie putt by Justin Rose.

The competition is greater than ever - for three days of competition, and especially for the next eight months trying to make the team. One thing is certain. There will be a lot of players disappointed to be sitting in front of their TVs.

Strong says he's excited to take over Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) New Texas football coach Charlie Strong says he's excited to lead one of the premier programs in the country, calling the Longhorns job a dream.

In a statement released by the school formally announcing the hire Sunday, Strong called Texas a special program because of its history, tradition and pride.

Strong spent the previous four years at Louisville. His Cardinals teams went 23-3 the last two seasons. He replaces Mack Brown, who coached Texas for 16 years and won the 2005 national championship. The Longhorns have lost at least four games each of the last four seasons.

Strong says the decision to leave Louisville was difficult, but Texas was a job offer he couldn't pass up.

Strong was traveling to Austin on Sunday and will be introduced at a Monday news conference.

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch fined $50,000 by NFL

The NFL has fined Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch $50,000 for violating the league's media policy.

Lynch stepped in front of a camera Friday and spoke for less than 90 seconds. It was his first time taking questions from the media all season, having politely declined every previous time.

Lynch's longest answer was 24 words when asked about the Seahawks' focus this week not knowing who their opponent will be.

The Seahawks will host the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoffs Saturday.

Lynch finished the regular season with 1,257 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Manchester United chrash out of FA Cup with home loss to Swansea

Manchester United's woes continue after a shocking home loss to Swansea City in the third round of the FA Cup. The win was Swansea's first ever at Old Trafford.

Wayne Routledge opened the scoring for Swansea on a deft chip in the 12th minute, but Javier Hernandez responded four minutes later for United.

The match looked headed for a replay in South Wales until Wilfried Bony got on the end of Routledge's cross and headed it into the net in the 90th minute to continue united coach David Moyes' woes.

Football great Eusebio dies at 71 of heart failure

LISBON, Portugal (AP) - Eusebio's stellar football career for club and country included several sensational performances which are still remembered half a century later.

In an epic European Cup final against Real Madrid in 1962, when a first-half hat trick by Ferenc Puskas looked enough to secure the trophy for the Spanish club, Eusebio scored the last two goals as Benfica fought back to win 5-3 and clinch its second straight continental title.

But none of Eusebio's goals were more famous than those he scored against North Korea in the quarterfinals of the 1966 World Cup. With Portugal trailing 3-0, Eusebio inspired his team's turnaround with four goals and an eventual 5-3 victory.

Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, who died Sunday aged 71, became affectionately known as the Black Panther for his athletic prowess and clinical finishing that made him one of the world's top scorers during his heyday in the 1960s for Benfica and the Portuguese national team.

Eusebio died at his Lisbon home of heart failure at 3.30 a.m. local time (0330 GMT) Sunday, his biographer Jose Malheiro said. "His health was very poor," Malheiro told reporters. Eusebio was admitted to hospital several times over the past year for the treatment of heart and respiratory problems. Benfica confirmed his death.

Born into poverty in Africa, Eusebio became an international sporting icon and was voted one of the 10 best players of all time. For the Portuguese, he was a national hero.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugal captain who plays for Real Madrid, commented on his Facebook page, "Always eternal Eusebio, rest in peace." Former Portugal captain Luis Figo, the 2001 FIFA world player of the year, tweeted, "The king!! Great loss for us all! The greatest!!"

"On this sad day of (Eusebio's) death ... I prefer to look upon him as immortal," Chelsea's Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho told public broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa.

The Portuguese government decreed three days of national mourning, with flags flying at half-mast. The Portuguese Football Federation ordered a minute's silence ahead of Sunday's Portuguese Cup games.

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva made a nationally televised address to the nation to praise the "affability and humility" of a man who never let stardom go to his head. "His talent brought joy for entire generations, even those who didn't live through the most glorious moments of his career," Cavaco Silva said.

Eusebio achieved global fame, and tributes poured in from around the football world. FIFA President Sepp Blatter tweeted, "Football has lost a legend. But Eusebio's place among the greats will never be taken away," while German great Franz Beckenbauer also took to Twitter to comment, "One of the greatest football players ever has passed away."

Perhaps Eusebio's biggest accomplishment was leading Portugal to a third-place finish at the 1966 World Cup, but his agility and speed made him one of Europe's most dangerous forwards for most of a career that lasted two decades.

He was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 1965 as Europe's player of the year and twice won the Golden Boot - in 1968 and 1973 - for being top scorer in Europe. According to football's world governing body FIFA, he scored 679 goals in a total of 678 official games.

At the 1966 World Cup, where Portugal went on to lose to host and eventual champion England in the semifinals, Eusebio became even more popular at home when he wept openly as he left the field following the defeat.

He finished as the tournament's top scorer with nine goals. In 1998, a panel of 100 experts gathered by FIFA named him in its International Football Hall of Fame as one of the sport's top 10 all-time greats.

"Look, there are only two black people on the list: me and Pele," Eusebio commented on the honor, referring to the Brazilian great who was a friend. "I regard that as a great responsibility because I am representing Africa and Portugal, my second homeland."

Eusebio was born in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, during the Second World War when the southeast African country was still a Portuguese colony. He came from a poor family but sparkled for his local team and was lured by Benfica to Portugal when he was 18.

Known for his unpretentious and easy manner as well as his courage and ball skills, his popularity in Portugal was such that in 1964, when Italian clubs offered to buy Eusebio for sums that were astronomical for the time, the country's then-dictator, Antonio Salazar, decreed that the player was a "national treasure" - meaning that he could not be sold abroad.

"A football genius and example of humility, an outstanding athlete and generous man, Eusebio was for all sports fans and for all Portuguese an example of professionalism, determination and devotion to the colors of the national jersey and of Benfica," Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said in a statement.

In a playing career unparalleled in Portugal, Eusebio was a cornerstone of the Benfica team that won back-to-back European titles in the early 1960s.

With Benfica, he won 11 Portuguese league titles and five Portuguese Cups, and remains the club's best-known player. A bronze statue of him, poised to kick a ball, stands outside Benfica's Stadium of Light where fans began laying flowers after his death was announced.

Eusebio's coffin was to be taken to Benfica's Stadium of Light where fans could pay their respects.

In the 1966 World Cup quarterfinal at Goodison Park in Liverpool, Portugal made a nightmare start and was three goals down after 23 minutes.

"We were taken completely by surprise," Eusebio told The Associated Press at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where the Portuguese had a second meeting with the North Koreans 44 years after the first.

"I remember very clearly what (teammate Antonio) Simoes said when we were 3-0 down. He kept saying, `As long as we don't go four goals down, we're still in with a chance,"' Eusebio said. "And he was right."

Eusebio led Portugal's remarkable comeback by repeatedly charging at the Korean defense, scoring four goals in just over 30 minutes.

After his first two goals, he picked the ball out of the net, ran back to the halfway line and placed it in the center spot for the restart. He completed his hat trick with a 56th-minute equalizer before scoring his fourth from the penalty spot as North Korea's defense fell apart amid the onslaught.

"That was the best game of my life in a Portugal jersey," Eusebio said. "It left its mark on me."

Eusebio scored 41 goals in 64 games for Portugal.

After five knee operations, he played his last game for Benfica in 1975. Eusebio then moved to North America where he spent the last years of his career playing for the Boston Minutemen, Toronto Metros, Las Vegas Quicksilver and Buffalo Stallions through 1980.

Eusebio stayed on at Benfica as an assistant coach after his retirement and traveled widely with the Portuguese national side as a paid "soccer ambassador."

Eusebio is survived by his wife, Flora, two daughters and several grandchildren.

A trial run for Sochi: Shiffrin wins in snow, rain

BORMIO, Italy (AP) - If this was a trial run for the Sochi Olympics, Mikaela Shiffrin passed with flying colors.

The American teenager fought through soft snow, rain and deep ruts - exactly the type of conditions she could face in Sochi next month - to win her second World Cup slalom of the season Sunday.

"It's always a big confidence booster to have good skiing in different conditions," Shiffrin said. "I never wanted to be a racer who could only win on hard snow or just soft snow, or just a steep pitch or just a flat. I want to be really good in all-around conditions and getting a win today has given me a lot of confidence that I can ski out of ruts in the second run."

Located near the Black Sea, the Alpine resort of Rosa Khutor that will host the skiing races at the Olympics is known for varying weather conditions.

"Sochi can be challenging with the weather and everything," U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml said. "So she (Shiffrin) showed today that she's very well prepared."

The 18-year-old Shiffrin led by 0.03 seconds after the opening run and ending up winning by 0.13 ahead of Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden for the sixth victory of her career.

With all six of her wins in slalom Shiffrin took over sole possession of second on the all-time slalom list among American women, trailing only Tamara McKinney's nine victories.

Nastasia Noens of France moved up from 13th after the first run to finish third, 0.62 behind.

Shiffrin was only 0.01 ahead of Pietilae-Holmner at the final checkpoint but she excelled on the steep finishing gates to add to her lead.

Snow was falling on the top part of the course and rain at the bottom in the opening run, with spectators holding up umbrellas. During the second run, it was snowing at both the top and bottom.

Shiffrin's virtually perfect form and balance over her skis helped her overcome the varying conditions.

"She's an unbelievable skier," Riml said. "Good, solid body position definitely pays off in tough conditions like today."

Shiffrin was 12th and second in her previous two slaloms and was clearly motivated for this race.

"I was really psyched to win again," she said. "It's been a fight all season and I feel like, if I'm not perfectly ready, then the win goes to somebody else. So I was really trying to prepare myself and be ready to go today no matter what the conditions or the visibility."

The race was moved from Zagreb due to a lack of snow in Croatia, where Shiffrin also won last year. Having never raced in Bormio, she prepared by watching a YouTube video of Janica Kostelic's gold-medal run from the 2005 world championships, even though the women competed just up the road in Santa Caterina back then.

"I was like, `Yeah, I think I can do that,"' Shiffrin said of the retired Croatian standout. "It was pretty incredible to see her ski, because she really was the start of the new style of skiing and really pushing into the turns. She started it. I feel like if she was racing now she would still be winning."

Overall World Cup leader Maria Hoefl-Riesch stood fifth after the opening run but lost control shortly into her second trip down and skied off course.

Austrian specialist Marlies Schild recovered from a poor opening run - she was 15th - to finish sixth, with her younger sister Bernadette Schild placing fourth and Marie-Michele Gagnon of Canada fifth.

Marlies Schild won the past two races to set the record for most World Cup slalom victories with 35 and trailed Shiffrin by just two points in the discipline standings entering the race.

Shiffrin now leads by 62 points, with four more slaloms left to defend her season-long title from last year, when she also won the gold medal in the slalom at the world championships in Schladming, Austria.

It was Shiffrin's third consecutive podium result after placing third and second in a giant slalom and slalom last weekend in Lienz, Austria. Her other win this season came in Levi, Finland, in November.

"I'm very excited with how my season is going right now and I think I can do better, too," Shiffrin said.

Pietilae-Holmner's only two victories came in the 2010-11 season, while Noens' only previous podium result came in a slalom in Flachau, Austria, three years ago.

Resi Stiegler, the only other American starter, was 40th in the first run and failed to qualify for the second leg.

Four-time overall winner Lindsey Vonn skipped the race as she continues to rest her injured knee.

A men's slalom is scheduled for Monday night on the Stelvio.

The Sochi Games start Feb. 7.

West Ham humbled by Forest in FA Cup

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - West Ham's gamble of playing a team full of youngsters and reserve players backfired spectacularly when the Premier League struggler was thrashed 5-0 by second-tier Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

With his squad hit by injury and the first leg of a League Cup semifinal against Manchester City to come on Wednesday, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce fielded an unrecognizable starting XI that was humbled at The City Ground.

Djamel Abdoun's goal gave Forest a 1-0 lead at halftime before Jamie Paterson scored a hat trick and Andy Reid completed the humiliation with the fifth in injury time.

West Ham's lineup further highlights the FA Cup's increasing lack of appeal in the eyes of many top clubs but Allardyce made no apologies, even though the humiliating result will pile the pressure on him after his team's poor start to the season. West Ham is next to last in the Premier League after 20 games.

"We had a huge amount of problems in terms of the available members of the squad so I've got to keep them intact, that's a major priority," Allardyce said.

"Many, many managers have changed the team in all divisions, but my changes had to be severe. I didn't want it to be but it had to be."

Charlie Strong tells Louisville he's off to Texas

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville coach Charlie Strong has told Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich that he is leaving for Texas.

Strong, 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville, including 3-1 in bowl games, will replace Mack Brown.

The 53-year-old Strong met this week with new Texas athletic director Steve Patterson about the coaching vacancy, but he wanted to wait until speaking directly with Jurich to accept Texas' offer. Jurich was on vacation in Colorado and weather problems made traveling back to Louisville difficult.

Jurich returned to Louisville on Saturday night and met with Strong. Jurich gave Strong his first chance to be a head coach after a long successful career as a defensive coordinator at Florida and South Carolina.

SI.com reported Strong will receive a five-year contract that will pay him $5 million annually.

Texas officials declined comment Saturday night, but were expected to make a formal announcement on Strong taking over the Longhorns on Sunday.

Strong's decision ends a day that began with him telling assistant coaches in a brief meeting that he hadn't decided whether to accept Texas' offer. Asked about the coach's timetable for a decision, Louisville football spokesman Rocco Gasparro said, "It's a difficult decision for him."

Strong leaves as one of Louisville's most successful coaches, one who took the program from three consecutive non-winning seasons to four straight bowl games including Louisville's second BCS victory last January with a 33-23 upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals added another bowl win last week, beating Miami 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

He would be Texas' first black head football coach and inherits a program aching to reclaim its place among the nation's elite.

Brown's Longhorns won the 2005 season national championship and returned to the title game after the 2009 season. But the Longhorns fell to 5-7 in 2010 and have lost at least four games each of the last three seasons.

The Longhorns ended the 2013 season with a 30-7 loss to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

That dropoff, including an 18-17 mark in the Big 12 over the last four seasons, frustrated Texas fans, who demand much more from the wealthiest athletic program in the country that sits in the middle of the most fertile high school recruiting grounds in the country.

Strong's hiring provides the Longhorns a strong recruiter that has built his program with talent from south Florida, including star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Texas also has its Longhorn Network partnership with the ESPN, a 24-hour channel dedicated to Texas athletics, a deal that pays the school at least $300 million over 20 years.

Brown had cited the fractured fan base in his resignation news conference and said it was time for someone else to unite Texas supporters. Brown lasted 16 years in the pressure cooker of Texas, but his final four years included university regents and powerbrokers exploring when and how to replace him, including a meeting with Alabama coach Nick Saban's agent in early 2013.

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AP College Football Writer Ralph Russo in Newport Beach, Calif., and AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

Luck rallies Indy to 45-44 playoff win over Chiefs

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Chuck Pagano couldn't believe his eyes. Andrew Luck couldn't believe his ears. Colts fans couldn't believe the scoreboard, and the Kansas City Chiefs couldn't believe their incredibly bad luck.

It seemed unfathomable.

On a day Luck appeared to be pressing and, at times, as bad as he ever has while putting Indianapolis in a 28-point deficit, the Colts quarterback somehow turned things around. He threw three of his four touchdowns in the second half, scored on a fumble return and connected with a wide-open T.Y. Hilton on a 64-yard TD pass to give the Colts an improbable 45-44 wild-card victory Saturday.

"One for the ages," said Pagano, Indianapolis' coach. "I think somebody said that it was the second-largest comeback or whatever in the history of whatever. I guess 21 wasn't large enough at half, so we thought we've give them another seven, you know, just to make it interesting."

Actually, rallying from 28 down made the latest of Luck's amazing comebacks one to remember.

Indianapolis (12-5) became only the second playoff team to rally from that big a deficit, according to STATS. Buffalo rallied from 32 points to beat Houston 41-38 in January 1993, though that one required overtime.

The teams' 1,049 combined total yards set an NFL postseason record, and their 89 combined points is third on the all-time list.

The Colts, winners of four straight, travel to either Denver or New England next weekend for the divisional round.

Luck was an incredible mix of good and bad, finishing 29 of 45 for 443 yards, the second-highest yardage total in franchise history for a playoff game. He also matched his career high with three interceptions. Hilton broke franchise playoff records with 13 catches and 224 yards, and also caught two TDs.

But it was the way Indy won that made it stunning.

Luck played angry and frantic, turning a steady stream of halftime boos into a chorus of cheers.

"I don't know if it ever crossed my mind on how it would be remembered," Luck said after winning his first playoff game four seasons quicker than it took his predecessor, Peyton Manning. "When I took a knee, and you feel the buzz and the energy of the crowd and see your teammates' faces, that makes it special."

For Kansas City, it was another brief, miserable postseason appearance.

The Chiefs (11-6) finished their remarkable turnaround season with three straight losses and an eighth straight postseason defeat - none more shocking than this one. The eight consecutive losses broke a tie with the Detroit Lions for the longest playoff skid.

And they were beaten up, too.

Starting running back Jamaal Charles left with a concussion on the opening possession. Knile Davis, Charles' backup, left in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a left knee injury. Receiver Donnie Avery and cornerback Brandon Flowers were knocked out with second-half concussions, and linebacker Justin Houston was out with a knee injury when Hilton caught the winning pass.

That put even more pressure on Alex Smith, who was 30 of 46 for 378 yards with four TDs and no interceptions but lost a fumble that led to a touchdown for Indy. Just about everyone other than the Colts figured Smith sealed the win with a 10-yard TD pass to Davis less than two minutes into the third quarter.

Instead, he tried to rally the Chiefs after Hilton's score and wound up throwing to Dwayne Bowe - who caught the ball but was out of bounds - on fourth-and-11 with 1:55 to play from the Indy 43.

"Anytime you're leading like that and then have them battle back and then take it, and you end up losing by a point, it's tough, a tough pill to swallow," Smith said.

Things appeared bleak with Indy trailing 31-10 at halftime, and they got worse when Luck's first pass of the second half was picked off and returned to the Indy 18. Three plays later, Smith made it 38-10.

But Luck had plenty of time to make the jaw-dropping rally.

With Indy going no-huddle, Luck started throwing at will. He eventually caught the Chiefs defense off-guard when Donald Brown scored on a 10-yard run to start the rally. Then Luck capitalized on the fumble by hooking with Brown on a 3-yard TD pass to make it 38-24.

After Luck's third interception turned into a 42-yard field goal, he answered with a 12-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 41-31 after three quarters.

"He's as advertised. He went out there and definitely avoided some pressure and made big plays down the field," Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith said, referring to Luck.

Even when Eric Berry jarred the ball loose from Brown near the goal line, Luck had the answer. He scooped up the bouncing ball and squirted through the middle to make it 41-38. And after a Kansas City field, goal, Luck found Hilton to win it.

"It seemed surreal, being down like we were down and then you have that fourth-down stop and they had used their last timeout there at the 2-minute warning," Pagano said. "Thinking about how good tomorrow's going to be, snow or no snow, I don't really care."

Notes: The Chiefs rushed for 150 yards on 32 carries, even with Charles out most of the game. ... Colts K Adam Vinatieri became the first player in NFL history to score 200 points in the playoffs. He now has 205. ... Indy won its first playoff game without Manning since Jan. 7, 1996, when Jim Harbaugh was the QB. ... The Chiefs fell to 0-4 vs. Colts in playoff matchups.

Lindsey Vonn’s status ‘up in the air;' another injury could derail Olympics

Lindsey Vonn has not trained on snow in two weeks, most likely will not race next weekend and might not be able to race in the Olympics if she has another injury setback, a U.S. Ski Team coach told The Associated Press on Saturday.

“She’s recovering and preparing and everything is [up] in the air,” said U.S. women’s ski team coach Alex Hoedlmoser, according to the AP. ”Right now it’s a total open book.”

“We don’t know. It totally depends on how she recovers, how the knee feels, if she gets the strength back, the stability in the knee.”

Hoedlmoser, who last spoke to Vonn on Thursday, said the skier has not trained on snow since Dec. 21, when she skied out of a downhill race in Val d’Isere, France, when she said her right knee “completely gave out.” It swelled up afterward.

Hoedlmoser said Vonn might not race again before the Olympics on Dec. 29.

Her best events are speed races — downhill and super-G. The final World Cup speed races before the Olympics — after next weekend’s events in Altenmarkt, Austria — are in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, from Jan. 18-19 and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 25-26.

“We would like to see her get a couple more races in, but the injury she has, she’s always taking some risks doing that,” Hoedlmoser told the AP. “And [if she has] another setback then she might not be able to do the Olympics.”

Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion, blew out her right knee at the World Championships last February. She returned to skiing on snow in late August, partially retore her right ACL in November and returned to competition in early December.

The Olympic downhill is Feb. 12. The Olympic super-G is Feb. 15. Vonn won gold and bronze, respectively, in those races at the Vancouver Olympics.

Vonn has not commented on her status since Dec. 21.

“I didn’t hurt myself more than I’m already hurt,” Vonn said after skiing out in Val d’Isere, according to the AP. “It was a small compression, and it was fully loaded on the right ski and my knee just completely gave out. I tried to pressure the ski again and it gave out again. I had no chance of making that gate, unfortunately.”

At the time, Vonn thought her next race would be “sometime in January.”

“I’m at risk of doing more damage to my knee and my meniscus,” she said in Val d’Isere. “So I’m going to play it safe and race really minimal races. Probably one or two before the Olympics.”

Brees rallies Saints to 20-14 lead over Eagles

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Drew Brees threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore, Mark Ingram ran in from the 4 and the New Orleans Saints took 20-14 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles after three quarters in an NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday night.

Two of the NFL's most prolific offenses struggled to get things going early. Brees threw a pair of interceptions, the second leading to Nick Foles' 10-yard TD pass to Riley Cooper.

But the eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback bounced back with the go-ahead TD pass in the third quarter and key completions on another scoring drive.

NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy had a 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-1.

Shayne Graham kicked pair of field goals for the Saints. Alex Henery missed from 48 yards for Philadelphia.

The Saints (11-5) are seeking the franchise's first playoff win in six tries on the road. The Eagles (10-6) went worst-to-first in the NFC East under rookie coach Chip Kelly.

The teams combined for an average of 816.7 yards and 53.5 points per game during the regular season. But defense dominated early.

Down 7-6 at halftime, the Saints forced a three-and-out on Philadelphia's first possession of the second half. Foles was called for intentional grounding and then got sacked. The Saints took over at their 47 after a punt and Brees quickly moved them down field. He rolled out and hit Moore for a 24-yard TD for a 13-7 lead.

On the ensuing possession, the Eagles missed a big opportunity. Cooper was wide open going over the middle, but dropped a pass on third-and-4 that would've gone for a long gain.

The Saints took advantage. Brees completed a 14-yard pass to Kenny Stills on third-and-12 and Ingram scored a few plays later for a 20-7 lead.

But Philadelphia answered. Foles connected with DeSean Jackson for a 40-yard catch to the Saints for his first catch. McCoy scored a few plays later.

After Bradley Fletcher intercepted Brees in the first quarter, the Eagles were at the Saints 15 after McCoy ran 8 yards on fourth-and-1. But a pass to Brent Celek lost 8 yards and Foles took a sack for an 11-yard loss. Henery then missed wide left.

The Saints then drove to the Eagles 13 before nearly losing the ball again. Jimmy Graham fumbled, but the call was reversed after a video review showed he was down before the ball came out. Graham then made a 36-yarder for a 3-0 lead.

Brees, who led the Saints to a Super Bowl title in 2009, had thrown just four interceptions in his first nine playoff games before tossing two picks in the first half. The Saints were at the Eagles 41 before Brees threw one right to linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who returned it 23 yards to the New Orleans 44.

Foles connected with Cooper for 22 yards on first down. On third down, he found Cooper running across the back of the end zone for a TD.

Graham kicked a 47-yarder at the end of the second quarter to cut it to 7-6.

Brees and Foles became just the second pair of quarterbacks from the same high school to play each other in a playoff game. Brees led Westlake High School to the Texas state championship in 1996. Foles broke several of Brees' passing records and guided the Austin-based school to the title game in 2006, but lost.

A day after a storm dumped 8 inches of snow on Philadelphia, there was hardly any trace of it at Lincoln Financial Field. Team officials estimated workers removed between two and three million pounds of snow from the stadium and surrounding parking lots. Temperature at kickoff was 25 degrees, but the cold weather didn't prevent Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis from coming out shirtless for pregame warm-ups.

New Orleans played without Pierre Thomas, the team's leading rusher and second-leading receiver. Thomas injured his chest last week.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Miami expecting Golden to remain coach

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) Miami expects Al Golden to stay with the Hurricanes, athletic director Blake James said Saturday in response to speculation that the football coach may be poised to leave for Penn State.

James says he has been in regular communication with Golden in recent days and believes he will remain at Miami. Golden played for Joe Paterno at Penn State and has emerged as a top candidate to replace Bill O'Brien with the Nittany Lions.

O'Brien resigned to take over as coach of the NFL's Houston Texans.

Golden has not responded to messages for several days about the Penn State search. He's 22-15 in three seasons at Miami, spending much of that time dealing with the now-closed NCAA investigation revolving around the actions of a former booster.

Sights and sounds from BCS title game media day

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) When you cram an entire college football team and dozens of television cameras into a cramped hotel ballroom, don't be surprised if a dance-off breaks out.

That impromptu Auburn dance semicircle on Saturday morning was just one entertaining aspect of a lively media day before the BCS championship game. The Tigers and Florida State both took turns discussing every aspect of the big game and the season leading up to it, with innumerable detours along the way.

"It's a great experience to be out here and to do everything they set us up to do," Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall said. "But I've just come out here for one thing only, and that's to get a win."

Marshall wasn't given one of the four podiums assigned to each team's best players at media day, instead sitting at a table with reporters crammed up against each other to hear his insights. Auburn running back Chandler Shakespeare took media day to another level, grabbing a water bottle and running around the room interviewing his own teammates to the amusement of the real reporters.

While most players seemed pleased with the media day attention, there's an undeniable anxiety to get to Monday's game at the Rose Bowl after several days of preparation and amusements - everything from a trip to Disneyland and a comedy club to massive prime-rib dinners. Both teams arrived on New Year's Eve, and they've spent the last few days practicing for the big finale.

"It's actually my first time coming to California, so I'm definitely excited to play out here in this great weather," Florida State receiver Rashad Greene said. "And what better people to play with?"

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CON QUESO: Auburn center Reese Dismukes' favorite part of the BCS championship game experience hasn't been the pomp or the circumstance. It's the quiet Mexican dinner he had with several other offensive linemen.

"The Mexican food is way better out here," Dismukes said. "I guess it should be. I didn't get any cheese dip, though. I like that in Alabama. Us fat guys like cheese dip."

Like most players on both teams, the third-team All-American center is trying to enjoy the experience without losing focus on the Tigers' goal.

"It's important to remember why you're here," Dismukes said, "but also to enjoy being here. It's a balance."

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HEY FOUR-EYES: Florida State receiver Kenny Shaw wore Google Glass around the room Saturday, sending photos and video of media day to the school's Google Plus site.

"I wish they was mine," Shaw said. "I'm just sharing. This is a great technology that more teams should utilize."

Shaw followed the lead of Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren at a Rose Bowl media availability last week. Although the Cardinal live just a few miles from the Googleplex, Shaw is no stranger to cutting-edge technology, and he excels on Twitter and Instagram, making him a natural choice for Google's goggles.

"It's kind of creepy, but I can be recording somebody and they don't even know it," Shaw said with a smile.

Shaw confidently declares he has "the most swag on the team. I get the job done on Saturdays, too. It's rare that you find that."

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DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Auburn's Jeff Whitaker might be out for the year, but he put on a show at media day.

The defensive tackle sang "Amazing Grace" - literally stopping after those two words - joked about wanting to meet Halle Berry, and pulled no punches on being perhaps the Tigers' strongest player.

"There's no complaining," Whitaker said. "My deal is, man, life's too short. I've got to keep smiling. I feel like I've got a beautiful face. I think I need to smile."

He has 18 career starts, but is still waiting to see real action in a national title game. Whitaker played one snap in the January 2011 victory over Oregon in Glendale, Ariz. He admits sitting this one out hurts.

"It's very tough," Whitaker said. "But at the end of the day I love my teammates. That's the most important thing."

He's still having fun on the trip. He busted on teammates trying to tell jokes during their comedy club outing: "We know comedy is not in them."

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AP Sports Writers John Zenor and Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

Nets' Lopez has surgery on broken right foot

NEW YORK (AP) Nets center Brook Lopez had surgery Saturday on his broken right foot, with the team saying a second procedure was done in hopes of preventing further injury.

Besides repairing the fractured fifth metatarsal, surgeons also repositioned another bone.

"With this procedure, we both fixed the broken bone in Brook's right foot and repositioned another bone, so that his sole of his foot will bear weight more evenly than before," Dr. Riley Williams III, the Nets' medical director, said in a statement. "The repositioning portion of the surgery lessens the stress on the fractured bone, and decreases the likelihood of re-injury in the future."

Lopez also broke the foot just before the 2011-12 season, when he was limited to just five games. He then had another procedure last offseason to fix a bent screw in the foot.

Lopez was injured Dec. 20 against Philadelphia. The All-Star center, who was averaging a team-high 20.7 points, will miss the remainder of the season and the Nets expect him back for offseason workouts.

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