Bowl season heats up
DETROIT, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- The Big East Conference has five teams playing in bowl games, beginning with Boston College and Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Boston College will be making a school-record fourth straight bowl appearances when it meets Toledo in the Motor City Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit. Thursday's other bowl game is in Phoenix, where No. 23 Pittsburgh opposes Oregon State in the Insight Bowl at Bank One Ballpark.
Boston College (8-4) endured an up-and-down year, but concluded its regular season with a three-game winning streak. The biggest win was a 14-7 victory at previously unbeaten Notre Dame on Nov. 2. Also, B-C Coach Tom O'Brien can become the school's coach to win three bowl games.
Running back Derrick Knight spearheaded the Eagles' late run and finished the year with 1,367 yards, the fourth-highest total in school history. Brian St. Pierre, who will end his career third on Boston College's all-time passing yards list behind Doug Flutie and Glenn Foley, has thrown for 2,641 yards this year.
Toledo (9-4) is making its second straight appearance in the Motor City Bowl after beat Cincinnati last season.
Brian Jones put together a solid season for Toledo, passing for a school-record 3,115 yards.
Pittsburgh (8-4) reached eight wins this year for the first time since 1989, and earned its first national ranking since 1991. The Panthers emerged as a contender in the Big East behind the league's top passing tandem of Rod Rutherford and Larry Fitzgerald.
The Panthers gave top-ranked Miami a huge scare on Nov. 21, reaching the Hurricanes 25 in the final minute before falling short, 28-21. The following week, the Panthers suffered a 24-17 setback to West Virginia that left them in third place in the Big East.
Oregon State (8-4) was last in a bowl game in 2000, when it routed Notre Dame, 41-9, in the Fiesta Bowl.
Steven Jackson of the Beavers set a school record by rushing for 1,656 yards, the sixth-highest total in Pac-10 history, and the highest for a non-Southern California running back.
Richt gets lengthy contract extension
ATHENS, Ga., Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Mark Richt, who guided Georgia this season to its first SEC title in two decades, Thursday was rewarded with an eight-year contract.
The new deal, worth $1.5 million, will tie Richt to the university through the 2010 season. He had four years remaining on a five-year contract that would have paid him $800,000 per season.
Richt earned the hefty raise by posting a 20-5 record in two seasons at Georgia. The Bulldogs are 12-1 this season, and won their first SEC title since 1982.
"Certainly Mark has done a remarkable job in just two years and has made a very positive impression on those at the university, in the community and state, and even nationally," said Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley. "And while the new contract in many ways is a reward, it is also an expression of the faith and confidence we have in him for the future."
The contract reportedly has a provision that will make it more difficult for Richt to leave.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that it includes a $1.5 million buyout, meaning a school would have to pay Georgia that much more money to hire Richt away.
Georgia, ranked fourth in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, will play Florida State in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
"This has been an overwhelming experience these first two years and there's no place I'd rather be," Richt said. "We went to be here as long as Georgia will have us."
Richt, 42, was an assistant at Florida State for 14 seasons before coming to Georgia.
Hnida makes college football history
LAS VEGAS, Nv., Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Katie Hnida had an extra-point blocked Wednesday in New Mexico's 27-13 loss to UCLA in the initial Las Vegas Bowl.
It marked the first time a woman took part in a Division 1-A college football game.
"We made the decision to let Katie kick the first extra point," said Lobos Coach Rocky Long. "She has been a vital part of this team all year and we felt that she deserved the opportunity to make a play."
The kick came with 8:20 to play in the first quarter, just after cornerback Desmar Black had returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to give Lobos a 6-3 lead.
Hnida, a 5-9, 150-pounder, was activated four weeks ago. She transferred from Colorado, where she was on the Buffaloes' 1999 Insight.com bowl roster.
The Littleton, Co., native also became the first woman to dress for a bowl team.
"It's been a very long time to get here," Hnida said. "I didn't know what it would be like when it came."
According to a sideline reporter for ESPN2, which televised the contest, Hnida was so nervous after being told he was getting a chance to kick in the contest, she asked a priest to say a prayer for her.
Holmes to miss Chiefs' finale at Oakland
KANSAS CITY, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Kansas City running back Priest Holmes, nursing a painful hip injury, will not play in Saturday's game at Oakland.
The contest is critical for the Chiefs, who still are mathematically alive for an AFC playoff berth.
Holmes sustained the injury at the end of a 56-yard run Dec. 15 in a 31-24 loss to Denver. The injury also forced him to sit out last Sunday's win over San Diego.
"He had been optimistic about playing this week, but he will not play," Coach Dick Vermeil told ESPN.com.
The ESPN report also said team doctors feel the hip will not need surgery and downplayed reports that the injury could be career-threatening.
Missing the game, the last of the regular season, means Holmes will finish 142 yards shy of the NFL's record for most yards from scrimmage in a season. He has 2,287.
He also will fall short of the record for touchdowns in a season. He has 24, two shy of the record of 26, set by Marshall Faulk of St. Louis set in 2000.
Holmes is third in the league in rushing with 1,615 yards, and leads the Chiefs in receiving with 70 catches for 672 yards.
When the Chiefs beat Oakland, 20-10, on Oct. 27, Holmes had 184 total yards and a touchdown. He has 1,615 yards rushing, and is a likely candidate for NFL MVP.
Mike Cloud, a four-year veteran from Boston College, will start in Holmes' absence.
Also missing the Oakland game will be fullback Tony Richardson. He is out with a dislocated shoulder, an injury he suffered in the Denver contest, and has been placed on injured reserve.
Report: 'Skins to release Stephen Davis
ASHBURN, Va., Dec. 26 (UPI) -- The Washington Post is reporting that running back Stephen Davis will be waived by the Redskins.
Davis, whose season is over because of a shoulder separation, has said numerous times that he intends to be a Redskin in 2003, and is not worried about the rumors swirling around him.
The 6-0, 230-pounder is owed a balloon payment of $11.4 million for next season.
The Post report said he will be released by the team, even if he takes a pay cut, primarily because, sources have told the paper, he does is not a good fit for the offensive schemes of Coach Steve Spurrier. Now, it appears that he is coming to grips with the possibility of being axed.
The salary cap also is a factor.
The paper said the Redskins would clear more than $5 million of salary cap room for next season by releasing Davis.
"People have their way of doing things, and I can't control that," Davis told the Post. "My years here in Washington have been fulfilling. The fans embraced me, everybody (did). I had an opportunity here, and I made the best of it. It's just a situation that happened. Some things come up. You just have to know how to accept it and deal with it."
Davis, 28, who has 820 yards on 207 carries this season, owns the club's single-season rushing record of 1,432, set in 2001. The former Auburn standout, who was a fourth-round pick in 1996, has 5,790 yards on 1,383 carries in seven NFL seasons, all with Washington.
"There's nothing that's been said," Davis said. "I've just got to get myself healthy, and hopefully somebody will pick me up."
In his absence, Kenny Watson and Ladell Betts each rushed for more that 100 yards in last Sunday's 26-10 win over Houston, and will also alternate in this week's season finale against Dallas, which has beaten the Redskins ten straight times.
Thrashers fire Fraser
ATLANTA, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Curt Fraser, the only coach in the 3 1/2-year history of the Atlanta Thrashers, Thursday was fired.
The Thrashers have the worst record in the NHL at 8-20-1-4, and has allowed a league-high 124 goals. That was finally enough for General Manager Don Waddell, who fired Fraser and will take over as coach on an interim basis.
"The decision to make this coaching change has been the most difficult one I've had to make in my hockey career," Waddell said. "(Curt) has given us everything we've asked for and so much more, and I can't say enough about how I feel about him personally and professionally."
The Thrashers were just 64-173-31-15 in Fraser's tenure. While every expansion team is given a grace period, the Thrashers had higher expectations this season after acquiring left wing Vyacheslav Kozlov in a trade with Buffalo and left wing Shawn McEachern in a deal with Ottawa.
"In order to make our hockey club better, difficult decisions like these have to be made," Waddell said.
Fraser, 44, played 12 seasons in the NHL, but had no coaching experience outside of the minors before being hired by Atlanta.
Waddell also fired assistant Tim Bothwell, but said that assistant Steve Weeks will remain with the team.
The Thrashers are off Thursday and host Carolina on Friday. Fraser would be the fourth NHL coach fired since the start of the season, joining Darryl Sutter of San Jose, Greg Gilbert of Calgary, and Bob Hartley of Colorado.