If, like me, you thought measuring a race course — marathon, race walk or otherwise — was as simple as driving a car around the circuit, you would be mocked by Katz and company. Turns out that a car’s odometer is fairly imprecise and that the preferred method of course measurement is much more artisanal. It requires only a calculator, 100-meter steel tape, a bicycle fitted with a GPS, and a device called a Jones Counter, which counts the rotations of the bike’s front axle — almost exactly 11,000 “counts” per kilometer.To calibrate the bike for the official course measurement, Katz used the steel tape to measure out 300 meters on the course, taking into account any possible expansion or contraction of the tape from the day’s temperature (there’s an adjustment coefficient for that). Then Katz rode the bike back and forth from Point A to Point B to see how many counts of the Jones Counter occurred over that 300 meter mark. Voilà! The bike was ready to track the rest of the course.“It’s very simple — I can teach you everything that I know about measuring if you have 15 minutes,” Katz told me. So then what makes him so good? “I’m a little bit more detail-oriented; I’m an official pain in the ass,” he said.It’s not quite as simple as Katz lets on, but it is a simpler method than I expected from the person ultimately responsible for ensuring that any records set in road races at the Olympics are in fact records. “He’s exactly the person whom we need for a high stakes measurement like the Olympics,” said Imre Mátraházi, the technical manager of the competitions department of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the international governing body for track and field.The trickiest part of course measurement, said Katz, is cutting the tangents. These can be corners or other parts of the course where athletes could find a shorter route. “If I was going to race you down the road for a million dollars and the road undulates, how are you going to run?” Katz asked. “You’re going to take the shortest path.”During the official measurement process, Katz biked the course, usually less than a foot away from the curb or barricades, to make sure that an athlete couldn’t physically run anything less than the course he’s measuring. He did it several times, biking every possible route that someone could take on the course to ensure that none is too short. But there’s an extra precaution built in as well, known as the short course prevention factor: All international races must be an extra 0.1 percent long — meaning today’s 50 kilometer course is actually 50.05 km, or an extra 50 meters long. Photograph by Allison McCann David Katz is the official course measurer for the race walk at the Rio Olympics. Allison McCann Katz has had help at this Olympics, as is customary, from a Brazilian husband and wife, members of the organizing committee for the Rio Games. They did the initial measurements before Katz came through with the final verdict. “My measurement came out a little better than their measurement,” Katz said matter-of-factly, but he praised their work too. “They are top-notch measurers.”With just over an hour left in the race walk, everything was going smoothly — no London race walk barricade disasters, at least. The current world record holder — France’s Yohann Diniz — was on pace to break that record (he would eventually fade well off pace). At the 25-km mark, he was almost 2 minutes ahead of Slovakia’s Matej Tóth, who eventually won. No world records were broken, so it’s unlikely that someone will re-measure Katz’s course after the Olympics are over. “I’m scared stiff about making a mistake; I double-check everything,” Katz said. But when I asked him whether he’s ever made one, he can’t remember a time he has. Photograph by Allison McCann We’re on the ground in Rio covering the 2016 Summer Olympics. Check out all our coverage here.RIO DE JANEIRO — It’s 7 a.m. The sun has barely risen, but for the better part of an hour, David Katz has been riding his bike around the course for the men’s 50-kilometer race walk later this morning. “More, more, more!” he shouts in the direction of a crew of guys arranging cones on the course, unhappy with the gaps around the second turn. Authority radiates from his neon orange vest, which reads: ROAD COURSE MEASURER.This is not Katz’s first Olympic course measurement rodeo. Or his second or third. He was the official marathon and race walk course measurer for the 2012 London Olympics (there’s only one official measurer, tasked with ensuring that the length of a road course is measured to spec, but usually several others help) and is back again in that role in Rio. He’s been involved with Olympic course measuring as far back as the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. And he’s been organizing and measuring road course races in New York in his spare time for more than 40 years.He’s a bit of a legend, as far as course measurement nerds go. “He is one of the best in the world,” said Wang Tak Fung of Hong Kong, a 20-year veteran of the course measurement game who came early to the race walk event to watch Katz in action. He seemed very impressed that Katz had lugged his steel measuring tape with him — a necessity only during official measurements (which were done weeks ago) and not for this morning’s slight tweaks and adjustments. The day of the race isn’t for official measuring; it’s for double-checking that the measurement is still accurate even after cones, barricades and water tables have been added to the course.“Not too many people do a measurement like that, but I will do it right before the start of the race,” said Katz, a retired science teacher who lives on Long Island in New York. His attention to detail can be heard in every one of his shouts toward race organizers. He wasn’t pleased with the placement of the cones around the second turn of the race walk — they were creating too sharp an angle — so he rolled out his tape measurer (just a regular one) and adjusted them, ensuring that “no athlete has to compete for one extra centimeter.”
Tiger Woods – For the second consecutive day, Congressional’s Blue course played hard and fast in sweltering heat. But for Tiger Woods, the setup was slightly more conducive for scoring today. And so, he did, firing a 3-under-par 68 to move his way into the Top 10 with many golfers still on the course.Unknowns Jimmy Walker and Brendo de Jonge shared the lead at 5-under.“If the (conditions) stay like this, I don’t see the lead going anywhere,” Woods said. “But it was good today. I think the tour staff did a great job of moving some of the tees up, and we had corner pins or front pins. It was fair. Today I thought you could be a little more aggressive than yesterday.”Woods started his second round on Congressional’s long and grueling back nine that, on Thursday, played more than a shot over par. After routine pars over the first four holes on the back, Woods found the rough off the tee at the par-4 14th hole and would have to get up and down for par from 76 yards. He found the rough again at the 15th and again hit a nice spinning pitch from 93 yards that he was able to nestle close to the hole for par.Then at the 16th, he displayed some Tiger magic with a 48-foot putt eagle to get to 1 under par for the tournament.“That was actually a tricky putt because it was a double-breaking putt up that hill,” Woods said. “It’s hard left and then just want to feed back a couple of balls to the right, and I was waiting for it to feed back because it was hanging, hanging, hanging, and then it just fell right in.”After making the turn at 1 under par for the day, the 36-year-old, 14-time major winner found the rough again with a fairway metal off the tee at par-4 first hole. From there, he made his first bogey of the day. He made his first birdie on the round at the par-4 fifth hole. From there, he made another birdie at 8 and a par at the ninth to finish his round.“Today I think I got more out of my round than I did yesterday,” Woods said. “On a golf course like this, you’re not going to hit it perfect all day. It’s just too difficult. I had to make some saves, and I made two key saves there at 14 and 15.”
T.Y. HiltonIND2525623844167.8 Doug BaldwinSEA487321627167.4 Weighted overall rank comparison of wide receivers, 2014-16 Allen RobinsonJAC242083684165.1 RECEIVERTEAMTARGET FREQ.AVG. DEPTHCATCH RATERUN BLOCKAFTER CATCHWEIGHTED SUM Antonio BrownPIT457151944105.2 Emmanuel SandersDEN1423413175130.1 Odell BeckhamNYG751371517115.5 Steve SmithBAL1064345333166.3 Julio JonesATL240302728103.0 Rishard MatthewsTEN2936332056143.5 Larry FitzgeraldARI208214164142.9 DeAndre HopkinsHOU122769390139.1 Demaryius ThomasDEN35949432123.9 RANK Jordy NelsonGB1942292241128.5 Jarvis LandryMIA896111612135.6 Eric DeckerNYJ224645583149.0 Brandon MarshallNYJ183572980161.7 Mike EvansTB6681796126.0 Rankings are out of the 98 wide receivers with a minimum of 500 receiving yards in 2016 or 900 yards from 2014 to 2016.Sources: ESPN Stats & Information Group, ProFootballFocus.com Willie SneadNO398018225164.5 Let’s get this out of the way at the top: Julio Jones was the best receiver in football this season. Just about any way you slice it, whether using traditional stats,1Yards per game, for instance. advanced metrics2Like FootballOutsiders.com’s defense-adjusted yards above replacement. or even play-by-play grades,3Such as the ones compiled by ProFootballFocus.com. Jones was the receiver who kept defensive coordinators up at night worrying about all the havoc he could wreak. His explosiveness and diversity of skills enabled offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to build the one of the best offenses in NFL history.But what makes Jones so good?At the most basic level, Jones dominates because of an unmatched combination of size and speed. Posting a 4.34-second 40-yard-dash before he was drafted, Jones ran the ninth-fastest combine time of any wideout who had at least 400 receiving yards in the 2016 season.4One limitation to this approach is that combine data is a snapshot of speed at age 21 or so. Needless to say, that number is probably a tad outdated for an NFL veteran like, say, 37-year-old Steve Smith Sr. Still, for most players, combine times give a decent approximation of their pure speed. All of the faster receivers are also smaller — nearly 5 inches shorter than the 6-foot-3 Jones, on average. While Jones was one of the fastest at the position regardless of height, most NFL wide receivers as tall as Jones ran the 40 slower than the overall position average of 4.47 seconds. A.J. GreenCIN531312961109.4 Wideouts that big and that fast are very difficult to cover. Think of Randy Moss (who, at 6-foot-4, ran an “unofficial” 4.25 second 40 in 1998) or, more recently, the two unrelated Johnsons, Andre (6-foot-2, 4.40) and Calvin (6-foot-5, 4.35), who used that formula to dominate the league’s receiving leaderboard in recent years. Moss in particular showed that a receiver who can stretch the field in all directions with speed, and then pluck balls from over defenders’ heads, can make an offense run far more efficiently than its individual components suggest it should.But Jones’s dominance is more than just a product of “big guy runs fast.” Since he returned from a foot fracture that cost him most of the 2013 season, no receiver has put those gifts to better on-field use than Jones — across every aspect of the position, from the flashy to the technical.We can measure how good Jones has been by breaking down what makes a great all-around receiver:The guy has to get open, so we’ll look at how often the ball comes his way (targets) as a percentage of his routes run.Ideally, receivers can go deep, so we’ll look at how far the ball travels before it gets to him (air yards per target).Then he still has to catch the darn ball, so we’ll look at his catch rate. (Air yards and catch rate are usually at odds with each other,5In my sample of top receivers from 2014 to 2016, the correlation between those two metrics was -0.7. since it’s harder to catch deep throws than short ones.)Once he’s open, has run a long ways and has caught the pass, it’d be nice if he could keep running without being tackled. So let’s also look at yards after the catch per reception.Oh, and one more thing — being a receiver isn’t all about receiving, so let’s look at blocking ability by using ProFootballFocus.com’s run-blocking grades.If we rank every active receiver6With a minimum of either 500 receiving yards in 2016 or 900 total yards from 2014 to 2016. in those categories over the past three seasons and add up the ranks (with some weighting based on the relative importance of each category7Specifically, the ranks for air yards per target and catch rate were assigned no special weight; targets per route was given 50 percent extra weight; yards after the catch was given 75 percent less weight; and run blocking was given 15 percent less weight. These weights were determined by regressing the first four categories against adjusted catch yards per route, an overall measure of receiving effectiveness, and running a separate regression against PFF’s “overall” grade to determine the relative value of blocking.), Jones rates as the most complete wide receiver in the NFL. Among the 98 receivers in our sample, he ranks 40th or better in every area of the game — the only receiver in the league who can make that claim.8Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson ranks in the top 42 in each category. Alshon JefferyCHI173268942143.7 Jones’s impressive combination of size and speed shows up most notably in his ability to get free of defenders — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan targeted Jones on 30 percent of the routes he ran, the second most of any receiver (behind Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill at 31.5 percent) — as well as in his rare talent for keeping his catch rate up even as he goes deep. Based on the length of Jones’s average target — 11.9 yards beyond the line of scrimmage — we’d expect him to have caught only about 60 percent of the balls thrown in his direction; instead, he caught nearly 66 percent, a difference that amounts to 26 extra catches, many of the big-play variety. (Jones has 20 total receiving touchdowns over the past three seasons.) In other words, Jones mixes the reliability of a possession receiver with the big-play potential of a deep threat.And once he catches the ball, he’s frequently off to the races:So what hope do the New England Patriots — specifically, their defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia — have of containing Jones on Super Sunday?For their part, the Patriots had the NFL’s 10th-worst pass defense during the regular season and the 13th-worst D against No. 1 receivers like Jones. But they also boast two of the 12 highest-rated cover cornerbacks in football (according to PFF) in Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, plus Devin McCourty, PFF’s top-rated coverage safety. And in the playoffs, they’ve also held both Antonio Brown (No. 2 in our receiver rankings above) and DeAndre Hopkins (No. 10) to relatively tame performances.In Jones and Atlanta’s high-powered offensive “buzzsaw,” however, the Pats face their toughest challenge yet. The Falcons have had a startling offensive breakout this season: They easily led the league in expected points added (EPA) through the air — and offensive EPA in general — during the regular season, QB Matt Ryan enjoyed one of the most efficient passing seasons in league history, and the offense has only improved in the playoffs.9During the regular season, Atlanta averaged 11.5 more offensive EPA per game than an average team, 9.0 of which came in the passing game. After adjusting for the defenses they faced, the Falcons are averaging 21.5 offensive EPA above average in the playoffs, 20.9 of which have come via the pass.At the center of that offense is Jones. “Nobody can stop us but us,” Jones told reporters after the NFC title game. Whether that’s true or not will largely depend on whether New England can slow down the game’s most uncoverable receiver. Based on Jones’s performance these past few seasons, that’s a pretty tall (and fast) order.
OSU sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop (33) during a game against Rutgers on Jan. 13 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorFollowing Ohio State’s 76-75 loss to No. 20 Purdue on Thursday night that dropped the Buckeyes to 10-5 and 0-2 in the Big Ten, it appears the team’s uphill climb to the NCAA tournament just got a whole lot steeper.OSU coach Thad Matta said in the postgame press conference that junior forward Keita Bates-Diop will undergo surgery on a stress fracture on his shin next week. Bates-Diop did not play against the Boilermakers. He had missed five games earlier in the season with a high-ankle sprain he suffered on Nov. 17 against Providence.Bates-Diop originally suffered this injury in the summer and after attempting to play through it, the injury kept reoccurring, Matta said.“That’s definitely a punch in the gut to us,” he said. “It is what it is and we got to move forward.”Matta called the 6-foot-7 Bates-Diop the team’s best defender considering his length and his ability to rebound with the taller players in the country.The Normal, Illinois, native played just nine games this year, starting three times. He averaged 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in an average of 23.3 minutes. Matta said that Bates-Diop will receive a medical redshirt.1/5 Correction: Matta said Bates-Diop will have surgery next week. It was originally printed as Friday.
Grant FrekingLantern [email protected] 1. The tournament is Ohio State’s to lose. Sure, Michigan State is a deeper team and Wisconsin is a popular sleeper pick, but OSU has the ultimate trump card in Evan Turner. The likely Big Ten and National Player of the Year is capable of taking over and dominating any of the teams in the bracket. The Buckeyes’ only concern is depth, since coach Thad Matta rarely plays more than one or two guys off the bench.2. Illinois-Wisconsin will produce a surprise winner. Illinois shot itself in the foot to end the regular season, dropping five of its last six to put its NCAA Tournament hopes squarely on the bubble. However, they have a poor man’s Evan Turner in guard and fellow St. Joseph product Demetri McCamey, who is capable of breaking down opposing defenses like his high school teammate. A win over Wisconsin could be enough for the Fighting Illini to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.3. Purdue could falter in the quarterfinals. Now that star forward Robbie Hummel is out for the season, the Boilermakers’ front-court depth is questionable. If JaJuan Johnson gets into foul trouble, Purdue becomes a below-average offensive team and is very capable of being beaten by either Indiana or Northwestern.4. The Big Ten failed to live up to the hype this season. The conference sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last season and national pundits predicted that as many as eight teams would make it this season. However, Michigan and Minnesota struggled with inconsistency and were colossal disappointments. Moreover, Northwestern, hoping to gain a bid to the tournament for the first time in school history, had their hopes extinguished in November when the team’s leading scorer, Kevin Coble, broke his foot and opted for season-ending surgery. 5. Ohio State will prevail over Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament finale. Evan Turner will begin his postseason crusade by shredding the Spartan defense and putting the Buckeyes up early, similar to what happened when OSU visited East Lansing last month. The Buckeyes will hold off Sparty, and depending on Duke’s ACC Tournament success, may secure a No. 1 seed. Zack MeiselSports [email protected] 1. People should stop sleeping on the Wisconsin Badgers. Bo Ryan’s crew finished just one game behind the Big Ten champion trio of Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue. The Badgers won their final four regular season games by an average of 20.3 points per contest. Plus, Wisconsin recently welcomed forward Jon Leuer back from injury. The 6-foot-10-inch junior promptly responded by winning the Big Ten Player of the Week award last week.2. The first round should be a snooze-fest. Don’t expect lowly Indiana to give Northwestern trouble. To prevent its bubble from being burst, expect Minnesota to fend off Penn State. And whoever wins the Michigan-Iowa matchup will only matter for another 24 hours before losing to Ohio State. The hard-fought, intense games won’t begin until the quarterfinals on Friday.3. The NCAA Tournament committee will be praying that a Cinderella isn’t still alive come 3:30 Sunday. Should Michigan, Penn State or Northwestern sneak into the tournament final, the committee will be sweating it out. Since the Big Ten Championship game is the last one to take place, the NCAA Tournament bracket is usually mapped out before the game’s conclusion. A team hovering around mediocrity could throw a wrench into the committee’s plans by advancing on to Sunday.4. No Big Ten team will receive a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, at least two will receive No. 2 seeds. Unless Duke falters very early in the ACC Tournament, the final No. 1 seed will belong to Coach K’s Blue Devils. The winner of the Big Ten Tournament will likely receive a No. 2 seed, as long as the winner is Ohio State, Purdue or Michigan State. If any of those teams reach the tournament final, that squad should also earn a No. 2. 5. Michigan State will top Ohio State for the Big Ten Tournament title. The Spartans peaked in March last season, when they surprised everyone outside of East Lansing by reaching the NCAA Championship game. Their depth could give OSU trouble, since the Buckeyes rarely play more than six players. Joshua A. DavidsonLantern [email protected] 1. If there is such a thing as a sleeper in the conference tournament, Michigan is it. The Maize and Blue are led by Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, two of the most talented players in the Big Ten. After being a top 15 team in the preseason, Michigan has severely underachieved. However, a conference tournament championship still provides the Wolverines with a berth in the NCAA Tournament, which is plenty of motivation for their two-star upperclassmen.2. The most intriguing game in this year’s tournament is probably the quarterfinal matchup between Wisconsin and Illinois. The Fighting Illini will be battling for an NCAA berth and another quality win over Wisconsin could lock up an at-large bid. However, Bo Ryan’s Badgers are a tough out in the Big Ten Tournament and are playing to improve their own seed come Selection Sunday. The border rivals split their regular season games, both teams winning on the road.3. Look for Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan to be the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. The forward possesses tremendous talent but has been inconsistent throughout his career. But now, as a senior, this is Morgan’s last chance at Spartan immortality and he’s playing like it. Morgan scored a season-high 22 points on senior night in East Lansing, Mich., for the Spartans’ last game. Also MSU needs to replace the scoring of suspended guard Chris Allen. Look for Morgan to pick up the slack.4. Curse of the No. 1 seed: of the 12 previous Big Ten Tournaments, the top seed has only won four times. Fans of top-seeded Ohio State shouldn’t expect to be dancing on the court at Conseco Fieldhouse come Sunday. However, if the Buckeyes do claim the tournament championship, they look to be destined for greatness in the NCAA Tournament. Three of the four No. 1 seeds who did win the conference tournament advanced to the Final Four. 5. Even with Chris Allen suspended, Michigan State has the talent and depth to win the Big Ten Tournament. Tom Izzo’s teams are built for tournament play, as can be seen by his five Final Four appearances. The Spartans will defeat Wisconsin on Sunday to claim their third conference tournament championship. In turn, MSU will lock up a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State is not the Ohio State basketball team’s most intimidating opponent. The Nittany Lions, who the Buckeyes will play Wednesday, come into the game with a 10-11 record overall and a 2-6 record in the Big Ten. But the Big Ten has five teams ranked among the top 25, which is more than any conference in the nation. Coach Thad Matta said that in the Big Ten this year, there are no easy games, no matter the record. “I don’t think there’s a coach in the Big Ten that feels good about the next game that they’re playing and that’s just documented by who has beaten who,” Matta said. “Records or ranking or where the game has played really has not much relevance. You have to play in this league and know at the conclusion of one game you’re going to another battle the next game.” The Buckeyes are 5-2 in the conference this year with both losses coming on the road. Wednesday’s game against Penn State will be at home in the Schottenstein Center where the Buckeyes have an undefeated 14-0 record this year. The Nittany Lions come into Wednesday’s game having lost four out of the their last five contests. The lone win in that streak came against Illinois, who the Buckeyes lost to Jan. 10. Penn State point guard Tim Frazier is considered by many the best point guard in the Big Ten. The junior has averaged 18 points and more than six assists on the year. Matta said containing Frazier will be a “challenge.” “He makes them go, there’s no question about it,” Matta said. “The ball is in his hands a lot so it’s not on (sophomore guard Aaron Craft) or (sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith) or whoever is on him at the particular time. It’s going to have to be really all five guys somehow, someway give support and help him out.” Smith said Matta told the team that Penn State is not to be taken lightly and the team needs to play a complete game. “The first thing he told us is they probably play harder than any team we’re going to play this year,” Smith said. “Watching them a little bit on film, it’s obvious. They crash the boards … They’re going to play 40 minutes of good hard basketball.” Smith said the key to beating Penn State is their focus and intensity on the defensive end of the floor. “Whenever we find ourselves playing great defense, our offense just carries off,” Smith said. Eleven games remain on OSU’s regular season schedule and six of those games come against opponents who are currently ranked. Despite more high-profile matchups on the horizon, Matta said he’s not worried about his team looking past Penn State. “It is strictly Penn State,” Matta said. “I want our guys focused on one thing and one thing only and that’s Penn State. If you find yourself looking too far ahead, it will come back and get you in the end.” Tipoff for Wednesday’s game is set for 6:30 p.m.
Freshman goalkeeper Matt Tomkins (31) saves the puck during a game against Michigan State Jan. 11 at the Schottenstein Center. The teams tied, 1-1.Credit: Kelly Roderick / For The LanternThe biggest difference – the “lingo.”Ohio State men’s hockey freshman goalie Matt Tomkins said that was the most noticeable difference between his home country, Canada, and the United States.“Us Canadians get a kick out of some of the things we hear (in the U.S.), but I’m sure the local people say the same thing after having a conversation with us,” Tomkins said.OSU (11-6-1, 1-2-1) recruited two international freshmen to join the Buckeyes in the 2013-14 season along with five other players from within the U.S.“It’s pretty special being a part of the Buckeye family and (it) is something you know will be special before you get here, but you don’t really understand the magnitude of how special it is until you are actually a part of it,” Tomkins said. “Having the opportunity to play for one of the most respected sports programs in the country was extremely exciting and is still pretty surreal to this day.”Though exciting and surreal, the change from Canadian to American culture has brought on some challenges for the players.“Here in Ohio, all they play on TV is football and basketball, and the people can’t stop talking about those two sports either,” freshman defenseman and Alberta native Josh Healey said. “So (it’s) just two opposites really, but I don’t mind the change.“I come from a place where all they talk about it hockey, everyone plays hockey whether it be in an organized league or on the outdoor rink,” Healey said.Healey said aside from the sports cultural differences, America is very similar to Canada. However, both athletes have found comfort in their teammates to help make the adjustments easier.“A big part of making the transition easy was obviously coming in to an environment such as I did where I was part of a team and family right away, with many people ready to help me with anything we needed,” Tomkins said.Healey said he receives support both on and off the ice.“Whether it be advice from a senior or help getting set up in the dorms, someone has always been there,” he said.Aside from adjusting to the new environment and balancing school with hockey, Tomkins and Healey said they feel like any other college freshman adjusting to the new phase of college life.“I love Columbus so far.” Tomkins said. “I am especially excited to have a car next year and be able to explore the city and area even more.”Next up the team is scheduled to take part in the Hockey City Classic against Minnesota Friday at 9 p.m. in Minneapolis.
Senior wide receiver Devin Smith (9) attempts to escape a tackle from Michigan State redshirt-sophomore linebacker Riley Bullough (30) during a Nov. 8 game in East Lansing, Mich. OSU won, 49-37. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorJust seconds after Michigan State missed a 39-yard field goal, Ohio State took over possession and wide receiver Michael Thomas was sure of one thing.He was going to be in the end zone.“Before the play came I knew I was going to score,” the redshirt-sophomore Thomas said. “I just had to do my job, run my route. I feel like no one can guard me.”Thomas caught a slant from redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett and took the pass 79 yards to the end zone, tying the game at 21.The Buckeyes didn’t trail for the remainder of the game.Just minutes later, Barrett found senior wide receiver Devin Smith for a 44-yard touchdown, giving the Buckeyes a 28-21 halftime score.Barrett, who had seemed to struggle on deep throws for a portion of the season, said after the game that he is getting more confidence in his deep shots as the season progresses.“I’m getting more comfortable each and every week,” he said. “We just make sure we’re getting that connection in practice so we can bring it out on gameday.”Barrett’s performance earned praise from Michigan State’s defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who said he was slightly surprised at how well the redshirt-freshman played.“That guy made about every pass he could. He hadn’t shown to do that really consistently, but we had a lot of respect for him. He is a great football player,” Narduzzi said after the game. “He played big in a big game. He didn’t throw off the mark at all and those guys were ready to make the catch. That goes to having a guy who throws the ball where it needs to be thrown. He is a heck of a quarterback.”OSU coach Urban Meyer tied Barrett’s performance in with Smith’s, complimenting both on their breakout games.“JT, boy, is he playing well. He was 16-of-26, 300 yards throwing and very accurate on the deep balls,” Meyer said. “Also Devin Smith, that’s his best game that we’ve had in the past three years. He’s one of the best, if not the best, deep ball players we’ve ever had. He tracks the ball very well.”Smith has had a knack for making big plays in scarlet and gray, as the Buckeyes are a perfect 20-0 when he catches a touchdown for OSU. The senior from Massillon, Ohio, finished the game with a season-high 129 yards receiving on six receptions to go along with the touchdown.Prior to his touchdown catch, Smith made what was arguably the biggest play of the game as he hauled in a 43-yard reception from Barrett up the Spartan sideline with OSU facing a third and 23, trailing, 14-7.Smith had a similar response to Thomas’ about the third-down pickup.“No disrespect to their team, but I felt all night they couldn’t hang with us. I told coach that constantly,” Smith said. “I told coach they needed to keep throwing it to us, and we had a good first half throwing the ball.”With his big game, Smith separated himself from former OSU-great Santonio Holmes on the Buckeyes’ all-time touchdown receptions list. Smith moved into sole possession of third place on the list with his 26th as a member of the Scarlet and Gray.Smith said following the game that his motivation to play well came from many people picking the Spartans to win, along with Michigan State’s nicknamed secondary.“Coming into this game, everybody had us losing and it kind of made me a little mad,” Smith said. “Then the whole ‘no fly zone’ stuff and all that. We had one job, and that was to come up here and win.”The combination of Smith and Thomas accounted for 220 of Barrett’s 300 passing yards, something Thomas said came from preparation and motivation.“It’s like a tag-team. That’s what we are trained to do,” Thomas said of his play alongside Smith’s. “We lost a lot of respect. And the only way to get back respect in this league, the Big Ten, is to step up and win this game.”With the win, the Buckeyes sit alone atop the Big Ten East standings, as they are set to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday in Minneapolis. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
Swathes of the UK are suffering from very high or high levels of air pollution in the still, cold weather.Northern Ireland, London, the South East and Eastern regions are experiencing very high levels of pollutants known as particulate matter, or PMs, which come from sources such as traffic emissions, in particular diesel engines.With the pollutants failing to disperse in the still, settled conditions, all other regions of England except for the North East are suffering from high levels of air pollution. A number of trains were cancelled, and there was a “severely reduced” service at Wimbledon during the morning peak.Talks will resume later between Southern and the Aslef union over a separate dispute about driver-only trains.Road users are also being warned of difficult driving conditions after freezing temperatures overnight. South Wales is also experiencing high levels of pollution, the latest data from the Environment Department’s (Defra) UK Air website show.Defra warns that many places across the UK, except Scotland, will see moderate or locally high air pollution levels during Monday as the weather conditions of high pressure and light winds continue.But some very high levels are also expected, mainly across south east England and also for some urban areas in Northern Ireland, and central and eastern England.With the high pressure and still conditions continuing, air pollution is also expected to be a problem across much of the UK on Tuesday.Freezing fog causes disruptionMeanwhile, dense fog has causing travel disruption across southern England, with thousands of air passengers having to endure cancellations and delays.Travellers were advised to check their flight’s status before leaving home after around 100 flights were cancelled at Heathrow, while there were further cancellations at London City Airport. A message on the London City Airport website said foggy conditions were leading to cancellations and delays.A Stansted Airport spokeswoman said there had not been any cancellations, but advised passengers to check with their airlines for the latest information and allow enough time to get to the airport.Mr Wilson said temperatures will struggle to top 0°C (32°F) in the worst affected areas on Monday, where fog is likely to persist.Elsewhere, highs of between 3°C (37°F) and 5°C (41°F) are expected. Morning from foggy Westminster pic.twitter.com/2JefiugU2F— Kate McCann (@KateEMcCann) January 23, 2017 A yellow warning of fog is in place until 10.30am, but freezing temperatures and low winds could see it persist into the afternoon, Met Office forecaster Mark Wilson said.”Heathrow is currently on 100 metres’ visibility, which is very dense fog, Gatwick is on 100 metres, London City Airport is on 100 metres and Stansted is on 100 metres,” he said.”It looks like it will generally improve through the last part of the morning and into the afternoon, but one or two spots will hang on to fog for much of the rest of today.” The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for London, south-east England and parts of south-west England over dense fog that is likely to hit the morning rush hour.Heathrow Airport warned passengers to check their flight details before they leave home as visibility at the hub was reduced to 100 metres. Early morning fog at Godalming railway station in SurreyCredit:Carey Tompsett/PA Wire Some stunning #sunset pics to follow. Thanks to @HeathrowAirport and @NATS for helping us earlier pic.twitter.com/JUogDmpayb— NPAS London (@NPASLondon) January 22, 2017 It’s definitely a three jumpers in the field kind of day at @HomeOfCricket today ❄️❄️ pic.twitter.com/iO7EgoCnC8— Middlesex Cricket (@Middlesex_CCC) January 23, 2017 A frosty sunrise over Primrose Hill in London on SundayCredit:PRESS ASSOCIATION Northolt sees -6.2CTemperatures dipped to their lowest in Katesbridge, Northern Ireland, where minus 6.9°C (20°F) was recorded.In England a low of minus 6.2°C (21°F) was recorded in Northolt, around 10 miles from Heathrow.Around 100 out of 1,300 flights were cancelled as reduced visibility affected the tight take-off and landing schedule at Heathrow.A spokesman for the airport said: “Foggy weather across the South East has reduced visibility at Heathrow.”As a result, some passengers may experience disruption to their journeys today.”Passengers should check their flight status with their airline before coming to the airport.”Heathrow’s top priority is the safety of passengers and we apologise to those whose travel has been affected.”UK weather: Monday 23 January Southern Rail misery continuesMeanwhile, hundreds of thousands of rail passengers suffered a fresh bout of travel misery on Monday because of a strike and a broken rail.Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Southern Railway were said to be solidly supporting a 24-hour walkout in a long-running dispute over the role of conductors.Southern was planning to run 70 per cent of its trains and return to a normal service on Tuesday.South West Trains passengers were hit by disruption because of a broken rail at Wimbledon. 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