MARTIN, BUCS RACE PAST VIKINGS: Rookie Doug Martin racked up 214 total yards and two touchdowns, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew out Minnesota 36-17 on Thursday night to hand the Vikings their first home loss of the season.
Martin took a screen pass 64 yards for a score, one of three touchdowns thrown by Josh Freeman, to give Tampa Bay a 27-10 lead 1:21 into the second half. Then Martin, the first-round draft pick from Boise State, capped a drive of more than 9 minutes with a 1-yard muscle into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter to crush the comeback opportunity for Minnesota (5-3).
Adrian Peterson had a season-long 64-yard run for a score that brought the Vikings to 30-17, but his lost fumble in Minnesota territory in the second quarter led directly to a touchdown by the Buccaneers (3-4).
NCAA GRAD RATES IMPROVING IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL: More men's basketball players are taking advantage of the biggest shot of their life and earning a college diploma.
The latest results from the NCAA's annual Graduation Success Rate showed a record 74 percent of Division I basketball players from the 2005-06 freshmen class left school with a degree, a 6-percentage point increase over the one-year measurement from the class of 2004-05.
It's a stunning turnaround for a sport that has traditionally lagged others in the closely watched report.
"I'm pretty confident it's a reflection of the seriousness of the athletes and the coaching staffs to keep students in school and focused on their classes," NCAA President Mark Emmert said during a conference call. "They've really been stepping up. We look at that and we're extremely pleased by it."
Football Bowl Subdivision players also improved their scores by 1 percentage point in the one-year snapshot, hitting 70 percent for the first time.
The overall four-year graduation rate, covering freshman classes from 2002-03 through 2005-06, was 80 percent, matching last year's record high. Using that measure, men's basketball and FBS players both came in at 68 percent, with both sports showing modest gains (1-percentage point increase in FBS and 2 percentage points in basketball).
FAMED BOXING TRAINER STEWARD DIES: Emanuel Steward, the owner of the legendary Kronk Gym and one of boxing's greatest trainers, has died. He was 68.
Victoria Kirton, Steward's executive assistant, says Steward died Thursday in a Chicago hospital. She did not disclose the cause of death.
The International Boxing Hall of Famer made his name training Thomas Hearns at the Kronk Gym in Detroit. That paved the way for Steward to work with a long line of champion boxers such as champion Lennox Lewis, during a big part of his title run, and current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko as recently as July.
HURDLER JONES NAMED TO U.S. TEAM: Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones has made the U.S. bobsled team, essentially three weeks after trying the sport for the first time.
Jones is one of six women selected as push athletes for the team, a group that also includes Olympic sprinting gold medalist Tianna Madison. The team was revealed in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Thursday morning.
Jones and Madison were among a small number of track athletes invited to Lake Placid for bobsled's push championships earlier this month. Now they're in the mix for a shot at the 2014 Sochi Games.
ILLIANA BLACKBIRDS RETURN TO MIDWEST: The Illiana Blackbirds of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League will play host to the Central Wisconsin Saints this weekend at the Midwest Training and Ice Center in Dyer. The three-game series will start at 7:30 p.m. today, followed by a 7 p.m. Saturday game and 3:40 p.m. Sunday game. For details, go to www.illianablackbirds.com.
VALPO SPAGHETTI DINNER FUNDRAISER SUNDAY: Valparaiso Pop Warner and Cheer will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Elks 500 Club.
Tickets are $10. Money raised will help fund the Mitey Mite No. 2 team's appearance in an exhibition game Dec. 1 at the ESPN Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. For details, contact Ruth Anne Olson at (219) 548-8336 or email@example.com.
Around the horn
Former Lowell football coach Kirk Kennedy turned in his resignation as Bloomington South coach Wednesday, according to the Herald Times. The Panthers lost to Franklin Central 41-14 in their Class 5A sectional opener, finishing the season 1-9. Kennedy was 4-26 in three years at Bloomington South. ... Purdue Calumet team physician and orthopedic adolescent sports medicine specialist Dr. Lorin Brown discusses indicators of potentially serious injuries on "Purdue Calumet Sports Insight" at 5:30 p.m. today on WJOB-AM (1230). ... Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings will have surgery next Tuesday to repair the groin injury that has limited him to three games this season.