Here is the latest Mid-America sports news from The Associated Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa's Tory Taylor is selling a T-shirt for charity. It reads Punting Is Winning. It's a good motto for the No. 2 Hawkeyes. They've taken advantage of the field position Taylor has provided them all season and turned it into a 6-0 record. Taylor has punted 40 times this season with 12 going at least 50 yards. Twenty of his punts have landed inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Taylor was at his best in the win over Penn State last week. Six of his punts were down inside the Nittany Lions' 13-yard line with three inside the 3.
UNDATED (AP) — Dontay Demus and Ronnie Bell, two of the top receivers in the Big Ten, are out for the season after getting injured on special teams. Bell was hurt in Michigan's season opener returning a punt, and Maryland lost Demus while he was running back a kickoff in a game earlier this month. As much as teams want to have their most dynamic players return kicks, there is obviously some risk. Still, many teams put top playmakers in return roles. Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson did it for Michigan in the past. Jayden Reed has been a big part of Michigan State's resurgence this year, both at receiver and as a punt returner.
UNDATED (AP) — Solid Big 12 defenses are making a comeback. In a league with a long history of high-scoring football games, several teams are making their marks on the other side of the ball. Kansas State, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State rank in the top 12 nationally in rushing defense. The Cyclones are third nationally in total defense and lead the conference in many other categories. TCU coach Gary Patterson says that while offenses held an advantage over the years, defenses are catching up. Baylor's Dave Aranda was the defensive coordinator on LSU's 2019 national championship team. He says the variety of defenses used in the Big 12 are unmatched.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs have plenty of problems right now and most were on display in Sunday night's 38-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills. But one on defense has been compounded by its partner problem on offense: turnovers. The Chiefs gave away the ball four times against the Bills with Patrick Mahomes throwing two interceptions, one of which was returned for a score. And the defense failed to generate a single turnover of their own. That dropped the Chiefs to minus-7 in turnover differential, better only than lowly Jacksonville in the entire NFL. It's a big reason why the Chiefs are 2-3 and last in the AFC West.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska offensive lineman Teddy Prochazka will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. He was hurt in the 32-29 loss to Michigan on Saturday. The game marked his second start at left tackle. Coach Scott Frost says Prochazka would have surgery next week and return for spring practice. Turner Corcoran will take over for Prochazka at left tackle and Bryce Benhart will move into Corcoran's spot at right tackle for the game at Minnesota this Saturday.
GRINNELL, Iowa (AP) — Football is back at Grinnell College in Iowa. The Division III Pioneers have a new coach along with lots of new players and a new look. Grinnell didn't play in 2020 because of the pandemic. It drew national attention in 2019 when players voted to shut down the season after three games. The 38-man roster had shrunk to 28 because of a run of injuries. Players believed it was unsafe to continue but they also wanted to send a message that they needed more support from the administration. Changes were made and now the Pioneers have two wins.
Astros, Braves advance
UNDATED (AP) — Three down, one to go in baseball's Division Series. The Astros have moved on to the AL Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox, and the Atlanta Braves have earned a spot in the NLCS.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have forced a fifth and deciding game in their NL Division Series by whipping the Giants.
Jose Altuve (al-TOO'-vay) belted a three-run homer, scored four times and stole a base as the Astros eliminated the White Sox in Game 4 of the Division Series, 10-1. The rout puts the Astros in the ALCS for a fifth straight season.
Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman each hit a two-run double as Houston bounced back from Sunday night's 12-6 loss. The Astros earned their three victories by a combined 19 runs.
The Astros' bullpen fired two-hit ball over five innings after Lance McCullers Jr. held Chicago to a run on five hits and three walks over four innings.
The White Sox didn't score after Gavin Sheets hit a solo homer in the second to give them a brief lead.
Michael Brantley had three hits and two RBIs for Houston, which will host Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday.
The Braves beat the Brewers, 5-4 on Freddie Freeman's solo homer off Josh Hader in the eighth inning.
Atlanta trailed 2-0 in the fourth and 4-2 in the fifth before beating Milwaukee for the third straight game since a series-opening loss. Eddie Rosario tied it the first time with a two-run single. Travis d'Arnaud (dahr-NOH') made it 4-4 with an RBI single.
Rowdy Tellez (teh-LEHZ') belted a two-run homer for the Brewers, who scored just six times in the series.
Tyler Matsek worked a scoreless eighth to get the win. Will Smith put the potential tying run on base in the ninth before fanning Christian Yelich (YEH'-lihch) to end the series.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers stayed alive with a 7-2 win over the Giants.
Mookie Betts was 2-for-4 with three RBIs, including a two-run homer that put the Dodgers ahead, 4-0 in the fourth inning. Will Smith capped the scoring with a two-run blast in the eighth.
Six LA pitchers combined on a seven-hitter and blanked the Giants until the fifth. Walker Buehler was reached for three hits over 4 1/3 innings and left with a 4-0 lead.
Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani (dee-skla-FAH'-nee) was chased in the second inning, charged with two runs and five hits.
Game 5 is Thursday in San Francisco. The Giants and Dodgers split the first two games in the Bay Area.
Nets won't play Irving until he meets vaccine requirement
UNDATED (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have announced that All-Star guard Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he can be a full participant, ending the idea that he would play in only road games.
Under a New York mandate, professional athletes playing for a team in the city have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to play or practice in public venues. Asked if Irving was vaccinated, Marks said: "If he was vaccinated, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I think that's probably pretty clear."
Irving had rarely been with the team in New York. He wasn't even eligible to practice with the Nets in New York until Friday, when the city told the team that its training facility was considered a private venue.
In other NBA news:
— The Celtics say center Al Horford has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently is in isolation. Horford didn't travel with the team for its two-game exhibition road trip to Florida. He is the second Celtics player to test positive this month, joining Jaylen Brown.
— Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks will miss the start of the season to ensure he fully recovers from a broken left hand. Brooks is slated to receive additional treatment and will be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.
Pens ruin Bolts' party
UNDATED (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins are the first winners of the NHL season, having spoiled the Tampa Bay Lightning's banner-raising night. It was also a night of firsts in Las Vegas as the Seattle Kraken lost their NHL debut.
Eleven Penguins collected at least one point in a 6-2 win over the Bolts. Danton Heinen and Brian Boyle scored early second-period goals for the short-handed Penguins, who added four more in the third. Three of the late goals were empty-netters.
The Pens won easily without injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Tristan Jarry turned back 26 shots and Kris Letang (leh-TANG') set up two goals. Jarry was perfect until Anthony Cirelli beat him with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
Andrei Vasilevskiy (va-sih-LEHV'-skee) stopped 29 of 32 shots for the Lightning.
The Kraken clawed back from a 3-0 deficit in their NHL debut, only to lose, 4-3 to the Golden Knights on Chandler Stephenson's goal with 11:27 remaining.
Ryan Donato has the distinction of scoring Seattle's first-ever goal, beating Robin Lehner (LEH'-nur) midway through the second period. Jared McCann tallied 72 seconds later and Morgan Geekie (GEE'-kee) tied it 35 seconds before Stephenson put the Knights ahead to stay.
Max Pacioretty (pach-ah-REH'-tee) delivered two goals and an assist for Vegas.
Canadiens' Suzuki gets 8-year, $63 million deal
UNDATED (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens have signed center Nick Suzuki to an eight-year, $63 million contract extension. The deal will pay Suzuki an average annual salary of $7.875 million.
The 22-year-old led the Canadiens in playoff scoring last season with 16 points on seven goals and nine assists in 22 games to help the team reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993.
Suzuki had 15 goals and 41 points in 56 regular-season games.
In other NHL news:
— Avalanche star Nathan McKinnon will miss the season opener against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night after testing positive for a breakthrough infection of COVID-19. Colorado general manager Joe Sakic (SAK'-ihk) said Tuesday that MacKinnon's positive test surfaced Monday and that the center is "asymptomatic and feeling good."
— The Wild have placed rookie left wing Matt Boldy on the injured non-roster list with a broken ankle. Boldy as hurt in a preseason game last week to spoil a strong training camp for the first-round pick in the 2019 draft. He's expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks.
— Alex Ovechkin is questionable to play in the Capitals season opener against the Rangers on Wednesday. Ovechkin took part in an optional practice Tuesday after skating several laps around the ice to test out his unspecified lower-body injury. The 36-year-old Russian star is listed as day to day.
— NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league had only four unvaccinated players as it opened the 2021-22 season. Bettman said NHL officials and all the personnel that come into contact with the players are vaccinated.
Shoulder injury ends season for Steelers WR Smith-Schuster
UNDATED (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is done for the season. Coach Mike Tomlin says Smith-Schuster will have surgery to repair an injured right shoulder and is heading to injured reserve.
Smith-Schuster sustained the injury in the second quarter of a victory over Denver last weekend. The Steelers will turn to James Washington among others to fill the void left by Smith-Schuster's absence.
In other NFL news:
— The Browns have placed versatile offensive lineman Chris Hubbard, safety M.J. Stewart and fullback Andy Janovich on injured reserve, keeping them out of action for at least three games. Stewart and Janovich sustained hamstring injuries against the Chargers while Hubbard recently underwent season-ending surgery on his triceps.
— Tom Brady says his heavily wrapped throwing hand is sore, but he expects to play when the Buccaneers visit the Eagles on Thursday. Brady injured his right hand in the first half of Tampa Bay's 45-17 win over Miami on Sunday.
— The Buccaneers have removed Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden from the team's Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. Gruden resigned as coach of the Raiders Monday night following the discovery of emails he sent containing racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments. He led the Bucs from 2002 through 2008 and is the winningest coach in team history.
— A federal judge has denied a request by Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins for an injunction that would have halted his five-game suspension with one game remaining. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant suggested in his ruling that the NFL suspended Collins in violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union. However, Mazzant ruled the arbitrator's decision in Collins' appeal was based on a "reasonable construction of the parties' agreements."
— The league has selected the cities Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich to enter a final bidding stage to host a regular-season game in Germany. Next season is the target for Germany to host its first game though it could also debut in 2023 because of potential scheduling conflicts with soccer's World Cup in Qatar.
TRACK AND FIELD-NIKE/SALAZAR SUIT
Distance runner sues Salazar, Nike
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Distance runner Mary Cain has filed a $20 million lawsuit against her former coach, Alberto Salazar, and their employer, Nike.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Cain accuses Salazar of emotionally abusing her when she joined the team in 2012 at age 16, The lawsuit portrays Salazar as an angry control freak who was obsessed with Cain's weight and publicly humiliated her about it.
Cain's career fizzled after what she has called four miserable years at the Nike Oregon Project.