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Will Howard‘s first exit from the Ohio Stadium turf following Ohio State‘s spring game took a detour. Hundreds of Buckeye fans, who had gathered by the home tunnel, waved him over, eager to give the Kansas State transfer the starter treatment — even though Ohio State has yet to name its starting quarterback.

Howard signed mini helmets, footballs, hats and even offered a few high-fives. Finally, after several minutes, he escaped to the locker room with fans still shouting “Go, Will!” as he jogged away.

Howard arrived in Columbus hoping to win the quarterback competition heading into one of the most pivotal seasons in recent Ohio State history. An aggressive offseason in the portal landed the Buckeyes a series of notable transfers, including Howard, loading an already-talented Ohio State team with the players it hopes can wrest back control of the Big Ten from rival Michigan. The reigning national champion Wolverines have rolled to three straight conference titles, highlighted by three consecutive victories over the Buckeyes.

Michigan, however, has its own quarterback battle to settle in 2024. The Wolverines face the enormous task of replacing J.J. McCarthy, the 10th overall pick of the Minnesota Vikings in this year’s NFL draft who went 27-1 as Michigan’s starter.

How these Big Ten bluebloods answer their quarterback quandaries figures to have major implications for the College Football Playoff, the Big Ten race and, of course, “The Game” on Nov. 30 in Columbus. Not since 2015 have the two schools had high-profile quarterback battles in the same year.

“We want to win, and the goal is to do the same thing we did last year,” said Michigan senior quarterback Davis Warren, the star of the Wolverines’ spring game. “The quarterback is a really important part of that.”

Beginning with McCarthy, the Wolverines had 13 players selected in the draft, two more than any other school.

In a year of transition in Ann Arbor, Michigan also has a new head coach in 38-year-old Sherrone Moore. He takes over for Jim Harbaugh, who is now coaching the Los Angeles Chargers.

But the Wolverines still boast plenty of leftover talent, with several intriguing options at quarterback.

Jack Tuttle, who was McCarthy’s backup last year, was approved for a seventh college season in February. Tuttle did not play in the spring game due to an undisclosed injury. But the 25-year-old easily brings the most experience. Before transferring to Michigan last year, he started five games at Indiana while playing behind another top 10 NFL draft pick in 2024.

“We talked about this as a team, as a staff — the dudes that he backed up are Michael Penix (before Penix transferred to Washington) and J.J. McCarthy,” Moore said of Tuttle, who’s expected to be cleared to resume throwing this summer. “So he’s got talent. … He’ll be in it.”

Tuttle isn’t the only one in it, though.

Junior Alex Orji brings a compelling dual-threat skill set to the competition. On the opening drive of Michigan’s spring game, he led the Wolverines down the field before dashing in for an 18-yard touchdown. After the score, Orji rolled the ball into his offensive teammates, mimicking a bowling strike knocking over pins.

“I think as a QB group,” Orji said, “we’ve all taken the necessary steps to put ourselves in a position, to be in position.”

Warren took a big step himself in Michigan’s spring game, taking over in the fourth quarter. Off play-action, he launched a pass that hit Kendrick Bell in stride for a 42-yard touchdown. On his next drive, Warren scrambled outside of the pocket to his right, then threw another strike across his body to Fredrick Moore, who scampered the other way for a 48-yard score to give the Maize the 17-7 comeback victory.

“Grateful that [new offensive coordinator Kirk Campbell] and Coach Moore and the whole team believes in me, feels like I have an opportunity to be the guy for this team and win games in the fall,” Warren said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity and I don’t take it lightly.”

Junior Jayden Denegal and true freshman Jadyn Davis, who was the fourth-ranked dual-threat quarterback recruit in the country before enrolling early, both also had moments in the spring game. Both will have their opportunities to win the job, too.

“Everybody’s getting better,” Moore said of his quarterbacks. “Think that will go into the summer, the fall. We’ll see when we get to fall camp.”

The Buckeyes are taking a patient approach with their quarterback competition, as well.

Though Howard passed for 5,786 yards and totaled 67 touchdowns over 34 games playing for K-State, the Buckeyes haven’t just handed him the job.

“Not trying to get ahead of myself and look at the end goal,” Howard admitted to reporters during Ohio State’s pro day. “Just trying to get better. … Every single day, it’s just getting more comfortable. It’s a process.”

Howard completed 9 of 13 passes for 77 yards in the Buckeyes’ spring game, while rotating with five other quarterbacks. Junior Devin Brown, a former four-star recruit, threw the scrimmage’s only touchdown pass. Last preseason, Brown lost the starting job to Kyle McCord, who transferred to Syracuse in December. Still, Brown has already declared that he has no plans to transfer himself, even if he loses the competition again.

“I’m a Buckeye, and I’m here to compete, no matter what,” he told reporters in March.

Five-star freshman Julian Sayin, sophomore Lincoln Kienholz and freshman Air Noland all got snaps in the spring game.

Sayin, who originally signed with Alabama before enrolling at Ohio State, completed 10 of 17 passes for a scrimmage-high 85 yards, but he also threw a pick-six.

It won’t be easy for Sayin to win the job as a true freshman, at least immediately. But similar to Davis at Michigan, Sayin has already impressed in just a few weeks on campus and could be Ohio State’s eventual successor under center.

“Julian is a very fast processor,” said offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, who left his job as UCLA’s head coach in February to call plays for the Buckeyes. “He really thinks very, very quickly on his feet. He makes really quick decisions. He doesn’t stick on [receivers] in reads. He can progress and he sees things really well for a young player.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day didn’t have much to say about his quarterback battle after the spring game, only that he would have to “look at the film.” But Kelly noted when the Buckeyes are finally ready to decide on a starter, there won’t be much of a decision to make.

“You always want to do it earlier, but I also believe every time I’ve been involved in this, it kind of happens organically and authentically because the players know,” Kelly said. “Players understand who they feel is the guy. And most of the time the decision is very obvious.”

The last time the Buckeyes and Wolverines had quarterback battles seemingly this wide open in the same summer was 2015. And both Urban Meyer and Harbaugh waited until opening drives of the openers to publicly reveal their starters.

In Columbus, Cardale Jones had just led the Buckeyes to a pair of playoff wins, including the 2014 national championship. But J.T. Barrett was having an All-Big Ten season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury against Michigan, opening the door for Jones to take over. Jones ended up starting the 2015 opener against Virginia Tech, but ultimately split time with Barrett.

Harbaugh, meanwhile, kept his quarterback plans a secret during his first preseason in Ann Arbor. Iowa transfer Jake Rudock got the start over Shane Morris against Utah. Despite losing that first game, Rudock led the Big Ten in completion rate (64.0%). But Barrett totaled four touchdowns in Ohio State’s 42-13 win over the Wolverines to end their regular seasons.

Neither the Buckeyes nor the Wolverines reached the playoff in 2015, with Michigan State claiming a spot instead. With the start of the 12-team playoff era, Ohio State and Michigan both missing the playoff again seems unlikely. And so, two of college football’s most consequential quarterback competitions will continue into the summer. With the rivalry, the Big Ten title and, likely, a playoff berth all firmly on the line.

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Braves star Acuña out for season with torn ACL

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Braves star Acuña out for season with torn ACL

Atlanta Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. will miss the rest of the season after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Sunday’s 8-1 victory at Pittsburgh.

The reigning NL MVP led off the game with a double to right-center field off Martin Perez. With Marcell Ozuna at the plate, Acuña started toward third on a stolen base attempt and his left knee gave way. Acuña remained down for several minutes while being treated, pointing at his left leg before walking off under his own power.

The Braves’ initial diagnosis was left knee soreness. But the team announced Sunday night that an MRI showed a complete ACL tear that will require season-ending surgery.

Acuña tore his right ACL on July 20, 2021. Wearing a brace in the clubhouse after Sunday’s win, the 26-year-old outfielder said this injury felt less severe.

“(I) don’t feel that painful, any pop or anything. … Don’t think it’s that bad,” Acuña said.

Acuña said he was looking to take third when he anticipated a slow throw back to the mound from catcher Joey Bart. The toss came in harder than expected, leading to an abrupt pivot back to second with his knee twisting.

Acuña is batting .250 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 49 games. The four-time All-Star hit a career-best .337 last season with 41 homers and 106 RBIs.

Atlanta already was missing All-Star right-hander Spencer Strider, whose season ended on April 13 when he had internal brace surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. Third baseman Austin Riley is day to day with a left intercostal strain, and catcher Sean Murphy remains on the 10-day injured list with an oblique injury after he got hurt on opening day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Reds extend Dodgers’ skid to 5; Ohtani at ‘90%’

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Reds extend Dodgers' skid to 5; Ohtani at '90%'

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of their longest losing streak since 2019, but first baseman Freddie Freeman has no doubt that there’s no concern.

“It’s May, it’s baseball,” Freeman said. “Two weeks ago, we were winning every game. I don’t think anybody needs to question in our lineup. We’ll be fine.”

The Cincinnati Reds finished off a sweep of the Dodgers with a 4-1 victory Sunday, extending LA’s slide to five games — it’s longest since dropping six in a row April 8-13, 2019.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani went 3-for-12 in the series while dealing with a bruised right hamstring. He batted second Sunday and went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter, reaching on an infield single while scoring the Dodgers’ only run.

“It’s right around 90%,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani’s hamstring. “Assuming it will keep getting better, I feel confident that he can play smart and not push it. Talked to him about not trying to steal a base. Be smart. The value of having him in the lineup is everything.”

Los Angeles’ lineup has been hampered by inconsistency. The Dodgers scored six times in the series opener, and then scored two more over the next two games.They have been shut out twice this month while scoring two or fewer runs six times.

“When you’re not hitting, it certainly seems lifeless,” Roberts said. “Seems like we’re running cold. I know it’s not from care or preparation. Bottom line, it’s about results and we’re not getting them right now. They outplayed us this series and won three.”

Roberts hinted at a couple of changes to the lineup when the Dodgers begin a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

“Some guys might be pressing a little bit,” Roberts said. “Every time I write the lineup, I feel good that we’re going to put up some runs. It’s not a big picture-type thing. It’s certainly been two weeks where it hasn’t been good.”

Jonathan India and Nick Martini each drove in two runs for the Reds, and Brent Suter, Nick Martinez, Carson Spiers and Alexis Diaz combined for a five-hitter.

Martinez (2-3) pitched 4⅓ innings of one-hit ball on a bullpen day for Cincinnati, and Díaz got two outs for his 10th save.

“It starts with our pitchers,” Reds manager David Bell said. “They’re ready to take the ball. Starting with Brent Suter, who did his job. That’s where it starts. Nick Martinez took over. Nick continues to show when he executes his pitches how good he is. To pitch so well against this team really says a lot.”

Freeman hit an RBI double in the ninth, stopping a 0-for-22 slide for the Dodgers with runners in scoring position. Freeman then advanced on defensive indifference, but Díaz struck out Teoscar Hernandez and Andy Pages swinging.

The start of the game was moved up from 1:40 p.m. EDT to 12:10 p.m. due to the threat of severe storms that arrived in the sixth inning. The teams then waited through a delay for just over an hour.

Cincinnati scored four times in the third off Yoshinobu Yamamoto (5-2). India had a bases-loaded single, and Martini’s bloop hit scored two more.

Yamamoto allowed six hits, struck out eight and walked two in five innings.

“They found a way to fight with two outs and find some outfield grass,” Roberts said. “They stayed inside the baseball. When you fight, you get those breaks sometimes. Outside of that, I thought Yoshi was fantastic. He was one hitter away from going five scoreless.”

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Dodgers: Right-hander Gavin Stone (4-2, 3.60 ERA) will oppose Mets right-hander Tylor Megill (0-2, 3.00 ERA) on Monday in the opener of a three-game series.

Reds: Left-hander Nick Lodolo (3-2, 3.34 ERA) will come off the injured list to start the series opener against the Cardinals on Monday. Lance Lynn (2-2, 3.68 ERA) starts for St. Louis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

DETROIT — Matt Vierling homered twice, including a tiebreaking, three-run drive off Jordan Romano in the ninth inning that gave Detroit a wild 14-11 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday after the Tigers wasted a five-run lead and recovered from a two-run deficit.

Vierling had four hits and tied career highs with two homers and four RBIs.

“My brother and I in the back yard, we’d always be doing situations like that,” Vierling said. “It’s kind of cool when it actually happens.”

Carson Kelly hit a three-run homer and Spencer Torkelson hit a solo shot for Detroit, which led 5-0 after three innings, 8-3 after five and 9-5 after six. The Tigers set a season high for runs and tied their high with 17 hits.

Torkelson had three hits and scored three runs.

“He’s really easy to root for,” Torkelson said of Vierling. “To see him come through, we had all the faith in the world and confidence he’d get the job done there. That’s exactly what he did.”

Toronto’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa homered in the seventh off Tyler Holton, and the Blue Jays took an 11-9 lead with a five-run eighth when Bo Bichette hit a two-run single off Jason Foley and Daulton Varsho hit a three-run homer.

Toronto manager John Schneider drew some consolation by the way his team kept fighting back.

“It’s easy to kind of quit after that and the guys did the exact opposite,” he said. “Chipped away and came back with huge hits from Bo and Varsh.”

Mark Canha tied the score with a two-run single against Yimi Garcia in the bottom half, his third hit.

Vierling, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Zach Pop, drove a full-count slider from Romano (1-2) over the left-field wall for his first big league walk-off hit. A two-time All-Star, Romano has allowed three homers this year, half his total last season.

“I was ready for that pitch that he threw me 3-2,” Vierling said. “I was kind of looking for it 2-2, as well, but it was low and I was able to check my swing enough. The next pitch was the same pitch, just a little more up.”

Mason Englert (1-0) pitched a hitless ninth for the Tigers (26-27), who won the last three games of a four-game series against the last-place Blue Jays (23-29).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had his second four-hit game of the season for the Blue Jays.

Detroit starter Casey Mize gave up three runs and eight hits in 4⅓ innings. Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings. Mize and Kikuchi are 0-3 each in their six starts.

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