USC’s Barkley out — Matt Barkley came to Southern California as a hot-shot recruit, seemingly destined to be the Trojans’ next star quarterback. For the most part he delivered on that promise during a record-breaking four-year run as USC’s starter. Barkley, though, won’t get to give a grand finale. He won’t play in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve because of a lingering injury to his right shoulder. Doctors didn’t clear him to play, coach Lane Kiffin said. “It’s a tough day," Barkley said. “As you heard from Coach Kiffin I won’t be playing on the 31st. I’ve worked as hard as I could to get back for this game, but nature’s not allowing it and the doctors aren’t allowing it, which is the most important thing. They’re looking out for my best interest, and I trust their judgment in how things have turned out." Kiffin said Max Wittek will start. The redshirt freshman will be making his second career start. Barkley, the only three-time captain in USC history, owns 20 school records and 10 Pac-12 records. He is the Pac-12’s leader in total offense (12,214), yards passing (12,327), completions (1,001), TD passes (116) and combined rushing and passing TDs (122).
Sanchez to start — Rex Ryan stepped to the podium, looked out at the cameras and opened his news conference with a warning. “You’re not going to believe this one," the New York Jets coach declared without any hint of a smile. In what has been a bizarre season, the Jets’ wacky quarterback situation took yet another twist. Greg McElroy has a concussion — which he didn’t reveal until Thursday — and will be replaced by Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback in the season finale at Buffalo on Sunday. McElroy, preparing to make his second NFL start in place of the benched Sanchez, went to the team’s training staff Thursday and revealed he was suffering concussion-like symptoms after being sacked 11 times in the Jets’ 27-17 loss to San Diego last Sunday.
Seahawk wins appeal — Even when others were suggesting he drop his case and accept his punishment, Richard Sherman never strayed from his steadfast belief that his four-game suspension would be overturned. As unlikely as it seemed, Sherman was right. The Seattle Seahawks will now have one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL available for the playoffs after Sherman won his appeal of a suspension for use of performance enhancing substances on Thursday. Sherman’s appeal was based on errors in the chain of custody of his urine sample and that there were mistakes made by the tester.
49ers move on without star — Patrick Willis believes the San Francisco 49ers can still be a great defense even without All-Pro tackle Justin Smith. The 49ers might have to spend the rest of this season finding out whether or not Willis, their All-Pro linebacker and defensive leader, is correct. Smith is unlikely to play Sunday in the regular-season finale against Arizona because of a partially torn left triceps. The injury could force Smith to miss some or all of the postseason. The San Francisco defense has been gouged for big yardage and points since Smith was injured early in the third quarter Dec. 16 at New England. But the NFL’s second-ranked defense hopes to regroup and regain momentum for the playoffs against an Arizona team that ranks last in the league in total offense. “You can’t really put into words what he means to this defense," Willis said Thursday. “We most certainly miss him and hopefully we’ll get him back for the playoffs. But we have a great defense and I truly believe that."
Cowboys’ Brent well over limit — Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent was driving with a suspended license and had a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal limit at the time of the car crash that killed teammate and friend Jerry Brown, according to documents released by police Thursday. The 24-year-old Brent was tested after the crash in the early hours of Dec. 8 at 0.189 percent, well above the Texas limit of 0.08. One police report said Brent was intoxicated, driving over the speed limit and swerving out of one lane when he struck a curb in Irving, a suburb of Dallas, causing the car to flip over.
Wade suspended — Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade has been suspended one game without pay by the NBA for flailing his leg and making contact with the groin of Charlotte Bobcats’ Ramon Sessions. The suspension was announced Thursday by Stu Jackson, the NBA’s executive vice president for basketball operations. The incident happened with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s 105-92 victory over the Bobcats on Wednesday night. Sessions was called for a foul on the play. Wade will serve the suspension tonight when the Heat visit the Detroit Pistons.
Howard fined — Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard was fined $35,000 by the NBA on Thursday for a flagrant foul against Denver’s Kenneth Faried. Howard was ejected with 5:02 left in the third quarter in the Lakers’ 126-114 loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night. He was called for a flagrant foul 2 when he jammed his hand in Faried’s face as the Denver forward drove the lane. Faried tumbled to the floor, but shook off the fall to stay in the game. After the game, Howard acknowledged it was a hard foul and that it looked bad when seeing it on replay, but he didn’t think it merited ejection. “I was surprised it was a flagrant 2," he said. “My intention was never to hurt Faried. I like the young fellow and my intention was just to foul. I come down the lane, somebody is going to foul me hard, put me on the free throw line and make me shoot free throws. It was the same kind of thing."
N.M. tops No. 8 Cinci — Alex Kirk scored 15 points and blocked Sean Kilpatrick’s shot just before the buzzer Thursday night, preserving New Mexico’s 55-54 win that handed host No. 8 Cincinnati its first loss. New Mexico (13-1) rallied in the second half behind its 7-foot center, who hit a 3-pointer, got a team-high seven rebounds and slapped away Kilpatrick’s jumper off an inbounds play. The loss by Cincinnati (12-1) left Duke, Michigan, Arizona and Wyoming as the only unbeaten teams in Division I.
Matsui retires — Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui retired Thursday from professional baseball, saying he is no longer able to perform at the level that made him a star in two countries. The 2009 World Series MVP with the New York Yankees and a three-time Central League MVP with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants struggled in a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Rays last season and recently made up his mind to call it a career after 20 years — the first 10 in Japan. Overall, Matsui batted .282 with 175 homers and 760 RBIs for the Yankees, Angels, Athletics and Rays.
—From wire reports