October 30, 2005

Polly Bergen joins 'Commander in Chief'

Polly Bergen will play Kate Allen, the mother of the first female U.S. president, played by Geena Davis on ABC's "Commander in Chief."

Bergen will make her bow on the Nov. 29 Thanksgiving-themed episode, The Hollywood Reporter said Friday.

Bergen actually beat Davis to the punch as the first woman president, The Reporter noted. She was commander in chief for the 1964 movie "Kisses for My President" with Fred MacMurray.

Bergen won an Emmy in 1958 for "Playhouse 90." She was nominated for Emmys for the 1988 miniseries "War and Remembrance" and the 1983 miniseries "The Winds of War" -- both on ABC.

October 27, 2005

George Takei Discloses His Homosexuality

LOS ANGELES - George Takei, best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in "Star Trek," came out as homosexual in the current issue of a magazine covering the Los Angeles gay and lesbian community.

Takei told The Associated Press on Thursday that his new onstage role as psychologist Martin Dysart in "Equus," helped inspire him to publicly discuss his sexuality.

Takei described the character as a "very contained but turbulently frustrated man." The play opened Wednesday at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Los Angeles, the same day that Frontiers magazine featured a story on Takei's coming out.

The current social and political climate also motivated Takei's disclosure, he said.

"The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay," he said. "The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young."

The 68-year-old actor said he and his partner, Brad Altman, have been together for 18 years.

Takei, a Japanese-American who lived in a U.S. internment camp from age 4 to 8, said he grew up feeling ashamed of his ethnicity and sexuality. He likened prejudice against gays to racial segregation.

"It's against basic decency and what American values stand for," he said.

Takei joined the "Star Trek" cast in 1973 as Hikaru Sulu, a character he played for three seasons on television and in six subsequent films. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986.

A community activist, Takei ran for the Los Angeles City Council in 1973. He serves on the advisory committee of the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and is chairman of East West Players, the theater company producing "Equus."
Silent no more - WNBA MVP Swoopes opens up about lesbianism

NEW YORK -- The only thing that outshines the exquisite diamond on Sheryl Swoopes' left ring finger is the glow on her face as she discusses the love of her life.

It's a love that the WNBA superstar has kept hidden for more than seven years. On Wednesday she "quit pretending," disclosing that she is gay and in a committed relationship.

"I feel like I've been living a lie," the Houston Comets' star said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm at a place in my life right now where I'm very happy, very content. I'm finally OK with the idea of who I love, who I want to be with."

Swoopes said she currently lives with her partner, former Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott.

The story was first reported in ESPN the Magazine, which hit newsstands Wednesday. She also announced an endorsement deal with Olivia, a lesbian cruise line.

Swoopes, the only WNBA player to win three MVP trophies, said she never had feelings for a woman before Scott and didn't understand them when they began. But in the seven years since, she said she's been "hurting" while hiding her relationship.

Now, Swoopes said, she finally feels free.

Swoopes is a five-time All-Star, three-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion as a member of the Comets, whose run of four straight titles began when she was a rookie in 1997.

While piling up accolades and accomplishments, the 34-year-old Swoopes said she dreamed about the day when she could attend an awards banquet with Scott on her arm.

"We have had to celebrate behind closed doors," she said. "I don't want to have to hide from the world anymore."

But that's not to say that she isn't concerned about repercussions from her admission. She worries about her mother Louise, who has known for five years, but "doesn't think it's right."

"She'll probably never accept it," Swoopes said. "But she's dealing with it."

And she is nervous about the response from her hometown of Brownfield, Texas, about 600 miles northwest of Houston, where cotton is king and Swoopes reigns as queen.

Not to mention what people will think right down the road in Lubbock, where she brought Texas Tech it's only national championship in basketball by scoring 47 points in the final game in 1993.

"I worry about the reaction throughout the country, but I really worry about Brownfield and Lubbock," she said. "Because they're both small towns and Sheryl Swoopes is a local hero. Now what? I hope it doesn't change. It's important to me."

Swoopes is perhaps the highest profile team-sport athlete to come out and follows two other WNBA players. Shortly before she retired in 2002, New York Liberty player Sue Wicks became the first active WNBA player to open up about her sexuality.

"I'm happy for Sheryl," Wicks said. "I think all people deserve to be able to live their lives openly and honestly, and I applaud Sheryl for her courage."

Former Minnesota Lynx player Michele Van Gorp, who no longer plays in the WNBA, also came out while an active player in July 2004.

No man has ever come out while still active in the major leagues of football, baseball, basketball or hockey. If an NBA ever player did, commissioner David Stern said, there'd only be one question:

"How many points? How many rebounds? I think that it's a non-issue."

Swoopes said her news had been well received so far.

"What she does in her personal life is her own decision," Comets coach Van Chancellor said in a release. "I respect everything about Sheryl, how she's handled herself on and off the court. To me, she will always be one of the greatest ambassadors for the game of women's basketball."

She has long reveled in her position as a role model and hopes that parents won't discourage their children from looking up to her because she is gay. Her wish is that her coming out could help someone dealing with the same issue.

"If a kid out there who is struggling with their identity can read this article and say, 'If she did it I can deal with this,' then this is worth it," she said.

Swoopes said her decision had nothing to do with the proposed Texas constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which is already illegal in Texas. In fact, she didn't know about it until Wednesday morning.

But she said would like to one day marry Scott.

"At some point I would love for that to happen," she said. "Right now I think we're very happy with the relationship we have. This is the person I plan on being with for the rest of my life."

Swoopes was married to high school sweetheart Eric Jackson and the two have an 8-year-old son, Jordan. Their divorce in 1999 had nothing to do with her being gay, Swoopes said.

When contemplating whether to come out, Swoopes said thoughts of Jordan were foremost in her mind.

"He goes to bed every night and he's peaceful and when I see that I never question that what I'm doing is right," she said.

Jackson released a statement Wednesday night through his lawyer.

"I respectfully request for everyone to remember that behind this story there is an 8-year-old child who will undoubtedly receive attention because of his mother's pronouncement regarding her lifestyle," Jackson said.

"Our son's well-being is my sole focus. I am completely committed to doing what is in the best interest of our child. My wish is to partner with Sheryl to support our son in light of this announcement, I want our son to know that he has two parents who love him and support him and above all else are dedicated to ensuring his mental and emotional security."
White Sox capture World Series

HOUSTON - The Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros 1-0 at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday to sweep the best-of-seven World Series by a 4-0 margin.

The championship series victory is the first for the White Sox since 1917.

October 24, 2005

Steelers Defeat Bengals 27-13

CINCINNATI - Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes in his return from a knee injury, and the Pittsburgh Steelers proved they're still the team to beat in the AFC North by beating the upstart Cincinnati Bengals 27-13 on Sunday.

The Steelers (4-2) haven't lost their knack for winning tough game in tough places. They dominated the second half in front of a Cincinnati-record crowd of 66,104, setting a franchise record with their 10th straight road victory.

In the end, it was Hines Ward — not Chad Johnson — getting the last dance.

For the first time in their stadium's six-year history, the Bengals (5-2) had the fans on their side for a home game against the Steelers. There was more orange than yellow in the crowd that turned out on a raw, rainy day — the kind the Steelers usually dominate with defense and runs.

They did again.

Willie Parker's 39-yard touchdown run highlighted a 221-yard performance by Pittsburgh's running game. Parker ran for 131 yards overall, and injury-slowed Jerome Bettis even got in a few licks on a defense that gives up 4.9 yards per try.

Ward's 4-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter made it 24-6 and gave him a chance to rub it in with a little Riverdance-style celebration in the end zone.

Johnson got one chance to dance, but his opening-drive touchdown was overturned on review. The Steelers' defense took it from there, making Carson Palmer look ordinary for the first time in 10 games.

Palmer had tied Peyton Manning's NFL record of nine consecutive games with a passer rating of 100. The last time Palmer had struggled was in his last game against the Steelers, a 19-14 loss in Cincinnati last season.

Pittsburgh had two interceptions in the third quarter, setting up a decisive 10-point spurt. Palmer hadn't thrown an interception in 20 quarters and 169 attempts.

To make matters worse, Palmer got flattened by his former Southern California roommate, safety Troy Polamalu, as he tried to make a tackle on one interception return. Palmer finished 21-of-36 for 227 yards and a 53.8 rating — well below average.

Roethlisberger and Palmer have ranked first and second in the NFL's passer rankings the last four weeks. Roethlisberger sat out a 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville because of a sore knee, and backup Tommy Maddox had four turnovers.

Roethlisberger didn't have to do much Sunday. He was 9-of-14 for 93 yards and threw his first interception of the season. The running game did the rest.

The Bengals' biggest game since 1990 — the last time they had a winning record and made the playoffs — reminded their fans of their dismal past. They had their chance to make an opening statement, and completely Bungled it.

They drove easily down the field after the opening kickoff, and Johnson did a giddy little high-step after his diving catch in the back of the end zone was initially ruled a 16-yard touchdown catch.

The Steelers challenged the call, and referee Tony Corrente overturned it after a minutes-long review that drew boos from the crowd. Corrente decided that Johnson got only one foot down before his hand landed out of bounds.

Then, it got worse for Cincinnati. Rookie Chris Henry dropped a pass in the end zone, forcing a field goal attempt. Shayne Graham — the most accurate kicker in Bengals history — was wide to the left on a 30-yard attempt.

The Bengals' next long drive ended in a 26-yard field goal by Graham, hardly what they needed. When Bettis started bowling them over, they knew they'd missed their chance.

With his belly drooping over his belt, the massive running back took handoffs and hit the line like a bowling ball smacking the pins, making them scatter. Bettis, slowed this season by a calf injury, finished with 56 yards.

Cincinnati's defense lost first-round draft pick David Pollack in the second half. He limped off after one play and went for an examination on his left knee.

The game ended with several thousand Pittsburgh fans waving their yellow Terrible Towels and the Steelers walking off with arms raised.

Still the champs.

October 23, 2005

No. 12 Penn State Wallops Illinois 63-10

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Michael Robinson threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more — in the first half — and 12th-ranked Penn State gave coach Joe Paterno his 350th victory the easy way with a 63-10 rout of Illinois on Saturday night.

The Penn State victory was so decisive that Robinson and most of his fellow starters did not play after the Nittany Lions built a 56-3 halftime lead to spoil Illinois' homecoming. The win keeps Penn State (7-1, 4-1) in a tie with Wisconsin at the top of the Big Ten standings and moves Paterno's record to 350-117-3 in 40 seasons, second on the all-time Division I-A coaching victory list.

Penn State's performance set a new school record for scoring in a half, breaking the old mark of 55 set on Oct. 11, 1947, in the first half of a 70-0 victory over Fordham. It was the worst defeat for Illinois (2-5, 0-4) since a 69-13 loss to Michigan on Nov. 1, 1986, and marked the second consecutive home game that the Illini have given up more than 60 points, after a 61-14 defeat by Michigan State on Sept. 24.

Robinson had scoring throws of 35 yards to Ethan Kilmer, 31 yards and 19 yards to Deon Butler, and 3 yards to Patrick Hall during a first quarter in which the Nittany Lions averaged more than 11 yards per play on the way to a 28-3 lead. He had touchdown runs of 4 and 31 yards in the second quarter before he was replaced by Anthony Morelli with 1:24 left in the half.

Robinson completed 11 of 18 passes for 194 yards. He also led Penn State in rushing with 69 yards on seven carries. Morelli threw only two passes, completing one for 23 yards.

Linebacker Dan Connor ran a recovered fumble back 18 yards for another score and Rodney Kinlaw scored on a 1-yard run 26 seconds before halftime. Nolan McCready ran an interception back 76 yards for Penn State's only second-half score.

The Nittany Lions rolled up 438 yards, while Illinois gained 244, its lowest offensive output of the season.

Illinois took the opening kickoff and marched from its own 20 to the Penn State 23. But a holding penalty stopped the drive and the Illini had to settle for Jason Reda's field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The Illini would gain only 42 more yards and get only one more first down for the rest of the half. They committed nine penalties for 78 yards before halftime.

Just 1:16 after Reda's field goal, Robinson found Kilmer over the middle and he outran two Illini defenders to the end zone with 8:58 left in the quarter. The Nittany Lions scored on seven of eight first-half possessions.

Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic was 8-of-16 for 49 yards before being relieved by Chris Pazan in the third quarter. Pazan threw a 3-yard TD pass to Rashard Mendenhall to complete a 12-play, 91-yard drive with 2:19 left in the game.

October 14, 2005

Penn State and Mich. see fortunes reverse

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Suddenly, it seems as if Penn State and Michigan have switched uniforms, a reversal of fortune for two of college football's most storied schools.

Penn State, ranked No. 8 and off to its best start since 1999, plays a Michigan team Saturday that hasn't begun this poorly in 15 years.

"It's just like a couple years back, everybody was saying we were back and Penn State was down," Michigan defensive end Pierre Woods said.

Penn State (6-0, 3-0) is alone at the top of the Big Ten following two straight losing seasons and four in five. As for Joe Paterno, the 78-year-old coach is enjoying a renaissance and seems as much in touch with the game as ever.

"They're back, that's for sure," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

Now consider the Wolverines (3-3, 1-2). They are two-time defending Big Ten champions. These days, they are unranked and another loss would mark their worst record in mid-October since 1967, a predicament that has intensified the heat on Carr.

Michigan tight end Tim Massaquoi wants fans and critics to remember Carr's successes.

"All college coaches go through, 'What have you done for me lately?'" Massaquoi said.

Massaquoi has spent five years in Ann Arbor and has seen the Wolverines go 40-16 while the Nittany Lions went 27-26 during the same stretch.

"I get a lot of calls from Penn State fans and people in State College," said Massaquoi, who is from Allentown, Pa. "They call me and say 'You should've come here.' But look at my career. I've got a couple of Big Ten championships. I don't have any regrets."

Massaquoi, however, does want followers of college football's winningest program to demand excellence.

"That's how it should be in a program with a tradition like ours," he said. "People should expect us to win — we should expect to win."

Michigan, playing at home, is listed as a 3-point favorite.

"Rightfully so," Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson said. "We haven't done so well the last couple years. We understand that."

While Penn State was down the past two years, it didn't play Michigan after losing six straight from 1997-02. If the Nittany Lions end the losing streak, they would have three straight victories over ranked teams for the first time since 1995.

"We're pretty confident in ourselves right now," star linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "But I think with a big win like that against an established program like Michigan will be a big thing for us."

The Nittany Lions are winning again because of a traditionally tough defense and a new-look offense featuring Robinson, running back Tony Hunt and freshmen receivers Derrick Williams and Justin King. Penn State hasn't had a turnover since the first half of its game against Northwestern, a span of 10 quarters.

Carr is not surprised Paterno is winning again.

"I think he has always maintained a confidence that they were going to have a good team," Carr said. "I could remember last year, hearing him a few times on the teleconference, and he told everybody, they built it around the great defense. They have had a two-quarterback situation there for a couple of years, but I think now they have (Robinson) and they're doing some things to take advantage of his ability."

Michigan has struggled because of missed chances on offense and defense and injuries to key players. Paterno has tried to make sure his players are not overconfident.

"They are going to play one heck of a football game," he said. "There is a pride involved in Michigan football. There is a tradition involved in it. Those kids are not going to just say, 'OK, we lost a couple of games, let's hang it up.' No, we are in for a real, tough football game."

October 11, 2005

Pirates Hire Former Dodger Manager Tracy

Jim Tracy was named manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates today, just eight days after he parted ways with the Dodgers, who would not honor his request for a contract extension and a raise.

Tracy, who was selected over former Oakland Athletic manager Ken Macha and Atlanta Brave third base coach Fredi Gonzalez, had been the favorite to fill the Pittsburgh opening because of his friendship with Pirate General Manager Dave Littlefield. Both men worked in the Montreal Expo organization in the 1990s.

Tracy, 49, replaces Lloyd McClendon, who was fired Sept. 6 during his fifth consecutive losing season and replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Pete Mackanin. McClendon was hired after the 2000 season by edging out Tracy, who was a finalist.

Tracy instead was hired by the Dodgers to replace Davey Johnson and he posted four consecutive winning seasons, culminating in the 2004 National League West Division championship.

However, the bottom fell out this season. The Dodgers were 71-91, their second-worst record since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, and Tracy blamed the fall on the numerous off-season roster moves orchestrated by General Manager Paul DePodesta.

Tracy had one year remaining on a two-year Dodger contract that would have paid him a base salary of $700,000 with incentives worth another $200,000. He requested a two-year extension and a raise in a Sept. 8 meeting, and the Dodgers determined by season's end that they would not honor the request.

Today DePodesta will begin interviews with five candidates-Dodger triple-A manager Jerry Royster, recently fired Detroit Tiger manager Alan Trammell, San Francisco Giant bench coach Ron Wotus, Dodger farm director Terry Collins and Cleveland Indian minor league manager Torey Lovullo.

Tracy will take over a Pirate team with a significantly lower payroll than the Dodgers. The Pirates have had 13 consecutive losing seasons, three short of the major league record, and were 67-95 in 2005.

Tracy has not named his coaches, but former Dodger bench coach Jim Lett is expected to join the Pirate staff.
Louis Nye, veteran comic, sidekick to Steve Allen, dead at 92

LOS ANGELES -- When he began making the theater circuit in his native Hartford, Conn., comedian Louis Nye had his sights set on becoming a serious actor.

But after a string of dramatic roles in theater and radio, it was in the Army that Nye found out just how funny he could be. Soon after, a career that would last more than half a century took off in a new direction.

Nye, who created a national catchphrase when he belted out "Hi Ho, Steverino" on Steve Allen's groundbreaking 1950s TV show, died Sunday following a long battle with long cancer, according to his son, Peter Nye.

Although different sources list various ages, Nye's son said Monday that his father was 92.

Nye, who pronounced his first name "Louie," was born on May 1, 1913, in Hartford, Conn., where he began his career in theater before moving to New York City to enter radio.

"I still think of myself as an actor," he told The Associated Press in 1970. "In the radio days I was busy playing rotten Nazis, rich uncles and emotional juveniles _ the whole span _ and the only time I tried to be funny was at parties."

He turned to comedy while in the Army, he said, when he was stationed near a "wild town" in Missouri.

"I was in charge of the recreation, hall, and I had to make the entertainment good enough to keep the young soldiers from going into town," he said. "It was a challenge and I worked hard at it. For the first time, I realized I had the ability to make people laugh."

Soon he was playing nightclubs from Las Vegas to London.

A master of voices and accents, he could go from being droll one moment to prissy the next. He could also switch effortlessly from comically evil Nazis to bumbling Russians.

"He has a great business card from that time that lists something like 15 accents that he could do," his son recalled with a chuckle, adding his father's impersonation of former Russian leader Nikita Khruschev was so dead-on that the son once failed to recognize him when they came face to face.

On "The Steve Allen Show," which ran from 1956 to 1961 under various names, he quickly endeared himself to audiences as Gordon Hathaway, the effete, country-club snob who would welcome Allen's arrival with the "Hi, ho, Steverino!" salutation.

Other regulars on the landmark show included comedians Don Knotts, Tom Poston, Bill Dana and Gabriel Dell.

After the show's run ended, Nye appeared often on TV game shows, in films and as a regular on "The Ann Sothern Show." He was often cast as the second banana, never the lead.

He played dentist Delbert Gray during the 1960-61 season of Sothern's show and appeared as Sonny Drysdale, the prissy son of harried banker Milburn Drysdale, during "The Beverly Hillbillies"' first season. He once said his character was dropped after one season because a network executive thought he was "too sissified." Nonetheless, he was back as Sonny for the 1993 TV movie "The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies" and appeared in the 2001 documentary "The Beverly Hillbillies: The E True Hollywood Story."

He teamed with Allen again in 1967, on "The Steve Allen Comedy Hour," a CBS variety show in which he also portrayed Gordon Hathaway. His cohorts that time included Allen's wife, Jayne Meadows, Ruth Buzzi and John Byner, among others.

In the summer of 1970 he hosted the variety show "Happy Days" on CBS and three years later co-starred with Norman Fell in the New York garment industry sitcom "Needles and Pins." He played Kirby Baker in the 1978 TV show "Harper Valley P.T.A."

He was a celebrity panelist on the late '70s syndicated comedy "The $1.98 Beauty Show."

In the 1980s and '90s he provided various voices for the "Inspector Gadget" cartoon show.

His film credits included "Cannonball Run II," "Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood," "A Guide for the Married Man," "Good Neighbor, Sam" and "Sex Kittens Go to College."

He also guest starred in such shows as "St. Elsewhere," "The Love Boat," "Laverne & Shirley" and "The Munsters" and appeared frequently as a guest on "The Jackie Gleason Show," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and other variety and talk shows.
Good News for Steelers' Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a hyperextended left knee and a bone bruise sustained during a game-winning field goal drive at the end of a 24-22 victory over San Diego on Monday night, but hasn't been ruled out of Sunday's game against Jacksonville.

The injury isn't as severe as it initially appeared to be — immediately after the game, coach Bill Cowher said "it looked bad."

"It's a deep sigh of relief," Cowher said Tuesday.

Roethlisberger, 16-1 as an NFL regular-season starter, was injured with 1:05 remaining when Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo's helmet collided with his left knee as Roethlisberger was completing a 9-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El.

Roethlisberger lay in pain on the turf for several minutes, clutching at his knee, before limping off the field. He was removed from the field on a cart, his knee heavily wrapped, after Jeff Reed kicked a 40-yard field goal with six seconds remaining, but he had no bandage on the knee when he got dressed shortly after that.

Roethlisberger had an MRI test shortly after the team returned to Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning.

Roethlisberger was the NFL's offensive rookie of the year last season after going 13-0 on a team that went a franchise-record 15-1 before ultimately losing to New England 41-27 in the AFC championship game. He was off to an excellent start this season, completing 52 of 86 passes for 913 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating of 123.8 is the best in the league.

Backup Tommy Maddox sat out the San Diego game with a calf injury, but also could be available Sunday. Cowher said his injury also wasn't as bad as initially thought.

If neither Roethlisberger nor Maddox can play, the Steelers would turn to 30-year-old Charlie Batch, the Lions' starter from 1998 until late in the 2001 season who has played little since signing with his hometown Steelers before the 2002 season.

Batch has thrown only eight passes, completing four, in four seasons with the Steelers. He didn't throw a pass in the 2002 season, then missed all of last season with a knee injury that occurred during training camp.

The Steelers considered cutting Batch before the season started, but decided to keep three veteran quarterbacks — something few NFL teams do — after he threw two touchdown passes in leading a comeback victory at Carolina in the team's final exhibition game Sept. 1.

"The news on Ben is very good, but it's good that we have Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch," Cowher said. "As of now, Charlie is the starter by default."
Steelers rally for 24-22 win; Roethlisberger hurt
Steelers await medical report to determine cost of victory

SAN DIEGO -- The Steelers pulled out an electrifying victory last night that was dulled somewhat when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left the game with a knee injury in the final 65 seconds.

Jeff Reed kicked a 40-yard field goal with six seconds left to lift the Steelers to a 24-22 victory.

Roethlisberger limped off the field with 1:05 to go after guiding the Steelers to within striking distance of the winning score. Preliminary indications were he had a hyperextended left knee. He will have an MRI today in Pittsburgh.

"I'll be all right," said Roethlisberger, as he pulled on a pair of bluejeans over the knee, which was not wrapped. "You know me, I'm tough."

He had just completed a 9-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El to the Chargers' 29 when defensive end Luis Castillo rolled into his knee.

Charlie Batch replaced Roethlisberger and handed off three consecutive times to Jerome Bettis, who gained 21 yards on seven carries on the winning drive. He got the ball to the 22 and Reed got the call for the attempt.

"He came through big for us," coach Bill Cowher said of Bettis, who led the Steelers with 54 yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown in his first action of the season.

Cowher told his team yesterday morning to expect "a battle of wills," and the game and atmosphere inside Qualcomm Stadium was all of that.

Chargers fans waved white towels, thousands of Steelers fans twirled their gold Terrible Towels and four black Navy helicopters from the city where Top Gun was filmed buzzed over the largest crowd in San Diego football history.

The electricity pulsated throughout the first Monday night game in nine years in San Diego, and the teams on the field responded in kind.

"That was a classic football game," Cowher said. "I think we were just fortunate enough that we had the ball last."

The Steelers raised their record to 3-1 and made amends after losing their previous game to the Patriots on a last-second field goal. The Chargers fell to 2-3 before their largest crowd ever, 68,537.

Roethlisberger ran for one touchdown on a 7-yard draw play and threw for another of 16 yards to rookie tight end Heath Miller. Bettis, playing in his first game after returning from a preseason calf injury, scored from the 1. The Chargers scored on Drew Brees' 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson's 2-yard run and Nate Kaeding field goals of 34, 32 and 41 yards.

Roethlisberger completed 17 of 26 passes for 225 yards and remained without an interception for the season.

He did lose one fumble that appeared to be an incomplete pass. In the first quarter, San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman came from his left outside and hit Roethlisberger as he was throwing. The Chargers recovered the loose ball, and the officials ruled it was a fumble. Replays seemed to show Roethlisberger's arm coming forward but Steelers coach Bill Cowher didn't challenge the call.

Their next drive would be more eventful.

The Steelers moved from their 16 to the 36 on a pass interference call, then up stepped Hines Ward. He caught a 12-yard pass and three plays later scored on a 47-yard pass that was overturned by replay. Ward fell down after gaining 14 yards but the officials ruled he was not touched. Replay showed that cornerback Quentin Jammer got a piece of Ward's right foot with his left hand.

Roethlisberger came right back for a 21-yard pass to Randle El. Roethlisberger then set up in the shotgun formation on third down and ran a quarterback draw up the middle behind the blocks of Cedrick Wilson and Verron Haynes for a 7-yard gain and a 7-0 lead with 9:14 left in the first half.

The Chargers put together a drive of their own that linebacker James Harrison rudely ended with an interception and 25-yard return.

The Steelers made that pay off when they moved 41 yards on seven plays to score. Bettis dived off left guard from the 1 for the touchdown that put the Steelers in front, 14-0, with 1:37 left.

That's when the Steelers' kick coverage team had problems. Their troubles against the New England Patriots continued two weeks later when rookie Darren Sproles returned Reed's kick 48 yards to the Steelers' 47.

The Chargers picked up 36 yards in one hunk when Eric Parker caught a 23-yard pass and another 13 was tacked on when safety Chris Hope brought him down by the facemask. Gates then beat cornerback Ike Taylor on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds left that cut the lead to 14-7.

Early in the third quarter, the special teams seemed to make amends when Chidi Iwuoma recovered a muffed punt return by Sproles, who had called for a fair catch, at the Chargers' 22. However, officials huddled for several minutes and ruled that Iwuoma did not give Sproles an unmolested chance to catch the ball. Cowher later concurred with their judgment.

Instead of possibly trailing by two touchdowns, San Diego used its second chance to close to 14-10 on Kaeding's 34-yard field goal.

Kaeding cut that lead to 14-13 when he kicked a 32-yard field goal on San Diego's next drive.

Cowher's teams had a 92-1-1 record when leading by more than 10 points, a .984 percentage that is the best of any coach in NFL history.

San Diego threatened to lower that number when they took a 16-14 lead with 11:41 remaining on Kaeding's third field goal, from 41 yards.

It lasted barely a minute.

Quincy Morgan returned the Chargers' kickoff 37 yards to the 38 and then Roethlisberger threw three pitches to strike out the Chargers. His first two went to Ward for 33 and 13 yards, and his third went to Miller for 16 yards and a touchdown. Three plays, 62 yards in 1:03 and just like that the Steelers were back in front, 21-16.

However, the Chargers weren't finished. They scored on their next series after another decent return against the Steelers started them on their 38. They reclaimed the lead on Tomlinson's 2-yard run with 4:42 left. The Steelers stuffed Tomlinson on the 2-point conversion try and San Diego went ahead, 22-21.

"I thought that was huge," Cowher said of the two-point stop.

That's when the Steelers mounted their winning drive, after Wilson returned the kickoff 29 yards to the 38 with 4:36 to go.

Batch prepares to take the reins - Injuries thrust backup into spotlight

SAN DIEGO -- At the end of what was a tumultuous weekend for Steelers quarterbacks, Charlie Batch stood in the cramped locker room at Qualcomm Stadium, talking about the opportunity that appears to be presented him and embracing the chance to lead an offense that pulled out a 24-22 victory last night against the San Diego Chargers.

Sitting next to him, his head bowed, crutches propped on the locker stall, was Ben Roethlisberger, the person who should have been celebrating after the pulsating victory but instead looked as though he had thrown three interceptions in a lopsided loss.

To be sure, the game ended the way Roethlisberger intended -- with the Steelers methodically driving 40 yards for Jeff Reed's winning field goal with :06 remaining. But his contribution, which was significant for most of this Monday Night Football mayhem, was cut short when his left knee was hyperextended with 1:05 remaining.

That left Batch, an eight-year veteran who almost didn't make the 53-man roster, as the starting quarterback for a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, and maybe for at least the next couple of games after that.

"Right now, all preliminary indications are that way," Batch said.

The early prognosis on Roethlisberger is this: His knee was hypextended when he threw a 9-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El and Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo rolled into his left leg as it was planted on the turf.

Roethlisberger was scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging exam this morning, shortly after the team's chartered plane arrived in Pittsburgh. The Steelers did not make any official comment on Roethlisberger.

"People told me it didn't look good," coach Bill Cowher said. "It looked bad from what I saw on the [stadium video] screen."

The injury to Roethlisberger came just three days after Tommy Maddox, the No. 2 quarterback, sustained a calf injury in practice Friday -- an injury similar to the one that sidelined Jerome Bettis for nearly five weeks.

Just like that, Batch has been elevated to starting quarterback, a role he hasn't assumed since he was with the Detroit Lions in 2001. Since coming to the Steelers in 2002, Batch had appeared in just three regular-season games in three years before last night. In that time, he attempted only eight passes, completing four, for 47 yards.

What's more, until last night, he hadn't appeared in a regular-season game since Nov. 30, 2003. Batch, a Steel Valley High School graduate, missed the entire 2004 season when he had season-ending knee surgery in training camp.

"It's been a while," Batch said. "I'm excited for the opportunity.

"You always want to play. But you never want to wish injury on anybody. Under the circumstances, the weekend has been crazy. Tommy gets hurt and then Ben goes down."

Indeed, the three-deep quarterback position -- probably the best in the National Football League -- will be put to the test immediately. And it will be left to Batch, who earned a spot on the roster with a good showing in the final preseason game, a 21-17 victory in Carolina in which he threw the winning 45-yard touchdown pass to Sean Morey with 54 seconds remaining.

Batch didn't need any such heroics against the Chargers. All he had to do was hand the ball on three consecutive plays to Jerome Bettis to set up Reed's winning field goal.

When he came into the game, the Steelers were faced with second-and-1 at the Chargers' 29. His job was easy.

"At that point, you're just trying to get the guys fired up," Batch said. "But, at that point, I didn't have to say much."

Bettis did that himself, carrying seven times and grinding out 21 tough yards on the winning drive.

Roethlisberger supplied all the heroics earlier, making big plays with his arm and feet and displaying a calm demeanor that never got frazzled amid the white-waving towels and din that engulfed Qualcomm Stadium.

He completed 17 of 26 passes for 225 yards and a sweet 16-yard touchdown to tight end Heath Miller. He did not throw an interception for the fourth game in a row, leaving him and Oakland's Kerry Collins as the only NFL quarterbacks without an interception in 2005.

And his passer rating -- the league's best coming into the game -- was 105.4, the third time in four games it has been over 100.

Now, though, the offense gets turned over to Batch.

"You don't know when your number is going to be called," Batch said. "And when it is, you got to be ready."

Is Batch ready?

"I'm ready," he said. "I've waited a while for this."

Steelers Notebook: Injured Maddox to miss 3-4 games

SAN DIEGO -- Quarterback Tommy Maddox did not travel with the Steelers to the West Coast and will miss the next three to four games.

Maddox pulled a calf muscle in practice on Friday and was listed as doubtful on the Steelers' injury report that day. Maddox's injury is similar to the one that knocked Jerome Bettis out of the third preseason game until he returned to play here last night.

Charlie Batch, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, moved up to No. 2 behind Ben Roethlisberger.

Batch, who started his first four seasons in the league with Detroit, has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since Nov. 30, 2003, when he threw two in Cincinnati. Since joining the Steelers as a free agent in 2002, Batch has thrown just eight passes, all in the 2003 season. He has played in only three games with them, all in 2003.

Duce is out

Halfback Duce Staley did not dress last night as coach Bill Cowher opted to make Bettis the backup to starter Willie Parker. Verron Haynes also dressed and was used as the third-down back.

Staley had surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in a knee Aug. 8. He has practiced the past four weeks and dressed for the first time against the Patriots on Sept. 25. He was involved in three plays but had no carries. Staley has not had a carry in any type of game since he ran 10 times for 26 yards against the New England Patriots in the Jan. 23 AFC championship game.

Bettis played for the first time since he had a pulled calf muscle in the third preseason game. He has practiced the past two weeks.

The rest of the inactive list for the Steelers: Maddox, CB Bryant McFadden, LB Clark Haggans, LB Rian Wallace, G Chris Kemoeatu, OT Trai Essex and WR Nate Washington.

San Diego inactives: QB Cleo Lemon, FS Jerry Wilson, C Scott Mruczkowski, G Toniu Fonoti, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Ryan Krause, LB Marques Harris and DE Dave Ball.

Mr. Dependable

Hines Ward, listed as questionable all last week with a hamstring injury, made his 83rd consecutive start and continued his record of never missing an NFL game. Ward looked as if the injury were nagging him in pregame warm-ups.

Rough stretch

Starting last night with the Steelers, the Chargers play three consecutive games against well-rested opponents. As with the Steelers, their next two foes, Oakland and Philadelphia, each have off the week before they play the Chargers, both at home. Starting with the Steelers, four of the Chargers' next five games come against teams with byes the week before they play them.

"Sometimes, a bye can be bad for you,'' Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards told the San Diego Union Tribune. "You start to overanalyze the opponent and drive yourself nuts. When you have too much time to [prepare], sometimes it's counterproductive.''

Not Miller time

Rookie tight end Heath Miller did not start for the first time in his NFL career. The Steelers had opened the first three games with two tight ends and no fullback. Last night, they started with one tight end, Jerame Tuman, and fullback Dan Kreider got his first start of the season. ... WR Cedrick Wilson replaced CB Ike Taylor as a deep kickoff return man, next to CB Ricardo Colclough. ... The Chargers opened the game with a spread offense and no one in the backfield and without taking a huddle. Drew Brees completed a 5-yard pass on first down to Keenan McCardell, then overthrew on second down and Joey Porter sacked him on third downs. ... Among the celebrities attending last night's game were California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actors Ray Romano and Jim Belushi, golfer Phil Mickelson and baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.

October 10, 2005

Penn State bursts into AP top 10

Penn State is in the top 10, Michigan is out again and UCLA is on the rise in The Associated Press Top 25.

The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions (6-0) are off to their best start in six years and have their highest ranking since they were No. 6 in the Nov. 7, 1999 poll.

Southern California is No. 1 for the 25th straight poll, receiving 58 first-place votes in the media rankings released Sunday, with Texas and Virginia Tech holding onto the next two spots. The Longhorns received seven first-place votes, one more than last week.

Florida State is fourth followed by a pair of Southeastern Conference teams, Georgia and Alabama.

Miami is No. 7 and Penn State, Notre Dame and LSU round out the top 10.

Penn State, which started the season unranked, beat Ohio State 17-10 on Saturday night in State College, Pa., to jump eight spots in the AP poll. Ohio State fell nine spots to 15th.

Michigan had a streak of 114 straight weeks in the rankings snapped when the Wolverines fell out of the rankings two weeks ago, following their second loss of the season. Michigan jumped back into the Top 25 after beating Michigan State last week, but the Wolverines fell to 3-3 with a last-second loss to Minnesota and were dropped from the rankings again.

Penn State, the only Big Ten team without a conference loss, plays at Michigan on Saturday.

"We're not done," Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson said after the Ohio State win. "We've got ourselves a tough Michigan game coming up next weekend."

In the USA Today coaches' poll, the top five was unchanged from last week -- USC, Texas, Virginia Tech, Georgia and Florida State.

In the AP Top 25, No. 11 is Florida and UCLA is No. 12, moving up eight spots after beating California 47-40.

The Bruins (5-0) haven't been ranked this high since the last poll of October 2001 when they were ninth.

No. 13 Texas Tech is followed by Boston College, Ohio State, Michigan State and Tennessee, which fell nine spots to No. 17 after losing 27-14 to Georgia at home.

Cal dropped eight spots to No. 18, and is followed by Louisville and Oregon. No. 21 Auburn gives the SEC six ranked teams, the most of any league.

The bottom four has two teams (Minnesota and TCU) moving back into the rankings this season and another (Colorado) making its 2005 debut in the Top 25.

Minnesota returns at No. 22, and No. 23 Wisconsin gives the Big Ten five ranked teams.

No. 24 Colorado is in the rankings for the first time since early in the 2003 season.

No. 25 TCU was in the Top 25 for one week after beating Oklahoma to start this season, then lost to SMU the next week and fell out. The Horned Frogs have since won four straight.

Falling out of the Top 25 along with Michigan were Georgia Tech and Arizona State.