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NFL Preseason Blitz: Now we know why the Bills fell in love with Josh Allen's arm

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Buffalo Bills wanted to show off Josh Allen’s arm right away.” data-reactid=”16″>The Buffalo Bills wanted to show off Josh Allen’s arm right away.

On Allen’s first NFL preseason pass he faked to the running back, stood in the pocket and fired a pass deep downfield. He was standing at about his own 18-yard line when he released it. And the pass just kept going and going and going until it hit receiver Robert Foster roughly at the 22-yard line on the other side of the field, about 60 yards in the air. Alas, Foster stepped out of bounds as he caught it, so it was incomplete.

It doesn’t even matter; it was a big-league throw. It looked effortless, too.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="That wasn’t even Allen’s longest throw in a 28-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers.” data-reactid=”19″>That wasn’t even Allen’s longest throw in a 28-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

In the fourth quarter, on third-and-22 Allen stood at his 30 and threw deep to Foster again. Foster was 60 yards downfield … and Allen overthrew him. The pass went about 64 yards in the air, landing at the 6-yard line incomplete. Later on, Allen rolled left to the numbers, spun back right and flung it deep to the opposite hashmark, and it traveled about 58 yards in the air.

The show wasn’t over. In the two-minute drill at the end of the game, Allen was fading backward and threw a dart more than 35 yards downfield for a completion. He finished the drive with another great, bullet pass for a touchdown.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) made some impressive throws in his preseason debut. (AP)

There was plenty to debate before the draft about Allen, and we still don’t know the answers. He was inaccurate in college and that often doesn’t improve in the pros. But this much is undeniable: It’s fun watching him throw it deep.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Allen had other shorter throws that showed off his velocity. In the fourth quarter he threw a pass over the middle to Ray-Ray McCloud that seemed like it had smoke coming off it. The camera on the TV broadcast barely kept up it was thrown so hard, and it resulted in a first down.” data-reactid=”45″>Allen had other shorter throws that showed off his velocity. In the fourth quarter he threw a pass over the middle to Ray-Ray McCloud that seemed like it had smoke coming off it. The camera on the TV broadcast barely kept up it was thrown so hard, and it resulted in a first down.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[Yahoo Fantasy Football leagues are open: Sign up now for free]” data-reactid=”46″>[Yahoo Fantasy Football leagues are open: Sign up now for free]

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Everyone who paid attention knows that Allen has an all-world arm. Another positive on Allen is his size, and he showed Thursday he can take a hit. On one of Allen’s better plays in his NFL preseason debut, he stood in against a blitzing linebacker and took a big shot to the chest, but still got the pass out to Jason Croom for 22 yards. He stayed on his feet, too.” data-reactid=”47″>Everyone who paid attention knows that Allen has an all-world arm. Another positive on Allen is his size, and he showed Thursday he can take a hit. On one of Allen’s better plays in his NFL preseason debut, he stood in against a blitzing linebacker and took a big shot to the chest, but still got the pass out to Jason Croom for 22 yards. He stayed on his feet, too.

Allen is also a good athlete, and on third-and-long in the fourth quarter he spun out of the pocket and ran for a first down. When he ran, he mostly looked natural and athletic.

Allen had his rookie moments, as expected. On a fourth down in the third quarter he was under immediate pressure, tried to get away and slipped, then wildly flipped a pass over his head. He was lucky it wasn’t intercepted. He’ll have to learn to not take reckless chances like that in the future, even on fourth down.

It’s unclear if any of the five first-round quarterbacks will start in Week 1. Even though Allen is raw, he might have a chance because the competition ahead of him isn’t too scary. It’s not like it was a surprise, but we could immediately see the physical gifts Allen brings to the Bills, and why he was the seventh pick of the draft.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Jacksonville Jaguars have a great defense and we’re not sure yet about their offense. It’s just one drive in a preseason opener, but the starting offense looked good in a 24-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.” data-reactid=”62″>The Jacksonville Jaguars have a great defense and we’re not sure yet about their offense. It’s just one drive in a preseason opener, but the starting offense looked good in a 24-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="From Leonard Fournette showing great burst on an 8-yard run to start the game – Fournette has dropped weight, and looked good in the preseason opener – to Blake Bortles running in a touchdown off a play fake, the Jaguars looked smooth.” data-reactid=”63″>From Leonard Fournette showing great burst on an 8-yard run to start the game – Fournette has dropped weight, and looked good in the preseason opener – to Blake Bortles running in a touchdown off a play fake, the Jaguars looked smooth.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Bortles almost blew the drive with a pass into the end zone that should have been picked off by cornerback Patrick Robinson, but he rebounded well. He made a nice throw under pressure to Dede Westbrook over the middle to get the Jaguars inside the 10-yard line. From there he finished the drive with his touchdown run. The drive took 15 plays and seven minutes.” data-reactid=”64″>Bortles almost blew the drive with a pass into the end zone that should have been picked off by cornerback Patrick Robinson, but he rebounded well. He made a nice throw under pressure to Dede Westbrook over the middle to get the Jaguars inside the 10-yard line. From there he finished the drive with his touchdown run. The drive took 15 plays and seven minutes.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The defense, which played its starters (the Saints used mostly starters on offense but quarterback Drew Brees did not play), gave up a long drive to the Saints, but let’s assume that side of the ball will be fine. The defense held New Orleans to a 45-yard field goal.” data-reactid=”69″>The defense, which played its starters (the Saints used mostly starters on offense but quarterback Drew Brees did not play), gave up a long drive to the Saints, but let’s assume that side of the ball will be fine. The defense held New Orleans to a 45-yard field goal.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Jaguars came so close to making the Super Bowl last season, and they come back this year with a strong roster. The offense is the question mark, but Fournette looked quick, Bortles made some plays and Westbrook is one of many intriguing receivers (he had three caches in the first quarter, as did free-agent addition Donte Moncrief). Maybe the offense won’t be such a question mark.” data-reactid=”70″>The Jaguars came so close to making the Super Bowl last season, and they come back this year with a strong roster. The offense is the question mark, but Fournette looked quick, Bortles made some plays and Westbrook is one of many intriguing receivers (he had three caches in the first quarter, as did free-agent addition Donte Moncrief). Maybe the offense won’t be such a question mark.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One concerning thing about both of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s first two games is that he has taken a lot of hits. Jackson has looked to run often, and he has been hit hard in the open field. Most college defenders couldn’t touch him, so that’s something he’ll need to get used to.” data-reactid=”86″>One concerning thing about both of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s first two games is that he has taken a lot of hits. Jackson has looked to run often, and he has been hit hard in the open field. Most college defenders couldn’t touch him, so that’s something he’ll need to get used to.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jackson’s second game, a 33-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams, had some good moments. A running touchdown, in which he took a broken play, made some nice moves to get in the open field and another move to get in the end zone, was exactly what the Ravens were looking for when he was their second first-round pick. Passing-wise, Jackson missed his share of throws – a 36-yard pass to Chris Moore was underthrown but Moore made a great play to adjust to it and make a catch. Jackson got credit for a lot of yards on a screen pass near the end of the first half – but he also had a nice quick flip off a read-option play to Janarion Grant, which Grant turned into a 26-yard gain.” data-reactid=”87″>Jackson’s second game, a 33-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams, had some good moments. A running touchdown, in which he took a broken play, made some nice moves to get in the open field and another move to get in the end zone, was exactly what the Ravens were looking for when he was their second first-round pick. Passing-wise, Jackson missed his share of throws – a 36-yard pass to Chris Moore was underthrown but Moore made a great play to adjust to it and make a catch. Jackson got credit for a lot of yards on a screen pass near the end of the first half – but he also had a nice quick flip off a read-option play to Janarion Grant, which Grant turned into a 26-yard gain.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jackson completed just seven of 18 passes but had 119 yards. He added 21 yards rushing. Jackson didn’t look comfortable as a passer in the Hall of Fame game last week and didn’t again on Thursday, but he has the rest of the preseason to work on it.” data-reactid=”88″>Jackson completed just seven of 18 passes but had 119 yards. He added 21 yards rushing. Jackson didn’t look comfortable as a passer in the Hall of Fame game last week and didn’t again on Thursday, but he has the rest of the preseason to work on it.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Cleveland Browns 20, New York Giants 10: Rookies Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley stole the show (Barkley had a great run to start his NFL career, and Mayfield was impressive) but second-year tight end David Njoku made a statement too. Njoku, a first-round pick last season, caught two touchdowns. That’s a great start for his sophomore season. Rookie Antonio Callaway, whose off-field issues have been well documented, impressed too with 87 yards and a long touchdown from Mayfield.” data-reactid=”104″>Cleveland Browns 20, New York Giants 10: Rookies Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley stole the show (Barkley had a great run to start his NFL career, and Mayfield was impressive) but second-year tight end David Njoku made a statement too. Njoku, a first-round pick last season, caught two touchdowns. That’s a great start for his sophomore season. Rookie Antonio Callaway, whose off-field issues have been well documented, impressed too with 87 yards and a long touchdown from Mayfield.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Cincinnati Bengals 30, Chicago Bears 27: The good for the Bengals receivers: A.J. Green looked like his usual self with a couple catches for 48 yards, and Tyler Boyd caught a 3-yard touchdown on a slant near the goal line. The bad? John Ross, who did nothing as a top-10 pick last year, fell down on a route and Andy Dalton’s pass to him was picked off by cornerback Kyle Fuller and returned for a touchdown.” data-reactid=”109″>Cincinnati Bengals 30, Chicago Bears 27: The good for the Bengals receivers: A.J. Green looked like his usual self with a couple catches for 48 yards, and Tyler Boyd caught a 3-yard touchdown on a slant near the goal line. The bad? John Ross, who did nothing as a top-10 pick last year, fell down on a route and Andy Dalton’s pass to him was picked off by cornerback Kyle Fuller and returned for a touchdown.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Philadelphia Eagles 14: JuJu Smith-Schuster had a nice start to his second season. The 2017 rookie sensation ran deep, positioned himself well and high-pointed a catch over cornerback Rasul Douglas, then ran the rest of the way for a 71-yard touchdown.” data-reactid=”114″>Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Philadelphia Eagles 14: JuJu Smith-Schuster had a nice start to his second season. The 2017 rookie sensation ran deep, positioned himself well and high-pointed a catch over cornerback Rasul Douglas, then ran the rest of the way for a 71-yard touchdown.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Miami Dolphins 24: Bucs rookie running back Ronald Jones had an up-and-down night. The second-round pick, who played behind Peyton Barber, dropped a pass on his first play. His struggles in the passing game, particularly in protection, has been a story through Bucs camp.” data-reactid=”119″>Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Miami Dolphins 24: Bucs rookie running back Ronald Jones had an up-and-down night. The second-round pick, who played behind Peyton Barber, dropped a pass on his first play. His struggles in the passing game, particularly in protection, has been a story through Bucs camp.

But Jones showed off nice moves on a short touchdown, cutting upfield to get in the end zone. Barber had a 4-yard touchdown too and worked as the clear starter on Thursday night.

Jones has enticing talent. He had just 9 yards on eight carries, while Barber had 21 on four carries. It’s a battle to watch through the preseason.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="New England Patriots 26, Washington Redskins 17: Redskins running back Derrius Guice showed off his immense talent and gave everyone a scare on the same play.” data-reactid=”126″>New England Patriots 26, Washington Redskins 17: Redskins running back Derrius Guice showed off his immense talent and gave everyone a scare on the same play.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="On a handoff to the right, Guice made a hard cutback and got into the open field. He spun off a defender, initiated contact with another and finished with a 34-yard run. It was a fine run that showed off his burst, vision and power. However, he grabbed at his knee after being brought down and had Redskins fans nervous for a few moments. It didn’t appear serious, and he told J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington everything was fine after the game.” data-reactid=”127″>On a handoff to the right, Guice made a hard cutback and got into the open field. He spun off a defender, initiated contact with another and finished with a 34-yard run. It was a fine run that showed off his burst, vision and power. However, he grabbed at his knee after being brought down and had Redskins fans nervous for a few moments. It didn’t appear serious, and he told J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington everything was fine after the game.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden told the media Guice will have an MRI on Friday to make sure.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Green Bay Packers 31, Tennessee Titans 17: Davante Adams looked like he was in midseason form. Adams put a great move on new Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler and blew past him. Brett Hundley hit Adams for a 48-yard pass inside the 10-yard line. Then Jamaal Williams – who has a great chance to take control of the Packers’ starting running back job with Aaron Jones suspended two games to start the season – had a catch and made an inside move to get in the end zone for a touchdown.” data-reactid=”133″>Green Bay Packers 31, Tennessee Titans 17: Davante Adams looked like he was in midseason form. Adams put a great move on new Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler and blew past him. Brett Hundley hit Adams for a 48-yard pass inside the 10-yard line. Then Jamaal Williams – who has a great chance to take control of the Packers’ starting running back job with Aaron Jones suspended two games to start the season – had a catch and made an inside move to get in the end zone for a touchdown.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Houston Texans 17, Kansas City Chiefs 10: Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was back. If you blinked, you missed it. On the Texans’ first drive, Watson threw a quick 4-yard out to Bruce Ellington. That play call ensured there was no way he’d be hit. The rest of the series was handoffs, then Watson was pulled for Brandon Weeden. It wasn’t much, but it was good to see Watson back on the field for the first time since he tore his ACL.” data-reactid=”138″>Houston Texans 17, Kansas City Chiefs 10: Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was back. If you blinked, you missed it. On the Texans’ first drive, Watson threw a quick 4-yard out to Bruce Ellington. That play call ensured there was no way he’d be hit. The rest of the series was handoffs, then Watson was pulled for Brandon Weeden. It wasn’t much, but it was good to see Watson back on the field for the first time since he tore his ACL.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="San Francisco 49ers 24, Dallas Cowboys 21: The biggest question with the Cowboys is their pass-catching options in a post-Dez Bryant and Jason Witten world. The first look was pretty good. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott delivered a beautiful 30-yard touchdown pass to third-round pick Michael Gallup on Prescott’s only drive. Gallup could end up being a big contributor right away because Prescott needs someone to throw to.” data-reactid=”143″>San Francisco 49ers 24, Dallas Cowboys 21: The biggest question with the Cowboys is their pass-catching options in a post-Dez Bryant and Jason Witten world. The first look was pretty good. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott delivered a beautiful 30-yard touchdown pass to third-round pick Michael Gallup on Prescott’s only drive. Gallup could end up being a big contributor right away because Prescott needs someone to throw to.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Indianapolis Colts 19, Seattle Seahawks 17: While all eyes were on Andrew Luck in his first game back after missing last season, Russell Wilson put on a show as usual. On his one possession, Wilson completed four of five passes for 43 yards. He threw a touchdown to Nick Vannett, who has a great opportunity to replace Jimmy Graham as Seattle’s pass-catching tight end.” data-reactid=”148″>Indianapolis Colts 19, Seattle Seahawks 17: While all eyes were on Andrew Luck in his first game back after missing last season, Russell Wilson put on a show as usual. On his one possession, Wilson completed four of five passes for 43 yards. He threw a touchdown to Nick Vannett, who has a great opportunity to replace Jimmy Graham as Seattle’s pass-catching tight end.

• Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who looked sluggish as a rookie last year, dropped weight and looked great on a nice 24-yard touchdown. He made one Bears defender miss on a juke, had a great spin move to shake off another, kept his balance and got into the end zone for a 24-yard score. It was the kind of play that made him such an intriguing (yet controversial) prospect in last year’s draft.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="• Buffalo Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin got his revenge, albeit in a preseason game. On the Bills’ first drive against the Panthers, the team that traded Benjamin last season, Benjamin had four catches and a touchdown. Before the game he had a confrontation with Cam Newton, who he ripped last week, and he seemed a little too excited to make plays during a preseason game. But he looked good, which is positive news for a Bills offense that needs playmakers.” data-reactid=”169″>• Buffalo Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin got his revenge, albeit in a preseason game. On the Bills’ first drive against the Panthers, the team that traded Benjamin last season, Benjamin had four catches and a touchdown. Before the game he had a confrontation with Cam Newton, who he ripped last week, and he seemed a little too excited to make plays during a preseason game. But he looked good, which is positive news for a Bills offense that needs playmakers.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="• This wasn’t really the Patriots’ offense, not without Tom Brady (who sat because of a sore back according to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe) , Rob Gronkowski and some other stars. Still, it was odd to see New England struggling to move the ball. Behind Brian Hoyer, the Patriots had just 100 yards, four first downs and a late second-quarter field goal in the first half. Unlike the past couple years, when Jimmy Garoppolo would come in and dazzle during the preseason, we were reminded the Patriots don’t have an iron-clad insurance policy behind Brady anymore.” data-reactid=”174″>• This wasn’t really the Patriots’ offense, not without Tom Brady (who sat because of a sore back according to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe) , Rob Gronkowski and some other stars. Still, it was odd to see New England struggling to move the ball. Behind Brian Hoyer, the Patriots had just 100 yards, four first downs and a late second-quarter field goal in the first half. Unlike the past couple years, when Jimmy Garoppolo would come in and dazzle during the preseason, we were reminded the Patriots don’t have an iron-clad insurance policy behind Brady anymore.

• Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be one of the most-watched players of this NFL preseason, and he made some nice throws. On his first pass, he stood in as the rush crashed down on him and delivered nice 14-yard strike to Travis Kelce. Mahomes didn’t air it out too often, but had some good short throws. He also showed some indecision on a sack and had an apparent miscommunication on a badly missed pass to Kelce. He finished 5-of-7 for 33 yards. There’s still plenty to work on before the regular season starts.

• The Tennessee Titans should look a lot different with new coach Mike Vrabel and new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. The first brief look at the Titans’ starters was pretty good, as Marcus Mariota went 2-of-3 for 42 yards and a touchdown on his only drive. Mariota also had a 7-yard run.

• The Philadelphia Eagles traded up to move one spot ahead of the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of this year’s draft to take tight end Dallas Goedert. Goedert looked very good on Thursday night. He caught four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. While Zach Ertz is still the starter, Goedert could have a nice rookie season in the second tight end role vacated by Trey Burton, who signed with the Bears in the offseason.

• Panthers first-round pick D.J. Moore, who has been getting a lot of positive buzz in camp, had a nice preseason debut. On one impressive play, he put a great move on a defender to get 16 yards and a first down. Moore had 75 yards on four catches and should be a nice target for Cam Newton for many years.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="– – – – – – –” data-reactid=”191″>– – – – – – –

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!
Follow @YahooSchwab” data-reactid=”192″>Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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In Duke debut, Barrett leads Blue Devils to emphatic preseason win over Ryerson

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Duke Blue Devils’ R.J. Barrett is guarded by Ryerson Rams’ Myles Charvis during their exhibition game in Mississauga, Ont., on Aug. 15, 2018.

MARK BLINCH/The Canadian Press

Late in the first quarter of his college coming-out party, Canadian basketball phenom R.J. Barrett veered around a Ryerson defender to throw down an emphatic dunk. He and teammate Zion Williamson celebrated with a chest bump that was almost as big.

Making his Duke debut in his virtual backyard, the electrifying 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., made his first game in a Blue Devils jersey a memorable one, scoring a game-high 34 points in an 86-67 preseason victory over Canadian university’s Ryerson Rams.

“It was great to get to go out there with my brothers in my hometown. It was special for me,” Barrett said. “A lot of excitement, a little nervous with it being the first time wearing a Duke jersey.

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“But for me, playing in front of the fans is great. I got to see mom and dad in the crowd and everybody in Canada. It was cool.”

Williamson added 29 points and 13 rebounds, and Duke didn’t have another player in double figures as the two young stars provided a highlight-package preview of what should be a thrilling NCAA season to come.

“Those two kids . . . they’re all about winning – they get it,” said Duke’s Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Barrett certainly showed zero signs of first-game jitters, and on one particularly memorable play late in the third quarter, he found Williamson with a halfcourt lob for an alley-oop that brought the crowd to its feet.

“I don’t think he’s a kid that ever gets nervous and he’s never afraid but he’s excited. He’s proud,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s represented Canada internationally and this is his home. He’s proud to be at Duke. He’s proud, proud, proud about so many things, and you want to play great.

“I thought he played really well but he’ll play even better as this moves along.”

NCAA rules permit teams to take an international trip once every four years, and the Blue Devils opted to head north for the first time in the program’s storied history. They’ll play the University of Toronto on Friday, then head to Montreal to face McGill on Sunday.

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Fans were eager to catch a first glimpse of not only Barrett – the presumptive No. 1 pick in next spring’s NBA draft –but Duke’s top-ranked freshman class that includes Williamson and Cam Reddish, who are ranked Nos. 2 and 3 behind their Canadian teammate. Both games at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre sold out quickly. Wednesday’s affair was being streamed on ESPN, and drew a media contingent several-dozen strong.

Wednesday’s pro-Duke crowd included Portland sharpshooter and fellow Mississauga native Nik Stauskas and 10-time NBA all-star David Robinson.

Barrett is already being touted as perhaps the greatest player to come out of Canada. The six-foot-seven swingman won both the Gatorade Player of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year last season to help Florida’s Montverde Academy to an undefeated season and coveted U.S. high school title. He also led Canada’s U19 team, coached by Ryerson’s Roy Rana, to its historic gold medal at the 2017 U19 world championships.

“I told R.J. at the end of the game in the handshake line, it’s nothing but love. I want to see him do well and I think he’s going to have a tremendous ‘one-year’ career at Duke,” Rana said.

JV Mukama led Ryerson with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Rams, back-to-back Canadian university silver medallists, held their own for much of the first half against one of the NCAA’s most prominent teams.

“You’re not going to see an athlete like R.J. and Zion Williamson every day so I think that bodes well for our season as we move forward,” Rana said. “We were able to compete for 40 minutes and had some stretches where I thought we looked really good against one of the top teams in the NCAA and an iconic program.

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“As far as the experience is concerned, I mean, wow,” he added. “Not only the fact that it’s Duke, but an incredible crowd, great energy, just a real celebration of basketball in our country, really.”

The Rams led 17-15 to end the first quarter, and Tanor Ngom, a Senegalese sophomore, ignited the crowd with a huge dunk over Duke’s Alex O’Connell early in the game. O’Connell left the game and was taken to hospital with a suspected orbital bone injury.

The Blue Devils started rolling in a second quarter highlighted by Williamson, who showed size-defying athleticism when he scored on a huge putback dunk. One sarcastic fan hollered “Show us something, Zion!” At six foot seven and 285 pounds, Williams is an enigma. He could easily be mistaken for a college football rookie, yet has the leaping ability of a high jumper, breaking the Duke record with his eye-popping 45-inch vertical leap in team testing.

The Blue Devils took a 40-28 advantage into the halftime break, and led 65-48 with one quarter left to play.

Duke was technically the home team, despite the proximity of Ryerson’s downtown Toronto campus, and the capacity crowd – an arena sellout is listed at about 5,400 – was a sea of Duke blue. Tables on the arena concourse were selling special edition Duke Canada Tour T-shirts. Video footage of Duke’s boat tour of Toronto Harbour from earlier in the week was shown during a timeout.

And an hour before opening tipoff, a long lineup of Blue Devils fans stretched down the sidewalk of what was formerly the Hershey Centre, eager to get the first glimpse of this season’s squad and its homegrown Canadian star.

Duke is fourth in NCAA all-time wins, while Krzyzewski is the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach with five NCAA titles. He also led the U.S. men’s national team to six gold medals.

Canadian basketball phenom R.J. Barrett says he got to show his Duke teammates “where I’m from” when the team took a Lake Ontario boat cruise. The Blue Devils face Ryerson on Wednesday in the first of three pre-season games in Canada. The Canadian Press

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Spain's La Liga will start playing regular season matches in US

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The ambitious group that stages high-profile soccer friendlies every summer in the United States is now planning to arrange meaningful matches here.

Relevent, the sports and entertainment company that operates the annual International Champions Cup, has struck a 15-year promotional deal with Spain’s La Liga that includes plans to play at least one league match at a U.S. venue every season.

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during a La Liga match between Barcelona and SD Eibar at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. To properly market a U.S. match, Relevent exec Charlie Stillitano said one of the participating teams would have to be Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla or Valencia.  (David Ramos / GETTY IMAGES)

Charlie Stillitano, Relevent’s executive chairperson, told the Insider that the sides have begun discussing a single game this season, sometime after Jan. 1, perhaps in Miami and almost certainly involving one of the league’s famous clubs.

“Our goal, our job, our responsibility is to try to build La Liga,” Stillitano said. “We told them, [Relevent] sees the power of regular season games.”

To properly market the match, he added, one of the participating teams would have to be Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla or Valencia (but preferably one of the first three). “And the league knows that,” Stillitano said.

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Miami is the front-runner but Stillitano has not ruled out other venue options. Relevent owner Stephen Ross also owns the Miami Dolphins and the NFL team’s venue, Hard Rock Stadium.

In this year’s ICC, the venue hosted Bayern Munich vs. Manchester City and Manchester United vs. Real Madrid. Last year, Hard Rock Stadium welcomed the ultimate club showdown: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid.

In future seasons, multiple La Liga matches might end up in the United States.

“Joining with Relevent … is a major milestone in our international expansion strategy,” La Liga international development director Oscar Mayo said in a prepared statement.

Playing abroad would mean one team would have to sacrifice a home date, a touchy subject in traditional soccer circles, where the balanced schedule (home and away against every other team) is holy. La Liga teams plays 38 league matches apiece, plus Copa del Rey games and, for some clubs, UEFA Champions League and Europa League.

“It’s a 15-year deal but we want to start building the brand now, and the best way for the American people to realize that La Liga is probably the best football league in the world in terms of quality soccer is with a regular season match,” Stillitano said. “We want to get that out there.”

No matter where the games take place, it’s a positive development for U.S. soccer fans who have been paying high prices to attend what are, in essence, pre-season games for the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

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An official soccer match between European teams on foreign soil would follow in the footsteps of North American pro sports leagues scheduling regular season games abroad to expand commercial appeal and visibility.

Since 2005, the NFL has played 30 official games in England and Mexico. It will conduct four more this fall, including the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 28 at London’s soccer cathedral, Wembley Stadium.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres played a three-game series in Monterrey, Mexico, this season and the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, Major League Baseball’s fiercest rivals, will meet in London next year. The NBA and NHL have also taken competitive games abroad.

European soccer teams have been visiting the United States regularly for years, with Relevant growing the ICC event into a large-scale operation. All the teams that participated in the ICC were well-known. The tournament was played in 23 venues, including 15 in the States.

They included Real Madrid vs. Juventus at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, and a Manchester United-Liverpool game that drew 101,254 to Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

The teams, however, treat these matches as glorified training sessions, making mass substitutions, testing young players and sometimes leaving marquee figures at home. This year, with the ICC falling a few weeks after the World Cup, several superstars, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, did not participate.

The long-term deal between La Liga and Relevent will result in the formation of a business called La Liga North America, which will promote Spanish soccer in the United States and represent the league’s business interests in U.S. and Canadian markets. It also will aim to establish youth academies, marketing agreements and annual friendlies.

“Meaningful matches are important because, for the past few years, the ICC has outpunched its weight with games that don’t mean anything, this year especially,” said Steve Gera, chief executive of Gains Group, a sports business and technology company. “The ability to play games here that mean something, and also have your best talent, takes it to an entirely different level.”

He added that “La Liga is trying to be one of the more aggressive leagues in the world. This is definitely a stake in the ground that they are here to play and are going to try to grow aggressively.”

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Canada's Barrett leads Duke to pre-season win over Ryerson in Duke debut

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Canada’s Barrett leads Duke to pre-season win over Ryerson in Duke debut

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Late in the first quarter of his college coming-out party, Canadian basketball phenom R.J. Barrett veered around a Ryerson defender to throw down an emphatic dunk. He and teammate Zion Williamson celebrated with a chest bump that was almost as big.

Making his Duke debut in his virtual backyard, the electrifying 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., made his first game in a Blue Devils jersey a memorable one, scoring a game-high 34 points in an 86-67 pre-season victory over Canadian university’s Ryerson Rams.

“It was great to get to go out there with my brothers in my hometown. It was special for me,” Barrett said. “A lot of excitement, a little nervous with it being the first time wearing a Duke jersey. 

“But for me, playing in front of the fans is great. I got to see mom and dad in the crowd and everybody in Canada. It was cool.” 

Williamson added 29 points and 13 rebounds, and Duke didn’t have another player in double figures as the two young stars provided a highlight-package preview of what should be a thrilling NCAA season to come.

“Those two kids . . . they’re all about winning — they get it,” said Duke’s Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski.   

Barrett certainly showed zero signs of first-game jitters, and on one particularly memorable play late in the third quarter, he found Williamson with a halfcourt lob for an alley-oop that brought the crowd to its feet.

“I don’t think he’s a kid that ever gets nervous and he’s never afraid but he’s excited. He’s proud,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s represented Canada internationally and this is his home. He’s proud to be at Duke. He’s proud, proud, proud about so many things, and you want to play great.

“I thought he played really well but he’ll play even better as this moves along.”

NCAA rules permit teams to take an international trip once every four years, and the Blue Devils opted to head north for the first time in the program’s storied history. They’ll play the University of Toronto on Friday, then head to Montreal to face McGill on Sunday.

Fans were eager to catch a first glimpse of not only Barrett — the presumptive No. 1 pick in next spring’s NBA draft —but Duke’s top-ranked freshman class that includes Williamson and Cam Reddish, who are ranked Nos. 2 and 3 behind their Canadian teammate. Both games at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre sold out quickly. Wednesday’s affair was being streamed on ESPN, and drew a media contingent several-dozen strong.

Wednesday’s pro-Duke crowd included Portland sharpshooter and fellow Mississauga native Nik Stauskas and 10-time NBA all-star David Robinson.

Barrett is already being touted as perhaps the greatest player to come out of Canada. The six-foot-seven swingman won both the Gatorade Player of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year last season to help Florida’s Montverde Academy to an undefeated season and coveted U.S. high school title. He also led Canada’s U19 team, coached by Ryerson’s Roy Rana, to its historic gold medal at the 2017 U19 world championships.

“I told R.J. at the end of the game in the handshake line, it’s nothing but love. I want to see him do well and I think he’s going to have a tremendous ‘one-year’ career at Duke,” Rana said.

JV Mukama led Ryerson with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Rams, back-to-back Canadian university silver medallists, held their own for much of the first half against one of the NCAA’s most prominent teams. 

“You’re not going to see an athlete like R.J. and Zion Williamson every day so I think that bodes well for our season as we move forward,” Rana said. “We were able to compete for 40 minutes and had some stretches where I thought we looked really good against one of the top teams in the NCAA and an iconic program.

“As far as the experience is concerned, I mean, wow,” he added. “Not only the fact that it’s Duke, but an incredible crowd, great energy, just a real celebration of basketball in our country, really.”

The Rams led 17-15 to end the first quarter, and Tanor Ngom, a Senegalese sophomore, ignited the crowd with a huge dunk over Duke’s Alex O’Connell early in the game. O’Connell left the game and was taken to hospital with a suspected orbital bone injury. 

The Blue Devils started rolling in a second quarter highlighted by Williamson, who showed size-defying athleticism when he scored on a huge putback dunk. One sarcastic fan hollered “Show us something, Zion!”  At six foot seven and 285 pounds, Williams is an enigma. He could easily be mistaken for a college football rookie, yet has the leaping ability of a high jumper, breaking the Duke record with his eye-popping 45-inch vertical leap in team testing.

The Blue Devils took a 40-28 advantage into the halftime break, and led 65-48 with one quarter left to play.

Duke was technically the home team, despite the proximity of Ryerson’s downtown Toronto campus, and the capacity crowd — an arena sellout is listed at about 5,400 — was a sea of Duke blue. Tables on the arena concourse were selling special edition Duke Canada Tour T-shirts. Video footage of Duke’s boat tour of Toronto Harbour from earlier in the week was shown during a timeout.

And an hour before opening tipoff, a long lineup of Blue Devils fans stretched down the sidewalk of what was formerly the Hershey Centre, eager to get the first glimpse of this season’s squad and its homegrown Canadian star.

Duke is fourth in NCAA all-time wins, while Krzyzewski is the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach with five NCAA titles. He also led the U.S. men’s national team to six gold medals.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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