Reaching across the aisle: Iowa State

Written by Craig Meyer on .

(Photo: USA Today)

West Virginia wraps up the home portion of its 2015 schedule with a game against Iowa State, a contest in which the Mountaineers enter as a two-touchdown favorite.

Earlier this week, I caught up briefly with Bobby La Geese, the sports editor of the Ames Tribune who covers all things Cyclones. You can find Bobby's work here and follow him on Twitter at @BobbyLaGeese.

1) Dana Holgorsen downplayed the emotional impact that Paul Rhoads' firing will have on Iowa State, but since that news came down, how much more motivated do the players appear to be?

When the team found out about the firing of Paul Rhoads, there were players barely able to speak. It’s been a every emotional week for players who play for a coach that wears his emotions on his sleeves.

ISU is certainly motivated to win the last game of the Rhoads era. The emotions will have an impact on the game. The question is how? I see only two ways this plays out. Either ISU puts together a strong, spirited effort to honor their coach or the emotions of the week exhausted the Cyclones and they come out flat. I honestly don’t know which one it will be.

2) Given the coaching situation, are you expecting the Cyclones to be a little more aggressive tactically since they don't have much (if anything) to lose?

ISU has been a little more aggressive since offensive coordinator Mark Mangino was fired in late October. The Cyclones have pulled out more trick plays, including on special teams, and gone for it more on fourth down. These are the kinds of things Rhoads did early in his tenure when ISU went to bowl games in three of his first four years.
There is no reason for ISU to leave anything in the playbook. I would be shocked if the Cyclones didn’t put together their most aggressive gameplan of the season.

3) How much different is Iowa State's offense under Todd Sturdy than it was under Mark Mangino? And how much of an impact has the switch at quarterback from Sam B. Richardson to Joel Lanning had?

ISU has become the offense Rhoads wanted this season since Mangino was let go. The Cyclones are a run first group. A lot of it is Sturdy. The Cyclones are using more formation combinations than before and throwing out some very creative plays, ones that weren’t used at the start of the season.

ISU, though, is forced to be this kind of offense because of Lanning. He reminds a lot of folks across the league of former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. Like Klein, Lanning is a big threat in the running game. His passing skills need some refinement (he does have a cannon). Lanning’s current skill set works best with a run-based offense that utilizes plenty of option plays and straight quarterback runs.

4) This doesn't have much to do with the game itself, but you wrote earlier this week that Iowa State needs to hire a coach that will make the Cyclones unique in the Big 12 and give them a clear identity. What coach (or coaches) would best fit that?

ISU is one of the top 10, if not top five, toughest Power Five jobs to win at in the country. A clear identity, something preferably something that no one else in the conference has could be a big benefit for ISU. The Cyclones have lost a lot of games playing conventional football over the years. It’s time to try something else.

Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo should be a top candidate. He runs the triple-option and has won consistently at a non-traditional power. Another option would be Montana coach Bob Stitt, who embraces outside the box thinking and analytics.

Being unique doesn’t just mean going to an extreme. Baylor is winning because Art Briles brought a unique version of the spread to campus (granted, it’s a lot more common today, but no one runs it better than Briles). ISU could also go after a coach that’s already won at a non-traditional stop - like Toledo coach Matt Campbell, Utah State coach Matt Wells or Wyoming coach Craig Bohl, who won three FCS titles at North Dakota State.


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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GAME DAY: Pitt vs. Miami

Written by Sam Werner on .

IMG 5051

For the last time in 2015, greetings from Heinz Field. We're just under two hours away from kickoff between Pitt and Miami to wrap up the regular season. Here are a couple of links and notes to get your Black Friday started.

- Defensive tackle Mark Scarpinato is the only scratch for Pitt today, which is no surprise (he was listed as "out" on Wednesday's depth chart). Everyone else (barring the out for the season guys) is expected to be available today.

- Here's my story from today's Post-Gazette on Pitt's 11 seniors putting a cap on their home careers today. This group has players that verbally committed to Dave Wannstedt, Todd Graham and Paul Chryst, but all are having their best season as Panthers under Pat Narduzzi.

- Our Jasper Wilson also wrote today on Pitt's success in increasing student attendance at Heinz Field — for all four quarters — this season.

- Finally, in case you missed it on Thursday, I wrote on defensive tackle Darryl Render's artistic streak.

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Empty Netter Assists - Warsofsky waits - 11-27-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-“You don’t wish injuries upon anyone, but I’d like to get an opportunity. Whether that’s through an injury or a decision the coaches make.” - Defenseman David Warsofsky (above).

-“That guy’s awesome. He’s been borderline perfect all year. He makes very few mistakes. He’s incredibly mentally tough for a young defenseman.” - Defenseman Ben Lovejoy on defensive partner Brian Dumoulin.

-Former Penguins goaltending prospect Eric Hartzell has joined Heilbronner Falken of DEL2, Germany's second-tier league.

-Happy 24th birthday to current Penguins right winger Beau Bennett. A first round pick in 2010, Bennett has spent parts of the last four seasons with the Penguins. Bennett made his NHL debut in 2012-13 by appearing in 26 games and scoring 14 points. He appeared in six postseason games that spring and scored one goal. In 2013-14, injuries limited Bennett to 21 games and seven points. He appeared in 12 postseason games that season and scored four points. Last season, Bennett was again hampered by injuries but set career highs with 49 games and 12 points. Last spring, Bennett saw action in two postseason games and was held without a point. This season, Bennett has played in 16 games and netted six points. In 54 career regular season games with the Penguins, Bennett has scored 24 points. In 18 postseason games, he has four points.

-Happy 83rd birthday to former Penguins all-star right winger, coach and executive Ken Schinkel. Claimed from the Rangers in the 1967 expansion draft, Schinkel spent parts of six seasons with the Penguins as a player. He appeared in 57 games for the Penguins during their inaugural season of 1967-68, scored 39 points and became the first player in franchise history to be selected to an all-star game. In 1968-69, Schinkel appeared in 76 games, recorded a team-leading 52 points and one again played in the all-star game. During, 1969-70, Schinkel, the first player to wear No. 12 in franchise history, saw action in 72 games, scored 45 points and helped the team reach the postseason for the first time. He also scored the first postseason hat trick in Penguins history when he netted three goals against the Oakland Seals in Game 3 of a quarterfinal series that spring. Schinkel (right) was limited to 50 games and 34 points in 1970-71 but rebounded in 1971-72 when he played in 74 games and netted 45 points. After scoring 21 points in 42 games in 1972-73, Schinkel retired as a player Jan. 13 and replaced Red Kelly as head coach at age 40. Under Schinkel, the team had a 15-18-3 record and missed the postseason. The following season, Schinkel coached the team for 50 games and had a record of 14-31-5 before being replaced by Marc Boileau, Feb. 6, 1974. Schinkel assumed a front office position with the team and stayed in that position until he himself replaced Boileau, Jan. 17, 1976. Under Schinkel, the Penguins had a record of 20-10-7 and reached the postseason where they fell to the Maple Leafs in a preliminary round series, 2-1. Schinkel's only full season as the team's coach was 1976-77. The team went 34-33-13 and qualified for the postseason where it once again lost to the Maple Leafs in a preliminary round, 2-0. Schinkel was replaced by Johnny Wilson in the following offseason. Schinkel again took a front office position and remained with the team until 1989. In 371 regular season games with the Penguins as a player, "Schink" scored 236 points, 35th-most in franchise history. In 13 postseason games, he scored seven points. As a coach, Schinkel compiled a record of 83-92-28.

-Happy 48th birthday to former Penguins right winger Garry Valk. Acquired midway through the 1996-97 season in a trade which sent defenseman J.J. Daigneault to the Mighty Ducks, Valk spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. He finished 1996-97 by appearing in 17 games for the Penguins and scoring seven points. In 1997-98, he saw action in 39 games and recorded three points. During the 1998 offseason, he joined the Maple Leafs as a free agent. Valk would get some measure of revenge on the Penguins in the 1999 postseason by scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime of Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal (see below). In 56 regular season games with the Penguins, Valk scored 10 points.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Islanders recalled forward Ryan Strome from Bridgeport of the AHL.

-Defenseman Tim Gleason has opted to end his professional tryout contract with the Hurricanes.

-The Hurricanes assigned defenseman Ryan Murphy to Charlotte of the AHL.

-Flyers forward R.J. Umberger, a native of Plum (No, really!) resumed practicing for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury Nov. 7.

Atlantic Division

-With goaltender Carey Price and forward Alexander Semin each expected to be sidelined a week due to "lower-body" injuries, the Canadiens recalled goaltender Dustin Tokarski and forward Christian Thomas from St. John's of the AHL.

Central Division

-With goaltender Kari Lehtonen placed on injured reserve due to an "upper-body" injury, the Stars recalled goaltender Jack Campbell and defenseman Patrick Nemeth from Texas of the AHL.

-With forward Paul Gaustad dealing with an undisclosed injury, the Predators recalled forward Colton Sissons from Milwaukee of the AHL.

-Wild forward Zach Parise (right) could return to the lineup tonight after missing eight games due to a knee injury.

-Former Sabres/Bruins forward Daniel Paille has signed an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks' affiliate.

Pacific Division

-With forward Nail Yakupov expected to be sidelined two to four weeks due to a left ankle sprain, the Oilers recalled forward Jujhar Khaira from Bakersfield of the AHL. Yakupov suffered the injury Wednesday when he was accidentally tackled by linesman Matt MacPherson.

-“He’s ahead of schedule. He’s been in the pool, been lifting weights… There are no soft tissue injuries, which is important. When you get a break like that, oftentimes there is accompanying soft tissue injuries. That slows down the recovery.” - Oilers forward Peter Chiarelli on forward Connor McDavid's recovery from a broken clavicle.

-Flames goaltender Joni Ortio cleared waivers and was assigned to Stockton of the AHL. Additionally, forward Markus Granlund was recalled from Stockton.

Norris Division

-Former Panthers/Canucks/Maple Leafs forward David Booth has joined Admiral Vladivostok of Russia's KHL.

-Forward Alex DeBrincat had a goal and an assist for the Erie Otters in a 3-2 defeat of the Kitchener Rangers.

(Photos: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images, KDP Studio/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Penguins Hockey Cards)

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Empty Netter Assists - Recapping Penguins-Blues - 11-26-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-The Post-Gazette's recap from last night's game. “When Sid’s shooting the puck like that and with the determination he plays with offensively, he’s really hard to handle." - Head coach Mike Johnston on captain/center Sidney Crosby.

-The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's recap. “We gave him pretty good opportunities.” - Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo on Crosby. 

-The Associated Press' recap. "I should have had more." - Crosby on scoring two goals.


-Mike Lange's goal calls.

-A good look at Crosby's second goal as allowed by Blues goaltender Jake Allen and witnessed by right winger Patric Hornqvist:

-Happy times for the Penguins. Not so much for Allen:

-Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was all over this puck:

-Center Evgeni Malkin looked determined on this pass:

-Malkin and Crosby simmered on the bench:

-Crosby and right winger Pascal Dupuis were popular:

-Crosby speaks:

-Johnston speaks:

-Right winger Phil Kessel speaks:

-Defenseman Ben Lovejoy speaks:

-Someone said something on the radio.

-An overtime goal by defenseman Derrick Pouliot gave the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 4-3 road win against the rival Binghamton Senators. Left winger Kael Mouillierat, right winger Carter Rowney and center Dominik Simon each had a goal and an assist for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while left winger Conor Sheary added two assists. Goaltender Matt Murray made 18 saves in the victory.


-Goaltender Franky Palazzese made 28 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 1-0 shutout of the Reading Royals.

-Happy 54th birthday to former Penguins center Dave Hannan. A 10th-round pick in 1981, Hannan spent parts of seven seasons with the Penguins. After appearing in one game and failing to record a point in 1981-82, Hannan's first full NHL season with the Penguins was 1982-83. He saw action in 74 contests and scored 33 points. In 1983-84,  Hannan was limited to 24 games and five points. He was limited once again in 1984-85 by only playing in 30 contests and scoring 13 points. Hannan rebounded in 1985-86 by seeing action in 75 games and collecting 35 points. In 1986-87, Hannan appeared in 58 games and scored 25 points. After 21 games and seven points in 1987-88, Hannan was traded to the Oilers along with defensemen Moe Mantha, Chris Joseph and left winger Craig Simpson in exchange for left wingers Dave Hunter, Wayne Van Dorp and defenseman Paul Coffey. Hannan appeared in 355 regular season games with the Penguins and scored 148 points, 58th-most in franchise history.

-After the Jump: Carey Price is injured again.

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Postgame thoughts - Penguins 4, Blues 3 (OT) - 11-25-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Observations from the Penguins' 4-3 overtime win against the Blues:

This game wasn't perfect for the Penguins. They surrendered two leads in the third period and allowed the Blues to put this game in overtime. The Penguins had some breakdowns and errors in their own zone which led to scoring chances for the Blues. And they kept forcing bad passes in the offensive zone.

There's plenty to nitpick about from the Penguins' perspective in this game. But that doesn't mean this wasn't an impressive win. It might have been their best win of the season. The Blues are a very good and very deep team and the Penguins fended them off  to earn pretty darn good (as well as entertaining) win.

“That's a tough team, St. Louis," head coach Mike Johnston said. "When you're playing that type of team, they make you play 60 minutes. You can't have a letdown. I thought we made some mistakes but I didn't think we had a letdown in our game.”  

What Happened

-The Blues got the game's first power play at 9:08 of the first period when defenseman Ian Cole locked up with Blues captain/center David Backes in the Penguins' left wing corner and hauled down his former teammate. Cole was given a minor penalty for holding the stick and the Blues wasted little time converting. It took them seven seconds to cash in in fact. Center Nick Bonino actually won the faceoff in the right circle but ended up turning the puck over to Blues center Kevin Shattenkirk at the right point. Shattenkirk then moved a pass to left winger Alex Steen at center point. Steen showed a slapper then chopped a pass to center Paul Stastny to the left of the net. Stastny leaned down and directed the puck by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's blocker on the near side. It s a pretty, precise goal and it gave the Blues a 1-0 lead.

-The Penguins had a handful of chances, including a power-play but couldn't figure out Allen until late in the first period. That's when right winger Pascal Dupuis hounded Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarson into a turnover near the Blues' left wing corner. The puck bounced to the slot where captain/center Sidney Crosby was waiting. He jumped on the puck and ka-boomed a one-timer by the glove hand of goaltender Jake Allen to make it a 1-1 game at 16:19.

-The Blues had a chance to regain a lead at 17:38 of the second. After defenseman Adam Clendening lost a puck in the Penguins left wing corner, right winger Vladimir Tarasenko grabbed the loose puck and tapped it to Steen in the slot. Steen faked a shot then moved a subtle pass to Stastny to the right of the cage. Stastny had Fleury dead to rights but he bobbled the puck a bit. By the time he fired a shot, Fleury was able to get in position and deflected the puck out of play with his left arm.

-That save put the Penguins in position to take a 2-1 lead nearly eight minutes later. After left winger David Perron was hooked up by Stastny while chasing a puck on the Blues' left wall, the Penguins got a power play and cashed in. Crosby won a faceoff in the Blues' left circle and got the puck to right winger Phil Kessel above the circle. Kessel moved the puck to defenseman Kris Letang at center point. Letang then fed it to center Evgeni Malkin on the right half wall. Malkin surveyed the offensive zone for a few minutes before dealing a pass to the slot. Crosby jabbed at the puck with his stick and directed it by Allen's blocker for a goal at the 9:57 mark.

-The Blues didn't waste much time in the third period in tying the game. After a neutral zone turnover by defenseman Rob Scuderi, Blues center Robby Fabbri took a feed from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and moved up the right wing. Scuderi gave him an acre of ice to work with. Fabbri took it and ripped a sizzling wrister by Fleury's left arm on the near side to make it a 2-2 game 1:12 into the period.

-The Penguins fought back and regained another lead. Defneseman Ben Lovejoy ripped a wrister from the left point but had it blocked by Pietrangelo. Perron settled the puck and dealt a calm, composed pass to Lovejoy at the high slot. Lovejoy used Pietrangelo as a screen and ripped a wrister by Allen's left leg to give the Penguins a 3-2 advantage at the 6:49 mark.

-But yet again the Blues tied the game. After Lovejoy gave Malkin an iffy pass out of the Penguins' left corner, Malkin turned the puck over under pressure from Steen in the left circle. The puck bounced past defenseman Brian Dumoulin to the left circle where Pietrangelo picked it up and fired a wrister though Fleury's left arm and his rib cage. It was a sloppy goal for the Penguins to allow and it tied the game, 3-3 with 5:41 left in regulation.

The game moved to overtime but it didn't take long to find a goal. Lovejoy controlled a puck in front of the Blues bench and was hounded by Shattenkirk and Steen. He snapped a backhanded pass to Kessel rushing up from the defensive zone into the neutral zone. Kessel gained the offensive zone with speed against Statsny, allowed him to enage then tapped a simple forehand pass to Malkin in the slot. With Shattenkirk giving a futile chase, Malkin approached the crease, went forehand, got Allen to commit then tucked a backhander by Allen's glove hand to get the win 1:03 into the extra period.

The Penguins

-Crosby looked like he was playing with a purpose. That was evident with his first goal which looked like he was trying to shoot through the net. He looked dangerous. He looked ticked off. Perhaps he was annoyed - actually he definitely was annoyed - by an assertion by former Penguins left winger Matthew Barnanby on a radio show that he had a falling out with owner Mario Lemieux. Crosby didn't say much about the "report" - if you can even call it that - but he certainly played like he wanted to shut someone up.

-The Penguins' power play continues to produce. It came through with a go-ahead goal in the second period and has scored goals in four consecutive games. In fact, it's 5 for 20 (25 percent) over the past four games. At times, the Penguins looked inept on the power play tonight, but it's hard to argue with the goal it did produce.

-Malkin's game may not have been as notable as Crosby, but he played pretty inspired tonight. He looked like he was doing everything he could to end this game in regulation. We can't really recall the last time both he and Crosby looked this dangerous in the same game.

-The fourth line of Sergei Plotnikov, Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr had a heck of a game. They were very strong down low on the Blues' end boards and just controlled the puck quite a bit down there. They were able to generate a lot of chances in tight. Things like wraparounds or jam-in plays. They played so well, Johnston was willing to put them out there for meaningful shifts late in the third period with the game tied.

-Plotnikov in particular stood out. He may have had his best game of the season. You probably could have powered a small town with all the energy he expended on the boards tonight. He had a handful of scoring chances and played so well, he was even rewarded with a shift with Crosby and right winger Patric Hornqvist after Dupuis needed a breather following a penalty killing shift.

-Speaking of  Dupuis, after today's morning skate, Johnston lauded Dupuis' ability to forecheck and turn pucks over after being questioned about Dupuis' lack of production as of late. Then Dupuis backs up his coach's words by forechecking and forcing a turnover which led to Crosby's first goal.

-The Lovejoy-Dumoulin defensive pairing continued to look strong. They were regularly matched up against the Blues' top line of Stastny, Steen and Tarasenko and kept them in check for the most part. The only five-on-five goal that line generated came off a Malkin turnover which admittedly may have been Lovejoy's fault. Regardless, the confidence Johnston has in that duo right now is quite evident.

-Fleury could have prevented the Fabbri or Pietrangelo goals but he stole probably three or four goals with some great individual plays. His stake in this win should not be overlooked.

The Blues

-For a player who has been a highlight reel all season, Tarasenko had a rather ordinary game. He just didn't seem to find the puck that much tonight. From an entertainment standpoint, we were kind of disappointed in him.

-Steen and Stastny have quite a bit of chemistry and it was evident by how they passed the puck. Lot of one-touch passes which take as much skill as timing. 

-The size the Blues have was quite evident. They challenged the Penguins on just about every shift physically and seemed to finish every hit. We wouldn't be surprised if the Penguins needed a few more ice bags tonight.

-Allen was fine. He was completely undressed by Malkin but the three regulation goals he allowed were not soft.


-Crosby addressed the claims by Barnaby:

"I honestly don't even know what to say to that. If people are going to make stuff up, it's totally out of my control. I feel stupid even commenting on it to be honest with you. It's ridiculous. I don't know if its a coincidence when you're struggling and the points aren't coming and something like that comes up. In my experience, that's usually the case.  "

-Johnston talked about Crosby's play:

"When Sid's shooting the puck like that and with the determination he plays with offensively, he's really hard to handle. … Like any other goal-scorer, once they start to feel it, you can start to see their confidence pick up."

-Johnston on the fourth line:

"They were really good all night. I didn't care who they played against. If they played against [Statsny's line] if they had to, they played good minutes against that line. They also made their defense pay a price down low to play against them."

-Johnston was complimentary of Plotnikov:

"Plotnikov is a player I'm starting to see really round into form. We all knew it was going to take a while for a young guy from Russia coming over [and] is trying to learn the language. He's starting to take off for us and that's really key to give us that depth up front."

-Johnston lauded Dupuis' play setting up Crosby's first goal:

"He's really quick on loose pucks. He's quick on defensemen. He doesn't give defensemen time. And the result of that was the loose puck which came out to Sid and we get the first goal and get some momentum off of that. But that's [Dupuis'] game, that skating game, and he's a key momentum guy on that line."

-Crosby spoke about that goal:

"He put it on a tee for me there. It's nice to put that one in. I don't know what would have gone through my head if that didn't go in. So it's nice to put it in."

-Lovejoy joked about his goal:

"Very rarely do I hit where I'm aiming and that was exactly where I was trying to put it. I hammered the first one. The guy made a nice effort to block the shot. Perron was able to get it right back to me quickly. There was definitely a screen. There was no way [Allen] saw it but that was, believe it or not, where I was aiming."

-Lovejoy described his play setting up Kessel's entry into the offensive zone prior to Malkin's goal:

"I knew that I had to win that puck. That was the most important thing. I originally wanted to bring it back to Phil if Phil was playing playing deep. A couple of bobbles and was able to know they only had three guys on the ice. I knew Phil was there. I was able to get it to him. Those two guys two-on-one are pretty lethal."

-Lovejoy talked about playing with Dumoulin:

"That guy's awesome. He's been borderline perfect all year. He makes very few mistakes. He's incredibly mentally tough for a defenseman. The thing I'm more impressed with his commitment to defense. He hasn't cheated once. Often times, high-profile young defensemen come into the league and judge their games on how many points they're scoring. He's not that way at all. He wants to go out tonight and shut down Tarasenko. And he did a great job tonight. That guy is incredibly dangerous coming down the wing and I thought Dumoulin handled him very well all night. "


-The Penguins led in shots, 34-32.

-Crosby led the game with nine.


-Stastny led the Blues with five.

-Letang led the game with 26:19 of ice time.

-Pietrangelo led the Blues with 24:25 of ice time.

-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 32-24 (57 percent).

-Crosby was 13 for 25 (52 percent).

-Stastny was 10 for 23 (43 percent).

-Letang led the game with four blocked shots.

-Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, Gunnarsson, Pietrangelo and Tarasenko each led the Blues with two blocked shots.

Historically Speaking

-The Penguins are 4-0 in overtime this season.

-Malkin leads the NHL with five game-winning goals.

-Prior to the game, the Blues were the only opposing NHL team Crosby had never scored a goal against.

-Crosby (866 points) moved past another former No. 1 overall pick, center Eric Lindros (865) for 119th place on the NHL's all-time scoring list.


-Game summary.

-Event summary.


(Photo: Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)

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