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Nebraska Cornhuskers football back home to face Northwestern after 2 close losses

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Nebraska Cornhuskers football back home to face Northwestern after 2 close losses

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska reaches the halfway point of its regular season Saturday against Northwestern.

Regrets? To say the Cornhuskers have a few would be an understatement.

Nebraska’s loss to Illinois in the opener is looking worse all the time, yet the Huskers (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) pushed a top-five Oklahoma team to the brink on the road two weeks ago. Then last week, minutes from ending a 10-year drought against ranked teams on the road, a special teams gaffe and an interception turned into an overtime loss at Michigan State.

“We are so close,” coach Scott Frost said. “We have been a bad team that has won a few games and a pretty good team that won some and lost some. Right now, we are a good team that has lost some games. We have to get over that hurdle.”

A night game at home against Northwestern (2-2, 0-1) would appear winnable. The Wildcats lost the bulk of their key contributors from the 2020 West Division champion team, and the Huskers are 10.5-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

But Northwestern-Nebraska games have been hard fought since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. The teams have split 10 meetings. Eight have been decided by one score, including six by three points or less.

“We’ve got great respect for the Cornhuskers, and I think it’s a two-way street,” Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “And this game just seems like it’s always just down to the wire. We’ve had some great battles. I don’t think this one will be any different.”

HUSKERS O-LINE WOES

Frost declared early in the week that every job up was for grabs on the offensive line. Adrian Martinez has been sacked 20 times, by Pro Football Focus’ count, and 18 times, according to the NCAA.

Tackles Turner Corcoran and Bryce Benhart have allowed a combined 50 quarterback pressures in five games, according to PFF.

“There are some guys that I know have the ability to play better than what we have been playing at a couple of positions, so competition is open and we are going to give people a real shot,” Frost said. “If we would have gotten good play there, I think we would be in a completely different spot this year. Special teams as well.”

ABOUT THOSE SPECIAL TEAMS

The Huskers are last in the Big Ten and 124th nationally in special teams efficiency, according to ESPN.

“It seems like every week there is a new problem arise,” Frost said. “You fix one and work on one and spend a lot of time on one and something you have not even anticipated comes up.”

LIKING LINCOLN

Northwestern is 3-2 in Lincoln, with its losses coming in 2013 on the Ron Kellogg-to-Jordan Westerkamp Hail Mary and in 2019 on a field goal as time expired. Their three wins, one decided in overtime, were by a total of 12 points.

EYE ON ADRIAN

The Wildcats have a new defensive coordinator in Jim O’Neil, and his task is to devise ways to keep Martinez under control. Martinez is the Huskers’ leading rusher by far, is completing 67% of his passes and has a knack for making something out of nothing when plays break down.

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How bad is crime in Colorado? We examined 35 years of data to put today’s trends in context.

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How bad is crime in Colorado? We examined 35 years of data to put today’s trends in context.

Is Colorado less safe than it used to be?

The answer is not as simple as the question seems. It depends on where you live, who you ask and against which decade you’re comparing today’s crime.

Colorado, like many other states, has experienced shocking spikes in violence during the pandemic. The state’s homicide rate in 2020 surged to a 25-year high after 293 people were killed, leaving more than five people dead every week, on average. Motor vehicle thefts and aggravated assaults, like shootings and stabbings, skyrocketed statewide as well.

Concerns about crime and public safety featured prominently in speeches by Colorado’s top political leadership on the opening day of the 2022 legislative session and will be a major topic in the year’s lawmaking and elections, including the governor’s race. Some observers have referred to recent trends as a crime wave or “tsunami.”

The public, too, is worried about crime. Nearly half of Coloradans surveyed by the Colorado Health Institute in the summer of 2021 said gun violence was a serious problem and 40% said crime generally was a serious problem. Those concerns, however, ranked lower than anxiety over homelessness, climate change and the cost of health care and housing.

But what’s actually going on with crime in Colorado?

The Denver Post analyzed 35 years of crime data as reported by local law enforcement to the FBI from 1985 to 2020 and spoke with criminologists to paint a broader picture of trends in the state and provide more context about crime in our communities.

The analysis focused on eight of the most serious crimes — homicide, aggravated assault, rape, robbery, arson, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft — and did not include drug offenses or lesser crimes like trespassing. Accurate statewide data for 2021 will not be available for several months as many cities are still finalizing their crime statistics.

Some of the major findings include:

  • Not all types of crime are rising. While Colorado’s rates for homicide, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft rose by more than 10% in 2020 over the average of the prior three years, rates for rape, larceny, robbery and burglary stayed relatively level or declined.
  • Increases in aggravated assaults — which include shootings and stabbings — and motor vehicle thefts are the biggest drivers of increased rates statewide of violent crime and property crime.
  • Colorado’s communities are not a monolith. Trends in the state’s largest cities differ from each other, as do those in medium-sized towns.
  • Colorado’s 2020 violent crime rate was the highest it’s been since 1995, but is lower than it was between 1985 and 1995. The state’s 2020 property crime rate was the highest recorded since 2008, but is less than half the rate recorded in the mid-1980s.
  • While Colorado’s violent crime rate jumped 10% between 2019 and 2020 — the largest single-year increase since 1990 — that increase came as part of a six-year upward trend. The state’s violent crime rate increased by 8% year-over-year in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Criminologists interviewed by The Post warned against ascribing changes in crime trends to any single factor.

“We don’t know, to be completely frank,” said David Pyrooz, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies crime. “There are a lot of causes of crime.”

It will take years to develop the data and research to investigate specific factors, he said, especially during a time with an unprecedented amount of the unprecedented: a pandemic, a major protest movement and an ever-increasing addiction crisis.

“I don’t think we should panic yet,” said Mary Dodge, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Colorado Denver. “And I think politicians need to take caution to not make knee-jerk decisions. Making decisions based on a few years of increase is a bad idea.”

But at the same time, the changes in crime are forcing people to question the future of Colorado after it has undergone so many changes in the last decades. The population boomed, cities swelled and rising costs of living are forcing changes in neighborhoods and everyday life.

“I would be very worried if people are comfortable with the way things stand right now,” Pyrooz said.


Click to enlarge

When did Colorado’s crime rates start to rise?

Colorado’s violent crime rate started to tick upward in 2014 after eight years of decline and it’s risen nearly every year since then. Violent crime, under the standards set by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, includes homicides, aggravated assaults, rape and robberies.

The violent crime rate’s 10% rise between 2019 and 2020 is the steepest climb in that time period. That’s in part because Colorado saw a decrease in 2019 compared to 2018.

Per-capita crime rates — the number of incidents per 100,000 people — are important to understanding trends in Colorado because they allow more relevant comparisons over time as the state’s population has grown.

The state’s property crime rate has remained relatively steady since 2008, despite a 5% uptick in 2020 compared to the average of the prior three years. The rate recorded in 2020 is the highest since 2007, but less than half the rates of property crime in the late 1980s and significantly lower than those recorded in the early 2000s.

Property crime includes arson, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

Friends and family of hit and ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Friends and family of hit-and-run victim Chris Patton embrace after a press conference in front of the Denver Police Department on Oct. 20, 2020. Patton was struck and killed by a driver in downtown Denver on Sept. 7, 2020.

What about in the state’s largest cities?

As the state’s largest cities, Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora have a much larger impact on the statewide crime rate than other communities. And the trends in those cities differ.

Denver’s violent crime rate began to rise in 2011 and has trended upward since, with the largest increase between 2019 and 2020. After eight years of general decline, Aurora’s violent crime rate began to increase in 2015, with the largest increase also between 2019 and 2020.

Colorado Springs’ violent crime started to increase in 2016 after nine years of relative stability. But unlike Denver and Aurora, Colorado Springs saw its smallest year-over-year violent crime increase between 2019 and 2020, when the rate rose 1%.

The cities’ property crime numbers also paint different pictures.

Denver experienced a slow rise in its property crime rate since 2011 before a 25% spike over the three-year average in 2020. Aurora’s property crime numbers remained relatively level until also spiking in 2020. Colorado Springs’ property crime rate, however, has remained steady since approximately 2005 and declined between 2019 and 2020.

What types of crime have gone up the most in Colorado?

Rates for four crimes rose by double-digit percentages statewide in 2020 compared to their three-year averages: homicide, aggravated assault, arson and motor vehicle theft.

About the data and definitions

This reporting uses data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Every year, local law enforcement agencies across the country provide to the FBI the number of each type of crime that has been reported to them. The data does not capture crimes that are not reported to law enforcement, which can make counts for crimes less likely to be reported to police — like rape — less accurate. The data analyzed by The Denver Post does not include drug offenses or minor crimes like trespassing. The dataset can also be incomplete because some agencies do not report their numbers.
Crime rate: Number of crimes per 100,000 residents of a specific geographic area
Violent crime: Total number of homicides, aggravated assaults, rapes and robberies
Property crime: Total number of arsons, burglaries, larceny and motor vehicle thefts
Aggravated assault: An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury, usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or by other means likely to produce death or great bodily harm

The motor vehicle theft rate increased the most. Its 2020 rate of 534 thefts per 100,000 people is 36% higher than the three-year average.

Data shows that the state’s increase in violent crime is primarily driven by the increase in the rate of aggravated assaults, which rose 18% in 2020 over the three-year average.

While the homicide rate saw a greater percentage increase — up 30% in 2020 over the three-year average — there are far more aggravated assaults in any given year than homicides. For example, Coloradans in 2020 reported 16,575 aggravated assaults to police and 293 homicides.

Over the last 10 years, guns have become the most common weapon used in aggravated assaults. In 2010, about 20% of aggravated assaults were committed with a gun, according to law enforcement data collected by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. By 2020, they were the primary weapon in 35% of attacks.

Similarly, the increase in the state’s property crime rate is driven primarily by the increase in motor vehicle thefts.

Colorado’s pattern of rising homicides, aggravated assaults and motor vehicle thefts match national trends from 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of homicides, aggravated assaults and motor vehicle thefts rose nationally while robberies, rapes, burglaries and theft declined.

What about in the big cities?

In Denver and Colorado Springs, the rise in violent crime has been driven primarily by aggravated assaults. If aggravated assaults are removed, violent crime totals for both cities show a decline every year since 2018. Compared to the three-year average, the number of aggravated assaults in Colorado Springs was up 25% in 2020 and up 36% in Denver.

Aurora’s rising violent crime rate is also driven primarily by an increase in aggravated assaults — the rate was up 42% in 2020 compared to the three-year average — though robberies have increased as well.

All three large cities saw their homicide rates spike in 2020. Both Aurora and Denver saw their homicide rates rise 50% over the three-year average and Colorado Springs’ rate rose 33%.

In Denver, 95 people died by homicide in 2020, the highest number since 1981. Homicides remained at an elevated level in Denver in 2021, with 96 people killed — but the per-capita rate remains below the highs seen in the early 1990s.

Motor vehicle thefts also saw the biggest increases in two of the cities. Denver and Aurora saw the number of motor vehicle thefts surge more than 50% in 2020 over their three-year averages, though Colorado Springs’ 2020 number remained level.


1642943399 760 How bad is crime in Colorado We examined 35 years
Click to enlarge

Are some crimes going down or staying level?

Yes. The statewide rate for rape decreased 14% in 2020 compared to the three-year average. Rates for robbery, larceny and burglary remained relatively level with changes of 5% or less from their three-year averages.

Denver saw a 12% reduction in its rape rate and its robbery rate remained level in 2020. In Aurora, the rates of rape, larceny and burglary remained level.

Colorado Springs saw the largest reductions. Its rape and robbery rates dropped 25% in 2020 compared to the three-year average and its burglary, larceny and motor vehicle thefts remained level. Of the three cities, it was the only one to record a decrease in its property crime rate in 2020.

How do 2020’s crime rates compare historically?

Rates of violent crime and property crime for Colorado and its three largest cities remain lower than those recorded during a nationwide crime explosion in the early 1990s.

Colorado’s 2020 violent crime rate is the highest recorded since 1995, though it remains lower than the rates recorded each year between 1985 and 1995. The state’s property crime rates have declined steeply since 1985. While the 2020 property crime rate is the highest since 2008, it is less than half the record high in 1986.

Denver and Aurora’s historical crime trends also mirror the national pattern — 2020’s violent crime rates are about equal to those recorded in the early 1990s, though lower than record highs.

Colorado Springs’s violent crime rate bucks those trends, however. Unlike Denver and Aurora, the Springs did not experience high rates of violence in the early 1990s. Its 2020 violent crime rate is the highest ever recorded.

Property crime rates for all three cities in 2020 were half the rates seen in the mid-1980s.

Community members hold their fists in ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Community members hold their fists in the air during a Park Hill community healing vigil in response to recent shooting and killings of young black men in the neighborhood in Denver on July 27, 2020. The vigil was held in the Park Hill Center or “The Holly” as it is known in the neighborhood. “Our gun violence has got to stop,” said Sherri Landrum. Landrum has lost several members of her family to gun violence, including her son in 2004 and her husband in 2013.

How do Colorado’s three largest cities compare?

Aurora’s violent crime rate in 2020 exceeded Denver’s that year — the first time that’s happened since 2002. Aurora’s violent crime rate was 898 crimes per 100,000 people, Denver recorded a rate of 882 crimes per 100,000 people and Colorado Springs recorded 604 crimes per 100,000 people.

Denver’s property crime rate, however, outstripped those recorded in Aurora and Colorado Springs. Denver recorded a rate of 4,779 property crimes per 100,000 people while Colorado Springs recorded a rate of 3,420 per 100,000 people and Aurora recorded 3,380 per 100,000 people.

Pyrooz, the CU Boulder associate professor, said crime is not only most heavily concentrated in larger cities, but in specific areas of cities.

For example, about a third of the state’s 293 homicides in 2020 occurred in Denver. A third of those 95 Denver homicides occurred in just seven of the city’s 77 neighborhoods.

“It’s our large cities that need the solutions first,” he said.

What does data from other large Colorado communities show us?

Not all of Colorado’s largest communities saw violent crime spike in 2020.

Violent crime numbers in Thornton, Fort Collins, Arvada and Westminster decreased in 2020 compared to previous years. Lakewood’s 2020 violent crime total is higher than 2019, but lower than 2017 and 2018.

Nubia Marquez, right, whose mother was ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Nubia Marquez, right, whose mother was one of six shooting victims, hugs family member Edgar Ortiz, with back to camera, outside the scene of the shooting at the Canterbury Mobile Home Park in Colorado Springs on May 9, 2021. A gunman killed six people at a family birthday party before taking own life, police said. The victims were all members of the same extended family a party attendee said.

What do we know about 2021?

Data reported to the FBI by Colorado Springs and Aurora for the first three quarters of 2021 show declines in homicides in both cities compared to the same period in 2020. Denver recorded one more homicide in 2021 than in 2020.

But other major categories of crime — aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft — are up year-over-year in Denver and Aurora during that period. Colorado Springs, however, reported declines in every category.

How do Colorado’s crime trends compare to other states?

Colorado was not the only state to see violent crime increase in 2020. At least 37 states saw their homicide rates rise in 2020 and many large cities, like those in Colorado, saw major increases in homicides, according to the Pew Research Center.

Colorado’s violent crime rate of 423 crimes per 100,000 people in 2020 was the 20th-highest in the U.S. Alaska recorded a rate of 838 violent crimes per 100,000 people — the highest in the country. Colorado exceeded the national violent crime rate for the first time in 2018 and stayed above the national rate in the two years that followed.

In 2020, Colorado had the third-highest property crime rate in the country, after Louisiana and New Mexico. Colorado’s property crime rate has exceeded the national rate every year since 2015. The state property crime rate also exceeded the national rate between 1985 and 1996 and between 2001 and 2006.

Did homicides rise only in Democrat-controlled states and cities?

No. An analysis of homicide data from the first six months of 2020 published in The New York Times showed that homicides were up 29% in Democrat-led cities in the sample and up 26% in cities with a Republican mayor. Fifteen of the 37 states that saw homicide rate increases in 2020 were governed by Republicans.

Researchers also have found that cities that did not cut their police budgets in 2020 in response to protests following George Floyd’s murder saw staggering increases in homicides along with cities that did make reductions.

Denver police officers detain two men ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Denver police officers detain two men from a homeless encampment at Civic Center Park in Denver on Sept. 7, 2021. The city of Denver has temporarily shut down Civic Center Park, citing health and safety issues.

What’s driving crime trends?

Criminologists interviewed by The Post said there are hundreds of variables that might contribute to changes in crime trends: increased gun sales, financial pressures, political unrest, the substance use crisis, changes in attitudes towards police, changing levels of police pro-activity, understaffed law enforcement agencies, unaddressed mental health and addiction needs, specific policy changes to the criminal legal system and a state of normlessness created by the pandemic.

“We’ve been asking that question for years,” said Stacey Hervey, an associate professor in the Criminal Justice and Criminology Department at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “It’s so multi-faceted.”

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Nikola Jokic repeating as MVP? Why these NBA analysts think Nuggets center can pull it off

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Nikola Jokic repeating as MVP? Why these NBA analysts think Nuggets center can pull it off

Stan Van Gundy has Nikola Jokic’s back. On the block. On the wing. And on Twitter.

Especially on Twitter.

“Everybody’s locked up on him the entire game,” the former NBA coach and Turner Sports analyst told The Denver Post late last week. “The other team is trying to stop him. And he’s still producing.”

With that, Van Gundy laughed, incredulously and helplessly. There’s a long way to go yet, and a season that’s already featured more twists than a bag of pretzels, thanks to injuries and COVID protocols, no doubt has more curveballs left to throw.

Could one of those curves be Jokic, the Nuggets’ star center, repeating as NBA MVP?

“You’ve got to remember: Jokic is doing all this without (help),” Avery Johnson, the former NBA guard and coach, currently an analyst with CBS Sports HQ, said of the Denver All-Star. “Batman needs Robin. And Robin (guard Jamal Murray) is injured.”

Which makes the performances from a guy who’s on a pace for 19 triple-doubles this season — Jokic collected 16 a season ago — even more impressive.

“(It) requires even more discipline,” Johnson said. “(Because) he’s drawing even more attention, and through it all, he continues to play at an elite level that makes opposing coaches lose sleep the night before games.”

As a former coach, Van Gundy is as much in awe of the mental side of the Joker’s game — the Serbian 7-footer was averaging 25.9 points, 13.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists heading into Friday’s tussle with Memphis — as he is the numbers.

So much so, in fact, that the analyst went to Twitter on Jan. 14 to declare Jokic as his No. 1 choice for NBA MVP, followed by LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. The replies from fans outside the Front Range were not, as you would expect, kind.

Although Van Gundy’s getting some company on the bandwagon: NBA.com’s Michael C. Wright this past Friday slotted the Joker as No. 1 in the latest Kia “Race to the MVP Ladder,” ahead of Antetokounmpo, Embiid and Durant. And Wright’s argument was largely the same as Van Gundy’s — with no Murray (zero games) and very little Michael Porter Jr. (nine games) around to take feeds and occupy defenders, few players, statistically or aesthetically, have done more with less.

“Anytime you have suspect shooting around you, it’s going to make it easier to load up, defensively, on him, and that’s what has happened,” Van Gundy said. “The intensity steps up a notch. So the season he’s had is phenomenal.”

The Nuggets had to do without Jokic’s services for four games in late November, a stretch that featured the Bulls and Bucks at home and the Suns and Blazers on the road. Denver lost all four contests, by an average of 16.3 points per game.

“If you tell me Nikola Jokic isn’t the MVP, then who is?” Malone said after the Joker’s NBA-best 10th triple-double of the season this past Wednesday against the Clippers, a 10-assist evening that ended with a cross-court pass, over a double-team, to Aaron Gordon for a game-winning trey. “That guy can beat you with his passing, his scoring, his rebounding.”

Johnson said his MVP vote at the regular season’s midway point would likely go to the Warriors’ Steph Curry “for his overall body of work,” but that the Joker is in “the top 3, for sure, the way he’s played … it’s not like anybody’s really running away with it at this point.”

And if you don’t think Jokic can win another MVP award on a team that could miss out on a top-4 seed, Van Gundy’s got two words for you:

Russell Westbrook.

“Westbrook, when he got his one in Oklahoma City (in 2016-17), when (Kevin) Durant was out, the (Thunder) weren’t great that year,” Van Gundy said. “We’re in a league now where the best teams have two and even three stars.

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Dolphins’ first-round draft position again pushed back following another upset playoff win for 49ers

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Dolphins’ first-round draft position again pushed back following another upset playoff win for 49ers

The value of the Miami Dolphins’ first-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers just keeps diminishing.

With a second consecutive playoff upset victory pulled off by the 49ers, the pick they’re sending to the Dolphins will now be one of the final four selections of the upcoming NFL draft’s first round.

San Francisco defeated the top-seeded Green Bay Packers, 13-10, in the NFC’s divisional round on Saturday night, and for the Dolphins, that means the best the pick can be is No. 29 as the 49ers advance to the NFC Championship Game against either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Los Angeles Rams.

The remaining scenarios: 49ers lose and Cincinnati Bengals win in AFC Championship Game, the pick is 29; 49ers lose and Bengals lose, 30; 49ers lose in Super Bowl, 31; 49ers win in Super Bowl, 32.

Had San Francisco lost on Saturday night at Lambeau Field, the pick would’ve been settled at No. 25.

It’s the third consecutive week that the selection is negatively impacted. Had the Los Angeles Rams held on to a late lead in the regular season finale against the 49ers, San Francisco would’ve been eliminated with the pick being No. 17. The 49ers’ upset win over the Cowboys in the wild-card round then pushed the selection further back from No. 22.

The Dolphins own the 49ers’ selection while the Philadelphia Eagles have Miami’s pick due to the two trades the Dolphins pulled off with the NFC teams last offseason ahead of the 2021 NFL draft. Miami traded back to No. 12 with San Francisco, sending the No. 3 pick, which previously belonged to the Houston Texans, to the 49ers. A move up from 12 to 6, where wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was selected, followed and sent the Dolphins’ 2022 first-rounder to Philadelphia.

The Dolphins are selecting around 15 spots lower than they would be had they traded the 49ers’ pick to the Eagles instead of their own. The Miami selection going to Philadelphia in the upcoming draft is No. 15. The Dolphins also got a 2023 first-round pick from the 49ers in the deal.

With Miami’s reported affirmation early in the offseason that it will stick with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins seem unlikely to send this first-round pick to another team in a trade.

There are a number of offensive tackles and wide receivers that could go around where the Dolphins will be picking, as general manager Chris Grier and Miami’s new incoming coach will look to address team needs.

The NFL draft is ordered by first having the 18 non-playoff teams pick in reverse order of record, with lower strength of schedule serving as a tiebreaker. Picks 19-24 are then reserved for the wild-card round losers in reverse order of regular-season record. Picks 25-28 go to divisional round losers and so on until the Super Bowl champion picks 32nd.

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