Badgers, No. 14 Huskers know all about close games


Badgers, No. 14 Huskers know all about close games

MADISON, Wis. (AP) The courses for the Big Ten championship game opponents were set when they met in late September.

Nebraska came back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Wisconsin 30-27 in the conference opener.

The 14th-ranked Cornhuskers continued to win close games. The Badgers kept losing them.

Another tight game is expected when Nebraska (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) and Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) get together again Saturday night in Indianapolis. The winner goes to the Rose Bowl to play Stanford or UCLA.

Wisconsin, trying for a third straight trip to Pasadena, is coming off overtime losses in three of its past four games. The Badgers finished third in the Leaders Division but go to the championship game because of NCAA sanctions against Ohio State and Penn State.

Four of the Badgers' losses this season have been by three points and the other by seven.

``You hate to go down that way, but you like to see the fight that we've had,'' linebacker Chris Borland said Monday. ``I think as far as the reason for the close losses - I think we've done things well, and maybe haven't executed in the clutch like we could. All the things you need to win are there. It's just a matter of sealing the deal, which I think we've gotten better at despite it not showing in the games.''

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Wisconsin has proved to be dangerous and could easily have a better record.

``I don't put any stock into anything that's happened up to this point,'' Pelini said. ``It's going to be 60 minutes of football, and the team that earns it on Saturday is going to come away with the win. It's going to be a tough game, no question.''

Wisconsin led or was tied going into the fourth quarter in three of its losses. Since the 2010 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin has lost nine games by a touchdown or less.

Badgers coach Bret Bielema said his team has struggled late in games because several key players have been missing or limited. He said Monday his team needed to capitalize on opportunities.

A little luck might have helped, too.

``I do think there's a certain amount of, does the ball bounce the right way?'' Bielema said. ``Do you get a call? Do you not get a call? I got done with the Ohio State game and was very, very upset with the way things unfolded in overtime. You need a break here or there. I do think good things happen to good people - not that people that we've been playing aren't good people. I want to make sure our guys understand that perseverance will prevail.''

Running back Montee Ball said he could have done more to help. Ball fumbled late in the fourth quarter against Ohio State when he attempted to jump over a pile to extend the ball on the goal line on a fourth-and-1 play when the Badgers trailed 14-7.

``A couple times we had penalties where we started behind the chains and that really hurt us,'' Ball said. ``A couple plays that, myself, I could have done better on, probably could have done better on. And the same for every other player.

``I guess what the team will learn for next year and from (the Penn State loss) and our bowl game is that every play matters. You never know if the first play is going to decide the game or the last play. You've got to approach every play like it's the deciding factor of the game.''

Nebraska came from behind in the second half to post five of its seven Big Ten wins. The Huskers made up double-digit deficits in four of those games on their way to the Legends Division title.

While the Badgers struggled to finish, the Huskers closed strong. In the seven Big Ten wins, the Huskers outgained their opponent 112-47 in the fourth quarter. The Huskers outgained Wisconsin 113-33 the final 15 minutes of their Sept. 29 meeting.

``It was definitely a good start for the comebacks we had down the road this year,'' Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead said. ``It helped us out in some tight games with Northwestern, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa.''

Pelini struggled to explain why Nebraska has come out on the right side of the close games this year. He said team chemistry and experience help, and so does having a third-year starting quarterback in Taylor Martinez.

Pelini said another ingredient - the one Bielema wishes his team had more of - played a role, too.

``Let's face it,'' Pelini said, ``there is some luck involved.''


AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Lincoln, Neb., contributed to this report.

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Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

USA Today Sports

Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Alex Cobb's comfort and familiarity with the AL East was the deciding factor in his decision to sign with the Baltimore Orioles.

"They used the AL East and the success I've had in it to their advantage," the 30-year-old right-hander said Wednesday after finalizing a $57 million, four-year contract. "They kept challenging me with it and I love the challenge of pitching in this division and they know that over the times we talked. They did a really good job of making me feel like this is where I need to be."

Cobb gets $14 million in each of the first three seasons and $15 million in 2021, and he would earn a $500,000 bonus in each year he pitches 180 innings. Baltimore will defer $6.5 million from this year's salary and $4.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He gets $2 million of the deferred money on Nov. 30, 2022, and $1.8 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2023-32. If he doesn't pitch at least 130 innings in 2020, an additional $5.25 million of the final's year salary would get deferred, payable $1.75 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2033-35.


Cobb has a full no-trade this year, then can list 10 teams from 2019-21 that he cannot be dealt to without his consent.

He had spent his entire six-season big league career with Tampa Bay and was the last big-name starting pitcher available in a slow-moving free agent market. He joined Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, who were signed last month, in a revamped rotation that includes holdovers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season. He pitched 179 1/3 innings in his first full year back after missing nearly two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.

He had turned down the Rays' $17.4 million qualifying offer in November, and Baltimore pursued him from the start of free agency.

"They didn't stop bothering me the whole offseason," Cobb said. "They were very persistent, and I think that you notice that confidence they have in you just by the way they speak to you and the questions you ask and not questioning anything that's gone on. Everyone's got flaws that they come with and potential things you could really harp on that might not be your strong suit, but they never went down that avenue. They always told me how much they like certain aspects of what I do on and off the field, and just kept repeating how well I fit in here."


Cobb is 48-35 with a 3.50 in six big league seasons. Baltimore will lose its third-highest draft pick, currently No. 51, and the Rays get an extra selection after the first round as compensation.

Jose Mesa Jr. was designated for assignment Wednesday to clear a roster spot.

Baltimore opens on March 29 at home against Minnesota, but Cobb won't be ready to pitch then. He has agreed to be optioned to a minor league affiliate to help build up innings.

"I'm going to be pushing it as quick as I can," Cobb said. "That's going to be up to them. They've invested in me for a four-year period and as much as we know how much every game matters even early in April, we're going to have to look out for the overall future of this whole thing and whole contract and whatever they determine to be the way to protect me and my feedback from the bullpens I'm going to be throwing here in the next few days will probably determine the timeline."

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Good news Redskins fans: Jason Pierre-Paul shipped out of NFC East


Good news Redskins fans: Jason Pierre-Paul shipped out of NFC East

The Giants shipped out Jason Pierre-Paul for life as a Buccaneer, and in turn, Tampa will send a third and fourth round draft pick to New York.

Moving Pierre-Paul comes at a curious time for the Giants. The team will eat $15 million of dead money in the move, and New York also sent a fourth-round pick to Tampa as part of the transaction. 

What it definitely signals is that Big Blue looks to be moving from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 look. Additionally, with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in April, maybe the Giants will seriously look at NC State defensive lineman Bradley Chubb. 


For the Redskins, seeing Pierre-Paul leave the NFC East is welcome news. He has 12.5 career sacks against Washington QBs, the same amount he has against the Eagles and Cowboys combined. 

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