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Banged-up Bridgewater leads Louisville to BCS

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Banged-up Bridgewater leads Louisville to BCS

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Teddy Bridgewater had a brace on his arm and a protective boot on his foot after the game. He said that while he was playing, the sore ankle hurt more than the broken wrist.

Louisville's star sophomore quarterback didn't know how much he would play against Rutgers and wasn't well enough to start. When it became apparent that the Cardinals couldn't beat Rutgers without him, he decided it was time to go.

Bridgewater came off the bench to throw two-second half touchdown passes, and John Wallace kicked a 29-yard field goal with 1:41 left to give Louisville a 20-17 victory against Rutgers on Thursday night in what was essentially the Big East championship game.

``That what you live for, you live for the big moments,'' Bridgewater said.

In a game between one team headed to the Big Ten and another bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East handed out its second-to-last BCS bid to a school that entered the league during its first massive rebuild in 2005 and watched its athletic program blossom.

The Cardinals will be going to the BCS for the second time. Either the Orange or Sugar Bowl will be the destination.

``We dropped two the last couple weeks. But for us to go on the road and win the championship, it's so special,'' said third-year coach Charlie Strong, who has quickly gotten Louisville back on track after the Cardinals hit a rough patch following their only other BCS bid in 2006.

``I'm just so happy for us to get a 10-win season, go win the conference title and get us to a BCS bowl.''

Louisville (10-2, 5-2) will share this Big East title with Rutgers (9-3, 5-2), Syracuse and possibly even Cincinnati, but those guys only get a banner. The Cardinals get the ticket to the big game. The BCS standings will be used to break the tie and there is no doubt Louisville, with the best overall record in the conference, will be on top.

Bridgewater didn't start a week after breaking his left wrist and spraining his right ankle in a loss to Connecticut.

``He's the toughest quarterback in the nation,'' Louisville linebacker Preston Brown said.

Strong went with senior Will Stein as the starter because Bridgewater could only take snaps from the shotgun. But it quickly became apparent Louisville could not win without its star quarterback.

``Once I saw that we weren't finishing drives, I was just ready,'' Bridgewater said. ``I had a good feeling deep down inside.''

He entered for the first time against in the second quarter and finished 20 for 28 for 263 yards and threw a pair of TD passes in the third quarter to wipe out a 14-3 deficit.

``He came up to me midway through the first quarter. I said to warm up,'' Strong said. ``I gave our medical staff a game ball because they were able to get him ready.''

Cardinals linebacker James Burgess picked off a pass that bounced off Timmy Wright's hands with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter in Rutgers territory, and Bridgewater hit Andrell Smith on a slant for 30 yards to put Louisville in field goal range. Wallace booted through the short kick to give Louisville a three-point lead.

``They have a tremendous playmaker at the quarterback position,'' first-year Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. ``We just weren't able to match him in the end.''

Rutgers' last chance ended when Gary Nova threw deep, but his receiver stopped short. Terrell Floyd made an over the shoulder interception with 1:06 left. Nova bent over and grabbed his helmet in disgust.

The Scarlet Knights, the only team that has played in the Big East since it started playing football in 1991, probably will have only one more shot to win the conference for the first time before moving to the Big Ten.

Louisville can add one of the biggest wins in school history to an already memorable week for the school, which was in Conference USA just eight years ago. On Wednesday, Louisville announced it was joining the ACC after at least one more season in the Big East.

There is some question whether Strong will be around that long. He denied on Wednesday a report that he had interviewed for the Auburn job, and it's been speculated that Arkansas and Tennessee are interested, too.

``(Strong) told us he's not going anywhere, don't listen to the rumors,'' receiver Damian Copeland said.

Rutgers was up 14-3 at the half after Nova hooked up with his big receivers for two long TD passes - an 85-yarder to Brandon Coleman and a 68-yard play by Mark Harrison. Nova finished 13 for 28 for 284 yards.

The Scarlet Knights were poised for another big play in the third quarter when a fake field goal turned into a touchdown pass from holder J.T. Tartacoff to DC Jefferson. It would have made the score 21-3, but an illegal man down field penalty wiped out the play and Rutgers punted from the Louisville 31.

Everything changed from there.

Bridgewater and the Cardinals put together a 90-yard drive that took 14 plays and nearly eight minutes and cut the lead to 14-10 when the quarterback flipped a pass to Jeremy Wright, who scooted 14 yards for a touchdown.

The Cardinals needed only 16 more seconds to take the lead.

Burgess stuck kick returner Jeremy Deering in the chest, forcing a fumble recovered by Calvin Pryor. Bridgewater went right to work, floating a perfect deep ball to DeVante Parker for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

Just like that, it was 17-14 and Scarlet Knights fans fell silent.

``It's kind of a 21-point swing in a very short amount of time, and we were never able to swing the momentum back, and that's my job,'' Flood said.

Bridgewater had the Cardinals on the move again in the fourth quarter when a high pass bounced off the hands of Eli Rogers and into the arms of Rutgers' Lorenzo Waters, who returned the interception to the Louisville 42.

The Scarlet Knights converted the turnover into Nick Borgese's tying 38-yard field goal with 7:48 left.

Fans waved white towels, and AC/DC blared from the loud speakers. But that was the last big play Rutgers could muster. The Scarlet Knights are likely headed to the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, still searching for their first BCS bid.

``I don't think it was ever ours,'' Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan said. ``You have to take championships, take it for four quarters, and they did. They took it when it mattered, at the end of the game.''

Louisville ended up tossing oranges in the air when it was over and exchanging high-fives with a small group of its fans in a corner of the stadium.

The Cardinals might end up in New Orleans instead of Miami, depending on how the rest of championship weekend plays out. Surely, they will be fine with either.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 5: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 5: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

GAME 5: WASHINGTON WIZARDS AT TORONTO RAPTORS

Series: Series tied 2-2
Where: Air Canada Centre
Tip-off: 7:02 p.m. (earlier tipoff than usual)
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Pivotal game

The Wizards have done their part in winning both games at home to even up this series at 2-2. Now comes Game 5, which could very well determine who takes this series.

Winners of Game 5 in a seven-game series tied at 2-2 hold a 164-34 (.828) record all-time. That means teams that lose Game 5 come back to win the final two games and the series only 17.2 percent of the time.

The Wizards need to get this one and they know all too well why. Last year they were in this same position in their second round series against the Boston Celtics. They went down 0-2, won the next two games but then lost Game 5 and ultimately the series in seven games.

Road warriors

The Wizards will also have to do something they have yet to do in a while in Game 5 and that is win on the road. Though they have won eight straight home postseason games, they have lost their last six on the road. It goes back to that Celtics series when Washington lost all four games in Boston. The last time they won on the road in the playoffs was Game 6 last year against the Hawks.

The Raptors are particularly tough in Toronto. They were 34-7 this season at home, tied with the Houston Rockets for the best record in the NBA. 

The recent historical odds are also in Toronto's favor. Since 2003, the home team has won each of the first four games in a seven-game series 35 times. In those series, the home team has held a Game 5 record of 22-13 and a series record of 26-9. If the Raptors get Game 5, history will be on their side to go on to win the series.

Can Otto get going?

Games 3 and 4 in Washington saw All-Star Bradley Beal break out to score 28 and 31 points. Will we see the same from Otto Porter before this series is over?

Game 4 seemed to suggest that is possible. After scoring only one point in the first half, Porter erupted for 10 points in the third quarter alone. Though he only scored 12 points in the game overall, it was the most aggressive we have seen him all series.

Porter is averaging just 10.3 points per game through four playoff games. He is shooting 50 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three, and as long as the Wizards are winning he won't complain, but Porter can do much more than that on offense. If he starts scoring more, the Wizards will be tough to stop.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Need to Know: Final Redskins seven-round mock draft

Need to Know: Final Redskins seven-round mock draft

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 25, one day before the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.  

Final seven-round Redskins mock draft

Here we go. No trades. If you like big guys you’ll like the first four picks. 

Round 1, DL Da’Ron Payne, Alabama—I think that Vita Vea will be off the board; it’s looking more and more like he will go the Raiders at 10 or Miami at 11. Payne might be the better player anyway, assuming that Jim Tomsula can coach some pass rush out of him. If Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James is on the board the Redskins may have to adjust their thinking. 

Round 2, OL Billy Price, Ohio State—I had a running back in mind here but the run at the position came earlier than expected. Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, Sony Michel, and Nick Chubb were all off the board. The decision was to get a guy to insert at left guard and complete a home-grown O-line that can hopefully create running room for whatever back takes the handoff. 

Round 4, RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona State—I’m going with the best available running back here. The analytics types really like his combination of size (6-1, 228) and speed (4.46 in the 40 at the combine). Also, he shared carries with the Sun Devils so is a relatively low-mileage back (450 carries in four years). Ballage scored eight touchdowns in a game as a junior so he could be what the team needs in the red zone. 

Round 5, DL R.J. McIntosh, Miami—The Redskins have spent so little draft capital on the defensive line over the past two decades that it’s easy to justify doubling up there in one draft. McIntosh is a project, but he has high-level athleticism and quickness and those are traits you can’t teach. It might take him all of this year and next offseason in the weight room to build up his core strength and to add some weight onto his 286-lb. frame. 

Round 5, CB Nick Nelson, Wisconsin—While working out for the Lions last week, Nelson suffered a torn meniscus. That dropped his draft stock from perhaps being a Day 2 pick to one who should still be on the board on Saturday afternoon. The rehab for the 2017 All-Big Ten selection has been estimated at three to four months, meaning that he could be ready for the start of training camp. One more note: he was the Badgers’ punt returner last year and he averaged 8.6 yards per return with one touchdown. 

Round 6, TE David Wells, San Diego St.—While Jay Gruden and Doug Williams both seem to be confident that Jordan Reed will be healthy and ready to go by the time the regular season starts the truth will emerge in the draft. If they take a tight end early, they are very concerned about Reed. If they wait until this point in the draft and take a project like Wells, they are only moderately worried. 

Round 7, WR Auden Tate, Florida State—He’s coming off of a separated shoulder and that might push the 6-4 Tate down the board. Tate would be a project; he only caught 65 passes in 22 game at Florida State. He doesn’t have blazing speed (4.68 in the 40) but he competes for the ball and he could be a good red zone asset. 

Round 7, CB Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech—You can’t have too many corners or edge rushers and since there aren’t enough of the latter to go around in this draft I took a corner here. Stroman doesn’t have ideal size at 5-11, 182 but he paid attention during his four years with the Hokies and he plays with good technique. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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In response to a suggestion that former kick returner Devin Hester should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer:

Timeline 

Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 16
—OTAs start (5/22) 27
—Training camp starts (7/26) 92

The Redskins last played a game 115 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 137 days. 

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