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Former Terp Stefon Diggs plays hero in Vikings' miracle playoff win

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Former Terp Stefon Diggs plays hero in Vikings' miracle playoff win

MINNEAPOLIS -- There wasn't much left for Case Keenum to do but to fling the ball deep and hope for a miracle.

Miracle answered.

Keenum completed a last-ditch heave near the sideline Sunday on the game's final play, and Stefon Diggs slithered away for a 61-yard touchdown to give Minnesota a 29-24 victory over New Orleans and send the Vikings to the NFC championship game, with one more win needed to become a first-time Super Bowl host.

Drew Brees had driven the Saints in position for Wil Lutz's go-ahead 43-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining, punctuating a steely rally from a 17-point deficit that stood until 1:16 was left in the third quarter.

The Vikings were out of timeouts and nearly out of options when Keenum dropped back with 10 seconds to go from his 39 and threw high into a crowd. Diggs jumped in front of Marcus Williams, who rolled awkwardly underneath Diggs during an ill-fated attempt at a tackle.

Diggs held his ground, kept his feet in bounds and raced untouched into the end zone as the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium erupted.

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"I'm just thankful," Diggs said. "They count us out all the time. Nobody thinking we can do it. This game was over. I don't stop playing till the clock hit zero. That's it."

This wasn't quite Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception for Pittsburgh in the 1972 playoffs, but these Vikings are on some kind of special path. They finished 13-3 during the regular season, giving the career backup Keenum the keys to the offense after Sam Bradford went down with a knee injury after the opener.

The Vikings will play at Philadelphia next weekend, after Jacksonville takes on New England for the AFC title. The Super Bowl is in Minnesota two weeks later.

"A heck of a game, wasn't it?" coach Mike Zimmer said. "And the good guys won."

Now the Vikings have spun an unprecedented scenario in NFL history. Next weekend, instead of the usual win-or-go-home stakes, they're in a win-and-go-home situation with the Super Bowl set for Feb. 4 under the reverberating translucent roof of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Though only defensive end Brian Robison remains from the 2009 team that lost in overtime of the NFC championship game at New Orleans, the Vikings exacted some revenge on Brees and the Saints, at least for their long-frustrated fans.

They put them through quite the emotional finish to complete it.

Brees connected with Michael Thomas for two of his three touchdown passes in a span of 3:09 of the second half. The first score came after a 12-play, 80-yard drive. The second was set up at the Minnesota 40 by an interception by Williams after an off-balance throw by Keenum, his one costly moment of either inexperience or recklessness.

When George Johnson blocked Ryan Quigley's punt, the Saints took over at the Vikings 40. Four plays later, rookie Alvin Kamara, whose breakout was a major factor in the team's NFC South title and breakthrough from three straight 7-9 finishes, caught a 14-yard pass from Brees for a 21-20 lead with 3:01 left.

Forbath's 53-yard field goal, his third make of the evening against his former team, gave the Vikings their lead back with 1:29 left. That was more than enough time for Brees, the sure-bet Hall of Famer with a Super Bowl ring and all kinds of records.

But after Brees got Lutz in position, there were just enough seconds remaining for Keenum -- the undrafted and undersized all-time leading passer in NCAA history at Houston whose first career playoff start ended in spectacular fashion. He finished with 318 yards, going 25 for 40, with Diggs catching 137 yards on six catches.

"This will take a while to get over," said Payton, who fell to 1-5 on the road in playoff games.

Brees saw his 13th career postseason game end in a crushing final moment, his 25-for-40 performance for 294 yards tainted a bit by two interceptions before halftime. One came on a leaping grab by safety Andrew Sendejo, the other off a tip by Everson Griffen that landed in Anthony Barr's arms at the Minnesota 10-yard line midway through the third quarter.

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Maryland loses two as Justin Jackson declares for NBA Draft, will sign with agent

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USA TODAY Sports

Maryland loses two as Justin Jackson declares for NBA Draft, will sign with agent

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland forward Justin Jackson will forgo his final two seasons of college eligibility to seek a career in the NBA.

Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon also says guard Dion Wiley will transfer before playing his senior season.

MORE TERPS: LEFTY DRIESELL IS FINALLY GOING TO ENTER THE HALL OF FAME

Jackson averaged 10.5 points as a freshman before missing most of the 2017-18 season with a shoulder injury.

Jackson says, "After talking with my family and weighing my options, it's my desire to turn my full attention to preparing for a career in professional basketball."

Wiley appeared in 83 career games, playing a backup role on three teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament under Turgeon.

Maryland was 19-13 this season, including 8-10 in the Big Ten, and failed to reach the postseason.

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Lefty Driesell to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame per report

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Lefty Driesell to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame per report

Long-time University of Maryland men’s basketball coach Charles Grice “Lefty” Driesell will finally be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

This is according to NBC Sports Washington contributor Jon Feinstein.

Driesell coached the Terrapins for 17 seasons between 1969-86. While guiding the program to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and an NIT Championship, Driesell transformed Maryland into a legitimate force in college basketball.

When hired by the Terps, Driesell famously announced that he wanted to turn Maryland into the “UCLA of the East.” After only four seasons he had made it to two ACC Championship Games and his first Elite Eight appearance. His success opened the door not only for the program but the school to compete at the highest levels of competition.

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Maryland made it as high as the Elite Eight twice under the reign of Driesell. He was named ACC Coach of the Year twice and won one ACC Tournament Championship in 1984. At the time of his NIT Championship with the Terps in 1972, the NIT was held in a similar regard to the NCAA Tournament.

He is second on Maryland’s all-time wins list (348), behind Gary Williams’ 461. Driesell however, still holds the best win percentage of all Maryland coaches with 68.6 win percentage.

After Maryland, the former Duke basketball coached at James Madison for just short of a decade and ended his coaching days at Georgia State. Driesell also coached at Davidson before taking the Maryland job to combine for over 40 seasons at the head of a Division I basketball program.

The 86-year-old was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2007. He also the namesake for the NCAA’s best defensive player of the year award, which was first awarded in 2010.

The official announcement from the Naismith Hall of Fame will be during the Final Four on Saturday, March 31.

WANT MORE HOOPS?  Listen below as Troy Machir and Chick Hernandez discuss Lefty Driesell's legacy in the area and why the Terps icon was on the outside of the Hall of Fame for so long.