Michigan State ends season with another close one


Michigan State ends season with another close one

Michigan State finished one game over .500 after winning its final game by one point.

It was an appropriate ending to a season full of close victories and excruciating defeats.

The Spartans played nine games decided by four points or fewer, including their first seven in Big Ten play. They ended on a high note Saturday night with a 17-16 win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but the offseason will bring plenty of questions for a team that just a few months ago was hoping to make a run at a conference title.

``We stayed composed all the way through to the end,'' coach Mark Dantonio said. ``We won against Wisconsin very close. We won against Boise (State) very close. So our guys have won. It's just that sometimes when you lose, it sort of gets magnified for all of us.''

After coming within an eyelash of the Rose Bowl the previous two seasons, Michigan State needed to replace quarterback Kirk Cousins in 2012. Andrew Maxwell became the starter, but in the bowl he ended up splitting time with Connor Cook.

So that may be the first talking point after a 7-6 season. Maxwell has another year of eligibility, but it was Cook, a redshirt freshman, who directed the drive that led to the winning field goal Saturday.

``I don't want to slight anybody, say, `This guy is the new quarterback.' There's a lot of colleges across the country that play two quarterbacks or play guys situationally,'' Dantonio said. ``We just felt like we wanted to play a redshirt freshman and get him some reps in a bowl game. He had enough time to prepare and we wanted to see what he could do. He did well so we used him the second half, too.''

With the passing game in flux, the Spartans relied heavily on running back Le'Veon Bell. He ended up with 1,793 yards on a whopping 382 carries.

Now, Michigan State waits for Bell to announce whether he'll turn pro or come back for his senior year.

``I want to make sure I do things the right way, talk to my family about it, the players and coaches about it,'' Bell said. ``Make sure I get output from everybody and see what everybody thinks.''

The Spartans were hoping they could grind their way to a league championship behind Bell and a stout defense. The result was an unusual number of games that came down to the final minutes.

A 17-13 victory over Boise State in the opener was a nice start, but Michigan State lost 17-16 at home to Ohio State in its first Big Ten game.

After a four-point victory over Indiana, the Spartans lost to Iowa 19-16 in double-overtime. The following week, Michigan State's four-game winning streak over rival Michigan was snapped on a last-second field goal.

In November, Nebraska dealt Michigan State a crushing loss on a touchdown with 6 seconds remaining.

But the bowl at least enabled the Spartans to finish on a high note. Michigan State trailed 13-0 after a listless first half, but Cook threw a touchdown pass in the third quarter and Bell ran for a score in the fourth.

A long field goal put the Horned Frogs up 16-14, but there was enough time for Cook and the Spartans to win their final close game of the year.

``We're a team that we can lose to Iowa in the fourth quarter and bounce back the next week and play the whole four quarters. ... That's a testament to the guys we've got here, the leadership inside the locker room, all the way on up,'' linebacker Max Bullough said. ``There's no doubt in my mind, even with how many losses we've had this year, we're going to come out on top. That's the kind of confidence we have in each other and the kind of confidence I have in my teammates.''

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3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia


3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia

Playing three games in four days takes a toll on even the fittest athletes, and it was their sluggish start that doomed the Capitals in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

After being noncomittal about his starting goalie all weekend, Coach Barry Trotz put Philipp Grubauer in net. Grubauer ended up making 29 saves on 34 shots. Offensively, the Caps got goals from Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, and John Carlson. Carlson's third period goal cut the Flyers' lead to two with a little over three minutes to go, but a Jakub Voracek empty-netter a few moments later was the nail in the coffin. 

Here are your three stars from the game: 

1. Travis Boyd had the play of the game for the Capitals. Boyd carried the puck into the Flyer's zone, cut through multiple defenders and fired a slick shot to a streaking Ovechkin, who burried the puck in the back of the net. Check it out: 

Not only was the play nice on its own, but it was Boyd's first NHL point. Not a bad way to get it. 

2. Shayne Gostisbehere​ got the Flyers going with his goal in the first period. The defenseman had one goal on five shots along with being an intimidating force in the defensive zone. After going six weeks without scoring, today's goal was Gostisbehere's second goal in three games. 

3. Wayne Simmonds was the best offensive player on the ice on Sunday, scoring twice - both in the final period. It was the 22nd and 23rd goals of the season for the 29-year-old winger. It was also the first multi-goal game for Simmonds since Opening Night, when he had two against San Jose. 

The Caps hit the ice next on Tuesday, when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Capital One Center. 

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

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