No. 14 Nebraska hoping for title luck vs. Badgers


No. 14 Nebraska hoping for title luck vs. Badgers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Nebraska's Will Compton may never forget the agonizing details of his first two conference championship game.

A third one could finally put those nightmares to rest.

On Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, No. 14 Nebraska will rely on some of the lessons from losses in the 2009 and 2010 Big 12 title games as they try to claim their first Big Ten crown.

``We've been there a couple times and we've even tasted winning a championship because we ran out there the first time against Texas before we got that called back. So we've tasted the winning,'' Compton said. ``We've got to do everything necessary to not be in those positions again and get it done this year.''

Despite being one of only seven schools with 800 wins (856), appearing in 34 consecutive bowl games from 1971 to 2003 and winning 43 conference championships, the Cornhuskers (10-2, 7-1) haven't claimed a conference crown since 1999.

It's not been for lack of effort.

In 2009 against Texas, Nebraska started celebrating when Colt McCoy's errant pass sailed out of bounds as time expired. After a replay review, the officials added 1 second to the clock - enough time for Hunter Lawrence to make a 46-yard field goal as time expired again, sending the unbeaten Longhorns into the national championship game with a 13-12 victory.

A year later, Nebraska was back. This time, it jumped to a 17-0 second-quarter lead against longtime rival Oklahoma, surrendered the lead before halftime, got the lead back on a 42-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in the half, and then got shut out in the second half. Oklahoma hung on for a 23-20 victory in Nebraska's final Big 12 game, preventing the Huskers from reaching a BCS bowl.

So when this week began, Compton and the upperclassmen didn't need any reminders about championship games past.

``It's very motivating for our team and the whole state of Nebraska, they haven't had a conference championship since 1999, and we're really excited to go out and play for our third one in four years,'' quarterback Taylor Martinez said. ``Hopefully, we can bring this one home.''

It's been such a strange year in the Big Ten that Nebraska isn't even facing a ranked opponent in Indy.

The league's best team, No. 4 Ohio State (12-0), can't play because it is ineligible for the postseason under NCAA sanctions. Resurgent Penn State couldn't play, either, because of the same reason. The only other ranked teams in the league, No. 21 Michigan and No. 22 Northwestern, are in the same division as Nebraska, putting the stumbling Badgers (7-5, 4-4) in the title game.

Wisconsin comes into the game after back-to-back losses to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions, three losses in overtime this season and two by a field goal, including a 30-27 defeat Sept. 29 at Nebraska.

But the Badgers do have Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011 and the new career touchdown leader in the Bowl Subdivision, and a long history of performing well with titles at stake. Wisconsin has been to the last two Rose Bowls and is trying to become the first Big Ten team to make three straight trips to Pasadena, Calif., in more than two decades. Michigan last achieved the feat following the 1987-89 seasons.

And a year ago, Wisconsin passed its initiation into these title games by holding off Michigan State in Indy.

``The thing I remember about that game was the environment was something that every player dreams of. It was great. The lights, the cameras, the energy on our sideline, and we hope it's very similar this weekend,'' Ball said. ``You play on a pro field, so that's very special and it felt like a bowl game. It was just very fun to be a part of.''

Wisconsin made it back to Indy despite losing quarterback Joel Stave with a broken collarbone for the final month of the season and going with little-used Curt Phillips at quarterback. Phillips has been sacked nine times in the last three games, and Badgers linebacker Chris Borland has been bothered by a leg injury.

``They are different situations and I think we have different teams, too,'' Borland said comparing this year's trip to Indy against last year. ``There's no lull in excitement, though. We do come into this year with five losses and that's different, but we're not that far off from being undefeated, so I think we'll come into this game with a lot of excitement and try to win our third straight championship.''

Nebraska, meanwhile, would settle for just one elusive December win.

It should have running back Rex Burkhead, who returned from a sprained left knee last week against Iowa, , and the Cornhuskers have won six straight.

Will it be enough to win a title? The upperclassmen can only hope so.

``It's good to be back in a conference championship game again,'' Burkhead said. ``The first two times we were in it, it was kind of a bum deal. Being part of Coach Bo (Pelini's) first recruiting class, we had it as one of our goals to win a conference championship, and we have a chance to do that.''

No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 75-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed.

Virginia entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.

But the Cavaliers couldn't get anything generated on offense and the nation's top-ranked defense couldn't contain American East Conference champions.

The 74 points were the most Virginia had allowed this year.

Lyles was the catalyst.

He diced up Virginia's defense in the second half, getting the hole easily on six different occasions and making easy layups. He also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as UMBC built a 16-point lead.

Lyles finished with 23 of his points in the second half and Joe Sherburne finished with 14 points.

The game was tied at halftime, but the Retrievers came out confident and motivated in the second half and built a double-digit lead that Virginia could never erase.

Sherburne scored on an and-one drive and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a behind-the-back pass from KJ Maura. After Virginia made a foul shot, the shifty 5-foot-8, 140-pound Maura drove the lane for uncontested layup.

A Tony Bennett timeout couldn't stop the bleeding, as Lyles hit two more 3's and Sherburne hit one to extend UMBC's lead to 14 with 14:57 left in the game. Lyles was fouled on a 3-point shot and suddenly the Retrievers led by 16.

A corner 3-pointer and a layups off a fastbreak by Arkel Lamer gave UMBC its biggest lead at 67-48. From there, the party was on as chants of "UMBC" rang through the arena.

It was yet another early exit for the Cavaliers in a season that seemed to hold so much promise.


UMBC: Despite being undersized and unknown, they shocked the world and made history with an epic game.

Virginia: This isn't the first time Virginia has struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.


UMBC: Will face No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday in the second round.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).