No. 16 Nebraska wants no late drama vs Minnesota

No. 16 Nebraska wants no late drama vs Minnesota

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska coach Bo Pelini joked this week about the priority listed at the top of his game plan for Minnesota.

``Not get behind by 14 at halftime, that's first,'' he said.

The No. 16 Cornhuskers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) have reached this point of the season in unconventional fashion. They've come back from double-digit, second-half deficits to win four games.

Because Nebraska has come out on the right side of the drama, the conference's Legends Division title is in sight.

The Huskers would assure themselves of playing Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game Dec. 1 in Indianapolis with a win Saturday over Minnesota (6-4, 2-4) and another next week at Iowa.

``They understand what's at stake,'' Pelini said. ``We've got two tough games ahead of us, and we just have to stay the course. I know this: we are going to get what we earn over the next two weeks.''

Nebraska and Michigan are tied for the division lead, but the Huskers own the tiebreaker because of their win in the head-to-head meeting. If the Huskers lose one of their next two, they would still go to Indy unless the Wolverines beat both Iowa and unbeaten Ohio State.

The Huskers are trying for their first conference title since 1999 and first bid for a BCS game since the 2001 season.

``We're all aware of that, but we have to stay locked in,'' linebacker Will Compton said. ``We can't take this next game lightly at all. We have to take care of us and take care of business. We're in the driver's seat, but we have to continue to stay in the driver's seat, and to do so we have to take care of business this next week.''

The Gophers, who became bowl-eligible with their road win over Illinois last week, are battling injuries on the offensive side.

Zach Mottla has a broken leg and Jon Christianson has a high ankle sprain, meaning converted guard Zac Epping will make his first start at center. Brothers Ed and Tommy Olson, who make up the left side of the line, have been banged up. Wide receiver A.J. Barker is questionable because of a lingering ankle problem.

Freshman Philip Nelson is 2-2 as the Gophers' third starting quarterback. He played in a venue as unfriendly to opposing quarterbacks as Memorial Stadium when he made his first career start at Wisconsin.

``It's going to be loud,'' Nelson said of Lincoln. ``We already know that. All we can do is prepare and really focus on being able to execute, especially with the crowd noise. We've got some noisemakers out there (in practice) for us so the best we can do is prepare for the noise. We've done it before, so we should be fine.''

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said Nelson's experience against Wisconsin, where Nelson's father played fullback in the late 1970s, should help against Nebraska.

``First game, at Madison. That's a pretty good opening game to get educated in,'' Kill said. ``So I look for him to be excited. Big thing is we need to make sure we put him in good situations as a coaching staff. Got to make sure we got the center quarterback exchange. That's the most important thing.''

Last year the Huskers rolled up a season-high 515 yards and broke out to a 34-0 lead on their way to a 41-14 victory in Minneapolis.

The Gophers are much improved defensively, allowing 336 yards and 22.3 points a game. Those numbers were 431 yards and 34.5 points through 10 games a year ago.

``They are a more physical football team, I think, than they were a year ago,'' Pelini said. ``That's what you expect. With more time under coach Kill and his staff, you see the improvement and you've got to give them a lot of credit.''

The Huskers also deserve credit after overcoming more double-digit, second-half deficits than any team in Nebraska history. Only two other teams in major-college football since 2000 have pulled off comebacks of such magnitude in a season.

Nebraska rallied from 17 points down to Wisconsin, 12 points to Northwestern and 10 points to Michigan State before overcoming a two-touchdown deficit to Penn State.

All the Huskers have gone through to get wins seems to have strengthened their resolve to get to the Big Ten title game.

``We need to go ahead and get it done,'' safety P.J. Smith said. ``It's that time. For the last four years we played around. Now it's time to get the job done. We have been taking it one game at a time. As long as we do that, and finish the game off the right way, we will be there.''

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Wizards at Spurs: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards at Spurs: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

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


Where: AT&T Center
Tip-off: 9:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Wizards are trending up

The Wizards have had some steep ups and downs in recent weeks. They lost three in a row from Feb. 28 through March 4 and that turned into five losses in seven games, their worst stretch since John Wall injured his left knee. But now, with two straight wins, the Wizards appear to be in good shape. They have won four of their last six games and all of those wins came against teams currently holding playoff spots.

The Wizards enter Wednesday night sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference. They have been off the past three days and during that break the Pacers won a game and pushed ahead into fourth. The Pacers play the Pelicans on Wednesday, while the third-place Cavs battle the Raptors and the sixth-place Sixers see the Grizzlies.


Tough place to play

The Wizards head to Texas hoping to win in San Antonio for the first time since 1999. Yes, you read that right: 1999. Like, back when Limp Bizkit was a thing. It has been 19 years and 17 straight losses at the Spurs for the Wizards.

Washington has had trouble with the Spurs in general in the past two decades, as have most teams. The Spurs have won 20 of their last 23 matchups overall and won 17 straight from 2006 through 2015. The Spurs under head coach Gregg Popovich have been among the most consistent winners in all of sports and the Wizards have had trouble cracking the code.


Spurs are still getting it done

The Spurs are currently sixth in the Western Conference despite having a slightly better record than the Wizards. They have gotten this far despite their best player Kawhi Leonard missing all but nine games this season. It is a remarkable feat and one that could very well win Popovich another Coach of the Year award.

In Leonard's absence, many have stepped up. LaMarcus Aldridge has put in an All-Star season with averages of 22.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Rudy Gay has enjoyed a nice bounceback season with 11.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. And Pau Gasol is still making an impact with 10.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Really, though, it's all about their defense. The Spurs boast the lowest opponents points per game average (99.0) and the third-best defensive rating (104.1).


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Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

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Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

The Redskins’ contract with wide receiver Paul Richardson is very team friendly in the first year but it increases over the years to the point where he needs to be a very productive receiver in order to justify staying on the roster.

The big picture of the deal is $40 million over five years. A total of $12.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing, which is comprised of a $10 million signing bonus, his $1.5 million 2018 salary, and $1 million of his $5 million 2019 salary.

More money will become guaranteed if Richardson is on the roster as of five days after the start of the league years in 2019 and 2020. The remaining $4 million of his 2019 salary and $3.5 million of his $6 million 2020 salary become guaranteed on those dates.


Richardson will get salaries of $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022. Each year of the contract he can earn $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($31,250 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster).

It all adds up to the following salary cap numbers:

2018: $4 million
2019: $7.5 million
2020: $8.5 million
2021: $10 million
2022: $10 million

The average annual value of the contract is $8 million, which is tied for 24th among NFL receivers.

The first window the Redskins have to terminate Richardson’s contract without taking a negative cap hit would be in 2020 as long as they do it prior to the fifth day of the league year when the partial salary guarantee kicks in. They would take a $6 million deal cap hit but they would save a net of $2.5 million.

The last two years, when the cap numbers are at their highest, the Redskins could easily move on, saving $6 million in cap space in 2021 and $8 million in 2022.


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