Redskins

Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl

201212311338491337697-p2.jpeg

Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl

DALLAS (AP) There are a couple of games Oklahoma State would like to have back.

Purdue certainly feels the same way, especially with the near-misses the Boilermakers had on the road against two of the nation's undefeated teams.

By losing its last two games by a combined 10 points, Oklahoma State became one of five Big 12 teams that finished 7-5 and slid down the league's bowl pecking order.

The Boilermakers (6-6), who had tight losses at top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 3 Ohio State, recovered from a five-game Big Ten losing streak midway through the season by winning their last three games just to get bowl eligible.

Oklahoma State and Purdue play in the inaugural Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday. It will be the third consecutive New Year's Day game played in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium since the namesake game that this season features Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma moved to Cowboys Stadium.

``I know they might not be as excited as we are,'' Purdue running back Akeem Shavers said. ``But just coming from where we came from and where our season's went, we're just blessed to be here.''

Last January, the Cowboys capped a Big 12 championship season with a 41-38 victory over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. Three years ago, they were playing in the first Cotton Bowl at that shiny new NFL stadium.

But after a dominating 59-21 home win against Texas Tech, the Cowboys lost in overtime at Oklahoma after the Sooners scored the tying touchdown with 4 seconds left in regulation. Oklahoma State finished the regular season with a 41-34 loss at Baylor.

``Being part of the team last year and doing so many great things, we're ready to go out and get this eighth win and finish on a good note,'' Cowboys senior defensive end Cooper Bassett said.

When the bowl pairings were announced the day after the loss at Baylor, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said his team went wherever the conference sent them but said he was surprised to be in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Now the focus is just on playing the game, in which the Big 12 Cowboys are more than two-touchdown favorites.

``I feel like our players, we are excited to be around each other for another month and playing a game,'' Gundy said. ``I mentioned this when those questions were asked several weeks ago; that I coached 11 years and never had an opportunity to play in a bowl game, and so I tried to stress the feelings and the opportunity for our players, and certainly our coaches. I feel like that they have handled it very well. I don't think there's any question when we start the season, we all have goals that we would like to reach.''

It's the first game between Purdue and Oklahoma State since 15 years ago in the Alamo Bowl, when the Boilermakers won 33-20 to cap then-coach Joe Tiller's first season.

This was their fourth season under Tiller's hand-picked successor, Danny Hope, who was fired at the end of the regular season with a 22-27 record.

Kent State coach Darrell Hazell was hired to replace Hope, but receivers coach Patrick Higgins is serving as interim coach through the bowl.

Purdue lost 20-17 at Notre Dame the second week of the season when the Irish, who play in next week's BCS national championship game against No. 2 Alabama, kicked a field goal with 7 seconds left.

The five-game losing streak included a 29-22 loss at Ohio State, which scored the tying TD with 3 seconds remaining in regulation. The Boilermakers trailed 34-7 at halftime the next week at Minnesota and lost at Penn State before their consecutive wins over Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

``We had our backs against the wall, and we've kind of crawled out, and now this is an opportunity for us,'' quarterback Robert Marve said.

Higgins said the players realized after the Penn State loss that every game was like a championship game if they wanted to reach their goal of playing in a bowl. They won at Iowa for the first time in more than 20 years and won consecutive Big Ten road games, another rarity, before the rivalry win over Indiana.

``A lot of people counted us out when we were 3-6, and I think every game we won we weren't supposed to win,'' Marve said. ``So we're trying to keep the trend going in the bowl game.''

Quick Links

Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

guice-michel-jones.png
USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 18, 24 days before NFL free agency starts.

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

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.

Quick Links

2018 NBA All-Star Game: TV and live stream info, rosters, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

2018 NBA All-Star Game: TV and live stream info, rosters, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is here with the annual showcase set for Los Angeles.

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

2018 NBA ALL-STAR GAME

Where: Staples Center
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)

ROSTERS

TEAM LEBRON:

Coach: Dwane Casey, Raptors
LeBron James, Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, Warriors
Kyrie Irving, Celtics
Anthony Davis, Pelicans
LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Bradley Beal, Wizards
Goran Dragic, Heat
Andre Drummond, Pistons
Paul George, Thunder
Victor Oladipo, Pacers
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Kemba Walker, Hornets

TEAM STEPHEN:

Coach: Mike D'Antoni, Rockets
Stephen Curry, Warriors
James Harden, Rockets
Joel Embiid, 76ers
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves
Draymond Green, Warriors
Klay Thompson, Warriors
Al Horford, Celtics
Damian Lillard, Blazers
Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

Three things to watch...

New format

The NBA switched it up this season by doing away with the traditional matchup between the East and West. The teams were instead chosen by captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the two top vote-getters in All-Star fan voting. The idea was to breath new life into the All-Star Game and hopefully make it more competitive. The league also installed a system where the winners each get $100,000, $75,000 more than the losing team. 

All pro sports leagues struggle drawing interest with their All-Star showcases. They are always trying to get ratings up and this is the latest ploy by the NBA. The new format is definitely intriguing, but whether it will have a major impact on the competition itself is hard to tell. We'll see how the fans respond.

RELATED: JOHN WALL GIVES UPDATE ON HIS REHAB

Reunion time

The teams picked by James and Curry will give fans some throwback combinations with former teammates back together again. Team LeBron is full of them. James will reunite with Kyrie Irving, who essentially forced his way out of Cleveland over the summer after the two combined to reach three straight NBA Finals and win one title.

We will also see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook play together again. They of course teamed up to win a lot of games with the Oklahoma City Thunder before Durant signed with the Warriors. Westbrook will also be reunited with Victor Oladipo, who was traded from OKC to the Pacers over the summer.

RELATED: WIZARDS/BULLETS HISTORY ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Beal's All-Star debut

Wizards fans will of course be focused on Bradley Beal, who is making his first All-Star appearance. He is Washington's lone representative, as John Wall is still recovering from left knee surgery.

Beal may not get many minutes on a stacked roster of guys who have been in the game before. If that happens, it's probably for the best. Beal is currently fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. He needs the rest if he can get it.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS