Redskins

Badgers' Bielema: No shame backing into title game

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Badgers' Bielema: No shame backing into title game

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema understands a lot of people believe his Badgers don't deserve to be playing in the Big Ten championship game.

Asked if he's insulted by the sentiment, he says he's not.

``I appreciate the question and understand it totally,'' he said Sunday. ``I think there are 10 teams out there in the Big Ten that would love to be in the position Nebraska and we're in right now. When the two teams take the field on Saturday, neither is going to care how the other team got there or what their record is.''

With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible because of NCAA sanctions, the Badgers will represent the Leaders Division against Legends champion Nebraska this Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The winner goes to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA or Stanford.

The Badgers (7-5, 4-4), the two-time defending Big Ten champions, finished third in their division behind Ohio State and Penn State after losing three of their last four games in overtime.

The 14th-ranked Cornhuskers (10-2, 7-1) have won six straight since a 25-point loss at Ohio State on Oct. 6. They won their division outright when Michigan lost to the Buckeyes and will be playing for their first conference championship since winning the Big 12 in 1999.

Nebraska opened Big Ten play on Sept. 29 with a 30-27 win over the Badgers, coming back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit.

Pelini told Bielema after that game that he thought they might meet again in Indianapolis.

``Here we are,'' Pelini said.

Wisconsin won last year's inaugural Big Ten championship game 42-39 over Michigan State. The Badgers are looking for their 14th Big Ten title and a third straight league title for the first time in school history.

Nebraska has won 43 conference titles and is looking for its first Big Ten championship in its second year in the league.

The Badgers were 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the league after beating Minnesota in mid-October. An overtime loss to Michigan State, a win over Indiana and OT losses to Ohio State and Penn State ended the regular season.

Bielema said he's received supportive correspondence from people around the Big Ten since the Badgers clinched a spot in the title game.

``We've been on the short stick of some close, hard-fought games,'' he said. ``The optimist in me looks at it and says, `Hey, we were in these games.' We lost to Ohio State and Penn State, who are ineligible to play in the game. One play here or there, we could we win them. We didn't. I get it... It's not going to diminish what we've accomplished.''

Pelini said he doesn't buy that some of the luster is off the Big Ten championship game because unbeaten Ohio State, which finished first in the Leaders, won't be there.

``I don't really care what people say about that,'' he said. ``Wisconsin is there because they deserve to be there. (Ohio State's) not there for a reason. That's not taking anything away from Urban Meyer or the kids who played at Ohio State and played their tails off, but there's a reason they're not there.''

Wisconsin is in the same position it was in a year ago, playing an opponent in the championship game that had beaten the Badgers in the regular season. Last year Michigan State handed the Badgers their first loss of the season, 37-31.

Montee Ball scored four touchdowns, the last coming on a 7-yard run with 3:45 left, and the Badgers used a running into the kicker penalty to kill the clock to win the championship game. Russell Wilson, who threw for three touchdowns, was the game's MVP.

Wilson has gone to the NFL, leaving the Badgers to play three quarterbacks this season.

Joel Stave, who replaced Danny O'Brien, made his first road start against Nebraska and turned in a strong first-half performance before O'Brien replaced him late in the game. Curt Phillips has started the last three games.

The Badgers still have Ball, the 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist who went over 1,500 yards rushing and became the NCAA career touchdown leader in the loss to Penn State. Ball ran for 90 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries against Nebraska but was held to 31 yards on 15 runs in the second half.

``We lost a heartbreaker to Nebraska on the road,'' Bielema said. ``We played well in that game and did some things not so well. I know they're a better team than we saw. I know we're a better team, too. It's going to be fun for us.''

Nebraska is coming off a 13-7 win over Iowa, a game that marked the return of running back Rex Burkhead. The senior, who had been out with a left knee sprain, ran 16 times for 69 yards in his first action since Oct. 20 at Northwestern. In the fourth quarter alone, Burkhead carried the ball 10 times for 57 yards.

Burkhead had 86 yards in the first game against Wisconsin. The Huskers' playmaker that night was Taylor Martinez, who threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 107 and a score.

Pelini said what happened in the first meeting won't have any impact in the second.

``The challenges will be the same,'' he said.

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Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

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Associated Press

Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

The sudden resignation of Barry Trotz as the coach of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most stunning Washington coaching departure since Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins about 13 months after the team won its third Super Bowl in a 10-year span. 

In the years leading up to Gibbs’ departure, there were some rumblings that he might leave. As early as 1986, John Madden said that Gibbs was a candidate to burn out of the profession early. During the 1989 season, Gibbs said that he was contemplating retirement, but he retracted his words the next day. In 1990, columnist and TV pregame panelist Will McDonough reported that Gibbs would retire after the season. Retirement rumors popped up again in early 1992, just two days before Super Bowl XXVI. Again, Gibbs denied them. The Redskins easily beat the Bills to claim their third championship in 10 years and there was no apparent reason why such a successful coach would think about leaving. 

Redskins fans had become so used to hearing the Gibbs retirement reports that many just started to tune them out. So on the morning of March 5, 1993, when reports of Gibbs’ resignation as coach started to circulate, many were in a state of denial.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. The fans were given a hard jolt of reality when the team announced a noon press conference. 

There the coach was on TV, as promised, confirming the news. He said it was a family decision. 

“Every year, we get away and talk about it,” Gibbs said. “We always reach the same conclusion. This year, it was different. The boys didn’t encourage me one way or another, but they understood when I told them what I was thinking. I think Pat’s happier than anyone. This isn’t an easy lifestyle for a coach’s wife. The coach is the guy who stands up and hears everyone tell him how great he is. The wife is the one waiting at home alone while the coach is spending every night at the office. 

“I wanted more time with my family. I wanted more time with my sons. I look at this as a window of opportunity with them and I couldn’t let it pass.” 

Although he has been diagnosed with a condition that has caused some pain and some difficulty in sleeping, Gibbs said that health was not a factor in his decision. 

Richie Petitbon, the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach. It had to be one of the shortest job interviews ever. 

“I get a call from Mr. Cooke who tells me Joe has retired and that he wants me to coach the Redskins,” Petitbon said. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I said yes.” 

After hearing the news, most Redskins fans had to pick themselves up as well.  

Petitbon lasted only one season as the head coach and the other eight head coaches who followed, including Gibbs himself in a four-year second stint, have been unable to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the Caps’ head coaching job is widely expected to go to Todd Reirden, who was Trotz’s top assistant just as Pettitbon was Gibbs’. 

Washington fans hope that the Caps have better fortune with Trotz’s successors. 

More Redskins

- 53-man roster: Roster projection--Offense
- 53-man roster: Best players 25 or younger

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

 

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents, and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices, they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 


Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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