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Banged-up Bridgewater leads Louisville to BCS

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Banged-up Bridgewater leads Louisville to BCS

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Teddy Bridgewater had a brace on his arm and a protective boot on his foot after the game. He said that while he was playing, the sore ankle hurt more than the broken wrist.

Louisville's star sophomore quarterback didn't know how much he would play against Rutgers and wasn't well enough to start. When it became apparent that the Cardinals couldn't beat Rutgers without him, he decided it was time to go.

Bridgewater came off the bench to throw two-second half touchdown passes, and John Wallace kicked a 29-yard field goal with 1:41 left to give Louisville a 20-17 victory against Rutgers on Thursday night in what was essentially the Big East championship game.

``That what you live for, you live for the big moments,'' Bridgewater said.

In a game between one team headed to the Big Ten and another bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East handed out its second-to-last BCS bid to a school that entered the league during its first massive rebuild in 2005 and watched its athletic program blossom.

The Cardinals will be going to the BCS for the second time. Either the Orange or Sugar Bowl will be the destination.

``We dropped two the last couple weeks. But for us to go on the road and win the championship, it's so special,'' said third-year coach Charlie Strong, who has quickly gotten Louisville back on track after the Cardinals hit a rough patch following their only other BCS bid in 2006.

``I'm just so happy for us to get a 10-win season, go win the conference title and get us to a BCS bowl.''

Louisville (10-2, 5-2) will share this Big East title with Rutgers (9-3, 5-2), Syracuse and possibly even Cincinnati, but those guys only get a banner. The Cardinals get the ticket to the big game. The BCS standings will be used to break the tie and there is no doubt Louisville, with the best overall record in the conference, will be on top.

Bridgewater didn't start a week after breaking his left wrist and spraining his right ankle in a loss to Connecticut.

``He's the toughest quarterback in the nation,'' Louisville linebacker Preston Brown said.

Strong went with senior Will Stein as the starter because Bridgewater could only take snaps from the shotgun. But it quickly became apparent Louisville could not win without its star quarterback.

``Once I saw that we weren't finishing drives, I was just ready,'' Bridgewater said. ``I had a good feeling deep down inside.''

He entered for the first time against in the second quarter and finished 20 for 28 for 263 yards and threw a pair of TD passes in the third quarter to wipe out a 14-3 deficit.

``He came up to me midway through the first quarter. I said to warm up,'' Strong said. ``I gave our medical staff a game ball because they were able to get him ready.''

Cardinals linebacker James Burgess picked off a pass that bounced off Timmy Wright's hands with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter in Rutgers territory, and Bridgewater hit Andrell Smith on a slant for 30 yards to put Louisville in field goal range. Wallace booted through the short kick to give Louisville a three-point lead.

``They have a tremendous playmaker at the quarterback position,'' first-year Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. ``We just weren't able to match him in the end.''

Rutgers' last chance ended when Gary Nova threw deep, but his receiver stopped short. Terrell Floyd made an over the shoulder interception with 1:06 left. Nova bent over and grabbed his helmet in disgust.

The Scarlet Knights, the only team that has played in the Big East since it started playing football in 1991, probably will have only one more shot to win the conference for the first time before moving to the Big Ten.

Louisville can add one of the biggest wins in school history to an already memorable week for the school, which was in Conference USA just eight years ago. On Wednesday, Louisville announced it was joining the ACC after at least one more season in the Big East.

There is some question whether Strong will be around that long. He denied on Wednesday a report that he had interviewed for the Auburn job, and it's been speculated that Arkansas and Tennessee are interested, too.

``(Strong) told us he's not going anywhere, don't listen to the rumors,'' receiver Damian Copeland said.

Rutgers was up 14-3 at the half after Nova hooked up with his big receivers for two long TD passes - an 85-yarder to Brandon Coleman and a 68-yard play by Mark Harrison. Nova finished 13 for 28 for 284 yards.

The Scarlet Knights were poised for another big play in the third quarter when a fake field goal turned into a touchdown pass from holder J.T. Tartacoff to DC Jefferson. It would have made the score 21-3, but an illegal man down field penalty wiped out the play and Rutgers punted from the Louisville 31.

Everything changed from there.

Bridgewater and the Cardinals put together a 90-yard drive that took 14 plays and nearly eight minutes and cut the lead to 14-10 when the quarterback flipped a pass to Jeremy Wright, who scooted 14 yards for a touchdown.

The Cardinals needed only 16 more seconds to take the lead.

Burgess stuck kick returner Jeremy Deering in the chest, forcing a fumble recovered by Calvin Pryor. Bridgewater went right to work, floating a perfect deep ball to DeVante Parker for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

Just like that, it was 17-14 and Scarlet Knights fans fell silent.

``It's kind of a 21-point swing in a very short amount of time, and we were never able to swing the momentum back, and that's my job,'' Flood said.

Bridgewater had the Cardinals on the move again in the fourth quarter when a high pass bounced off the hands of Eli Rogers and into the arms of Rutgers' Lorenzo Waters, who returned the interception to the Louisville 42.

The Scarlet Knights converted the turnover into Nick Borgese's tying 38-yard field goal with 7:48 left.

Fans waved white towels, and AC/DC blared from the loud speakers. But that was the last big play Rutgers could muster. The Scarlet Knights are likely headed to the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, still searching for their first BCS bid.

``I don't think it was ever ours,'' Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan said. ``You have to take championships, take it for four quarters, and they did. They took it when it mattered, at the end of the game.''

Louisville ended up tossing oranges in the air when it was over and exchanging high-fives with a small group of its fans in a corner of the stadium.

The Cardinals might end up in New Orleans instead of Miami, depending on how the rest of championship weekend plays out. Surely, they will be fine with either.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2016 NHL Draft: How much does a successful draft depend on the first round?

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Looking back at the Capitals’ 2016 NHL Draft: How much does a successful draft depend on the first round?

The NHL Draft takes place on June 21 and 22. The Capitals hold the 25th overall pick and will be looking for future stars among all the hopeful prospects.

But just how successful has Washington been in finding those stars? How much value have the Caps found through the draft?

NBC Sports Washington will be looking at how Washington has drafted over the last 10 years. Today’s draft: 2016

26th overall pick (first round): Traded

The St. Louis Blues elected to trade up in the draft sending Washington a first and giving back their third-round pick which the Blues acquired as part of the package for T.J. Oshie. St. Louis used the pick for forward Tage Thompson who ended up playing 41 games for the Blues in the 2017-18 season. St. Louis ultimately traded him away to the Buffalo Sabres as part of the package that got them the now Conn Smythe-winning Ryan O’Reilly.

28th overall pick (first round): Lucas Johansen D

This Caps moved only two spots back in the trade with St. Louis and selected Johansen, a talented but undersized defenseman. Johansen has spent the last two seasons in Hershey. He has added some size, but that no longer is the biggest concern with his play. Despite being a talented puck-mover, Johansen seems uncomfortable with the puck on his stick, almost jumpy. Getting a quick first pass off is an important skill to start breakouts, but it does not appear like he makes quick, smart decisions up the ice, he is just trying to get the puck off his stick quickly whenever it gets close which leads to some bad decisions. Some of this could be due to the upper-body injury that forced him to miss significant time this past season. Either way, he desperately needs to learn to be more comfortable with the puck.

If you take away the puck-moving skills, then you just have an undersized defenseman. He needs to get the puck skills back if he hopes to make it to the NHL.

57th overall pick (second round): Traded

Washington traded this pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in February 2016 as part of the package to get Brooks Laich’s contract off the books. The Leafs used the pick on forward Carl Grundstrom who Toronto sent to the Los Angeles Kings as part of the package to land defenseman Jake Muzzin.

Grundstrom ended up playing in 15 games with the Kings with five goals and an assist so he is definitely a player to watch heading into next season.

87th overall pick (third round): Garret Pilon F

This was the pick attached to the first-round pick St. Louis swapped with the Caps to move up. Washington used it to select Pilon, son of former NHLer Rich Pilon.

Pilon had a strong WHL career with Kamloops and Everett and was impressive in his first season in Hershey with 10 goals and 23 assists in 71 games. He has potential as a third-line NHLer, maybe second line but that would be a real reach. He has a great hockey IQ. You can see the plays he is trying to make on the ice, he just can’t always finish the job whether it is getting a cross-ice pass over to an open teammate after drawing the defense to himself or getting enough power behind a shot from a high-danger area. Another year in the AHL to hone his skills and he should have a real shot of making the jump to the NHL.

117th overall pick (fourth round): Damien Riat F

Riat has yet to make the jump from Europe to North America, but Swiss Hockey News reports that he will participate in development camp and training camp for the Caps this year.

145th overall pick (fifth round): Beck Malenstyn F

When the Caps packaged Laich with Connor Carrick and a second-round pick, they did not just receive cap relief. They also got Daniel Winnik and a fifth-round pick. Washington turned that pick into Malenstyn.

Malenstyn has a solid mix of skill and physical play that led Hershey Bears head coach Spencer Carbery to declare, “he’s our Tom Wilson.”

Now let’s temper expectations here. While Malenstyn may play a similar role for the Bears as Wilson does for the Caps, do not take that to mean Malenstyn is a top-six NHL forward. He’s not. He scored seven goals and nine assists in his first professional season, but the way he was able to have an impact on the ice is certainly impressive. There is some potential here for him to be an NHL fourth-liner.

147th overall pick (fifth round): Axel Jonsson-Fjallby F

Jonsson-Fjallby has NHL speed and is a similar type of player as Carl Hagelin. He is not going to light up the scoresheet, but his speed always makes him a threat and he can be a strong, bottom-six player and penalty killer at the NHL level.

I thought there was a legitimate chance he could compete for the Caps this year if Hagelin left. Hagelin, however, is back for another four years. That’s not to say it is time to move on from him, just that there was room for Jonsson-Fjallby to be a Hagelin replacement and now he can go back to Hershey and work on his game and adjusting to the North American style of play. That’s good news for Washington since Jonsson-Fjallby chose to go back to Sweden early last season and has only 16 games of North American experience.

177th overall pick (sixth round): Chase Priskie D

Priskie just wrapped up a fantastic college career at Quinnipiac where he won a national title, was a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and scored 17 goals and 22 assists in his senior season…as a defenseman.

Unfortunately for Washington, since Priskie just wrapped up his fourth season in college he is eligible to become a free agent in August if he does not sign with the Caps before then. Priskie informed management in April that he would not sign with the team and that he intended to become a free agent. Priskie is a right-shot, puck-moving, offensive defenseman who would be a high-end third pair defenseman, but could also develop into a second-pair guy. His decision not to sign with Washington is a definite blow to the Caps and the pipeline.

207th overall pick (seventh round): Dmitriy Zaitsev D

After two seasons in the WHL, the Capitals chose not to sign Zaitsev to an entry-level contract prior to the 2018-19 season thus forfeiting his rights. He elected to return to his native Russia and split time over the season in the KHL, MHL, and VHL.

Takeaways

First the good news. The Caps found a lot of value in this draft. Past the second or third round, you are basically drafting lottery tickets and hoping your number gets called. I am not quite sure what to make of Riat, but besides him, Pilon, Jonsson-Fjallby, and Priskie all have NHL potential. Malenstyn could as well but may be a reach. Sure, these would all be depth guys, but that’s a lot of NHL potential in one draft.

Now on to the bad news. First, the defenseman with the highest upside is probably not their first-round pick, but Priskie and the Caps know they are going to lose him as a free agent. That is his right as written into the CBA so you cannot fault him for taking advantage. Having said that, it really stinks for the Caps who snagged him in the sixth round of the draft just to see him walk after showing off his potential.

Second, the Caps may have found a lot of potential NHLers in this draft, but if they miss on Johansen, was this draft a bust for them? That is not to say Johansen is a bust or that he will never live up to expectations as a top-four defenseman. But if he does not learn to be more comfortable with the puck and learn the difference between quick thinking and panicked reaction, he is not going to make it to the NHL. At this point, it looks like he will need another year in Hershey and if he does not improve, then it is time to wonder whether he has a future at all.

How do you evaluate this draft if you find value in the later rounds—which is extremely hard to do—and miss on your first-round pick? It’s a tough question to answer.

 

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Premier League Roundup: Everton parting ways with captain Phil Jagielka

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Premier League Roundup: Everton parting ways with captain Phil Jagielka

Premier League teams are making grandiose plans for the upcoming 2019-20 season. For Everton, those plans are coming with a new captain as Phil Jagielka will leave the team after 12 years in Goodison.

Here's the latest news about the Premier League:

Player Notes

Burnley: Goalkeeper Tom Heaton rejected a contract extension from the club after a strong second half to the season. Coming off a dislocated shoulder injury a year ago, Heaton looks to be fielding options elsewhere. 

Chelsea: It was widely reported that defender Antonio Rudiger could miss the start of the 2019-20 season as he continues to recover from knee surgery. There were no complications with his procedure but that the club has no intention of rushing him back.

Everton: Two of the Toffees defenders, Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams, will leave the team after their contracts expire this summer. Jagielka has been the team's captain since 2013 and played in 386 games for Everton. 

Arsenal: Defender Hector Bellerin will miss the start of the 2019-20 campaign as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.

Arsenal: Goalkeeper David Ospina is signed on a permanent transfer after a successful year-long loan from Arsenal.

Source: Rotoworld

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