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Buckeyes go 12-0 but their season is done

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Buckeyes go 12-0 but their season is done

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) No one could have blamed at least a few of the 19 seniors on Ohio State's football team if they had bolted for somewhere else.

The NCAA decreed last December that the Buckeyes couldn't play in a bowl or even in their own conference championship game after the 2012 season. The NCAA also said players were free to transfer without the usual penalty of having to sit out a year.

But all of those seniors stayed, and they were rewarded Saturday with an improbable 12-0 season.

``The most selfless group I've ever been around,'' coach Urban Meyer said after Saturday's 26-21 victory over archrival Michigan.

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, now it's as if they're all dressed up with no place to go. While other, lesser teams prepare for postseason trips, they are on the outside looking in.

``It's all right,'' said safety Christian Bryant. ``We're 12-0. That's good enough for me.''

What bothers them the most is that no one will ever know what might have been.

``We've known for a while that we're not going to be able to prove at the end of the season how good we are,'' wide receiver/tight end Jake Stoneburner said. ``If we are the last (unbeaten) team, I certainly think we deserve to be in the top two if not No. 1. But that's not for us to decide.''

Their last victory was much like many of the others. In only a handful of games did Ohio State have the victory well in hand in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes ended up winning six games by seven or fewer points, including two in overtime.

``The biggest thing is we refused to lose,'' safety C.J. Barnett said. ``There's a bunch of times we were down, had to go to overtime and stuff like that. We found a way to win.''

A lot of teams might have buckled under all the pressure. The Buckeyes relied on a number of bit players to take starring roles.

``I haven't been doing this a whole long time but I can't remember a greater `team' season - somebody else (making a big play) every time. Some other guy,'' said co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, the interim head coach during the tumultuous 6-7 season in 2011. ``This team is unbelievable how they feed off each other.''

Meyer gave all the credit to the seniors. Some of them deflected it back to him.

``I want to make sure they're properly recognized as one of the great groups of seniors in the history of this program - however we're going to do that,'' the first-year Buckeyes coach said.

Then, tongue in cheek, he added, ``Maybe we'll get 19 bronze statues.''

Better make that 20.

``(Meyer) is the key ingredient that pushed us over the top,'' said one of the seniors, special teams player Zach Domicone. ``Just the way he pushed us every single day and made us love one another and really preach team over self.''

There is still a void left by not getting a reward for recording just the sixth unbeaten and untied season in Ohio State's 123 years of intercollegiate play.

``It's going to hit me when I'm not doing something next week, preparing for the next game,'' offensive tackle Reid Fragel said.

Ohio State's fans are angry that this year's team must pay for the infractions committed by former coach Jim Tressel. No member of the current team was ever linked to the tattoo scandal that led to the NCAA penalties.

The Buckeyes can't play in next week's Big Ten title game, even though they won the conference's Leaders Division outright. They won't go to a major bowl game, even though they're one of only two FBS unbeatens (No. 1 Notre Dame is the other). They won't be mentioned in the Bowl Championship Series title talk because of the NCAA penalties.

But they will be getting a Big Ten division championship trophy. And they'll receive rings for winning that title.

Plus they'll know that they did everything they possibly could.

``Hey, we're 12-0. That's all I can say,'' linebacker Etienne Sabino said. ``People can talk what they want. There's a lot of `what ifs' right now but we did what we had to do. We set out to win every single game this year, and that's what we did.

``It wasn't pretty but it happened. I'm happy.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

It all starts Monday!

The Vegas Golden Knights will host the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as both teams look to take early control of the series.

Can the Caps steal one on the road to start? Here are four keys to winning Game 1.

Win the first period

The Golden Knights have not played a game since May 20. While rest can benefit a team at this time of the year, there is such a thing as too much rest and over a week would certainly qualify. If there is absolutely any rust in Vegas’ game to start, the Caps need to take advantage.

T-Mobile Arena and the Vegas crowd have already built a reputation in year one. The atmosphere is going to be electric, but the Caps can combat that with a good start to the game and by scoring first.

Vegas is 10-1 when scoring first this postseason. If they are able to come in and get on the board right off the bat in the first period after seven full days between games, that does not bode well for the Caps’ chances.

Don’t allow Marc-Andre Fleury to pick up where he left off

Fleury is having a postseason for the ages, but it’s hard to believe momentum is simply going to carry over to a new series after such a lengthy break. Players are not simply going to pick up where they left off and play as if there’s no rust to shake off. The need to get to Fleury as early as possible.

What that means is getting traffic in front of the net, making him move, contesting rebounds, making him feel uncomfortable as much as possible and generating quality offensive chances.

The Caps can do is starting flinging pucks at the net and giving him easy saves. Getting 12 shots in the first period would be great, but not if they are all perimeter shots for easy saves that help bring Fleury's confidence back to where it was in the Western Conference Final.

Limit the turnovers

Turnovers are blood in the water for Vegas. The high-effort, high-speed style of play of the Golden Knights has caught several players off guard at points this postseason. No one can afford to be casual with the puck at any point in this game because Vegas has a knack for turning those turnovers into goals.

Winning Game 1 on the road will be hard enough without giving the Golden Knights at any help.

Shut down the top line

Only three players have reached double digits in points for the Golden Knights in the playoffs: Jonathan Marchessault (18), Reilly Smith (16) and William Karlsson (13). What do these three have in common? They all play on Vegas’ top line. To compare, the Caps have seven players in double digits.

Much has been made of Vegas’ offensive depth and their ability to roll four lines, but the play of Fleury in net has really masked how much this team relies on its top line for offense. The Caps need to get Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against them and focus on shutting them down. Force the Golden Knights to win with their other three lines and see if they can.

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MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

LAS VEGAS—One of the more intriguing storylines of this year’s Stanley Cup Final centers on a couple of men who make their living behind the scenes: Brian MacLellan of the Caps and his counterpart with the Golden Knights, George McPhee.

They’ve known each other for 40-plus years, dating back to their time as bantam teammates in Canada. And, starting Monday, they’ll be on opposing sides, with hockey’s Holy Grail at stake.  

Caps fans, of course, are familiar with McPhee’s work. He served as GM in Washington from 1997-2014 and drafted 13 players who are currently on the Caps’ roster. McPhee was also the Caps’ rookie GM the last time the franchise appeared in the Final 20 years ago.

But here’s what Caps fans might not know about the connection that MacLellan and McPhee share:

  • They were born in a few months apart in 1958 in Ontario.
  • They captured the Canadian Jr. A championship as members of the 1977-78 Guelph Platers.
  • Both were on scholarship at Bowling Green from 1978-1982.
  • They played together with the New York Rangers in 1985-86.
  • And, finally, they worked side-by-side in Washington from 2000-2014. After working his way up from the scouting ranks, MacLellan replaced his managerial mentor, who had been let go following a disappointing season.

 

“It's kind of a weird experience,” MacLellan said. “We kind of have been texting back and forth how strange it feels to have this line up the way it has. It's a little awkward, but it's going to be a fun experience, I hope.”

At one point, MacLellan got choked up when talking about his relationship with McPhee, who’ll become the first GM in the expansion era to face a former team of which he served as GM.

“We played junior together and then we both went to Bowling Green on scholarships, so we lived together,” he said, fighting back tears. “It was fun.”

MacLellan also acknowledged that the two weren’t as tight—for a time, at least—after he replaced McPhee four years ago. McPhee also hinted at some strain, though he said the two men had dinner at the most recent GM’s meetings.

“Not as close, I don't think,” MacLellan said of his relationship with McPhee following McPhee’s dismissal. “A little bit of communication here and there. But I think it just took a little time for things to evolve. I think he needed a break from the game, needed a break from how it went down for him here and it just took time.”

When the two negotiated during last year’s expansion draft, which saw McPhee pluck promising you blueliner Nate Schmidt from Washington’s roster, MacLellan said the two old friends keep things “businesslike.”

“He was all business,” MacLellan said. “He wasn’t giving in on anything.”

Although McPhee drafted most of the core players who delivered the Caps to this year’s Final, MacLellan also deserves credit for getting this team over the second round hump. Among his first acquisitions were defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, a pair of vets that helped shore up a shaky defense. MacLellan also added forwards T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller via trade in recent seasons and, this year, added defenseman Michal Kempny, a particularly shrewd move that bolstered a blue line that needed a little tightening.

As weird as the next few days will be for MacLellan as he faces his old friend, it figures to even more strange for McPhee, who will look down from the GM’s suite on Monday and see not one, but two teams that he built on the ice. McPhee also pilfered a handful of current and former front office employees from Caps, including Goalie Coach Dave Prior, while building the Golden Knights.

Indeed, the history between MacLellan and McPhee runs deep. But for the next couple of weeks, they’ll put aside their decades-old friendship as their clubs battle for the NHL’s ultimate prize.
 

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