Injury-plagued Maryland set to test No. 10 Clemson


Injury-plagued Maryland set to test No. 10 Clemson

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) An unfathomable rash of injuries has turned a once-promising season into a disaster for Maryland.

With a linebacker at quarterback and their leading tackler out for the year, the Terrapins are limping to the finish line with little chance of winning another game.

Maryland (4-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is a 31 1/2-point underdog Saturday on the road against No. 10 Clemson (8-1, 5-1). The Terrapins then host eighth-ranked Florida State before traveling to North Carolina.

It looks hopeless, but Maryland intends to make the best of the situation.

``We're not going to fold the rest of the season up,'' defensive end A. J. Francis said Tuesday. ``We're not going to down to Death Valley and tell them, `You guys can have this game.'''

The rash of injuries includes three quarterbacks with torn ACLs - C.J. Brown, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. Hartsfield also has the same injury, leaving one to wonder what the Terrapins can do to prevent such a devastating mishap.

Coach Randy Edsall waved it off as coincidence, insisting that the knee injuries have drawn extra attention because three of the victims are quarterbacks.

``I hear all of this stuff about strength and conditioning and turf, all of these things,'' Edsall said. ``It's unfortunate that these injuries happen, but that happens in the game of football. There is nothing that you can do to strengthen the ACL. Some years you are just a bit luckier than others.''

According to Maryland officials, three members of the football team in 2011 had torn ACLs. There were four ACL tears in 2010, two in 2009 and five apiece in 2008 and 2007.

None of that is going to make the Terrapins feel any better about their current plight. Not too long ago, Maryland was 4-2 and needing only a couple more wins to become bowl eligible. But Hills tore his ACL and backup Devin Burns broke his foot in a 20-18 loss to North Carolina State on Oct. 20, and Rowe was hurt in a loss to Boston College one week later.

Now the offense is being led by true freshman Shawn Petty, a converted linebacker who struggled last week in a 33-13 loss at home against Georgia Tech.

The defense, which yielded 370 yards rushing last week, faces a potent Clemson team without Hartsfield, a senior whose skills and leadership are sure to be missed.

``I feel terrible for Demetrius,'' Francis said. ``We came in here together on signing day and we've been working together since George Bush was president. And now to see his last year end like that, it's tough. I love him like a brother. It's sad the way things ended up, but I know he wants us to move on. He knows the train can't get derailed by one passenger.''

Or five.

``What gets you through all of this is the fact that you have a philosophy and you build the team concept and guys understand that there is going to be adversity that strikes during the season,'' Edsall said. ``We probably didn't expect this much adversity to strike. But again, it's all in terms of how you approach adversity. And we have the mindset here that we can only control what we can control.''

L.A. Goree, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, will take over for Hartsfield at middle linebacker.

``It's a collision sport and people get injured,'' Francis said. ``Some injuries hurt your team more than others, but we've just got to get back up. We've got the next-man-up mentality. L.A. is up, Shawn Petty is still up, and we're getting ready to go play.''

Tackle Justin Gilbert, who missed parts of two seasons with injuries, said, ``The biggest thing is, it's football and it happens. You hate to see it, me especially because I know what they're going through. You just have to keep pushing, adjust, adapt and keep playing.''

Although 19 freshmen have been pressed into action this season, Edsall believes it will not impact the future of the team.

``We have the opportunity to play some guys, maybe a little earlier than we would have liked to, but it helps because it gives them experience,'' he said. ``I do not think it is going to affect our program negatively in any way. It's just one of those things where we get knocked down but we have to keep going forward.''

Edsall has some sympathy from Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

``I've heard of having one or two (season-ending injuries), but the injuries they've had, as many as they've had, especially at the quarterback position and now this - with one of the best defensive players in the conference - I hate that for him,'' Morris said.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short.