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La Tech, 9-3, not going to a bowl game

La Tech, 9-3, not going to a bowl game

Louisiana Tech, with a 9-3 record and the highest scoring team in the country, isn't going to a bowl game.

La Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde told The Associated Press that Independence Bowl organizers offered a spot in their game on Saturday afternoon, but the Bulldogs had other possible options still available to them. Van De Velde said he asked the Independence Bowl for more time to make a decision, but was told by game organizers that they couldn't wait.

``Nobody turned a bowl bid down,'' he said. ``We asked for more time to vet two other opportunities that we had that we felt good about.''

Van De Velde said he told the Independence Bowl organizers: ``Anybody you are going to get to replace us will be there on Sunday. Just give us time to evaluate these opportunities.''

The Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., had already invited Louisiana-Monroe from the Sun Belt Conference.

Independence Bowl chairman Jack Andres said organizers had to set a deadline for Louisiana Tech. They were concerned if they waited they would be stuck with a team that was barely bowl eligible and too far away from Shreveport to bring many fans to the game.

``We had to make some decisions to get somebody in there. We've got sponsors, hotels. There's a lot of money riding on this,'' he said.

``Before we made another deal we called them back. We said, `We're still willing to have you at the bowl, but need to know fairly quickly.' So we gave them a deadline and they didn't call us back until way later than that. If you don't call us back, that's a `No.' And we made another deal so we'd have a quality bowl team.''

The bowl ended up selecting Ohio University from the Mid-American Conference.

Louisiana Tech plays in the Western Athletic Conference, which is going away as a football conference next season and has only one bowl tie-in, with the Idaho Potato Bowl. The spot went to league champion Utah State.

La Tech is moving to Conference USA next season.

Van De Velde said he was working with C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky on possibly getting the Bulldogs into the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Liberty Bowl. When Oklahoma and Kansas State both won, it looked as if the Big 12 would have two teams in the BCS and that could create room in either of those games for La Tech.

But, Van De Velde said, when Northern Illinois slipped into the Bowl Championship Series, taking a possible BCS bid away from Oklahoma, it started a domino effect that filled those spots with Big 12 teams.

``I think we're just shocked Northern Illinois jumped that high,'' Van De Velde said. ``I'm happy for them, but I'm disappointed for us.''

The Big 12 had nine bowl-eligible nine teams.

Iowa State (6-6) landed in the Liberty Bowl to play C-USA champion Tulsa as an at-large pick. Oklahoma State (7-5) ended up filling Big 12's final spot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue.

``I think we're all disappointed,'' Van De Velde said. ``But when you're in a non-AQ conference and you're in the at-large pool, this is what can happen. Especially when bowls are electing to take teams that are 6-6 over teams that are 9-3.''

Louisiana Tech spent five weeks in the AP Top 25 this season, reaching as high as 19. The Bulldogs badly beat Virginia and Illinois, two teams from automatic qualifying conferences, on the road early in the season, and lost 59-57 to Texas A&M in Shreveport.

They finished on a two-game losing streak, falling to WAC champion Utah State and San Jose State, which accepted a bid to the Military Bowl in Washington against Bowling Green, by a combined 16 points.

Behind quarterback Colby Cameron and running back Kenneth Dixon, La Tech averaged 51 points and 578 yards per game.

``Under no circumstances did I ever think there was any possibility at all that we would not play in a bowl game,'' coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. ``It is a shame that our nationally recognized team and its 31 seniors have to end the season this way.''

And on top of being left out of the postseason, Louisiana Tech is facing the prospect of losing Dykes.

Van De Velde said the coach had interviewed with California and that Louisiana Tech was waiting to find out if Dykes would be staying with the Bulldogs.

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

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
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- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.