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Former Terp Stefon Diggs plays hero in Vikings' miracle playoff win

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Former Terp Stefon Diggs plays hero in Vikings' miracle playoff win

MINNEAPOLIS -- There wasn't much left for Case Keenum to do but to fling the ball deep and hope for a miracle.

Miracle answered.

Keenum completed a last-ditch heave near the sideline Sunday on the game's final play, and Stefon Diggs slithered away for a 61-yard touchdown to give Minnesota a 29-24 victory over New Orleans and send the Vikings to the NFC championship game, with one more win needed to become a first-time Super Bowl host.

Drew Brees had driven the Saints in position for Wil Lutz's go-ahead 43-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining, punctuating a steely rally from a 17-point deficit that stood until 1:16 was left in the third quarter.

The Vikings were out of timeouts and nearly out of options when Keenum dropped back with 10 seconds to go from his 39 and threw high into a crowd. Diggs jumped in front of Marcus Williams, who rolled awkwardly underneath Diggs during an ill-fated attempt at a tackle.

Diggs held his ground, kept his feet in bounds and raced untouched into the end zone as the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium erupted.

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"I'm just thankful," Diggs said. "They count us out all the time. Nobody thinking we can do it. This game was over. I don't stop playing till the clock hit zero. That's it."

This wasn't quite Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception for Pittsburgh in the 1972 playoffs, but these Vikings are on some kind of special path. They finished 13-3 during the regular season, giving the career backup Keenum the keys to the offense after Sam Bradford went down with a knee injury after the opener.

The Vikings will play at Philadelphia next weekend, after Jacksonville takes on New England for the AFC title. The Super Bowl is in Minnesota two weeks later.

"A heck of a game, wasn't it?" coach Mike Zimmer said. "And the good guys won."

Now the Vikings have spun an unprecedented scenario in NFL history. Next weekend, instead of the usual win-or-go-home stakes, they're in a win-and-go-home situation with the Super Bowl set for Feb. 4 under the reverberating translucent roof of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Though only defensive end Brian Robison remains from the 2009 team that lost in overtime of the NFC championship game at New Orleans, the Vikings exacted some revenge on Brees and the Saints, at least for their long-frustrated fans.

They put them through quite the emotional finish to complete it.

Brees connected with Michael Thomas for two of his three touchdown passes in a span of 3:09 of the second half. The first score came after a 12-play, 80-yard drive. The second was set up at the Minnesota 40 by an interception by Williams after an off-balance throw by Keenum, his one costly moment of either inexperience or recklessness.

When George Johnson blocked Ryan Quigley's punt, the Saints took over at the Vikings 40. Four plays later, rookie Alvin Kamara, whose breakout was a major factor in the team's NFC South title and breakthrough from three straight 7-9 finishes, caught a 14-yard pass from Brees for a 21-20 lead with 3:01 left.

Forbath's 53-yard field goal, his third make of the evening against his former team, gave the Vikings their lead back with 1:29 left. That was more than enough time for Brees, the sure-bet Hall of Famer with a Super Bowl ring and all kinds of records.

But after Brees got Lutz in position, there were just enough seconds remaining for Keenum -- the undrafted and undersized all-time leading passer in NCAA history at Houston whose first career playoff start ended in spectacular fashion. He finished with 318 yards, going 25 for 40, with Diggs catching 137 yards on six catches.

"This will take a while to get over," said Payton, who fell to 1-5 on the road in playoff games.

Brees saw his 13th career postseason game end in a crushing final moment, his 25-for-40 performance for 294 yards tainted a bit by two interceptions before halftime. One came on a leaping grab by safety Andrew Sendejo, the other off a tip by Everson Griffen that landed in Anthony Barr's arms at the Minnesota 10-yard line midway through the third quarter.

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4 ways to build an all-time Terps basketball lineup on a budget

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4 ways to build an all-time Terps basketball lineup on a budget

The offseason is time for fun activities that keep the competitive juices flowing.

In that spirit, our friends at Testudo Times have posed an interesting question about how to go about building a starting five of the best Maryland basketball players of all time, but on a budget.

With 25 players available, five for $5, five for $4, five for $3, five for $2 and five for $1 and a $15 budget, the task is to build the best starting five possible. It's a tall task, though one that can be completed in a number of different ways.

Before taking on the task yourself, some Terps alumni have some thoughts of their own.

There are a couple main themes here. First, this is an incredibly difficult task. Second, Len Bias is a must-include.

With that in mind there are a few ways to go about completing the lineup.

The best

Bias — $5
Juan Dixon — $5
Keith Booth — $1
Steve Francis — $3
Derrick Lewis — $1

This lineup can do just about anything. It can play fast or slow on offense and defense, it can shoot, rebound and play with toughness or finesse. Bias and Dixon are the superstars, Booth and Lewis are much better than their $1 label, and Francis can be the straw that stirs the drink.

The all-dunking lineup

Bias — $5
Steve Francis — $3
Dez Wells — $2
Bruno Fernando — $2
James Gist — $1

There's a mix of power dunkers and finesse dunkers on the squad with $2 left for an underrated dunker in Kevin Huerter.

The all-shooting lineup

Bias — $5
Dixon — $5
Huerter — $2
Lewis — $1
Fernando — $2

Everybody on this squad can score the rock. Huerter and Dixon are great 3-point shooters. Fernando is a near-60 percent shooter from the field. Bias is a staple on any and every team and Lewis was a good enough shooter during his junior and senior seasons to get the nod for the final spot.

The all-value lineup

Bias — $5
Booth — $1
Lewis — $1
Steve Blake — $5
Wilcox — $3

Bias is good value at any price and we've already talked about the value of Lewis and Booth. The lineup needs a point guard, and with a pair of $1 players, Blake makes the most sense, even as the most expensive option. Wilcox rounds out the team thanks to his versatility down low.

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Maryland gets great news as Anthony Cowan Jr. withdraws from NBA Draft to return for senior season

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Maryland gets great news as Anthony Cowan Jr. withdraws from NBA Draft to return for senior season

Anthony Cowan Jr. announced that he will return to Maryland basketball for his senior season after testing the NBA Draft waters.

Cowan, a local product out of St. John's College High School, has started every game at Maryland for the past three seasons. The point guard has led the Terps in scoring and assists the past two years, most recently helping the team to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. 

His return will be a huge boost to the Terrapins after big-man Bruno Fernando decided to forgo his eligibility for his final two seasons in College Park for the NBA Draft. Including Cowan, the team returns seven of its top eight scorers for the 2019-20 season and will be one of the more experienced squads in the nation.

With Cowan staying at Maryland, NBC Sports' Rob Dauster says that the Terps will be a potential top-five team entering the season.

His decision came hours before Wednesday's NBA draft withdrawal deadline. Earlier on the same day, he worked out for the Sacramento Kings, according to Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus.

While Cowan has shown an impressive ability to lead his team in his three years, he was not a projected pick for the 2019 NBA draft. It's another year for the senior to display his ability, and lead a talented team to national prominence after he only scored 20 points in two NCAA Tournament games last year. 

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