Redskins

Michigan State beats Minnesota 26-10 for bowl bid

201211241630594102523-p2.jpeg

Michigan State beats Minnesota 26-10 for bowl bid

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Le'Veon Bell rumbled for a career-high 266 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to put the game away, leading Michigan State to a 26-10 victory over Minnesota on Saturday to secure a spot in a bowl game.

Bell carried 35 times on a cold afternoon and Dan Conroy made four of his five field-goal attempts, three of them from 43 yards or longer, to help the Spartans (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) wear down the Gophers (6-6, 2-6).

Minnesota played the second half without coach Jerry Kill on the sideline. The team didn't immediately give a reason.

Aaron Hill's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown gave Minnesota a lead it kept for more than 18 minutes in the first half, but Jordan Wettstein's season-long 48-yard field goal was the only offensive score for the Gophers, who had a season-low 96 total yards -- and just 4 yards rushing. Philip Nelson threw three interceptions, two by Johnny Adams, and was replaced in the fourth quarter by Max Shortell, who was picked off too.

Despite the single-digit margin that lasted until 7:25 was left, when Bell patiently waited for an opening around left end and jogged across the goal line, this was downright domination for the Spartans considering how close all their games were this season. They lost five times in conference play by a total of 13 points, and their other two Big Ten wins were by seven points combined.

Adams moved into 10th on Michigan State's all-time list with 11 interceptions. The first one set up Conroy's first field goal, but the Spartans advanced only 3 yards after it. The second one led to a punt.

For all the work the defense did to keep the Gophers competitive, there were two costly lapses. In the second quarter, Andrew Maxwell went 5 for 7 for 74 yards to lead an 82-yard touchdown drive capped by a 40-yard catch and run for the score by Bennie Fowler off a tipped pass. Fowler finished with seven receptions and 101 yards.

Then there was the clinching march, when Bell ran eight straight times to close from 8 yards out and stretch the lead to 16 points. Bell was the conference's second-leading rusher behind Wisconsin's Montee Bell entering the week, and is ninth in the nation. The junior became the seventh rusher in Spartans history to pass the 3,000-yard mark for his career.

Maxwell was intercepted twice in the first half, including one by Brock Vereen in the end zone. Hill's slick grab in the flat was the third pick returned for a touchdown against Maxwell this season. He has 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. He went 13 for 29 for 143 yards.

Nelson finished 10 for 23 for 61 yards.

Minnesota's trouble moving the ball was predictable. The Gophers, except for their 34-point first half that fueled a 44-28 win over Purdue on Oct. 28, haven't scored more than 17 points in a game since a mid-September win over Western Michigan. The Gophers finally have their offensive line close to full strength after a slew of injuries, but wide receiver Marcus Jones and tight end Drew Goodger were both out this game with maladies of their own. And, of course, their best wide receiver, A.J. Barker, is gone after angrily quitting the team earlier this week in a dispute with Kill.

Then there's that Spartans defense, as stingy as ever despite this disappointing follow-up to those consecutive 11-win seasons. Seventh in the nation and tops in the Big Ten in yards allowed per game, this group hasn't been to blame for the slip.

The Gophers had won their final home game in each of their first three seasons at TCF Bank Stadium and were 11-4 on senior day over the previous 15 years.

Quick Links

Redskins OC Matt Cavanaugh takes you inside Vernon Davis' touchdown against the Panthers

Redskins OC Matt Cavanaugh takes you inside Vernon Davis' touchdown against the Panthers

With NFL RedZone, All-22 footage and GamePass, it’s literally never been easier to access information about your favorite teams and players. Still, nothing can quite beat the actual players and coaches, especially those who drew up those plays in the first place.

Redskins offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was happy to share some insight on the touchdown pass Alex Smith threw to Vernon Davis to kick off the scoring against the Panthers in Week 6. 

The Redskins took over possession after a Carolina turnover, and the offense was ready to strike quickly. Smith found Davis wide open in the end zone and connected with his longtime tight end to give the ‘Skins an early 7-0 lead.

Interestingly, as Cavanaugh points out, the play was designed to clear out space for the team’s top tight end, Jordan Reed. Instead, the Panthers safety rolled towards Reed, who is generally seen as the more likely receiving threat. You can see in the video of the play that Smith does look towards Reed first, and then noticed the rolling safety leaving Davis wide open down the seam.

Cavanaugh also emphasizes how vital it is for the offense to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

“When we’re not on the field and the defense creates a turnover and all of a sudden we’re back out there, we gotta be ready to score, particularly when we get the ball in that great field position. It’s huge, it obviously set the tone for the rest of the game for us.”

A one play, 22-yard drive certainly does show off an offensive unit ready to score quickly and without the benefit of a long possession to get into rhythm.

Hopefully Cavanaugh doesn’t give away too many of his X’s and O’s secrets, but it’s always fascinating to experience a behind-the-scenes look at important plays. It’s even more fun when those plays are of Redskins touchdowns, and it’s the most fun when those plays are of Redskins touchdowns that come in Redskins victories.

Quick Links

Five observations from the Wizards' loss to the Toronto Raptors, including Bradley Beal's historic shot

wizards-raptors-five-observs-usat.jpg
USA Today

Five observations from the Wizards' loss to the Toronto Raptors, including Bradley Beal's historic shot

The Washington Wizards lost 117-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night. Here are five observations from the game.

Rough start 

Those bad losses that defined the Wizards' fateful 2017-18 season, the ones against undermanned teams on what look going in like schedule losses; yeah, those are still a thing.

Through two games this season, the Wizards have suffered two of them. They fell to the Heat, who were down a host of rotation players and were playing on a back-to-back, in their opener. And on Saturday, they lost to the Raptors, who where missing Kawhi Leonard and Delon Wright and who had just played the Celtics the night before.

The Wizards may be without Dwight Howard, but it's hard to excuse those types of defeats. They are the ones that teams kick themselves for later in the season when playoff seeding is determined. They are the ones that keep teams from winning 50 games and reaching their full potential. Unfortunately, this all sounds too familiar.

The good news is that it's extremely early. The bad news is that the Wizards now head out on the road to play away games at the Blazers, who finished third in the West last year, and then the Warriors, who are gunning for their third straight championship. If they are to bounce back soon, it will have to be against one of the best teams in basketball.

Beal made history

Bradley Beal accomplished something on Saturday that was a long time coming. He entered the season just seven threes away from the Wizards/Bullets franchise record, and in the fourth quarter, he got there.

With his fifth three of the game, Beal knocked down his 869th career triple. That bests Gilbert Arenas, who hit 868 in a Wizards uniform. 

Beal, who is only 25, is only getting started. He's probably going to double that number, it's just a matter if all of them will come with the Wizards because he's got a long career ahead of him.

Speaking of threes, the Wizards took 39 of them. That tied a new franchise mark for three-point attempts in a game. They weren't joking about committing more to the long-ball this season.

Howard still out

The Wizards were without Howard once again due to his piriformis muscle strain, which has now been a storyline for going on a month. On Saturday, he got a lengthy workout in before the game, but didn't seem all that close to playing, despite the fact the Wizards insist he is a gametime decision.

Head coach Scott Brooks was asked before the game if Howard would definitely play on the upcoming five-game road trip and he stopped short of saying he would. That could be pure gamesmanship. He may be just keeping his opponents guessing. 

But if he does, say, miss Monday's game against the Blazers, it will become harder to believe that he's as close as the team keeps saying he is.

Howard's absence was felt once again on the glass. Much like in their first game, the Wizards were absolutely worked on the boards, this time to the tune of 52-to-37.

Howard will help their rebounding cause a lot when he comes back, but clearly the rest of the team has some issues there, at least early this season.

Brooks, by the way, was ejected in the third quarter. After Beal got a technical, Brooks charged towards halfcourt and got T'd up twice. It's not often we see Brooks get that hot.

Porter was more selfish early

There has been so much talk about Otto Porter Jr. needing to shoot more often that it's clear Brooks, John Wall and Porter himself are tired of being asked about it. Brooks has been resigned in recent days to some blunt honesty about it mostly being Porter's problem, that he needs to be more selfish in looking for his own shot.

The message apparently got across because Porter was much more assertive early against the Raptors. After shooting only seven field goals in the season opener on Thursday, he had seven by the end of the first half. And after not attempting a single three against the Heat, Porter had three shots from long range in the first four minutes.

The problem is that Porter then disappeared. He only had two shots in the second half and one was on a final heave at the buzzer. Porter had 11 points and one rebound. Not great.

Raptors are going to be a problem 

We knew the Raptors would be good and potentially even better this season with Leonard in the place of DeMar DeRozan. As good as DeRozan is, and he's very good, Leonard is even better.

What many may be sleeping on is the potential of the rest of their roster. Danny Green was a nice pickup in the Leonard trade and they have a host of young guys who continue to get better. O.G. Anunoby is a rare athlete who already makes a big impact on defense and has an improving feel for the game on offense. 

Fred Van Vleet, now with a new contract, can change games with his quickness and smarts. Already a force on defense, Pascal Siakam is starting to develop some clever offensive moves. 

Siakam had one play in the fourth quarter that was particularly surprising. He got the ball in the slot, drove to his left and threw down a two-handed, and-1 posterdunk.

The Raptors may be deeper than they were last year because they have so many young players on the rise and they were one of the deepest teams in basketball in 2017-18.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: