Michigan State's season of frustration

Michigan State's season of frustration

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio had never experienced four straight games that were decided in the closing seconds. And if he never again has to go through the frustrations of the past month, he won't miss it.

A 28-24 loss to Nebraska was the latest dagger for the Spartans (5-5, 2-4 Big Ten), who have dropped four league games by a total of 10 points.

Michigan State, heading into its off week, is 3-4 in games decided by four points or less this season.

``With a little this or a little that at the end, a different call or a different decision by a coach, maybe by me . . . `` Dantonio said Tuesday. ``If I go fourth-and-2 (vs. Nebraska), and we get that one or I go fourth-and-1 on Michigan, maybe we win. Maybe we don't. I don't know.''

There are no easy answers when a team is picked No. 13 in the preseason and seen as one of the favorites to return to the Big Ten championship game, then has to revise its goals before Election Day.

Still, Dantonio wouldn't say his team is struggling. He pointed to being a couple of plays away from title contention for the third straight year, instead of battling to be bowl-eligible a sixth straight time.

``To me, struggling is cashing it in,'' Dantonio said. ``You lose a close game, to me, that's not struggling. That's the game. That's people making plays. That's inches away. We're inches away from being 9-1, 8-2 - inches, seconds. We've rallied back every week and played and played hard. So I wouldn't say that we're struggling.''

The Spartans watched the video of another agonizing fourth quarter in a team meeting Monday morning, then put the Nebraska game away and began the business of making the most of whatever opportunities remain in Legends Division games against Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) and Minnesota (5-4, 1-4).

With six conferences games decided by a total of 17 points, less than a field goal per week, Michigan State knows it can play with anyone.

``Life's not fair. It's just not,'' Dantonio said of a string of injuries and tough officials calls. ``So why worry about it? Just keep on going, doing what you're doing, and things will even out. Eventually, things will even out. Things come in cycles. Things come in bunches.''

That included some penalties the kept that Cornhuskers close and eventually helped them to win. Big plays by quarterback Taylor Martinez, that last one with 6 seconds left, were the difference, as the Spartans held the league's top offense to minus-4 yards in the third quarter, then broke down for the fourth time this year.

Dantonio spoke with Big Ten Supervisor of Football Officials Bill Carollo about a couple of calls from Saturday's game but couldn't divulge what was said. He did say a church sermon Sunday reminded him of the values of suffering and the dangers of self-pity.

``All I can tell you is we come to play,'' Dantonio said. ``We compete. Our chemistry is very good. We have good young people. Because you lose doesn't make you a bad person. We're going to be ready to play, get back focused and focus on our next deal which is Northwestern. I also know that we need to get past this.''

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”


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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!