Nebraska's D now wearing Blackshirts with pride


Nebraska's D now wearing Blackshirts with pride

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) At long last, Nebraska's defense turned in a Blackshirt-worthy performance.

Hard-to-please coach Bo Pelini said he actually thought the Cornhuskers were good enough against Northwestern the week before to merit the awarding of the iconic black practice jerseys traditionally worn by the team's defensive starters.

The players wouldn't accept them because they thought they could play still better - and they certainly did Saturday night in a 23-9 win over Michigan, holding the Wolverines to no touchdowns and 188 total yards. The win gave the No. 21 Huskers (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) a share of first place in the Legends Division with Michigan, but Nebraska owns the tiebreaker.

Afterward, defensive end Eric Martin met with reporters while modeling the Blackshirt that was hanging in his stall when the team entered the locker room after the game.

``I'm going to go home and sleep in it,'' he said.

``Blackshirts'' has long been known throughout college football as the alternate name for Nebraska's defense. It started in 1964 under coach Bob Devaney, who wanted to make it easier to identify his defensive players during practices.

Devaney sent an assistant coach to a sporting goods store to buy practice jerseys for the defense. Unable to get enough jerseys of one color to outfit the entire squad, the decision was made to give black ones to the first-string players.

The starters wear the black tops at practice and under their jerseys during games.

Devaney, Tom Osborne, Frank Solich and Bill Callahan would hand out the treasured tops before the season. Pelini waits until he believes his defensive starters have proved themselves worthy on the game field. One year it took until November.

It looked as though the defense might not get any Blackshirts this year after allowing 653 yards to UCLA the second game of the season and 498 yards, 371 rushing, in a 63-38 loss at Ohio State on Oct. 6.

Pelini thought the time was right after the Huskers held Northwestern to 301 total yards, shut down Kain Colter and forced 10 three-and-outs in a 29-28 victory.

But senior linebacker Will Compton, speaking on behalf of the defense, told Pelini to hold off.

``It shows the character of our kids and the type of standards that they have,'' Pelini said. ``They didn't want them last week. They said they hadn't earned them and we'll revisit it after the Michigan game. I think they earned them.''

So does defensive end Cameron Meredith.

``Ohio State was a tragedy,'' he said, ``and we had to prove ourselves before we got them. We said after this game, if we prove ourselves, we could wear the Blackshirts. They aren't just given out.''

The Huskers kept Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson under control until he left the game with an injury to his right elbow late in the first half. Robinson finished with 46 yards on 10 carries and was 6 of 11 passing for 55 yards.

Backup quarterback Russell Bellomy wilted when the Huskers turned up the pressure on him. He was sacked twice and intercepted three times. Michigan managed only 58 yards in the second half.

Redshirt freshman David Santos made a team-leading 10 tackles in his first start, and fellow linebackers Alonzo Whaley and Sean Fisher added eight and seven, respectively.

Ciante Evans and Martin had sacks, and the Huskers made a total of nine tackles for losses.

Because of the meltdowns against UCLA and Ohio State, Nebraska's season defensive statistics are modest. But the last two games the Huskers have given up and average of 137.5 yards rushing, 244 total and have allowed the opponent to convert just 10 of 35 third downs.

``It's come a long way,'' defensive coordinator John Papuchis said of his unit's progress since the Ohio State game. ``By no means is today perfect. That's the fun aspect of this job - coming to work and trying to get better.''

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson


GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”


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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick


Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."