Nationals

Nelson, Minnesota cruise past Purdue 44-28

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Nelson, Minnesota cruise past Purdue 44-28

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Freshman Philip Nelson threw three touchdown passes in the first half of his second college start for Minnesota, and the Gophers breezed to their first Big Ten victory of the season by beating Purdue 44-28 on Saturday afternoon.

Nelson led Minnesota (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten) to touchdowns on four straight possessions while the Gophers averaged almost 10 yards per play. He completed 12 straight passes in one stretch and had all 246 of his yards in the first half on the way to a 34-7 lead, more points than Minnesota had in any game last year.

Purdue's Caleb TerBush was pulled for Robert Marve in the third quarter for Purdue (3-5, 0-4) after finishing 5 for 18 for 49 yards and an interception that Michael Carter returned 43 yards for a score.

Nelson connected with A.J. Barker for two scores and Derrick Engel for another. Engel and Rodrick Williams enjoyed their first career touchdowns. The defense wasn't outdone, either. TerBush was sacked three times, and Carter tied the program record with six pass breakups, including three on the same drive he ended with the pick six. Jordan Wettstein made three of his four field-goal attempts.

TerBush, almost four years older than Nelson, looked more like the guy making his second start. After a decent 2011 season, the fifth-year senior has struggled through much of this fall. The same team that lost by three points at now-fifth-ranked Notre Dame and in overtime last week at ninth-ranked Ohio State has been blown out by Michigan, Wisconsin and now Minnesota.

Marve went 11 for 19 for 97 yards and two touchdowns in relief, helping the Boilermakers creep closer with the outcome long decided.

Thanks in part to Drew Brees, the Boilermakers were 11-3 against the Gophers from 1996 until this game. But this winning margin was the biggest for the Gophers in the series since a 35-15 victory in 1989. Coach Danny Hope's job security slipped a little more, dropping his record at the school to 19-26. He's been to one bowl game, but the Boilermakers are going to have trouble repeating that.

Behind an injury-shuffled offensive line missing three of the original five starters, Nelson revived a group that had nine turnovers in the first three conference games. He finished 15 for 22 and ran nine times for 37 yards. Donnell Kirkwood rushed 22 times for 134 yards, and Barker gained 135 yards on five catches.

This was Minnesota's most-lopsided Big Ten win since a 63-26 decision over Indiana on Nov. 4, 2006.

Christian Eldred's 16-yard punt followed a three-and-out by the Gophers to start the game, and the Boilermakers jumped all over the friendly field position for an early 7-0 lead. Akeem Shavers gained 40 yards around left end to get them close, and TerBush's 1-yard toss to Brandon Cottom finished the drive.

That lopsided sequence of opening possessions was worth remembering simply for how sharply the game tilted toward Minnesota immediately after. Eldreddidn't kick again until midway through the third quarter.

After a so-so debut at Wisconsin last week, Nelson didn't just find a rhythm against a Purdue defense that gave up 401.3 yards per game before this, the second-highest average in the conference. He discovered all kinds of spaces to throw to down the field and plenty of time to do it.

Whether with a pump fake and a perfect in-stride pass to a receiver on a fly pattern up the sideline or a patient wait for his target to make a double move and get open in the secondary, Nelson sure made coach Jerry Kill's decision to pull the redshirt and give him the job look like a good one.

He hit Engel for 34 yards to tie the game. MarQueis Gray, the injury-affected senior Nelson replaced in the middle of the huddle, grabbed a 33-yard pass near the goal line to set up Williams for a short scoring run. Barker hauled in a 38-yard completion on the second play of the second quarter to stretch the lead further.

Then after Purdue stalled at the Minnesota 44 and punted, Nelson connected with Barker again, for 63 yards and a touchdown without a defender near him. The snowball effect was clear. The Boilermakers had that punt surrounded inside the 1-yard line, but Danny Anthrop accidentally stepped across the goal line while downing the ball to give the Gophers a touchback, yet another special teams mistake for Purdue in a season full of them.

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

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USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

WASHINGTON -- A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.

Soto hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game interleague series between neighboring rivals.

Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game's pivotal hit.

"I think we're all amazed every single day," Washington ace Max Scherzer said. "He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He's a great young player. He's just enjoying himself."

Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4) and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.

"He's got unbelievable poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. "No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan."

Whatever that plan is, it's effective.

"I just try to be focused and keep working," Soto said.

Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.

Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.

Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs -- both on solo homers -- and striking out nine.

Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he's adapted to playing in the big leagues.

"He has a great feel for the strike zone," Scherzer said. "To have that type of eye, it's remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level."

Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.

"Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good," said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.

Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.

Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

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