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No. 16 Nebraska will take wins any way they come

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No. 16 Nebraska will take wins any way they come

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Style points are the last thing Nebraska cares about right now.

If it takes second-half comebacks - or perhaps a fortuitous call on an opponent's end-zone fumble - to keep the 16th-ranked Cornhuskers on track for the Big Ten Legends Division title, they aren't sweating it. They embrace it.

Nebraska (8-2, 5-1) erased a 14-point halftime deficit to beat Penn State 32-23 Saturday, the Huskers' fourth come-from-behind win in six games.

``Say whatever you want about the Big Ten Conference,'' receiver Kenny Bell said, ``but to win the four games we just won in the fashion that we won them, with the mental toughness we displayed, I'm really proud of this football team. You talk Penn State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State. That's one heck of a gauntlet of a schedule to get those four, and to be sitting where we want right now is nice.''

A win at home this week against Minnesota (6-4, 2-4) and one at Iowa (4-6, 2-4) the day after Thanksgiving would let the Huskers make good on coach Bo Pelini's public challenge to win out after that blowout loss at Ohio State on Oct. 6.

Michigan has the same conference record as Nebraska, but the Huskers own the head-to-head tie-breaker and have the inside track to playing Leaders champ Wisconsin for the Big Ten title Dec. 1 in Indianapolis.

``We talked about what we needed to do to get to Indy, and that's four down,'' Pelini said. ``We've got two more to go. Just have to stay the course.''

Since North Carolina State pulled off the feat six times in 2000, only Nebraska and two other teams (2008 Arkansas, 2005 UCLA) have come back from four second-half deficits of 10 or more points to win, according to STATS LLC.

The breaks have seemed to go the Huskers' way the last three games.

In the 23-9 win over Michigan, their only Big Ten victory that didn't require a comeback, the Wolverines lost star quarterback Denard Robinson to an elbow injury after they had driven inside the 10-yard line late in the second quarter. Michigan trailed just 7-3 at the time. After Robinson went out, the Wolverines did next to nothing offensively.

In the 28-24 win at Michigan State, the Huskers in the last minute went from trying to set up for a tying field goal to being put in position to win in regulation. That's because Spartans cornerback Darqueze Dennard was flagged for a questionable pass interference with 17 seconds left. Even Bell, the receiver on the play, acknowledged he thought Dennard did nothing wrong. The Huskers scored the winning touchdown with six seconds left.

In Saturday's win over Penn State, officials ruled that Nittany Lions tight end Matt Lehman fumbled before he crossed the goal line in the middle of the fourth quarter. A video review didn't change the call, though that judgment was questioned by Fox officiating analyst Mike Pereira and others. Instead of the Lions getting a touchdown to retake the lead, Nebraska got a touchback.

``We got very fortunate on the one where they fumbled at the half-inch line,'' defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. ``When that happened, you know things are going your way.''

If anyone suggests the Huskers are lucky this year, Papuchis doesn't want to hear it.

He pointed to instances of the breaks going against the Huskers, particularly in 2009.

That was the year Virginia Tech set up the go-ahead touchdown in a one-point win with an 81-yard pass in the last minute, when Nebraska committed eight turnovers in a 9-7 loss to Iowa State and when Nebraska lost the Big 12 championship game 13-12 after officials put one second back on the clock to allow Texas to kick the winning field goal.

``I don't think we got a lot of luck before,'' Papuchis said. ``I didn't blame it on bad luck. So when we win, I'm not going to say it's luck.''

Whether it's luck, karma or something else, the Huskers don't believe they can be stopped now.

``The pedal is all the way down, whether it's the last four games we played or the next two,'' Bell said. ``The expectation is to win. We don't exhale or take a deep breath now because that leads to losses. We've got three more weeks and then we can take a take a break when we get that month off before we go to the Rose Bowl.''

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Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

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USA TODAY Sports

Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

A rough hit to the back of Brooks Orpik left him down on the ice and slow to get up. Cedric Paquette skated back to his bench and waited for the trainer to attend to Orpik and (probably) for the referees to call his number and send him to the box.

The penalty, however, never came.

You always hear in hockey that if you can see a player's numbers, you should pull up on the hit.

What that refers to is the numbers on the back of a player's jersey. You are not allowed to hit a player directly in the back into the boards.

The official definition of boarding according to the NHL rule book is, "any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously." Hitting a player "in the numbers" is a defenseless position.

Apparently Cedric Paquette didn't know that and, unfortunately for the Capitals, neither did the referees.

Someone explain to me how this is not a boarding penalty:

Sometimes referees are put in a tough position because a player turns his back right before they take the hit, thus putting themselves in a vulnerable position to draw a penalty. That was not the case here. Orpik never turned.

When Tom Wilson hit Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in the second period, the hockey world spent the next day debating whether it was an illegal hit. There is no debate here, no grey area. Just a clear board.

And no call.

You can understand referees wanting to put away the whistles for a Game 7, but you have to call the blatant dangerous plays like this. This was a bad miss by the referees, plain and simple.

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Wizards' third pre-draft workout to feature local stars including GW's Yuta Watanabe

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards' third pre-draft workout to feature local stars including GW's Yuta Watanabe

The Wizards will hold their third pre-draft workout on Thursday at Capital One Arena, this time featuring four local standouts out of the six players attending. Highlighting that group is Yuta Watanabe of George Washington, the Atlantic-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

Here is the full list with notes on each player...

Phillip Carr, F, Morgan State (6-9, 205)

Carr averaged 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds this past season at Morgan State in Maryland. He shot 84.6 percent from the free throw line, excellent for a big man.

Potential fit with Wizards: candidate for summer league or G-League team as undrafted free agent

James Daniel III, G, Tennessee (6-0, 172)

Originally from Hampton, Va., Daniel III played four years at Howard University in D.C. before transferring to Tennessee as a redshirt senior. He was the MEAC Player of the Year in his last healthy season at Howard. Daniel III averaged 5.6 points in 35 games for the Volunteers.

Potential fit with Wizards: candidate for summer league or G-League team as undrafted free agent

Marcus Derrickson, F, Georgetown (6-7, 250)

Derrickson hails from nearby Bowie, Md. He played three years with the Hoyas and averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and shot 46.5 percent from three this past season. 

Potential fit with Wizards: candidate for summer league or G-League team as undrafted free agent

Junior Etou, F, Tulsa (6-8, 235)

Originally from the Republic of Congo, Etou went to high school at Bishop O'Connell in Arlington, Va. He is Serge Ibaka's cousin and didn't start playing basketball until he was 15. Etou averaged 15.0 points and 7.9 rebounds this past season.

Potential fit with Wizards: candidate for summer league or G-League team as undrafted free agent

Junior Robinson, G, Mount St. Mary's (5-5, 150)

The Northeast Conference Player of the Year, Robinson averaged 22.0 points and 4.8 assists this past season. He was a four-year starter at Mount St. Mary's.

Potential fit with Wizards: candidate for summer league or G-League team as undrafted free agent

Yuta Watanabe, F, George Washington (6-9, 205)

One of the best basketball players to ever come from Japan, Watanabe was a defensive standout for the Colonials who developed into a solid scorer by his senior year. This past season, he averaged 16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He is known in Japan as 'The Chosen One' and both of his parents played basketball professionally. NBC Sports Washington first reported he would work out with the Wizards this week.

Potential fit with Wizards: candidate for summer league or G-League team as undrafted free agent; best chance for NBA is as defensive specialist

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