No. 18 Nebraska shows knack for the big comeback


No. 18 Nebraska shows knack for the big comeback

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Nebraska is living a little too close to the edge for coach Bo Pelini's comfort.

Nothing wrong with that, as long as the Cornhuskers keep winning.

The 18th-ranked Huskers have overcome double-digit deficits in the second half in three of their four Big Ten wins - and they still have three conference games to play.

``I wish we could make it easier on us. I'm aging quick,'' the 44-year-old Pelini said after the latest comeback in Saturday's 28-24 win at Michigan State.

The Huskers are the only Football Bowl Subdivision team to have won three games this season after trailing by 10 or more points in the second half, according to STATS LLC.

They rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter against the Spartans, with Taylor Martinez giving the Huskers their first lead with six seconds left when he hit Jamal Turner with a 5-yard scoring pass.

Two weeks ago, Nebraska trailed by 12 in the middle of the fourth quarter before winning at Northwestern. The Huskers were down 17 at home to Wisconsin in the middle of the third quarter Sept. 29 before making the second-biggest comeback in program history.

``Something's up,'' linebacker Alonzo Whaley said. ``This season is definitely meant to be.''

Nebraska (7-2, 4-1) goes into this week's home game against Penn State (6-3, 4-1) tied with Michigan for first place in the Big Ten Legends Division. The Huskers own the tiebreaker over the Wolverines and can assure themselves of playing in the conference championship game if they win out against the Nittany Lions, Minnesota (home) and Iowa (away).

Nebraska's knack for the comeback is a relatively new concept for Big Red fans.

Only twice in the 12 seasons before Pelini took over in 2008 had the Huskers rallied for wins after being down double digits in the second half. They've done it six times under Pelini, starting with the Joe Ganz-led comeback against Clemson in the Gator Bowl after the 2008 season and the Zac Lee-led rally at Missouri in 2009.

Whatever Martinez's legacy ends up being - he's 24-10 as a starter with no bowl wins or championships - the third-year starter's second-half magic in 2012 won't soon be forgotten.

On the day he became Nebraska's career leader in total offense, Martinez bounced back from throwing three interceptions to beat the Spartans.

Michigan State could have put the dagger to the Huskers on Martinez's last pick. But a penalty wiped out Darqueze Dennard's 96-yard return for a touchdown. The Huskers' defense forced a three-and-out, and Martinez went to work.

Martinez, who finished with 205 yards rushing, broke loose for a 35-yard touchdown run with 7:02 left to make it a three-point game.

The winning drive started at the Huskers' 20 with 1:20 left. Martinez kept the series alive when he converted on fourth-and-10 with his 38-yard completion to Kyler Reed to the Spartans' 20.

Pelini said offensive coordinator Tim Beck had asked him through the headset whether he wanted to set up for a field goal that would send the game into overtime or to let Martinez keeping passing after having thrown those three interceptions.

``Obviously I trust Taylor a lot to be able to manage that situation,'' Pelini said. ``Tim Beck asked me, he said `What do you want to do? Do you want to play it safe?' I said, `Let's go win the football game.' ``

The Huskers caught a break on a questionable pass-interference call against Dennard, who was defending Kenny Bell along the sideline on third-and-10.

The penalty put Nebraska at the MSU 5. With the clock was running down, Turner scored his first career touchdown when he hauled in Martinez's perfectly placed pass in the corner of the end zone.

``We've been in that situation before a couple of times and we know that we can't be stopped,'' Martinez said.

Pelini couldn't say where the victory ranked, other than it's ``right up there.''

``I've been saying all along this is a special group; great leadership and tremendous character,'' he said. ``These kids want it bad. Like I said, we don't always play as smart as we need to play, but one thing you can't question about the guys in that locker room behind me is their heart.''

Heading into the final three regular-season games, that 25-point loss at Ohio State a month ago is far back in the Huskers' rear-view mirror.

``We think we're the best in the Big Ten. We're not going to be stopped,'' Turner said. ``We're going to keep going until we accomplish what we want to accomplish, and that's the Big Ten championship. It doesn't matter how much we're down by - 20, 30 points - we're going to keep fighting until we win the game.''

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Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

Somehow, the Redskins still have a fairly straightforward playoff path. Somehow

You're going to feel absurd for reading the following sentence, but probably not as absurd as it felt to type the following sentence.

The Redskins, who are on their fourth option at QB, who made the '18 Giants look like the '72 Dolphins and who are large underdogs this weekend to the 4-9 Jaguars, actually still have a straightforward path to the playoffs.

Now, the word "straightforward" only applies to the path on paper, because realistically, there's nothing straightforward about fixing the litany of issues that are plaguing Washington at the moment.

Regardless, by losing on Monday night to the Seahawks, the Vikings blew a chance to separate themselves from a pack of NFC teams chasing(?) them and their final wild card spot. The Redskins are one of those teams, and here's how they could pass Minnesota to qualify for the postseason:

With the way the season is unfolding, you'd expect the Burgundy and Gold's playoff scenario to involve a bunch of teams losing a bunch of times in these final three weeks. The tweet above illustrates that's clearly not the case. They only need Minnesota to drop one more to go along with the Redskins winning out.

Of course, the Redskins stringing three straight plays together without committing a holding penalty feels like too much to ask for, so anyone expecting a three-game winning streak is either a bit crazy or a relative of Josh Johnson. But still, they're not out of the hunt quite yet. Somehow.


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Ravens have formula for both playoff and quarterback success down final stretch

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Ravens have formula for both playoff and quarterback success down final stretch

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- After experiencing misery in each of the past two Decembers, the Baltimore Ravens are looking to rewrite the script in their quest to end a three-year playoff drought.

In 2016, a loss to Pittsburgh on Christmas night ended Baltimore's bid to reach the postseason. Last year, a defeat at home against Cincinnati on New Year's Eve sent the Ravens home.

Now, with three games left, the Ravens find themselves in a familiar position. Baltimore (7-6) has a shot to reach the playoffs as either AFC North champions or as a wild-card team, and there's really only one can't-miss way to make it happen.

"The way we look at it, we need to win three games in a row," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "We've been here before. Let's do it. But all we need to think about right now is Tampa Bay, our upcoming opponent."

There's a good chance the Ravens will have quarterback Joe Flacco available for the first time since Nov. 4 when they face the fading Buccaneers (5-8) at home on Sunday. Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP and veteran of 15 playoff games, appears ready to return from a right hip injury that sidelined him for four straight games.

Fortunately for the Ravens, rookie Lamar Jackson has done a credible job in his first stint as a starter. Subbing for the injured Flacco, the former Louisville star and first-round draft pick guided Baltimore through three straight wins before Sunday's 27-24 loss in Kansas City on Sunday.

Jackson hurt his ankle in overtime against the Chiefs, but the injury evidently was not serious.

"Should be fine. Looks like it's OK," Harbaugh said.

If both quarterbacks are ready to go, Harbaugh must decide who to start and how to play them. Perhaps he already has.

"I'll just have to let you know -- if we want. It could entail anything right now," the coach said. "I know what we want to do. I have a plan. We have a plan. We talked about it. We have to talk to the guys about it, and whether we share that publicly, we'll decide as the week goes on."

The plan likely involves using both quarterbacks, just as the Ravens did before Flacco's injury. The difference now is that Jackson has more experience, and the Ravens have played exceptionally well with him at the helm.

"I haven't had a chance to sit down and talk with all the parties involved, but I think it stands to reason that if Joe's ready to go, he'll be part of the game plan," Harbaugh said. "He's too good a player not to be. We'll just figure that out as we go this week, to what degree and how it works. Everybody will know going in, except perhaps everybody outside."

Baltimore currently sits a half-game behind Pittsburgh within the division, thanks to the Steelers' surprising loss in Oakland on Sunday. Harbaugh learned of the defeat shortly before the team charter touched down on its trip from Kansas City.

"I was happy. Very happy," he said.

The Ravens have Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Chargers (10-3) and Cleveland (5-7-1) left on the schedule. Pittsburgh (7-5-1) has New England (9-4), New Orleans (11-2) and Cincinnati (5-8).

Baltimore is also the sixth and final wild-card team in the AFC, so if the Steelers don't falter, the Ravens can still reach the postseason for the first time since 2014.

"It helps, sure," Harbaugh said of having multiple routes to the playoffs. "We just need to win games and let all that take care of itself."