Redskins

No. 18 Nebraska shows knack for the big comeback

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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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10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No rookie draft pick excited the Redskins fan base like Derrius Guice since Robert Griffin III came to Washington back in 2012. That's a fact. 

Guice slipped during the draft to near the end of the second round, a position much too late for a player with his talent. Rumors emerged that he had character issues, but in the months since April's selection, they seem unfounded. In quick time, Guice has emerged as a Redskins fan favorite and has performed plenty of charitable acts.

So, moving past the erroneous off-field questions, it's time to manage expectations for what Guice can do on the field. 

DJ Swearinger recently said he expects Guice to make the Pro Bowl and rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a rookie. (Listen here)

That's not unheard of, last year rookie Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rush yards. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott did the same thing. Rookie running backs can step in and produce right away in the NFL, unlike some positions that usually bring more of a learning curve. 

Can Guice do that?

The first and most important questions will be health and durability. Guice dealt with lingering knee injuries last year at LSU, and the Redskins will need him fully healthy. A 1,000-yard season is not unrealistic if Guice plays a full 16-game season. It would require rushing for about 65 yards-per-game. 

The bigger key is opportunities. 

How many carries will Guice log in 2018? Early on in the season, Guice might still be learning pass protection in the Redskins scheme, and Jay Gruden will not tolerate missed assignments that result in big hits on QB Alex Smith.

If Guice can lock in on blitz pickup, 200 carries seems reasonable. Remember that Chris Thompson will still be a featured part of the Redskins offense, and Rob Kelley will get chances too. 

Last season, Samaje Perine led all rushers with 175 carries. He didn't do much with the chances, averaging just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Kelley had 62 carries before injuries shut his season down after parts of seven games. 

Combine Perine and Kelley's carries, and then things start to get interesting. With 230 carries, at an average of 4 yards a pop, Guice starts to approach 1,000 yards.

One problem with extrapolating too much data from last season is the crazy amount of variables. Late in the year, with Perine largely ineffective and a very beat up offensive line, the Redskins simply couldn't produce on the ground. In their last five games of 2017, the Redskins never rushed for more than 100 yards. They averaged just 60 yards-per-game on the ground during that stretch, including a season low 31 rush yards against Arizona in December. 

The line can't be that beat up again, right?

Guice has to be able to deliver more than Perine, right?

If the answers to those questions are yes, then a 1,000-yard season seems possible for Guice in 2018. 

One misnomer from the Redskins 2017 campaign emerged that Washington simply did not run the ball well or enough. In fact, early in the year when the Redskins looked like a possible playoff team, they ran the ball quite well. In three of the first four games, Washington went over 100 yards on the ground, including 229 rush yards in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Guice might get to 1,000 yards in 2018. It's no sure thing, and there are plenty of variables, but it's possible. That hasn't happened in Washington since Alfred Morris, and would be a very welcome sight. 

The rookie runner has invigorated the Redskins faithful, and that's before he even steps on the field. If Guice can produce, the fans will go crazy.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 21, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

How the addition of Alexander affects the Redskins' DB depth chart—Adonis Alexander was brought into the NFL about a week and a half ago and in five days he’ll be on the practice field in Richmond. How much will missing OTAs and minicamp hurt him in comparison to, say, his former Hokie teammate Greg Stroman? I think that the plan is for this to be a “redshirt” year for Alexander to learn. But that was supposed to be the plan for Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chase Roullier last year and both ended up playing key snaps. 

Can the Redskins defensive line live up to its potential? Many NFL fans don’t appreciate the value of having a good defensive line. Redskins fans are not in that group because they have seen what you get when you try to build a defensive line with over-the-hill veteran free agents, low draft picks, and undrafted players. Fans will value the talent, youth, and depth on the 2018 D-line.  

10 Questions in 10 days: LB depth chart—This is another area where the Redskins have not invested much in recent seasons. At least this year they stepped up and re-signed starters Mason Foster and Zach Brown. They are the present. Are Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons the future? 

The pass rush must continue to be a strength for the Redskins—With the picture at the cornerback position is somewhat murky right now, the pass rush will be critical, especially in the early going. The outside linebackers lost a key reserve, putting the burden on Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan to continue to get pressure on Ryan Anderson to take a leap forward in his second season. 

Tweet of the week

Well, this tweet did sort of stir things up as did some of the things that Cousins said in an article by Dan Pompei on the Bleacher Report. The thing about Twitter is that there is no room for nuance. I was labeled a Kirk “hater” by some. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. On multiple occasions, I urged the team to sign him long term and highlighted the positive aspects of his play. 

But this thing about not having a “platform” to lead always struck me as a cop-out. Cousins talked about it during some press conferences while he was here. The length of your contract should not prevent you from embracing a leadership role. You’re getting paid to lead, just do it. Few in leadership positions in business or in the military know where they will be a year from now. They embrace the role while they have it and Cousins should have done the same. 

The fact that I don’t like this one aspect of Cousins doesn’t mean that I don’t like him overall. He’s a good quarterback and I think he will have success with the Vikings. I think that the price got to be too much for the Redskins and the decision to move on to Alex Smith was sound or at least the best they could do after it became apparent that he was not going to sign here. But it’s not all one or the other. It is possible to see the positive and negative of Cousins. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Timeline

Mike Sellers, whose seven receiving touchdowns in 2005 were the most by a Redskins running back since the merger, was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 5
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 19
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 42

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 50 days. 

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