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Northern Illinois falls to FSU, 31-10 in Orange

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Northern Illinois falls to FSU, 31-10 in Orange

MIAMI (AP) Northern Illinois started the night as a BCS-buster.

The Huskies went home a BCS bust.

A dismal first half put Northern Illinois in a hole, and two second-half turnovers proved costly as No. 13 Florida State topped the 16th-ranked Huskies 31-10 in the Orange Bowl on Tuesday night - hardly the ending that the Mid-American Conference champions were seeking in their first trip to the Bowl Championship Series.

``They are a well-coached, well-oiled machine,'' said Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey, who was making his debut as the Huskies' sideline boss after taking over when former coach Dave Doeren left last month for North Carolina State. ``And they beat us, no doubt. That doesn't change the fact I don't like to lose.''

The final numbers were far from pretty for the Huskies (12-2), whose 12-game winning streak was snapped after they were outgained 534-259. They converted five of their 18 third-down opportunities and were on the wrong end of a 23-17 disparity in first downs.

And standout quarterback Jordan Lynch, who finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting, struggled for long stretches. His streak of 11 consecutive 100-yard rushing games ended, after he managed only 44 yards on 23 carries. He completed 15 of 41 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown - one that got the Huskies within 17-10 early in the third quarter.

It was the last Huskie hurrah.

``We had a great season this year,'' Lynch said. ``None of this was even possible. No one was even thinking about this, a MAC school making a BCS bowl. I still want to say that we made our school proud and we made the MAC conference proud.''

After a successfully executed onside kick, Lynch had Northern Illinois headed toward the end zone on the ensuing possession. But Lynch tried forcing a pass down the right sideline and was intercepted by Terrence Brooks inside the Seminoles' 20 to thwart that drive. And after Da'Ron Brown fumbled the ball away early in the fourth, Lonnie Pryor had his second long touchdown run of the game to all but seal the win for Florida State (12-2).

EJ Manuel completed 26 of 38 passes for 291 yards in his farewell for Florida State, which won 12 games for the first time since the Seminoles' unbeaten 1999 season. Pryor ran for 130 yards on only four carries - with touchdown runs of 60 and 37 yards, both of which were longer than any carry Northern Illinois yielded all season.

The Huskies ran 73 plays, and Lynch either threw a pass or carried the ball on 64 of them. But after coming into the Orange Bowl with an average of just over 367 yards of total offense per game, Lynch just kept getting hit - and hit - by a defensive front that enjoyed a massive size advantage over the MAC champions, who lost for just the second time in 23 games.

``We thought we could make some plays on them,'' Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. ``And we were able to get some of the things done that we planned.''

So let the second-guessing begin over whether or not Northern Illinois belonged in the BCS. On the night they were announced as being Orange Bowl-bound last month, and upon hearing the reaction of some commentators who called their qualification for one of college football's big-money games as a joke, several Huskies reacted by tossing oranges at the television.

Those they-didn't-belong opinions won't change much now.

The outcome became academic with 4:47 left, when on fourth-and-13 Lynch dropped back and tried to run away from a Florida State blitz. He didn't have a chance, as linebacker Nick Moody ran him down for ease and recorded a sack.

By then, the Seminole sideline was already celebrating. Lynch simply got up and trotted to the Northern Illinois side, where several players stood in silence, some with hands on their hips, as the stadium continued emptying out and even the most ardent fans who endured a 30-hour bus trip from Illinois to watch the game watched in disbelief.

On a cold night in DeKalb, Ill. - 9 degrees at kickoff - the Huskies faced a cold reality in Miami.

``They out-executed us at certain times in the game,'' defensive end Sean Progar said. ``I think that was the biggest thing.''

Northern Illinois had some moments. Lynch completed a 55-yard pass to Akeem Daniels on the drive that he capped with an 11-yard toss to Martel Moore with 9:55 left in the third, a score that got the Huskies within seven.

And a 35-yard run by Desroy Maxwell in the first quarter set up a field goal.

Thing is, highlights like that were too few and far between for the Huskies.

Lynch eclipsed the 3,000-yard passing mark for the season in the second quarter, making him the first player in NCAA history to throw for that many yards and rush for at least 1,500 more in the same campaign.

It was about the only highlight for Lynch in the opening 30 minutes.

``Frustrating at times,'' Lynch acknowledged.

The Huskies ran 30 plays in the first half, and Lynch had the ball for 28 of them - 15 passes, 12 rushes, one kneel-down to end the half, and extremely little success. Lynch was 4 for 15 passing for 52 yards, and had 24 rushing yards on 12 carries when the game went to the intermission.

The second half was better. Just not good enough.

``We had a chance,'' Carey said.

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When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

A world without sports was impossible to imagine just a few weeks ago.   

Even under the worst circumstances, sports brings us together, provides hope during times of adversity, heals the broken and offers a glimpse of better times to come. That isn’t available now to help us distance ourselves from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

The NBA, NHL, and MLS seasons are suspended. MLB’s season is delayed. College spring sports are cancelled. This is the new reality of social distancing and quarantine.  

In these trying times, the NFL has provided some sense of normalcy because its offseason could go on despite some necessary adjustments. Free agency went off without a hitch and the NFL Draft is expected to do the same later this month. But what happens after that? Will the season begin on time? 

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is taking the cautious approach.  

“I think it’s hard, if not impossible, to make concrete projections on what things might look like three, four, five, six months from now,” Smith said.  

Where we are today could not have been predicted months ago, leaving uncertainty in its wake. Yes, sports fans are desperate for football. But this scenario is just bigger than the business of the game. So, we pause. 

“The country is in desperate need of good leadership right now to make sure that we halt the spread of the virus, that we try to make sure that we are doing everything to make the peak of this outbreak happen as quickly as possible,” Smith said.  

Teams are not allowed to meet with players currently. And while the league has yet to cancel off-season training activities, Covid-19 is disrupting day-to-day business. Virtual contact is expected soon, but when players and coaches meet for the first time in person may not come until training camp in July.  Even that is in question. The 2020 Summer Olympics were scheduled for the same time in Tokyo and they were postponed weeks ago.  

While we don’t know when football will return, we do know it will.  But will it be different?  It’s been suggested games could be played without fans. Smith says contingency plans are coming together, but games without fans seems unlikely.  If the virus hasn’t been contained, don’t expect players to come out first and play alone.  

“I certainly am a fan, like everybody else out there,” Smith said. “Whether it was being a fan of basketball, baseball, or being a fan of hockey – all of that got cancelled because it was in the public’s best interest.” 

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A team could test all of its players and be in the clear, but what about when they go home to their families?  Or resume normal activities outside of football?  It’s too much of a risk.    

“Football certainly has a strong and meaningful place in American culture, whether it’s played in high school, college, or played on the professional level,” Smith said. “But first and foremost, we have to make decisions that are in best interest of the public and best interest of the players.” 

The NFL and the NFLPA have gathered the best doctors they can to monitor the safety of their players and organization staffs.  The biggest determining factor on when football, and all sports, return is what you do at home to help slow the spread.  

Do your part, stay home and don’t expect football to return before it returns with you, the fan, who hopefully will be cheering from the stands, from your homes. Soon enough it will be safe to return. And when that happens, the players will be ready, too.  

“I know that there is going to be a group of people that are going to love to play football on the field,” Smith said.  

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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John Carlson is enjoying family time but gets glimpse of what his wife 'had to deal with' at home

John Carlson is enjoying family time but gets glimpse of what his wife 'had to deal with' at home

This time of year is typically one of the busiest times for a hockey player, especially for a team like the Washington Capitals. Had the season not been put on pause by the coronavirus, this would have been the first week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That means a lot of travel, a lot of practice, a lot of games and not much time for family.

While stuck at home, John Carlson is taking full advantage of the extra time to just be a dad.

“Yeah, it’s interesting and great," Carlson said on a video conference Wednesday. "I think just being able to see what my wife’s had to deal with for the last couple months is pretty sobering, I would say. But, yeah, it’s fun to get to do a lot of things. Although we are quarantined to the house, it is fun to see them more. Hearing my name screamed around the house a lot more is fun."

Carlson and his wife are the parents of two boys: Lucca, who will turn 5 in June, and Rudy, who will turn 2 in May.

More family time is great, but it also comes with challenges. Those are difficult ages for kids to be stuck inside. Carlson noted he had to do his workout early in the morning or his kids would make it difficult.

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Findings ways to keep them occupied is a frequent struggle as well which is bad news for their Easter baskets.

"We've been doing our best trying to come up with as many activities as we can," Carlson said. "I think we're almost down to none of our Easter stuff that we got the kids just from pulling things out and trying to find some ways. It's been great to spend a lot of time with them, but it's a change."

As every parent knows, the days are long, but the years are also short. As exhausting and trying as it may be to try to parent with everyone stuck at home, Carlson knows this is time with his kids he would not have otherwise gotten.

While no one is happy about the coronavirus or how it has disrupted all of our lives, more time with the family is a blessing and is something Carlson is very thankful for.

"I think when we look back," Carlson said, "and hopefully this thing turns around and everything is going to be able to finish out like it was, it will definitely be a moment that I’ll remember, that I got to spend that much more time with them and see them kind of grow and turn into real human beings. It’s pretty special."

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