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Ohio whips ULM 45-14 at Independence Bowl

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Ohio whips ULM 45-14 at Independence Bowl

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) Things were going so well for Ohio that quarterback Tyler Tettleton was cracking jokes in the huddle by the end of the game.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Bobcats, who did nearly everything right in a dominant 45-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Friday in the Independence Bowl.

And it was also a satisfying ending to a roller coaster season for Ohio, which started the season on a seven-game winning streak and briefly jumped into the AP Top 25 rankings before a rash of injuries and inconsistent play caused the Bobcats to lose four of their last five regular-season games.

But thanks to Tettleton, Beau Blankenship and Chase Cochran, Ohio (9-4) was able to finish what it started on Friday.

``It was a fun season and we were enjoying ourselves, and then some things happened and we just weren't playing at a level that we felt we should be and we all pressed,'' Solich said. ``The players pressed and the coaches pressed, so I'm glad we were able to get back to enjoying the game and having some fun with it.''

Tettleton's early heroics staked the Bobcats (9-4) to an early 14-0 lead and Louisiana-Monroe was never able to gain its footing. During the two early touchdown drives, Tettleton completed all five of his passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

He finished 14 of 22 passing for 331 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Ohio broke several Independence Bowl records, including the 31-point margin of victory and 556 total yards. The Bobcats have won two straight bowl games.

``We knew we were going up against a great front seven, so our game plan was to take some shots down field and let our playmakers make plays,'' Tettleton said.

They certainly did. Cochran caught three passes for 162 yards, while Tyler Futrell had five receptions for 133 yards. With Tettleton softening the Louisiana-Monroe defense early, running back Beau Blankenship provided the power offense to seal the game, rushing for 104 yards and an Independence Bowl record four touchdowns.

Tettleton was especially sharp in the first half, completing 9 of 14 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns as Ohio built a 24-7 lead.

Louisiana-Monroe (8-5) struggled in its first bowl game after 19 seasons in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Kolton Browning completed 21 of 39 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw three first-half interceptions.

Tettleton's 2012 season had been a slight disappointment considering the huge numbers he put up the year before as a sophomore, but his performance against Louisiana-Monroe was a reminder of how good he can be. He averaged more than 23 yards per completion.

Blankenship finished with a school record 1,604 yards rushing yards this season and topped the 100-yard mark for the 10th time. All four of his touchdown runs came from 2 yards out or less.

``It was probably as complete of a ballgame as we've played in some time,'' Solich said. ``I think our guys played with great intensity and a great deal of heart. We showed we can play a great game against a really good team like Louisiana-Monroe.''

Louisiana-Monroe came into Friday's game with the better story and basically a home-field advantage. The Warhawks were playing in their first bowl game after joining college football's highest level in 1994 and secured a bid in Shreveport, which is about 100 miles from their campus.

But that emotional lift didn't help ULM's defense, which was torched by Tettleton's deep ball accuracy early and Blankenship's hard running late.

Louisiana-Monroe briefly showed some life early in the second quarter when Browning's 14-yard touchdown pass to Tavarese Maye cut Ohio's margin to 14-7.

But Ohio came right back, using Matt Weller's 38-yard field goal and Blankenship's 2-yard touchdown run to push ahead 24-7 with 4:50 left in the second quarter. Blankenship's touchdown run was set up by Browning's third interception of the first half.

Louisiana-Monroe had a chance to cut into the deficit just before halftime, but coach Todd Berry's gamble to go for a touchdown instead of a short field goal backfired when Browning's final pass of the half sailed harmlessly out the back of the end zone.

Berry's gamble wasn't a surprise - the Warhawks had gained a reputation for unorthodox play-calling during their record-setting season. But nothing seemed to work against the Bobcats, and the large ULM fan contingent had mostly disappeared from the stands by the end of the third quarter.

It was a disappointing ending for the Warhawks, who started the season with a stunning overtime victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., and still finished with the best season in school history since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

``This will get us back to work,'' Berry said. ``I would have liked it to have been a little cleaner. But I also recognize the opportunities for this football team next year. This will add fuel to the fire. We will have a great offseason because of what happened today and that's what we're going to use. This group will rally.''

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

It wasn't supposed to happen.

The Capitals celebrated too hard after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. The Tampa Bay Lightning had been here before. Tampa Bay's roster was deeper. Their goalie was hotter. They had home ice advantage. They had easily won their first two series. Nicklas Backstrom was still injured. Washington wouldn't be able to stop the Lightning's power play.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

For all of those reasons, many did not even give the Caps a chance. Washington overcame every obstacle in their way and was, for the most part, the better team through seven games defeating Tampa Bay to win the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals showed in their second-round win over the Penguins that these weren't the "same old Caps." They continued to prove that in the conference final when they stunned the Lightning to win Game 1 and Game 2 both on the road.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

When Washington lost the next three, many thought that meant the real Lightning had awoken, but it was the Caps who rose to the occasion in Game 6 and Game 7 where they face elimination as they completely dominated Tampa Bay by a combined score of 7-0.

The Caps now advance to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights have lost only three games this entire postseason and will hope to carry that momentum with them into Game 1.

If there is one thing this Washington team has proven, however, it's that you should never count them out.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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