Redskins

Spartans hoping for faster start against Iowa

Spartans hoping for faster start against Iowa

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) When Michigan State beat Iowa last season, the Spartans led 31-7 at halftime.

That kind of fast start has been nowhere to be found lately.

Michigan State hasn't led after two quarters in more than a month, but the Spartans will try to reverse that trend Saturday when they host the Hawkeyes in a crucial matchup in the Big Ten's Legends Division. Iowa is one of two teams in the division that hasn't dropped a conference game yet.

Michigan State rallied from an early deficit to beat Indiana last weekend, but it was a struggle. The Spartans trailed 17-0 after one quarter before winning 31-27.

``What is in the past is past. We'll try to change things up - all I can tell you is we'll try to change things up,'' Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. ``I thought our football team was ready to play. I think Indiana had something to do with that - snapped the ball every 12 seconds. We got gassed. When you get gassed, things are not going to happen and we became disoriented.''

That wasn't the only game in which Michigan State (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) looked out of sorts early. The Spartans trailed 14-3 at halftime in a loss to Notre Dame last month, and a week after that, they were losing 7-3 to Eastern Michigan after two quarters before coming back to win 23-7.

The season began in East Lansing with Rose Bowl aspirations, but it's hard to get a sense of where Michigan State stands in a jumbled league race that's still taking shape.

``Everywhere in America right now, every college football team feels a sense of urgency,'' Dantonio said. ``We've always felt a sense of urgency. If we were 6-0 or 5-1, there would still be a sense of urgency. If you look, somebody's gaining on you, and that's sort of the way it is. You know you need to stay ahead of everything.''

The Iowa game hasn't been all that close either of the last two seasons. In 2010, the Hawkeyes won 37-6, handing Michigan State its only loss of that regular season. Last year, Michigan State jumped way ahead early and won 37-21.

Iowa (3-2, 1-0) opened conference play with a 31-13 win over Minnesota two weekends ago. The Hawkeyes are coming off an open date and are tied with Michigan atop the division - but they also lost last month to Central Michigan, a team Michigan State throttled 41-7.

Spartans running back Le'Veon Bell has run for 776 yards on 171 attempts - he's just 11 carries shy of last season's total.

``He's a very big guy and a powerful guy, yet he's mentally talented,'' Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. ``If you break down at all and somebody misses a gap to break down that kind of thing, he can really hurt you, and he can run with some speed too.''

Iowa may have found its own impressive running back in Mark Weisman, whose 217-yard performance was overshadowed in the loss to Central Michigan. He ran for 156 yards in the first half alone against Minnesota, and he'll have some help on Saturday since the starter he replaced, Damon Bullock, is back after missing nearly three games with a head injury.

Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg has completed 58.5 percent of his passes.

The Spartans are expected to be without tight end Dion Sims because of a sprained ankle, and Michigan State's receivers have struggled at times.

``It's no secret that injuries happen. It's no secret that sometimes people lose their spots and people get shuffled around,'' quarterback Andrew Maxwell said. ``You never hope for these things to happen or plan on these things happening, but everybody has been a part of the season where these things have happened and you have to adjust.''

Michigan State freshman Aaron Burbridge caught eight passes for 134 yards against Indiana in an increased role.

``Just like they got outplayed in the first half, they flipped it around in the second half and did what they needed to do to be successful,'' Ferentz said. ``And the other scary element of the deal is they had a freshman receiver step up and do some good things. Got to be a good feeling for them, I think.''

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Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Here is what you need to know on Sunday, August 19, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

A year ago, there was tremendous concern about the Redskins’ rushing game. In their first two preseason games in 2017 when the games were the Redskins’ first-team offense against the other team’s starters on defense, Washington gained 13 yards on 13 carries. In the first halves of those games, which were played mostly with players on both sides who would end up making the roster the total was 21 attempts for 20 yards. 

At the time, the company line was to downplay the problems. 

“I’m just not worried,” said Trent Williams.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”

As we now know, the Redskins rushing game never really got going. Certainly, injuries to backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson and to the entire offensive line contributed heavily to their No. 27 ranking in rushing yards. But a look at the preseason could indicate that the building blocks for an effective rushing game just weren’t in place. 

Things are looking better this year. In two preseason games, the Redskins have rushed for 216 yards. In the first halves of the games, they have 31 attempts for 109 yards. That’s not a great average (3.5 yards per carry) but it is a vast improvement on the sub-one yard per carrying average they had through two games last year. 

Let’s not get carried away here. Preseason numbers aren’t rock-solid indicators by any stretch and even if they were we are looking at a small sample size. Still, the preseason stats are what we have to look at right now. We will see how things develop.  

Bureau of statistics

In 2017 the Redskins averaged 123 rushing yards per game in their first five games. In their last 11 games, they averaged 76 per game. 

On the record

Jay Gruden on the returns of RBs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine from ankle injuries: "There are no reports really, we'll just wait and see. Every injury is different, and we'll play it by ear and see how long it takes . . . The injury report will come out Week 1 on - when is it, Wednesday? And there you have it."

Comment: Yes, this really was Gruden and not Bill Belichick. The whole organization has been tighter with injury information in general this year. We’re getting a lot of descriptions like “lower leg” rather than ankle or toe. If that’s the way they want to do business that’s fine but be advised as a fan that you are not going to get much information. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:50; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 5 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 13 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 21 days

In case you missed it

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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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

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Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

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