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.''

Quick Links

Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

jay_gruden.jpg
USA Today Sports

Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

Quick Links

Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

alex-cobb-orioles.jpg
USA Today Sports

Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.

GOING DOWN?

Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.

NO HOMERS

Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.

UP NEXT

Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.