Tigers, Bulldogs still seek major bowl credibility


Tigers, Bulldogs still seek major bowl credibility

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) No. 9 LSU and No. 23 Mississippi State meet at a time when both are trying to get over losses that have essentially dropped them out of the race for a Southeastern Conference championship and squashed any national title aspirations.

Still, plenty is at stake when they meet Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. A victory could set either team back on the path to a major bowl invitation.

``We have to realize the season is not over,'' LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger said this week. ``A 10-2 season would be a pretty dang good season; 10 wins are hard to come by in this league.

``To get 10 wins and play in a good bowl game would be a pretty good season. There will be no BCS championship game for us, but we still have a lot to play for.''

Both teams can reach the 10-victory plateau in the regular season only by winning their final three games.

After this weekend, LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC) finishes with a home game against Mississippi and its traditional Thanksgiving weekend season finale with Arkansas, which this year will be played at Fayetteville. The Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) will close their schedule with Arkansas at home and then at Ole Miss for the annual Egg Bowl.

While both teams are coming off a loss, their performances last weekend were vastly different.

LSU came within a minute of upsetting No. 1 Alabama, with Mettenberger putting together his best performance as an LSU starter, throwing for nearly 300 yards and a score with no interceptions.

Mississippi State was crushed on its own field, 38-13, by Texas A&M - a team LSU beat on the road. Two weeks earlier, the Bulldogs were run out of Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium, 38-7. Those two losses caused Mississippi State to plummet out of the Top 10. Odds makers this week are listing the Bulldogs as two-touchdown underdogs in Death Valley, where LSU will look to win its 13th straight in the series.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen spoke with no illusions about the challenges LSU would present.

``One of the top defenses in the country. And one of the top teams, that was obvious watching the game last week that they just played,'' Mullen said of LSU's close loss to the Crimson Tide. ``We'll have our hands full offensively. Everybody knows they've got just a stable of running backs and a big, giant offensive line that pounds you and continues to pound you play after play after play after play.

``And last week they did a great job throwing the ball on top of that and balancing their offense out a little bit more, which makes them even more dangerous on that side of the ball.''

Mullen's players have been analyzing why after a 7-0 start there are problems now. Recently, they've played two of the toughest teams in the SEC. For all their enthusiasm for those big games, some players think they've lost sight of the details.

``It's just stuff like false starts, not converting on third downs,'' Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell said. ``Staying on the field - we haven't done a very good job of that the last two games. You stay on the field, you keep the defense off the field, you keep their offense off the field. It's about converting, taking what they give you and moving the chains.''

Russell got off to a remarkable start and remains on pace to break several school passing records. He has passed for 1,954 yards and 16 TDs against only three interceptions. During the first seven games, Russell got plenty of help in the running game from LaDarius Perkins, who has 804 yards and eight TDs on the ground. But Perkins has been shut down the past two weeks, gaining only 38 yards against Alabama and 42 against A&M.

Meanwhile, LSU can hurt teams with any of four running backs: Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Kenny Hilliard and Jeremy Hill. Lately, freshman Hill has stood out, and he'll seek a fourth-straight SEC game with 100 yards on the ground.

Defensively, the Tigers have the ability to frustrate quarterbacks with a talented secondary and pressuring front four that has combined to make LSU No. 1 in the SEC against the pass.

The only question is whether they're mentally focused enough this weekend after wilting during Alabama's game-winning drive.

``Everybody is obviously down,'' LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo said. ``You hate not wining every game, but especially the ones that are so important that a loss can ruin your postseason. Our goal is to finish the season with W's and not let anything step up in our way.''

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Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

Associated Press

Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

The sudden resignation of Barry Trotz as the coach of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most stunning Washington coaching departure since Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins about 13 months after the team won its third Super Bowl in a 10-year span. 

In the years leading up to Gibbs’ departure, there were some rumblings that he might leave. As early as 1986, John Madden said that Gibbs was a candidate to burn out of the profession early. During the 1989 season, Gibbs said that he was contemplating retirement, but he retracted his words the next day. In 1990, columnist and TV pregame panelist Will McDonough reported that Gibbs would retire after the season. Retirement rumors popped up again in early 1992, just two days before Super Bowl XXVI. Again, Gibbs denied them. The Redskins easily beat the Bills to claim their third championship in 10 years and there was no apparent reason why such a successful coach would think about leaving. 

Redskins fans had become so used to hearing the Gibbs retirement reports that many just started to tune them out. So on the morning of March 5, 1993, when reports of Gibbs’ resignation as coach started to circulate, many were in a state of denial.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. The fans were given a hard jolt of reality when the team announced a noon press conference. 

There the coach was on TV, as promised, confirming the news. He said it was a family decision. 

“Every year, we get away and talk about it,” Gibbs said. “We always reach the same conclusion. This year, it was different. The boys didn’t encourage me one way or another, but they understood when I told them what I was thinking. I think Pat’s happier than anyone. This isn’t an easy lifestyle for a coach’s wife. The coach is the guy who stands up and hears everyone tell him how great he is. The wife is the one waiting at home alone while the coach is spending every night at the office. 

“I wanted more time with my family. I wanted more time with my sons. I look at this as a window of opportunity with them and I couldn’t let it pass.” 

Although he has been diagnosed with a condition that has caused some pain and some difficulty in sleeping, Gibbs said that health was not a factor in his decision. 

Richie Petitbon, the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach. It had to be one of the shortest job interviews ever. 

“I get a call from Mr. Cooke who tells me Joe has retired and that he wants me to coach the Redskins,” Petitbon said. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I said yes.” 

After hearing the news, most Redskins fans had to pick themselves up as well.  

Petitbon lasted only one season as the head coach and the other eight head coaches who followed, including Gibbs himself in a four-year second stint, have been unable to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the Caps’ head coaching job is widely expected to go to Todd Reirden, who was Trotz’s top assistant just as Pettitbon was Gibbs’. 

Washington fans hope that the Caps have better fortune with Trotz’s successors. 

More Redskins

- 53-man roster: Roster projection--Offense
- 53-man roster: Best players 25 or younger

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


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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents, and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices, they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 

Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

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

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Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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