Capitals

Toledo, Utah State poised for Potato Bowl matchup

Toledo, Utah State poised for Potato Bowl matchup

BOISE, Idaho (AP) In so many ways, 2012 has been a season of firsts for Utah State.

The No. 18 Aggies set new school marks with 10 wins and six home victories. They won their first outright conference title since 1936.

The Aggies (10-2) reached new heights behind one of the nation's stingiest defenses, an opportunistic offense and a senior class that has been one of the best ever recruited to campus.

Yet despite all the accolades and achievements, fourth-year coach Gary Andersen knows there is one more milestone yet to be crossed off this year's list.

``For me, this team will always go down as one of the special groups I've ever been around for what they've accomplished,'' Andersen said. ``What they've accomplished to this point, no one can ever take away from them.

``We've been able to get a couple of championships on our wall since we've been there. But we don't have a bowl game trophy up there yet, and we need to be able to get that done.''

The Aggies will get their shot when they square off with Toledo (9-3) in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium in Boise. The game is one of two marking the kickoff of college football's frenzied bowl season.

In their first-ever meeting, Utah State is favored by 10 1/2 points. But if the history of this bowl game is any guide, this matchup between teams from the WAC and MAC will be fun to watch, tight and likely decided in the final minutes. Last year, Ohio scored a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining to knock off the Aggies 24-23.

That loss left a bitter taste, but also laid the foundation for the team's goals and mindset heading into 2012, said senior cornerback Will Davis.

``Last year we didn't get it done ... now we're back in the same spot and it's like a second chance. You don't want to lose a second chance, a second opportunity,'' said Davis, who leads the Aggies with five interceptions.

For Toledo, it's a chance for coach Matt Campbell to put a stamp on his first full year at the helm.

Last season, Campbell, who at 33 is the youngest coach in FBS ranks, took over after Tim Beckman was lured away to Illinois and guided the Rockets to victory over Air Force in the Military Bowl. This year, Campbell has led a team that was supposed to be in rebuilding mode after losing a big batch of talented seniors. Campbell and his staff were also forced to deal with injuries to a handful of key players on both sides of the ball.

Yet the team found ways to win. During one stretch, Toledo won eight straight, including an upset of then-No. 18 Cincinnati, crept into national polls and for the first time in school history cracked the BCS standings.

``Last year we had a really talented football team,'' Campbell said. ``This year's senior class, there are a lot of guys that have played a lot of football. Maybe it's not the big-name guys, but their leadership ... has been outstanding. I really think it set the foundation for our football program for not only this year, but for years to come.''

Toledo's injury woes also occurred at quarterback. Junior Terrance Owens, the starter who threw for 2,677 yards and 14 touchdowns, missed the finale against Akron with an ankle sprain. Backup Austin Dantin ensured the offense didn't miss a beat, throwing for a career-best 327 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-23 win over the Zips.

Campbell said Thursday he wanted to see how Owens performed in practice before making a decision on his starting quarterback.

``I would expect to see both playing in the game,'' Campbell said.

Either way, the Toledo offense is likely facing its toughest challenge of the season against Utah State's defense.

The Aggie defense is ranked in the top 15 in points allowed (15.4), total yards allowed and rushing defense. The Aggies also average 3.2 sacks per game and have only allowed opponents 13 touchdowns in 39 trips inside the red zone.

``The most staggering statistic is the first quarter, and allowing only six points all season,'' Campbell said. ``They try to take away your best players and they do a good job of that.''

Toledo's offense is led by all-conference tailback David Fluellen. The junior has rushed for 1,460 yards, eighth among FBS running backs. He has 13 TDs and three games with more than 200 yards rushing. He's also a threat on passing plays, and his 32 catches are third best on the team.

``When you sit back and look at them and really break them down, you see they have a very powerful run game,'' Andersen said. ``They are able to run the ball consistently week in and week out, regardless of opponent. We'll have a good challenge for our defense.''

Quick Links

Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

grubauertrade16x9done62218.png
NBC Sports Washington

Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

DALLAS—The Capitals have dealt backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round pick, the team announced shortly before the NHL Draft kicked off Friday at American Airlines Center.

After the moves, the Caps had more than $21 million in space under the salary cap ceiling, according to www.capfriendly.com, and potentially enough space to re-sign John Carlson and other key free agents.

GM Brian MacLellan was widely expected to deal Grubauer, a 26-year-old who wanted the opportunity to be a No. 1. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was also coming off a strong season, Grubauer was due a significant raise.

“We would like to thank Brooks and Philipp for all of their contributions to our organization,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Philipp has been a consummate professional and a great teammate and we wish him all the best.”

Trading Orpik, on the other hand, was a bit unexpected, particularly considering how much 37-year-old’s rugged play and leadership meant to the Caps during their run to the Stanley Cup.

By dealing Orpik, MacLellan shed his $5.5 million cap hit for next season—an important development given the Caps’ tight salary cap situation and the number of key players who need new contracts. Carlson, Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek are unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Avalanche are expected to help Orpik land or a preferred spot, whether via trade or buyout. By taking on Orpik in the deal, Friedman reported, the Avs only had to give up one pick.

“Brooks,” MacLellan continued, “was a great leader and a tremendous role model for our young players in his four years with our organization. This was a difficult move, but the one we felt we needed to make in order to give some flexibility moving forward.”

Will moving out Grubauer and eliminating Orpik’s cap charge allow MacLellan to ink Carlson, who's set to become the top defenseman on the free agent market? That’s unclear, but it will sure help the Caps’ cause. Carlson is expected to command an extension in the eight-year, $8 million per neighborhood. 

Dealing Orpik also opens up a spot for a young and inexpensive defenseman such as Christian Djoos or Madison Bowey to take on a bigger role in 2018-19.

Without Grubauer, the Caps are likely to turn to Pheonix Copley, who is due to earn the NHL minimum of $650,000 next season, as their backup next season. And if Copley starts the year in Washington, that allows 2015 first round pick Ilya Samsonov to take the reins in Hershey.

The second round pick the Caps received in exchange for Grubauer and Orpik is the 47th overall selection.

MacLellan is expected to speak to reporters following the first round later Friday night. The Caps currently hold the 31st overall pick.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

bryce-harper-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

MORE NATS NEWS: