DEREK MONTGOMERY/Herald photoMINNEAPOLIS — In a game billed as a match-up of two of the nation’s top running backs, Laurence Maroney stole the spotlight. However, a true freshman named Jonathan Casillas stole the game, and with it, Paul Bunyan’s Axe.Casillas, a first-year backup linebacker, blocked a Minnesota punt that was eventually recovered in the end zone with 30 seconds remaining in the game to give Wisconsin a 38-34 come-from-behind win in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.Gopher punter Justin Kucek bobbled the snap on a fourth-and-one from the Minnesota 17-yard line, and with Casillas closing in, still attempted to get the ball away. Instead, the kick traveled straight into the Wisconsin freshman’s arms and deflected into the end zone. Casillas then kept the ball in bounds where sophomore reserve cornerback Ben Strickland fell on it for the winning score.”First of all I thought [Kucek] was trying to run with it,” Casillas said. “So I was like, ‘I’m going to make the tackle’ … and then I saw him put the ball out, so I was like ‘Oh my God. I’ve just got to put my hands out and hope for something.'”Minnesota had one last chance, but return man Jakari Wallace fumbled the ensuing kickoff on a hit from UW reserve linebacker Josh Neal. Fellow backup linebacker DeAndre Levy recovered to seal the Gophers’ fate.Maroney carried the ball 43 times for 258 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown run in the loss. The Wisconsin defense failed to stop Maroney and backup tailback Gary Russell for nearly the entire game, but stopped Maroney one yard shy of a first down on Minnesota’s final possession to force the fateful punt.”We knew we had to make a difference as a defense,” defensive tackle Nick Hayden said. “We just had to give the offense a chance to score and that’s what we did.”Maroney’s score, the second-longest rush in school history, put Minnesota in front 17-10 2:34 into the third quarter after an even first half. The Gophers never trailed in the game’s second stanza until Strickland’s recovery, thanks in large part to the contributions of Maroney and Russell.In breaking the 200-yard barrier, Maroney became the first player in school history to record three such performances in one season. Russell supplemented the effort with 139 yards and two touchdowns of his own, a career high in yardage for the sophomore from Columbus, Ohio.”The thing they’ve got going, it’s a one-two punch,” UW defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. “They’ve got two guys coming, they rotate those guys through. As soon as they see one guy put his hands on his knees, that he’s getting a little tired, they bring the other guy right in.”Both of Russell’s touchdowns came in the second half, including a one-yard plunge that extended Minnesota’s lead to 34-24 with just 3:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. Russell’s score capped a 19-play drive that spanned 80 yards and took 7:48 off the clock.”It’s frustrating because our defense, we’re a tough defense and to let a team drive on you like that, 19 plays, is not really saying that you’re a tough defense,” linebacker Dontez Sanders said.Wisconsin quarterback and Richfield, Minn. native John Stocco responded by leading the Badgers on a seven-play, 71-yard scoring drive, capped by a 21-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Brandon Williams.Still trailing 34-31 with just 2:10 remaining on the game clock and only one timeout, the Badgers tried an onside kick, with punter Ken DeBauche doing the honors. DeBauche’s offering bounced off of Gopher cornerback Trumaine Banks’ hands and squirted all the way down the field to the Minnesota eight-yard line, where Maroney fell on the ball.Entering the match-up, the game was thought to be a showdown between Maroney and Wisconsin tailback Brian Calhoun, the two leading rushers in the Big Ten. And while Maroney ran for 100 yards in the first half, Calhoun started slow. He scored the first touchdown of the game with 25 seconds left in the first quarter to break a scoreless tie, but rushed for just 14 yards on seven carries.Calhoun came alive after halftime, though, to finish with 110 yards and three scores on the game to go along with three catches for 29 yards, all in the second half. Each of his scores cut the Minnesota lead to three points, with his final touchdown coming 3:45 into the fourth quarter to bring Wisconsin within 27-24.”The offense battled, kept us in games two weeks in a row,” Alvarez said. “And to get rewarded the way we did and sneak out of here with a win, it’s pretty good.”
After this much-needed win, the Trojans look ahead to a home series against No. 1 UCLA. At the two team’s last contest in early March, the Bruins beat the Trojans 7-5. The series’ first pitch is 7 p.m. Friday at Dedeaux Field. Long Beach opted to sub in junior pitcher Zak Baayoun during the middle of the second, but the Dirtbags’ luck did not change. After an uneventful first inning, USC jumped ahead to a 4-run lead at the top of the second inning. The offensive surge began early in the frame when sophomore infielder Ben Ramirez drove a leadoff double to right center field. Freshman catcher Tyler Lozona followed Ramirez’s hit with with a sacrifice bunt to advance Ramirez to third base. Sophomore infielder Ben Ramirez hits against UCLA at Dodger Stadium March 10. “I thought it was a great team win,” USC head coach Dan Hubbs said in an interview with USC Athletics. “If you don’t love playing these types of games — where it’s tied in the ninth and you got a chance to win — then you’re playing the wrong sport.” Before the frame ended, senior infielder Chase Bushor tacked on 1 more run for the Trojans with a sacrifice fly to advance junior infielder John Thomas and gave USC a 4-0 lead entering the bottom of the second frame. The Trojans defeated Long Beach State 8-5 in 10 innings at Blair Field Stadium in Long Beach Tuesday night. Entering the fourth inning, USC looked to build on a 4-1 lead. But Long Beach’s lineup caught fire during the bottom half of the frame, and a two-out rally made the prospect of a comeback became very real for the Dirtbags. Freshman infielder Tyler Porter provided just that, with a clutch RBI single to push Estrada home and send the game into extra innings. At the top of the ninth with the bases loaded, Ramirez lined up a Dirtbags fastball to left field to score Chase Bushor and give the Trojans a 5-4 lead. Long Beach attempted to limit the damage after giving up the lead but entered the bottom of the frame looking for an answer. With the bases loaded, junior outfielder Brady Shockey singled to left center field to push Trojans senior infielder Brandon Perez and freshman outfielder Preston Hartsell across home for his fifth and sixth RBI of the season. Shockey’s hit extended the Trojans’ lead to 3 runs. The inning only worsened from there for the Dirtbags. Redshirt sophomore pitcher Matt Fields couldn’t find the strike zone and walked three Trojans in a row to push Ramirez across home plate, making the score 1-0 USC. Both teams struggled offensively throughout the next four frames. After giving up the lead in the fourth, sophomore pitcher John Beller settled in and threw four scoreless innings for the Trojans. Beller finished the game having allowed only six hits over five innings pitched before junior pitcher Chris Clarke took over for the game’s final frames. The rally began when senior outfielder Brooks Stotler hit an RBI triple over center field to score 2 for the Dirtbags and cut their deficit to 1. Estrada immediately followed up with an RBI single to score Stotle and tie the game 4-4. Both teams were looking to bounce back after disappointing weekend performances. The Trojans dropped all three of their weekend games on the road against Washington, while Cal State Fullerton swept the Dirtbags in Long Beach. In the 10th frame, the bases were loaded once again for USC when junior pitcher CJ Stubbs lined up a bases-clearing RBI triple to score three Trojans and give USC a 3-run lead. Clarke closed out the final frame to secure the win 8-5. In the third inning, Long Beach’s fortunes began to change. Baayoun retired three Trojans in order for a 1-2-3 inning. At the bottom of the frame, the Dirtbags cut their deficit to three after a double by junior outfielder Calvin Estrada flew over the heads of USC junior pitcher Gus Culpo and senior infielder Brandon Perez to push a Dirtbag home. The match was the second meeting between the two teams this season, as the Trojans relied on hot bats and a strong performance from their bullpen to beat the Dirtbags 5-2 in their first meeting at Dedeaux Field last week.
Was @subbanator throwing shade here at the #Preds? 🧐😂A post shared by TSN (@tsn_official) on Jul 25, 2019 at 5:13pm PDTSubban’s “legit banners” remark (via TSN) was prompted when he was asked to reflect on what he sees in the Prudential Center’s ceiling, but the comment could be interpreted as a reference to his last franchise’s odd decision to raise a banner honoring the team’s success as the 2017-18 Western Conference regular season champions in Oct. 2018.Could bad blood brew between the Devils and Predators over Subban’s comment? It is rare to see a true rivalry flourish between teams in opposing conferences, but the newest Devil’s comment may not have gone unnnoticed in Tennessee.4. “I know on the day when I got traded all I wanted to hear was where I was going, and I was really excited when I heard that it was New Jersey. I was ecstatic.”Subban explained that he has a number of friends within the league that are connected in some way to the Devils organization, such as former Canadiens teammates Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, who were members of the Devils teams that won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003 before both headed to Montreal. Subban also referenced the legacies that Martin Brodeur left on the franchise and said the Hall of Fame goaltender, as well as Patrik Elias, reached out to him after the trade to tell him he will like New Jersey. MORE: 2019 NHL free agency trackerSubban’s first trip to the Prudential Center involved a press conference in which he was presented with a Ric Flair-style bathrobe in honor of his joining the Devils.That @RicFlairNatrBoy robe tho 👀 @PKSubban1 pic.twitter.com/LJhA5DJctl— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 25, 2019Rarely one to hold his tongue, Subban also offered up some tantalizing quotes during his visit; here are the top five from his first few official days spent as a New Jersey Devil.1. “People mention New York a lot, and I don’t play for New York, I play for New Jersey.”The Devils organization both benefits from and lives in the shadow of the big city. NYC-based fans need to commute just about an hour from Midtown Manhattan to the Prudential Center for a game, opening the opportunity to catch the Devils in action. But it’s not easy when the team contends with the two other area franchises — the Rangers and Islanders — which both have deeper roots in the area than the Devils, who began playing in New Jersey in 1982. That’s not to mention the number of other sports franchises and entertainment options the five boroughs offer.But Subban, well known for his philanthrophic efforts, plans on making his presence known primarily in New Jersey, not its larger-than-life next door neighbor.“So that’s where my focus is,” Subban said during his official Devils introduction, via the New York Post. “On New Jersey and what I can do to help this organization and help this city.”2. “It’s a young team, but this is a young league now.”The Devils hope the additions of Subban and top draft pick Hughes can leapfrog the team past their Metropolitan division rivals and into legitimite contention for the Stanley Cup for the first time since the franchise advanced to the Cup Final in 2012. Subban’s ability as a physical, puck-moving defenseman should provide immediate help on the blueline.The team has yet to see how well Hughes, despite his near-unlimited potential, adjusts to the NHL level. In addition, 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier has not even turned 21 yet and is already a key asset for New Jersey. Subban made note of how young the team is — including Hughes and Hischier, 13 of the 21 players currently on the roster are younger than 25 — but the 30-year-old blueliner does not see a youth movement as a hindrance to success this upcoming season.“This is beyond the expectations I could have ever expected coming here.”Welcome to Jersey, @PKSubban1! pic.twitter.com/kUzVVsE4vl— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 26, 2019″I’m not looking at this as a three-year process,” Subban said via the Devils’ Twitter. “I want to win now and next year, that’s where it starts.”3. “[I see] banners, man. Like, legit banners, Stanley Cup banners.”Subban has not won the Cup over the course of his 10-year career. He does know how it feels to lose on the game’s biggest stage, having been part of the Predators team that lost in six games to the Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. The Devils won three championships in nine seasons during the 1990s and early 2000s and cemented themselves as one of the league’s premier franchises during that time period. Aside from the one Cup final appearance, Nashville has struggled to make it through the first two rounds of the playoffs throughout the team’s 20-season history. View this post on Instagram The Devils have missed the playoffs six of the last seven NHL seasons, but the organization is hoping for a bigger and brighter future after two major offseason acquisitions: first-overall pick Jack Hughes and defenseman P.K. Subban, who was acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators on June 22.Subban, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner, visited his new organization’s facilities in New Jersey, this week to meet with the team’s coaching staff, front office and excited fan base. “[The Devils are] a first-class organization,” Subban told NHL.com in a video interview. “There’s no question from me [or] my skills coach Cam, who has been here for the past few days. We’re just blown away at how they’ve treated us.”5. “My whole tagline is about changing the game.”Subban has generated buzz around the league for his entire career for his flashy style on and off the ice. His star power and electric personality has even been reported as a reason why the Canadiens traded him to Nashville in 2016. The Toronto native has connected with fans in each city he has played in, whether it’s by way of social media or making donations to hospitals, and Subban said he does not care about what some may think of the way he conducts himself.”It’s not about changing the hockey game specifically but changing the things that we need to change in the game of life,” Subban said in a one-on-one video interview with NHL.com. “Because it is, right? Life is a chess match. Every decision that you make has a consequence to it. So why not? Why do I have to just focus on hockey? Why can’t I help people? Why can’t I have fun with my fans?”