Packers have a tough decision to make

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Packers have a tough decision to make

From Comcast SportsNetGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers are sticking with Mason Crosby, although that decision has as much to do with their personnel philosophy as it does with their faith in the struggling kicker.After missing a pair of field-goal attempts during the Packers' 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Crosby is 17 of 29 (an NFL-worst 58.6 percent) this season and has botched at least one kick in the past eight games. Nevertheless, coach Mike McCarthy remained steadfast in his support of Crosby, saying no change is in the offing."Mason Crosby is an accountable man. He needs to perform better," McCarthy said Monday. "I'm disappointed in the way he performed yesterday. There's more that goes into it as far as when you evaluate players and everything around each player at their position. So, at the end of the day, Mason will be our kicker and that's my focus."While Crosby was having another rough outing, two other players the team chose to keep around -- despite uneven production or injury issues -- were delivering for them: Sixth-year wide receiver James Jones and third-year defensive end Mike Neal."I think it's clear what we think about the players that we draft," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "We want to develop them and do well. Mason's had some bumps and he needs to get it right."Crosby, a 2007 sixth-round draft pick out of Colorado, signed a five-year, 14.75 million contract extension that included a 3 million signing bonus in July 2011 and responded with the best season of his career last year, making 24 of 28 field-goal attempts.He has a base salary of 1.65 million this season and has three more years left on his deal, at 2.4 million in 2013, 2.65 million in 2014 and 2.8 million in 2015.Asked after Sunday's game if he was worried about the Packers cutting him, Crosby replied, "That's not even on my mind. ... I'm not even going to think about that."While Crosby has missed at least one kick in each of the Packers' last eight games, the team is 7-1 during that stretch."Obviously, it's frustrating whenever you're not making kicks," Crosby said. "But the biggest thing is that I'm not making the kicks to put this team up by two touchdowns. That was my thing. That was six points there and if we're up two touchdowns, it's a different end. But the result is the same. We won the game, just a little different ending."The Packers can only hope that Crosby rewards their faith the way Jones and Neal have.Jones struggled with inconsistent play and dropped passes earlier in his career, but was re-signed to an economical three-year deal before the 2011 season. After catching three touchdown passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Jones leads the NFL in TD receptions with 12. He enters this Sunday's game against Tennessee with a career-best 51 receptions for 622 yards.Neal, who endured two injury-plagued seasons and then opened this one serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, registered 1 sacks on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and was praised by outside linebacker Clay Matthews for helping him get his two sacks on stunts. Neal has 3 sacks this season, second on the team to Matthews (11)."It's the core of the philosophy of how we operate here. The core philosophy is draft and develop, and the development is about growth," McCarthy said. "Now, let's not act like there's not times when things are not moving in the right direction. Any time you hit a situation that's not favorable, you don't have production or the result is not what you intended it to be, you have to choose which direction you're going to go. The direction right now is we're sticking with Mason Crosby as our kicker."However, it does appear that Crosby's struggles are affecting McCarthy's decision-making. The Packers twice went for it on fourth down against the Bears, converting a fourth-and-2 from the Chicago 37-yard line in the second quarter instead of trying a 55-yard field goal and converting a fourth-and-6 from the Bears 26 instead of attempting a 44-yard kick.The first conversion didn't lead to points because Crosby missed a 43-yard attempt wide right on a fourth-and-6 from the Chicago 25, while the second conversion led to Jones' third touchdown, on the opening drive of the second half.Crosby's other miss came when McCarthy decided to try a 42-yard kick on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 24, and Crosby clanged it off the left upright."It wasn't an ideal day to kick but I thought he should have made both the field goals that we attempted," Slocum said. "The thing I'm disappointed in is not taking his preparation into the game. And he's got to do that. He had a great week of practice last week and was good in pregame warmup. He needs to make those field goals and trust what he's done during the week in preparation and move forward."I think he is really trying to get the ball through the uprights and I look forward to him doing it. And that's where we are."Asked if sticking with Crosby despite his misses might create an issue with other players, to whom accountability is constantly emphasized by the coaching staff, McCarthy acknowledged that was a possibility."That's a great question for the locker room," McCarthy replied. "I'm not going to sit here and act like everyone's not watching how the situation's being handled, there's no question about it. Evaluation of everybody is an ongoing process as you prepare to win each game."Definitely, no one's happy with the number of kicks that Mason has missed. As we stand here today on who's going to line up and kick, it's Mason Crosby. I don't know how to continue to answer this question. He needs to be accountable for his performance, but as far as what happens between the evaluation of the game or the past games and how he's performed and how we move forward into the next game, there's a number of different factors. Mason Crosby is our kicker."

Mark Dantonio takes to Twitter to criticize stories on ex-Spartans QB Connor Cook

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Mark Dantonio takes to Twitter to criticize stories on ex-Spartans QB Connor Cook

Mark Dantonio surely wasn't happy about Connor Cook's unexpected fall in the NFL Draft. But the Michigan State head coach appears to be even less happy over explanations of why Cook's fall happened.

Dantonio took to Twitter in the wee hours of Tuesday morning to express his displeasure over a story in the Detroit News explaining why Cook plummeted down the draft boards of many teams. Though no specific title or writer was named, a story published Saturday titled "Personality issues caused Connor Cook's fall in draft" seems like the target of Dantonio's tweet.

Dantonio followed up with another Tuesday-morning tweet aimed at the Detroit Free Press. Again, no specific story or writer was mentioned by the coach, but one can assume that a Sunday story titled "Connor Cook could not satisfy NFL teams' questions about leadership" might be the one. It in itself was a follow up to an earlier story by the same writer titled "Connor Cook leaves some teams uneasy in NFL draft."

After a head-scratching fall, Cook was eventually selected in the fourth round by the Oakland Raiders, who used the No. 100 pick on a quarterback who at one point looked like one of this draft's top prospects at the position. While Cook's 2015 season with the Spartans wasn't statistically sensational, he still established himself as perhaps the Big Ten's best quarterback and still led his team to a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Cook finished his career at Michigan State, during which he was a three-year starter, with a 35-5 record, something Dantonio pointed out in those tweets.

So what was the big deal? Well, according to that Detroit News story, Cook earned the skepticism of NFL teams with his personality.

The fact that Cook was not elected a team captain back in the fall has been talked to death and probably way overblown considering the Spartans were a senior-laden group with a lot of high-caliber choices for that honor. Center Jack Allen was elected the offensive captain, and in another draft stunner, he wasn't selected at all last weekend.

But the Detroit News story went further, attributing NFL personnel who described Cook as "arrogant" with "an overall attitude issue."

That first Detroit Free Press story quoted one NFL coach saying, "There’s something about him that you just don’t trust him," and another saying, "There’s just something put-offish about him."

You can see why Dantonio would be upset.

But it seems the writers shouldn't be the one drawing Dantonio's ire. While everyone always gets upset when quotes are attributed to anonymous people, that seems to be a more common thing in stories about the NFL Draft than in stories about government corruption. NFL personnel obviously had issues with Cook, whether those were justified or not. If they didn't, Cook would've been selected much earlier. The reporters are reporting on those issues.

So maybe instead of attacking the stories, Dantonio should be going after the NFL front offices that deemed his 35-5 quarterback undraftable.

Northwestern to pay $1.2 million for 2017 non-conference game vs. Nevada

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Northwestern to pay $1.2 million for 2017 non-conference game vs. Nevada

Usually, people spend a lot of money to travel to Nevada and partake in its various entertainment options.

Northwestern is spending a lot of money to bring Nevada to Evanston.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported Tuesday that Northwestern will pay Nevada a whopping $1.2 million to travel to play a non-conference football game in Evanston in 2017.

Big-conference schools paying out large sums of money to play host to small-conference schools is nothing new and downright commonplace. The school from the larger conference, the Big Ten in this case, gets a relatively easier opponent in hopes of securing a non-conference win. The school from the smaller conference, in this case the Mountain West, gets a big payday that is vital to keeping its program competitive and funding things throughout the athletics department.

It's generally a win-win, though this kind of situation also sets up the big-conference school for potential embarrassment. Should the small-conference school score an upset, well then the loss comes with a million-dollar price tag. Big Ten fans will surely remember Michigan's folly with Appalachian State, and that's not the only time such a thing has occurred.

So now it's Northwestern's turn to shell out the cash for a date with Nevada. The Wolf Pack have posted a 7-6 record in four of the last five seasons, with a 4-8 finish thrown in there, too. The two schools met twice previously in 2006 and 2007, splitting that home-and-home series.

Northwestern's non-conference schedule for the 2017 season is now complete, with this Nevada game accompanying a road game against Duke and a home game against Western Illinois.

Big Ten vs. Big East: Matchups announced for Gavitt Tipoff Games

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Big Ten vs. Big East: Matchups announced for Gavitt Tipoff Games

Last season saw the inaugural edition of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, a non-conference event pitting Big Ten teams against Big East teams.

Well, Year 2 of the event is coming up this fall, and the matchups were announced Tuesday, featuring a total of eight teams from last season's NCAA tournament field.

The highlight is without a doubt Purdue clashing with Villanova, the reigning national champion following its unforgettable win in last month's national title game.

But there are plenty of other noteworthy games, including a rematch of last season's tremendous Maryland-Georgetown bout, Wisconsin visiting Creighton, Iowa playing host to Seton Hall and Ohio State welcoming Providence to Columbus.

Here's the full schedule.

— Villanova at Purdue (Monday, Nov. 14)
— Maryland at Georgetown (Tuesday, Nov. 15)
— Wisconsin at Creighton (Tuesday Nov. 15)
— Northwestern at Butler (Wednesday, Nov. 16)
— Seton Hall at Iowa (Thursday, Nov. 17)
— Providence at Ohio State (Thursday, Nov. 17)
— Rutgers at DePaul (Thursday, Nov. 17)
— St. John's at Minnesota (Friday, Nov. 18)