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Arkansas looking for answers to red zone woes

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Arkansas looking for answers to red zone woes

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Paul Petrino couldn't have been happier with Arkansas' offensive output against Texas A&M last week, at least on the surface.

The offensive coordinator watched as the Razorbacks gained 515 yards on 98 plays, putting together five drives of more than 50 yards - all coming against an Aggies' defense that entered the game allowing an average of 279.7 yards per game.

So, what was Petrino's problem with all that offense?

It came in a 58-10 loss, one in which Arkansas' season-long struggles at finishing drives was again on display. The Razorbacks (1-4, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) scored on just one of their five trips inside Texas A&M's 20, a first-half field goal, causing the former offensive powerhouse to fall to 109th nationally in red zone offense.

``We've just got to get the ball in the end zone,'' Petrino said. ``I've never lost a game in my life putting up that kind of yards and having 98 plays. To go and get your butt kicked, you should win if you have that many yards and that many plays.''

Arkansas, which is sixth in the SEC in total offense with 417 yards per game, has scored on just 12 of 19 drives in the red zone this season. It's the latest issue in a season full of disappointments for the Razorbacks, who travel this week to Auburn (1-3, 0-2).

The days of leading the SEC in passing offense, as Arkansas did in each of the previous three seasons, seem like a long time ago for a program reeling without the architect of its past success - former coach Bobby Petrino. The Razorbacks led the conference in average points scored last season, but they've slipped to 11th (23.2 per game) this year.

The fall has been the result of a number of factors, and Petrino's less-than-graceful exit in April is only a small part of the reason.

Arkansas scored on 86.4 percent (51 of 59) red-zone opportunities last season, fourth in the SEC. That, however, came with three future NFL receivers (Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright) on offense, all who were drafted in the fourth round of April's draft.

The departures of three of the top receivers in school history has played a part in the Razorbacks' red zone struggles, as has their anemic running game - which is last in the SEC at 106.6 yards per game. An offensive line that's failed to consistently open running lanes has hurt, just as has a season-ending foot injury to starting fullback Kiero Small and most recently, a bone bruise that kept tight end Chris Gragg out against Texas A&M.

``That's been a big staple to what we've done in the past, to convert (in the red zone),'' Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said. ``We take pride. When we sniff it out and when we smell it, to go get it and make a mark down there.

``... You all have to be in, and you've got to be on the same page. That's how you score when you're down there, and we haven't done that, haven't done it. Is it frustrating? Absolutely.''

Wilson, who was first-team All-SEC last season, hasn't been immune from his own struggles near the opponents' goal line. Against the Aggies, the senior was 0-for-9 passing in the red zone - putting a damper on his 373-yard effort and leaving interim coach John L. Smith searching for answers.

``It's not one thing, but we've just got to keep fighting,'' Smith said. ``We spent a lot of hours on the critical zone last week game planning. ... We've just got to go execute. We've got to get more points. That's the bottom line; that's my job. That's up to me to get more points when we get down there. We have to do it.''

Wilson had his coming-out party against Auburn two years ago, throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns after replacing starter Ryan Mallett in the first half. The Tigers won 65-43 on their way to the national championship, but they've struggled this season - with their only win coming in overtime against Louisiana-Monroe.

Arkansas lost a week before that to the Warhawks, a game in which Wilson missed the second half with a concussion. Auburn's defense performed well in a 12-10 loss to No. 4 LSU two weeks ago, and coach Gene Chizik knows how critical it will be to stop Wilson.

``He's an impressive young man,'' Chizik said. ``One of the things I thought about him two years ago when he came into the game - I just thought that when you look at a quarterback and you say, `What are the intangibles of a quarterback that you look for at that position in a young man?' and that is the competitive nature of that guy, he's got it.''

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AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.

Report: Former Terp Diamond Stone included in federal documents detailing NCAA violations

Report: Former Terp Diamond Stone included in federal documents detailing NCAA violations

A bombshell article published Friday morning by Pat Forde and Pete Thaamel of YAHOO Sports details potential NCAA violations involving more than 20 schools and 25 players.

Among some of the biggest names and programs in college basketball includes former Maryland Terrapin, Diamond Stone.

According to documents and bank records that are part of an FBI investigation, Stone received $14,303 while a freshman at Maryland, a clear violation of NCAA rules. 

Former NBA agent, Andy Miller and his former associate, Christian Dawkins of ASM Sports were dishing out the incentives. Included were cash advances, entertainment expenses and travel expenses for high school and college prospects.

Other player's included in the documents include Dennis Smith who played at North Carolina State, Isaiah Whitehead from Seton Hall, DeMatha star Markelle Fultz who played at Washington and Edrice Adebayo who went on to play at Kentucky. 

Player's and their families from Duke, Michigan State, USC, North Carolina, Texas and Alabama are also included.

Stone played for the Terps during the 2015-16 season before declaring for the NBA draft. He was selected 40th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans and traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Stone did end up signing with a different agency.

While this is still under investigation, large consequences for the NCAA can be expected.

The NCAA released this statement following the news. 

These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York's indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it's clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.

RELATED: DIAMOND STONE ADMITS TO 'MISTAKES' DURING FRESHMAN YEAR AT MARYLAND

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!