Capitals

Arkansas looks to keep focus against surging Tulsa

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Arkansas looks to keep focus against surging Tulsa

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) John L. Smith began the season coaching an Arkansas team hopeful of competing for the Southeastern Conference and national championships.

The interim coach has a far different job description with four games remaining.

Following yet another setback, this one a 30-27 defeat to Mississippi, Arkansas (3-5, 2-3 SEC) must win three of its final four games in order to reach bowl eligibility for the fourth straight season. The latest loss was a stinging blow for the Razorbacks, who had won two in a row and believed they had recovered from an earlier four-game losing streak.

Smith's job is to now make sure an already injury-riddled Arkansas team doesn't lose faith and go through the motions for the remainder of the season. His focus is to make sure the Razorbacks keep theirs and that they don't look ahead to the offseason, the pending hire of a new coach or the NFL.

``I think you do that every year, all year long anyway,'' Smith said. ``I think that's just part of it. And making sure that our guys go to the field and actually focus and concentrate on what it is we have to do today.''

Smith's difficulty in keeping the focus of an Arkansas team weary of losing - one that's now equaled its loss total for the previous two seasons combined - became all the more difficult Monday.

He said tight end Chris Gragg and running back Knile Davis will miss this week's game with Tulsa (7-1, 5-0 Conference USA). Gragg reinjured bruised leg bone against the Rebels that had kept him out of the previous three games, while Davis injured his right hamstring in the loss.

The Golden Hurricane have lost 17 straight to the Razorbacks. However, Tulsa has won seven straight this season since an opening loss at Iowa State and leads the nation in sacks - providing a suddenly difficult test for an Arkansas team that has proven anything but a sure thing this season.

The Razorbacks' fall from the preseason top 10 started with a then-shocking loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8. That started the four-game losing streak in the team's first season following April's firing of former coach Bobby Petrino.

The latest loss now means Arkansas must win three of four games against teams (Tulsa, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU) that are a combined 28-5 in order to reach a bowl. Smith, for one, still believes that's possible.

``There never have been very many games we go into thinking that we're going to get our tail kicked,'' Smith said. ``There's not going to be any from here on out, definitely. We believe that we're going to go in and win it. And it has to start now.''

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson's only losing season dating to high school, when he won three state championships at Greenwood, Ark., was a 5-7 mark during his first year with the Razorbacks in 2008. That was also Petrino's first season, but Wilson refused to place the blame for Arkansas' struggles on his former coach or anyone but himself.

``I feel like that's the coward's way out,'' Wilson said.

Wilson struggled against Ole Miss, throwing a pair of interceptions and narrowly avoiding several others. He threw for 297 yards but finished 24 of 43 passing and was fortunate the Rebels couldn't keep their hands on several other passes that fell incomplete.

The senior blamed himself for the near misses afterward, as well as for missing other open receivers. He said the losing this season has been an adjustment but that he's continuing to look for ways to motivate the Razorbacks.

Wilson, who elected to bypass a likely high draft pick in April's NFL draft, also said he hasn't seen any looking ahead by teammates to the offseason.

``We've still got four games left,'' Wilson said. ``So you'd be looking ahead quite a bit if you're looking ahead. ``We've got a big game this week.''

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Game 61: Capitals at Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 61: Capitals at Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Panthers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals (34-19-7) take on the Panthers (26-25-6) Tuesday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Florida.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Panthers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Panthers
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Panthers game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-PANTHERS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: The most underrated Redskins events of 2017

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Need to Know: The most underrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, February 22, 20 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The underrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/29/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Here, in no particular order, are three underrated events from 2017. Tomorrow we’ll look at three events that were overrated at the time they happened.  

Beating the Rams in Week 2—Nobody got particularly excited when the Redskins went to the LA Memorial Coliseum and beat a Rams team that had gone 4-12 in 2016. Sure, there was a belief that they were in good hands with Sean McVay but nobody saw them as anything better than a middle of the pack team. The win looks much more impressive now as the 11-4 Rams have locked up their division with a playoff game in their future.

Drafting safety Montae Nicholson—He was a fourth-round pick who had a shoulder injury and appeared to be a reach. But once he got on the field, the reasons the Redskins drafted him became apparent. His range and hard hitting had an immediate impact on the game. Nicholson had problems staying on the field and he will finish the year on IR so his impact this year was diminished. Regardless, he has a good chance of being part of the solution to a position with which the Redskins have had issues for years.

Ty Nsekhe’s injury—Against the Raiders in Week 3, Shawn Lauvao’s facemask had an issue and he had to leave the game for a play. In came Nsekhe without an opportunity to warm up. He suffered a core muscle injury and he had to undergo surgery. His absence didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but Trent Williams suffered a knee injury the next week and other offensive linemen were sidelined with injuries over the next several weeks. Nsekhe was inactive until the Week 10 game against the Vikings and he didn’t start a game until the Thanksgiving game against the Giants. He sure would have been useful to have in the lineup instead of T.J. Clemmings or Tyler Catalina.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 7
—NFL Draft (4/26) 63
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 199