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Cougars remain work in progress

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Cougars remain work in progress

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) At the midpoint of Washington State's first season under coach Mike Leach, the Cougars remain a work in progress.

Washington State (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) has problems all around, and so far has mostly failed to produce in the Air Raid offense that Leach made famous at Texas Tech.

The Cougars have twice been held without touchdowns, barely escaped FCS opponent Eastern Washington, and lost to Pac-12 doormat Colorado.

Talk of qualifying for a bowl game, prevalent after Leach was hired, is now muted.

``We've improved as a team, but we've had a lot of missed opportunities,'' Leach said. ``If we were a more mature, mentally tougher team, we could have capitalized on them.''

``Right now we are a team that if we face any adversity, we get discouraged,'' Leach said.

As a result, many veteran players have been dropped from the starting lineup in favor of younger players, he said.

Leach has described some of the team's seniors as having an ``empty corpse'' quality when it comes to leadership.

The season got off to an inauspicious start with a 30-6 loss at BYU. The Cougars posted narrow wins over Eastern Washington and UNLV, then suffered a fourth quarter collapse that allowed Colorado to overcome a nearly three touchdown deficit and win 35-34.

They lost to No. 2 Oregon 51-26, and put in a sterling defensive effort in a 19-6 loss at No. 10 Oregon State.

Linebacker Darryl Monroe said the team is hungry for its first Pac-12 win.

``Any win is what we need,'' he said. ``It's what any team needs.''

To get there, the Cougars need to play a complete game, with offense, defense and special teams all performing well, he said.

``We've just got to keep grinding throughout the season,'' Monroe said. ``No game is a gimme.''

The Cougars have six games left, starting this Saturday when they host California (2-4, 1-2).

Can they win four of those six to reach their first bowl game since 2003?

``I think it's very realistic,'' said quarterback Connor Halliday.

Halliday's optimism aside, the better question might be whether the Cougars can achieve a record as good as the 4-8 that got former coach Paul Wulff fired after last season.

Problems include inconsistent play at quarterback and receiver, a non-existent running game and a defense that is surrendering 30 points and 455 yards per game.

Senior quarterback Jeff Tuel began the season as the starter, but has been displaced by sophomore Halliday. Neither has been able to consistently move an offense averaging just 21 points per game.

Both quarterbacks saw playing time against Oregon State, and Leach has said Halliday will start against Cal.

``He's been playing the best,'' Leach said.

Halliday has thrown for 1,284 yards and nine touchdowns, but has also been intercepted nine times.

More troubling is the lack of a running game. The Cougars average just 41 yards rushing per game behind a committee that includes Teondray Caldwell, Carl Winston and Leon Brooks.

``It means we are not able to move their front around,'' Leach said of the lack of a running game. ``We have got to get better up front.''

Star receiver Marquess Wilson has 34 catches for 553 yards and five touchdowns, which are good numbers. But Leach has been on him to do more, and is more likely to praise the efforts of Isiah Myers (29 catches, 272 yards) and Gabe Marks (24 catches, 379 yards).

Senior receiver Gino Simone, who has earned more playing time recently with strong play, said he is optimistic about the second half of the season.

One major step would be to qualify for a bowl game, he said.

``That's huge,'' he said. ``We want to get the program back to where it is in bowl games every year.''

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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USA Today Sports Images

Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

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

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

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

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

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

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

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres 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-SABRES 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-SABRES 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.