Gesser introduced as interim Idaho coach

Gesser introduced as interim Idaho coach

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) Two years ago, Jason Gesser was coaching a high school football team. On Monday, he was introduced as the interim head coach at Idaho.

Gesser, 33, will coach the Vandals in their remaining four games, replacing Robb Akey, who was fired on Sunday. Gesser said he would like to be considered for the permanent job.

Gesser teared up and he struggled to speak as he recalled how Akey plucked him two years ago from Eastside Catholic High in Sammamish, Wash., to be the Vandals' running backs coach. Gesser was promoted to offensive coordinator prior to this season.

``He gave me a chance to become a college coach and a coordinator. I owe my life to the guy,'' Gesser said. ``This is not an easy situation.''

Akey was 20-50 as head coach of the Vandals, including 1-7 this season. Idaho was blown out 70-28 by Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

That loss prompted the change, athletic director Rob Spear said Monday. He said he spoke with university President Duane Nellis shortly after the loss to Tech and the decision was made to fire Akey.

``We've been evaluating the program the entire season,'' Spear said. ``At the end of the day, his record was 20-50.''

Spear indicated that Gesser will have an opportunity to land the job on a full-time basis, but also said he plans a nationwide search and will make a decision on a new coach as soon as possible.

Asked if he had a list of candidate names, Spear said: ``Sure I do.''

He declined to disclose them.

Idaho plays in the Western Athletic Conference, which is dropping football after this year. The Vandals will play as an independent next season, and Spear is trying to get them into a conference.

Idaho has a bye this week, and then hosts San Jose State.

Gesser was a star quarterback at nearby Washington State. His time at Idaho is his only college coaching experience.

``Obviously, I want to become a head coach,'' Gesser said. ``That's something I get a chance to do now.''

He said he would be disappointed in himself if he did not try to earn the permanent job.

Asked about rising from the high school ranks to an FBS head coaching job in two seasons, Gesser described the trip as ``very, very, very, very crazy.''

``Things are going fast,'' he said.

He said the circumstances were not ideal, but that college football is a business.

``One of my friends may have to fire me,'' he said. ``It's a business.''

Gesser believes the Vandals, who have beaten only New Mexico State this season, can win some of their remaining games. He said Akey would want the team to come together and play its best. The Vandals also have games at BYU, at Utah State and home against Texas-San Antonio.

He acknowledged that at this point he is an interim coach.

``But it may be my only time as a head coach,'' Gesser said. ``I've got to take it for what it is worth.''

``I'm going to recruit here and coach here for the next five weeks,'' Gesser said. ``I'll do it like I was going to be here for the next 20 years.''

Gesser plans a team meeting on Wednesday to allow players to express their feelings.

``It's not going to be a pity fest,'' he said. ``We're going to put our best foot forward and go on.''

Akey's teams were 3-17 over the past two seasons, and the Vandals have had only one winning season in the past 13.

Akey's buyout calls for him to receive his base salary of $165,000 a year through December 2014, or until he is hired by another program.

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."