Redskins

Huskies set to face rival Cougars for Apple Cup

Huskies set to face rival Cougars for Apple Cup

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) At midseason Washington was teetering on the brink of collapse, coming off three straight losses, two huge blowouts and dissent in the fan base about whether Steve Sarkisian was truly the right coach to be rebuilding its program.

During the past four weeks, Sarkisian's team has quieted critics, matched the longest regular season win streak in more than a decade and put the Huskies on the brink of their first eight-win season since 2001.

Yet the Huskies (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) are mostly overshadowed by the chaos at Washington State (2-9, 0-8) headed into Friday's Apple Cup against the rival Cougars. No two-win team has gotten as much attention as the Cougars, largely because they have underperformed and for claims of abuse from coaches by former wide receiver Marquess Wilson that led to internal and Pac-12 investigations.

Then again, not every two-win team has Mike Leach as its head coach.

``We need to go out and try to win the game just for the sake of trying to win the game and play good football,'' Leach said this week.

Then he added about all the chaos: ``Most of the time it's been pointless and centered toward selfish people who are being revealed for who they are.''

Expectations before the season had the Apple Cup as a possible bowl-clinching opportunity for the Cougars with the excitement over that potential making up for the fact the game is being played the day after Thanksgiving on the Washington State campus while students are out on break.

Instead, no one is quite sure what the atmosphere will be. Normally, games in Pullman have an extra twinge of vitriol. Washington State officials said earlier this week less than a 1,000 tickets remained, yet how many of those were snatched up before the season began when all the buzz and hype in the state was pointed crimson and gray is unknown.

There's no debating Leach's first season in Pullman has flopped on the field as he attempted to recondition the Cougars into the type of program he wants going forward. Before the season, the Cougars were thought to be a potential bowl team with the amount of talent returning and Leach's run of success at Texas Tech which proved his ability to win nearly anywhere.

Those same fans that bought season tickets in droves and ramped up donations to the school have been left shaking their heads at another downtrodden season when they've received far more negative attention than the positive buzz that Leach's hiring brought.

Some of the losses have been ugly and reminiscent of just a few years ago when the Cougars were the laughingstock of college football. But Washington State has flustered some of the better competition in the Pac-12 this season. They flustered Oregon for a half, before the Ducks took off and pulled away. They put a scare into Oregon State, nearly pulled off a huge upset at Stanford and made a valiant second-half rally after being down 30 to make things uncomfortable for UCLA.

The Cougars may be short-handed with quarterback Connor Halliday and defensive end Travis Long possibly missing the game with injuries. Leach does not discuss the injury status of his players, but indicated Jeff Tuel would likely start at quarterback.

``This is a big game for a lot of people. Everyone remembers the Apple Cup,'' Washington State DB Deone Bucannon said. ``You're going to remember the Apple Cup for the rest of your life.''

Leach can only wish for the day he can give the same speech Sarkisian did in his team room earlier this week, bringing up the fact that Washington could finish with eight wins for the first time since the 2001 season that ended with a berth in the Holiday Bowl. A fifth-straight win to close the season would be the Huskies longest winning roll since 2000, the last time Washington made a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.

Sarkisian is undefeated against the Cougars (4-0) and his teams at Washington are becoming known for making late surges. It's a small sample, but the Huskies are 9-6 in regular season games in the months of November and December in Sarkisian's four seasons. It's an impressive trait since the Huskies are just 7-10 in the month of October under Sarkisian.

``I think that's one of our main things in the program is finish. Even in the offseason workouts it's not about how you start, but how you finish. Everybody is going to remember the end of the season and I think that's been our main motto since I've been here,'' Washington QB Keith Price said. ``It's been a real attention to detail when it comes to the end of the season. We know what we need to accomplish and Sark harps on that.''

While Washington's offense has awakened the last two weeks, the current win streak is mostly on the shoulders of the Huskies improving defense. After giving up 52 points at Arizona on Oct. 20, Washington has allowed just 48 in wins over Oregon State, California, Utah and Colorado.

``We had a rocky start,'' Washington safety Justin Glenn said. ``The way we've responded to the adversity and battled back and strung these four wins together and kept it going, that's what (Sarkisian) wanted and that's what we've tried to do.''

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O-line, D-line is the move for the Redskins at No. 13, according to Charles Davis

O-line, D-line is the move for the Redskins at No. 13, according to Charles Davis

We are nearing the start of the NFL Draft, less than three days to be exact, and right now there are a ton of names circling around whom the Washington Redskins should take at No. 13.

You’ve probably read countless mock drafts at this point (if you haven’t or need another here is ours), and there’s one thing that is consistent: nothing.

So let's concern ourselves less of ‘who’ and exactly what each player will bring to the Redskins.

There are very few evaluators of talent better than the NFL Network’s Charles Davis, so he got to talk with J.P. Finlay and Mitch Tischler on the latest edition of the Redskins Talk podcast.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST WITH CHARLES DAVIS HERE

He broke down EVERYONE that Washington could be taking at No. 13 overall. If you don’t have time to listen (which we highly recommend that you do), here are some of the highlights:

“This could be a wild first night,” said Davis. “All of these different trade scenarios are out there right? My experience has been that most of that calms down as we get closer. There’s a lot of discussion and chatter about it, but we don’t usually have it.”

REDSKINS NEEDS:

“At 13, when you’re really down to it, Mitch I think you had said to me even before we began ‘O-line, D-line man, let’s talk O-line, D-line,’ and I think that is the perfect place for this Washington team.”

VITA VEA, DT, WASHINGTON

“If Vita Vea from Washington somehow is sitting there at 13, and the idea that you could go up there and put him a line and get Jonathan Allen back from last year, I think that’d be a great place to go. This is a top-10, top-5 talent in this draft that possibly could still be around at 13.”

“When we’re talking about the people that are in our business, the talking heads that people kind of go to and kind of get held accountable for their mock drafts… you don’t really see Vea in any consistency in the top ten.”

“Eleven is kind of the breakpoint for him.”

MAURICE HURST, DT, MICHIGAN

“I like him. I don’t know that I like him quite that high.”

DA’RON PAYNE, DT, ALABAMA

“I like Payne, better than Hurst, but again I don’t know about quite that high.”

“The medical, you can’t help it when you’re talking about a heart. You can’t help but be a little bit concerned. Now he has gotten clearance, that has come through, but we all know that each team is going to do it’s own research and got to decide how comfortable they are with that.”

QUENTON NELSON, OL, NOTRE DAME

“I doubt he is falling to 13, because if somehow he falls to eight to the Bears and if the Bears don’t run up to the podium and plug him in, I’d be stunned.”

ORLANDO BROWN JR., OT, OKLAHOMA

“Normally when you have a combine and you have some things that you have some questions marks on, normally you have some balancers. Orlando Brown had zero balancers. Everything was historically bad.”

WILL HERNANDEZ, G, UTEP

“Now Will Hernandez has had about as good a postseason as an offensive lineman can have.”

“This kid Hernandez has become a massive road grater, quicker than you would think, better pass protector and he did all of this on an 0-12 team last year. So he is another guy to keep an eye on, especially if as you said they are able to move back.”

DERRIUS GUICE, RB, LSU

“I’d be surprised at 13.”

“Get back to 19 and then I think Guice is in play at 19. If that indeed is the runner that they like. I think the running back renaissance is real.”

JOHN KELLY, RB, TENNESSEE

“I think this John Kelly kid from Tennessee is a really good runner. He had a little trouble off-field last year, missed a game because of all that, but this kid runs hard, plays hard, he’s not Alvin Kamara… but this kid is more of a pure running back than Kamara is, he’s just not a bulky guy.”

TRADING BACK

“They’re in a tough spot because of the number. We’ve got all of this stuff now.”

“That’s a tough one, because if I’m Dallas and I want to come up and get my guy [Calvin Ridley], I don’t need to come up as high as 13 anyway, if you really think about it.”

BILLY PRICE, OL, Ohio State

“He’s a really good player. The kid played guard, he played center. Price is a really good technician. 44 a possibility? Possibility. Before the injury he was going late-first, early second.”

This is only scratching the surface of what the expert talked about. Get the full experience and listen to the full podcast.

MORE DRAFT COVERAGE:

- SEVEN ROUND REDSKINS MOCK DRAFT

- ODDS ON FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS

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Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

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USA TODAY Sports

Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Giants right-hander Chris Stratton will seek to duplicate two impressive efforts when he takes the mound for the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night at 10:15 p.m. ET.

The series is the first in San Francisco since Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals star Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, triggering a brawl at the mound that resulted in the ejection of both players.

The Giants got the worst of the altercation, with slugging backup Michael Morse suffering a career-ending concussion in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija near the mound.

Stratton wasn't with the Giants at the time, but he contributed one of the best-pitched games of his young career when the clubs met again in Washington in August.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER HOME RUN TRACKER

Making just his third career start, the 27-year-old shut out the Nationals on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win. He struck out 10.

It's the only time he has faced Washington.

Stratton (1-1, 2.22) has won just four times since, and came close to a fifth when he limited Arizona to one run in seven innings in his last start on Wednesday. He did not, however, get a decision in the 4-3 win, during which he recorded eight strikeouts.

The Giants will be opening a 10-game homestand following a 10-game trip on which they went just 4-6. Statton started two of the four wins.

Stratton wasn't the only Giants starter who pitched well on the trip. The club is coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels in which both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto took shutouts late into wins.

Strickland saved Sunday's 4-2 win for Cueto, and afterward was asked about his thoughts of seeing Harper again.

"Win a series," is all he would say.

RELATED: LATEST MLB POWER RANKINGS

In the Nationals, the Giants will be seeing a team coming off a high-profile series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that included a meeting on Sunday Night Baseball.

Washington lost two of three in the rematch of 2017 division winners, scoring a total of just eight runs on 21 hits in the three games, which ended with the Nationals stranding two in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

Harper went 2-for-10 in the series, which the Nationals played without injured regulars Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. They remain out.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49) will oppose Stratton.

The veteran has made 12 career starts against the Giants, going 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA.

He restored order to the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco last season the day after the brawl, pitching 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win. It improved his record at AT&T Park to 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts.

Gonzalez threw 97 pitches in beating the New York Mets 5-2 in his last start, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday.

That pitch total wasn't even five times the number Giants first baseman Brandon Belt saw in one historic at-bat Sunday against the Angels' Jaime Barria in the first inning.

Belt fouled off 16 pitches and flied out on the 21st pitch of the at-bat, the most pitches in a Major League Baseball at-bat since 1988.

Afterward, Belt apologized.

"When I'm in the field, I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off," he insisted. "I'm like, 'Dude, just put it in play. It's not that hard. Let's go.' So, I basically had to apologize to everybody after that."

RELATED: HOW NATS DROPPED FINAL GAME VS. DODGERS