Leach doesn't say who'll start at QB in Apple Cup

Leach doesn't say who'll start at QB in Apple Cup

Washington State coach Mike Leach took time on Sunday to explain how and why he makes good Thanksgiving gravy.

He failed to give any explanation as to who will be his starting quarterback the day after Thanksgiving when Washington State hosts rival Washington in the Apple Cup, not yet ready to make a decision about whether Jeff Tuel or Connor Halliday will get the nod against the Huskies.

``They both have done some good things. They both have a level of inconsistency. Some of it has been musical quarterbacks and some of it has been my fault,'' Leach said during a conference call. ``But by the same token we try to get on the guy that is hot and that has been tough to identify.''

Tuel and Halliday played in Washington State's 46-7 loss to Arizona State on Saturday, the Cougars eighth straight loss. After putting a scare into UCLA a week earlier with a massive second-half rally that fell short, the Cougars (2-9, 0-8 Pac-12) struggled in the desert against the Sun Devils and for the second straight road game that got out of hand in the opening minutes.

Tuel completed 8 of 16 passes for 63 yards, while Halliday was 13 of 33 for 173 yards. Both threw interceptions and Halliday had the only touchdown with a 54-yard TD pass to Kristoff Williams in the final minute of the game.

``I think we played hard, we just had some guys out of position at some times, didn't execute and the game just kind of got away from us,'' Washington State running back Carl Winston said.

The Cougars continued their maddening trend of playing competitively against the top of the Pac-12, only to follow up with a dud against others. The Cougars played even with Oregon and flustered Oregon State earlier in the season, only to follow up with a lackluster effort at home against California. Washington State was on the verge of an upset at Stanford, then responded by getting blown out at Utah.

And just last week, after all the unwanted attention from claims of abuse by former wide receiver Marquess Wilson, the Cougars staged a strong second-half rally that fell short 44-36 against UCLA.

Their answer to another strong performance against a top-tier squad? Washington State trailed 18-0 after one quarter and 46-0 after three quarters to the Sun Devils.

``It's definitely hard, kind of like (we) have mood swings,'' Washington State defensive back Deone Bucannon said.

Washington State needs a victory over the rival Huskies to avoid going winless in conference play for the second time in the last four seasons and to avoid yet another nine-game losing skid to close out a season. The Cougars lost their final nine games of the 2009 season, also the last time they were winless in conference play.

Even for being a program that has seen more struggles than successes in the past, going winless in conference play has been rarity. In the past 40 years, Washington State has been shutout in conference play only three times (1975, 1998, 2009).

While beating Washington wouldn't provide a remedy for all the problems the Cougars have faced in Leach's first year with an underperforming record and Wilson's claims, it would give at least some solace of optimism heading into the offseason.

``I'm kind of looking forward to it,'' Leach said. ``... I think they're already motivated. I think the biggest thing need to focus on is our effort, our work, our development.''

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.


The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for 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 Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:

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

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

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek


You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


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.