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Missouri skidding toward end of first SEC season

Missouri skidding toward end of first SEC season

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) With 1:52 remaining in last week's home finale, Missouri redshirt freshman Andrew Baggett jogged back to the sideline, greeted by high-fives from teammates after kicking a 46-yard field goal.

The Tigers had just taken a 27-24 lead over Syracuse and looked as if they were going to extend their school-record bowl streak to eight. For a program entering the year with 48 wins in its past five seasons, reaching the postseason has been a baseline.

But this year, Missouri's first in the Southeastern Conference, injuries and off-field issues have hampered the team's success. The Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC) haven't won consecutive games for the first time since 2001, coach Gary Pinkel's first season with the team.

So when Syracuse drove 81 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds left, it was another punch in the gut for the home team.

``It's amazing, you're 20 seconds away from winning the game, and when you win it, everything's so much better,'' Pinkel said. ``And when you lose it, everything's so much worse.''

The loss was the team's sixth game decided by seven points or less.

``I don't know if you guys understand how hard we fight, how much we want to win,'' senior left tackle Elvis Fisher said. ``I know that sometimes, a lot of people may say, `It doesn't look like they're even playing that well.' We're fighting our butts off out there. We want to win.''

The Tigers now must win at fellow SEC newcomer Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2) to keep their season alive. Despite having won in College Station the past two years, Missouri hasn't faced redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, who's guided the ninth-ranked Aggies to the upper tier of their new conference.

Missouri will benefit from the return of junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who didn't play against Syracuse while suspended for violating team rules. Richardson's 70 tackles are second-most on the team and rank first among interior defensive linemen in the SEC. Without him, the team registered only two tackles for loss and failed to record a sack against the Orange.

Richardson's teammates are eager to move on.

``It's easy for an outsider looking in to criticize the mistakes,'' junior right guard Max Copeland said. ``But criticism's real easy, man. And forgiveness isn't. And that's what we do. That's the nature of our brotherhood. We forgive each other, we love each other.''

The team hasn't said who will be starting at quarterback. Junior James Franklin suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter against Syracuse and is questionable this week. Franklin threw for 279 yards - his best performance of the season - and two touchdowns before leaving the game. After starting all 13 games in 2011, he's missed three starts this year because of shoulder and knee injuries.

Redshirt freshmen Corbin Berkstresser, who threw for 85 yards and led two scoring drives in the fourth quarter Saturday, will start if Franklin can't play. If there were a silver lining to the team's injury woes this season, it would be the experience gained by some of the Tigers' younger players.

``He's progressed as a quarterback at a pretty good rate,'' offensive coordinator Dave Yost said of Berkstresser. ``And really, it's not like he's a backup anymore because he's played so much.''

Missouri has no plans to give up on its season with one sure game remaining.

``Doesn't matter what happens,'' Copeland said. ``You can have big wins, big losses. The fire's still there to compete. That's why we do what we do.''

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

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