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NDSU, Sam Houston coaches ready for FCS rematch

NDSU, Sam Houston coaches ready for FCS rematch

FARGO, N.D. (AP) Hang on before you chalk up the Football Championship Subdivision title game as a rematch.

The coaches at North Dakota State and Sam Houston State said Thursday their teams are not carbon copies from a year ago.

``It's two new teams that are playing each other this season,'' Sam Houston coach Willie Fritz said. ``A lot of the offense and defense and kicking game principles are the same, but there are a lot of differences that I can tell from watching the tape.''

The most obvious changes were made with assistant coaches, where NDSU needed to replace its defensive coordinator and the Bearkats brought in practically a new offensive staff. Both units are even better than a year ago.

The Bison, who won last year's game 17-6, will put their top-rated defense against Sam Houston State's No. 2 scoring offense in the Jan. 5 game in Frisco, Texas.

``They are very talented. They've got very good players,'' Fritz said. ``They're quick and fast. They play with great leverage. It's really tough to outflank them.''

Fritz has succeeded in improving his team's passing game, which worked as a surprise element last year, but struggled in obvious throwing situations. The result is a more balanced offense and a quarterback, Brian Bell, who ranks 11th in FCS in passing efficiency.

``It was a little bit bumpy at the beginning of the year like it always is when you implement something new,'' Fritz said. ``But we really took off about week four or five.''

Bison coach Craig Bohl said preparing for Sam Houston State's offense is more difficult this time around.

``They have a different play caller and their quarterback is throwing the ball significantly better,'' Bohl said. ``They've got a lot more threats. That's really going to stress our defense.''

NDSU's defense features an All-American cornerback in Marcus Williams, but is spearheaded by linebackers Grant Olson and Travis Beck. Olson had a school-record 29 tackles in a playoff win over Wofford. Beck came back the next week to make 15 tackles against Georgia Southern.

``We've got to get bodies on bodies,'' Fritz said, referring to his team's blocking.

Last year's game was a defensive struggle that saw NDSU escape with a 235-210 edge in total offense. The Bison broke the game open with their first fake punt of the year to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Fritz, asked about the fake punt, said it was an excellent call and the play was executed well. Then he added, ``Shoot, I was trying to forget that.''

Bohl has been known to pull off the occasional trick play in his tenure with NDSU. The key touchdown in this year's playoff win over South Dakota State was an end around that worked when 5-foot-7 wide receiver Ryan Smith basically hid behind his linemen.

``Having good players execute it is the most important thing. In every ballgame you always look at things to try and find an edge,'' Bohl said. ``Certainly last year that (fake punt) proved to be a good play in the game.''

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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.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

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USA TODAY Sports

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby. Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1. It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.