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Nebraska defense tightening up

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Nebraska defense tightening up

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Even after his defense gave up 653 yards to UCLA and 498 yards and 63 points to Ohio State, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini didn't waver in his belief that things would get better.

Over the last five games, that's exactly what has happened.

No. 17 Nebraska allowed Minnesota a season-low 177 yards on Saturday and held the Gophers to just 10 of 28 passing. Nebraska now ranks 19th nationally in total defense and 41st in scoring defense.

``Obviously, we had a couple games there early on that didn't go well,'' Pelini said Monday. ``But I think we've gotten steadily better as the season's gone on. That's what you try to do. We stayed the course. We didn't panic and our kids have gotten better. Offensively, I think we've been at a high level all year. Right now, we're kind of hitting stride and playing pretty good in all phases of the game.''

The Ohio State game was the low point for the defense, senior linebacker Will Compton said.

``Things started to hit the fan,'' he said. ``We always talk about doing your job and staying in the system. We kind of got out of that. We were trying to do other people's jobs. For whatever reason, things weren't clicking. We learned from that experience.''

That learning process, Compton said, was led by defensive coordinator John Papuchis, who, when he meets with the defense after a game, always finds some positives from his team's performance.

Even after Ohio State, Compton said, Papuchis praised the defense for its first-half play and emphasized that the Blackshirts weren't as bad as the score might have indicated. With Papuchis, Pelini and the defensive staff leading the way, the players have responded.

``It wasn't anything special,'' Compton said. ``Just prepare and do your job and don't worry about a mistake. Go on to the next play.''

Much of the improvement has come in pass defense, where Nebraska's secondary and linebackers are holding opponents to a nation's-best 45.4 completion percentage.

``You never think of something like pass completion percentage when you're out on the field,'' Compton said. ``It's pretty awesome to see.''

Asked for his completion percentage goal, Pelini quipped: ``Zero. I guess I'm joking to a certain extent. We want to challenge every route. We have pretty high expectations. We work pretty hard at how we play pass defense. It's a big part of how we play, what our philosophy is defensively.''

The defense was offered its coveted Blackshirts after Nebraska's 29-28 come-from-behind win at Northwestern. Led by Compton, they turned them down for a week, donning them in practice only after shutting down Michigan in a 23-9 win.

Now Compton said, the defense is playing well and improving each game. The Huskers play Iowa this Friday in the regular-season finale.

``As we're playing well, you kind of understand how good you can be,'' Compton said. ``We know what we have to do and how to do it and stick with it. When we're doing that, we're pretty damned good, When we click, we're pretty tough to beat.''

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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USA Today Sports Images

Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

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

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

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

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.