Capitals

No. 11 Louisville ready for erratic Syracuse

No. 11 Louisville ready for erratic Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Charlie Strong wants his Louisville Cardinals to enter the Carrier Dome with a big chip on their shoulders when they play Syracuse.

``I want our players to feel like they are being disrespected,'' Strong said.

Shouldn't be a problem.

Despite being one of only six unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Louisville (9-0, 4-0 Big East) is ranked 11th in the AP Top 25 and ninth in the latest BCS standings. In the BCS, the Cardinals trail Georgia and Florida, who each have one loss, and LSU and South Carolina, with two losses apiece.

``What I would hate to see is all of a sudden we're No. 5 in the BCS,'' Strong said. ``Then our guys are going to feel like, `Hey, we have arrived. We're there.' No. Let's just keep working and then at the end see where we are.''

The Cardinals have quietly made a strong statement behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and will present all sorts of problems for the Orange (4-5, 3-2).

``This is the best football team that we will have played so far,'' said Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, who watched his team lose 42-29 to Matt Barkley and then-No. 2 Southern California in the second week of the season. ``Even with a tough out-of-conference schedule, I would say Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback that we will face so far this season. He's a playmaker.''

Indeed.

Coming off a five-touchdown performance in a 45-17 win over Temple, Bridgewater has thrown for 2,434 yards and 18 TDs with only four interceptions, has a 70.4-percent completion rate, and is ranked fifth nationally in passing efficiency (169.98).

``He's a good quarterback on film,'' Syracuse nose tackle Jay Bromley said. ``He delivers the ball on time. He extends plays with his feet. But we've faced some really good quarterbacks over the course of the season, so we're prepared for anything. We can turn this around.''

Syracuse has to win two of its final three games to achieve the six wins needed to play in a bowl game, and the Orange will rely on quarterback Ryan Nassib to lead the way. He has thrown for a school-record 2,773 yards as the Orange has produced three 500-yard receivers in a season for the first time - Marcus Sales with 722, Alec Lemon 569, and Jarrod West 523.

``It's going to be a good test for us, a team that needs to become bowl-eligible,'' Strong said. ``Now, they have to go win.''

Syracuse has excelled against the run under defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. But in a 35-24 loss last week at Cincinnati, it faltered despite a solid effort by safety Shamarko Thomas, who had 14 tackles (10 solos) and forced a fumble.

Cincinnati's George Winn was named Big East offensive player of the week on Monday. He rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns - both career highs - and threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to key the win over Syracuse. That came a week after South Florida rushed for 369 yards - a high against a Shafer defense in his 45 games at Syracuse - in a one-point loss to the Orange.

Now come Louisville's Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright. Although Bridgewater is the guy who makes the Louisville offense purr, Perry has a league-high 11 touchdown runs, Wright has nine, and the two have combined to average 151 yards rushing per game.

Though the hopes of making the postseason for the second time in three years are in jeopardy with two road games remaining, Marrone isn't looking any farther ahead than Saturday.

``I always look at it from week to week,'' he said. ``I've never really looked at it from the overall picture because you can't. I think it distracts you from the task at hand.''

The Syracuse players certainly seem focused, especially because Saturday will be Senior Day for a core group of players that have been key to helping Marrone turn around a program that was a laughingstock not so long ago.

``It's special for me,'' Nassib said. ``It's my last game in the dome. I've been in there for the last five years. I would say there's a little more extra emphasis on being a little bit more prepared, more ready to go. But at the same time I've got to make sure I don't try to do too much.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.