No. 13 Georgia aims for rebound at Kentucky

No. 13 Georgia aims for rebound at Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Georgia is looking to get back to its winning ways after a week off when the No. 13 Bulldogs meet Kentucky Saturday night.

The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) were routed 35-7 at South Carolina in their last game, a loss that made their quest to win the East Division tougher. The loss featured defensive breakdowns, an ongoing problem for the Bulldogs - Georgia has given up 89 points the past two games.

Lineup shuffles caused by the early season suspensions of several players partly explains Georgia's breakdowns, though coach Mark Richt blames it more on miscommunication.

``Everybody has to be on the same page, and we made all the corrections we could make from what happened in the South Carolina game and really the entire season,'' Richt said in a conference call. ``We looked at the entire first six games and said what are the things that are causing these big plays, and most of it was communication issues on the back end. We tried to make those corrections.

``Once you do close that loophole of a big play, then you've got a really good chance of playing good defense and that's what we've got to make sure we're doing.''

With everyone talking now, the next step is backing it up against the injury-plagued Wildcats (1-6, 0-4).

The Bulldogs found themselves in trouble early against the Gamecocks on Sept. 29, trailing 21-0 behind several big plays including a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown. South Carolina gained 392 yards overall, leaving Georgia ninth in the SEC in total defense at 373.8 per game.

The Bulldogs' main question is whether their marquee player will be available against Kentucky.

All-America junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (5.5 sacks) hasn't practiced this week after injuring his ankle against South Carolina and looks doubtful. Freshman backup Jordan Jenkins is ready to go just in case.

And Georgia has others capable of filling the void.

Senior nose tackle John Jenkins is coming off a career-high, eight-tackle game against the Gamecocks. Sophomore linebacker Amarlo Herrera had a career-high 11 tackles in that game, and suggests that Georgia just needs to reclaim the defensive style that worked so well last season.

``We should never have had excuses for anything, no matter who was in or who was out,'' Herrera said. ``We're ready to get back to the top defensive form we were in last year.''

The off week came at a good time for the Bulldogs, helping them get over the Gamecocks loss prepare for the stretch run. They're 13-4 following an open date under Richt.

Playing a struggling Kentucky team could also help Georgia move forward.

The Wildcats have lost five in a row and are coming off a rain-shortened 49-7 drubbing at Arkansas. Injuries have forced them to use freshmen on both sides of the ball but especially on defense, where four rookies could start in the secondary against Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray.

``We've just got to be ready to make the plays based on coverages and who's guarding who,'' Murray said. ``I don't want to start talking trash. We've just got to be ready to go no matter what we see, no matter who we see.''

For Kentucky, that means generating more quarterback pressure, a tricky deal considering it has spent most of its time in coverage.

``I feel we're pretty close'' to having pressure, Wildcats senior defensive end Taylor Wyndham said. ``Because we have a lot of young guys it makes it difficult sometimes but it's also a good thing.

``In the first half against South Carolina, oh man, we shut `em out. But we didn't come out the same way in the second half. We'll play for good stretches. It's just so close. You just got to be able to finish.''

Offensively, Kentucky has multiple purposes in wanting to establish the rush. The Wildcats haven't broken 100 yards the past two games, which has pressured freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow to throw; the combined results are 74 yards and one touchdown on 12 of 31 passing.

Besides taking some of the pressure off Whitlow, a decent ground game might ease the burden on a defense that has spent long stretches on the field. Opponents are keeping the ball nearly 34 minutes per game, 10 more than the Wildcats.

``We've got to establish the run, establish it early and try to take some pressure off'' Whitlow, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.

Saturday's homecoming game ends a demanding stretch for the Wildcats, who have faced four SEC opponents ranked 20th or higher. Their schedule is considered the nation's toughest by the Anderson and Hester, Colley Matrix and Massey ratings.

Kentucky's past seven opponents are a combined 37-7, with three still unbeaten and three having only one loss.

Georgia will face one of those unbeaten teams next week in Jacksonville in East-leading and No. 2 Florida. That's why it's important the Bulldogs make sure there's no confusion on either side of the ball - starting at Kentucky.

``We're ready to move forward,'' Herrera said. ``The off week provided us with an opportunity to improve on a lot of things, and a lot of people have been working to get better. We're just ready to work hard.''


AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Athens, Ga., contributed to this report.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

A whirlwind week in the NFL, but that's come to be the norm when free agency opens. Actually, not even when free agency opens, rather the legal tampering period opening two days before the actual start of the new league year. 

A lot happened, and more to come, but let's try to make sense of it all. 

  • The worst keep secret ever finally got revealed when the Redskins held their press conference to announce Alex Smith as their new starting quarterback. Everybody knows about the trade, and losing Kendal Fuller, but this trade makes a ton of sense and Smith was a homerun at the presser. He doesn't care about image or perception, a refreshing angle from the passer, and seems quite prepared for his new role. Smith was great in Kansas City in 2017. If he can replicate that in 2018 for the Redskins, the move will be loudly applauded. 
  • We still haven't gotten total clarity on Smith's contract. My intel says three years are really guaranteed, so Smith will be on the payroll through 2020 at least. Doug Williams joked at the presser that Smith could maybe play until he's 40, and since he's 33 right now, that would be a long time from now. 


  • Smith was the headline, but the Redskins also held a press conference with new WR Paul Richardson. He was possibly more impressive than Smith, just because the young speedster was more of an unknown. Smith has talked at a ton of podiums and faced a ton of reporters. I don't know, but that might have been Richardson's first ever press conference with a room that had probably 100 or more people in it. Check out the video above. 
  • Richardson had a great line when asked about the dangers of big hits on passes over the middle: "They gotta catch me." He's right. He will get a lot of opportunities for the Redskins, and he should make things better for Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. The Redskins wideouts did not get great separation in 2017, there are Pro Football Focus stats to back that up, and the offense got bogged down because of that. In 2018, with Richardson in place as a deep threat, defenses will need to react. 
  • The key to the Redskins offense truly succeeding in 2018: Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, the Washington air attack looks dangerous. 
  • Smart contract structure for the Redskins with Richardson. 
  • Zach Brown's contract is a 10/10 for the Redskins. A tackling machine that can actually improve from a strong 2017 season. Getting him back changed the entire tenor of Redskins free agency, as the team went from quietly sitting out the spending sprees (minus the Richardson move) to locking up their most important defensive player. 
  • Brown back, along with Mason Foster, gives the Redskins two strong inside linebackers. It's hard to remember now, but last September, that Redskins defense looked fierce. Injuries robbed the unit of a chance to completely gel and improve, but 2018 brings a new opportunity for that.
  • Offensively, the Redskins had to invest at wide receiver in free agency. The money for Allen Robinson got crazy and the team was smart to move forward with Richardson. He fits their desired profile: Young player coming off a rookie contract on a career upswing. 
  • The Redskins did not invest at running back, despite Jay Gruden and Doug Williams saying the team must improve at the position. Frankly, the Isaiah Crowell contract with the Jets was quite affordable, and he's a player some team sources had interest in. The Redskins do not have the luxury of taking a running back early in the draft, and I'd argue they shouldn't even look at RB in the second round. The Redskins should be focused up front on the offensive and defensive lines. A dream scenario: A player like Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne at 13, and then Ohio State interior offensive lineman Billy Price at 44. Price would have been a first-round lock but for a pectoral injury at the Scouting Combine. Medicals say he should be fine for training camp. Washington has shown a proclivity to draft players that slip due to injury concerns (Kendall Fuller in 2016, Fabian Moreau in 2017) and Price could fit the same mold. 
  • The vacancy at left guard has not been addressed, and wasn't going to be addressed in free agency, or at least not in the early days where the big money gets paid out. Washington has more than $26 million invested this season in just three players on their offensive line (Trent Williams at $14M, Morgan Moses at $5M, Brandon Scherff at almost $7M) and the team knows Scherff will cost more money soon. The Jaguars just gave Andrew Norwell $30 million guaranteed; the guard market has arrived. The 'Skins will want to keep Scherff, and to do it, they need to keep some cash on hand. That means the new left guard will either be a budget free agent find, or come from the draft.
  • To that point, the team viewed Spencer Long expendable. He was well liked by players and coaches, but has never played a full 16-game season and missed half the year in 2017. Also, the emergence of Chase Roullier helped the team move forward without Long. 


  • A bit of a surprise to see Trent Murphy leave, but he got good money from the Bills. Washington liked Murphy, and wanted to keep him, but not at the price Buffalo paid. 
  • What happened to Ryan Grant is complete junk. The Ravens are a first-class organization, but that was a bush league move. The guy has never missed a game in four years and now he can't pass a physical?!? C'mon man. Hoping the best for Ryan and will be interested to see if his represenatives seek retribution from Baltimore. 
  • Bashaud Breeland sure likes to keep it interesting. Why sign a contract if you know you have a hurt foot and can't pass a physical? Why would the agent not disclose that? Maybe it was disclosed, but that situation just seems so weird. The Redskins were never bringing Breeland back, something I reported as far back as December, but now it seems Breeland's next NFL team will have to wait to see when his foot can pass a physical. Bree is a good and funny dude, hope he heals up. 
  • Two crazy things from one draft class: The 'Skins NAILED their 2014 draft haul. Without a first round pick, they got five solid contributors in Murphy, Moses, Long, Breeland and Grant. But now, after their rookie contracts have all expired, only Moses remains with the team. Bizarre. 

  • Credit where it's due: The 2014 Draft belonged to a certain Bruce Allen. That was the year after the Shanahan crew was fired and the year before Scot McCloughan was hired. Credit where it's due. 
  • I think a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deal gets done. I think a Junior Galette deal might get done. 
  • Ndamukong Suh is still out there. Just saying. 
  • So is Bennie Logan. Just saying. 

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