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No. 16 Texas A&M gains momentum in SEC West

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No. 16 Texas A&M gains momentum in SEC West

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Texas A&M's dominant 63-21 win over Auburn on Saturday night was close to perfect: No turnovers, a measly three penalties, only one punt and plenty of highlights from Johnny Manziel.

The Aggies moved up six spots to No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday. They are proving that in their first season in the Southeastern Conference they can make an impact in the Western Division race in November.

The lopsided win over Auburn was the perfect warm-up for more difficult games to come.

Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) plays at No. 17 Mississippi State this week, followed by a game at No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 10.

Manziel and the starters built a big lead and then sat out most of the second half.

``I think we've been close the last couple of weeks,'' coach Kevin Sumlin said. ``We've been having penalties on offense and defense. Offensively, we had turned the ball over too much. There are a lot more things that we control than people believe. Every week we need to deal with ourselves before we deal with the opponent.''

The Aggies overwhelmed lowly Auburn (1-7, 0-6 SEC). The next two weeks will be more important indicators of how Texas A&M's season will be defined.

The Aggies already have two close losses to ranked SEC teams, a 24-19 loss at LSU on Oct. 20 and a season-opening 20-17 loss to Florida.

Linebacker Jonathan Stewart said the Aggies didn't look past Auburn to the high-profile games the next two weeks.

``It was important, but we don't pay attention to the stretch, we paid attention to this one week,'' Stewart said. ``We have the 24-hour rule. We'll enjoy this win for the plane ride back, and when we wake up in the morning we'll get ready for a very good Mississippi State team.''

The Aggies' spread offense, led by Manziel's running and passing, executed as if performing against a scout team defense. On Manziel's eight possessions, Texas A&M produced seven touchdowns and a missed 48-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

Manziel came back after halftime, led his final touchdown drive, and watched the remainder of the rout from the sideline.

The freshman with the catchy ``Johnny Football'' nickname completed 16 of 23 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns and had nine carries for 90 yards and three scores.

Sumlin said it was especially important Manziel moved past his three interceptions in last week's loss to LSU.

``I think the big difference between us tonight and the last couple of weeks is we took care of the football,'' Sumlin said. ``When you're moving the chains and not giving the ball to the other team ... that' show you have this kind of success and you're able to score like that.''

The Aggies' spread the offense around. Trey Williams ran for 109 yards with a touchdown. Christine Michael and Ben Malena combined for 138 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Ryan Swope had six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

``When everything is working it's hard to stop,'' said Swope of the offense. ``We left a few plays on the field. That's the scary thing.''

The defense had five sacks from five players and held Auburn without a first down in the opening quarter.

Sumlin couldn't have asked for more in the Aggies' first visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

``We're new to this league, we're in new environments playing different teams and we really have to stay focused one week at a time,'' he said.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

he win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

COLUMBUS — Alex Ovechkin confidently predicted earlier this week that the Caps were going to win twice at Nationwide Arena and take their first round series back to Washington knotted, two games apiece.

And, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what Ovechkin made sure his team did.

No. 8, who was playing in his franchise-record 101st playoff game, scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the final frame and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Game 4.

Tarik’s Three Stars of Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4

1. Tom Wilson, Capitals

After a slow (and penalty-plagued) start to this series, Wilson has become a force. Yes, he took another minor, but the good is far outweighing the bad these days. Big Willy recorded a goal, an assist and a team-high seven shots. 

2. Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby had his best game in, well, a long time. He stopped 23 shots, including all eight he saw in a contentious second period.

The goal he surrendered was a nearly unstoppable tip-in by Boone Jenner.

3. T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Osh just plays the game so dang hard.

So it should come as no surprise that he delivered in his team’s biggest game of the season to this point. Oshie, of course, scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the second period.

It was No. 77’s second tally of the series. He also directed six shots at the Columbus net and made a couple of hits...all from a player who's been fighting through injury the past few weeks.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know what you think in the comments.