No. 25 Michigan vows to stay focused on Illinois


No. 25 Michigan vows to stay focused on Illinois

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Michigan is back in the poll, climbing to No. 25 after an impressive win over Purdue, and heads into Saturday's game favored to beat Illinois by more than two touchdowns.

The Wolverines (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) in theory could be looking ahead to next week's game against rival Michigan State.

``I don't think we'll have any problems,'' coach Brady Hoke said sternly Monday.

Hoke seems to deliver a message each week that keeps his players thinking and talking about the next game - not the big picture.

``I'm going to tell you the exact same thing coach Hoke tell us every day, `Every week is a championship week,''' defensive tackle Will Campbell said. ``Every week we're going to be playing for a Big Ten championship.''

The Wolverines are coming off a 44-13 victory against the Boilermakers and have steadily improved since opening with a lopsided loss to Alabama. Illinois (2-4, 0-2) has lost three straight games by a combined score of 118-45 and four games this year by an average of 26 points.

The Wolverines insist they're taking the Illini seriously because they're one of the teams to beat in their quest to end a conference championship drought that dates to 2004.

``If you overlook any game in the Big Ten, you're going to lose that game,'' offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said.

If Michigan can't figure out a way to run the ball without Denard Robinson doing it, it might have a hard time ending a four-game losing streak to the Spartans on Oct. 20 at the Big House. On nearly 20 carries in the last two losses to Michigan State, Robinson is averaging just 3.3 yards per rushing attempt for 128 yards combined.

Robinson, as he often has when the Wolverines win, was spectacular on the ground at Purdue.

The speedy senior ran for 235 yards at Purdue and became the Big Ten's all-time leading rushing quarterback with 3,905 yards. He was named the conference's co-player of the week on offense for a ninth time, tying the record total set by Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne.

Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, though, was held to 19 yards rushing on 17 carries. He has just 169 yards rushing - 3.2 yards per carry - in four games this year after averaging 5.6 yards per attempt for a total of 1,091 yards last season.

Is Hoke concerned with the lack of production the team is getting from its running backs?

``I would be lying if I said I wasn't,'' he acknowledged.

Thomas Rawls has made the most of limited opportunities. Rawls ran for 33 yards on just four carries against Purdue and is averaging 5-plus yards on 16 attempts that have been spread sparingly out over three games.

After Hoke vowed that he's going to stick with Toussaint at tailback, the second-year coach was asked if he thought about playing Rawls earlier in games?

``No, not really,'' Hoke said.

Hoke explained that Toussaint hasn't proven that he can't do the job, saying he simply ran against a defense that was designed to stop him last Saturday.

``A year ago, I think Fitz ran for 170 yards against Purdue - they weren't going to let him did that,'' Hoke said. ``They were very concerned with taking that part of our offense away. Denard rushed for 235, so something has got to give.''


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Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon


Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon

The Redskins will be taking visits from two former NFC East foes in the next few days.

Former Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will visit Redskins Park on Monday. Scandrick, 31, has been with Dallas since them made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. He has eight career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

The Cowboys released Scandrick on Friday in a salary cap move. The Redskins would be attracted to Scandrick’s versatility. He can play either side at corner and, of particular interest to the Redskins, in the slot. That is a position of concern for Washington since they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the deal for quarterback Alex Smith.

The Redskins have been trying to get former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign for the past several days, but they can’t come together on money. Scandrick could be a fallback if they need one.

The other visitor will be former Giants defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins, per John Keim of ESPN. Hankins, 25, was a second-round draft pick and played his first four years in New York. Last year he moved on to the Colts as a free agent. They are changing their defense and decided to release Hankins after paying him $10 million last year.

Hankins could bolster a defensive line that still needs young talent. It’s not known if he would be considered a nose tackle in the Redskins’ scheme. The Giants ran a 4-3 defense and in the Colts’ 3-4 he was used as an end.

The Redskins had former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit earlier this week, but he decided to sign with the Packers.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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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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