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Richt pleased with No. 5 Georgia's timely defense

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Richt pleased with No. 5 Georgia's timely defense

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Georgia coach Mark Richt is not worried about his team's defense, no matter how many yards the Bulldogs have allowed this season.

No. 5 Georgia ranks near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference, 10th among league defenses at more than 370 yards a game given up.

That's almost 100 yards more than the team gave up a game a year ago when Georgia was fourth in the league and adding to the SEC's reputation for powerhouse defense. The Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 SEC) must ramp things up defensively this week against No. 6 South Carolina (5-0, 3-0) in a Eastern Division showdown sure to have a bearing on who will play for an SEC championship.

Richt says his players have made the critical stops with the game on the line, something that's helped the Bulldogs to their first 5-0 start since 2006.

Not that it's been pretty. Georgia gave up 371 yards in the SEC opener against Missouri and 478 last week in beating Tennessee 51-44.

Richt brushes aside the outside grumbling about Georgia's porous defense. Great stats, he says, don't always equal winning records. ``I was more concerned about are we going to stop people when we have to stop them, when it means the most,'' Richt said. ``I think that happened in the Missouri game and I think it happened in the Tennessee game defensively.

``I'm pleased with that,'' he said.

Georgia got three turnovers to hold on against Missouri, including a fourth-quarter interception by star linebacker Jarvis Jones. The Bulldogs picked up three interceptions and a fumble to beat the Vols. Perhaps more importantly, the defense got back suspended starters in linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Baccarri Rambo.

Ogletree made a career-high 14 tackles and tipped a pass that led to an interception. Rambo had nine tackles.

Jones is the leader, though, with 4 1/2 sacks and eight tackles for loss this season.

Georgia has had its troubles stopping South Carolina's rushing attack the past two years. Gamecocks star Marcus Lattimore scorched the Bulldogs for 182 yards and two touchdowns in 2010 and 176 yards and a touchdown last season - both South Carolina victories.

The Gamecocks have picked up defensively where they left off a year ago when they finished third nationally.

South Carolina's defense showed that last week in a 38-17 win at Kentucky. The Gamecocks gave up 196 yards and trailed 17-7 at the half, then held the Wildcats to 47 yards and no points the rest of the way.

Sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is second in the SEC with 5 1/2 sacks. Clowney's sack of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray late in last year's 45-42 win over the Bulldogs led to a crucial fumble that Melvin Ingram returned for a touchdown and provided the Gamecocks' winning margin.

South Carolina has been just as disruptive on defense this season, tied for second in the country with 22 sacks. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing says the Gamecocks are gaining pressure without blitzing - he thinks they've called two blitzes all season - taking advantage of speed rushers like Clowney and defensive end Devin Taylor to affect quarterbacks.

``Those are the best defenses, when you trust your players to just make plays and they do that,'' said Murray, who'll again have to dodge South Carolina's quick defenders. ``They do a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback without blitzing.''

Murray has connected on 68 percent of his passes this year, throwing for 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. Georgia's offensive line is also rounding into form, giving up just two of the team's seven sacks allowed in the last three games.

Georgia's offense took a hit this week with the loss of leading receiver Michael Bennett, who tore a knee ligament at practice Tuesday. That means the Bulldogs could rely even more heavily on freshmen runners Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall - nicknamed ``Gur-shall'' by fans - who combined for 294 yards and five TDs against the Vols last week.

Clowney thinks the Gamecocks can get to Murray again and slow down a Bulldogs' offense that's scored 41 points or better in every game this season. ``Every quarterback if you get pressure on them, they're going to make mistakes,'' Clowney said.

South Carolina is seeking its school record 10th straight victory and its third in a row over Georgia, something that's never happened in a series first played in 1894.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier says he's not putting much stock into Georgia's defensive numbers, expecting a stout group of Bulldogs ready to fight for every yard. Spurrier, like Richt, says Georgia plays well in the fourth quarter when it matters most.

Stats bear that out, the Bulldogs gave given up 37 second-half points this year compared to the 73 opponents have scored on them in the first two quarters.

``Reminds me a little bit of Auburn two years ago, their defense wasn't ranked very high either,'' Spurrier said. ``In the fourth quarter, they stopped people. They won every game, somehow, doing that.''

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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.