Stingy Iowa St D gets final shot in Liberty Bowl


Stingy Iowa St D gets final shot in Liberty Bowl

AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State might have the best defense no one outside of Ames has heard of this season.

The Cyclones held 11 of their 12 opponents below their season scoring average, and half of them at least 10 points under what they normally got.

Iowa State's shaky offense is the main reason why the Cyclones are just 6-6 heading into the Liberty Bowl against Tulsa (10-3) on Dec. 31.

So for the defense, a rematch of the season opener against the Golden Hurricane - who scored 12 points below their average - marks one last shot to show the nation just how strong they've been all season.

``Our goal is to hold teams to no points. Obviously holding teams below their average is a priority, but we also strive to do better,'' first-team All-Big 12 linebacker A.J. Klein said. ``We're just trying to play the best defense we can. If they score 30 points and they still win, it's what happens.''

Iowa State's 38-23 win over Tulsa nearly four months ago was the start of a remarkable run for a program that's often struggled defensively in the past. Though the Cyclones finished 36th nationally in scoring defense, they did so while playing eight teams that scored at least 31 points a game.

The Cyclones held Iowa to just six points at Kinnick Stadium, explosive Texas Tech to 24 points and TCU to just 23 in a road win.

The Cyclones gave Fiesta Bowl-bound Kansas State one of its toughest challenges of the season and held Baylor, the nation's fifth best offense, to a season-low 21 points.

Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia also failed to reach their season averages. Of course, the Cyclones lost all three of those games - but it certainly wasn't the defense's fault.

``I'd like to think we play with a chip on our shoulders, as if we have something to prove to people regardless of how the outside world sees us,'' Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott said.

The Liberty Bowl will be the final showcase for a number of Cyclones who've helped turn around the defense. Knott will miss the game with a shoulder injury, but Klein, senior lineman Jake McDonough, a first-team all-league pick by the coaches, and defensive backs Durrell Givens - back from injury for the bowl game - and Jeremy Reeves will all be playing for the last time at Iowa State.

``I want to go out a winner,'' Klein said. ``It's important to me, and it's important to the rest of the senior class.''

The offense, which scored just 25.2 points a game, appears to have the potential to be much better in 2013. Redshirt freshman Sam Richardson looks like he's has stabilized the quarterback position, which had three different starters this season. The Cyclones also have tremendous depth at running back, and they should be able to plug in replacements everywhere else with relative ease.

There will be much more uncertainty on defense, where a number of promising but unproven players will compete for playing time.

But it's a unit that is slowly establishing itself as the trademark of the program under fourth-year head coach Paul Rhoads, a longtime defensive coordinator, and current coordinator Wally Burnham.

``To have the coaches we have, and for them to be around for this amount of time, is unbelievable in college,'' Knott said. When you can do that, you set up a great system and groundwork for people to just come in like I did and like (Klein) did and just learn every single year and get better and get smarter and quicker and faster. If that continues, the sky is the limit for the defense.''


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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—D-line scoop, Alex Smith's big deal

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—D-line scoop, Alex Smith's big deal

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 24, 33 days before the NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

Free agency update: What's next for the Redskins on the D-line? The Redskins have been casting out lines for defensive linemen since before free agency officially started but they haven’t been able to reel one in. Part of the issue might be that they know that Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne are likely to be available in the draft. They have to balance spending big on a lineman vs. being able to get one pretty cheap for the next five years.

Redskins make a D-line contract change, gain roster flexibility—Speaking of the D-line, the team negotiated the removal of a salary guarantee for one player to give themselves more flexibility when it comes time to cut the roster down to 53 in September. See the post for details.

Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract—In the words of Joe Biden, this is a big f-----g deal. It showed that the Redskins aren’t afraid to pay a quarterback big money if they think it’s the right guy. It should be noted that whether or not they chose the right guy is something that remains to be seen. Although the post shows that it’s plausible for the Redskins to terminate the deal after three years, I anticipate Smith playing out at least four if not all five years of the contract.

Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign Scandrick—Orlando Scandrick has struggled with injuries the past few years and Redskins fans did not greet the news of his signing with great enthusiasm, to say the least. To point out the bright side, his contract is not pricey by NFL terms ($2.6 million cap hit this year, no guaranteed money beyond a $1 million signing bonus) and from what I have been able to gather it’s possible that change of scenery might give him a boost for a year or two.

Tweet of the week

Well before free agency started, I wrote that the Redskins’ top priorities in free agency should be to get extensions done for Smith, Brandon Scherff, and Jamison Crowder. They should have about $15 million to work with after a few more free agent signings and that would be plenty to get all of those extensions done. And if they do score a big free agent signing, it would be worth it to restructure the contract of someone like Ryan Kerrigan to get them done.

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.


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 23
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 124
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 169

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