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Syracuse has difficult schedule, 4 of 5 on road


Syracuse has difficult schedule, 4 of 5 on road

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Heading into the stretch run of the season, Syracuse is in deja vu mode.

The Orange (3-4, 2-1 Big East) are coming off a big win at home last Friday night and have five games remaining to put a positive stamp on the season.

A year ago, Syracuse routed highly ranked West Virginia at home on a Friday night to reach 5-2, then proceeded to lose its five remaining games to finish at 5-7 and miss the postseason.

The Orange are determined to avoid a repeat performance.

``A lot of us have been here before,'' quarterback Ryan Nassib said. ``We've experienced a high like this and seen what can happen. The unfortunateness of last year is kind of a good learning experience for us for this year. Now we know what we can't do.''

Last week's 40-10 win over Connecticut was impressive as the Orange excelled on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Although Syracuse did not commit a turnover, there still were three fumbles and the offense corralled all of them.

That alone has head coach Doug Marrone concerned as the Orange gets set to play at South Florida (2-5, 0-3) on Saturday night.

Forget any thoughts of a turnaround just yet.

``It's way too early for that,'' Marrone said. ``When you start putting back to back to back to back games where you have that type of consistency, I think that's when you can sit back and say, `You know what? We've put three or four in a row. We're starting to turn the corner.' But we still have a long way to go. That's a challenge for our players to step up.''

The Bulls have lost five straight, but they're 6-1 against Syracuse and the Orange have not won on the road yet this season. And if there is to be a turnaround, it will have to be accomplished away from the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome. Syracuse plays four of its final five games on the road, with the lone home game against Louisville in two weeks.

``I believe there are only two other teams in the country that have the same type of challenge - BYU and Ball State,'' Marrone said. ``The players are aware of it. It's a management situation of making sure a player is rested. That's where it becomes a Catch 22. You want to be a physical team, you have to practice to a certain extent that way during the week. But we have to be smart and make sure our players can get to the game.''

Although Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati are a combined 7-0 in the conference, Syracuse is still in the mix with Cincinnati also on its schedule, and the Orange hopes to use that win over UConn as a springboard.

``It was a good start to the second half of the season,'' Nassib said. ``Our next test is to make sure we keep this ball rolling.''

Marrone said Thursday that running back Adonis Ameen-Moore, who's scored three touchdowns on short-yardage plays in the red zone, freshman tailback Ashton Broyld, and punt returner Ritchy Desir were nursing injuries. Kick returner Jeremiah Kobena is expected to return to the lineup.

John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen


John Carlson gets the better of John Klingberg in duel of top defensemen

One week ago, the hockey world was captivated by the matchup of Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, two players battling for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Tuesday's matchup between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars once again pitted two competitors locked in a point battle together in John Carlson and John Klingberg.

Carlson and Klingberg entered Tuesday's games with 59 points each, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. In a 4-3 win for Washington, both defensemen delivered phenomenal performances as each recorded two points, two assists for Klingberg and a goal and an assist for Carlson.

Tuesday's game was the latest example this season of Carlson rising to the occasion. He has been at his best when he has been needed the most such as when he was averaging 27:46 of ice time a night while Matt Niskanen was out injured.


Carlson's ability to deliver has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"John's having just a whale of a year, obviously," Niskanen said. "Monster year. Production, been carrying the load all year. He's been just a stalwart back there for us. He leads the way."

"The numbers don't lie, he's been having an unreal season," T.J. Oshie said. "Definitely on the points side of things, but maybe some parts that don't get talked about, the defensive side of things. He rarely loses a battle. It's very encouraging, it gets the bench going when he plays like that."

After the game, Carlson tried to downplay the notion that he elevated his game in response to playing against Klingberg.

"No," Carlson said when asked if he was motivated by the points race. "I think the guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room. I just want to go out there and win. I think we played a good game tonight so that's most important."

But while his words were subdued, his play was anything but.

Despite both players getting two points, Carlson got the better of his counterpart by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period, a one-timer slap shot to beat goalie Kari Lehtnonen, to lead Washington to the win.


Carlson may say he was not motivated by Klingberg, but his play certainly seemed to suggest otherwise.

"I think they both know, they know the stats," Barry Trotz said. "They know who they're lined up  [against]. They're proud athletes. You're in a business where there's a lot of alpha males. That's what it is."

Of course, Carlson may not need a matchup with Klingberg to motivate him.

In the final year of his contract, Carlson has picked a good time to set new career highs in goals, assist and points. With a cap hit of just under $4 million, the 28-year-old blueliner will be due a significant raise in the offseason. That price tag continues to climb with every good performance as Carlson continues to cement himself among the league's top defensemen.

"Obviously he's very motivated," Trotz said. "He's in the last year of his contract. He'll be motivated. He's putting out points. He's gotten better and better. He's more poised every year. When he's intense and detailed in his game, he's a top defenseman in the league and he shows it."

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Offensive starters

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Offensive starters

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 21, 36 days before the NFL draft.  

Redskins starters quick hitters—offense

The last couple of days here I looked at how the depth charts are shaping up with a little bit of commentary (offense, defense). Today and tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the starters with some quick hitters about each one, starting today with the offense.

QB Alex Smith—The deal is done, and the Redskins have their man for five years at $22.2 million per year or, if they prefer, three years at $23.7 million per. It seems like most fans are behind him but there will have to be a few more wins than losses this fall for that to become permanent.

RB Samaje Perine—He got better as the year went on, averaging nearly a half yard per carry more in the last seven games compared to the first nine. But the 3.4 average per carry certainly did not stop both Doug Williams and Jay Gruden from talking about drafting a running back early.

TE Jordan Reed—According to reports, he is rehabbing well from the hamstring and toe injuries that severely limited him last year. Still, expect him to be kept in bubble wrap until training camp and even then, his action may be limited.

WR Josh Doctson—Did Kirk Cousins look away from Doctson too often, lacking the confidence in him to let him go get the 50-50 balls? Will Smith have more confidence in Doctson? The answers to those questions may determine if the third-year receiver breaks out in 2018 or he continues to tease with flashes of ability.

WR Paul Richardson—He’s capable of the acrobatic catch, which should be fun to watch. Richardson was good with Russell Wilson on the off-schedule plays, maybe he can do the same with Smith.

WR Jamison Crowder—I guess it’s fair to say he had an off year in 2017 but his receiving yardage only dropped by 60 yards from 2016. It will be interesting to see if they keep him in as the punt returner after he averaged 6.3 yards per return (23rd of 25 qualifiers) last year.

LT Trent Williams—The six-time Pro Bowler is still in the relatively early stages of recovering from surgery to the knee that kept him from practicing from about Week 6 on. Don’t look for him until training camp and even then, the early workload is likely to be light.

LG Arie Kouandjio—This is the one offensive position that remains up in the air. Kouandjio has shown some grit as a spot starter but I don’t think the organization views him as a 16-game starter.

C Chase Roullier—Shortly after Roullier got the starting job when Spencer Long went out injured, Jay Gruden said that Roullier would be the Redskins’ center “for a long time”. There is no reason to doubt that at this point in time.

RG Brandon Scherff—His concern no longer is trying to live up to having been the 15th pick of the draft. Scherff has to play well enough to justify his 2019 option-year salary, which will be in the vicinity of $13 million.

RT Morgan Moses—He had surgery to repair his ankles, which were an issue most of last season. Still, he didn’t miss a start. Like Williams, even if he’s ready for training camp, don’t expect to see a whole lot of him.

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

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Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 27
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 129
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 173

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