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UCF erases early hole, rallies to beat ECU 40-20

UCF erases early hole, rallies to beat ECU 40-20

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Central Florida entered its Conference USA opener needing a win to slow division mate East Carolina, which was already 2-0 in league play and set to face a favorable schedule against several weaker teams the rest of the season.

Then the Knights fell behind by two touchdowns quickly, before Quincy McDuffie sparked them with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the way to a 40-20 victory Thursday night.

McDuffie also scored on a 64-yard touchdown catch and Knights quarterback Blake Bortles threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Shawn Moffitt kicked four field goals.

``There wasn't anything we ran that got stopped,'' Bortles said. ``Our goal is to put points on the board every possession. We definitely want touchdowns as the end results, but even though some of those ended up with field goals, we still got points on the board.''

UCF (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) scored on eight consecutive possessions to seize control of the game, while its defense tightened and allowed only a field goal after halftime.

The Pirates (3-3, 2-1) led 14-0 early, but lost an opportunity to take control of C-USA's East Division. Quarterback Shane Carden had a rushing score and 76-yard touchdown pass, but threw an interception and was sacked twice.

With senior tailback Reggie Bullock out after sustaining a concussion last week against UTEP, Vintavious Cooper - who had 151 yards in the win over the Miners - had to shoulder the majority rushing duties with only a little relief from Michael Dobson. Cooper finished with 58 yards rushing Thursday, but failed to get into the end zone.

The 40 points allowed by the Pirates were second only to the 48 it allowed in their 48-10 loss to South Carolina Sept. 8.

``"We wanted to start fast and we did have the momentum early, but then some special teams' mishaps and we lost momentum,'' ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. ``Something tough like that happens, you got to play the next play and get the momentum back. We had some opportunities to gain it back, but just didn't do it.''

It was easily UCF's strongest collective effort of the season on offense. It also got a boost from the return of running back Latavius Murray, who played in his first game since suffering a shoulder injury in the season opener Aug. 30.

Meanwhile, ECU came apart on both sides of the ball in the second half, never recovering from an early momentum swing. The loss kept the Pirates from moving to 3-0 for just the third time since 2001.

ECU, which had outscored its previous two league opponents 52-32, was outscored by UCF 20-3 after halftime. The fast-moving, no huddle offense that was successful early, whittled largely because of its lackluster 4 for 14 performance on third down.

McNeill said not stopping UCF was more of a problem.

``Our defense has been getting people off the field all year, but you got to give some credit to UCF. They did a very good job,'' McNeill said.

Early on it looked as if the Pirates were headed for a romp, methodically marching 75 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the night to take a 7-0 lead.

Carden was efficient in the air throughout, going 6 for 7 for 40 yards passing on the drive. ECU also converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield to keep the series alive.

It was the first time this season that the Pirates have scored first in a game. Entering Thursday, UCF's defense had also only allowed seven points all season in the first quarter.

UCF went three and out on its first touch of the night, and ECU's offense needed just one more play to put the Knights in a 14-0 hole, this time via Carden's 76-yard strike down the sideline to Justin Hardy.

The fast-paced scoring continued on the ensuing kickoff, though, when UCF's McDuffie bounced outside and got free for a 99-yard kickoff return to get the Knights back in the game.

The back-to-back scores spanned just 25 seconds.

UCF then tied it a series later on a 4-yard touchdown run by Storm Johnson.

The Knights end a four-game home stand next Saturday when they host Southern Mississippi. The Pirates return home to host Memphis.

UCF coach George O'Leary said he was most proud of how his team responded after a tough home loss to Missouri last week.

``I think we have a team that perseverance-wise, is very resilient,'' O'Leary said. ``You go down 14-0 right away; I think we have a group of good seniors that hung in there.''

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Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/khightower .

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

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Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

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