Capitals

Under Campo, Kansas starting to play defense again

Under Campo, Kansas starting to play defense again

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Dave Campo has a national championship, three Super Bowl rings and 23 years of NFL experience.

So what's he doing at Kansas?

Taking on the challenge of his life.

A year ago, the Jayhawks were ranked 120th nationally in total defense. Eight games into this season, Campo's defense has climbed to 81st and is ranked 58th against the pass.

``As bad as it is being the head coach, I think the worst job in the Big 12 is to be a defensive coordinator,'' said Kansas coach Charlie Weis, who made hiring the former Cowboys coach one of his priorities when he took over a program that had won just twice last year.

``I mean, you should just sign up for gray hair, you know, because it's a tough job.''

Perhaps the biggest improvement under Campo has been in the red zone. While the Jayhawks are still just 1-7, and 0-5 in the Big 12, they've been in a handful of games into the fourth quarter due in large part to a defense that is only allowing teams to score 69 percent of the time.

That statistic is a conference-best and ranks 13th in the nation.

Kansas held Oklahoma State, the No. 1 offense at the time, to 20 points. Last Saturday, the plucky Jayhawks held Texas to 21 points - less than half of its season average.

``We've improved in a lot of areas on this defense and I think we have a lot more we can improve on,'' said linebacker Toben Opurum, one of the team's top defenders.

This is the third coaching staff for Opurum and the rest of the Jayhawks' seniors. And judging by the fact the defense already has come up with nine interceptions and forced eight fumbles, it appears to be the most effective.

``His knowledge of the game has earned respect from the players,'' Weis said of Campo, with whom he shares a long history dating to their days in the NFL. ``He is a good teacher.''

Campo said he realizes how much Kansas has struggled in the past, and he also knows that he's basically starting from scratch after working with polished professional players. But he's also keen on tackling the challenge of making the Jayhawks relevant again.

``I only know how to do it one way: Make sure we're grinding on our guys and making sure that they know we have to be disciplined and do the things we are doing,'' he said, ``and not throwing in the towel and saying, `We're not good enough.'''

The next step is for those improved defensive numbers to add up to victories.

``I don't know that our guys really understand what it takes to win right now, and that's what we're pushing and that's what's got to happen,'' Campo said. ``It is still a process.''

It sounds easy enough to change the atmosphere, but competing in the Big 12 comes with challenges, even for someone with Campo's resume.

``This league is a unique league from the standpoint of the firepower offensively,'' he said, ``and I think that's an area where we have to get good athletes and better athletes as we go and put the best athletes on the field.''

With wide-open offenses, four ranked teams and Heisman Trophy candidates in Kansas State's Collin Klein and West Virginia's Geno Smith, there are no breaks for a defensive coordinator.

``He really loves the game of football and I can't say that he has enjoyed going against these defenses every week,'' Weis said, ``but it really challenges you to try to take your players and what they can do and try to figure out the best way to minimize what they do.''

Since Campo arrived in January, players appear to have bought into his style. Weis lets him completely control the defense, and so far the system has been working - or at least, has Kansas moving in the right direction.

``You've got to do whatever it takes to win whether it's drawing up some new things on the board or calling different plays, you've got to be willing to do whatever,'' he said.

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Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Alex Ovechkin said the Caps would return to Washington with a tied series. The Caps captain is a man of his word as the Caps won both Game 3 and Game 4 to even up the series at two games apiece.

John Tortorella had no answers after seeing his Columbus Blue Jackets fall in Game 4, but he will have to figure things out quickly as the series shifts back to Washington for a pivotal Game 5.

The Caps return home with two straight wins and all the momentum. There's just one problem: No one seemingly can win at home.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 5

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC.

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 on NBC Sports' live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 5 on Saturday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. ET in Washington. The series is tied 2-2.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 2:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 2:30 p.m. Tune back to NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 6:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

2:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
2:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
3:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Blue Jackets on NBC
5:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
6:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 5 is available to stream live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

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.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

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Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Perhaps Toronto and their fans would disagree, but through two games the first round playoff series between the Wizards and Raptors had been relatively uneventful, maybe even boring to the casual observer. For those who have watched the Wizards in recent years, something just seemed off with them.

Not only were Bradley Beal and Otto Porter struggling to score, but the energy and grit we're used to from the Wizards in the postseason just wasn't there. Three minutes into Game 3 on Friday night, that all changed.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris got tangled with Raptors rookie OG Anunoby and fell to the ground. He rose up, shoved Anunoby and gave Serge Ibaka a push for good measure. It cost Morris a technical, but he wasn't ejected. From there, the tone was set.

This was to be a physical game and the Wizards were going to make sure of it. That's how they prefer to play and that nastiness had been missing thus far in this series.

"I think OG [Anunoby] did not know the scouting report because he did not know that Keef is one of the people you do not mess with in this world," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He will learn.”

The fireworks didn't end there. Beal and Jonas Valanciunas got into it and so did John Wall and Anunoby, and then Wall and Ibaka.

The Wizards made a name for themselves in the 2016-17 season when they won 49 games and were one win away from the conference finals as a team that would instigate contact and talk trash. They prided themselves on being old school in that regard and were praised for it by former NBA tough guys like Paul Pierce and Stephen Jackson.

This season, they just haven't been able to do it as often.

"We have been there at spurts throughout the year, we just have not been there consistently," Oubre said. "Now it is do or die. We just need to bring that Death Row mentality.”

Oubre also joked that rapper Drake started it all by sitting courtside in Toronto and talking trash. Truthfully, their backs were against the wall and they had no choice but to punch back.

The Wizards entered Friday's game down 0-2 to the Raptors with Game 2 a dispirited blowout. If they went down 0-3, they would essentially have been dead in the water. No team has come back from that deficit in NBA history.

This time, they weren't going to go down without a fight.

"It sounds crazy, but sometimes we need that. The crazy part is that it's always [Morris]," center Marcin Gortat said. "If you see your teammate fighting, I'm going to fight with him. That's the bottom-line."

"We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves," Beal said. "Keef is a bully... we are physical team." 

As for Morris, the enforcer himself, he let his actions speak for themselves. He didn't take the bait on most questions, but did wear a 'Death Row D.C.' shirt during his media availability. Morris came up with that nickname last season to convey the toughness he wants the Wizards to play with.

"We need some physicality," Morris said. "I feel like when we were in Toronto, they were doing everything too freely. This kind of set the tone for the whole series... we need to keep our same mean mentality. If they wanna fight, we will fight."

The Wizards fought the Hawks and Celtics last year tooth-and-nail and often used physical play to their advantage. It worked in Game 3 against the Raptors. Now the Wizards will have to counter however Toronto chooses to respond.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS

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