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USC defense hoping to bounce back vs. Arizona St.

USC defense hoping to bounce back vs. Arizona St.

LOS ANGELES (AP) If No. 21 Southern California even hopes to think about a big finish to its disappointing season, the Trojans realize they must improve quickly and significantly on defense.

The good news? That shouldn't be too tough.

After the worst defensive game in USC history last week, almost anything at all would be an improvement Saturday against Arizona State.

``I don't think we're ever going to play a game like that again,'' USC safety T.J. McDonald said after the Trojans allowed 730 yards and 62 points in a loss to Oregon.

USC (6-3, 4-3 Pac-12) hosts the slumping Sun Devils (5-4, 3-3) at the Coliseum in what's essentially an elimination game for the Pac-12 South title. The Trojans haven't lost three straight games since 2001, when Lane Kiffin was the Trojans' 26-year-old tight ends coach under Pete Carroll.

``We all know we've got to get better,'' Kiffin said. ``We have to look at ourselves, always, when anything is that lopsided.''

The Trojans went back to work with determination this week after that embarrassing defensive effort against Oregon in their second straight loss. They also endured another round of the off-the-field shenanigans that seem to surround this program, this time the dismissal of a student manager for underinflating footballs before that loss to the Ducks.

USC's defense appeared overwhelmed by the Ducks - and while they're hardly alone there, the result was discouraging for the players and coaches who must try to keep up with Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly and his solid offense this week. The Trojans have yielded 1,318 yards and 101 points in their last two games.

``When you perform like we did, it's totally unacceptable,'' USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron said. ``We did not play well. I did not coach them well, and we've got to get better. There's no excuse for it. ... It's hard, especially during the week, when you're representing a great program like USC, and you feel like you let everybody down. We've got to deal with it. We can't let this happen to us twice.''

Not everything has been awful for the Trojans lately: The offense led by Matt Barkley and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee has scored at least 36 points in four of the last five games, following much the same path of gradual maturity shown by last season's offense.

``We're starting to come together,'' center Khaled Holmes said. ``I think we've played better each week. We're still not where we want to be, but you can see the progress.''

But the Trojans will face the Pac-12's best pass defense when Arizona State goes after its first win in Los Angeles since 1999.

``They're very simple in what they do, unlike the teams we've faced over the last three weeks who are all over the map with their looks,'' said Barkley, who has thrown four interceptions in the past two weeks. ``This week, it will be much simpler, but they are very good at what they do.''

Although the Sun Devils have lost three straight after a 5-1 start under new coach Todd Graham, they're still in the running for postseason play. Graham insists Arizona State isn't headed for another late-season swoon matching last year's five-game skid, which cost Dennis Erickson his job.

``They have had many opportunities in the last three weeks to implode or to take a step backward, but they haven't done that,'' Graham said of his players. ``And that is first and foremost what we committed to our fans. This program is going to be out winning championships, and we are going to have the same expectations. The season isn't over, is what I would tell (fans).''

The Trojans also have motivation for the matchup from last season, when the Sun Devils largely shut down Barkley in a 43-22 victory, snapping an 11-game skid against USC.

``We remember that game, but we've still got a lot of games to play this season,'' Woods said. ``We could still win out and get to where we want to be, but we're not getting ahead of ourselves.''

---

AP College Football Writer John Marshall in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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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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