Va. Tech, Rutgers rekindle rivalry in Russell Bowl

Va. Tech, Rutgers rekindle rivalry in Russell Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) A lot has changed since the last time Rutgers and Virginia Tech met on a football field.

The Hokies dominated the Scarlet Knights during their time as Big East Conference rivals before Virginia Tech left for the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004.

But as they prepare for their 15th all-time meeting in Friday's Russell Athletic Bowl, Rutgers is no longer anybody's whipping boy, while Virginia Tech is the team with something to prove following a disappointing season.

The Scarlet Knights (9-4) are in a bowl game for the seventh time in eight years and are looking to win their sixth straight bowl game after just missing out on a Bowl Championship Series berth following in loss in their regular-season finale.

Friday is an opportunity for them to not only win 10 games for the first time since 2006, but go into their final Big East season next year with momentum after announcing plans to join the Big Ten in 2014.

``I think 10-win seasons in college football are the standard for elite programs,'' first-year coach Kyle Flood said. ``I think that puts you in an elite status, and certainly at a university where it's only been done twice in the past, I think you better take those things very seriously. These opportunities have not come around as often for us as maybe for Virginia Tech, but this is an opportunity for us to do that.''

For Virginia Tech, 10-win seasons were pretty much the norm. The Hokies had eight straight before and 11 in the past 13 years this season.

To say the Hokies (6-6) have had a disappointing season is an understatement a year after appearing in the Sugar Bowl. They stumbled out of the gate losing three of their first seven, and dropped three straight conference games before winning their final two.

It's a tumble that coach Frank Beamer said isn't lost on his players, and particularly a senior group that is trying to avoid Tech's first losing season since 1992 as it makes its 20th straight bowl appearance.

``They're very aware of that,'' Beamer said. ``I'm really proud of this football team because we've lost some games in tough ways, we've had some unusual things happen, we haven't always played great or as well as we need to play. And had some disappointments, had some setbacks, had adversity.

``But the football team always stayed together. They never pointed fingers; they always stayed together, played hard for the most part and ended up winning their last two games when things just didn't look very good. So if we win this game it would make a statement.''

To do that, the Hokies will need a big effort from quarterback Logan Thomas.

The redshirt junior saw all his key passing numbers drop from a year ago as he struggled at times to mesh with a new group of receivers, following the departures of top targets Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale.

Rutgers' defense is also expected to try to limit his rushing ability with a group that features the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. The Scarlet Knights ranked 14th in the nation in total defense, surrendering 321.25 yards per game.

Thomas said he isn't worried about anyone who thinks the Hokies will have trouble moving the ball in this game.

``I'm not really offended by it,'' Thomas said. ``We take pride in what we do, just like everyone else does, and we're excited to go play ball and hopefully we can show that it won't just be a defensive game.

``We've had times when we've been unstoppable where we've had series where whatever we did worked. And there have been some times we've been bad, just inconsistent.''

Whatever the Hokies do produce, the Scarlet Knights will try to counter it by leaning heavily on sophomore running back Jawan Jamison, who became just the third Rutgers player since 1976 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

Flood said he is as close to 100 percent as he's been since a mid-November ankle injury, and Jamison said he and his teammates are eager to prove they aren't the team that lost its final two regular-season games.

He said their goals are clear.

``To show everybody that we didn't get down, that we're not hanging our head,'' Jamison said. ``We can still get the job done. Virginia Tech is a really good team and we just got to come out and let them know we can play with the best of them.''

Thomas said his teammates are equally aware of the magnitude of this game, and are getting their confidence from their experienced coach.

``He knows what he's doing,'' Thomas said. ``He's been here 20 straight times now and that's a testament to him. He understands what's going to happen when we step on the field on Friday. He's had all week to prepare now, 20 times. So it's nice to have his experience on our side.''


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O-line, D-line is the move for the Redskins at No. 13, according to Charles Davis

O-line, D-line is the move for the Redskins at No. 13, according to Charles Davis

We are nearing the start of the NFL Draft, less than three days to be exact, and right now there are a ton of names circling around whom the Washington Redskins should take at No. 13.

You’ve probably read countless mock drafts at this point (if you haven’t or need another here is ours), and there’s one thing that is consistent: nothing.

So let's concern ourselves less of ‘who’ and exactly what each player will bring to the Redskins.

There are very few evaluators of talent better than the NFL Network’s Charles Davis, so he got to talk with J.P. Finlay and Mitch Tischler on the latest edition of the Redskins Talk podcast.


He broke down EVERYONE that Washington could be taking at No. 13 overall. If you don’t have time to listen (which we highly recommend that you do), here are some of the highlights:

“This could be a wild first night,” said Davis. “All of these different trade scenarios are out there right? My experience has been that most of that calms down as we get closer. There’s a lot of discussion and chatter about it, but we don’t usually have it.”


“At 13, when you’re really down to it, Mitch I think you had said to me even before we began ‘O-line, D-line man, let’s talk O-line, D-line,’ and I think that is the perfect place for this Washington team.”


“If Vita Vea from Washington somehow is sitting there at 13, and the idea that you could go up there and put him a line and get Jonathan Allen back from last year, I think that’d be a great place to go. This is a top-10, top-5 talent in this draft that possibly could still be around at 13.”

“When we’re talking about the people that are in our business, the talking heads that people kind of go to and kind of get held accountable for their mock drafts… you don’t really see Vea in any consistency in the top ten.”

“Eleven is kind of the breakpoint for him.”


“I like him. I don’t know that I like him quite that high.”


“I like Payne, better than Hurst, but again I don’t know about quite that high.”

“The medical, you can’t help it when you’re talking about a heart. You can’t help but be a little bit concerned. Now he has gotten clearance, that has come through, but we all know that each team is going to do it’s own research and got to decide how comfortable they are with that.”


“I doubt he is falling to 13, because if somehow he falls to eight to the Bears and if the Bears don’t run up to the podium and plug him in, I’d be stunned.”


“Normally when you have a combine and you have some things that you have some questions marks on, normally you have some balancers. Orlando Brown had zero balancers. Everything was historically bad.”


“Now Will Hernandez has had about as good a postseason as an offensive lineman can have.”

“This kid Hernandez has become a massive road grater, quicker than you would think, better pass protector and he did all of this on an 0-12 team last year. So he is another guy to keep an eye on, especially if as you said they are able to move back.”


“I’d be surprised at 13.”

“Get back to 19 and then I think Guice is in play at 19. If that indeed is the runner that they like. I think the running back renaissance is real.”


“I think this John Kelly kid from Tennessee is a really good runner. He had a little trouble off-field last year, missed a game because of all that, but this kid runs hard, plays hard, he’s not Alvin Kamara… but this kid is more of a pure running back than Kamara is, he’s just not a bulky guy.”


“They’re in a tough spot because of the number. We’ve got all of this stuff now.”

“That’s a tough one, because if I’m Dallas and I want to come up and get my guy [Calvin Ridley], I don’t need to come up as high as 13 anyway, if you really think about it.”


“He’s a really good player. The kid played guard, he played center. Price is a really good technician. 44 a possibility? Possibility. Before the injury he was going late-first, early second.”

This is only scratching the surface of what the expert talked about. Get the full experience and listen to the full podcast.




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Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?


Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Giants right-hander Chris Stratton will seek to duplicate two impressive efforts when he takes the mound for the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night at 10:15 p.m. ET.

The series is the first in San Francisco since Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals star Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, triggering a brawl at the mound that resulted in the ejection of both players.

The Giants got the worst of the altercation, with slugging backup Michael Morse suffering a career-ending concussion in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija near the mound.

Stratton wasn't with the Giants at the time, but he contributed one of the best-pitched games of his young career when the clubs met again in Washington in August.


Making just his third career start, the 27-year-old shut out the Nationals on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win. He struck out 10.

It's the only time he has faced Washington.

Stratton (1-1, 2.22) has won just four times since, and came close to a fifth when he limited Arizona to one run in seven innings in his last start on Wednesday. He did not, however, get a decision in the 4-3 win, during which he recorded eight strikeouts.

The Giants will be opening a 10-game homestand following a 10-game trip on which they went just 4-6. Statton started two of the four wins.

Stratton wasn't the only Giants starter who pitched well on the trip. The club is coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels in which both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto took shutouts late into wins.

Strickland saved Sunday's 4-2 win for Cueto, and afterward was asked about his thoughts of seeing Harper again.

"Win a series," is all he would say.


In the Nationals, the Giants will be seeing a team coming off a high-profile series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that included a meeting on Sunday Night Baseball.

Washington lost two of three in the rematch of 2017 division winners, scoring a total of just eight runs on 21 hits in the three games, which ended with the Nationals stranding two in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

Harper went 2-for-10 in the series, which the Nationals played without injured regulars Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. They remain out.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49) will oppose Stratton.

The veteran has made 12 career starts against the Giants, going 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA.

He restored order to the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco last season the day after the brawl, pitching 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win. It improved his record at AT&T Park to 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts.

Gonzalez threw 97 pitches in beating the New York Mets 5-2 in his last start, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday.

That pitch total wasn't even five times the number Giants first baseman Brandon Belt saw in one historic at-bat Sunday against the Angels' Jaime Barria in the first inning.

Belt fouled off 16 pitches and flied out on the 21st pitch of the at-bat, the most pitches in a Major League Baseball at-bat since 1988.

Afterward, Belt apologized.

"When I'm in the field, I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off," he insisted. "I'm like, 'Dude, just put it in play. It's not that hard. Let's go.' So, I basically had to apologize to everybody after that."