West Virginia may need defense at some point


West Virginia may need defense at some point

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) West Virginia is off to a blistering start in its first Big 12 season, piling up points behind quarterback Geno Smith.

But if the No. 5 Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0) want to win the league and even challenge for a national title, they may have to eventually start playing some defense.

West Virginia has torched Baylor and Texas for 118 points the last two weeks, but also surrendered 108 in two wild, heart-pounding games.

Smith doesn't seem to care, so long as he can keep pushing the Mountaineers in to the end zone. Smith has 12 touchdown passes the last two weeks, with 24 on the season without an interception.

``We play as a team, we fight as a team. No matter what it takes to win the game, that's what we're going to do,'' Smith said after throwing for 268 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-45 win over No. 15 Texas that wasn't secured until the Mountaineers recovered an onside kick with 14 seconds to play.

Smith may have to be at his best every game the rest of the way. The Mountaineers still have to play No. 13 Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, which has the No. 1 total offense and scoring offense in the country, and No. 6 Kansas State, which has topped 50 points three times this season.

The Mountaineers rank No. 102 in total defense and scoring defense and surrender an average of 35 points per game.

Cornerback Pat Miller said it was difficult for the defense to shake off giving up 63 points to Baylor while preparing for Texas.

``It was a tough week mentally because it's hard to bounce back from a game like that. There were a lot of people criticizing me personally. But you know, we just feed off that,'' Carter said.

West Virginia's defense did make a couple of big plays to help get a huge road win at Texas.

The Longhorns led 28-27 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 13-play drive that ate up seven minutes. But the Mountaineers got a key third-down stop that forced Texas to kick a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown. That kept Smith and the offense within one possession of taking the lead as the teams traded five more touchdowns.

In the fourth quarter, West Virginia forced a turnover on downs near midfield and didn't surrender any points after Smith lost his second fumble. Trailing 41-38 Texas had the ball on the Mountaineers' 12 with just over seven minutes to play.

Texas gained only four yards on two plays, then lost 16 yards when a shotgun snap sailed past quarterback David Ash as he turned his head to look at the play clock. Texas kicker Anthony Fera then missed a 41-yard field goal, another miscue that proved critical at the end.

``That was the difference in the game because momentum shifted. Defense just had to buckle up and stand up,'' linebacker Isaiah Bruce said.

While that mistake was self-inflicted by Texas, the Mountaineers took it as a break that went their way.

``It was a tremendous team victory. Defense came up with some big stops in key situations,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. ``I thought they showed a lot of improvement.''

Texas left feeling as if it let one get away when that ball sailed past Ash and kept bouncing backward on the turf.

``When we had our opportunity to go ahead and didn't, that really hurt us,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said ``You've got to give (West Virginia) credit. They made the critical plays.''

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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable


UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UMBC's improbable run through the NCAA Tournament was brief. The statement the Retrievers made and their place in history is forever.

For one weekend in March, the tiny commuter school from Baltimore known for its academics and championship-winning chess team captured the hearts of the college basketball world and beyond. UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in March Madness, a victory over Virginia that made the Retrievers the ultimate Cinderella.

The fairytale came to an end Sunday night in a 50-43 loss to No. 9 Kansas State -- heartbreaking because it was a game UMBC could have won, but still satisfying because the Retrievers touched so many people by accomplishing what many thought was impossible.

"We put our name on the map. We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," said senior guard K.J. Maura. "I think we gave hope to guys that are not even that tall like me. People that feel like they are underdogs in their life, I think we gave hope to everything they want to do in life."


Stephen Curry noticed the team and sent UMBC the sneakers the team wore against Kansas State. The Golden State Warriors had his Curry 5s, which are in limited release, and other swag sent to the team. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared the Retrievers "Surgeon General approved" and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted to UMBC guard Joe Sherburne, who claims to be Rodgers' biggest fan. And for a team addicted to the video game "Fortnite," their dreams were made when Ninja, a popular gamer who recently played against rapper Drake and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, FaceTimed with the team early Sunday.

"They play with passion, they play with heart, they play together," coach Ryan Odom said. "We do things together for one another, and obviously when you have a big win like that (over Virginia) and it's so shocking, you know, people love to see that. They love to see the upset.

"And our guys handled it with grace and understood the circumstances. They weren't pounding their chests or anything. They expected to be here and expected to compete."

When UMBC returned to the locker room following its ouster, Odom had written just one word on the whiteboard. The Retrievers needed a buzzer-beating 3 against Vermont to win their conference title and make the NCAA Tournament, but they showed up believing they could beat Virginia, and the same about Kansas State.


So Odom simply penned "Proud" on the board for his players.

"Just very proud of these kids and what they've been able to do as the representatives that they are for our university," Odom said. "Just captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective and it's really, really neat to see."

Sherburne said Odom relayed stories from friends who had texted or called from outside the country to rave about UMBC. Near tears after an 0-for-9 shooting night, Sherburne found consolation in the joy UMBC brought to so many.

"From when we beat Vermont until the last two hours were the greatest time of my life," Sherburne said. "What we did, everyone in here, it's the greatest time of our lives."

Odom arrived at UMBC two years ago and inherited a team accustomed to losing. He told them he was going to get them to .500 that first year; they thought he was joking. But slowly the culture changed and the Retrievers did everything Odom told them they could accomplish.

And then some.

"When I got here, first we were a four-win team that year, and then the next year we went on to win seven games," said graduate student Jairus Lyles. "Then Coach Odom and his staff came in, we won 21 games and this year we had a tremendous season."

Odom doesn't know how far the UMBC program can grow. Those four letters are now synonymous with the biggest upset in college basketball history, but it's a long way from becoming a basketball school.

"UMBC is a unique place -- lot of high achieving kids on campus," Odom said. "We want guys that want to be great from a basketball perspective and want to play after college. But, at the same time, we want folks that are highly motivated academically that want to do great things past basketball. Because the air goes out of the ball at some point for everybody."