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3-game losing streak at stake for TCU, No. 23 WVU

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3-game losing streak at stake for TCU, No. 23 WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Their debut seasons in the Big 12 haven't exactly gone the way West Virginia and TCU had hoped.

The No. 23 Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) and Horned Frogs (5-3, 2-3) are coming off a lousy October and are in need of solid finishes to improve their positions for a bowl.

First, they've got to become bowl eligible. The team that doesn't on Saturday will be saddled with its first three-game losing streak under their current coaches.

It hasn't happened at TCU since the Horned Frogs lost four straight in 1998 under Dennis Franchione. West Virginia lost three straight to finish the 2004 season with Rich Rodriguez at the helm.

West Virginia and TCU are accustomed to being on top of their conferences and have played in a combined four BCS bowls over the last five seasons.

TCU had only three losses total in the previous three seasons combined, including going undefeated in the Mountain West. The Mountaineers shared the Big East championship the past two seasons.

This year is much different. West Virginia is sixth and TCU eighth in the Big 12 standings.

``We understand we've got to win more than we lose,'' said TCU coach Gary Patterson. ``We're trying to get to that sixth win like everybody else. We've got four games left to do that.''

West Virginia rose to No. 5 in the rankings before going on a free fall with blowout losses to No. 20 Texas Tech and No. 3 Kansas State. Like TCU, the Mountaineers have been forced to play a lot of first-year players, especially on defense.

``We've got a strange combination of a bunch of older kids that want to finish the year strong, that want to keep winning, that want to show improvement, that want to get to a good bowl game and win games,'' said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. ``Then there's a bunch of young kids that don't understand any of this. It's our jobs as coaches to mix the two and keep the attitude good.''

TCU was ranked as high as No. 15 a month ago but is 1-3 since suspending starting QB Casey Pachall after he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Pachall left school for the rest of the semester to enter an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Pachall's replacement, redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin, has thrown for five touchdowns and three interceptions in his last two games. He hurt a knee late in a loss to Oklahoma State last week and Patterson is confident he'll play Saturday.

``Trevone did not play very well last week on the road,'' Patterson said. ``We need him to play a little bit better.''

Boykin could get better in a hurry against a West Virginia defense that has allowed an average of 53 points over its last four games.

West Virginia is making a lot of quarterbacks look great. Five opponents have thrown for 300 yards or more against the Mountaineers. Kansas State's Collin Klein was simply dazzling in the Wildcats' 55-14 win in Morgantown on Oct. 20, throwing for a career-high 323 yards and three TDs while running for four more scores.

The Mountaineers used a bye week to try to soften the glaring errors on defense that include blown coverages and poor tackling.

The defense is allowing 496 yards a game this season. West Virginia would be in much worse shape in the standings if its offense behind Geno Smith wasn't averaging 501.

Smith is coming off two lackluster performances by his standards. He's thrown for 26 touchdowns this season, but he's had a total of two in back-to-back losses and threw his first two interceptions of the season against Kansas State.

``I've continued to work hard. I've continued to stay confident,'' Smith said. ``I've continued to believe in my guys and believe in this coaching staff and just trust what's around me.''

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Grading the Caps' 2013 draft

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USA TODAY Sports

Grading the Caps' 2013 draft

The NHL is different from the NBA and NFL. Unless you have one of the absolute top picks of the draft, chances are you are not going to see any players from a draft class for several years. That makes it pretty hard to evaluate how a team did with its picks.

As the Caps prepare for the draft to begin Friday, let’s turn the clock back five years and see how they did in the 2013 draft.

First round, 23rd overall: Forward Andre Burakovsky

The draft is all about finding players skilled enough to produce in the NHL. They certainly found that in the young Swede. There’s no question that Burakovsky has top-six talent, but we all keep waiting for that breakout season when he takes his game to the next level. Even after four NHL seasons under his belt, he still can’t quite get there. Consistency has always been an issue for him and the root of that problem comes from both his durability issues and between the ears. He should be a 20-25, maybe even 30-goal scorer if he can put it all together.

Overall though, this was a solid pick for the Caps. Judging by the players drafted after him to fill out the first round, either Burakovsky or defenseman Shea Theodore were the two best players available. Washington picked one of them and got a top-six forward out of it.

Second round, 53rd overall: Defenseman Madison Bowey

Bowey made his long awaited NHL debut this season, but the jury is ultimately still out on just how good he is. The potential is certainly there, but the growing pains of a rookie were still there as well. The Capitals have an NHL-caliber defenseman in Bowey, but time will tell if he is a top-four one.

Second round, 61st overall: Forward Zach Sanford

Drafted players can provide value in two ways: on the ice and as trade value. Sanford was a traded to St. Louis as part of the package that brought Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington. Sanford was a tweener last season in that it looked at times like he was not quite ready for the full-time switch to the NHL, but was brilliant when he played in the AHL. An injury limited him to just 20 games in the AHL this season, but he looks like he could be a solid bottom-six addition in the NHL if he can get healthy again.

Fifth round, 144th overall: Defenseman Blake Heinrich

This one was a miss. Heinrich’s career has not gone past junior. He has 132 career games in the WHL, 85 games in the USHL and spent the 2017-18 season playing for the University of Manitoba.

Sixth round, 174th overall: Forward Brian Pinho

Pinho spent four years developing his game at Providence College and developed into a very strong two-way player at the collegiate level. He signed an entry-level contract with the Caps at the end of his senior year just before the end of the regular season. He skated with the team a few days before he was allowed to return home to finish his degree. He will likely start next season in the AHL, but there is some potential for him to become a bottom-six center in the NHL which would make him a steal in the sixth round.

Seventh round, 204th overall: Defenseman Tyler Lewington

A hard-nosed defenseman who is never afraid to drop the gloves, Lewington has certainly found a home in Hershey. Overall, his skillset is much better suited for that level and I do not see any extensive NHL time in his future, but to find a dependable AHL defenseman in the seventh round is a good find for Washington.

Overall Grade: B+

Picking at No. 23, there were not many superstars to choose from. The Capitals still found one of the best players available in Burakovsky. With no third or fourth round pick, Washington really needed to nail their two second round picks. It’s too early to tell exactly how good Bowey will be and the evaluation for Sanford changes now that he was traded from “how good is he?” to “was this good asset management?” It’s still a bit too early to answer that question as well. There is only one real bust in the draft class, but the fact that the Caps found value in both the sixth and seventh round including one player who still could potentially fill an NHL role gives this class a high grade.

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Titans. 

Week 16 December 22 or 23, Nissan Stadium (the date of the game will be determined no later than Week 8 in early November)

2017 Titans: 9-7, Second in AFC South, lost in the divisional round 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 8

Early line: Redskins +5.5

Key additions: CB Malcolm Butler, DT Bennie Logan, RB Dion Lewis

Key losses: DT Sylvester Williams, RB DeMarco Murray

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Marcus Mariota improved from his rookie year and had a solid 2016. But he regressed last season. In which direction is his career headed?
  • After head coach Mike Mularkey took the Titans to the second round of the playoffs he was summarily fired. Will they regret making to switch to Mike Vrabel?

Series history

The all-time series between the two teams is tied a 6-6; the teams split six games when the franchise was the Houston Oilers and they have gong 3-3 since the move to Tennessee. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1971, RFK Stadium—The Redskins offense didn’t score a touchdown but that often didn’t matter when George Allen was the head coach as they still won 22-13. Washington’s scoring came on five Curt Knight field goals and on an 18-yard interception return by defensive end Ron McDole. That touchdown came on one of five takeaways by the Redskins defense. 

The last time: October 19, 2014, FedEx Field—Quarterback Kirk Cousins was struggling in the first half, losing a fumble and throwing a head-scratching interception. With the Redskins trailing the 2-4 Titans 10-6, Jay Gruden decided it was time for a change and Colt McCoy came in to play QB in the second half. 

Things clicked immediately as McCoy threw a short pass to Pierre Garçon, who turned upfield and rolled in for a 70-yard touchdown. It was back and forth in the second half and the Redskins were trailing 17-16 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 3:14 to play. McCoy led a 10-play drive that consumed all of the remaining time and culminated in a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal to win it 19-17. 

The best time: November 3, 1991, RFK Stadium—To win nine straight NFL games to start out a season, you need solid blocking, accurate passing, hard-hitting tackling, inspired play calling, crisp execution and, as was the case today, a little bit of luck. Chip Lohmiller kicked a 41-yard field goal for Washington to give the Redskins a 16-13 overtime win over Houston. Darrell Green’s interception at the Houston 33 set up the kick. All of that, however, would not have happened if not for Oiler placekicker Ian Howfield. 

After Houston tied the game on a one-yard run by Lorenzo White with 1:42 left in the game, Brian Mitchell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Oilers prime field position. Howfield came in for a 33-yard field goal attempt with one second left. It appeared that the winning streak would end at eight. “You don’t exactly give up, but you’re not far from it,” said Andre Collins. 

The snap was perfect as was the hold, but Howfield’s kick was wide right. 

On Houston’s second offensive play of overtime, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon got bumped as he threw an out pass and Green picked it off. Three Ernest Byner runs preceded Lohmiller’s game-ending kick. 

The worst time: October 30, 1988, Astrodome—Washington entered the contest riding a three-game winning streak and appeared to be rounding into form to defend their Super Bowl title. Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes to Drew Hill, however, and the Redskins took a 41-17 whipping that wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate.

Redskins schedule series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS  and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS  and on Instagram @RichTandler