Nationals

Air Force defeats New Mexico 28-23

Air Force defeats New Mexico 28-23

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) New Mexico tailback Kasey Carrier ran all over the record book. He just wished that he could rewrite the outcome.

Wes Cobb had three 1-yard touchdown runs, and Air Force overcame Carrier's Mountain West Conference-record 338 yards rushing with a 28-23 win over New Mexico on Saturday night.

``It's definitely frustrating,'' Carrier said. ``We don't work hard to come out and lose games. But it shows that we are going to come out and fight to the end and we can come out and play with the best teams.''

Carrier, who ran the ball 39 times, broke loose for runs of 68 and 59 yards in the game's opening minutes, getting chased down just short of the goal line. He scored on a pair of 1-yard runs as well as a 37-yarder that pulled the Lobos to within five points with 12 minutes remaining.

``It was an amazing effort by Kasey to keep us in the game,'' said Lobos defensive back Tim Foley, who forced an Air Force turnover late in the game that New Mexico couldn't convert. ``We just need to fight harder, on both sides of the ball.''

The Falcons (4-3, 2-1) won despite losing Cody Getz, the nation's second-leading rusher, on their first snap when he appeared to aggravate a sprained left ankle. New Mexico (4-4, 1-2) played the second half without quarterback B.R. Holbrook, who suffered a concussion after taking a hit during the Lobos' final series of the second quarter.

Sophomore Quinton McCown saw time at quarterback, and wide receiver Lamaar Thomas and Carrier stepped in as well, taking direct snaps in a variation of the option as the Lobos leaned on their rushing attack.

The workload fell mostly to Carrier, who broke New Mexico's single-game rushing mark of 265 yards set by Quincy Wright against Weber State 10 years ago. He also surpassed the conference mark of 285 yards set by Gartrell Johnson of Colorado State against Fresno State in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl.

Carrier said he never imagined that kind of performance.

``I am shocked,'' he said. ``I didn't know how many yards I had, but it starts up front with the offensive line. Those guys worked hard this game, and the wideouts, blocking down the field.''

Said New Mexico coach Bob Davie: ``Whoever thought Kasey Carrier wasn't tough needs to reconsider.''

Trailing by five, the Lobos reached the Air Force 12 after a strip by Foley of receiver Ty MacArthur, but linebacker Alex Means, who earlier returned an interception for a touchdown, stuffed Thomas for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-4.

Means gave his team a lift with his interception return but he said the stop was an even greater source of satisfaction.

``I think that was a more critical point of the game,'' he said. ``The interception, I actually didn't run the right play. We had a little miscommunication on what the play was. I kind of ran it late and I was in no man's land and ... we got lucky, but we'll take it.''

The Falcons chewed up the final 3:57 to secure their fifth straight win over New Mexico, which was trying to win back-to-back road games in conference play for the first time since 2007.

By halftime, Carrier, a senior from Pearland, Texas, had amassed 227 yards on 22 carries, surpassing his career high of 191 yards set just two weeks ago against Texas State.

The Lobos, however, trailed 14-10 at the break thanks to Means' first career touchdown.

Means reached high with his right hand to tip B.R. Holbrook's pass to running back Chase Clayton in the right flat, gathered in the fluttering ball and sprinted 65 yards for the touchdown that erased New Mexico's 10-7 lead.

Carrier stepped through the line and raced 68 yards on his first carry before Steffon Batts chased him down and knocked him out of bounds at the 7. The Lobos had to settle for Justus Adams' short field goal.

Carrier also was chased down just shy of the goal line minutes later when he burst up the middle for a 59-yard run, tripped up by Christian Spears at the 1. Carrier took it in from there for a 10-0 lead.

Just when it looked like Carrier and the Lobos were going to steamroll the short-handed Falcons, MacArthur stepped up to make sure that didn't happen.

He returned the ensuing kickoff 21 yards, caught an 11-yard pass, ran for 16 more and hauled in a 25-yard throw at the 1, then watched Cobb score from there to make the score 10-7.

Carrier carried seven times for 37 yards on another New Mexico drive, but that's when Means changed the game with his interception.

Carrier capped New Mexico's first drive of the second half with a 1-yard TD that put the Lobos back on top 17-14.

The Falcons responded with Cobb's second 1-yard TD run for a 21-17 lead, and his third short TD made it 28-17.

The Lobos missed the two-point conversion after Carrier's 37-yard scoring run with 12 minutes remaining.

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Is Juan Soto a lock for National League Rookie of the Year?

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Is Juan Soto a lock for National League Rookie of the Year?

In April, it would have been unfathomable. In May, it would have been laughable. In June, it would have been improbable. In July, it started to look possible. In August, it might even have been likely. Now, it’s a complete toss-up.

Juan Soto is the worthiest National League Rookie of the Year. So is Ronald Acuna.

It’s one of the most exciting rookie races in recent memory, not simply for the otherworldly numbers each freshman sensation is putting up, but for just how good they are at such young ages. Juan Soto is a jaw-dropping 19. Acuna, by comparison, is the wizened veteran at the old age of.. 20. 

The two are preternaturally talented, and their mature-beyond-their-years games have translated perfectly well to the big leagues. The question now is: which one will actually take home the hardware?

(Before we continue, I’ll note that Jack Flaherty, Brian Anderson, and Walker Buehler are all very talented young players who would at least be in the conversation in normal years).

The first step is to look at the numbers.

On the season Acuna is slashing .287/.347/.571, and his wRC+ is 144. He’s got 19 home runs and 8 stolen bases in just 68 games and his fWAR is 2.3. bWAR has him at 2.8

Soto’s slash line is currently .293/.420/.534, to go along with 15 home runs. His wRC+ is 153, and his fWAR is 2.7. His bWAR sits at 2.2.

Obviously, the numbers are terrific for both. Acuna has been up longer, but thanks to injury Soto has actually played 8 more games. Acuna has the edge in power, both in home runs and slugging percentage, plus he’s clearly the speedier player and better defender. If you’re looking for all-around game, he’s probably your man. Plus, for those who care about such things when voting on awards, the Braves are several games ahead of the Nats in the standings.

However, Soto’s performance has a couple things going for it. First of all, as impressive as it is that Acuna is taking the league by storm as a 20-year old, Soto is nearly a full year younger. It cannot be overemphasized how wild it is what Soto is doing as a teenager. He may very well be the greatest teenage batter in baseball history.

Secondly, Soto has been incredibly consistent. He’s basically been an All-Star level hitter since the day he was called up in May, whereas Acuna’s numbers, while very legitimate, are buoyed by his recent hot streak. He’s hit 8 home runs in 8 games, and of every hitter with at least 100 plate appearances since the All-Star Game, he has the highest wRC+ in that span. He’s had plenty of valleys to his peaks, though, and Soto has been a model of consistency. Of all hitters with at 200 at-bats this entire season, Soto ranks 7th over the entire season, That’s astounding.

Another point in Soto’s favor is just how historic his numbers are. Voters love a narrative, and as mentioned above, Soto is having literally the best offensive season a teenager has ever had. The highest wRC+ by a 19-year old in baseball history in Mel Ott with a 140 exactly 90 seasons ago. Soto is beating that by 13 so far.

The true separator, though, is Soto’s on-base percentage. His .420 mark is a comfortable 4th of all players with at least 300 plate appearances, behind elite batting eyes Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Joey Votto. And, once again, we’re talking about something historic.

Soto’s .420 on-base percentage, if it holds, will be the only OBP over .400 for a teenager with 200 plate appearances in Major League history. In fact, outside of Ott’s .397 in 1928, no other teenager has ever reached base at a .360 clip, let alone Soto’s astronomical .420.

Ultimately, I believe more in Acuna’s future, but I think Soto’s been the better player this season. Acuna is more well-rounded, but Soto’s elite batting eye has made him a top 10 hitter in baseball already. If Soto had been up on Opening Day and played at this level, he’d be on pace for a 5.5 WAR, which would top even Bryce Harper’s 2012 season.

As mentioned, voters love a narrative though, and if Acuna comes back from his injury and stays as hot as he’s been all August, it’ll be tough to ignore his performance during the Braves’ stretch run. This award is not over, but for now, Soto should be considered the favorite.

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Need to Know: Redskins stock up, stock down after Jets game

Need to Know: Redskins stock up, stock down after Jets game

Here is what you need to know on Friday, August 16, seven days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

Here are some players who saw their stock go up during Thursday's preseason game against the Jets and others who experienced a stock drop

Up—Rookie nose tackle Tim Settle had himself another big game. The difference this time was that most of his snaps came against the Jets starting offensive line as opposed to the Patriots’ backups he saw last week. He mauled ex-Redskins center Spencer Long a few times and he moved over to tackle in a four-man front to generate some pass pressure. He is still learning. 

Down—Backup center Tony Bergstrom was physically manhandled a couple of times, making things difficult for Colt McCoy, some running backs, and Kevin Hogan. He also committed a flagrant holding penalty that negated a good Hogan run for the first down. His roster spot does not appear to be in any danger, but he has to do better.

Up—Cornerback Danny Johnson had some pressure dropped on him when the team cut Orlando Scandrick, moving Johnson from roster long shot to a player who may have to be counted on. He played well, making a key play in the second quarter. On third down, he made a good tackle to stop a third-down play short of the sticks. He knocked the ball out of the runner’s hands, but a quick whistle negated the turnover. 

Up/Down—Wide receiver Cam Sims had some wild swings. In the second quarter, he was open in the red zone and McCoy put a perfect pass into his arms. But the ball popped out and was intercepted. Turnovers will get rookie free agents cut. Sims made up for it later in the game with a key third-down catch later in the second quarter. Later, in the last seconds of the game, he pulled in a 20-yard pass to set up Dustin Hopkins’ game-winning field goal. In between, he grabbed a touchdown pass between two defenders, but that play was negated by an illegal formation penalty. 

Down—You hate to see a player’s stock go down due in part to an injury, but that’s what happened with Byron Marshall. Even though he is OK, he left the game early, opening the door for Kapri Bibbs, his main competition for the fourth roster spot at running back, to have a good night. Bibbs caught seven passes for 47 yards. Before he left the game, Marshall put the ball on the ground on a kickoff return. Although replay showed that he was down by contact before fumbling it was close enough to cause concern. The competition for the fourth running back spot is tighter now than it was before the game. 

Up—Rookie safety Troy Apke had three tackles and he picked off a fourth-down Sam Darnold pass. Deshazor Everett gets an assist on the pick as he batted the pass up in the air. Apke is still has a lot to learn before he makes the transition from being a fast guy to being a good NFL player. 

Down—Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton had a chance to make a key third-down sack off Teddy Bridgewater that would have killed a fourth-quarter drive. But he went to the ground and missed the sack and Bridgewater made the completion to keep the drive alive. Hamilton gets credit for getting into the backfield, but he didn’t seal the deal. 

Bureau of statistics

Here are two preseason stats with the caveat that they are preseason stats. 1). In the first halves of their two preseason games with both sides playing mostly their first- and second-team players, the Redskins have outscored the opposition 26-6. 2). The Redskins have 216 rushing yards through two games. Last year they rushed for 103 yards in their first two preseason games. 

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The agenda

Today: Off day

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 7 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 15 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 23 days

In case you missed it

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