Capitals

Al Golden insists he's committed to Miami's future

Al Golden insists he's committed to Miami's future

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) When Al Golden enters the Miami Hurricanes' home field for his team's pregame warmup, Bruce Springsteen's ``Born to Run'' traditionally blares through the stadium.

It's his song, a nod to his New Jersey upbringing. It's apparently not his mantra.

Golden's second season at Miami ends Saturday when his team visits Duke. If the Hurricanes win, they'll finish tied for first in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division, which would mark the first time since 2003 that Miami could call itself co-champions of anything.

``We're there because of coach Golden,'' Miami defensive back Brandon McGee said. ``He's put everything in place for us to do this.''

When the game ends, Miami will head home and do what it has done for two seasons: Wait for the NCAA to reveal how much trouble the school is facing. The long investigation into the university's athletic compliance practices seems to be winding down, almost two years after the NCAA started digging and now 16 months after the probe became publicly known after a rogue former booster's claims were published by Yahoo Sports.

No one knows what's coming - or when.

``Do I worry about it? I worry about everything,'' Golden said. ``I worry about all the kids that sit in a room and the staff, our strength staff, our training staff, everybody. When we go on that field, there are usually 240 people on that field. So there are a lot of people involved, a lot of lives involved. But I can see what we're becoming and what we want to do with the program.

``That vision pulls me a little bit stronger than some of these things that try and tear us apart. I think we're here for the right reasons, which is why you have a tendency to dig in and fight as opposed to flight.''

In short, Golden's not planning to run anywhere.

Dark days are almost certainly coming to Miami, with the NCAA expected to send a notice of allegations to the school soon - possibly in the next couple weeks. If that timetable holds up, sanctions could come around March. But Golden believes the worst has already happened, with Miami self-imposing two bowl bans and with him planning to hold back some scholarships that could go toward signing more players this winter.

That all being said, many around Miami's program believe the next couple seasons could be great ones. That's also why they think Golden is staying put.

``Al is very committed,'' Miami acting athletic director Blake James said. ``He recognizes, I think, what we all recognize, in that we have a very, very bright future as a program. When you look at the team that we have out on the field, when you look at the young guys we have out contributing to this program right now, who we are as a program right now with a lot of our impact players freshmen and sophomores ... that credit goes to Al.''

Players rave about Golden.

His first official meeting with the team two seasons ago started with a joke, and no one dares say publicly what the details were other than ``it was a good one,'' McGee said.

His motto - ``Deserve Victory'' - is not only on the wall of the team's meeting room, it's the last thing they see in the tunnel before they walk onto their home field. And his tight, emotional embrace of wide receiver Malcolm Lewis when the freshman had just shattered his ankle in a gruesome play at Georgia Tech this season is still something players discuss proudly.

``We believe in this staff. We believe in this program,'' quarterback Stephen Morris said. ``We believe in coach Golden.''

While there's no denying it's an anxious time for Miami right now, at least Golden still has his hair.

His personal history suggests that's a good sign.

Five years ago, it was coming out in clumps. It was during his second season at Temple, around the time his career coaching record was 1-16 and his Owls were being outscored by an average of four touchdowns per game. They lost a game 62-0, then another by the same score the very next week. Golden's stress level was through the roof.

These days, the hair is just fine.

He raves about living in South Florida, both life in Miami and the ability to jump in the car and be in gorgeous places like the Florida Keys, Naples and Palm Beach within an hour or so. His wife and children are happy calling the area home. He's under contract until Feb. 1, 2020.

If the Hurricanes could just get past this NCAA matter, everything might be perfect.

``We can complain all we want but we can't change it,'' Golden said. ``But the challenge for our team is we're going to be defined by how we respond to this. And the first test of that is Saturday against Duke. We can say whatever we want. We can say we have a great attitude, we're working hard, we're focused, but the test is Saturday at 12:30.''

So Saturday becomes Miami's bowl game, in essence.

Duke's home field - Wallace Wade Stadium - has hosted bowl games before, including the 1942 Rose Bowl (moved because of the attack on Pearl Harbor) and the 1972 Pelican Bowl, a short-lived, lower-division, now-defunct event. In 2012, it may as well be called the Hurricane Bowl, in that it is Miami's championship game.

``We're blessed with an opportunity to play one more game, so that's all we can ask for,'' senior running back Mike James said. ``Of course, it means a lot. It's the last game.''

It's also probably the last time Miami will play without knowing its NCAA fate.

Golden's tenure with the Hurricanes has been completely blanketed by uncertainty - the suspensions related to the investigation that were deemed necessary before his Miami debut last season, ongoing fallout ever since and the fact that he worked for four different athletic directors at Miami before even coaching 18 games at the school.

By next season, the sanctions should have arrived. The page, he hopes, can be turned. Golden and his wife have had plenty of talks about the future, and they always seem to come back to the same conclusion: He's supposed to be at Miami, supposed to see this saga through to, they hope, a championship end.

``I think it's a great place and we're destined for great things here,'' Golden said. ``We're just going through some tough times.''

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are no easy roads to a Stanley Cup. Capitals fans know that better than most after seeing their team dominate the regular season just to get upset in the first or second round of the playoffs for several years. Having said that, seeing Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose in the first round, it seems like things are setting up very nicely for Washington.

The Caps should have one thing and one thing only on their minds on Monday and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington still needs one more win to advance and they should not catch themselves looking ahead to possible future matchups.

But we can look ahead.

The top seeds in both conferences have been eliminated in the first round for the first time. Long-time nemesis Pittsburgh is out. Either Boston or Toronto will soon be joining them plus there is a possibility that both Nashville and San Jose could still lose as well.

This is not meant to discount any of the teams the Caps could still play. Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders swept the Penguins and earned a spot in the second round. He has proven his worth as a coach and his team is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to score on, let alone beat. The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Washington last season and got better this year as they showed Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep. Whoever comes out of the West no doubt will be a great team as well.

But if you were to draw up the best-case scenario for the Caps through the first round, having Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose would likely be part of that scenario.

The Cup is truly up for grabs. This is true every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is especially true this year. If the Hurricanes find a way to win Game 6 and shock the Caps in Game 7, we are going to look back at this season as a missed opportunity considering the number of contenders ousted in the first round.

SEE THIS WEEK’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps are, at their core, a physical team. That is how they ultimately find success and they went away from that earlier in the series, especially in Games 3 and 4. When they reestablished it in Game 5, they blew the Hurricanes away. Any team can play well for one game. Any team can respond after losing a really good player for one game. The real test is to see how they play in Raleigh where they were beaten so thoroughly and the offense was held to only a single power play goal and zero 5-on-5 production.
  • If you want to know why physical play still matters in today’s NHL, watch Brett Connolly’s Game 5 goal again. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin to get the puck behind Carolina’s net and he completely gives up on the play. He does not go into the boards and put himself in a position to get checked by Ovechkin. It looked like he thought the play would be called icing, but if you’re not 100-percent sure you need to get to that puck even if it means taking a hit. Hamilton looked like he wanted no part of that which allowed Ovechkin to get the puck and set up a goal.
  • The Caps may finally have settled on defensive pairings. The defense has been a work in progress ever since Michal Kempny’s injury, but Todd Reirden may have finally found three pairs he can stick with. After making his playoff debut in Game 4, Jonas Siegenthaler played on the top defensive pair with John Carlson on Saturday. We have seen Reirden mix and match his defensive pairs throughout games, but things stuck in Game 5 as Siegenthaler and Carlson played 11:19 together at 5-on-5. The most Carlson played with any other defenseman at 5-on-5 during the game was 51 seconds. I asked Reirden afterward if he felt he had found his top defensive pair and he remained non-committal saying he still would mix and match as needed depending on the situation, but the numbers speak for themselves. Siegenthaler is a defensively responsible player, he has not looked rattled at all by the forecheck and, perhaps most importantly, he’s a left-handed shot allowing Carlson to play on his natural right side. I like the look of this pair a lot.
  • Nick Jensen has had a rough series. In fact, it looks like it has been a rough transition from Detroit to Washington since he was acquired. That’s OK. Sometimes players take time to adjust to a new team and a new system, but because of that, it benefits the Caps more to have him play on the third pair than the top, especially if moving him up means playing with Carlson on the left. That’s a lot to ask. With Siegenthaler up top, Jensen moved back down to the third pair on Saturday and it was easily his best game of the series. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik allows Jensen to step more into the offense, an area of the game in which his skills are greatly underrated. Jensen looked good on both ends of the ice in Game 5 and was particularly strong on the penalty kill. He can be a top-four defenseman, but I am not sure he is ready for that type of role in Washington yet. He is a definite asset on the third pair, however, and he showed that on Saturday.

The Caps are one win away from advancing to the second round. Here is where they stand among the other playoff teams in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

We've made in to NFL draft week. Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The 2019 NFL Draft is Thursday night in Nashville, Tn. While the chances of pundits predicting each team's first-round pick accurately is about the same as picking the Powerball numbers, we can't seem to stop ourselves from looking at them. Here's a look at 20 prospects mocked to the Ravens at No. 22, courtesy of the Ravens' website.  


2. One of the many exciting parts of the NFL draft is waiting to hear which organizations trade forward or backwards to acquire a pick. Just last year, the Ravens traded back from their No. 16 pick several times to select Hayden Hurst at No. 25, before trading back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson at No. 32. But which trade in Ravens history was the most impactful? ESPN's Jamison Hensley selected the Ravens' trade for running back Jamal Lewis.


"In 1999, the Ravens traded their second-round pick (No. 43) for Atlanta's first-round pick in 2000, which they used to land running back Jamal Lewis," Hensley wrote. "The Falcons selected tight end Reggie Kelly, and the Ravens got what turned into the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Baltimore drafted Lewis, who carried the offense during the team's 2000 Super Bowl championship season and recorded the NFL's fifth 2,000-yard season in 2003."


3. As Marlon Humphrey enters his third year in the league, the cornerback will not only be expected to take on a leadership role within the Ravens' new look defense, but top his impressive sophomore season. In 2018, Humphrey contested 35% of targets thrown into his coverage marking the second-best rate in all the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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