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Alabama blocks its way past Irish for title, 42-14

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Alabama blocks its way past Irish for title, 42-14

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) When Alabama's first-team offense came off the field for the final time in the BCS championship game, center Barrett Jones skipped toward the bench like a 302-pound schoolboy, waving his arms toward the cheering Crimson Tide fans.

Jones' unit went out with a roar Monday, steamrolling Notre Dame from the start to help Alabama win 42-14.

The Tide's vaunted offensive line blew the Fighting Irish off the ball, and after three possessions Alabama had 203 yards and a 21-0 lead. The most anticipated matchup in the title game - Bama's running attack against Notre Dame's stout run defense - quickly became no contest, and so did the game.

``We couldn't be happier with the way we came out and started the game,'' said Jones, who played with torn ligaments in his left foot and will require surgery. ``We knew we wanted to run the ball and hit them early, and I think that's what we did.''

On its first three series, Alabama mounted touchdown drives of 82, 61 and 80 yards.

``Notre Dame had a really highly rated statistical defensive team,'' Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. ``I thought a real challenge for us in the game was how we would control the line of scrimmage. That's probably the thing that was most surprising to me - how we were able to control the line of scrimmage, especially early in the game.''

Alabama dominated with an offensive line that includes three All-Americans - first-teamers Jones and left guard Chance Warmack, and second-teamer D.J. Fluker at right tackle. They created gaping holes against a team ranked fourth in the nation in run defense, and neutralized Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o, who became a nonfactor.

The blocking gave Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon plenty of room to run, and A.J. McCarron lots of time to throw.

``This may be the best offensive line that we've had or ever been associated with,'' Saban said after leading the Tide to its third national title in four years. ``The power, the toughness and how physical they are I think is probably a pretty unique quality.

``And I know we have some really good backs too,'' the coach added with a slight smile. ``Eddie makes them miss in the line and gains 20 yards, and the linemen are beating their chests about how they blocked. It's a combination of all 11 players.''

That included McCarron. Facing an ineffective pass rush, he hit eight of his first nine passes, including a 3-yard toss to Michael Williams for the second touchdown.

The early clock-eating drives took Notre Dame's offense out of the game. The Irish gained only 23 yards before Alabama had 21 points. Time of possession at that juncture was 12:12 for the Crimson Tide to 2:52 for the Fighting Irish.

The first scoring drive - which took only five plays - was the longest the Irish had allowed all season.

But while Notre Dame's defense wasn't accustomed to being pushed around in such a manner, Fluker said the Tide saw it coming. The team was encouraged studying when the Irish's 21-6 victory two months ago against Boston College, Fluker said.

``We saw Boston College push them around,'' he said. ``We knew that if they could do it, we could do it. They were kind of predictable on defense. We knew what they would do, so it was just a matter of executing.''

Jones missed considerable practice time leading up to the game because of his foot injury, and said his teammates up front took up the slack for him.

``I wasn't really 100 percent,'' Jones said. ``It was painful, but you couldn't have pulled me off the field with a tractor.''

Most of the time in the early going, the Tide ran to the left and away from Te'o, and Alabama's linemen repeatedly locked him up. When Lacy ran up the middle for a 20-yard gain on third-and-1 to the Notre Dame 3, Te'o was blocked out of play by Warmack and ended up chasing the play from behind.

Jones helped knock Te'o aside when Yeldon ran over right guard for a 1-yard score to make it 21-0. That was the second rushing touchdown allowed by the Irish, matching what they gave up during the entire regular season.

Notre Dame had allowed only two players to rush for 100 yards, but Lacy finished with 140 and Yeldon added 108.

``Everybody knows about Alabama's offensive line,'' Te'o said. ``They're very big, and they're very athletic and very strong. They just did what Alabama does.''

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Remembering the other series-clinching goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov

Remembering the other series-clinching goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov

When you think about Evgeny Kuznetsov in the playoffs, most probably think of his overtime-winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018 that ended the series and handed Washington a long-awaited victory over its archrival. But that wasn’t the first series-clinching goal Kuznetsov scored.

Before the Stanley Cup was brought to Washington, before the bird celebration, there was another epic moment of Kuznetsov’s career that now feels overshadowed by the 2018 run.

In 2015, the Caps returned to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. They entered the postseason as the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division, drawing the third-place New York Islanders in the first round.

A back-and-forth series, it ultimately went the distance with Game 7 being played in Washington. As even as the series had been, the Caps dominated that Game 7, suffocating the Islanders and giving up only 11 shots on goal. Joel Ward put Washington ahead 1-0, but Frans Nielsen tied it early in the third period. Despite the dominant defensive performance, Jaroslav Halak (remember him?) would not allow the Caps to the chance to put the game away.

Just when it began to feel as if Halak was going to steal away another Game 7 from the Caps, a young Russian center in just his first full NHL season took over.

With less than eight minutes remaining in the third period, Kuznetsov took a pass along the half wall, showed Frans Nielsen his back and when Nielsen bit, he spun and cut to the center of the ice. Nielsen was caught a step behind and whacked Kuznetsov in desperation, actually diving to the ice to try to keep him from breaking loose. In one slick move Kuznetsov had cut through the Islanders’ defense and was in alone on net. Halak went down to the butterfly as Kuznetsov cut to center, but Kuznetsov showed incredible patience and did not immediately shoot. Suddenly, Halak was committed and helpless. He dove to his right desperately holding up the glove as Kuznetsov kept gliding across the ice, but Halak had left too much of the net open by going down too soon and Kuznetsov hit the corner.

With 7:18 remaining in the game and the series, Kuznetsov had given the Caps the 2-1 lead.

The series was a breakout performance for Kuznetsov who returned the following season and earned a top-six role, something not all that easy for young players to do under head coach Barry Trotz. It also gave a franchise still bearing the scars of Halak’s 2010 upset a measure of revenge.

And the rest is history.

What heroics does Kuznetsov have in store for the Islanders on Saturday when the two teams meet at 1 p.m.? Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 12 p.m. for coverage.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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