Redskins

Arizona, UCLA look to stay ahead of schedule

201210271649605593722-p2.jpeg

Arizona, UCLA look to stay ahead of schedule

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) Brett Hundley's father was a running back at Arizona in the 1980s, and his son grew up a huge Wildcats fan.

So what happened to all of that Wildcats gear when the quarterback committed to UCLA?

``Everything I used to do sort of went in the trash,'' Hundley said with a grin.

Hundley has been looking forward to Arizona's visit to the Rose Bowl on Saturday for his own reasons, but the elevated stakes make it even more enticing.

No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) hosts the 24th-ranked Wildcats (5-3, 2-3) in a key game for two programs with first-year head coaches hoping to keep their rebuilding projects ahead of schedule. UCLA coach Jim Mora's defense will have a compelling matchup with Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, matching strength against strength for two teams looking to burnish their national reputations after thrilling victories last week.

``We just need to keep winning,'' Arizona quarterback Matt Scott said. ``We can lose respect really easy by losing a couple games here or there, so we just want to keep going, keep fighting, and try to get W's. If we can do that, we'll keep getting respect.''

Arizona has won five straight over UCLA, but both teams say there are no lingering hard feelings from the Wildcats' 48-12 win last season in Tucson. That game featured a bench-clearing brawl that led to multiple Bruins suspensions and precipitated coach Rick Neuheisel's departure.

It's all forgotten now for Arizona and UCLA as they build on strong starts. While the Wildcats ride momentum from last week's win over Southern California, the Bruins are bowl-eligible with designs on a Pac-12 South title run after beating Arizona State on a field goal at the gun, extending the school's best start since 2005.

What's more, UCLA is breaking out special ``night uniforms'' for the game, abandoning their traditional baby blue jerseys for a darker look.

``There's implications down the road, and they understand that,'' Mora said of the game's importance to his Bruins. ``It's not something you talk about, but they're excited about being in this position. They've done a good job putting themselves here, and I think they're going to do all they can to take advantage of it.''

Arizona is among the nation's top offenses with 553 yards per game, and Scott is expected to play after getting rocked by the Trojans' defense last week. With receiver Austin Hill and tailback Ka'Deem Carey, the Wildcats have enough offensive playmakers to cause trouble for Mora's defense, which gave up 43 points in two of its last three games.

Yet UCLA's offense might be able to match that production. Arizona's defense has yielded 197 points in the last five games, and the Bruins' freshman quarterback has his offense moving with a fluidity UCLA hasn't possessed in years.

``I remember when he came out of high school,'' said Rodriguez, who was between Michigan and Arizona when Hundley left his Phoenix-area high school in 2011. ``He is an Arizona native, and people know about him. I knew this guy was going to have great success no matter where he went. They have a system that suits him well.''

Hundley looks more comfortable each week at the controls of coordinator Noel Mazzone's schemes, but he isn't the Bruins' only offensive star. Tailback Johnathan Franklin is likely to make history Saturday, needing just 21 yards to surpass Gaston Green as UCLA's career rushing leader.

``He's one of the best backs in the country, definitely in the Pac-12,'' Arizona defensive lineman Tevin Hood said. ``He's a hard runner. With the (offense) they run, we need to focus on keeping up with him and Hundley. We can't have any holes in the defense.''

The Wildcats have yet to win a road game under Rodriguez, and they'll likely need to put yet another big number on the scoreboard to match the Bruins. Scott is confident Arizona can do it, but Hundley sounds equally ready for a West Coast shootout under the late-night lights.

``I like winning, so if that's what it comes down to, let it be,'' Hundley said. ``If we have to (win a high-scoring shootout) every game, that's fine. But it doesn't matter to me. The offense has the defense's back, and the defense has the offense's back. We all play for each other.''

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

swearinger_vs_az_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Redskins player one-liners, defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, May 22, 66 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins player one-liners, defense

A few weeks ago, I did an early projection of the Redskins’ 53-man roster on offense and defense. As the team gets ready for OTAs here is a comment on each player expected to make the team on defense; the offense was up yesterday

Defensive line

—Even though he played just 159 snaps last year before getting injured, the experience that Jonathan Allen gained in the offseason and training camp last year will help him get off to a strong start this season. 

—​Daron Payne will improve as the season goes on but he should be of some help stopping the run, the team’s most glaring weakness, right off the bat. 

—​Matt Ioannidis could play his way into an early contract extension a year from now, something nobody saw coming a year ago. 

—Last year Anthony Lanier played a little over half a season’s worth of snaps and got 5.0 sacks so I’ll put his over/under for this year at 7.5. 

—I think many fans see “Redskins veteran free agent D-lineman” and associate “bust” but Stacy McGee played pretty well last year. 

—Will Tim Settle be in at nose tackle for the first snap in Week 1?

—The coaches would like to be able to keep Ziggy Hood on the roster, but injuries and other issues could make him a victim of the roster numbers game. 

Inside linebackers

—​Zach Brown struggled a bit before injuries forced him out of the last three games, but he still finished in the top 10 in the NFL in tackles. 

—The team re-signing Mason Foster in late January was a low-key but potentially very impactful move. 

—After getting cut and then returning in November last year, Zach Vigil probably will be employed with the Redskins for all of the 2018 season. 

—It will be interesting to see how much the Redskins try to get out of converted safety Josh Harvey-Clemons as a nickel linebacker this year. 

—The Redskins moved up in the sixth round to draft Shaun Dion Hamilton, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he has a regular role on defense before the season is out. 

Outside linebackers

—All Preston Smith needs to do to hit it big in free agency is add a few sacks to his 2017 total and get a few more takeaways. 

—​Ryan Kerrigan already got paid, he’s a few more good years away from making the Redskins Ring of Fame. 

—I predict that Ryan Anderson gets his first NFL sack in Week 2 against the Colts. 

—You usually think of outside linebackers rotating in when it’s the nickel defense, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pernell McPhee be a regular in short-yardage situations. 

Cornerbacks

—I think Josh Norman will the dancing in the end zone at some point this season; he is long overdue to get a pick six (or a pick of any sort for that matter).

—The first time I noticed Quinton Dunbar playing cornerback was when he lined up against Odell Beckham in 2015. 

—The success of the Redskins’ decisions to trade Kendall Fuller and to let Bashaud Breeland leave as a free agent will hinge mostly on how well Fabian Moreau plays in his second year in the NFL.

—Realistically, the Redskins can hope to get 10 or 12 good games out of Orlando Scandrick

—And because Scandrick is unlikely to be healthy for 16 games, the ability of Josh Holsey to step in when needed will be critical. 

—If the Redskins can get a few good punt returns and 75 snaps at nickel corner from Greg Stroman he will be worth the seventh-round pick they used to draft him. 

Safeties

—With a year in the defense under his belt, D.J. Swearinger is a candidate to make his first Pro Bowl. 

—After Jay Gruden compared him to Jordan Reed, there is a lot of pressure on Montae Nicholson to stay on the field and perform well when he is out there. 

—Even though he started eight games last year I think the coaches view Deshazor Everett as more of a special teams guy and situational defender than a safety they want playing 70 snaps a game. 

—​Troy Apke has a lot to learn and it remains to be seen if he can go from being a fast guy to being a fast NFL football player.

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

Tandler on Twitter

Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 21
—Training camp starts (7/26) 66
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 80

The Redskins last played a game 142 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 110 days. 

In case you missed it

Quick Links

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

MORE CAPITALS STORIES: