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Arkansas eyes winning streak after Auburn win

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Arkansas eyes winning streak after Auburn win

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) John L. Smith's positive outlook has never wavered this season, even as Arkansas' preseason hopes crumbled under the weight of a four-game losing streak.

The Razorbacks coach's eternal optimism spread to his players on Monday, two days following the team's streak-snapping 24-7 win over Auburn.

A win, any win, was exactly what Arkansas (2-4, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) needed in the worst way. That it was the Razorbacks' first this season against an FBS opponent didn't matter in the least for a team that's fallen from the preseason top 10 to one just hoping to earn a bowl berth.

``You kind of see that belief back in people's eyes,'' quarterback Tyler Wilson said.

That belief came in the face of more disheartening news: Smith said leading tackler Alonzo Highsmith is out for the season with a foot injury sustained against the Tigers, another blow to an already thin linebacker corps.

Highsmith, who began the season at outside linebacker, leads the Razorbacks with 54 tackles. He was moved to middle linebacker two weeks ago after Tenarius Wright, who missed the Auburn game with a shoulder injury, was moved back to his natural position of defensive end.

Smith said Wright was set to have an MRI late Monday to determine his status for this week's game against Kentucky (1-5, 0-3).

``It's a big blow,'' Smith said. ``Because you're without your two middle linebackers that you were hoping to start the season with and continue on with. But it's just something that we have to do, and I think our football team realizes that. We've had to adjust for other guys missing time, and whoever's there has to step in and play and go make plays.''

The Wildcats enter the week reeling with injuries of their own. Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said Monday that freshman quarterback Patrick Towles will miss Saturday's game after sustaining a high right ankle sprain last week against Mississippi State.

Arkansas is all-too familiar with injury woes this season. In addition to Highsmith and Wright, the Razorbacks' secondary has been decimated with injuries to safety Eric Bennett and cornerbacks Tevin Mitchel and Kaelon Kelleybrew. Starting fullback Kiero Small and backup Kody Walker also have been lost for the season with injuries, and tight end Chris Gragg missed the win against Auburn with a bone bruise in his leg.

Despite the setbacks, Smith is now hopeful Arkansas can reel off a different kind of streak - a winning one - and re-enter the bowl picture. It's a possibility Smith said is ``definitely'' on his mind, one that starts with this week and is followed by a bye before facing another team that's winless in the SEC in Mississippi.

``Maybe we can sit back and relax and take a breath and get healthy, or more healthy,'' Smith said of the looming bye week. ``I don't know that we can ever get totally healthy.''

For Wilson, the possibility of a winning streak of any kind seemed anything but possible leading into the Auburn game. The Razorbacks had lost their first two conference games to No. 1 Alabama and Texas A&M by a combined score of 110-10, but their much-maligned defense had eight sacks against Auburn.

Wilson was 22 of 29 for 230 yards passing against the Tigers. The senior didn't throw a touchdown in the game, though he didn't mind in the least.

``I'll take that and throw no touchdowns with a win any day of the week,'' Wilson said.

More than anything, Wilson said the win was a relief for Arkansas. The Razorbacks returned to practice Sunday evening, doing so with an added bit of motivation.

``It's like night and day in confidence,'' Wilson said. ``And everybody's mind in the locker room, on the plane, wherever you're at, guys feel better about themselves. Consequently, they practice harder. They have belief in what we're doing, what we're trying to accomplish as a team; all that helps you.''

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

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 Jaguars. 

Week 15 December 16, TIAA Bank Field

2017 Jaguars: 10-6, First in AFC South, lost AFC championship game 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 9

Early line: Redskins +8

Key additions: G Andrew Norwell, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Donte Moncrief, 

Key losses:WR Allen Hurns, WR Allen Robinson

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Blake Bortles was very inconsistent during the season and there was talk of the team looking for a replacement for him prior to their run in the playoffs. Does he have what it takes to get the team back into serious contention. 
  • The team also got an inconsistent season out of RB Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 pick in the draft. Can he put together the monster season that would justify his draft status and help elevate the Jaguars to elite status. 
  • The Jaguars went from 25thin scoring defense in 2016 to second last year. Will they fall back to the pack this year?

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 5-1. The Jaguars only win against them came in 2002.

Series notables

The first time: September 28, 1997, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium—In the second game ever played at the Redskins’ new stadium, Jacksonville took a 9-0 lead in the second quarter, but then-Jags QB Mark Brunell threw a pair of interceptions that set up two Washington touchdowns and the Redskins won 24-12. Gus Frerotte threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Allen gained 122 yards on 36 carries. 

The last time: November 14, 2012, FedEx Field—Jay Gruden got his first win as the Redskins’ head coach in this one. Robert Griffin III went out of this game early with an injury and Kirk Cousins passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his place. It was the defense that dominated this game, racking up 10 sacks, tying the team record set in 1977. Ryan Kerrigan got four of those sacks, tying the team individual record for sacks in a game. The Redskins won 41-10.

The best time: October 1, 2006, FedEx Field—A taught, exciting game came to an explosive end when Santana Moss snared a pass that Mark Brunell perhaps should not have thrown and streaked to the end zone, giving the Redskins a 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville.

The reason the throw was risky was that two defenders were near Moss as Brunell fired it to the speedy receiver. Somehow both of them missed it. Moss grabbed it, spun around and bolted the rest of the way to complete the 68-yard game winner.

It was Moss’ third touchdown reception of the day. In the first quarter, he caught a long pass from Brunell and executed a nifty spin move near the goal line to complete the 55-yard touchdown play. An eight-yard Moss TD catch early in the third quarter put the Redskins up by 10 but the Jags battled back to tie it with six seconds left. That set up Moss’ overtime heroics. 

The worst time: November 10, 2002, Alltel Stadium—The Redskins came into the game riding a two-game winning streak and at 4-4 they were squarely in playoff contention. A strong running game had been their best asset during their surge to .500 and, with the Jaguars sporting the worst run defense in the NFL, there was every reason to believe that the Redskins would take the land route to another win.

But coach Steve Spurrier had different ideas. "I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field," Spurrier said. "We ran a little bit here and there. We had a little success there early, and I got away from it too much. The second quarter, I kept thinking at midfield, we could throw the ball from there. But we didn't do it very well. So, looking back, I called a lousy game."

His defense didn’t play very well either. The Redskins scored first but the Jaguars scored 26 unanswered points and came out with a 26-7 win.

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