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Arkansas looking for answers to red zone woes

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Arkansas looking for answers to red zone woes

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Paul Petrino couldn't have been happier with Arkansas' offensive output against Texas A&M last week, at least on the surface.

The offensive coordinator watched as the Razorbacks gained 515 yards on 98 plays, putting together five drives of more than 50 yards - all coming against an Aggies' defense that entered the game allowing an average of 279.7 yards per game.

So, what was Petrino's problem with all that offense?

It came in a 58-10 loss, one in which Arkansas' season-long struggles at finishing drives was again on display. The Razorbacks (1-4, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) scored on just one of their five trips inside Texas A&M's 20, a first-half field goal, causing the former offensive powerhouse to fall to 109th nationally in red zone offense.

``We've just got to get the ball in the end zone,'' Petrino said. ``I've never lost a game in my life putting up that kind of yards and having 98 plays. To go and get your butt kicked, you should win if you have that many yards and that many plays.''

Arkansas, which is sixth in the SEC in total offense with 417 yards per game, has scored on just 12 of 19 drives in the red zone this season. It's the latest issue in a season full of disappointments for the Razorbacks, who travel this week to Auburn (1-3, 0-2).

The days of leading the SEC in passing offense, as Arkansas did in each of the previous three seasons, seem like a long time ago for a program reeling without the architect of its past success - former coach Bobby Petrino. The Razorbacks led the conference in average points scored last season, but they've slipped to 11th (23.2 per game) this year.

The fall has been the result of a number of factors, and Petrino's less-than-graceful exit in April is only a small part of the reason.

Arkansas scored on 86.4 percent (51 of 59) red-zone opportunities last season, fourth in the SEC. That, however, came with three future NFL receivers (Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright) on offense, all who were drafted in the fourth round of April's draft.

The departures of three of the top receivers in school history has played a part in the Razorbacks' red zone struggles, as has their anemic running game - which is last in the SEC at 106.6 yards per game. An offensive line that's failed to consistently open running lanes has hurt, just as has a season-ending foot injury to starting fullback Kiero Small and most recently, a bone bruise that kept tight end Chris Gragg out against Texas A&M.

``That's been a big staple to what we've done in the past, to convert (in the red zone),'' Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said. ``We take pride. When we sniff it out and when we smell it, to go get it and make a mark down there.

``... You all have to be in, and you've got to be on the same page. That's how you score when you're down there, and we haven't done that, haven't done it. Is it frustrating? Absolutely.''

Wilson, who was first-team All-SEC last season, hasn't been immune from his own struggles near the opponents' goal line. Against the Aggies, the senior was 0-for-9 passing in the red zone - putting a damper on his 373-yard effort and leaving interim coach John L. Smith searching for answers.

``It's not one thing, but we've just got to keep fighting,'' Smith said. ``We spent a lot of hours on the critical zone last week game planning. ... We've just got to go execute. We've got to get more points. That's the bottom line; that's my job. That's up to me to get more points when we get down there. We have to do it.''

Wilson had his coming-out party against Auburn two years ago, throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns after replacing starter Ryan Mallett in the first half. The Tigers won 65-43 on their way to the national championship, but they've struggled this season - with their only win coming in overtime against Louisiana-Monroe.

Arkansas lost a week before that to the Warhawks, a game in which Wilson missed the second half with a concussion. Auburn's defense performed well in a 12-10 loss to No. 4 LSU two weeks ago, and coach Gene Chizik knows how critical it will be to stop Wilson.

``He's an impressive young man,'' Chizik said. ``One of the things I thought about him two years ago when he came into the game - I just thought that when you look at a quarterback and you say, `What are the intangibles of a quarterback that you look for at that position in a young man?' and that is the competitive nature of that guy, he's got it.''

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AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.

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Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman loses bet, rocks Ovechkin jersey

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USA Today Sports

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman loses bet, rocks Ovechkin jersey

Nearly two weeks have passed since the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to raise their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

With one team being a first-year expansion project that turned out beautifully and the other a franchise that had not appeared in a Stanley Cup Final since 1998, there was obviously a lot on the line.

Those away from the ice had 'a lot' on the line, too.

Prior to the start of the series, each city's mayor agreed on a bet that would force the losing team's member to wear an opposing jersey at the conclusion of the Cup.

Well, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman followed through on her end of the bargain.

Here is proof of her wearing the jersey of a man who led what was arguably the greatest post-championship celebration in sports history.

 

The Capitals announced Wednesday that the team's home opener and Stanley Cup banner unveiling will be played on October 3 against the Boston Bruins.

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

The 2018 Major League All-Star Game is less than a month away. Fan votes are well underway and early frontrunners are close to locking their position in the Midsummer Classic.

Yesterday, we projected how the National League roster will play out. Today it is time to look at the American League roster projection.

For five straight seasons, the AL has had the upper hand in the MLB All-Star Game. In 2018, it does not appear that will change as the American League roster will be loaded from top to bottom.

As a reminder, here is how the process shakes out, first with the fan vote, players’ ballots, and the MLB Commissioner’s Office:

  • Fan vote: nine position players in AL (DH)/ eight in NL; plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 17 players in AL/ 16 players in NL; (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: five AL players (four pitchers, one position player) and seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players)

One player from each team must make the initial roster (before injury withdraws, etc.). Below is how it looks the American League roster will play out, considering the latest fan vote returns:

American League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Wilson Ramos, Rays (Fan Vote), Gary Sánchez, Yankees (Player Ballot)
1B – José Abreu, White Sox (Fan Vote), Joey Gallo, Rangers (Player Ballot)
2B – Jose Altuve, Astros (Fan Vote), Jed Lowrie, Athletics (Player Ballot)
3B – José Ramírez, Indians (Fan Vote), Yangervis Solarte, Blue Jays (Player Ballot), Mike Moustakas, Royals (Commissioner’s Office)
SS – Manny Machado, Orioles (Fan Vote), Jean Segura, Mariners (Player Ballot),
OF – Mookie Betts, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Mike Trout, Angels (Fan Vote), Aaron Judge, Yankees (Fan Vote), Michael Brantley, Indians (Player Ballot), Eddie Rosario, Twins (Player Ballot), Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (Player Ballot),
DH – J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Shohei Ohtani, Angels (Player Ballot)

SP – Justin Verlander, Astros (Player Ballot), Luis Severino, Yankees (Player Ballot), Corey Kluber, Indians (Player Ballot), Chris Sale, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Gerrit Cole, Astros (Player Ballot), Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Edwin Díaz, Mariners (Player Ballot), Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Aroldis Chapman, Yankees (Player Ballot), Joe Jiménez, Tigers (Commissioner’s Office), Delin Betances, Yankees (Commissioner’s Office), Chris Devenski, Astros (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Jeff Luhnow, Astros

Based on this projection, the New York Yankees will have the most representatives with six. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox will both have four.

Ensuring no snubs, there will be five players selected for the final fan vote to get one more All-Star into the game for a total of 32 for the American League. As you can see, no matter how the AL roster plays out, it will be a dominant team once again as they look for six straight All-Star wins.

Four of those five wins were inside a National League stadium and that will not change as the Washington Nationals will host this season.

MORE ALL-STAR NEWS: