Nationals

Arkansas looks to keep focus against surging Tulsa

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Arkansas looks to keep focus against surging Tulsa

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) John L. Smith began the season coaching an Arkansas team hopeful of competing for the Southeastern Conference and national championships.

The interim coach has a far different job description with four games remaining.

Following yet another setback, this one a 30-27 defeat to Mississippi, Arkansas (3-5, 2-3 SEC) must win three of its final four games in order to reach bowl eligibility for the fourth straight season. The latest loss was a stinging blow for the Razorbacks, who had won two in a row and believed they had recovered from an earlier four-game losing streak.

Smith's job is to now make sure an already injury-riddled Arkansas team doesn't lose faith and go through the motions for the remainder of the season. His focus is to make sure the Razorbacks keep theirs and that they don't look ahead to the offseason, the pending hire of a new coach or the NFL.

``I think you do that every year, all year long anyway,'' Smith said. ``I think that's just part of it. And making sure that our guys go to the field and actually focus and concentrate on what it is we have to do today.''

Smith's difficulty in keeping the focus of an Arkansas team weary of losing - one that's now equaled its loss total for the previous two seasons combined - became all the more difficult Monday.

He said tight end Chris Gragg and running back Knile Davis will miss this week's game with Tulsa (7-1, 5-0 Conference USA). Gragg reinjured bruised leg bone against the Rebels that had kept him out of the previous three games, while Davis injured his right hamstring in the loss.

The Golden Hurricane have lost 17 straight to the Razorbacks. However, Tulsa has won seven straight this season since an opening loss at Iowa State and leads the nation in sacks - providing a suddenly difficult test for an Arkansas team that has proven anything but a sure thing this season.

The Razorbacks' fall from the preseason top 10 started with a then-shocking loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8. That started the four-game losing streak in the team's first season following April's firing of former coach Bobby Petrino.

The latest loss now means Arkansas must win three of four games against teams (Tulsa, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU) that are a combined 28-5 in order to reach a bowl. Smith, for one, still believes that's possible.

``There never have been very many games we go into thinking that we're going to get our tail kicked,'' Smith said. ``There's not going to be any from here on out, definitely. We believe that we're going to go in and win it. And it has to start now.''

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson's only losing season dating to high school, when he won three state championships at Greenwood, Ark., was a 5-7 mark during his first year with the Razorbacks in 2008. That was also Petrino's first season, but Wilson refused to place the blame for Arkansas' struggles on his former coach or anyone but himself.

``I feel like that's the coward's way out,'' Wilson said.

Wilson struggled against Ole Miss, throwing a pair of interceptions and narrowly avoiding several others. He threw for 297 yards but finished 24 of 43 passing and was fortunate the Rebels couldn't keep their hands on several other passes that fell incomplete.

The senior blamed himself for the near misses afterward, as well as for missing other open receivers. He said the losing this season has been an adjustment but that he's continuing to look for ways to motivate the Razorbacks.

Wilson, who elected to bypass a likely high draft pick in April's NFL draft, also said he hasn't seen any looking ahead by teammates to the offseason.

``We've still got four games left,'' Wilson said. ``So you'd be looking ahead quite a bit if you're looking ahead. ``We've got a big game this week.''

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Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Matt Adams drop slightly but still near top in MLB All-Star Game votes

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USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Matt Adams drop slightly but still near top in MLB All-Star Game votes

The MLB All-Star Game is at Nationals Park and is now less than a month away, so let's check in on how D.C.'s top players and fan favorites are doing in the voting. 

After the first National League All-Star Game ballot update last week, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Matt Adams were the three Nationals among the top players receiving votes. And while that's still the case, they've all dropped one position since last week. Perhaps because of the Nats' recent slump?

Opening as the No. 1 outfielder, Harper is now No. 2 in the voting with 1,002,696 tallies, behind Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis with 1,173,653 votes. They are, however, the only two outfielders with more than a million votes and 2-of-5 overall in the voting. 

Adams — who was 14th among outfielders last week — slid one spot to No. 15 with 237,165 votes.

Last week, Turner was the No. 4 shortstop on the ballot, but he has since dropped to No. 4 with 279,071 votes. He's behind San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, Braves' Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell and Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story — who was the one to jump Turner this time around. 

If you're a Nats fan who doesn't like these results, don't worry. You can keep voting until July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET and you can vote up to five times every 24 hours. Read more about how to vote for your favorite players in the MLB All-Star Game HERE

The 2018 NL-AL matchup is in Washington, D.C. on July 17.

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Redskins schedule preview: Weeks 13 and 17 vs. Eagles

Redskins schedule preview: Weeks 13 and 17 vs. Eagles

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the two games against the Eagles. 

Week 13 December 3 (Monday night), Lincoln Financial Field

Week 17, December 30, FedEx Field

2017 Eagles: 13-3, First in NFC East, Super Bowl champions 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 10.5

Early line: Week 13, Redskins +7.5; No lines established for Week 17

Key additions: DE Michael Bennett, WR Mike Wallace

Key losses: DE Vinny Curry, WR Torrey Smith, RB LeGarrette Blount, DT Beau Allen

Notable: Quarterback Carson Wentz is aiming to be ready for Week 1 after suffering a torn ACL late in the season.  

Biggest questions: 

  • If Wentz isn’t ready, the Eagles have Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles ready. Is the real Foles the one who has been a journeyman or the one who starred in the playoffs? And will Wentz continue the freewheeling style that helped make him successful after the injury?
  • After winning Philadelphia its first Super Bowl, will the Eagles suffer from a hangover? 

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 82-75-6; the Eagles won both meetings last year after Washington had won five straight. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1937, Griffith Stadium — With the Redskins trailing 7-0, rookie Sammy Baugh twice led the Redskins deep into Eagle territory. Washington couldn’t push it across the goal line either time, though, and Philly got out with a 14-0 win.

The last time: October 23, 2017, Lincoln Financial Field — The Redskins took a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter, but Wentz and the Eagles took over after that, scoring 21 unanswered points. The Redskins got it back within a touchdown and on a third and eight play early in the fourth quarter, it looked like they had Wentz sacked. However, he scrambled out of trouble and ran for the first down. That drive ended with a touchdown pass and Philly went on to win 34-24.

The best time: January 5, 1991, Veterans Stadium — After getting pummeled by the Eagles in the Body Bag Game (see “The worst time” below), the Redskins qualified for the playoffs and got their shot at revenge. The seedings called for the Redskins to return to the scene of the crime, Veterans Stadium, for a first-round playoff contest.

A near turnover that wasn't was the game's turning point. The Redskins had taken a 7-6 lead and were driving for more when the ball popped loose from Earnest Byner's grasp when he was tackled at the Philadelphia six. CB Ben Smith scooped the ball up and ran 94 yards for an apparent TD. 

Fortunately for the Redskins, instant replay showed that the ground caused the fumble and the call was reversed, with the Redskins retaining possession. The reversal became a 10-point turnaround as Chip Lohmiller connected on a short FG and instead of a six-point deficit, the Redskins had a four-point lead. The Eagles' offense never could get untracked and the Redskins won 20-6.

The worst time: November 12, 1990, Veterans Stadium — As the Redskins went into 1990, the core players on the team, Art Monk, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Charles Mann, Darrell Green, Don Warren, and Monte Coleman, were on or approaching the over the hill side of 30.  The team had gone from Super Bowl Champs in 1987 to a losing record in ’88 to out of the playoffs again in ’89. They were facing their last stand as they went into The Vet for a November Monday night game.

This one became known as "The Body Bag Game". Five Redskins had to be carted off of the field as Buddy Ryan's team knocked a total of nine out of the game, including both of the active QB's. The carnage induced one Eagle to yell, "Do you guys need any more body bags?'' as yet another injured Redskin was lying on the turf. The Eagles and Ryan taunted the Redskins after the game, a 28-14 Philadelphia win that was not nearly that close.

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