Arkansas looks to keep pressure off QB Wilson

Arkansas looks to keep pressure off QB Wilson

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) At times this season, Tyler Wilson has looked anything but comfortable in the pocket.

The Arkansas quarterback admitted as much following a win over Tulsa last week, a game in which Wilson endured a series of crushing hits from the Golden Hurricane defense. Some were to his chest, others at his legs and hip - leaving Wilson limping several times afterward and his head shaking.

Defenses have declared open season this year on Wilson, who has grown accustomed to taking shots during his second year as the starter. They've been the product of a patchwork offensive line and an injury-riddled offensive unit that's learned pass protection through on-the-job training.

It's a test that becomes even more difficult this weekend when the Razorbacks (4-5, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) travel to face a South Carolina team that leads the SEC in sacks. Led by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 12 Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2) have 30 sacks this season - a fact Arkansas interim coach John L. Smith is well aware of.

``We have to protect him,'' Smith said. ``And he has to do a better job, or I'll have to do a better job of getting him protected.

``These guys this week, it's not like they're a blitz-a-mania team, but they're awful good up front. They can get after you. We have to really stress making sure that we get those guys blocked.''

Enduring a season's worth of punishment is nothing new for Wilson, whose first season as a starter last year was marred by a number of big hits. The senior missed the second half of a game last season with concussion-like symptoms, and he missed a game and a half earlier this season with a concussion.

Against Tulsa, Wilson once again absorbed more than his fair share of punishment when he took a helmet to the chest from Tulsa defensive end Jared St. John and was driven backward into the ground.

And that was just the first play of the game.

Wilson slowly stood up from the hit, which resulted in a 19-yard completion to Cobi Hamilton, and led the Razorbacks to a 19-15 win by throwing for 272 yards on 21-of-31 passing. It was the first of several clean hits suffered by Wilson throughout the game - leaving fans in Razorback Stadium gasping after each one.

``Through my entire career here there's been a number of times where I've taken some licks,'' Wilson said. ``That's the way it's going to be. I know that.''

The senior, last season's first-team All-SEC quarterback, leads the conference this season with an average of 315.8 yards passing - but the hits have taken their toll. He threw a wobbly interception against Tulsa in the first half after not setting his feet before a throw, and he's already thrown more interceptions this season (8) than he did all of last year (6).

``I've got to have faith in my guys and stand up there and battle with them, fight them,'' Wilson said. ``I've got to stand in and do my job.

``A lot of what I do is not worrying about what they're doing up front. I've got to have faith and trust that my guys are going to battle. I know they will, because we have pride. That's the way I look at it, and I'm going to find a way to get it in my guys' hands.''

Wilson could have a difficult time standing his ground Saturday against South Carolina, which had a season-high eight sacks in a win over Kentucky on Sept. 29. Clowney leads the Gamecocks with 8.5 sacks, but 11 others have also joined in the sack parade.

The Gamecocks struggled to stop the pass in their last game, a 38-35 win over Tennessee two weeks ago. They allowed 381 yards passing and had just one sack, and coach Steve Spurrier expects a similar test from Wilson and the Razorbacks.

``We obviously have worked on it for a couple of weeks now, and we'll find out if we've made any progress,'' Spurrier said. ``Because Arkansas, they're the best passing team in the conference right now.''

Smith said the breakdowns in the Razorbacks' offensive line have been both mental and physical, but ``the mental ones are the ones we can't live with.'' Arkansas has started two former walk-ons, David Hurd and Tyler Deacon, on the line throughout the season, but guard Alvin Bailey isn't accepting any excuses.

The Razorbacks allowed only one sack last week against Tulsa, which entered the game leading the country in the category, but it was the other hits that left Arkansas concerned.

``Whether it's a sack, a late hit or just a hurry, we want to keep people off our quarterback,'' Bailey said. ``One sack is too many, but having six or seven hits on (Wilson), we have to eliminate those.''

AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.


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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.


Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.


Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.


Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.


Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.