Nationals

Badgers, Cardinal open Rose Bowl week

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Badgers, Cardinal open Rose Bowl week

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Wisconsin is in the Rose Bowl for the third straight year. This time, the Badgers are bringing a familiar face with them on the sideline.

Athletic director Barry Alvarez, who won three Rose Bowls during his coaching career in Madison, Wis., is handling coaching duties for the 99th Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 following the departure of Bret Bielema for Arkansas.

Alvarez joined his team at Disneyland on Wednesday, along with Stanford coach David Shaw and the Cardinal players in the traditional kick off to the week's festivities leading to the historic game in Pasadena.

They were welcomed by Mickey Mouse, who high-fived the head coaches.

``I thought these days are over,'' Alvarez said. ``It's like a Christmas present for me.''

The Badgers (8-5) will be looking for a win against No. 8 Stanford (11-2) after losing on their last two trips to Pasadena against TCU and Oregon. Star running back Montee Ball will be playing in his final college game, and is happy to have Alvarez overseeing the team.

``You've heard so much for what he's done for the program,'' Ball said in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle, decked out in a wreath and garlands made of shiny ornaments with faux snow on its turrets. ``You finally see him in action on the sideline. It's surreal. He brings this kind of swagger and confidence, and it's great. That's what you need in this sport.''

Alvarez was contacted by senior linebacker Mike Taylor as soon as he and some of the other players got over the surprise of Bielema's swift departure.

``You realize the only option is coach Alvarez,'' Taylor said. ``He's been here a long time and has built this program. The guys will rally around. It's still Wisconsin football no matter who the coach is.''

Alvarez has already hired Gary Andersen from Utah State to take over the Badgers. Andersen plans to stay in the background during the Rose Bowl and focus more on evaluating players and preparing for next season.

For the game against Stanford, Alvarez said he will rely on his coordinators to handle the game plan and he will manage the coaches, many of whom will follow Bielema out the door after the New Year's Day game.

``I didn't recruit these guys. I'm not intimate with them, but it's a great group of kids,'' he said. ``This is a resilient group.''

The game features a rematch of the 2000 edition, won 17-9 by Wisconsin and Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Ron Dayne. That was Stanford's most recent trip to the game. The Cardinal played in the first Rose Bowl in 1902.

Stanford played the last two years in the Orange and Fiesta bowls.

``Those two don't mean nearly as much as this game,'' tight end Zach Ertz said. ``This is something we all looked forward to growing up.''

Ertz was back at Disneyland for the first time since coming to the theme park as a 3-year-old, when he went on the Dumbo the elephant ride ``20 times. My mom always brings it up.''

A now grown Ertz was more interested in checking out the companion California Adventure park, while Ball was headed to the Tower of Terror.

``I get a little nervous still before the drop,'' he said, smiling.

In his third trip out West, Ball plans to go easy when Wisconsin visits Lawry's Prime Rib for its turn at the Beef Bowl on Friday night. Stanford will visit the Beverly Hills restaurant on Thursday.

``The first year I had three of them (cuts of beef),'' he said. ``I felt really sluggish at the game. Last year I had 1 1/2, so maybe one this year.''

And Ball has a strategy for the Beef Bowl as much as for the big game itself.

``Do not drink any water or juice because it will fill you up,'' he said. ``Attack the meat first and then the sides. The wide receivers and the running backs, enjoy it, but try to eat as light as possible.''

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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