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Boise St defense continues to dominate opponents

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Boise St defense continues to dominate opponents

BOISE, Idaho (AP) Defensive back Dextrell Simmons is reluctant to call No. 21 Boise State's near-collapse in the second half against New Mexico four weeks ago a turning point.

Yet by nearly any measure since the Lobos rushed for 330 yards and put up 29 points in a second-half rally that fell short, the Broncos defense has been as tough as any in the nation at keeping foes out of the end zone and been the driving force behind the team's six-game winning streak.

The Broncos (6-1, 3-0 Mountain West) have muscled their way into top 10 slots for several defensive categories, including pass defense (158 yards per game), pass efficiency defense (95.6) and points allowed (13.5). Their 22 turnovers rank second among FBS schools, three behind takeaway leader SMU, and three times this season they have held opposing quarterbacks to fewer than 100 yards through the air.

Simmons said the motivation for the team is simple: A collective fear of failure.

``It's basically coming from not wanting to fail,'' said Simmons, who is tied for fifth on the team with 31 tackles. ``New Mexico was our worst defensive game. After that, we were like `it can't happen again.'''

So far it hasn't.

Boise State's last three opponents have only scored 31 points collectively, and the defense should actually get credit for pitching a shutout in a 32-7 victory over UNLV on Saturday since the only Rebels touchdown came on a fumble return.

The defense has held opponents scoreless in the first half in each of the last five games, giving Boise State's offense plenty of opportunity to build leads and force opposing offenses to discard their game plans. The defense is also doing its share to put points on the board.

Against the Rebels, cornerback Jerrell Gavins scooped up a fumble and scampered 16 yards for a touchdown to give Boise State a 25-0 halftime edge. The defense also accounted for the only touchdowns in a 17-13 season opening loss at Michigan State and a 7-6 victory two weeks later against BYU.

The performance of the defense has been a pleasant surprise.

The defense was expected to be in a rebuilding mode following the graduations of eight starters, including players like Shea McClellin, Billy Winn and Tyrone Crawford, all stalwarts on the defensive line who are now playing the NFL.

But as Simmons and his teammates have pointed out for weeks, Boise State's rotation system enabled many of the players wreaking havoc this season to get valuable experience last year. And those lessons are paying big dividends now.

``This year the standards are the same. We still want to win ... and be the best defense,'' said Simmons. ``Last year we had big-name guys and you come in and think there are no big-name guys this year. But it's the same guys that were under those big-name guys and now they're just taking it to a whole new level.''

The Broncos, who lead the conference, are getting ready to travel to Wyoming on Saturday. The Cowboys (1-6, 0-3) will be without head coach Dave Christensen, who was suspended for one week and fined $50,000 Monday for his actions following an Oct. 13 loss to Air Force.

Christensen confronted Falcons coach Troy Calhoun on the field after Air Force's 28-27 victory. He accused the Falcons of faking an injury to their starting quarterback in the fourth quarter so they could set up the next play without taking a time out. Air Force took the lead on the next play when backup quarterback Kale Pearson scored on a bootleg.

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.