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BYU beats Utah State 6-3

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BYU beats Utah State 6-3

PROVO, UTAH (AP) Brigham Young and Utah State combined for 82 points a week ago.

On Friday might, they managed just nine in a defensive struggle that saw the Cougars hold on for a 6-3 win.

``I might have lost a couple of years of my life because of the stress,'' cornerback Preston Hadley said of BYU's first win scoring six points or fewer since 1946.

The Cougars will take a win over an instate rival, especially with the meat of their schedule coming up, with a home game against No. 14 Oregon State followed by road trips to No. 9 Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.

With Riley Nelson still hampered by a sore back, freshman quarterback Taysom Hill stepped up again, passing for 235 yards and a touchdown.

In a game that saw more punts (13) than points, the lone TD came on a four-play drive that took just 25 seconds.

Hill completed three straight passes to Cody Hoffman, for 8, 28 and 22 yards, before finding JD Falslev open in the flat for the 3-yard score with 3 seconds left in the first half.

Hoffman, who has caught a pass in 25 straight games, believes BYU caught the Aggies by surprise when they didn't just run out the clock before halftime.

``That's football,'' said Hill, who finished 24 of 36. ``We caught a few breaks, sped it up and made a few big plays.

The Aggies (4-2) had a chance to tie the game with 7:47 left but Josh Thompson pulled a 38-yard field goal attempt wide left.

BYU's defense has not allowed a touchdown in 13 straight quarters and held the Aggies' high-powered duo of Chuckie Keeton and Kerwynn Williams in check most of the game. Keeton completed 22 of 38 passes for 202 yards but was intercepted once and fumbled once. The Aggies have now lost 17 straight games against BYU in Provo.

This one wasn't typical.

``They matched us down in and down out, all the way down to the end of the game,'' BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

``I never know how these games are going to go, These games take their toll on me. I would rather win easy but that doesn't happen very much.''

BYU (4-2) held the Aggies to 243 yards total offense - their 12th straight opponent under 300 yards.

Kerwynn Williams had averaged 159 yards rushing the previous two games but managed just 18 yards on 14 carries Friday night.

By comparison, BYU finished with 145 on 45 carries, with Jamaal Williams gaining 71 including a key first down late and Hill adding 80 yards on 19 carries.

``We got beat by a very good football team in a very, very difficult place to play, and we'll continue to fight,'' said Utah State coach Gary Andersen. ``The bottom line is we're 4-2, two games away from being bowl-eligible, which is huge, and we haven't started WAC play yet.''

The Aggies are also six points from being undefeated, having lost by two on the road to Wisconsin and now by three to the Cougars.

Thompson's 26-yard field goal late in the first quarter accounted for Utah State's only points.

The game was a defensive struggle from the start.

The Aggies had not allowed a first-quarter point all season and they kept that streak going.

BYU, meanwhile, saw its defense make play after play against an Aggies team that won its last two games by a combined 34 points, while averaging 33 points and 502 yards offense. BYU limited the Aggies to 41 yards net rushing.

``Defensively we knew it was going to be a battle,'' Andersen said.

Utah State was attempting to sweep in-state counterparts Utah and BYU for the first time since 1974. The Aggies pulled off a 27-20 overtime win at home against Utah on Sept. 7. They also opened the season with a victory over Southern Utah.

Keeton, who was coming off a four-touchdown, 404-yard passing effort against UNLV that earned him Western Athletic Conference offensive player of the week, had his chances.

His 13-yard pass to Williams gave the Aggies a first-and-goal at the BYU 6. But Kyle Van Noy stuffed Williams for a 2-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1, forcing Utah State to settle for the field goal.

``We just needed to get a stop,'' said Van Noy, who finished with two quarterback hurries, a tackle for a loss and two pass breakups. Ezekiel Ansah also had a huge game for BYU, with two sacks and three tackles for a loss.

The biggest disappointment for BYU was its kicking game.

Justin Sorensen's 34-yard field goal attempt with 4:25 left in the half was blocked by Paul Piukala.

Then, after Hill drove BYU 61 yards in 25 seconds, Riley Stephenson shanked the extra point left.

It wouldn't matter.

``I'm happy with the way our players hung in there,'' Mendenhall said of a few critical first downs to preserve the win. ``It was exhausting for both teams in that they that laid it all out there. I'm just happy we won.''

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Despite all the challenges of the early season, Reirden’s promotion still a ‘dream come true’

Despite all the challenges of the early season, Reirden’s promotion still a ‘dream come true’

Since taking over as the head coach of the Washington Capitals, Todd Reirden has had to deal with Tom Wilson getting suspended, a number of injuries and a team-wide Stanley Cup hangover.

So how would he describe the start to his first season as an NHL coach?

“It’s obviously a dream come true,” Reirden told NBC Sports Washington in a recent interview.

Reirden’s playing career came to an end in Europe in 2007, but his coaching career really began in 2004 while he was a player with the Houston Aeros of the AHL. Out with an injury, head coach Todd McLellan encouraged Reirden to take more of a coaching role with the team. It didn’t take long for Reirden to realize his real future in the game was as a coach and not as a player.

Reirden climbed the ranks as a coach from college, to the AHL and finally to the NHL. He spent the last eight seasons in the NHL behind the bench as an assistant and associate coach before finally getting the opportunity to become a head coach.

“Something when you start coaching just as I used to think about as a player, was the ultimate was to be able to play at the highest level,” Reirden said. “I was able to do that as a player and now able to see that dream come true as a coach. First things first is it's been amazing from that standpoint.”

The history of the NHL – and all professional sports for that matter – is full of assistant coaches who just could not make the transition from assistant to head coach. There is no doubt Reirden knows what he’s doing when it comes to the development of players and on-ice strategy. The last few years working with the Caps as an assistant and then associate coach have shown us that.

But being a head coach is about more than just what happens on the ice. That’s the part that first-year head coaches seem to struggle with initially.

“How everything works behind the scenes in terms of organizationally, dealing with the salary cap and sending down players, keeping them on board and the constant contact with Hershey,” Reirden said. “You spend a lot of time on those type of things. It's been a little bit of a transition too I would say with two new staff members in terms of how I'm delegating responsibility and empowering them in their particular areas. That's probably been the things that have been the most different for me.

“The hockey part, the coaching part, talking to the players in between periods, the media, that stuff has all gone really smoothly,” Reirden said. “No real transition there. But I'd say more the stuff behind the scenes is the stuff that's been a little bit different than expected.”

Reirden is certainly getting a crash course on roster construction given the recent spate of injuries and recalls. That has unquestionably affected the play of the team and is a major reason why the Caps have looked so inconsistent to start the season. It is not how Reirden would have scripted his first season to start.

But even with everything his first season has thrown at him and a 9-7-3 record, Reirden still feels like he is exactly where he wants to be.

“Every day is a chance for me to grow and get better and get used to responsibilities as a head coach,” Reirden said. “So it's been a lot of fun and definitely a challenge, but something I love and wouldn't trade places with anybody in the world for.”

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards take on Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trail Blazers. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Schedule heats up

The Wizards really needed that one on Friday night. Though the Nets, even without Caris LeVert, aren't an easy out, the Wizards wanted to fully take advantage of a soft spot of their schedule. It's tough to lose to the Nets when you consider the road ahead.

The Wizards play seven straight games against teams at .500 or better. That includes a road game against the Raptors, who are tied for the league's best record. They also see the Rockets, the Pelicans twice and play at the Sixers. It all begins Sunday against the Blazers, who are tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA.

Rematch

Most of the Wizards' games this season have been lopsided one way or the other, and usually in the direction they would not prefer. But they have played a few close games and their most entertaining one happened to come against this same Blazers team.

The Wizards and Blazers went to overtime on Oct. 22 in Portland. The Wizards forced the extra period thanks to a three by Bradley Beal, and they won thanks to Otto Porter Jr. blocking Damian Lillard's shot in the closing seconds. 

The Wizards and Blazers have played some classics in recent years. Markieff Morris beat them with a game-winning three two years ago and last season Beal dropped 50 at the Moda Center. The matchup between both teams' star guards seems to bring the best out in everyone.

Howard vs. Nurkic

Much of the focus in this matchup is always on John Wall and Beal vs. Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but there will be a lot of action in the paint with Dwight Howard going up against Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers are one of the best rebounding teams in the game and Nurkic, who pulls in 10.7 per game, is a big reason why. Nurkic also averages 15.5 points.

Howard is coming off his best game as a Wizard. He had 25 points and 17 rebounds against the Nets on Friday night. He was hurt when the teams first met in Portland.

Both are bruisers around the rim who don't stretch the floor with outside shots. It should be a physical battle on Sunday night.