Nationals

Cajuns, Pirates eagerly await New Orleans Bowl

Cajuns, Pirates eagerly await New Orleans Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Even as quarterback Terrance Broadway celebrated Louisiana-Lafayette's first bowl victory at college football's highest level one year ago, there was a part of him left unfulfilled.

``All I was doing was watching, and that hurt,'' said Broadway, who as a 2011 transfer from Houston could practice but not play last season. ``I had practiced all year, ran the scout team, but (did) not have the whole bowl experience. ... Now I have another opportunity, and we're going to try to make the most of it.''

That opportunity comes Saturday afternoon when the Ragin' Cajuns (8-4) of the Sun Belt Conference make their second straight appearance in the New Orleans Bowl, this time against East Carolina (8-4) of Conference USA.

Broadway, a sophomore, was supposed to serve as ULL's No. 2 QB this season behind senior Blaine Gautier. But when Gautier broke his throwing hand in late September, Broadway stepped in and put up some of the best all-around numbers ever seen from a Cajuns quarterback.

Broadway had 2,526 yards and 16 TDs passing to go with 661 yards and eight TDs rushing.

So while East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill sees himself as a defensive-minded coach, he concedes the New Orleans Bowl could turn into a high-scoring shootout, with each team approaching its 2012 scoring average of more than 30 points.

``With both explosive offenses, there's a chance for that to happen,'' McNeill said. ``In a game such as this, there'll be some momentum shifts. So I think it's important for us to understand that.''

The Pirates have demonstrated they can respond when things go wrong both within a game and within a season. In early October, a 40-20 drubbing at Central Florida dropped ECU to 3-3. Since then, the Pirates have won five of six, capped by a 65-59 victory over Marshall in their regular-season finale.

``This group has really faced adversity well, handled it well, as well as any success,'' said McNeill, a former ECU player. ``I like that about this team.''

He also likes the production he has gotten from sophomore quarterback Shane Carden, who like Broadway also can be a threat to run, and new running back Vintavious Cooper, who was named Conference USA Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Southwest Mississippi Community College.

Carden has passed for 2,838 yards and 21 TDs to go with eight touchdowns rushing. His top target has been Justin Hardy (1,046 yards receiving, 10 TDs). Cooper, who played quarterback in junior college, rushed for 1,030 yards and has averaged 114.4 yards rushing in his past five games, including a career-high 172 yards against Alabama-Birmingham.

``They can really score in bunches,'' Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. ``That scares you because they've been in some shootouts. Their quarterback can make plays with his legs; he can throw the ball down the field, and most important he can extend plays and get out of the pocket when you think you have him bottled up.''

Cooper said learning to read defenses as a quarterback helped him identify weaknesses in opponents' alignments before snaps on which he knows he'll get the ball. Still, he figured his adjustment to a new position at a higher level of football would take longer than it did.

``I've had a crazy year,'' Cooper said. ``I wouldn't expect what happened to me this year to happen.''

His success helped land ECU back in the Superdome, where the Pirates have already won once this season, defeating Tulane 28-23. Tulane was the one common opponent both New Orleans Bowl teams had this season. The Ragin' Cajuns beat Tulane 41-13 in Lafayette, which is a little more than a two-hour drive west of New Orleans on Interstate 10.

Fans from Lafayette helped set a New Orleans Bowl attendance record of nearly 43,000 last year. All signs point to them coming back in droves this season, making it a virtual road game for ECU.

``We heard about them winning last year and owning the Superdome,'' Cooper said. ``I love playing on the road. Nothing like being in front of 30,000 people who don't want you to do anything right. You look forward to being booed and you look forward to scoring touchdowns to shut that crowd up.''

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Scott Boras holds all the cards representing Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg

Scott Boras holds all the cards representing Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg

When Stephen Strasburg opted out of the remaining four years of his contract with the Nationals in November, the team understood it wasn’t going to be the only club bidding for his services.

So when reports broke that the New York Yankees were among the teams meeting with Strasburg, one of the premiere free agents on the market, it likely came as no surprise to the Nationals’ brass in D.C.

But after ESPN reported Thursday that the Yankees have made fellow top free agent starter Gerrit Cole “their clear offseason priority,” the man representing both of them has all the leverage.

On NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast this week, Todd Dybas sat down with fellow beat writers Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post and MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.

When talking about Strasburg’s prospects as a free agent, Dybas pointed to the unique situation the Nationals and Yankees, among other teams, are facing while courting the top two starters of free agency.

“We kind of have a weird dynamic because Scott Boras has the No. 1 pitcher and the No. 1A pitcher,” Dybas said. “It’s not two agents playing off of each other. It’s one guy probably playing his guys against each other going forward and trying to run up both their prices concurrently.”

The Yankees’ interest alone is enough to drive up the expected prices of both Strasburg and Cole. But as Collier notes, New York hasn’t dug too deep into its pockets over the last few seasons.

“The name, the Yankees, still carries so much weight and fear—for people who think they’re going to lose all their best players to the Yankees—but that’s just not the way the team has operated for the last handful of years or so,” Collier said.

However, if the ESPN report rings true and the Yankees do offer Cole a record-setting contract, that would certainly take them out of the running for Strasburg. Yet the high-spending Los Angeles Dodgers are also rumored to be in on Strasburg, meaning the Yankees’ pursuit of Cole likely won’t do much to reduce the price for the Nationals’ free agent.

In fact, Boras could use the fact that Cole’s price is so unaffordable for most teams and try to convince other clubs that Strasburg is a bargain. That could pull more teams into the bidding war and drive up his price.

Dybas believes Strasburg will sign for six years and $200 million, while Dougherty thinks Boras will seek a similar contract to the one another one of his clients received: Max Scherzer and his seven-year, $210 million deal he signed with Washington in 2015.

For their full conversation about both Strasburg and fellow free agent Anthony Rendon, you can listen to the Nationals Talk podcast on Art19, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Wizards at Heat Game: TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

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Wizards at Heat Game: TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Thursday’s 119-113 victory over the 76ers was by far the best victory the Wizards have had this season.

Davis Bertans was hot shooting 7-for-10 from three. He even set a career high of 25 points in 27 minutes.  

Miami, on the hand struggled Wednesday night and fell short to Boston 112-93. 

Who will get the victory Friday ngiht? Tune in to find out. 

WIZARDS at HEAT HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards at Heat, Game 21

Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL

When: Friday, December 6, at 8:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards at Heat will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards at Heat on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS at HEAT TV SCHEDULE

7:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

7:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

8:00 PM: Wizards at Heat (LIVE)

10:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

11:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

11:30 PM: Wizards Talk (LIVE)

WIZARDS at HEAT INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: John Wall (OUT, Left Achilles rehab), Ian Mahinmi (OUT, Right Achilles strain), C.J. Miles (OUT, Wrist), Thomas Bryant (OUT, foot), Isaiah Thomas (OUT, Calf)

Heat: Justise Winslow (OUT, Back), Goran Dragic (OUT, Groin), KZ Okpala (OUT, Achilles), Udonis Haslem (OUT, Illness)

WIZARDS at HEAT PLAYERS TO WATCH

Davis Bertans, PF, (13.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.7 app, ): Bertans went off in the first half against the 76ers shooting 6-for-6 from deep to get 22 points going into halftime. Bertans finished Thursday nights game with a season high of 25 points, one rebound, one steal and seven 3 pointers within 37 minutes.

Ish Smith, G, Wizards (8 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.9 apg): With IT out Ish Smith stepped up to the plate dishing out a season high of eight assists with 19 points and one rebound in 34 minutes in Thursday nights win over the 76ers. Smith is averaging

Jimmy Butler, G, Wizards (20.1 ppg, 6 rpg, 6.5 apg): Jimmy Butler was on fire in Miami’s 112-93 loss to Celtics on Wednesday. Butler made 12-of-18 from the field and set a season high of 37 points.

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