Cincinnati, No. 16 Louisville renew rivalry


Cincinnati, No. 16 Louisville renew rivalry

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville has shown it can start fast and win with late-game heroics.

The No. 16 Cardinals (7-0, 2-0 Big East Conference) now want to eliminate all those mid-game letdowns in between.

That has been difficult for Louisville, which has found ways to remain undefeated. But there's no room for error Friday night against Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0), which enters with the league's best offense and a four-game winning streak against Louisville.

The winner keeps pace with undefeated, first-place Rutgers in the Big East and claims bragging rights that come with the Keg of Nails trophy.

``It (the rivalry) feels bigger now because we're both undefeated in the conference,'' said Louisville senior linebacker Preston Brown, a Cincinnati native. ``They've beaten us the last few times, so we're trying to get the win this time.''

Last year's 25-16 loss at Cincinnati marked a turning point for Louisville, which rebounded from the setback to claim a share of the Big East title with the Bearcats and West Virginia. The Cardinals have won 12 of 13 regular season games since and can post their first 8-0 record in 87 years.

Nothing has come easy during this surge, and Louisville came within 95 seconds of joining Cincinnati in the one-loss club last Saturday against South Florida. Leading 14-3 at halftime, the Cardinals allowed the Bulls to rally and take a four-point lead before quarterback Teddy Bridgewater responded with a game-winning touchdown drive in the 27-25 victory.

That symbolized a season-long habit the Cardinals are desperate to break.

``We have to improve, we know this,'' Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. ``We have to improve on defense; we have to improve on offense; we have to improve on special teams.

``We're getting to ready to hit a stretch where we're playing some outstanding teams in the conference, so we have to get better ourselves.''

Louisville stands well in several Big East offensive categories, ranking second in scoring (32.4 points per game), fourth in total offense (405.6 yards), and third in rushing (161.4).

Bridgewater (1,694 yards, 11 TDs), leads the league in passing efficiency (165.2).

``Boy, he can manage their offense,'' Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. ``Extremely accurate, (he) knows where he's going with the football. Not only can he beat you by throwing the football, he can beat you by running the football.''

Bearcats quarterback Munchie Legaux is also impressed - almost as much as he is with his own play. Legaux praised Bridgewater's efficiency, playmaking ability and leadership. But when asked how similar he is to Bridgewater, the league's fifth-rated passer (136.7) declared with a straight face, ``I'm better.''

Cardinals nose tackle Brandon Dunn wasn't surprised to hear that.

``They got some players that hate us and we got some players that hate them,'' he said. ``Whatever happens, happens.''

Of course, Legaux and the Bearcats already had the Cardinals' attention before that.

While the junior (53.3 percent completion rate) can be cold for long stretches - Toledo returned a Legaux interception 75 yards for a touchdown in last week's 29-23 victory - and then get hot, he has thrown for 1,435 yards and 12 touchdowns. And the Bearcats lead in several offensive areas including scoring (34.7), rushing (225.7) and total offense (467.5).

Senior running back George Winn is second in rushing with 607 yards and a 101.2 average.

``I do feel confident'' in Legaux, Jones said. ``I think everyone to the naked eye, they always think about the quarterback. And the quarterback is just like the coach, they get more credit when you win and probably more blame when you lose than what's deservedly so.

``We forget we had a touchdown pass dropped in the first quarter that changes the complexion of the game in a hurry. So I think it's everyone doing their job around the quarterback. We're going to see a tremendous amount of pressure, we're going to see a lot of man coverage, and football comes down to winning your 1-on-1 matchups.''

The Bearcats will try to move past a loss that knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten and the rankings without defensive Walter Stewart, who's out with an upper-body injury.

The Cardinals are healthy but eager to break a habit that has put them on the brink of collapse several times before their resilience showed.

Whoever meets their objective still faces a tough road with many Big East games ahead. But it could help determine which one chases down Rutgers next month.

``We still feel like we haven't played up to our abilities,'' Cardinals linebacker George Durant said. ``We have to step up and get better.''

Quick Links

Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

The Washington Wizards released guard Chasson Randle Monday, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Washington.

Head coach Scott Brooks briefly addressed the move ahead of Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

“He’s a terrific young man, a very good player,” Brooks said of Randle. “Just gives us more flexibility. Who knows what we might do with it. He’s definitely an NBA player.”

The additional space – the Wizards had one vacant roster slot even with Randle – brings up the question of which NBA player might join the roster next. For now, don’t expect a blockbuster move.

Randle, who Washington signed to the active roster on Oct. 30, likely clears waivers, and then would rejoin the Capital City Go-Go, Brooks said. It’s been a back-and-forth scenario for Randle between the Wizards and their G-League squad this season. The 6-foot-2 guard was on the Go-Go roster when Washington’s season tipped off, and assigned to the G-League squad at the time of Monday’s release. Randle scored 37 points in the Go-Go’s inaugural game. He did not enter a game for Washington.

The Wizards were forced to add a player by Oct. 30, a date that marked two weeks from the time the Washington traded Jodie Meeks to Milwaukee. League rules require a minimum of 14 players on the roster.

That two week timeline applies to the current scenario. For now, the Wizards save a bit on the luxury tax payment by waiving Randle, who was signed to a $1.24 million non-guaranteed contract. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, adding Randle cost the Wizards $14,955.5 per day. Washington saved approximately $8 million by dealing Meeks.

As Brooks acknowledged, the open spots create greater flexibility.  In wake of the Timberwolves trading disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler to the 76ers, multiple reports at least tangentially mentioned the Wizards’ as part of the mix.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Washington balked at including Bradley Beal. SI.com’s Chris Mannix reported teams are keeping tabs on the 3-9 Wizards in case role players like Jeff Green, Markieff Morris or Kelly Oubre Jr. become available should the slow start continue.

Randle’s release limits Washington’s backcourt depth, but the top four options are healthy entering its five-game home-stand. In theory two-way contract player Jordan McRae could be recalled from Capital City, but the wing guard is dealing with a groin injury, according to a source. McRae should be available later in the week.


Quick Links

Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

USA Today Sports

Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

The Redskins moved to 6-3 on Sunday by beating the Buccaneers in Tampa, and now sit two games clear in first place in the NFC East. 

That should be the biggest football story inside the Beltway. But it isn't. 

The story has become that two of the most high-profile members of the Washington defense said that they prefer playing road games to being in their home stadium. Why? Because on the road they can hear better and focus more since they don't have fans booing them. 


"Home games, that’s some of the worst things I’ve seen. I’ve played on four different teams, never seen it that bad, with other team’s jerseys in the stands, the boos, whatever it may be," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said during an appearance on 106.7 the Fan's Grant and Danny program on Monday. 

"I’ve never been a part of nothing like that."

This freight train started moving on Sunday, when after the win in Tampa, Josh Norman said he likes playing on the road. Why? Because there aren't any boos.

"We go into the homestands, and it’s like an open bubble,” Norman said. “Like the other team’s turf or something. You hear more of them than you do us. Then if something bad happens, they suck. They sit back in their seat, and they boo."

There's a lot to unpack here. 

Norman and Swearinger are right. There are always a lot of visiting fans at FedEx Field. Some of that might be that Washington is a transient city, but some of it is also because other fans have determined that it's easy to get tickets at FedEx Field. 

Why is it easy for visiting fans to get tickets? Well, there's not much sizzle at FedEx Field.

The area doesn't have shopping or restaurants around it like many newer NFL stadiums. The traffic, like much of life in the D.C. area, is awful. The stadium itself is underwhelming; old and lacking character. 

The Redskins are working hard to overhaul the game day experience, and some of the efforts are alrady working. But the problem is some fans have soured on the idea of spending the day at FedEx Field, and that will take time to fix. Probably years. 

One obvious fix? A new stadium, preferably back in downtown D.C. That is a long way off though. 

Plenty of fans are bothered by Swearinger and Norman's comments, and they have reason for that, too. 

To start with, there are tens of thousands of fans at every home game, cheering on their club. Lifelong, loyal fans that pay good money to watch the Burgundy and Gold. 

Do some boo? Certainly. But they only boo when the team is bad. Play good, no boos. It's fairly simple.

And the boos aren't only about a specific game, or even a specific season. Many Redskins fans are just frustrated with the franchise in general for a litany of reasons. Things have been stable under Jay Gruden, but for a long time, they weren't. 

What isn't fair for Norman and Swearinger is they played zero part in the multi-decade erosion of the Redskins fan base. And some would argue the fan base hasn't actually eroded, just that fewer fans want to make the trek to the stadium and commit to the full day that is attending an NFL game.

For 20 years, Washington has played plenty of bad football at home. During that time, some fans simply decided they'd rather watch on television, or go for a walk, or do yard work, or hang with their family. 

The toughest part is that both Norman and Swearinger can be right, but the fans that are upset with the comments can be right as well. 

Are there good fans? Absolutely. Are there lots of visiting fans? Yep. 

It won't be fixed overnight. Winning is the best cure, however, as old fans will return and new fans will be created. 

Play well and there won't be any booing. Keep winning games and there won't be anything but burgundy in the stands.