Nationals

Cooper, Yeldon make big impact for top-ranked Tide

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Cooper, Yeldon make big impact for top-ranked Tide

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Alabama's freshman playmakers are coming of age just when the top-ranked Crimson Tide will need them most.

Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon each scored two touchdowns Saturday in Alabama's 44-13 rout of Tennessee. Cooper caught seven passes and set an Alabama freshman single-game record with 162 receiving yards. Yeldon rushed for 129 yards on 15 carries to go over the century mark for the third time this season.

Cooper and Yeldon weren't made available to reporters after the game. Alabama coach Nick Saban has a policy of not allowing freshmen to speak to the media. They still made quite a statement with their performances as Alabama's offense delivered arguably its most complete performance of the season.

``Everyone has to understand that we are going to take what the defense gives us,'' said Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, who now leads the nation in passing efficiency. ``One week, we might have to throw it and the next we might have to run it more. Tonight, we got them on their heels a little and we were able to do both.''

Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) has won each of its games by at least 19 points, but the Tide have greater challenges ahead. Alabama's next three games are all against ranked SEC Western Division rivals: No. 13 Mississippi State, No. 6 LSU and No. 22 Texas A&M. The Mississippi State and Texas A&M games are at home, but Alabama will have to travel to LSU.

Cooper certainly seems ready for the challenge.

The 6-foot-1 receiver from Miami opened the scoring Saturday by getting behind the entire Tennessee secondary and catching a 23-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone. He also helped put the game out of reach in the third quarter with a 42-yard touchdown reception that extended Alabama's lead to 30-10.

His big day could have been even bigger. In Alabama's opening possession of the second half, Cooper had an apparent 30-yard touchdown nullified by an illegal formation penalty.

``He can be one of the greatest,'' Alabama tight end Michael Williams said. ``You see it. You can see the talent that he has.''

Cooper already has emerged as McCarron's favorite target. He has 28 receptions, twice as many as any of his teammates. He also has 425 yards receiving, 173 more than anyone else on the team. This marked his second two-touchdown performance in his last three games, as he also reached the end zone twice Sept. 29 in a 33-14 victory over Ole Miss.

``We think he's an outstanding player,'' Saban said. ``He's just a freshman, and he's gotten better and better every week. He has learned to be very consistent in how he plays. He plays fast and hard.''

Yeldon has been equally impressive. The 6-2 running back from Daphne, Ala., has exceeded the 100-yard mark and has scored a pair of touchdowns in each of Alabama's last two games.

When C.J. Mosley's interception gave Alabama the ball at the Tennessee 32 early in the second quarter, the Tide reached the end zone by handing the ball to Yeldon four straight times. Yeldon capped that drive with a 1-yard scoring burst and added a 43-yard breakaway in the fourth quarter for Alabama's final touchdown.

Yeldon, who had verbally committed to Auburn before signing with Alabama, has teamed up with junior Eddie Lacy to give the Tide a remarkably balanced rushing attack. Lacy has rushed for 570 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Yeldon has run for 565 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 6.8 yards per attempt.

Cooper and Yeldon arrived at Alabama this year as part of a recruiting class generally regarded as the best in the nation. Their performance Saturday backed up the comments Tennessee coach Derek Dooley had made before the game in reference to Alabama's extraordinary talent base.

``They draft. We recruit,'' Dooley quipped. ``And they get the first 25 picks of the draft.''

In that case, consider Cooper and Yeldon a pair of first-round picks. If they keep up this pace, both eventually could be actual first-round selections.

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John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

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USA TODAY Sports

John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

ST. LOUIS -- Even John Gant cracked a smile.

Gant homered for his first major league hit and pitched one-run ball into the sixth inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Tuesday night for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.

Kolten Wong had three hits and three RBIs as St. Louis (65-55) pulled within four games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and moved within one game of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second NL wild card. The Cardinals also improved to 18-9 since Mike Shildt was named interim manager on July 13, the most wins for a manager through his first 27 games in franchise history.

"Things are starting to click for us," Wong said. "We're playing confident. We're out there playing aggressive and I think it's the kind of baseball Cardinals fans have been waiting for."

The Nationals (60-60) have dropped six of eight to fall eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

"We've just got to keep pulling the same rope, keep grinding it out, keep trying to win ballgames," Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said.

Gant (5-4) permitted four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. He has given up just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings in his last two starts, both wins.

The 26-year-old Gant was 0 for 30 for his career when he drove a 1-1 pitch from Gio Gonzalez (7-9) over the wall in left in the second. The two-run shot gave Washington a 3-0 lead.

"I was jogging kind of my hands in the air," said Wong, who scored on Gant's homer. "I already knew it was going out. Looking back I think he almost caught me."

Added Gant, "I thought it was going to hit the wall maybe but when I finally looked up and (Wong) was looking back at me, that's when I knew it was going over the wall."

Gant, who has a reputation for being a stoic player, admitted to smiling "once or twice" once he got back to the dugout.

Wong's solo homer made it 6-1 in the sixth, but Washington responded with three in the eighth. Harper hit a two-run shot, and Daniel Murphy singled in Anthony Rendon.

Matt Adams then struck out looking against Dakota Hudson, ending the inning, and Jordan Hicks worked the ninth for his fourth save in eight chances.

Paul DeJong also doubled and scored for St. Louis one night after he connected for a game-ending homer in a 7-6 victory. Matt Carpenter walked in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to 32 games.

"We have a 25-man roster and we have confidence in all of them," Shildt said. "They're here for a reason and guys are looking to contribute every night and in different ways."

Gonzalez was charged with five runs and five hits in four innings. The veteran left-hander is just 1-4 in his last six starts.

"I wasn't hitting my spots," Gonzalez said. "Just not being as consistent in the strike zone as I should be. It's just one of those games you can't explain."

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Need to Know: Redskins have faith in their young cornerbacks but will keep their options open

Need to Know: Redskins have faith in their young cornerbacks but will keep their options open

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on Wednesday, August 15, one day before the Washington Redskins host the Jets in their second preseason game. 

Talking points

The Redskins paid Orlando Scandrick $1 million and he didn’t play so much as a preseason snap for them. The money is gone, and the Redskins are left with what is mostly a youthful group at cornerback

The senior citizen is Josh Norman, who is 30 and entering his seventh NFL season. Quinton Dunbar is next on the age scale at 26. Those two will be the starters at cornerback on the outside. After them, youth rules the day. 

Fabian Moreau, 22, will take the slot corner position that Scandrick was going to fill. He is in his second NFL season having played just 59 snaps as a rookie. 

That’s 59 more NFL snaps than the next three players on the depth chart have combined. Rookies Greg Stroman, a seventh-round pick this year, Adonis Alexander, a supplemental sixth-round pick, and undrafted free agent Danny Johnson, all 22 years old, are the next men up if any of the top three on the depth chart falter or get injured. 

“I’m very impressed with them all,” said Jay Gruden. “You know, obviously Adonis not as much because he just got here, and he’s been hurt but he’s got the skill set that we’ve noticed, as far as your sixth corner, I think he’d be a very good guy to have in your building to develop. Watching Stroman and watching Danny Johnson compete and play, I’ve been impressed. Watching Fabian move inside, I’ve been very impressed.”

That all sounds good. However, Gruden made sure that everyone knows that the cornerback depth chart is not set in stone.

“We still have time if it doesn’t work out or if somebody gets injured, we still have time to make moves also ourselves,” he said.

The Redskins have about nine practices and three preseason games before they have to set their roster. If it proves that their confidence in the young corners is not well founded, they could look to pick up an alternative on the waiver wire, in the free agent market (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is still available), or via a trade.

The best-case is that the kids work out. But if not, there are alternatives. 

Bureau of statistics

The 2017 Redskins were sixth in the league in pass defense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. 

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The agenda

Today: No media availability

Upcoming: Preseason Jets @ Redskins (Aug. 16) 1 day; Final cut (Sept. 1) 17 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 25 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler