Nationals

Correction: T25-Alabama-Saban story

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Correction: T25-Alabama-Saban story

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) In a story Nov. 12 about Alabama coach Nick Saban talking about his team's poor play, The Associated Press reported erroneously that Michael Clayton caught the winning touchdown pass for LSU in its 2002 game against Kentucky. Devery Henderson caught the winning pass for LSU.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Saban: No. 4 Alabama played poorly last 2 games

Saban: No. 4 Alabama's poor play obscured by win over LSU, costly against Texas A&M

By JOHN ZENOR

AP Sports Writer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Alabama coach Nick Saban calls it ``the Bluegrass Miracle phenomenon.''

The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide plays poorly in one game but survives a desperation scenario and so no warning bells go off on the team that there might be problems.

``The last two games, I'd put both those in the same category,'' Saban said on Monday. ``We didn't play as well as a team. You all (reporters) don't think so because we won one and we lost the other one. If we'd have won this one, you wouldn't have been concerned now either. I was concerned then.

``You all live in the results world out there. We kind of live in the process world. It's hard to get people to respond. It's kind of a Bluegrass Miracle phenomenon. You play bad, you win the game. Then the next week you get your (butt) kicked because nobody responded to playing bad because you won. You won the Bluegrass Miracle.''

This time the Tide (9-1) beat No. 8 LSU on a last-minute touchdown then followed it up by digging an early 20-point hole and losing to No. 9 Texas A&M.

Ten years earlier (minus one day), Saban's LSU team survived to beat Kentucky on a last-play, 74-yard Hail Mary pass from Marcus Randall to Devery Henderson that became known as the Bluegrass Miracle.

The Tigers were pounded 31-0 by Alabama a week later.

Now, the Tide finds itself at least temporarily on the outside looking in at the national championship race and hoping two of the unbeaten teams - No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 3 Notre Dame - fall by the wayside. Alabama hosts Western Carolina (1-9) Saturday and then can secure a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game against No. 5 Georgia with a victory over Auburn (2-8).

Linebacker Nico Johnson said he, quarterback AJ McCarron and offensive lineman Chance Warmack spoke after the defeat about last year's one-loss team that still wound up winning the national title.

``We can't just give up because we had a loss,'' Johnson said. ``The hope for playing for the national championship is slim to none, but we have to go out and play our best ball. We haven't played our best ball the last couple of weeks and it showed. I'm going to try my best insofar as a defensive leader to re-motivate everybody, understand our purpose and what we have to do to affect everybody else. We've got to play better on defense. I'm going to hold everybody to that standard from here on out.

``We've got to be better.''

A defense that was leading the nation in all the major categories has struggled the past two games. Alabama has allowed LSU and Texas A&M to combine for 853 yards and convert 21 of 38 third-down opportunities.

Saban said some of the issues are physical and some emotional, citing execution and tackling as glaring things.

``You can make excuses and say, `Well the team was emotionally tired so they weren't quite focusing like they needed to,''' he said. ``But they played a heck of a lot better when they got behind 20-0. Everybody all of a sudden got emotionally better. Why couldn't it have been better at the start? Those are the questions I ask myself.''

He can cite a more recent example than the Bluegrass Miracle for his team. Alabama won its final four games by 17-plus points a year ago after dropping the game and handled LSU in the BCS championship game rematch 21-0. He said that team responded the right way.

A similar finish still might not be enough to land Alabama a trip to Miami and a shot at a third national title in four years. Johnson doesn't think the Tide was taking that trip for granted before the last two uneven performances, but said focus was an issue.

``I think everybody lost their focus, lost their `why,''' he said. ``I don't think we understood how important every game was. I don't think we understood that you can get beat week in and week out in the SEC, and it showed. I think everybody understands now. I hate it that we had to lose, but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes. We're going to re-motivate ourselves this week and go forward.''

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Strasburg fans 11, Nationals top Marlins 4-2

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Strasburg fans 11, Nationals top Marlins 4-2

Stephen Strasburg matched his season-high with 11 strikeouts and Bryce Harper tied a career-high with five walks as the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 4-2 Tuesday night.

Anthony Rendon drove in two runs for the Nationals (77-75), who entered Tuesday's game 7 games behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and 7 games back in the race for the final wild-card spot.

Strasburg (9-7) pitched six innings and allowed two runs and five hits with two walks. At one point, he struck out six consecutive batters.

Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 26 opportunities.

Peter O'Brien hit his third home run of the season and J.T. Realmuto had two hits and knocked in a run for the Marlins.

Adam Eaton and Trea Turner had consecutive RBI singles in the second inning to give the Nationals an early lead.

O'Brien's solo homer off Strasburg cut the Marlins' deficit to 2-1.

Rendon's sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 3-1, but Realmuto pulled Miami within 3-2 with a base hit in the fifth.

Rendon's single in the sixth pushed Washington's advantage to 4-2.

Sandy Alcantara pitched four innings for the Marlins and allowed six hits, six walks, and three runs.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.53 ERA) will begin a four-game series against the New York Mets on Thursday.

Marlins: RHP Jeff Brigham (0-2, 7.36) will take the mound on Thursday when Miami begins the final home series of the season, a four-game set against Cincinnati.

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4 players who impressed in the Capitals home preseason opener against Boston

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4 players who impressed in the Capitals home preseason opener against Boston

Capital One Arena saw its first action of the season on Tuesday, albeit in a preseason game, as the Capitals fell 5-2 to the Boston Bruins. T.J. Oshie looked like he wanted to hit everything that moved every time he was on the ice. Matt Niskanen also scored a power play tally, but both he and Oshie’s spots on the team are already secure. There were plenty of other players with a lot on the line looking to make an impression in the home preseason opener.

Here are four players who impressed.

Riley Barber

The Caps scored less than five minutes into the game thanks to a nifty deflection by Barber on a quick shot by Alex Alexeyev. Barber was Washington’s top offensive threat on the night and was all over the net with nine (!!!) shots on goal and another four attempts. His goal was a dirty one, but Barber also showed some soft hands and good stick work as well throughout the night.

“I thought he had a real strong showing tonight and a number of opportunities and chances and was able to make a real nice play on the first goal,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “I liked his game in particular and I think he was someone that was able to show us a little bit more of an offensive flair than maybe he has done in the past.”

At 24, Barber is at a critical point in his career as he is battling to make the NHL and not become a career AHLer. Right now he still looks like a long shot to make the roster and will likely need a few more efforts like Tuesday’s game to really give himself a shot to stick around in Washington.

Nic Dowd

Dowd is in a battle for the fourth line center job to replace Jay Beagle. Tuesday was a good dress rehearsal for him in terms of winning the job. Dowd was the team’s best player in the face-off dot, took 17 draws and won 12 of them, by far Washington’s top face-off man on the night (not counting Jayson Megna who won the one draw he took).

"It’s a big part of everyone's game in the National Hockey League,” Dowd said. “You lose possession of the puck, you're chasing it for 30 seconds. So, I will continue to work on that and continue to make it a big part of my game."

“That’s an integral role to any team’s success,” Todd Reirden said. “Certainly we were able to benefit from having faceoff success especially in that dot with a right-hand centerman taking those draws. I put him in situations to take a lot of those draws tonight. He did a good job of that, he did a good job on the penalty kill. He continues to be as expected in what we’ve researched and seen from him and he was all of that tonight. I liked his game tonight.”

Dowd also drew two penalties on the night.

The biggest competition for Dowd at fourth line center looks to be Travis Boyd who also played Tuesday. With both players in action, Dowd had the greater impact on the game. The offensive upside looks much higher for Boyd, but Dowd looks like he provide more of those little things that Beagle provided such as face-off wins and penalty killing.

Connor Hobbs

Hobbs took exception to a hit delivered to him by Tanner Pond and the two dropped the gloves. Liam O’Brien dropped the gloves as well and took on Mark McNeil, but Hobbs gets the shout out here because it was a pretty darn good bout with Hobbs delivering several pretty nice rights to Pond.

Braden Holtby

Just in case you were wondering, yes, Holtby is going to make the team. While you could put him in the same category as Oshie, Holtby makes the list for having the top play on the night.

In the first period, former Cap Daniel Winnik looked like he had an empty net to shoot on, but Holtby stretched out the toe to make the fantastic save and somehow deny Winnik.