Defense steps up as No. 6 Ohio St finishes strong


Defense steps up as No. 6 Ohio St finishes strong

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Found, just in time for the final month of the Big Ten schedule: the Ohio State defense.

Yes, that same team that looked lost defensively after giving up 49 points to Indiana two weeks ago, and nearly lost at home last week to Purdue.

After stalling Penn State's up-tempo ``NASCAR'' offense in a 35-23 win Saturday night, the Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) stayed unbeaten to proclaim themselves the class of the conference. Ohio State moved up three spots to No. 6 in the latest AP poll Sunday.

``It does feel great, but we know we can do better,'' safety Bradley Roby said when asked about criticism of the Buckeyes D. ``We have a great set of schemes, and (we're) looking forward to getting better.''

Until Saturday, close calls were the hallmarks of Ohio State's unlikely run to perfection. They've held off California, then-No. 20 Michigan State and Indiana. Last week, the Buckeyes pulled off their greatest escape yet after getting a tying touchdown and 2-point conversion with 3 seconds left against the Boilermakers before winning in overtime.

No such heroics needed against the Nittany Lions (5-3, 3-1), on the road no less in front of a hostile sellout crowd of 107,818.

``The one thing about coming on the road, you find out about your team because it's a gladiator-type mentality that it's us against the world,'' Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. ``Our guys seem to thrive on that.''

What makes the win even more impressive is the defense contained a Penn State offense that had been gaining traction during its five-game winning streak.

After three straight game with a 100-yard rusher, Penn State's one-two punch of Zach Zwinak (12 carries for 42 yards) and Bill Belton (10 for 26) were held in check. The defensive line pushed around a Penn State front five that had been playing well, disrupting Matt McGloin, the Big Ten's top passer.

McGloin did end up with a career-best 327 yards and two touchdowns on 27 of 45 passing, but 126 yards came in the fourth quarter on 14 of 21 passing with the Nittany Lions trying to close double-digit deficits. The Penn State tight ends, such a big part of the new-look offense, were limited until the fourth quarter.

Tight end Garry Gilliam said he thought the Nittany Lions blocked the Buckeyes edge rushers as well as they could. ``But I think what we should've done more in the first half was establish our game a little more and open up our passing,'' Gilliam said. ``But we learn from what happened and just progress to Purdue'' next week.

The biggest question mark for the Buckeyes defense, the injury-ravaged linebacking unit, turned out to be a position of strength. It's the same position that Meyer earlier this week said had been ``smacked'' by injuries, including Etienne Sabino's broken leg.

Zach Boren, the former starting fullback, moved across the line of scrimmage for the third straight game and tied Ryan Shazier for a team-high seven tackles. Boren seemed to relish playing at raucous Beaver Stadium, raising his arms furiously on the sideline and cupping a hand against his ear in response to the frenzied crowd.

As usual, quarterback Braxton Miller (two rushing touchdowns, one passing) provided the offensive highlights. But Shazier was just as important after a sack and interception return for a touchdown on back-to-back plays that swung momentum in Ohio State's favor at the start of the third quarter.

The Buckeyes took the lead for good on Shazier's touchdown, 14-7, and didn't let up the rest of the way.

``It feels great, but it is going to feel better to even continue that, and keep getting better,'' Roby said.

Despite the loss, Penn State remains in decent shape to finish with a winning record - an accomplishment that some college football observers doubted could happen following landmark NCAA sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and the defection of about 10 players including tailback Silas Redd and kicker Anthony Fera. The Nittany Lions finish out with Purdue and Nebraska on the road before hosting Indiana and Wisconsin to finish the season.

``We just didn't have it. We cannot focus on that loss,'' McGloin said. ``We have four games left.''

But they can't go to a bowl game because of the sanctions, just like Ohio State, which is banned from the postseason for the tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal.

Ohio State also can't go to the Big Ten title game, but can still win the Leaders Division title. And with a remaining schedule of a trip to Wisconsin sandwiched by home games against Illinois and Michigan, an undefeated season isn't out of the question for the Buckeyes.

A strong finish at Penn State could be the spark for a memorable stretch run.


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Nationals the latest team to extend protective netting in stadium

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Nationals the latest team to extend protective netting in stadium

The Nationals return to the nation’s capital Monday night for their first homestand of the season’s second half. When they do, players and fans may notice a slight change at Nationals Park: extended netting.

The issue of extending protective netting down the lines of baseball stadiums has grown more and more prominent in recent years, especially with the rash of avoidable injuries fans are incurring on foul balls.

As hitters have grown stronger and exit velocities have skyrocketed, it’s become harder for fans in certain sections to protect themselves or their children from these dangerous shots into the crowd.

More and more teams have announced plans to extend the netting at their stadiums all the way down the lines, though it’s come with a little (misguided) controversy.

Monday night marks the debut of the Nationals’ extended netting.

“Throughout Major League Baseball there have been some tragic incidents this year,” Nationals VP of Public Safety and Security Scott Fear explained in a statement priovided by the team. “So we at the Washington Nationals decided to extend the netting to make sure our fans are safe.”

“And that’s what this is all about,” Fear continued. “We want to protect our fans, the children, the adults, everyone that comes to the game, to make sure they have a great time without worrying about being hurt.”

Perhaps in anticipation of some pushback from fans concerned about a diminished view, the Nats were quick to describe the new netting as being nearly see-through.

Plus, with the changes, the Nationals installed retractable netting, allowing it to come down prior to gametime. This will afford fans even more opportunities to interact with players and ask for pregame autographs and pictures.

“This is something we feel is going to be very positive, and our fans will feel safe being here watching the game,” Fear concluded.

Ultimately, safety should be the number one priority of any major franchise, the Nationals included. They are one of the first teams to embrace this change in the name of safety, and they certainly won’t be the last.


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Trent Williams will not report to Richmond to open training camp, per report

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Trent Williams will not report to Richmond to open training camp, per report

Trent Williams will not report to training camp this week when the Redskins head to Richmond to officially begin their 2019 season, according to NFL Network.

The news comes as no surprise, as Williams missed all of the Redskins voluntary offseason workouts and skipped the team's mandatory minicamp in June. Reports streamed out that Williams was upset about his contract and looking for a new deal -- not to mention reports that he was angry with the team's medical staff after a missed diagnosis with a growth on his scalp. 

Williams has made no official statements, and the Redskins organization offered very little in terms of a timeline for his return. Washington team president Bruce Allen said he knows "the truth" about Williams' situation, and head coach Jay Gruden said he hoped things would be resolved before Week 1 in Philadelphia. 

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Williams is arguably the best left tackle in the NFL. He's an immensely talented offensive lineman with two years remaining on his deal. Beyond the medical situation, Williams could be upset that in 2020, the final year of his deal, there is hardly any guaranteed cash. The team could release Williams with less than $2 million in salary cap penalty and save nearly $13 million against the cap. 

Without Williams, the Redskins could be in real trouble. Second-year pro Geron Christian did not seem capable of playing at a starting tackle level last fall, and that was before a knee injury landed him on IR. Morgan Moses should be locked in as the right tackle, but opposite him in Williams' spot will be dicey. 

Multiple sources with the Redskins and around the NFL suggested more cash could change Williams' mind before Week 1, and for now, it looks like the 31-year-old will be waiting for that increased payday. If Williams missed actual games, he would begin to lose money from this year's $14 million salary.