Nationals

Florida uses stifling defense to upend LSU 14-6

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Florida uses stifling defense to upend LSU 14-6

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) This was old-school football at its best, the kind of performance only Southeastern Conference loyalists could love.

And Florida - yes Florida - was the team putting on a show.

Mike Gillislee ran for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns, bringing the 10th-ranked Gators to life in the second half as they upended No. 4 LSU 14-6 Saturday.

Led by Gillislee and a dominant defense, Florida's grind-it-out victory avenged a 41-11 loss in Baton Rouge last season, handed the Tigers their first regular-season loss in 19 games and gave coach Will Muschamp a signature win in his second season.

Muschamp's transformation of the Gators from spread-offense speed-merchants to hard-running street fighters seems to be complete. It was the program's first victory against a ranked team since beating rival Georgia in 2010.

``We wanted to hurt them,'' Florida defensive end Dominique Easley said. ``We wanted them to feel the pain that we felt last year. We had hurt in our heart, so we wanted them to feel that same thing.''

Linebacker Jon Bostic and safety Matt Elam provided big plays on defense. Gillislee once again carried the load on offense, carrying 34 times.

Together, they wore down the Tigers (5-1, 1-1 SEC) in the second half - no surprise since the Gators (5-0, 4-0) have been doing that all season. Florida, which trailed 6-0 at halftime, also came from behind to beat Texas A&M and Tennessee on the road last month.

This one was even more impressive.

``They beat us down last year,'' Elam said. ``We had to come back. We had something to prove. We had a plan to hit them in their mouth, and we executed.''

The Gators harassed quarterback Zach Mettenberger, pretty much shut down running backs Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard and Michael Ford, and completely wore down LSU's vaunted defense.

Mettenberger completed 11 of 25 passes for 161 yards, with an interception. LSU finished with 42 yards rushing, three more than what Alabama held the Tigers to in last season's Bowl Championship Series title game. The Tigers were 1 of 13 on third down and finished with just eight first downs - three on penalties.

``I think our football team is sick, sick with knowledge that they could have played better,'' LSU coach Les Miles said.

Florida credited new strength coach Jeff Dillman and the team's continually improving offensive line - the same one Muschamp called soft late last season - for the victory. Gillislee got props, too.

``I'll take Gilly over anybody,'' Muschamp said. ``I tell him that all the time and I mean that. I felt that way in spring and going into fall camp. ... He's a Will Muschamp guy. He don't ever say anything, he just does his job, lines up, runs the ball. If you ask him to block, he's going to block. If you ask him to catch the ball, he's going to catch the ball. He just is a really, really, really good football player.''

It was Gillislee's third 100-yard game of the season, and it came against one of the league's most feared fronts. Highly touted defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery were neutralized much of the day. Linebacker Kevin Minter had a career day, finishing with 20 tackles despite missing a few plays while dealing with leg cramps.

Minter had two of LSU's five sacks in the first half, helping the Tigers hold Florida to 47 yards at the break.

But the Gators looked completely different after intermission. They went to a heavy package featuring two extra offensive linemen to run the ball - they call it ``God's play'' - and it worked to perfection.

Florida scored on consecutive drives by running on 17 of 18 plays. Gillislee ended both of them with 12-yard touchdown runs, one in the third quarter and another early in the fourth.

``They were definitely more physical than last year,'' Mingo said.

The Gators ran the ball on their final 25 snaps, gashing the Tigers between the tackles.

``Them boys was huffing and puffing,'' Easley said. ``I was looking in people's eyes and they were scared. That's what we wanted. We wanted to take somebody's will. We like to take people's will, not just win the game. Make them remember this night.''

Maybe the play of the game came between those game-changing, run-oriented drives. Elam stripped Odell Beckham Jr. following a 56-yard reception on third down.

Initially, the officials ruled Beckham was down when the ball came out. Replays, though, clearly showed the ball coming out before his knee hit the ground. The play was reversed, and Florida seized the momentum.

``It was a hustle play,'' Elam said. ``It was all instinct. It was great effort that paid off.''

Florida was so dominant that it could have posted a second consecutive shutout at home. But two seemingly silly plays helped LSU get points.

Bostic, who was a key cog in stuffing LSU's run, was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the game's opening drive. Instead of facing third-and-17, LSU got 15 yards and an automatic first down. It set up Drew Alleman's 31-yard field goal.

Alleman added a 21-yarder just before halftime as LSU capitalized on Jeff Driskel's fumble. Driskel, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 61 yards, held the ball too long and then fumbled while trying to scramble away from Bennie Logan. Guard James Wilson had a shot at the loose ball but whiffed.

Mingo eventually came up with it, setting LSU's offense up at the 7-yard line.

Florida's defense made a stand, though, and forced the chip shot.

``That was typical 1980 SEC right there today,'' Muschamp said. ``It was a physical, physical match. ... That's the difference between playing in this league and these other leagues you watch on TV. I know you guys like all these points being scored, but the quarterback won't make it through the season in our league.''

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 12

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 12

We're just a couple of weeks away from the midway point of the 2018 Major League Baseball season, which means many casual fantasy baseball players have collectively turned their attention to the gridiron. This is good news for those of you still interested, because outside of the truly competitive leagues, it's about to get much easier to navigate the waiver wire and make winning trades.

That said, we'll still be here all season long, providing advice for anyone looking to gain a competitive edge in their fantasy leagues. There's a lot to digest in the upcoming week, as many teams (including the Washington Nationals) will play a full seven game slate. It's an especially great time for stars in baseball, as a whopping six players are on pace to record seasons with 8.7 Wins Above Replacement or higher, but there's still plenty of great options beyond the obvious guys.

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 12 (6/18-6/24)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Max Scherzer

We won't often include a guy on the level of Mad Max in our recommendations, but consider this a statement against the other pitchers. With Stephen Strasburg on the DL, Gio Gonzalez is really the only other startable option in the rotation, and while he's a fine play against the Orioles, he's not a sure thing. Scherzer is the best pitcher in baseball, so when in doubt, it's easy to fall back on his name. For now, feel free to use Gonzalez if needed, but the only clear, recommendable one this week is Scherzer.

One Nationals position player to start: Adam Eaton, OF

Consider this your reminder to not get cute and just start Adam Eaton whenever he's healthy. When he can manage to avoid time on the disabled list, he's consistenly been one of the best players in Washington, and an absolute must-start in fantasy. Yes, he's hitting "just" .286 in five games since returning from the DL, but there's no reason to believe he won't bounce back to one of the top hitters in the National League once he gets back in the swing of things. As long as he's hitting at the top of the Washington lineup, he'll be one of the top run producers in baseball.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Erick Fedde

We likely would have advised against starting Fedde regardless of matchup, given his relative struggles in his two starts with the Nats this season. He's got a nice 9:2 strikeout-to-walk rate, but the ERA sits at an unsightly 5.91. What makes matters worse is the matchup; Fedde is once again slated to face the vaunted New York Yankees lineup. In New York, he allowed two home runs in just five innings, and while Nats park isn't the hitter's haven that Yankee Stadium is, the sluggers in their lineup make for a daunting matchup in any city.

Fedde probably isn't owned in most leagues, and there's no reason for that to change, even with his spot in the rotation likely secure as long as Strasburg isn't throwing.. 

One Nationals player to sit: Daniel Murphy, 2B

Nats fans were understandably rejoicing when Daniel Murphy returned to the lineup last week. It's always fun when one of your stars is back on the field after missing so much time. Still, like most players who haven't face in-game pitching in several months, Murphy has been slow to re-adjust at the plate. He's recorded just two hits in 15 at-bats, has only walked once, and has yet to notch an extra-base hit of any kind. His OPS is below-.200, and while no one should expect that to last, there's no need to rush him back into your lineups either.

It would be pretty tempting to slot Murphy into your 2B or middle infield spot now that he's healthy, since you likely drafted him to be one of your studs, but given his lengthy absence, the nature of his original injury, and his slow start since returning, it's probably a good idea to leave him on your bench for a week or two. Once he starts driving the ball again, he can start to return value for you, but there's no reason to let him drag you down in the meantime.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

Given that the rotation is currently in a state of flux, we can't confidently say any starter will get two starts. Fedde looks like the most likely candidate, but as we outlined above, he's still a pitcher you want to avoid for now.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

One of my favorite sleepers this week is Domingo German. One of the most surprising stats in all of baseball right now is that among starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, German has the second best swinging strike rate, behind only Max Scherzer. Swinging strike rate is a great stat to use when projecting future strikeout potential, and German's 15.9% is mighty impressive. German has a start at home against the Mariners and on the road against the Rays, so while it's not a cakewalk week, it's not especially daunting either. As an added bonus for those in points leagues, German is RP-eligible, giving you some extra roster flexibility.

The walks are a little high (21 in 53.3 innings) which has let to an elevated WHIP and ERA, but it's a good rule of thumb to follow the strikeouts when identifiying quality fantasy pitchers, and considering most of the two-start guys this week are obvious studs who are certainly already owned in your league, German is the exact type of option you should be looking to stream.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: John Hicks, C/1B (Tigers) 

This is a sneaky move, the kind that could easily get overlooked in most fantasy leagues but could provide a great return on investment. With Miguel Cabrera's unfortunate season-ending biceps injury providing an opening in the everyday lineup in Detroit, Hicks (who is catcher elgibile) will be taking most of the team's at-bats at first base going forward. While he's probably not worth rostering as a first baseman in most leagues, catcher is a notorious black hole in fantasy baseball in recent years, and this season might be the wost yet.

Hicks will maintain catcher eligibility all season long, yet he'll play the far less demanding first base every day, giving him less wear and tear on his legs, less concern with running the pitching staff, and most importantly, regular at-bats in a surprisingly not-atrocious lineup. Hicks isn't the type of guy you'd refer to as a league-winner prior to Opening Day, but he could make a real impact on a championship roster in the second half of the season.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Jake Junis, SP (Royals) 

Junis isn't the type of pitcher that I'd classify as a must-drop, but you shouldn't hesitate to move on if there's a clear better option on the waiver wire. Junis started the season strong and looked like a legitimate breakout player, but he's allowed six earned runs in each of his last two starts. A poor two-start stretch isn't the end of the world, which is why I'm not suggest that everyone jump ship regardless of team context. That said, he doesn't have the pedigree of a top pitching prospect, and he plays for one of the five worst teams in baseball, meaning you can't expect many wins even when Junis is throwing well.

At the very least, you prbably should leave Junis on the bench for the time being, and again, if there's an option you've been eyeing on the waiver wire, now is the time to strike. Don't feel bad if that means leaving Junis behind to free up a roster spot for your team.

MORE NATS NEWS:

- Nice Threads: MLB reveals All-Star jerseys
- Rankings Update: Where did the Nats fall?
- On the Farm: Latest Nats prospect report

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Aaron Holiday

School: UCLA
Position: Point guard
Age: 21 (turns 22 in Sept.)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 187
Wingspan: 6-8
Max vertical: 33

2017/18 stats: 20.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG%, 42.9 3PT% (2.7 3PT/6.2 3PA), 82.8 FT%
Player comparison: Darren Collison
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 24th, Bleacher Report 23rd, Sports Illustrated 23rd

5 things to know:

*Holiday played big minutes in all three seasons for the Bruins. As a junior, he broke out as an elite scorer, averaging 20.3 points while also dishing 5.8 assists per game. Holiday scored in a variety of ways, including at the free throw line where he averaged 5.8 attempts per game and knocked them down at 82.8 percent.

*He is a terrific three-point shooter, one of the best in this draft class based on his college numbers. He hit 42.9 percent of his shots and on 6.2 attempts per game. Holiday shot 42.2 percent from long range in his three-year college career and never shot below 41 percent in a season. He had some games where teams just couldn't stop him from long range. He made four threes or more in 13 college games. Twice he went 5-for-5 and he once made six threes against USC.

*Though he has the skillset to play off the ball as a shooting guard, his size will limit him at the NBA level. Holiday is just under 6-foot-1 in shoes and doesn't have the vertical leap to make up for it. He does, however, have a plus wingspan. At this point, Holiday seems to be solely a point guard, though as long as he's good at the position there is nothing wrong with that.

*Holiday worked out for the Wizards at Capital One Arena. He was part of their first week of predraft workouts and by all accounts had an impressive visit. He hit a lot of shots and fared well in the interview process.

*Holiday has two brothers currently in the NBA. Jrue is a former All-Star who starts at point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. Justin is a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. His sister-in-law, Lauren, is a former member of the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards already have a point guard in John Wall, so Holiday would have no long-term path to starting. That said, he would shore up a need the Wizards have been trying to address for years.

Backup point guard has been a real void for the Wizards for most of Wall's tenure. This past season they tried out all sorts of options between Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, Ramon Sessions and Ty Lawson. Though Satoransky remains on the roster, the Wizards don't appear content with their depth at the position.

Holiday's ability to hit threes is very attractive to the Wizards who could conceivably play him off-the-ball alongside Wall, or even Satoransky. Given Wall (6-4) and Satoransky (6-7) are taller than most point guards, they could theoretically guard shooting guards on the other end.

Holiday would add smarts and shooting to the Wizards' bench in the short-term. In the long-term, he could help lengthen Wall's career by taking some of his workload away and also give the Wizards more options once Wall enters his 30s.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

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