Redskins

Georgia's 12-win season marred by losing SEC title

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Georgia's 12-win season marred by losing SEC title

ATLANTA (AP) Georgia players are still talking about how close they came to playing in Monday night's national championship game.

Sure, Tuesday's 45-31 Capital One Bowl win over Nebraska was nice, but it wasn't for the national title. The Bulldogs are still feeling the aftershocks from their 32-28 loss in the Southeastern Conference championship game to Alabama last month that ended with Georgia on the Crimson Tide's 5-yard line.

Quarterback Aaron Murray said that loss won't be forgotten.

``Obviously the loss was tough, to come that close to winning the SEC championship and then being able to play for the national championship,'' Murray said. ``I know it probably lingered in some of our minds but the best thing to do after a loss is to get back out there and play and to get a victory.''

Murray said No. 6 Georgia's win over Nebraska ``definitely eased the pain'' from a game ``everybody will remember forever just because it was so close and it came down to the last play.''

Coach Mark Richt said the loss to Alabama left the Bulldogs with something to prove against Nebraska.

``We wanted to win this game to prove, to ourselves really, that we are one of the better teams in the country,'' Richt said.

Georgia (12-2) became only the third team in school history to reach 12 wins. Now some of the team's biggest names must decide if they will enter the NFL draft.

Murray, who threw five TD passes against Nebraska, linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree and other juniors must decide if they will enter the NFL draft.

Jones is widely projected as a high first-round selection. He had two first-half sacks to give him a school record 14.5 for the season, breaking David Pollack's old mark of 14 in 2002.

Richt said he wanted the juniors to take their time and ``make their heart be in their decision.''

``If these guys choose to stay, I'm thrilled obviously, but if they choose to go I'm their No. 1 fan ether way because I just want what's best for them,'' Richt said. ``I can't say what's best for them. They have to figure out for themselves. They're grown men now.''

Murray, a fourth-year junior, already has graduated and played this season as a graduate student. He said the bowl game would not play a role in his decision.

``I think I'm going to sit down with my parents, draw up the pros and cons and go from there,'' Murray said as he sat beside Jones during postgame interviews.

``Jarvis and I are blessed to be in this position to make the tough decision.''

Georgia overcame injuries to receivers Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown to finish with the most points in school history. The win over Nebraska was Georgia's eighth game with at least 40 points. It scored a school-record 529 points and averaged 37.8 points, another school record.

A pair of freshman running backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, surpassed the most optimistic expectations. Gurley led the Bulldogs with 1,385 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, including 125 yards and one touchdown against Nebraska. Marshall had 759 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

Murray's 3,898 yards passing set another Georgia record, topping Eric Zeier's 3,525 yards in 1993.

Murray regrouped after two early interceptions against Nebraska. He had 36 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions for the season.

``I'm real proud of Aaron and the job he did,'' Richt said. ``He had a couple things go not exactly the way he wanted them to go. He had a couple picks early and just hung in there, very resilient, and finished.''

Georgia began the season with Ogletree and three other defensive starters suspended by Richt.

The defense regrouped for a 17-9 win over previously undefeated Florida. The game followed a challenge from senior safety Shawn Williams, who said the defense was playing soft.

Georgia held Nebraska to seven second-half points. Ogletree had 13 tackles, three for losses, and a sack. Williams had 11 tackles and a blocked punt.

Richt said more new stars will emerge after players graduate or leave early for the NFL.

``You just don't know who's ready to be the next guy to step up and make a play,'' Richt said. ``We have an outstanding recruiting class going right now. I can't get into particulars but I think we're going to have a big class and we're going to have an exciting class when it comes to talent.''

Georgia's only other 12-win seasons were in 1980 (12-0) when it won the national championship and 2002 (13-1) when it won the SEC championship.

There was no championship this season, but Murray savored his first bowl win. Georgia's last bowl win came in 2009.

``The big thing was just getting the bowl win,'' Murray said. ``It's special. Coach Richt said it, how good it feels to walk in after the bowl game and not see the seniors with their heads down. To walk in with people hugging and celebrating and jumping up and down is an unbelievable feeling.''

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What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

What comes after a must-win? Redskins will find out Monday night against Bears

At 0-2 and facing the pressure of a lost season very early in their schedule, it's not a secret that the Redskins need a victory Monday night against the Bears. 

In fact, it's beyond a need. It's beyond a must. The Redskins are desperate to get their first win of the year and stave off the questions that come with a terrible start. Jay Gruden and most of his staff are in the penultimate years of their contracts, and that's not an easy spot to be in if a team is losing. 

Washington's players know the situation. Washington's coaches and front office know the situation. But, how can they win?

  1. The Bears strength comes on the defensive side of the ball, where they rank 3rd in the NFL in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. Chicago's defense has given up just 24 points this year, Against the run, Chicago is giving up less than 70-yards-per-game, and combined with the Redskins inability to run the ball, that looks like a serious mismatch. Where Washington might find success is throwing the ball. In a Bears win last week in Denver, Broncos QB Joe Flacco threw for more than 280 yards. Chicago has some vulnerabilities at cornerback, and Gruden along with offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell will need to scheme to take advantage of the passing game.
     
  2. Speaking of the passing game, Redskins QB Case Keenum probably needs to play his best game in Washington to get a win. Keenum has been pretty good so far this season, particularly at not turning the ball over. He has no interceptions in two games, and while there have been a few close calls, he must keep the ball away from the Bears fierce pass rush of Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. To make matters more complicated against the stout Bears defense is that Keenum has to protect the ball but also capitalize on big plays when they develop. The Bears offense is struggle city, so if Washington can make a few big plays and get on the scoreboard, Chicago might not be able to keep up.
     
  3. The Bears offensive struggles begin with QB Mitchell Trubisky. In two games, he's completing fewer than 59 percent of his passes and averaging 174 passing yards-per-game. Compare that to Keenum, who's completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 300 yards-per-game, and the Redskins should have a decisive advantage at the game's most important position. Trubisky is dangerous with his legs, but so far this year has been reluctant to run, with just four rushes for 19 yards. The Redskins defensive front needs to show up for this one; pressure on Trubisky could lead to turnovers. Turnovers could lead to early scores and good field position, which helps a lot against Chicago's defense.
     
  4. While Chicago's defense has been terrific, that might not be the Redskins biggest hurdle on Monday. Just playing on Monday night is an immense struggle for Washington. The team hasn't won a Monday Night Football game since 2014 and hasn't won at home on Monday night since 2012.
     
  5. The Redskins have a mountain of injuries, so don't expect to see Jordan Reed or Quinton Dunbar. Also, Trent Williams continues to hold out from the organization, and it was reported over the weekend that Reed might be considering retirement after sustaining his seventh concussion in the preseason.
     

News & Notes

  • Redskins RB Chris Thompson needs four receptions to pass Earnest Byner for No. 3 all-time on the Redskins list of catches by a running back. 
  • If rookie WR Terry McLaurin catches a touchdown against the Bears, that would be his third straight contest with a score. No Redskins rookie WR has done that since Hall of Famer Charley Taylor in 1962. 
  • Jay Gruden is 2-0 against the Bears. 
  • Redskins rookie LB Cole Holcomb was college roommates with Bears QB Mitch Trubisky at the University of North Carolina.
     

They said it

Jay Gruden on the prospect of opening the year 0-3:

"You have to feel it without a doubt. If you don’t feel it then you’re numb, you’re not a football player. There’s nobody that likes to lose in this locker room. Not a lot has to be said when you lose one game, let alone two in a row in your division against the Cowboys and Eagles, one at home. We’re already in a hole a little bit, so everybody understands there’s a sense of urgency, for sure."

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Aces' Liz Cambage tells Mystics forwards to 'get in the weight room or get out of the post'

Aces' Liz Cambage tells Mystics forwards to 'get in the weight room or get out of the post'

One of the WNBA’s most dominant players is Liz Cambage of the Las Vegas Aces. She’s unforgiving, wears her heart on her chest, and is truly one of a kind.

When the center is playing her finest basketball no one in the league can stop her. Sunday's Game 3 of the WNBA Semifinals against the Washington Mystics had Cambage playing at her finest. 

Matching her season-high, Cambage waltzed to 28 points in only 27 minutes of playing time. Several Mystics took their turn at trying to slow her down. Every Mystic had a chance to help at least at double-teaming the Ace's leading scorer. Primarily it was Emma Meesseman and LaToya Sanders that drew the assignment responsibility, but everyone had a role.

It did not matter in Las Vegas. Throughout the whole contest, Cambage rolled over the interior of the Mystics defense. She scored at ease as the tallest player on either roster for the Mystics and the Aces. 

The Australian knew she could not be stopped. Postgame she analyzed why she was able to command the post so well on ESPN2’s broadcast. In the process, she put several Mystics on blast. 

“They got small forwards guarding me. If they can’t handle it, get in the weight room or get out of the post. That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing my thing inside,” Cambage told Kim Adams.

She’s talking about the 6-4 Meesseman, the 6-3 Sanders. But it doesn't matter whomever the Mystics put on the 6-8 Cambage, there will be a significant matchup advantage for the Aces. 

Not only does she have a clear edge in her height, but she does her build as well. Cambage possesses the ideal structure of a WNBA center. She stands at 216 pounds, 30 pounds more than either of the Mystics primary defenders on her. Sanders’ lanky frame has its advantages in the Mystics run-and-gun offense, but not what you see from a stereotypical center. Meesseman is a better matchup defensively, size-wise but she spots Cambage five inches. 

This is not an oddity though for Washington. There are a minute few in the WNBA that can walk alongside Cambage. As the third-tallest player in the league, only the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittany Griner (6-9) and the New York Liberty’s Han Xu (6-9) position higher.

Despite the clear physical dominance, Cambage is erratic at times. While she wears her emotions, those also tend to get her in trouble with her aggressive play and in dealing with officials. When frustrated, sometimes she struggles to even get a shot on rim.  

This is partly why Cambage’s play was highlighted so much in Game 3. The first two games of the series had Cambage as her own worst enemy. Visibly she was upset with some calls and non-calls by the officials. Timely fouls also limited her flow on the court. 

Neither was the case in Game 3. Fouls went her way. She even got away with a brash elbow to Meesseman’s face why trying to keep the lane clear. The non-call resulted in Mike Thibault losing his cool and getting a technical foul.

It’s also not the first time that Cambage has flailed an elbow to Meesseman. Game 2 saw her earn a technical foul for that same behavior. 

Either way, Cambage is a matchup nightmare against the Mystics. During the regular season, the Mystics – led by Sanders’ defense – kept Cambage to under 15 points in all three of their matchups. In three games in this series, the 28-year-old has 19, 23 and 28 points; progressively getting better in each game. 

Washington still holds a 2-1 lead and is a game away from returning to the WNBA Finals. However, they have to find an answer to slow down the tenacious Cambage. 

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