Golden, Miami bracing for huge FSU test

Golden, Miami bracing for huge FSU test

MIAMI (AP) Al Golden's opinion might frighten the Miami faithful this week.

The Hurricanes' coach has already seen his team endure two blowout losses this season, by 39 points to Kansas State and by 38 against Notre Dame. And with all respect to the Wildcats and Fighting Irish, currently the No. 4 and No. 5 teams in the nation, Golden believes there's an even better team looming on Miami's schedule.

That team is Florida State - the team coming to visit Miami on Saturday night.

The 12th-ranked Seminoles (6-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won their last two meetings with Miami (4-3, 3-1), and are overwhelming favorites to add to that streak. In a series where 10 of the last 11 matchups have been decided by eight points or less, many not until the final seconds even, Florida State is a three-touchdown favorite.

Maybe those oddsmakers heard Golden singing the Seminoles' praises.

``I believe it's the best team that we've played this year,'' Golden said. ``I know there's two other teams that are ranked higher than them right now. I think this is the most talented team we've seen this year, the most complete team.''

True, the Seminoles are rolling. Florida State entered the weekend ranked third nationally in points scored this season (322) and sixth nationally in points allowed (81). And, yes, while those numbers were fattened up with season-opening wins over Murray State and Savannah State by a combined 124-3 count, it's not like Florida State hasn't been impressive every other game this season, either.

Well, except for one game.

``Two weeks ago, we learned a lesson,'' Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.

That was the game at North Carolina State - one where double-digit favorite Florida State went on the road, facing an opponent coming off a loss, and was supposed to roll to an easy win, only to get beaten 17-16.

Sound familiar? Florida State, on the road again this week, big favorites again, facing an opponent coming off a loss.

Rest assured, Fisher has talked plenty to his team during practices for Miami about avoiding the same trap door that the Seminoles found two weeks ago.

``You do have to play the whole game,'' Fisher said. ``Our kids have understood that lesson. I think the leadership of the team understands that and I think they'll reinforce that and will get it across. They know each game has a one-week lifespan. It's one win or one loss, and you only get 12 of them, so you better make them all special.''

Players hardly need to be told about the significance of a Miami-Florida State game.

Forget that allegiances between Hurricanes fans and Seminoles fans divides much of the state. That's nothing. It even divides homes. Outside the Miami athletic complex this week, someone's vehicle had a novelty license plate with the words ``The House Divided'' on it, emblazoned over a Florida State logo on the left side and a Hurricanes one on the right.

Lamarcus Joyner is a Florida State defensive back, but his favorite NFL players are former Hurricanes Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Miami running back Mike James has two high school buddies who play for the Seminoles. Florida State wide receiver Rodney Smith signed with the Seminoles with his mother's blessing - and she worked in the library on the Hurricanes' campus.

``It's a big game and a big-time rivalry,'' said Miami defensive end Anthony Chickillo, a third-generation Hurricane who thinks he's either watched or attended every Miami-Florida State since he was 5 or 6 years old. ``You try to treat every single week as the same and approach it the same. But this is a game you definitely know the rivalry and the history of. Other games don't get the hype ... like this one does.''

Miami quarterback Stephen Morris is doubtful for the game with a sprained left ankle, though he did take part in some light drills in practice earlier in the week. If he cannot play, Ryan Williams will start for the Hurricanes.

Another nagging injury matter for Miami is freshman running back Duke Johnson's sore toe, though Johnson expects to play - and the Seminoles expect the nation's top freshman in terms of all-purpose yards so far this season to be at a high level.

``He's elusive. He's one of those Reggie Bush-type guys,'' Florida State running back Devonta Freeman - a Miami native - said of Johnson. ``I've always seen it in him. I think I was about 11, Duke was probably 9 or 10, I always just knew he was going to be that kind of guy.''

The game matters for bragging rights, matters in the standings, matters on some level in recruiting. Both teams will have plenty of prospects with eyes on Saturday night, and if they can't be there, it's getting shown to virtually the entire country on ABC.

But for Miami, it matters mainly because Florida State is where the Hurricanes want to be. The Seminoles went through their rough patch, and now seem to be back as a consistently ranked, consistently contending program.

Golden hopes Saturday can be a step for his team to get to that level.

``They're ahead of us right now,'' Golden said. ``Hats off to them. We've got to chase them. We've got to get to where we want to be.''

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'Where is the humanity?': Chris Thompson opens up on the negative side of social media

'Where is the humanity?': Chris Thompson opens up on the negative side of social media

There are a ton of positives, from specific examples like what Derrius Guice has been able to do with Redskins supporters since being drafted or more general things like getting the chance to see what your favorite 'Skin is up to on an off day, that have resulted from the growing relationship between players and fans through social media. 

But with that increased connection comes increased volatility. Now, you don't have to be within earshot at a stadium to get on someone wearing Burgundy and Gold for a mistake they made or a loss they participated in. 

It's that second part — the constant criticism that largely goes unseen — that upsets Chris Thompson.

So, while he was responding to a question about Mason Foster's leaked Instagram messages, the running back made sure to comment on life as an athlete on social media overall.

"Dealing with the fans, it's hard because we're all human," Thompson said. "It's real tough when people keep coming at you and saying negative stuff towards you like we're not human beings and we're not supposed to say something at some point."

The veteran, who has distanced himself from things like Instagram and Twitter and has noticed how his mental state has improved because of that distancing, knows that ignoring the negativity is the proper route to take. It's far from the easiest route, though.

"Once you say something back to them it's like, 'Oh, you're not supposed to say anything,'" Thompson explained. "No, we're all human. If you say something, sometimes you should expect a response. And then on the flip side, there are some times we just gotta hold our tongue, and it's really, really, really, really hard sometimes. You don't know how hard it is."

Jonathan Allen is another Redskin who tries to limit his exposure to certain apps and sites these days. The fan interaction is something he enjoys, but in the end, it doesn't take much for those interactions to sour.

"The way I look at it, 99-percent of fans are great," Allen said. "They're supportive of what you do, they're always gonna love the Redskins. But there's gonna be that 1-percent of fans who aren't like that, and those are the fans that are gonna ruin it for everybody and give players the bad image of all the fans."

Thompson told one story of a recent message he got online from someone who blamed him for ruining his fantasy season by missing games due to injury. The 28-year-old couldn't comprehend how someone could write that to him while he's battling through broken ribs on both sides and an ankle issue.

Sadly, it was just one example that stood out among countless others, all of which make up the uglier side of technology in 2018.

"Where is the humanity?" Thompson said. "It sucks because we're not really looked at as humans. We're kind of robots. We're not supposed to have feelings, we're only supposed to show emotion on the field and everything should be about football, football, football."


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Capitals mailbag: Is it time for T.J. Oshie to worry about his future?

Capitals mailbag: Is it time for T.J. Oshie to worry about his future?

It’s time for the weekly Capitals mailbag! Check out the Dec. 12 edition below.

Have a Caps question you want answered for next week’s mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to

Please note some questions have been edited for clarity.

Edie R writes: Knowing that T.J. Oshie has a family history of Alzheimer’s and so is already predisposed to getting the disease himself, how can he continue to put himself in a situation where he can be concussed? While I love watching him play, I find myself holding my breath a bit every time he’s on the ice, waiting for him to get hurt again and knowing what it could mean for his future and that of his family.

Oshie was asked Monday if he was concerned over the long-term effects concussions can have after suffering his fifth.

This is what he said, “Not really. I don't know. I feel like when I go out there, if I get concerned about what's going to happen to me, I'm not going to play at the top of my game. Doesn't really concern me. I just kind of roll with the punches every day and if it does, it does. Hopefully, it doesn't.”

I can’t speak for Oshie or how concerned he may or may not be or if his father having Alzheimer’s makes him more worried about the long-term effects of repeated brain trauma. What I can say is that every professional athlete in every sport is conscious of the fact that they are putting themselves at risk. For most, they accept that risk. We live in a transitional time in that we are learning more about concussions and their effects so perhaps they are not something players like Oshie considered when they first started playing, but he knows better than most what it’s like to suffer a concussion and I am sure he is well aware of what the long-term effects can be. He, for now, has decided to accept those risks to continue playing hockey. That’s his choice to make and it is one I am sure he has not taken lightly.

Nathan S writes: Do players get evaluated by independent neurologists after concussions? Getting fully recovered from concussions is estimated by some experts to take three months yet it seems players like Oshie and Wilson are rushing to get back and help the team (laudable but maybe dangerous) following their concussions.

There is no requirement by the NHL that players get evaluated by neurologists after suffering a concussion. I looked at the Caps’ medical staff directory and they list two athletic trainers, a massage therapist a head team physician, an orthopedic surgeon, two internists, two emergency physicians, an ophthalmologist and a dentist.

No neurologist.

That does not mean the players don’t see one or consult one. That does not mean the team doctors don’t consult one. That does not mean the players rush back without proper medical care when it comes to brain injuries. It simply means they are not required to see a neurologist. To be honest, I don’t know what sort of treatment the players get when it comes to brain injuries and good luck getting anyone in the sport of hockey which groups everything as either “upper body injury” or “lower body injury” to give you any specifics when it comes medical treatment.

I wouldn’t get too married to a specific timeline when it comes to concussions. We are still learning a lot about concussions and many doctors will tell you there is no set timeline for how long it takes to recover and it varies by person and by how many concussions someone has suffered in the past. I don’t think we will ever get to a point where we will say, “Player X suffered a concussion so he will be out three months” the same way we can put specific timelines on broken bones or torn muscles. It’s just not that black and white.

I am all in on Vrana. I love his skill, I love his work ethic. He is always among the last players to leave the ice every practice. He is constantly working to improve his game and it shows in his play. He needs to cut down on the turnovers a bit. In the past, his mistakes have affected his ice time, but now it seems that he has built up some trust with the coaches and his ice time has shot up over two minutes per game as compared to last season.

What will help his point totals is how many assists he also tends to produce. When I looked up his stats to answer this question, I was surprised at just how even the goals and assists totals were. In his first season he had three goals and three assists, 13 and 14 in his second and now sits at nine and nine. Considering how much of a sniper he is, you don’t really think of him as a player who piles up the assists, but clearly he is as good setting up his teammates as he is scoring.

I see Vrana as a Viktor Arvidsson type of player, someone who is a great compliment to a top-six, but not a dominating star a team can build around. I see him as a 25-30 goal scorer who should regularly hover around the 60-point mark.

As for your second question, let’s start with the defense. For those who read the weekly prospect report, you’ll know I follow the prospects pretty closely. Because of that, I am not surprised at all about Bowey. He was tremendous in juniors and great in Hershey. His NHL debut last season left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, but it is unfair to judge him by that. Bowey was recalled due to an injury to Matt Niskanen, was put into the lineup immediately in his first day in the NHL as the Caps were on the second game of a back-to-back and were on the road in Philadelphia for the Flyers’ home-opener. There was a lot working against Bowey in that game.
Bowey is a solid two-way defenseman who has really turned the corner this season defensively and who has hit a Dmitrij Jaskin level of bad luck when it comes to offense. The goals are coming.

Siegenthaler has been as advertised. He is an Orpik type of physical, defensive player, but much more mobile and someone the Caps thought enough of to trade up in the draft to get. He has been exactly The surprise to me has been how well both players have played together. I thought the third defensive pair would be a clear weakness for the Caps all season with Bowey, Siegenthaler, Orpik, and Djoos all rotating in. That has not been the case thus far.

I have been a bit surprised by Travis Boyd. On a team with as much offensive talent as the Caps boast, the fact that he has been able to stand out is impressive, especially with the limited time the fourth line gets and especially given all the bad luck he has had this year and last with poorly timed injuries and illnesses. The fact that he has been able to step in rather seamlessly and be productive is a good sign for him. Washington seems to have something going on the fourth line with Boyd, Nic Dowd, and Jaskin.

It’s getting pretty tough to evaluate how anyone in Hershey is playing given how much the Bears as a team are struggling. Plus, you also have to factor in that half the time he is playing in front of a goalie who is making the jump from Europe to North America and there are growing pains that come with that.

It is not a surprise to see Siegenthaler get some time this season given how good he looked in training camp and the preseason. Johansen did not leave the same kind of impression. He wasn’t bad, but when competing against a bunch of juniors and AHL players, he did not look like a player ready for the next level just yet.

What also hurts Johansen is the Caps’ depth. Washington has seven defensemen on the roster now, plus Orpik who is making his way back from injury. That’s eight guys ahead of him right now. He needs to just focus on his game in Hershey and try to make an impression next year in camp. Heading into this season, it never occurred to me that Siegenthaler would be a guy who stuck around. Obviously, injuries have helped with that, but the reason he is on the roster now is how he played in camp.

Thanks for all your questions!

If you have a question you want to be read and answered in next week’s mailbag, send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to