Capitals

Huskies not stylish, but finding ways to win

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Huskies not stylish, but finding ways to win

SEATTLE (AP) Steve Sarkisian gained notoriety for his fancy, high-scoring units when he was an offensive coordinator. The Washington coach is OK with ugly victories, too.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the questions were about whether Sarkisian had lost his touch with the Huskies riding a three-game losing streak and getting blown out in two of the losses.

Those concerns have subsided after wins over Oregon State and Friday's sometimes unappealing 21-13 victory over California that improved the Huskies to 5-4 and put them on the cusp of securing a third straight bowl appearance.

Washington has three more chances at obtaining bowl eligibility beginning this week with its home finale against Utah. It closes the season at woeful Colorado before facing rival Washington State in the Apple Cup.

``I think when you win a game and then you win two in a row you start to find a way to win games rather than find a way to lose games,'' Sarkisian said on Monday. ``We found a way to win a somewhat ugly football game, but like I said to the staff I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty.''

Washington is the only team from a BCS conference that hasn't scored more than 21 points against an FBS opponent this year. But the Huskies are proving that 20 or 21 is enough thanks to a defense that continues to make stands at critical times and a running game that is making up for inconsistencies throwing.

With quarterback Keith Price still trying to find the same swagger that led to 33 touchdowns, the Huskies have relied more on the run game the last few weeks and may have found a star in sophomore Bishop Sankey. Against Oregon State, it was tougher to find the yards, but he still managed to rush for 92 yards and two touchdowns on the second best run defense in the conference.

But Sankey's breakout performance came on Friday night. He carried 29 times for 189 yards and will have an opportunity, perhaps as early as Saturday night, to become just the 11th running back in Washington history to run for 1,000 yards.

Sankey has 855 yards rushing and his 11 touchdowns are just one behind Chris Polk's total for 13 games last year.

``I don't know if I would have thought coming into the season, `Bishop Sankey can carry the ball 30 times a night.' I didn't know if he was built in that way,'' Sarkisian said. ``But he really is. He doesn't take a lot of head-on shots. He does a nice job bouncing off tacklers. We saw that the other night; he almost ricocheted forward on one run. He does a nice job of using his body to create runs. Probably has exceeded my expectations on that front, his ability to have that many carries and still be strong.''

Keeping that success on the ground going will be difficult this week against Utah and standout defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. The Utes held Washington State to -4 net yards rushing last week, but the better barometer might be the 52 yards rushing they allowed to Oregon State in late October.

``It starts up front for them,'' Sarkisian said. ``If we want to be effective Saturday night, our effectiveness has to begin up front. It can't just be on the perimeter or down the field, it has to be right up front.''

In terms of yards passing, Price had his best game of the season in a victory against California. Part of that success was simply giving his talented receivers a chance to make plays in one-on-one situations. Price hit tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins twice for long gains where the Huskies tight end simply was too big for smaller defensive backs trying to defend him, and found receiver Kasen Williams on another. Seferian-Jenkins finished with eight catches for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown against the Golden Bears.

``I'd like to see that number increase, to give them opportunities to make plays,'' Sarkisian said. ``It's not a real secret. That's part of our game plan, you know. So much of what we do is trying to run the football effectively enough to make you play single-high defense, and then when we get our chances, one-on-one trying to win outside.''

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Jaguars. 

Week 15 December 16, TIAA Bank Field

2017 Jaguars: 10-6, First in AFC South, lost AFC championship game 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 9

Early line: Redskins +8

Key additions: G Andrew Norwell, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Donte Moncrief, 

Key losses:WR Allen Hurns, WR Allen Robinson

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Blake Bortles was very inconsistent during the season and there was talk of the team looking for a replacement for him prior to their run in the playoffs. Does he have what it takes to get the team back into serious contention. 
  • The team also got an inconsistent season out of RB Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 pick in the draft. Can he put together the monster season that would justify his draft status and help elevate the Jaguars to elite status. 
  • The Jaguars went from 25thin scoring defense in 2016 to second last year. Will they fall back to the pack this year?

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 5-1. The Jaguars only win against them came in 2002.

Series notables

The first time: September 28, 1997, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium—In the second game ever played at the Redskins’ new stadium, Jacksonville took a 9-0 lead in the second quarter, but then-Jags QB Mark Brunell threw a pair of interceptions that set up two Washington touchdowns and the Redskins won 24-12. Gus Frerotte threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Allen gained 122 yards on 36 carries. 

The last time: November 14, 2012, FedEx Field—Jay Gruden got his first win as the Redskins’ head coach in this one. Robert Griffin III went out of this game early with an injury and Kirk Cousins passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his place. It was the defense that dominated this game, racking up 10 sacks, tying the team record set in 1977. Ryan Kerrigan got four of those sacks, tying the team individual record for sacks in a game. The Redskins won 41-10.

The best time: October 1, 2006, FedEx Field—A taught, exciting game came to an explosive end when Santana Moss snared a pass that Mark Brunell perhaps should not have thrown and streaked to the end zone, giving the Redskins a 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville.

The reason the throw was risky was that two defenders were near Moss as Brunell fired it to the speedy receiver. Somehow both of them missed it. Moss grabbed it, spun around and bolted the rest of the way to complete the 68-yard game winner.

It was Moss’ third touchdown reception of the day. In the first quarter, he caught a long pass from Brunell and executed a nifty spin move near the goal line to complete the 55-yard touchdown play. An eight-yard Moss TD catch early in the third quarter put the Redskins up by 10 but the Jags battled back to tie it with six seconds left. That set up Moss’ overtime heroics. 

The worst time: November 10, 2002, Alltel Stadium—The Redskins came into the game riding a two-game winning streak and at 4-4 they were squarely in playoff contention. A strong running game had been their best asset during their surge to .500 and, with the Jaguars sporting the worst run defense in the NFL, there was every reason to believe that the Redskins would take the land route to another win.

But coach Steve Spurrier had different ideas. "I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field," Spurrier said. "We ran a little bit here and there. We had a little success there early, and I got away from it too much. The second quarter, I kept thinking at midfield, we could throw the ball from there. But we didn't do it very well. So, looking back, I called a lousy game."

His defense didn’t play very well either. The Redskins scored first but the Jaguars scored 26 unanswered points and came out with a 26-7 win.

Redskins schedule series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS  and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS  and on Instagram @RichTandler