Huskies set to face rival Cougars for Apple Cup

Huskies set to face rival Cougars for Apple Cup

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) At midseason Washington was teetering on the brink of collapse, coming off three straight losses, two huge blowouts and dissent in the fan base about whether Steve Sarkisian was truly the right coach to be rebuilding its program.

During the past four weeks, Sarkisian's team has quieted critics, matched the longest regular season win streak in more than a decade and put the Huskies on the brink of their first eight-win season since 2001.

Yet the Huskies (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) are mostly overshadowed by the chaos at Washington State (2-9, 0-8) headed into Friday's Apple Cup against the rival Cougars. No two-win team has gotten as much attention as the Cougars, largely because they have underperformed and for claims of abuse from coaches by former wide receiver Marquess Wilson that led to internal and Pac-12 investigations.

Then again, not every two-win team has Mike Leach as its head coach.

``We need to go out and try to win the game just for the sake of trying to win the game and play good football,'' Leach said this week.

Then he added about all the chaos: ``Most of the time it's been pointless and centered toward selfish people who are being revealed for who they are.''

Expectations before the season had the Apple Cup as a possible bowl-clinching opportunity for the Cougars with the excitement over that potential making up for the fact the game is being played the day after Thanksgiving on the Washington State campus while students are out on break.

Instead, no one is quite sure what the atmosphere will be. Normally, games in Pullman have an extra twinge of vitriol. Washington State officials said earlier this week less than a 1,000 tickets remained, yet how many of those were snatched up before the season began when all the buzz and hype in the state was pointed crimson and gray is unknown.

There's no debating Leach's first season in Pullman has flopped on the field as he attempted to recondition the Cougars into the type of program he wants going forward. Before the season, the Cougars were thought to be a potential bowl team with the amount of talent returning and Leach's run of success at Texas Tech which proved his ability to win nearly anywhere.

Those same fans that bought season tickets in droves and ramped up donations to the school have been left shaking their heads at another downtrodden season when they've received far more negative attention than the positive buzz that Leach's hiring brought.

Some of the losses have been ugly and reminiscent of just a few years ago when the Cougars were the laughingstock of college football. But Washington State has flustered some of the better competition in the Pac-12 this season. They flustered Oregon for a half, before the Ducks took off and pulled away. They put a scare into Oregon State, nearly pulled off a huge upset at Stanford and made a valiant second-half rally after being down 30 to make things uncomfortable for UCLA.

The Cougars may be short-handed with quarterback Connor Halliday and defensive end Travis Long possibly missing the game with injuries. Leach does not discuss the injury status of his players, but indicated Jeff Tuel would likely start at quarterback.

``This is a big game for a lot of people. Everyone remembers the Apple Cup,'' Washington State DB Deone Bucannon said. ``You're going to remember the Apple Cup for the rest of your life.''

Leach can only wish for the day he can give the same speech Sarkisian did in his team room earlier this week, bringing up the fact that Washington could finish with eight wins for the first time since the 2001 season that ended with a berth in the Holiday Bowl. A fifth-straight win to close the season would be the Huskies longest winning roll since 2000, the last time Washington made a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.

Sarkisian is undefeated against the Cougars (4-0) and his teams at Washington are becoming known for making late surges. It's a small sample, but the Huskies are 9-6 in regular season games in the months of November and December in Sarkisian's four seasons. It's an impressive trait since the Huskies are just 7-10 in the month of October under Sarkisian.

``I think that's one of our main things in the program is finish. Even in the offseason workouts it's not about how you start, but how you finish. Everybody is going to remember the end of the season and I think that's been our main motto since I've been here,'' Washington QB Keith Price said. ``It's been a real attention to detail when it comes to the end of the season. We know what we need to accomplish and Sark harps on that.''

While Washington's offense has awakened the last two weeks, the current win streak is mostly on the shoulders of the Huskies improving defense. After giving up 52 points at Arizona on Oct. 20, Washington has allowed just 48 in wins over Oregon State, California, Utah and Colorado.

``We had a rocky start,'' Washington safety Justin Glenn said. ``The way we've responded to the adversity and battled back and strung these four wins together and kept it going, that's what (Sarkisian) wanted and that's what we've tried to do.''

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

Kick off your Tuesday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including a recap of the first day of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. Yesterday, (Monday) was the first day of the Ravens' OTAs. OTAs continue today (Tuesday) as the Ravens work on developing a new offense. Check out some of the highlights here. 

2. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. 

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens for news points.


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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jaxson Hayes

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jaxson Hayes

School: Texas
Position: Center
Age: 19
Height: 7-0
Weight: 219
Wingspan: 7-4
Max vertical: 34.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, 72.8 FG% (3.8/5.3), 00.0 3PT% (0.0/0.0), 74.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jarrett Allen, John Henson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th, Sports Illustrated 9th, Ringer 10th

5 things to know:

*Hayes is considered the best center prospect in this year's class. He is athletic, plays with energy and measured in at the combine at about 7-feet in shoes with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can run the floor and play above the rim.

*The skill that stands out most for Hayes is rim protection. He averaged 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per game. That extrapulates to 5.7 blocks over 100 possessions. He has long arms and appears to have good instincts tracking the ball in the lane. He is following in the footsteps of fellow Texas shot-blockers before him like Myles Turner and Jarrett Allen. The latter may be the best player comparison for Hayes in today's NBA.

*Hayes is not considered a very good rebounder. He averaged 5.0 per game and only once reached double figures. It could be that he just needs to add some weight, an issue that is correctable but would hurt him even more at the NBA level initially. The worst-case concern is that he is soft and won't do the necessary dirty work.

*At this point, Hayes offers nothing in the way of an outside shot. He didn't attempt a single three-pointer in college and didn't do much on offense outside of dunks and putbacks. In order to justify being taken with a high draft pick, he will either need to develop a post game, an outside shot or be extremely good on defense. His lack of an all-round game will certainly give some teams pause in evaluating him.

*Hayes comes from a family of impressive athletes. His father played 12 seasons in the NFL and recently served as the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother played basketball at Drake University and later coached in college, including a stint as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hayes followed his father's footsteps by playing wide receiver in high school before a growth spurt made it clear basketball was the path to go.

Fit with Wizards: Hayes is one of the best fits for the Wizards among the players who could be available with the ninth pick. He does what they arguably lack the most, which is play defense and more specifically protect the rim.

The Wizards allowed the most field goals within five feet of any team this past season and the third-highest field goal percentage in that range. They desperately need someone who can block and alter shots.

Hayes would likely be the Wizards' best shot-blocker Day 1. But whether he can help them in other ways is a question at this point.

Hayes would represent a bit of a project for the Wizards and may not have All-Star potential because of his offensive limitations. Still, he remains one of their best options in the first round. Long-term, he could transform their defense and form a strong pick-and-roll partner for John Wall.

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