Capitals

Inconsistent Pitt seeks to rebound at Buffalo

Inconsistent Pitt seeks to rebound at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst is optimistic enough to know there's still half a season left for the Panthers to show they're capable of becoming a winning football team.

Chryst is also realistic enough to understand how much better they all need to be for that to happen.

``It is the mid-point of the season, but I also think it is the time where they're getting tired of me standing up and saying we're doing some good things and we've got to put it together,'' he said. ``You can't have the same story line all the time because that means you're really not getting better.

``The time is now.''

Inconsistent at best, the Panthers (2-4) find themselves at a crossroad entering the second half of their final Big East Conference season before making the jump to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year.

Coming off two losses, Pitt gets a chance to right its ship and kick start a second-half run at Buffalo (1-5) on Saturday. They'll face a Bulls team that's been a near-perennial Mid-American Conference afterthought, and already on the verge of enduring their 15th losing season in 16 years.

Chryst and his players won't hear anything of the Bulls' struggles - Buffalo is coming off a 45-3 loss at Northern Illinois, and is 6-24 under coach Jeff Quinn.

``I think every week stands on its own,'' Chryst said. ``We've got to just live in the moment.''

The Panthers can't afford to look past anyone these days because they've got enough to correct themselves. Quarterback Tino Sunseri might be one of the nation's most efficient passers with a 163.49 rating this season, yet the Panthers offense lacks finish.

In a 14-13 loss at Syracuse two weeks ago, the Panthers came away empty despite two fourth-quarter drives inside the Orange 30. Last week, the Panthers went 0-for-3 in converting fourth-down chances and gave up five sacks in a 45-35 loss to No. 16 Louisville.

Their defense has suddenly sprung holes after allowing the Cardinals to score 24 points over an 11:02 span in building a 38-14 lead.

And Chryst is not without blame. The first-year head coach opened himself to second-guessing with his play-calling last weekend. Down by 10 in the fourth quarter, Chryst passed up a chance to attempt a field goal and instead watched as the Panthers failed in their attempt to convert a fourth-and-8 at the Louisville 22.

It's been a confounding year for the Panthers, who opened the season losing 31-17 to Youngstown State, an FCS program, and upset then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 35-17.

Pitt is attempting to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2007, and is in jeopardy of matching its worst start to a season since 2001.

``There's going to be people talking down, trying to always say something about us as a team,'' defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. ``But we've just got to stick together and just go out there and play football.''

The Panthers won't get any sympathy from the Bulls, who've endured more than their fair share of misfortunes and inconsistencies.

They provided Georgia a first-half scare before losing 45-23, and held their own in a 24-17 loss at Connecticut. And one of their best games came against MAC rival Ohio two weeks ago, in which the Bulls managed 501 yards offense but lost 38-31.

And now the wheels have appeared to unravel after Buffalo was blown out at Northern Illinois.

``Certainly, this one was embarrassing. We know that,'' Quinn said. ``Our players have taken full responsibility as have our coaches. And I'm excited and determined to get this team to where it belongs. And our players feel that way, too.''

The Bulls have shown glimpses of being competitive and have yet to put together a complete game this season, aside from for a 56-34 win over Morgan State.

The schedule hasn't helped: Buffalo is back home for the first time in a month after playing three straight road games. Injuries have been a problem, too. The Bulls have been without their top offensive threat, running back Branden Oliver, who is now listed week to week after missing three games with a leg injury.

The Bulls' confidence has not wavered.

Tight end Alex Dennison described the team as being more focused after last week's loss.

``I think this game helped us come together,'' he said.

Dennison also notes that the Bulls were competitive in a 35-16 loss at Pittsburgh last year. Buffalo trailed 21-16 before allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

``We're taking a look at last year, knowing that we didn't play our best game and we still hung in there,'' said Dennison, who is from the Pittsburgh area. ``You kind of get that feeling that you know you can win.

``They're beatable.''

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How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

It wasn't supposed to happen.

The Capitals celebrated too hard after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. The Tampa Bay Lightning had been here before. Tampa Bay's roster was deeper. Their goalie was hotter. They had home ice advantage. They had easily won their first two series. Nicklas Backstrom was still injured. Washington wouldn't be able to stop the Lightning's power play.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

For all of those reasons, many did not even give the Caps a chance. Washington overcame every obstacle in their way and was, for the most part, the better team through seven games defeating Tampa Bay to win the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals showed in their second-round win over the Penguins that these weren't the "same old Caps." They continued to prove that in the conference final when they stunned the Lightning to win Game 1 and Game 2 both on the road.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

When Washington lost the next three, many thought that meant the real Lightning had awoken, but it was the Caps who rose to the occasion in Game 6 and Game 7 where they face elimination as they completely dominated Tampa Bay by a combined score of 7-0.

The Caps now advance to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights have lost only three games this entire postseason and will hope to carry that momentum with them into Game 1.

If there is one thing this Washington team has proven, however, it's that you should never count them out.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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