Injuries and inconsistency dog some Pac-12 QBs


Injuries and inconsistency dog some Pac-12 QBs

Oregon State's quarterback shuffle is emblematic of what has been happening around the Pac-12 all season. Injuries and inconsistency have dogged many teams in a league that has always been known for its strong quarterbacks.

The No. 15 Beavers started out the season with Sean Mannion under center. Because of injury they went to Cody Vaz. Then it was back briefly to Mannion. This week it's undetermined.

Other Pac-12 teams that have switched quarterbacks include No. 14 Stanford, which started with Josh Nunes but swapped him for dual threat Kevin Hogan, and beleaguered Colorado, which started the season with Kansas transfer Jordan Webb but is now looking toward Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman.

Washington State has gone back and forth between Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday.

Injuries are also an issue. Cal senior Zach Maynard is nursing a sprained left knee. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott missed a game with a concussion and might not be back in time to face Utah on Saturday. They Utes are expected to start true freshman Travis Wilson, who unseated Jon Hays.

This week, as Oregon State (7-2, 5-2) prepares to host California (3-8, 2-6), the starting quarterback is still up in the air - on both sides.

The Beavers' situation is certainly unique.

Mannion took over the Beavers as a redshirt freshman last season when the team finished just 3-9 overall. He got off to a strong start this year, leading Oregon State to four straight wins while throwing for an average of 339 yards a game.

But Mannion's fortunes took a turn when he injured his left knee on a handoff during a game against Washington State. Two days later, the Beavers announced he needed surgery and the timeline for his return was uncertain. So Oregon State turned to Cody Vaz, who had not started since high school but coolly led the Beavers in victories over BYU and Utah, helping the team to its best start since 1907.

Mannion made an unexpectedly quick recovery and returned to start the next week at Washington. He struggled, however, throwing four interceptions in the Beavers' first loss of the season. So Oregon State turned back to Vaz, who helped the team to a victory against Arizona State.

Vaz started last week in a 27-23 loss to Stanford, but he injured his left ankle during the waning moments. Mannion was taking snaps in practice earlier this week while the Beavers waited to see if Vaz would be cleared.

Oregon State is lucky. Since Vaz had a few quality starts, the Beavers know what they're getting with either quarterback.

``With either guy, we just decide what's going to be best to do against the upcoming team. They're both passers first, the both manage the offense and I think they're both good players,'' coach Mike Riley said. ``They don't really bring something different than the other guy, nor do we have to tone some things down in regard to either guy. That's the beauty of the thing, they both - in spring practice and fall camp - basically shared the turns for two years. We just run our offense.''

On the other side, Maynard was also iffy for Cal. If he can't go, Allan Bridgford will start for the Golden Bears.

If Hirschman isn't cleared from a concussion, Colorado (1-9, 1-6) will start Wood against Washington (6-4, 4-3) on Saturday. Washington coach Mike Leach, who has plenty of other issues to worry about this week, has said he plans to start Tuel this weekend when the Cougars (2-8, 0-7) visit Arizona State (5-5, 3-4).

If Scott can't go for the Wildcats (6-4, 3-4), junior college transfer B.J. Denker will start at Utah (4-6, 2-5).

Probably the most daunting task this weekend belongs to Hogan, who will face No. 1-ranked Oregon at Autzen Stadium.

If the redshirt freshman has any advantage at this point against the Ducks, it may be that last season he led Stanford's scout team in their preparation for Oregon.

``Obviously, you can only do so much in a week. They're doing it all the time,'' he shrugged. ``So it's pretty hard to simulate.''

With a victory, Stanford (8-2, 6-1) would claim the Pac-12 North and knock the Ducks out of the national title contention - something Oregon did to the then-No.3 Cardinal last season with a 53-30 victory in Palo Alto.

There are still a handful of lucky teams in the league, quarterback-wise. Two of them are in Los Angeles and face off this weekend in a battle for the Pac-12 South.

Senior Matt Barkley hasn't lived up to some expectations this season but still ranks 14th in the nation with an average of just over 297 yards passing per game for the No. 21 Trojans (7-3, 5-3) . He leads the conference with 33 touchdowns, but he's also thrown a league-high 13 interceptions.

UCLA freshman Brett Hundley is not far behind Barkley with an average of 274 yards passing a game for the Bruins (8-2, 5-2).

The other stalwarts among the league's quarterbacks this season are steady Washington junior Keith Price, Arizona State sophomore Taylor Kelly, and undefeated Oregon's redshirt freshman, Marcus Mariota, who is hearing Heisman candidacy whispers prior to his final two regular season games.

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That time Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray practiced together


That time Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray practiced together

Thanks to Antonio Brown, we have the hopes and dreams of a splashy off-season for the Washington Redskins in one tidy four-second video.

Brown, the NFL’s best receiver, is angling for a trade out of Pittsburgh.

Kyler Murray is the reigning Heisman Trophy quarterback and a projected 2019 first round pick.

During the NFC Championship game, the Steelers wide receiver tweeted out a clip of him hauling in a deep pass from the University of Oklahoma product. Yes, that’s going to draw some eyeballs, perhaps especially from fans of a team with quarterback uncertainty and lacking offensive playmakers.

Another OU standout, wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown”, joined his cousin Antonio and Murray for the workout. This isn’t the first time all three shared a field.

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The best rolled thru today, appreciate you @ab 📞

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Marquise Brown, a true speed threat, could become the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 draft.

There’s no way for the Redskins to land all three. Even two seems highly unlikely considering the two prospects are projected first-round selections and acquiring Brown would cost a No. 1 and plenty more. It’s still cool to dream. Considering the quarterback concerns with Alex Smith, Jamison Crowder entering free agency and the need for more pieces regardless, even landing one of them would work.


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Defense optional as Caps handed 8-5 loss in Chicago

Defense optional as Caps handed 8-5 loss in Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks handed the Capitals their fifth straight loss on Sunday in an ugly 8-5 defeat. All five of Washington's goals came from defensemen as the team's top forwards continued to struggle.

Here are five reasons the Caps lost.

Missed early opportunities

The game got off to a great start. Tom Wilson fed Jakub Vrana in the middle for a great early opportunity and Lars Eller had another shot with the rebound. Washington also got a power play less than two minutes into the game and was brilliant with the setup, keeping the puck in the zone for the full two minutes and getting a number of high-quality opportunities.

But they didn’t score and that soon loomed very large.

Brandon Saad put Chicago on the board 6:36 into the first and Patrick Kane scored 80 seconds later to make it 2-0, thus erasing the Caps’ strong start.

The goals have been hard to come by for the Caps so when they had the opportunity to take the early lead, they absolutely had to finish. They didn’t and the game got away from them as a result.

A bad play by Madison Bowey

Bowey will be cringing at the replay of the Saad goal for a while. Saad broke the puck out of the defensive zone and carried it into the neutral zone. Bowey had a bead on him until Saad cut to the center. Suddenly Bowey was caught flat footed. He reached for Saad with a weak stick check which Saad easily fought through with no real resistance and he was in on net. He finished the play with the game’s first goal.

 An own-goal

This was really the moment when you realized this was not going to be a good day for Washington.

Down 2-0, Brooks Orpik managed to sneak a softy through goalie Colin Delia to make it 2-1. Just 28 seconds later, however, bad luck struck the Caps yet again.

Dmitry Orlov and Jonathan Toews battled for the puck right in front of the crease and it bounced into he air. Orlov swiped at it with his glove to try to clear it from danger, but instead knocked it right over Holtby and into the net. The own goal made it 3-1 and signaled that Washington was in for a long day.

An ill-advised penalty

This game felt like it quickly was getting out of hand. Somehow, however, the Caps managed to keep things close. Dmitry Orlov snuck another squeaker through Delia in the second and John Carlson fired a one-timer early in the third to make the score 4-3. All of a sudden, the Caps had signs of life. With all the momentum on their side, however, Nicklas Backstrom was whistled for hooking Toews just 23 seconds later.

You could tell what was about to happen.

Sure enough, Kane scored 13 seconds into the power play to restore the Blackhawks’ two-goal lead.

The Toews hat trick

Once again, Washington tried to battle back. Matt Niskanen scored with just over six minutes remaining in the game, the fifth goal from a Caps’ defenseman, to pull the score to 6-5. Toews provided the coffin nail just over a minute later with an absolutely brutal play on Orlov.

Toews entered the offensive zone and Orlov took an awful approach. Toews finessed the puck right in front of Orlov which he should have been able to easily sweep away. Instead, he whiffed completely allowing Toews to regain the puck, step past Orlov and fired it under the pad and into the net.