NCAA

Injuries test No. 1 Ducks' defense

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Injuries test No. 1 Ducks' defense

The Oregon Ducks rarely, if ever, talk about injuries - even season-ending ones.

So it's hard to say how depleted the AP's No. 1 team is going into Saturday's game against No. 14 Stanford. But it's clear the Ducks have taken a hit, especially on defense.

The latest casualty is free safety Avery Patterson, who seriously injured his left knee in the second quarter of Oregon's 59-17 victory at California last Saturday night.

Patterson was seen on the sidelines on crutches and in sweats following the game. Although there was no official word from the program, The Oregonian newspaper cited an unnamed source as saying Patterson was out for the season.

Patterson had taken over as starter for senior John Boyett, who was hurt early this season. Boyett played in the opener against Arkansas State, but was in street clothes the next week. Later he revealed to his hometown newspaper that he needed surgery to repair the patellar tendons in both knees. While the Ducks never formally announced Boyett's injury, it ended his career at Oregon.

Sophomore James Scales replaced Patterson against Cal. Senior defensive linemen Dion Jordan (right shoulder) Isaac Remington (foot) and Ricky Heimuli (right knee) were dressed on the sidelines in Berkeley but did not play. As a result, the Ducks relied at times on three true freshmen - Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci - on the defensive line.

Starting nose guard Wade Keliikipi never made the trip to Strawberry Canyon because of an undisclosed injury and was seen using crutches on Monday. Defensive end Taylor Hart also hurt an ankle or foot against Cal and wore a boot.

The injuries tested coach Chip Kelly's ``next man in'' philosophy.

``It's part of college football,'' Kelly said. ``Can you handle it, or can you not handle it?''

The Ducks were already hurting in the secondary with sophomore backup cornerbacks Dior Mathis and Troy Hill absent against Cal for unclear reasons. The situation has become so serious that there was speculation this week that the Ducks might use wide receiver Keanon Lowe or even multi-purpose back De'Anthony Thomas on defense.

The move comes after USC used dynamic wide receiver Marqise Lee on defense for a few snaps against Arizona State last weekend, and Washington played receiver Austin Seferian-Jenkins on defense against Utah.

Lowe played at safety at Jesuit High School in Portland, and came to Oregon, in part, because he wanted to play offense. Thomas played on both sides of the ball at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles.

``We're getting thinner, but we'll find a way to make it work,'' defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said without naming names.

The Ducks already moved redshirt freshman Koa Ka'ai, who had played at tight end this season, back to defensive end, which he played in high school.

The bright side in all of this for the Ducks is that even though they've had injuries, their backups - and even third stringers - have had plenty of work this season. In addition to Oregon's practice of heavy player rotation on defense to wear down opponents, the Ducks often sat their starters after building up big leads against opponents this season.

``(That's) kind of the byproduct of winning some of those games early, getting a lot of those guys reps,'' Kelly said. ``It wasn't like you turned around and said, `Hey, you guys gotta play.' They'd been in games before and they had an understanding, and we had an opportunity to correct mistakes.''

Against the Golden Bears, the injuries were not limited to the defense. There were two major scares on offense.

Senior running back Kenjon Barner left the game briefly during the first quarter after an apparent injury to his right thumb. Barner, the nation's fourth-leading rusher with an average of 136 yards a game, finished with 65 yards rushing at Cal.

And quarterback Marcus Mariota also left the game after a hard fall injured his left shoulder late in the first half, but returned and finished with 377 yards passing and six touchdowns.

Barner and Mariota say they're fine for Saturday's game against Stanford.

Cardinal coach David Shaw said Oregon is going to be tough no matter who they have on the field.

``Those guys are good football players. Everybody that they put in knows their scheme. They still play fast, they still play physical and they get after you.

``As a college football fan, I was saddened to see when the quarterback got hurt against Cal. I was hoping that he'd take about 10 days to nurse that injury,'' Shaw added with a laugh. ``But he popped back in there and only threw four touchdown passes after he got hurt.''

Pittsburgh at Wake Forest How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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Pittsburgh at Wake Forest How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Pittsburgh Panthers are gelling as a football team, winning three straight games heading into this weekend. Pitt is now 5-1 in the ACC this season, and they currently sit atop the standings in the Coastal Division.

They'll be looking to make it four in a row by beating the Demon Deacons, who are 2-4 in  conference play and 5-5 overall. Wake Forest won their first two games of the year, and have gone 3-5 since, though they are coming off a strong 27-23 victory at 14th-ranked NC State last week.

Still, Pitt is favored by 6.5 points. A win today would help the Panthers maintain control of their own destiny within the ACC Coastal.

Here's how to watch.

PITT PANTHERS vs. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS: HOW TO WATCH

What: Unviersity of Pittsburgh Cavaliers at Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Where: BB&T Field, located in Winston Salem, NC.

When: Saturday, November 17 at 12 p.m. EST

TV Channel: The Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

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Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

Tom Wilson does the little things in Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win at Colorado

To call it a hit is generous. To call it a huge play is accurate. 

Capitals forward Tom Wilson backed into a loose puck along the boards in the defensive zone of Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. He waited for a hit sure to come from behind. 

Colin Wilson, the Avalanche center, moved in to dislodge the puck. Instead he got dislodged from gravity. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tom Wilson, barely moving and braced for contact, used his own leverage to launch Colin Wilson into the air, arms and legs akimbo. 

By the time Colin Wilson crashed to the ice, Tom Wilson had chipped a blind backhand pass to center ice, where Alex Ovechkin stopped it with his skate, dropped it to teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who gave it back as they entered the offensive zone. Ovechkin crossed from left to right and ripped a shot past former teammate Philipp Grubauer in goal for Colorado. 

It was a wonderful pass from Backstrom, who put the Avalanche on their heels. Ovechkin’s shot was a bullet that left little chance for Grubauer. But make no mistake – it all started with Wilson, who was prepared to take a hit to make a play. It is those little things that the Capitals missed during Wilson’s 16-game suspension by the NHL. It was the little things that helped them to a 3-2 overtime victory.  

“[Wilson] brings so much energy to this group,” Backstrom said. “He’s everywhere out there. That’s what we need. He’s playing PK, he’s playing power plays, he’s doing everything. He’s a valuable guy in this group so we’re happy to have him back.”

The game-winning goal in overtime by Backstrom was a perfect example. Wilson took a drop pass from defenseman John Carlson 12 seconds into overtime with Washington on a 4-on-3 power play. That’s when he went to work. 

For six seconds Wilson and Avalanche center Carl Soderberg did battle along the right boards high in the offensive zone. Just as Wilson was knocked to the ice, he slipped a pass back to Backstrom alone at the point. 

With Soderberg on top of him and both out of the play, Wilson watched Backstrom take advantage of the extra space in what effectively became a 3-on-2. He passed to Carlson in the right faceoff circle and then got the puck back in the high slot and beat Grubauer blocker side for the win. That doesn’t happen without Wilson. 

“When you’re playing with good players, you just try and keep it simple, win your battles and they’ll do the rest,” Wilson said. “And that’s exactly what happened on both those plays. At the end there, I thought about throwing it across the ice a couple times, but I’m not that comfortable out there yet so just kind of ragged on the wall and waited. Nicky got open for me and made it easy, I just threw it over to him and it was in the back of the net.”  

The Ovechkin goal put Washington ahead 2-1 at 18:29 of the second period. The Backstrom winner came 22 seconds into overtime. Wilson, in his third game back after his original 20-game suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator, played a career-high 24 minutes, 24 seconds. He moved to the power play for 4:19 with T.J. Oshie out with an upper-body injury and contributed 1:35 on the penalty kill – a little less than usual. 

Wilson played on the PK for 5:23 in his first game back Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. He scored a goal in that game, too, by driving the net hard and has been a jolt of energy for a team that was scuffling coming into a difficult four-game road trip. The Capitals are 2-1-0 with one game left Monday at the Montreal Canadiens. 
 
“Tom is one of those guys that was vocal in our room, vocal on the bench that we’re fully in control of that game still even though we gave up the late goal,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “But that’s a tough start [after the suspension], three in four, and then add in the altitude and the minutes that we’re counting on him playing because they aren’t easy minutes. And then obviously having to chase around that top line tonight from Colorado is no easy task. Just really happy with the fact that we got him back a little earlier than was originally set up for us. It’s been a good bounce for our team.” 

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