Redskins

LSU's defense to test Tajh Boyd, Clemson offense

LSU's defense to test Tajh Boyd, Clemson offense

ATLANTA (AP) Tajh Boyd said it.

So did his coach.

Monday night's Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU is a prime-time national stage for Boyd and Clemson's high-scoring offense.

His coaches and teammates see Boyd as the player destined to grab the bowl spotlight. The dual-threat quarterback led No. 14 Clemson (10-2) with 34 touchdown passes to tie Philip Rivers' Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record. He was honored as ACC player of the year.

A win over No. 9 LSU (10-2), one of the powerful Southeastern Conference's biggest names known for its strong defense, would be a big step for Boyd. It also could be the perfect setup for Clemson's 2013 season.

LSU ranks eighth in the nation in total defense and 11th in points allowed.

Boyd, a junior, could be playing his final college game. But he sounded as though he was making plans to return when he said this week the program ``is on the verge of something great'' and ``we want a national championship; it's in sight.''

Clemson needs to score 25 points against LSU to become the most prolific offense in ACC history. Boyd has led Clemson to 37 points or more in 10 of 12 games.

``We want to be the most explosive offense in the country,'' Boyd said. ``There's no better stage for that other than the one we're on right now, one of the best bowl games out there going against one of the best defenses.''

Clemson offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chad Morris also spoke of the game as a chance for the nation to witness Boyd's brilliance.

``It's the stage that he's been looking for, and you can't ask for anything better than this,'' Morris said.

There will be no other bowl competing for the nation's attention when the Tigers from the SEC and the Tigers from the ACC play in the Georgia Dome.

Clemson's regular season ended with a disappointing 27-17 loss to in-state rival South Carolina. Clemson averages 42.3 points, but Boyd was held to 183 yards passing with one touchdown.

Clemson is known for its passing game, but senior running back Andre Ellington topped 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season. Boyd had 492 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

The loss to South Carolina raised new questions about the ability of the spread offense to dominate outside the ACC. Clemson's second-lowest points total also came against a team from the SEC, a 26-19 opening win over Auburn in the Georgia Dome.

Boyd said the motivation is ``just going out there and proving what type of team we are.''

``You know, we are getting a chance to play against one of the best,'' he said. ``But for us, it's more about the competition, the nature of the business, the nature of the game and going out there and proving who is best out there. That's what we pride ourselves on.''

LSU will counter with a power offense. Zach Mettenberger had only 11 touchdown passes with six interceptions.

Freshman Jeremy Hill leads LSU's balanced running game with 631 yards and 10 touchdowns. Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware will share the carries.

While Mettenberger has not reached 300 yards passing this season, Boyd had more than 400 yards with five TD passes in wins over Wake Forest and N.C. State. Boyd passed for more than 400 yards in six games.

LSU coach Les Miles said his defense must mix its strategies against Boyd.

``There has to be a point in time where you keep him in the pocket and you play coverage and there's an opportunity to rush the passer with four guys,'' Miles said. ``I think anytime a quarterback can pull it down and go get yards, there's an added responsibility to those guys that are rushing the ball, rushing the passer. And so, again, it's something that you have to do with more than one strategy. You must rush the passer. You must contain him when you step back and let him throw it and to have coverage.''

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Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

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NBC Sports Washington

Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

I haven’t felt this way since my father passed last April. I’m not comparing the two, at all, but there were some similarities.

Rich Tandler had life experience. Few people accomplish what he did; total life reinvention. 

Think about that. 

After raising his two successful children and a lifetime in the restaurant business, Tandler created a blog. That blog became big enough to eventually become a full-time job, and over time, put him on television and send him all over the world. 

That’s wild. 

We get so caught up in the “startups” and “disruptors” from Silicon Valley that we missed a true internet success story in Rich Tandler. Our world has become extra cynical. The loudest snark wins, especially on the internet. 

Tandler didn’t trade in those currencies. 

He provided good, quality information. He provided insight and analysis from six decades of obsessing over a football team. 

And fans loved him for it. 

The outpouring from folks that read "Need to Know" or listened to the podcast has been incredible. I’ve been flooded with messages from people, and one overwhelming response is that while they didn’t really know Tandler, they feel like they did.

Well, I was lucky to know him pretty well. And his persona on air was the same way off air. 

Tandler helped me a in a lot of ways. I can be impulsive and have a temper, Tandler would calm me down. Whenever I had something important to say, news to break or a sharp angle of criticism, I would run it by Tandler first. Sometimes, maybe often, I would say too much, and he would reign me in. 

Tandler loved pointing out mistakes. If the universe gave honorary degrees for pointing out minor math errors in salary cap blog posts, Tandler would have a Ph.D. 

He was smart and he was sharp. Good natured but feisty. 

He could dish it out plenty in a media room full of alphas. And he literally dished it out; Tandler controlled all the plastic utensils and paper plates that every media member used at Redskins Park. When we were running low on forks, Tandler would put out some not too subtle calls to action. 

I think for a while he considered the podcast an annoyance, but somewhere along the way, we had a breakthrough. He realized its potential, and everywhere we went, listeners came up and told us how much they enjoyed it. 

That made an impact on RT. And seemingly overnight, he was all in. That’s when things really started to gain steam. Wherever I am in my career, Tandler played a huge role in it. 

But that kind of doesn’t matter now. We will keep the pod going but it will never be the same. Not better, not worse, but way, way different. Same thing with writing and TV. The show will go on, but it won't be the same. It will never be the same. 

In the hours since I learned of Tandler’s passing, I’ve done some reading. I drank a bunch. And I ended up landing on some YouTube videos. 

The one I kept going back to was Jimmy V’s famous ESPY speech. Before he died, Jimmy V implored us all to think, laugh and cry every day, and that would lead to a good, full life. 

If there was ever a dude that laughed, it was Rich Tandler. 

His belly laugh was contagious, and his wit was superior. There were the wacky Tandler’s Got Jokes, and the sly one liners about players, plays and our road antics. 

It wasn’t all laughter either. Tandler was smart as hell, and he was always thinking about new ways to present content for Redskins fans. 

Seriously, our organization employs an army of young and talented digital-first thinkers. And Tandler generated more web traffic than all of them. He constantly tried to figure out why people would read something, or the optimal time for us to drop a new podcast. 

Where I’m an idea guy, Tandler was all execution. I’m a terrible planner and constantly late. Tandler would be on time and busting my chops about our lack of schedule. It’s just how we operated. 

As for crying, Tandler didn't do it much. I did see him tear up from laughing a few times, and once because it was real windy when we were taping a segment and something got in his eye. 

I’m not much of a crier either. I’m glad that Jimmy V was, but it’s just not me. 

Thinking about Tandler though in the last 36 hours, there have been some truly hard moments. He was kind and gracious. A true gentleman. 

He never took personal shots at the team we cover, or their front office. Plenty do. He would certainly say when things were bad, and say it loudly. He was binary in a world full of context. 

He was a good dude. He was my coworker, my partner and my friend. 

And damn if it isn’t getting dusty in here all of a sudden. 

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."

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