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LSU's pass D braces for challenge from Clemson

LSU's pass D braces for challenge from Clemson

ATLANTA (AP) The most obvious matchup of strengths Monday night in the Chick-fil-A Bowl will be Clemson's high-scoring spread offense against Louisiana State's defense.

``These guys are top 10 in defense,'' Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. ``We're top 10 in offense. So it's pretty easy to get excited about that.''

A closer look shows No. 9 LSU's pass defense hasn't been so stingy lately.

LSU gave up more than 300 yards passing in three straight wins over Mississippi State, Mississippi and Arkansas to close the regular season. That sets the stage for a tougher test against Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.

LSU began November ranked fourth nationally against the pass. It has dropped to 11th - still a strong ranking. The exposed late-season vulnerability against the pass will be tested by No. 14 Clemson, which ranks sixth in scoring with 42.3 points per game.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis said Clemson has a ``very, very talented offense.''

``I certainly would rank it as high as any offense we've faced,'' Chavis said Saturday.

Chavis has plugged holes to have LSU eighth in the nation in total defense and 11th with its average of 16.9 points per game.

Defense was the strength for the 2011 LSU team that played for the national championship. Then cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive tackle Michael Brockers were selected in the first round of the NFL draft, while safety Brandon Taylor went in the third.

An unexpected loss followed when star cornerback and return specialist Tyrann Mathieu, a 2011 Heisman finalist, was dismissed from the team.

Suddenly, LSU was forced to start freshman Jalen Mills at cornerback. A redshirt freshman, Jalen Collins, joins the defensive backfield on passing downs. Each has two interceptions.

Junior safety Eric Reid said Mills and Collins are young ``but very talented.''

``I have seen them develop and tried to help coach them,'' Reid said. ``They've come a long way. They're two guys we'll rely heavily on in the game. They'll play some very good receivers. I'm confident in them. I think they're going to do their job very well. And hopefully they can get some turnovers for us.''

Hopkins and Watkins combined for 126 receptions for 1,922 yards and 19 touchdowns, including 16 by Hopkins. Watkins was suspended for the first two games and missed another game with a sickness.

Watkins, a first-team All-America as a freshman in 2011, has had a decline in production this season but could be poised for a big bowl game.

``We expect Sammy to be Sammy,'' Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Saturday. ``We need him to play well and we're going to turn him loose.''

LSU already has proved it can beat a similarly talented quarterback and offense. The Tigers beat Texas A&M 24-19 on Oct. 20 while holding Johnny Manziel, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, to 23 yards rushing and 276 yards passing with three interceptions and no touchdowns.

LSU linebacker Kevin Minter said Boyd ``may have a better arm, a little more accurate'' than Manziel.

``Other than that they're pretty much the same,'' Minter said.

LSU can't expect Clemson to play a one-dimensional game on offense. Senior Andre Ellington has 1,031 yards rushing with eight touchdowns. Boyd, a dual-threat quarterback, leads Clemson with nine rushing touchdowns and has almost 500 yards rushing.

``It's a great challenge anytime you play that kind of attack,'' LSU coach Les Miles said. ``A quarterback that can throw and very, very explosive receivers. You have to handle it in a variety of ways. Certainly changing coverages and an opportunity to rush the passer.''

Added Miles: ``We enjoy the matchup.''

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

WASHINGTON -- Presented with identical opportunities to ring up a big inning, the Washington Nationals took full advantage and Baltimore Orioles squandered the chance.

That goes a long way toward explaining why the Nationals are a contender and the Orioles own the worst record in the big leagues.

Trea Turner went 4 for 4 with a homer , Anthony Rendon drove in three runs and Washington extended its recent domination of the Orioles with a 9-7 victory Tuesday night.

The game was essentially decided in the fifth inning, which began with Baltimore leading 4-1.

In the top half, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs and scored only one run -- when Manny Machado hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Washington loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half and batted around, scoring four runs on four hits and a pair of walks. Adam Eaton contributed a two-run single, Rendon hit a sacrifice fly and Bryce Harper chased starter David Hess with an RBI double.

"They did a lot better job cashing in their bases loaded, nobody out situation than we did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter conceded.

For the game, Baltimore was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals were 5 for 10.

"This team is starting to become relentless," manager Dave Martinez said. "They kept pounding and pounding and pounding, had a couple of big innings there and scored some runs."

The Nationals trailed 6-5 before getting six hits in a four-run seventh. Rendon delivered a two-run double off Tanner Scott (0-1) that made it 7-6, and Turner capped his four-hit night with a double.

Both teams noted that more than a couple of Washington's hits were bloopers and seeing-eye grounders, but the Nationals certainly weren't about to apologize.

"I feel like all year we've been hitting balls right at people," Turner said, "so it's nice to get a bunch of those in one game and come out with a win."

Washington has won six straight over its neighboring interleague rival, including four games this season by a combined 20-8.

Pitching in his second big league game, Nationals starter Jefry Rodriguez gave up five runs, four hits and four walks in five innings.

Justin Miller (5-0) pitched two innings of relief, newcomer Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect eighth and Sean Doolittle gave up a solo home run to Joey Rickard while earning his 19th save.

Jace Peterson and Trey Mancini each hit two-run homers for the Orioles, who have lost 16 of 19.

This one can be blamed on an all-too-telling fifth inning.

"It's just one of those things where if they got hits they seemed to have found holes," Showalter said. "They hit some balls hard, too."

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