Nationals

Meyer believes his 9-0 Buckeyes are special

Meyer believes his 9-0 Buckeyes are special

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Nine games and as many wins into his first season at Ohio State, Urban Meyer believes his Buckeyes are onto something.

``This is a special team. They're fighting for each other. It's a refuse-to-lose type atmosphere,'' he said on Monday. ``Some of us have seen teams that play really well, and they're blowing teams out all the time. We're not that type of team and I can give you 150 reasons why. However, we are a bunch of guys that work really hard, a blue-collar approach, that show up every (week) and want to get better. You don't want anything else as a coach.''

His sixth-ranked Buckeyes have won close games and routs, relied on their defense and on quarterback Braxton Miller. When the stars didn't come out, a no-name made a big play. Through it all, despite being within a whisper of losing at least a couple of times, they've persevered.

``I wish that everybody in the world could see the kind of camaraderie that we have between all of us. It's unbelievable,'' wide receiver Evan Spencer said. ``We haven't played perfect. And we haven't really played good at times. But at the end of the day we'd give our right arm for the guy next to us and that's what making us win.''

Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) came into this season in flux. The Buckeyes had a new coach who brought with him a new spread, hurry-up offense. The defense was basically the same as in years past, although it was thin in spots.

No one knew exactly what to expect since the Buckeyes were banned from going to a bowl game because of NCAA violations committed under 10-year coach Jim Tressel.

Without that big carrot at the end of the stick, what would they play for? With no possibility of a Bowl Championship Series berth, or even being listed in the BCS rankings, would the team lose focus and founder?

Instead, it has shown a certain resilience.

The Buckeyes trailed in the fourth quarter against California, but Miller found Devin Smith on a 72-yard scoring pass with 3:26 left to forge a narrow win. They were barely hanging on with 10 minutes left at home against lopsided underdog UAB, but the defense held and Miller scored on a short keeper for a 29-15 win. They went to No. 20 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener and made a narrow lead stand up in an 17-16 victory.

Indiana ran off 22 points in the fourth quarter and fell just short of catching Ohio State, 52-49. Then Purdue led by eight points with 47 seconds left but backup quarterback Kenny Guiton came on for an injured Miller to lead a gutty drive that forced overtime with 3 seconds left - with the Buckeyes going on to make all the big plays again for another close win.

``We find ways to win football games,'' defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said. ``We've got a bunch of guys that are believing in themselves.''

A case in point is Zach Boren, who became a regular at fullback and was midway through his senior season when several injuries led Meyer to ask him to move to fullback. He did. And the Buckeyes just kept on winning.

``We put in so much work during the offseason and became so close. Things were so hard and miserable at times that you just came together as a team,'' he said. ``Late in games when we're down, someone makes a play. We have that fighting mentality that great teams have. I don't know what it is. It's remarkable.''

Perhaps the bleakest time came early in the spring when the offense clearly didn't have a clue what it was doing. Meyer called it ``a clown show,'' with players running into each other, missed assignments and the ball frequently squirting loose.

The Buckeyes are a long way away from that.

``Where we were and how far we've come and how far we still have to go, it's a testament to just the commitment of a group of guys who just refuse to lose a game,'' wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. ``I wouldn't say we are an undefeated team that is sitting here just dominating people. It's more the chemistry and the guys involved are kind of pulling together to win because they don't want to let each other down.''

Ohio State has the inside track toward winning its division in the Big Ten, up by a game and a half with just three games remaining. After Saturday's home game against struggling Illinois, there's a bye week followed by a huge test at Wisconsin and the annual season-ending showdown at home with rival Michigan.

The Buckeyes know they can't play in the national championship game or impress voters with how they play in a bowl. They're still climbing the charts in the Associated Press Top 25, which unlike the coaches poll or BCS allows teams on NCAA probation to be ranked.

There's so little to play for - and yet so much.

``We feel that if we go 12-0, we're the best team in the country because no one beat us,'' defensive back and special-teams demon Adam Griffin said.

``Who's to say we aren't?''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights pushed their remarkable expansion season into the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight to become the first expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues -- when the six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West -- to get to the final.

Vegas will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals in the final. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference final 3-2, with Game 6 set for Monday night in Washington.

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

Reaves, the bruising Winnipeg native acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck for his first goal of the playoffs.

Winnipeg got a power play early in the third, but couldn't muster much of anything. The Knights smothered much of the Jets' attack for the next 10 minutes, with Hellebuyck having to come up with big stops on William Karlsson and Eric Haula to keep his team within one.

The Jets pressed with under 4 minutes to go, with Fleury stopping captain Blake Wheeler on the doorstep, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Knights closed out their third straight series on the road.

The Jets beat the Knights 4-2 in Game 1, but Vegas snatched home ice with a 3-1 victory in Game 2 before picking up 4-2 and 3-2 wins at T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included a Pacific Division crown, swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

The usual raucous, white-clad crowd at Bell MTS Place -- not to mention the thousands of fans outside the arena attending a street party on a sun-drenched spring afternoon -- were silenced just 5:11 into Game 5 when Tuch jumped on Morrissey's turnover and fired his sixth past Hellebuyck.

The Jets were tentative to start and it got worse after the opener as Vegas dominated the next couple of shifts, forcing some good saves from Hellebuyck before Winnipeg got its feet moving.

After being outshot 7-1 in the first 7 minutes, the Jets finally pushed back and turned the tide with the next nine attempts on goal, culminating with Morrissey making amends for his early gaffe with 2:46 left in the period.

Bryan Little won a faceoff in the offensive zone straight back to second-year defenseman, who blasted his first career playoff goal past Fleury's glove.

One of Winnipeg's downfalls in the series through four games was an inability to maintain momentum. The Knights scored within 1:28 of a Jets' goal in each of the first four games -- a crushing 12 seconds after Winnipeg tied Game 3, and an equally gut-wrenching 43 seconds after the Jets knotted Game 4 -- but they managed to take the game to the locker rooms tied 1-1.

Both teams had chances in the second period before Reaves made it 2-1, with Jets center Mathieu Perrault just missing on a pass from Little that had too much speed.

Right after Reaves scored the second playoff goal of his career -- and first since 2015 with St. Louis -- Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers rang a shot off the post on Fleury.

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