Capitals

Mizzou's Murphy already has record for KR scores

201210271444530443087-p2.jpeg

Mizzou's Murphy already has record for KR scores

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) In a season filled with as many negatives as positives, Missouri knows it has an equalizer in Marcus Murphy.

``Every time you see `Murph' out there, everyone goes crazy,'' receiver Marcus Lucas said. ``Everyone stands up, and everyone's into it.''

For good reason.

Murphy's four kick returns for touchdowns are a school record, one he needed only seven games to set.

He leads the nation with three punt returns and ranks 10th with an average of 15.4 yards per return. His kickoff return average of 31.4 yards would rank sixth in the country, though he hasn't returned enough kickoffs to officially qualify.

With Missouri (4-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) gaining its fewest yards per game since 1995, Murphy's breakout performance couldn't come at a better time for the Tigers. Establishing field position has been critical, and Murphy likely will be counted on again as the team travels to face No. 8 Florida (7-1, 6-1) and its sixth-ranked defense.

``It's great to have a player like that back there that can touch the football and change the game,'' coach Gary Pinkel said. ``Just give him some space, and he can make people miss. ``

Murphy's latest touchdown on special teams came on a 98-yard kickoff return against No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 13 immediately following a lightning delay. Though the Tigers lost 42-10, offensive coordinator Dave Yost credited Murphy's return for energizing the team after it fell behind 28-0 midway through the second quarter. Including Murphy's return, Missouri outscored the Tide 10-7 for two quarters.

``That's a big spark, most of our production on offense,'' defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said.

Success hasn't always been easy to maintain for Murphy. After returning kicks during his freshman year, he missed the 2011 season recovering from a torn labrum. In addition to returning punts this year, he performed well enough to regain the primary kick returner job after playing Alabama, but promptly fumbled twice on special teams in his next game against Kentucky. He also fumbled as a tailback against the Tide.

Wind affected the first punt, resulting in Murphy diving forward for a ball he couldn't corral. The second was right to him, but he lost focus, thinking about his return before actually catching the ball.

``The more playing time you get, the more mistakes you'll make,'' Murphy said. ``So you can just learn from that time, just go out and play the best you can, even after you make the mistakes.''

The redshirt sophomore says doubt can enter the equation, but the team has a ``5-second rule'' to try to prevent that from happening. Still, even after scoring his first offensive touchdown of the season later in the game, he said the drops bothered him.

In addition to fielding punts and kickoffs, Murphy is the backup tailback. With only four carries in his previous four games, he rushed a season-high eight times against Kentucky for 43 yards. Yost said the team is hoping to give Murphy more touches, but it's been difficult given how few plays the offense has been able to run.

``It's just a part of the game plan,'' Murphy said. ``If I get more touches, that's how it goes. But I'm just going to try to focus on making plays whenever I get the ball.''

Murphy's 9-yard scamper into the end zone showed how valuable the 5-foot-9, 185-pound tailback can be as he made two cutbacks in a display of speed and misdirection.

``That's just him,'' tailbacks coach Brian Jones said. ``It's just something that when you're out there and you're in the heat of the battle, it's an instinct. He just finds things and makes things happen and does a great job with it.''

Quick Links

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

usatsi_10028482.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

Quick Links

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

capitalsville-stanley-cup-lovettsville.jpg
FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS: