No. 19 Stanford tries to stay focused vs Wash. St.


No. 19 Stanford tries to stay focused vs Wash. St.

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) A power running game and a dominant defense against an Air Raid offense that has yet to take flight.

The styles of Stanford and Washington State couldn't be more different. As of now, neither are their places in the Pac-12 North Division race.

The No. 19 Cardinal (5-2, 3-1) look to stay in control of their league title hopes when they host the Cougars on Saturday, beginning two straight games against far inferior opponents than they've faced in recent weeks. Washington State (2-5, 0-4) is still winless in Pac-12 play under new coach Mike Leach and has four lousy losses in a row.

With no margin for error in the conference, that's all the motivation Stanford needs starting a stretch against cellar dwellers Washington State and Colorado (1-6, 1-3) before matchups with seventh-ranked Oregon State and at No. 2 Oregon.

``We're still able to meet all our goals,'' Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes said. ``We just need to keep winning. Every game is going to be a big game from here on out.''

If Stanford sought anything extra to stay focused, all it has to do is look at how the team fared against a similar spread offense last time.

The Cardinal defense has been dominant for all but one game this season: a 54-48 overtime victory against Arizona on Oct. 6, when Nunes rallied Stanford from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter. They allowed 617 total yards - including 491 yards passing - against Rich Rodriguez's aerial offense and struggled to keep up with the fast pace.

The offense still has been mistake-prone, too.

Stanford's 21-3 win at rival California last week could have been - and perhaps should have been - even more one-sided after the Cardinal outrushed the Golden Bears 252 to 3 yards. Nunes threw an interception and lost a fumble, and Jordan Williamson missed two field goals.

``We're not nearly as good as we can be,'' Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt said. ``That alone is what should drive us. We haven't put together a game that's even close to four quarters of good football.''

The Cougars have not been good for most of the season.

At one point, Leach likened his seniors to an ``empty corpse.'' He saw an improved attitude in a 31-17 home loss to Cal two weeks ago, saying ``we weren't very corpselike on the sideline.''

Coming off a bye and getting ready to play in Silicon Valley, the never-afraid-to-say-anything Leach even banned his players from posting on Twitter. He declined to say what prompted the decision.

For a team that relies so heavily on the pass, there still is not a clear-cut choice at starting quarterback either.

Jeff Tuel is back on top in a competition that seems to change by the possession. Leach had settled on Connor Halliday as the starting quarterback the past five games until the sophomore threw two first-quarter interceptions in a 31-17 home loss to Cal and got benched.

Tuel entered the game and threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns. He took the majority of snaps with the first-team offense in practice and is expected to start at Stanford Stadium, where the Cardinal have won six straight and 17 of the last 18 games.

``We're not very consistent,'' Leach said. ``We need to get good everywhere. I don't think it's any one thing. It's a combination of not being as sharp or experienced as we could be in a number of positions.''

Stanford coach David Shaw praised Leach and Rodriguez for their innovative offenses when they first joined the Pac-12 this season.

After what Rodriguez's Arizona team did during Stanford's last home game, Shaw only has more respect for Leach's schemes. The architect of the Air Raid at Texas Tech just hasn't had the same consistent production at Washington State.

``They've had some spots where they are just dynamic,'' Shaw said.

He especially attributed those bursts to wide receiver Marquess Wilson, who has 38 receptions for 640 yards and five touchdowns. If nothing else, Wilson's athleticism has the Cardinal cornerbacks wary of Washington State's capabilities.

``He's a pretty good receiver. He has great ball skills and he'll go up and get the ball and he also has some speed,'' said freshman cornerback Alex Carter, who is expected to make his second collegiate start. ``You have to be careful.''


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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper


3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 


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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson


Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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