Capitals

No. 22 Cowboys drop Bedlam 51-48 in overtime

201211241413512142048-p2.jpeg

No. 22 Cowboys drop Bedlam 51-48 in overtime

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) The combination of a Bedlam win and the program's first Big 12 championship produced pure elation for Oklahoma State a year ago.

Coach Mike Gundy and his Cowboys had the opposite feeling in the rematch.

Landry Jones threw for 500 yards and three touchdowns and Brennan Clay scored on an 18-yard run in overtime to lift No. 14 Oklahoma to a 51-48 win against No. 22 Oklahoma State in the Bedlam rivalry on Saturday.

The Cowboys (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) never trailed until the final, heart-wrenching play and couldn't hold double-digit leads in either half.

``I don't think there's any question there's a lot of disappointment in the locker room,'' Gundy said. ``I'm very disappointed that we weren't able to finish. We certainly made enough plays to win the game today.''

The Sooners (9-2, 7-1) just made one more. In a reversal of last season's postgame scene - when Oklahoma State fans flooded the field and tore down the goalposts - Oklahoma players had the home-field celebration after mobbing Clay in the south end zone.

The Cowboys could only trudge off, needing to get past their rivals to get back to the locker room.

``The truth is the better your program gets, the more success you have and the more highly regarded you are, the harder it is to lose,'' Gundy said.

``In a World Series, a Super Bowl or a state championship game when you lose it's a crushing blow. And the only reason is because you've taken it to another level. For the most part, this program's at a different level.''

The victory kept alive Oklahoma's chances for at least a share of the Big 12 championship, and eliminated Oklahoma State's chances of splitting the crown. The Sooners could win it outright by beating TCU next week if No. 7 Kansas State loses to Texas.

Joseph Randle ran for 113 yards and matched his career-high with four touchdowns for Oklahoma State, which settled for Quinn Sharp's 26-yard field goal in overtime.

On the Sooners' second play in overtime, Clay got through traffic at the line of scrimmage and then broke through attempted tackles by Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary to score the game-winner.

It was the final home game for Jones, who has won more games at Oklahoma than any quarterback.

``No better way,'' Jones said. ``God blessed me so much tonight to be able to go out like this.

``There's no better way to go out.''

With his second straight 500-yard passing game, Jones surpassed Texas Tech's Graham Harrell to become the Big 12's career passing leader. He also became the first Bowl Subdivision quarterback ever to throw for 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns in four seasons.

He led Oklahoma's first fourth-quarter comeback victory in five years a week earlier, beating West Virginia 50-49 on a pass to Kenny Stills with 24 seconds left, and directed the first 16 plays of the game-tying drive in this one.

Backup quarterback Blake Bell tied it with 4 seconds left on a 4-yard keeper on fourth-and-1 in Oklahoma's short-yardage ``Belldozer'' package.

``Football's a crazy game,'' Jones said. ``There's up sand downs, good and bad. You have to stay somewhere in that middle ground, realizing who you are and what you're capable of and what type of offense you are.

``When you need a play, just go out and make it.''

Jones finished 46 of 71, both school records, with one interception.

Clint Chelf threw for 240 yards with one touchdown and one interception and also ran for 63 yards for the Cowboys, who were trying to win on Owen Field for only the ninth time but couldn't protect an early 14-0 lead or an 11-point edge in the second half.

``There were a lot of big plays. You know there's going to be ups and downs throughout the game, so we were prepared for that,'' Chelf said. ``We just tried to answer every time they did something and they just made one more play than us.''

Jalen Saunders tied it at 38 on the second play of the fourth quarter, dodging three early tackles and racing 81 yards up the Sooners' sideline to score on a punt return.

Oklahoma State answered two possessions later, going 77 yards and taking a 45-38 lead on J.W. Walsh's 2-yard keeper with 10:41 remaining. The Cowboys sacked Jones on third down and forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to get the ball back with 7:07 to play, but went three-and-out to give it right back and set up Oklahoma's tying drive.

``It's definitely very hard on us,'' Oklahoma State defensive lineman Nigel Nicholas said. ``I felt like we could come in here and beat any team in the country. Anytime you lose, especially to our rivals, it's a bad feeling.''

Quick Links

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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: