Nationals

No. 5 Georgia adjusts to prepare for triple-option

No. 5 Georgia adjusts to prepare for triple-option

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) With an eye on the scoreboard and the BCS standings, No. 5 Georgia will step out of its normal routine for a couple of weeks to play a pair of throwback teams.

First up, small-college powerhouse Georgia Southern.

The Bulldogs, who have already locked up a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game, should have no trouble adding another win to their record on Saturday. Even so, this apparent mismatch could provide some useful guidance on how Georgia will handle its regular-season finale against another neighborhood rival, Georgia Tech.

The Eagles are coached by Jeff Monken, who used to be an assistant at Georgia Tech. Both teams have essentially the same run-oriented option offense, giving Georgia (9-1) a useful tuneup for next week's game against the Yellow Jackets.

``If you're going to play that type of offense twice in a season, it's probably better to do it back to back rather than in game four and game nine,' Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. ``You kind of go back and forth on a certain mentality, and if we can maintain the same mentality for two weeks in a row instead of having to go back and forth, it's probably not a bad thing.''

Linebacker Christian Robinson said it will be especially beneficial to work against Georgia Southern's cut blocking scheme, a potentially dangerous technique that involves hitting at the knees. The Bulldogs will certainly see more of that when they face Georgia Tech.

``It's a good thing the way this works out,'' Robinson said. ``A big thing for this week is that we're going to have to knock them back and then stay on your feet and make plays. Obviously we're going to go against cut blocks, so getting to play against it two weeks in a row will allow us to get better at playing against that block.''

Richt had been working hard to make sure his team doesn't look beyond these next two games, but that's going to be difficult. Georgia will be making its second straight trip to the SEC title game (and a likely meeting against No. 4 Alabama), and there's still an outside shot at slipping into the national championship race.

The Bulldogs are fifth in the BCS. They'll need to win out, pull for two of the undefeated teams to lose (from a group that includes No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 3 Notre Dame), and hope that's enough to land them a spot in Miami.

``I don't worry about it,'' Richt said. ``If you worry about stuff you can't control, you're really wasting your time and you're going to make yourself crazy a little bit.''

Besides, it's rather stunning that Georgia finds itself in this position at all, considering its one loss was a doozy - a 35-7 blowout at South Carolina. But a favorable schedule and a big win over Florida propelled the Bulldogs to another SEC East title.

Now, they've got a chance to sneak in the back door for a shot at the biggest prize at all.

``I haven't talked to (the players) about it,'' Richt said. ``We just talk about focusing on Georgia Southern. I don't know how often they look at that or think about that.''

Georgia Southern (8-2) claimed a share of the Southern Conference championship and will be doing some scoreboard-watching of its own. If The Citadel beats Furman, the Eagles will get the league's automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.

Monken hopes the triple-option gives his team at least a fighting chance against the Bulldogs.

``It really is a different brand of football in terms of the kinds of things defensive coaches are teaching their guys on a weekly basis in preparation for a more traditional offense,'' he told the Savannah Morning News. ``That gives a little bit of an advantage to teams that are running the option because it is so different.''

Georgia's defense, coming off its first shutout of Auburn since 1976, knows that it can't fall for all the chicanery the Eagles will try to pull with their fakes and misdirection. The coaches are always preaching about sticking to assignments and not trying to do too much, but that's especially important against the option.

``It's difficult, but at the same time it still helps you with the fundamentals of football,'' Robinson said. ``A lot of the time defending this style of offense comes down to the most basic fundamentals of football, of just being in position, making tackles, and knocking them back. That's how you defend this offense and that's how you win games.''

The Bulldogs will have to be especially mindful of Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon, who accounted for five touchdowns in last week's victory over Howard. He rushed for a career-high 198 yards and three touchdowns and threw two passes, as well.

Georgia Southern leads the FCS in rushing, averaging 401.2 yards per game, and will look to keep the ball away from Georgia's offense as much as possible. Because it's hard to see the Eagles doing much to slow the Bulldogs' potent attack.

Aaron Murray leads the SEC in passing efficiency, freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have combined for nearly 1,600 yards, and Georgia is averaging nearly 37 points a game.

Murray said the two freshmen, nicknamed ``Gurshall'' in tribute to former Georgia great Herschel Walker, have allowed the offense to flourish.

``We want to be balanced. They give us balance,'' Murray said. ``They can run the ball, eat up the clock, make big runs. It's unbelievable. It feels like the Oregon offense sometimes, how they break through with those big 40-, 50-, 60-, 70-yard touchdown runs.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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