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No. 5 West Virginia to test Texas Tech's defense

No. 5 West Virginia to test Texas Tech's defense

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) Dana Holgorsen won't be nostalgic Saturday when he brings his No. 5 Mountaineers to Texas Tech, where he and Mike Leach drove opponents batty with their dizzying pass-heavy offense.

``All those feelings and emotions have gone away a long time ago,'' the Mountaineers second-year coach said of his eight years in Lubbock. ``I'm not going to think twice about it.''

Holgorsen's thoughts will be on how to keep his Mountaineers unbeaten as they try to stay in the hunt for the Big 12 title in their first year in the conference. Much of that will depend on the performance of quarterback Geno Smith, who comes into the game with 24 touchdowns, 1,996 yards and no interceptions. He's completed 81 percent of his 204 pass attempts this season.

West Virginia (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) got out of Austin last week with a 48-45 victory over Texas, with Smith throwing for 268 yards and four touchdowns. The Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1) are hoping to rebound after falling 41-20 to Oklahoma in a game that saw quarterback Seth Doege throw three interceptions.

Smith and one of his favorite receivers, Tavon Austin, make West Virginia's offense look a little like backyard football, said D.J. Johnson, a safety on Texas Tech's top-ranked pass defense.

``They really understand each other as far as receiver-quarterback,'' the senior said. ``So what we're really going to have to do is make them eliminate his key receivers and make him take more time to really figure out what he's going to have to do. So take away those first reads, those initial reads, and give our D-line and linebackers time to get there and make plays.''

Smith holds the Red Raiders' defense in high regard and knows the crowd will be as boisterous or more than last weekend's in Austin.

``They really make things complex with the way they react to the ball,'' the 6-foot-3 senior said of Texas Tech's defense. ``They do a great job of reading the quarterback's eyes and reacting to the ball.''

Red Raiders defenders can't focus solely on Smith. Mountaineers running back Andrew Buie gained 207 yards on 31 carries and added 66 passing yards against Texas.

Holgorsen said Buie is handling his duties well.

``The concern is the wear and tear,'' Holgorsen said. ``He carried it 31 times, and he got hit 31 times. He blocks, which is hard, and he runs routes, which is taxing. The wear and tear is something to be concerned with, which is why we need to get Dustin (Garrison) healthy and Shawne (Alston) healthy.

Alston injured his right thigh earlier this season and Garrison has eight carries for 42 yards this year after having knee surgery during the offseason.

Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville knows the defense will have its hands full with Buie.

``They've got a very good running back that is kind of a dual-threat that you don't normally see on a team that has that much speed at wide receiver,'' he said. ``They're hitting on all cylinders.''

Texas Tech's offense hasn't clicked the past two weeks like it had against lesser opponents earlier this season. Accuracy was lacking from Doege, who didn't throw a TD pass against Oklahoma and has five interceptions the past two weeks. That's half the number he had all last season.

Doege is the first to say he's got to step it up Saturday to keep pace with the Mountaineers, who are averaging 52 points a game.

``We need to be a threat every single time we step out on to the field, regardless of the score, regardless the time of the game,'' he said. ``It's not realistic that you're going to score every time you have it, but that's the mindset we have.''

Holgorsen said he's trying to downplay Smith's interception streak.

``We talk about completions and putting the ball where you need to put the ball,'' Holgorsen said. "When the ball is in the air, it's up to the receiver to attack it and makes sure it is ours.''

Tuberville, who earlier this year said West Virginia would be the front-runner to win the Big 12, wants his team on Saturday to return to the attitude it had at the beginning of the season.

``We've got to have fun,'' he said. ``Because once you start losing the fun attitude, it gets a lot more difficult.''

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MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

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USA Today Sports

MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

A sea of red and white Nationals jerseys flooded toward the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. But there wasn’t a Bryce Harper signing. And there wasn’t even a game. The Nationals are in New York to play the Mets. 

Then, as I turned and walked down the street I began to see random jerseys: Phillies, Yankees, Astros and Mets, among others.

It all clicked.

Ah, yes, the MLB All-Star weekend and its annual FanFest

As I walked inside the building and looked around, there was everything from memorabilia to interactive games like a speed gun, home run derby and more. 

MLB fans filled the building and the once-sea of red and white thinned out into a blob of colors. Fans from all different teams came out for the weekend’s festivities.

This left me curious: Could I find a jersey for every MLB team?

It was easy to find the big name teams. Going down the escalator, I was hit with a couple Jacob deGrom jerseys and a Carlos Correa one, as well. 

Mets, check. Astros, check.

A right turn and there was an Aaron Nola jersey, the All-Star phenom who surprised this year for the first-place Phillies. Check.

The Yankees and Red Sox weren’t far behind. 

As the day went on, my notepad of teams kept getting crossed off. The National League Central was the first division to go, and the American League Central followed suit. Surprisngly, it took me a couple hours — of course, I wasn't searching the whole time — to find the Marlins. Every other NL East team was easy.

Three hours later, I had found all but five teams: Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels. 

I decided to take another lap before I left. And standing, right by the stolen base activity, stood a man in a Randy Johnson throwback Diamondbacks jersey. 

We both look at the kids running down the line toward the base before a purple jersey caught my eye. It was another kid, waiting in line, wearing a Nolan Arenado jersey.

That left me with just three more teams. As I headed toward the exit, I was shocked I had not seen a Mike Trout jersey. One of the greatest players in modern baseball and not one Angels fan.

Then a co-worker pointed toward the MLB shop area. Finally, a Trout jersey. And then I turned around to grab my backpack and notebook. Another Trout jersey. Weird. I crossed off the name and looked up. Another Angels jersey. OK, enough. 

With just two more jerseys left and me being the stubborn person I am, I walked around the FanFest for another 20 minutes, looking for that green A’s jersey, or dark blue Rays one. 

Then, I finally found Stomper, the Athletics mascot taking photos with kids. On him was an A’s jersey — ironic, right? 

After about 10 more minutes I gave up. There were no Rays jerseys. The best I could do was a Tampa Bay tank top a woman was wearing while her kids played. But, that doesn’t count. We’re looking for jerseys.

Oh, and here are other sports apparel that I saw before that non-existent Rays jersey.

  • Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan t-shirt
  • San Francisco 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo jersey 
  • A Texas Longhorns athletic shirt
  • France soccer jersey
  • Philadelphia 76ers shirt
  • Montreal Expos Vlad Guerrero jersey
  • Oakland Raiders Bo Jackson jersey
  • Golden State Warriors Steph Curry jersey
  • DC United Wayne Rooney jersey

And so, the search for a Rays jersey continues. 

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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