Ravens

No. 8 Gophers will get big test on road this week

201301062018731152816-p2.jpeg

No. 8 Gophers will get big test on road this week

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) This is one of those weeks in the season that will reveal a lot about Minnesota.

The Gophers have surged to a 14-1 start and a No. 8 ranking, with a loss to No. 1 Duke their only setback. But after winning their first two Big Ten games at home, they must play at No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday and No. 5 Indiana on Saturday.

``I think we'll be ready,'' said junior Austin Hollins, who swished five 3-pointers in a second-half stretch of 3 1/2 minutes Sunday against Northwestern.

After that game, coach Tubby Smith was asked if he anticipating learning more about his team in these challenging matchups with the Illini and the Hoosiers. He tried to downplay the significance of the games.

``I'm finding something out every day in practice. Every moment there's something new about this group,'' Smith said.

Following practice on Tuesday, Smith shrugged off again the magnitude of the trip.

``Well, every game is important now, whether it's for the development of the program, development of players or just keeping the momentum we have going,'' he said.

After this, the Gophers have a game against No. 2 Michigan waiting for them at home on Jan. 17. The reality of the top-heavy conference this season, perhaps even more than usual, is that there will be many weeks just like this.

``Just got to take care of home court and hopefully steal a couple on the road,'' said senior Trevor Mbakwe, offering a simple but proven plan for Big Ten success.

Keeping up their intense defense is the best way the Gophers can get through these daunting opponents with a glistening record still intact. They're fourth in the conference in both points per game (59.2) and field goal percentage (38.1) allowed, second in rebounding margin (plus-11.1 per game) and first in both steals (9.9) and blocks (6.7) per game.

Wildcats coach Bill Carmody noted an improvement after Sunday's 69-51 win by the Gophers.

``They are guarding, not just going for steals where maybe in the past they've done that a little bit and it opened up some things,'' Carmody said. ``It's more substantial this year that I've seen on the tape. Tough. And if they do go for steals, they've got some of those guys in back that block shots or at least contest shots so you miss.''

The Gophers lost their Big Ten opener last season at Illinois in double overtime, one of many winnable games they let get away at the end on their way to a second consecutive 6-12 finish in the conference.

This will be a stark contrast from Northwestern, which tried to drag the pace of the game to a crawl and rely on that 1-3-1 zone defense and Princeton-style, deliberate offense to fluster the Gophers. After a rough first half, they found their groove. The Illini, instead, will try to run as many fast breaks as they can and hoist an equally unhesitant barrage of 3-pointers.

That makes, for Minnesota, a repeat of the sharpshooting performance on Sunday by Hollins (or someone else) more critical.

``If you can shoot the ball well, you can win a lot of games,'' Smith said. ``That solves a lot of problems.''

Depth does, too, and the Gophers are counting more contribution from sophomore center Mo Walker and freshman guard Wally Ellenson. Smith said Walker is getting healthier (referring to his problematic shoulder) and lighter (referring to his hard-to-control weight). He also said Ellenson has done well considering the time he lost to a broken hand earlier this season.

``Right now it's tough to get playing time. That's what he's been told from the beginning,'' Smith said. ``So hopefully he'll stay focused, and we'll find opportunities for him to contribute and stay positive, because he can help us.''

---

Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

Quick Links

John Harbaugh talks Lamar Jackson and everything else that impressed him in 23-17 win

harbaugh-chiefs-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

John Harbaugh talks Lamar Jackson and everything else that impressed him in 23-17 win

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The 'easy' part of the Ravens schedule is over. 

They faced a team widely projected to have the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in week one and faced the team that had the No. 1 pick in 2019 in Week 2. 

The Ravens got out of those two games at 2-0. But now, the true test of the season will happen as the Ravens head to Kansas City to face the also undefeated Chiefs. 

Ahead of one of the biggest games in the young NFL season, the Ravens have reason to feel good about how they’ve started, but also know what’s around the corner.

Here are a few things that stood out about Harbaugh’s press conference:

Lamar’s Stellar Sunday

Lamar Jackson may not have thought he had a strong day. But the statistics say otherwise. 

He finished with 272 yards passing and two touchdowns. He added 120 yards on the ground, finishing as the Ravens' leading rusher as well. He was the first player in NFL history to post those numbers in the same game. 

The Ravens also went 7-of-14 on third down, something Harbaugh credited Jackson with having the ability to do in a variety of ways. 

“I thought he was just tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “Both getting to the sticks by throwing the ball, and then when they had people covered and the offensive line did a good job sustaining the protection, by getting out and running to the sticks. He did it both ways. That’s all you can ever ask for from a quarterback to do that. Keeps a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Through the first two weeks of the season, Jackson has showcased both his arm and his legs. Now, it’ll be a matter of which poison he forces defenses to drink.

Brynden Trawick’s injury

The Ravens got relatively good news about special teams standout Brynden Trawick’s injury.  

Trawick was injured on the Ravens first punt of the second half on a block in the back penalty, which was called, and never returned to the game. On the play, he grabbed his left arm immediately and left the field in a significant amount of pain. 

“Trawick’s got an elbow/arm issue, so we’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a matter of whether or not he can deal with it. It’s not going to be a long term deal. Whether he can go this week or not is how he can deal with it, how he can operate with it.”

Trawick, a safety, played in 13 snaps on special teams before his injury. 

The team recently promoted Maurice Canady to the 53-man roster in light of cornerback Jimmy Smith’s MCL sprain and will now be down two members of the secondary.

Preparing for a shootout

The Ravens lost in Kansas City last year in overtime 27-24. This year, Harbaugh said there won’t be much new to it all.

“Our guys have been in that stadium, they’ve been in that tiny little locker room before, they’ve been on that field, stayed in that hotel,” Harbaugh said. “All those things are pluses. We played a good game, but we didn’t win. That’s motivation also.”

He said they’ll watch last year’s game, but so much has changed since then it’s hard to take much stock in it.

Last season, Jackson threw for only 147 yards in the loss. This year, he’s eclipsed that total twice — by rather large margins. 

“Of course, we’ll watch last year’s game, but teams change so much,” Harbaugh said. “They watch the game too. It’s always a new game. It’s really so important in this league in the sense of, yeah, there’s carryover always, but really it’s week-to-week. It’s game-to-game. No two games are ever going to be the same.”

Ravens make a minor move

Just after Harbaugh’s press conference, the Ravens added offensive guard Parker Ehringer to their practice squad, a former fourth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016.

Ehringer spent 2018 in Dallas before heading to Jacksonville in the early part of the year. He was in 2019 training camp with the Cardinals.

A University of Cincinnati grad, Ehringer will fill the void of Greg Senat, who was waived last Saturday in place of Maurice Canady.

Marquise Brown’s potential meeting with the NFL

Marquise Brown hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.

But he is, according to a report from Pro Football Talk, likely speak with the NFL about the lawsuit surrounding his cousin, Antonio Brown. 

Antonio is accused in a lawsuit filed this month of raping his former trainer, twice in 2017 and once in 2018. The accuser, Britney Taylor, reportedly was scheduled to speak with the NFL on Monday.

The lawsuit, according to Pro Football Talk, reported Marquise as the unnamed player that was in attendance on one of the nights that Antonio allegedly raped the alleged victim in May of 2018.

When asked about the report from PFT on Monday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn’t concerned about Marquise’s reported place in the lawsuit.

“It’s not going to be a distraction,” Harbaugh said. “Believe me, it’s the last thing on my mind right now. Absolutely.”

Harbaugh said the team hadn’t spoken to Marquise about the lawsuit or potential NFL interview either.

“My focus is on football,” he said. “If it comes to that, if there’s something that needs to be done that way, we have people in the building that look at those things. Until it comes to that, it’s not an issue.”

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals manager Dave Martinez remains in Washington for further testing

davey_martinez_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Nationals manager Dave Martinez remains in Washington for further testing

Davey Martinez remained in Washington for further medical testing, the Nationals announced Monday. Bench coach Chip Hale will manage the team Monday night instead.

Martinez left Sunday’s series finale against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning because he was not feeling well. He went to a local hospital for further examinations upon the recommendation from Nationals medical staff. They said at the time they expected Martinez to join the team in St. Louis, though they did not specify when.

Hale, 54, joined the Nationals’ staff as bench coach when Martinez was hired ahead of the 2018 season. The Baltimore Orioles interviewed him this offseason for their open managerial position.

Hale has replaced Martinez following each of Martinez’s ejections this season.

Hale managed the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2015-16, where his teams went a combined 148-176. He’s also been the third base coach for the New York Mets, the bench coach for the Oakland A’s, and even a Triple-A manager. Prior, Hale was a part-time major leaguer for seven seasons.

The Nationals open a three-game series Monday night in St. Louis. They have a 1 ½-game lead for homefield in the Wild-Card Game. They are just 2 ½ games in front of Milwaukee for a postseason berth. Just 14 games remain in the season. 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: