Redskins

Oklahoma's Javon Harris rebounds from benching

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Oklahoma's Javon Harris rebounds from benching

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Javon Harris knows well the mistakes he made that cost him a spot in the starting lineup and landed him at the center of the criticism of Oklahoma's pass defense.

All that is behind him now.

Harris and the retooled Sooners' secondary are off to a strong start this season, ranking ninth in the nation in passing defense after a brutal finish to 2011. In the first big test for the secondary this season, Harris came up with one of the team's three interceptions and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown that put Oklahoma comfortably ahead of Texas Tech in the third quarter of a 41-20 win Saturday.

That avenged a loss to the Red Raiders a season ago, when the Sooners were gashed for 452 yards through the air in one of several poor performances that stuck with Harris and the rest of the secondary throughout the offseason.

``We stayed on each other about each and every thing that we needed to do and just took it over to this year,'' Harris said. ``We know that last year was last year. We don't dwell on things that happened last year, just like we don't dwell on things that happen game to game. We just go in there and try to get better each week. We correct each other.

``We're brothers out there. If somebody's messing up, if somebody needs to work on something, we tell each other. It's all about the love. You've got to love the game. You've got to love each other.''

Oklahoma headed into this season with the same players in the starting lineup that struggled at times last season, but new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops shuffled them into places he thought suited them better. Aaron Colvin switched from safety to cornerback, Tony Jefferson from nickelback to free safety and Gabe Lynn from cornerback to nickelback.

Harris was bumped from free safety back to strong safety, where he had played before last season.

``It's not really just a switching positions thing for me. It was really a mindset,'' Harris said. ``I just wanted to come in this season with the mindset of, `Go out here and get it. No holding back, can't look back, finish strong and get better.' That's the only thing I can do.''

Harris' struggles last season centered around getting caught looking into the backfield. As the free safety, his responsibility was not to let anyone get behind him. But in a 45-38 loss to Baylor, he was burnt deep twice as eventual Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III threw for 485 yards and four touchdowns.

Harris paid the price, losing his place in the starting lineup for the final three games of the season. He headed into his senior season with one last chance to get it right.

``I would say that I'm just a player trying to make it, but at the same time just want to continue to lead my guys and just get better every game,'' Harris said. ``Consistency was one word that I used at the beginning of the year. I just want to go and finish this year out. Last year, I didn't get to finish the year out.

``One thing about my character is to finish strong, and that's what I plan on doing.''

Heading into Saturday's Red River Rivalry game against No. 15 Texas (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) in Dallas, the 13th-ranked Sooners (3-1, 1-1) are allowing only 160.5 passing yards per game with just one touchdown pass. Three of the nation's top five passing teams - West Virginia, Baylor and Oklahoma State - remain on the schedule and Texas has shown improvement with David Ash taking over as the starting quarterback on a full-time basis.

``We just have to keep that mentality for the rest of the season,'' cornerback Demontre Hurst said. ``We've got a long season, we've got teams that's really going to try and throw the ball and test us.''

The Texas Tech game was only a start. The Sooners limited Seth Doege to 203 yards - less than half what he had in Norman a season earlier - before backup Michael Brewer threw for 68 yards in mop-up duty against Oklahoma's backups.

``That right there just shows that we can stay on the same page,'' Harris said. ``We'll go into this game and we'll go in each week the same way. ...

``This is a no-fly zone. Anything that's going in the air is going to get struck down or is coming back the other way.''

Harris, a former running back at MacArthur High School in Lawton, scored his first career touchdown with the interception that was tipped off the hands of Tech receiver Eric Ward and right to him.

``He definitely finds the ball and that goes with preparation. He's always in the right place at the right time,'' said Colvin, who had his first career interception in the game. ``Things don't happen just for no reason. I feel like your preparation allows you to do some of the things and I feel like that's why he makes a lot of plays.''

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The details on Alex Smith's gruesome injury are even worse than you expected

The details on Alex Smith's gruesome injury are even worse than you expected

When Alex Smith went down in Sunday's loss to the Texans, the injury looked bad. From his reaction and the instant reaction of his teammates and coaches, it became obvious the severity of the situation. 

As soon as the video replays showed Smith's leg bend in the way it wasn't intended, the whole world knew bones were broken. 

Now, though, as details begin to emerge after Smith had successful surgery on the injury, it sounds even worse than it looked. 

On Monday, Jay Gruden explained that Smith faces a recovery time of six to eight months. That timeline puts Smith on pace to return for training camp in 2019, but that also assumes no complications from surgery and a full recovery. Smith will be 35 in May.

The Redskins acquired Smith via trade during the 2018 offseason, and immediately agreed to a contract extension with the quarterback. That deal includes $71 million guaranteed for injury.

In his first season as Redskins starter, Smith was completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,180 yards to go with 10 TDs against five INTs in 10 games before the injury. Smith guided the Redskins to a 6-3 record before leaving the Texans game and eventually landing on the injured reserve list. 

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Undermanned Capitals finish road trip in style with 5-4 overtime win in Montreal

Undermanned Capitals finish road trip in style with 5-4 overtime win in Montreal

Alex Ovechkin stared into the rafters at Bell Centre but he was not looking at all the championship banners. 

Ripping a shot from his office in the left faceoff circle with under one second remaining in Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, Ovechkin assumed he had just won a wild one for the Capitals. 

Instead, goalie Carey Price’s desperate dive allowed him to get the knob of his stick in the way. Ovechkin looked upward and then all he could do was clap and tap Price as he skated away with a wry smile.

The smile was broader a few minutes later after teammate Lars Eller slipped a shot through Price’s pads at 3:34 of overtime to earn Washington a comeback 5-4 win and end a difficult road trip with a 3-1-0 record with two overtime victories.

Ovechkin scored twice and was robbed of a hat trick multiple times by Price, who allowed four goals but made some astounding saves. The fact that Washington won anyway epitomized a road trip where they played shorthanded from the start. 

Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie haven’t played since getting hurt in the second game of the trip at the Winnipeg Jets. Braden Holtby was a surprise scratch before the first game against the Minnesota Wild last Tuesday. He didn’t make an appearance until the second period against the Canadiens, who chased Pheonix Copley from the net with three goals in the first 95 seconds of the second period. 

Just like that a 2-1 lead was a 4-2 deficit and Holtby, out three games with an upper body injury, was needed. He stopped all 22 shots Montreal sent his way and gave Washington a chance to rally. Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin and, finally, Eller scored on Price to win it. 

“Those are huge for the season as it moves on,” Holtby said. “When you are in those situations, you get more and more comfortable. It’s been one of our big strengths the last couple years and to see it happening again, I think that’s a good sign for us.”

It IS a good sign going forward – provided Oshie and Kuznetsov are able to return to the ice soon. With a day off Tuesday and games Wednesday (Chicago Blackhawks), Friday (Detroit Red Wings), and Saturday (at New York Rangers) in a busy Thanksgiving Week there isn’t much practice time.

But for a short time at least missing two of their top five scorers wasn’t a problem. The depth the Capitals showed during last year’s Stanley Cup playoff run is still there. They needed it. And with another four games in six days upcoming, they might need it longer still. 

Copley wasn’t as good as he’d been in starts against the Wild, Jets and Colorado Avalanche. But Eller was able to handle a top-six role, Tom Wilson was again a factor in his fourth game back from a 16-game suspension and Washington got a goal from Connolly, who began the game on the fourth line after a rough night in Denver and by the second period against the Canadiens he was on the second line with Eller and Jakub Vrana.   

So after losing back-to-back games to end a five-game homestand, the Capitals have stabilized even without a full lineup. At 10-7-3 and with 23 standings points, Washington is in third place in the Metropolitan Division through 20 games. 

The Caps have made it through a dangerous first quarter of the season in a reasonable spot. They could be like the Pittsburgh Penguins (7-8-4), who are already making trades and sit in last place after four losses in a row, or the Philadelphia Flyers (9-9-2), who have lost three straight. 

Instead, they knocked off one tough road trip (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal) in late October and then this one in mid November with a 5-3-0 record. Things could have gone off the rails. That they did not is a victory in itself.     

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