Capitals

Oklahoma's Javon Harris rebounds from benching

201210061740636089089-p2.jpeg

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.''

Quick Links

Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

usatsi_10824378.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE:

Quick Links

Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

Redskins schedule preview: Week 15 vs. Jaguars

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Jaguars. 

Week 15 December 16, TIAA Bank Field

2017 Jaguars: 10-6, First in AFC South, lost AFC championship game 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 9

Early line: Redskins +8

Key additions: G Andrew Norwell, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Donte Moncrief, 

Key losses:WR Allen Hurns, WR Allen Robinson

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Blake Bortles was very inconsistent during the season and there was talk of the team looking for a replacement for him prior to their run in the playoffs. Does he have what it takes to get the team back into serious contention. 
  • The team also got an inconsistent season out of RB Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 pick in the draft. Can he put together the monster season that would justify his draft status and help elevate the Jaguars to elite status. 
  • The Jaguars went from 25thin scoring defense in 2016 to second last year. Will they fall back to the pack this year?

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 5-1. The Jaguars only win against them came in 2002.

Series notables

The first time: September 28, 1997, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium—In the second game ever played at the Redskins’ new stadium, Jacksonville took a 9-0 lead in the second quarter, but then-Jags QB Mark Brunell threw a pair of interceptions that set up two Washington touchdowns and the Redskins won 24-12. Gus Frerotte threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Allen gained 122 yards on 36 carries. 

The last time: November 14, 2012, FedEx Field—Jay Gruden got his first win as the Redskins’ head coach in this one. Robert Griffin III went out of this game early with an injury and Kirk Cousins passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his place. It was the defense that dominated this game, racking up 10 sacks, tying the team record set in 1977. Ryan Kerrigan got four of those sacks, tying the team individual record for sacks in a game. The Redskins won 41-10.

The best time: October 1, 2006, FedEx Field—A taught, exciting game came to an explosive end when Santana Moss snared a pass that Mark Brunell perhaps should not have thrown and streaked to the end zone, giving the Redskins a 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville.

The reason the throw was risky was that two defenders were near Moss as Brunell fired it to the speedy receiver. Somehow both of them missed it. Moss grabbed it, spun around and bolted the rest of the way to complete the 68-yard game winner.

It was Moss’ third touchdown reception of the day. In the first quarter, he caught a long pass from Brunell and executed a nifty spin move near the goal line to complete the 55-yard touchdown play. An eight-yard Moss TD catch early in the third quarter put the Redskins up by 10 but the Jags battled back to tie it with six seconds left. That set up Moss’ overtime heroics. 

The worst time: November 10, 2002, Alltel Stadium—The Redskins came into the game riding a two-game winning streak and at 4-4 they were squarely in playoff contention. A strong running game had been their best asset during their surge to .500 and, with the Jaguars sporting the worst run defense in the NFL, there was every reason to believe that the Redskins would take the land route to another win.

But coach Steve Spurrier had different ideas. "I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field," Spurrier said. "We ran a little bit here and there. We had a little success there early, and I got away from it too much. The second quarter, I kept thinking at midfield, we could throw the ball from there. But we didn't do it very well. So, looking back, I called a lousy game."

His defense didn’t play very well either. The Redskins scored first but the Jaguars scored 26 unanswered points and came out with a 26-7 win.

Redskins schedule series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS  and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS  and on Instagram @RichTandler